Retire the Wretched Fax Machine

Please! Let’s make 2004 the year we retire the wretched fax machine!

This is despite some of the valid points Paul Rubens of the BBC NEWS makes in his article Fax – the technology that refuses to die (via Gizmodo)

“The fax machine is an ancient piece of office equipment – it was invented in its earliest form by one Alexander Bain in 1843. It transmits the contents of pieces of paper, but these days the chances are high that anything on paper started as an electronic document. So why print it out and fax it when you can e-mail the digital version?”

And this point which drives me truly insane!!

“It’s also likely that at least some faxed information will be typed back into a computer at the other end. So why convert it from digital to analogue and back again when you can keep it digital and save time and paper? Even if you fax directly from your computer, this still effectively turns a digital document into an analogue one.”

I know-I know! In comparison to signed faxed documents, digital signatures are not yet widely admissible as legal documents … Blah! Blah! Blah! Fix that!

My New Years Resolution is to make 2004 the year I stopped sending and receiving faxes … for good!

You should too :-) Please!

PVR Parts Ordered

Since the hardware is now on order, I suppose I have committed myself to building what Catherine has branded “STeVo“, which is my feeble attempt at a constructing a homebrew PVR (personal video recorder).

Wish me luck!

Posted in PVR

Corporate Search in 2004?

Call it a prediction or stating the obvious, but I believe in the coming year corporate search solutions will be generating a steady buzz — driven primarily by innovative products that focus on unlocking the terabytes of knowledge squandered away in the reassess of the corporate network data stores. A position John Battelle seems to agree with in a recent post on the topic:

“…the overwhelming presumption of webwide search on your desktop is certainly rewiring how corporations think about their more private databanks. A robust market has grown up around “enterprise search,” (some companies, such as FAST, were spun off from consumer search companies, and Google maintains a unit focused on the market). There’s a crop of interesting startups to boot, including Tim Bray’s company, Antarctica. It’s entirely possible some of the next big ideas in search may well be developed in this more focused, less public field.”

Heliodisplay- Interactive Free-Space Display

IO2 Technology has demonstrated a 42″ prototype of what they are calling “Heliodisplay- Interactive Free-Space Display“, which is essentially display without a “screen” …

“The Heliodisplay projects full color streaming video into free space (i.e. air). It is plug-and-play compatible with most video sources (TV, DVD, computer, etc.). These non-holographic images can be fully interactive, allowing a hand or finger to select, navigate and manipulate — as if it were a virtual touch screen.”

Note to self: Add to wish list :-)

Social Bookmarks Manager Right-Click Context Menu

Last night I hacked together a bit of JavaScript to add a right-click context menu posting option to Joshua Schachter’s Social Bookmarks Manager.

It works in a similar fashion to the bookmarklet, but is accessible via the right-click context menu in IE. It also adds the feature of pulling in any text selected on the page into the “extended” description field and remembers your del.icio.us/user path after the first invocation by storing it in a cookie.

Installation should be easy…

I’ve created a windows registry script to add the necessary registry key as well as a removal script to delete the key if you would like to remove the context menu option.

  • Simply click on the following link: post-to-del-icio-us.reg
  • When prompted, click save to download it to your local system (desktop is fine)
  • Close your browser (important step)
  • Double-click on the post-to-del-icio-us.reg registry script and then click ‘Ok’ on the two message boxes
  • Start-up your browser, select some text on a page, right-click the text and select “Post to del.icio.us”
  • When first run, you will be prompted for your del.icio.us/user path, which is in the format: http://del.icio.us/[your-user-name] (e.g. mine is http://del.icio.us/hatch)

Some other notes:

As for as I know, this only works in IE (or derivatives like MyIE2) and it’s definitely specific to Windows.

There is a way to delete the cookie that contains your del.icio.us/user path. You can do so by using this link

As I mentioned above I also have a removal registry script, which you can use to delete the context menu from IE.

If you would like to run the script locally from your system, I have provided a zip archive containing all the necessary files.

To customize the script for your local system, drop the post-to-del-icio-us.html into your Windows directory and edit the post-to-del-icio-us.reg file to point to the local path instead of my server.

That’s it.

Enjoy.

Update: 2004/09/17
Dan Grigsby has created a Windows Installer for this script. Do check it out!

Thanks Dan!

Syndication Friendly Longhorn

Others have mentioned the impact of the embedded RSS capabilities that will be in Longhorn. This time however, it’s Scoble talking about the broader implications of a syndication friendly OS

“In Longhorn you can store a ton of metadata with your files. You can also find those files much more easily. Why is that important to syndication? Because now you have a file system that supports sending files out via a syndication feed, storing them locally, and then letting users get to them in new and interesting ways.”

Social Networking in the Enterprise

Ephraim Schwartz writes in InfoWorld about how Social Networking Software is targeting the corporate enterprise, with startups such as
ZeroDegrees,
Interface Software,
ContactNetwork, and
Spoke targeting CRM…

“Leveraging advances in communication and integration, a new kind of application — corporate social networking — is being folded into the CRM feature set.”

“Companies like Siebel and Salesforce.com are watching this space. These social networking companies will be gobbled up real quick,”

In addition, I believe that Microsoft and IBM are watching this space as well, because in my opinion Social Networking Software is a natural extension to enterprise messaging software such as Exchange and Domino.

Social Network Search

You can create a social network search interface by using Micah Alpern’s ‘Blogs I Read’ Google Hack and/or Feedster. However it appears that Eurekster has taken it one step further:

Eurekster uses the six-degrees of separation concept to learn from your extended network of contacts and deliver you prioritized results based on the success and proximity of the searches they have done.”

The public beta currently available seems to require a bit more effort than the average consumer “searcher” would be willing to afford. However, I would like to see how well this works within the corporate enterprise — assuming of course you can integrate much of the social network mechanics with existing enterprise directory services such as Active Directory or other LDAP-compliant systems.

Personal Service Oriented Architecture

Michael Kanellos from CNET exposes some of the research at Microsoft to make search a greater part of its Windows operating system. The following are some interesting quotes from the article:

“Search in many ways is brute force,” Dumais said. “If the two of us type in a query, we get the same thing back, and that is just brain dead. There is no way an intelligent human being would tell us the same thing about the same topic.”

“Personalization was one of the big buzzwords of the early years of the dot-com era, but many of the efforts to deliver individualized content failed. Software developers, however, are increasingly becoming more adept at using Bayesian models and other probabilistic techniques to insert intelligence into software.”

“Although the underlying calculation in these models is complex, the overriding concept is fairly simple. Software keeps tabs on an individual’s Web surfing habits, interests, acquaintances, work and travel history, work projects, and other data. It also constructs a model that tries to anticipate what a person finds important and what will be irrelevant.”

“Microsoft’s experiments differ from commercial search engines in that the universe of data searched consists of data found on an individual’s hard drive.”

“In demonstrating Implicit Query, Dumais began to type an e-mail asking a colleague about a set of slides for an upcoming conference. Before the message was complete, the program–which appears in a window on the side of the screen– pulled up e-mails, slide decks and Word documents containing the name of the conference and the future recipient. Each hit came with a brief summary of the internal content, date, the type of software the file was written in, and its potential relevance, among other information.”

This is fascinating stuff and I can’t wait to see it in action.

However, based on the article it seems to me that Microsoft’s new search is focused on an enterprise that is still Personal Computing-centric, which is ideal today, but Longhorn is still two years away and it will be at least another year before we see it implemented within larger enterprises.

My concern is how applicable will a better PC-centric search be if personal enterprise computing finally becomes network-centric?

Albeit, we’ve all seen the rise and fall of the “Network Computer”, but I still believe in the underlying concepts that will end our intrinsic relationship with our dedicate hardware. Indeed, I’m talking about an environment where we will finally be able to productively “work” from any network-connected device.

Essentially, if in the coming years before Longhorn, a network-centric IT enterprise landscape becomes more widespread then the benefits of providing a better index to ones hard drive will be diminished.

Perhaps I’m being too close-minded and not including the bigger picture — especially with regard to Longhorn’s Indigo. I expect it’s more likely that Network and Personal computing will merge within the confines of a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA); whereby applications and computing power will come to the user where and when they need it. Of course this must include access to “Stuff I’ve Seen”.

This essentially describes the holy-grail of Network Computing or rather a “Personal service-oriented architecture” as Jon Udell describes.