Welcome to 2010

January 1st, 2010

2010 is here. Like 1984 and 2001, 2010 is famous thanks to science fiction. When a once-futuristic year becomes yet another date on the calendar, the hopes and fears of fiction are compared to our current reality.

The book 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke arrived in 1982, the era when Pac Man ruled the video arcade and Apple was making the IIc computer. The movie version, 2010: The Year We Made Contact, arrived in theaters in 1984, the year of the first Macintosh computer arrived in stores and James Cameron unleashed the futuristic nightmare The Terminator.

2010 continued the story of the 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke’s novel made into the mind-bending film by Stanley Kubrick. 2010 travels to the place where 2001 ended: above the gaseous planet Jupiter, where the spaceship Discovery orbits in icy quiet with the neurotic HAL 9000 computer powered down. An American crew travels about the Russian spaceship Leonov to reactivate Discovery, restore HAL 9000, and unravel the mystery of the giant alien monolith that lurks nearby.

What I find striking about the real 2010 versus Clarke’s and film director Peter Hyams visions of 2010 are the elements that did come true.

While humans are a long way off from a manned mission to the outer planets of our solar system, unmanned space missions have sent back amazing images of both Jupiter and Saturn. Probes have sent back photos from orbit and dropped into the roaring atmosphere of Jupiter and the frozen surface of Titan. Recent photos of Titan have revealed the first glint of sunlight off of a liquid lake.

The fictional 2010 was still divided by the Cold War, with Russia and the United States are reluctant partners in space exploration as nuclear war looms. The International Space Station orbits over Earth today, built by a worldwide team of space explorers. American and Russian spacecraft dock with the ISS on a regular basis.

But what about artificial intelligence? Where is the real life HAL 9000? Perhaps the closest we have to HAL is a service we take for granted now: Google.

While Google doesn’t have a giant red camera eye and or speak with a soothing voice like HAL, it does provoke both awe and fear. Google and its services offer a world of information to users. Google’s critics wonder what Google does with vast seas of information it gathers and if its growing power will expand or restrict the frontiers of the internet. If HAL 9000 was invented tomorrow, I suspect the reaction to a newly built HAL would be similar to the debate over Google.

The part of the story of 2010 that stands out for me is the uncertainty of technology. Can the crew fully entrust a reactivated HAL 9000 with their lives? Will their spacecraft protect them without burning up during a fiery trip through Jupiter’s upper atmosphere? Human ingenuity and technology have their limits in this adventure and they are dwarfed by the plans of alien beings who are behind the mysterious monolith.

While the novel and movie of 2010 is about an elite group of astronauts facing the dangers and wonders of outer space, we are all the explorers of the real 2010. Like the astronauts, our technology is taking us to new places, but the question remains if we fully trust it.

It’s 2010. Things are going to happen. I hope they will be wonderful.

The End Of Pageflakes? I hope not!

January 31st, 2009

I discovered that Pageflakes.com has gone offline. Details are sketchy to why the site is down, but I hope it comes back soon.

I have come to depend on Pageflakes for tracking the blogs on web design, graphics, and social media that I read. I do use iGoogle and have my links backed up on Delicious.com, so I am not worried about losing links if Pageflakes does not return.

While there are alternative services that are similar to Pageflakes, such as NetVibes and iGoogle, I liked the way Pageflakes would show graphics and text of the feeds it pulled in. I could scan a Pageflakes page and seek out the stories I wanted to read faster than any other reader.

If Pageflakes does not come back, I’ll just find a new way to read RSS. I’m just not looking forward to organizing all those feeds again.

Upgrade to WordPress 2.7

December 11th, 2008

I just upgraded my blog to WordPress 2.7. This new version of WordPress is the best upgrade I have seen so far. The dashboard is much cleaner and easier to use. I’m using the QuickPress Window to write this post.

Here’s some video showing the new features in WordPress 2.7.

My Birthday Present

October 9th, 2008

Today is my birthday. As a present to myself, I am starting up this blog again.

I haven’t posted here in months. It was not because lacked anything write, but because I had other places to share it.

Over the last few months I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter to share stories, keep in touch with friends, and meet others who share my interests.

I set this blog up originally to test out WordPress. I had a basic blogging strategy of what I wanted to accomplish here. I made efforts to post here on a regular basis. I soon discovered Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

“Tweeting” and posting links into Facebook were quick and easy. I found myself drifting away from blogging and using those resources more. I also wanted to find out how useful were these tools were in everyday use.

I am dealing with my own information overload. I love all the tools that so-called “Web 2.0″ has brought us, but there are only so many RSS feeds, news services, YouTube channels, and micro-blogging sites that one person can read and gain useful information.

In the last few months I’ve learned a great deal about the benefits and pitfalls of social media. I’ll share what I have learned in future posts about my successes and mistakes.

After posting that photo of the cupcake, now I really do want one.

“Astro” Is The Codename For Flash 10

May 15th, 2008

Ajaxian.com features a look at the prerelease of the new version of Flash. Code named “astro”, the new Flash offers a new drawing API, advanced text layout, and 3D effects.

Here’s a YouTube video of the astro in action. I love the retro-space graphics!

Mistakes that web developers make – Can you tell Arial from Helvetica?

January 31st, 2008

The Wake Up Later blog features a list of 8 mistakes that web developers make. These are not the glaring mistakes that are plain to see, like covering a page with animated GIF graphics or writing the site’s HTML in some awful WYSIWYG program.

The mistakes show a lack of polish and design savvy. There is a difference between Arial and Helvetica. Using cruddy stock photos can ruin a good design. Have you thought about the color scheme…or are you going to use the same blue and white pallete again?

Even if you are a rockstar-level web designer, this list is worth a look.

A mountain is just a series of small hills

January 30th, 2008

Starting a blog, or any long-term project, can be a daunting process not just because of the work involved, but the long periods of time that might pass before you see any reward…or even an indication if you are doing the right things.

It is easy to get depressed and worn out when it looks like you have a giant mountain of work in front of you. Chris Garrett over at The Blog Herald offers some advice on setting goals and staying positive when running a blog.

The way he puts it, that big mountain you have to climb is just a series of small hills.

Just a few things I learned in 2007

January 2nd, 2008

Use pretty permalinks for your WordPress posts.

RSS is a great tool for keep up with blogs and news, but it can overwhelm you if you let it.

Google Reader is a lifesaver.

Don’t overplan or overthink what you write on a blog. Use common sense, but it is better to write something and have to edit it later.

CSS and Internet Explorer 6 will give you plenty of headaches unless you understand browser bugs.

A clean, organized desk is a stress reliever.

Write down all your passwords for your different email and web services in one spreadsheet and keep it updated.

Water is better for you than coffee.

Sleep is better for you than caffeine.

Don’t fret too much over a first draft.

A new year

January 1st, 2008

Last year I started 2007 with installing WordPress and starting my own blog. The use of this blog has been more of an experiment than a place to write posts. I used this blog to learn about the WordPress interface, SEO, basic PHP, and the problems with CSS browser bugs.

Since August this blog has sat idle while I worked on other projects. I feel I neglected it like a classic sports car, leaving it to sit under a tarp in the driveway when I should have driving it. Now its time to take off the tarp, rev up the engine, and hit the road.

2008 promises to be a dramatic year for the web and the IT industry. There will be plenty to post about.

Getting casual users to sell your product and the power of “word of mouth”

August 10th, 2007

Search Engine Guide features a story on how to recruit casual users of your product or website to become product evangelists.

Jennifer Laycock describes the process of engaging customers to sell your product and the power of “word of mouth” marketing.

Here’s a quote…

My phrase at the class this week was that social media is mostly just word of mouth on crack. Instead of a person telling ten friends at a dinner party, they blog it and reach thousands (or millions) of people around the world.

She uses a diagram from the Brains on Fire blog to illustrate the lifecycle of a fan.

From large corporations to blog writers, the word “community” is used to describe different ways to market websites and products. But how do you start and what are the risks? This article serves as a starting point to illustrate an elusive idea.