Archive for the 'Social' Category

Geomancers Meeting

Posted in Locality and Space, Social on May 4th, 2006 at 11:00:54

I’m not busy, and have some interesting stuff to talk about this Friday, so I’ll be leading a meeting of the Geomancers Geo Interest group this Friday, May 5th, from 5pm-7pm at the Muddy Charles Pub, located just inside 142 Memorial Drive in Cambridge.

This time, I’ll try to actually be on time 🙂

Some things I’m interested in showing off:

* A web map of Boston put together from MassGIS sources
* Some work done on Openstreetmap map data to create a usable web mapping service out of the monthly data exports
* Talking about what I’ll be presenting at Where 2.0
* A demo of on my cell phone

Anyone is welcome to come by: Bring laptops, and you can get online via MIT’s network, bring cash (no cards!) and you can grab a drink — beer or soda.

I’ll try and grab us two tables, since last time we kind of overflowed the one we had.

(Note that I’m perfectly happy to have other people arrange these meetings: depending solely on me as admin contact is probably flakey at best. I still haven’t heard what time is best for other people, so until I do I’m just going to send ou t these emails when I have nifty things to show off and time to show them off in.)

If Software Platforms were Cell Phones…

Posted in Social on April 27th, 2006 at 08:00:12

The Microsoft Cell Phone: Cute, quirky UI hides slow features in places that make sense to anyone who uses the phone for more than a year, but are confusing to first time users. Claims to cater to ‘Professional’ users, and therefore has enterprise versions of everything, but this means that the severs the phone connects to for all non-voice traffic are constantly down or unusably slow.

The Linux Cell Phone: Control options for everything, from the tone and volume of each keypress, to the type of digital encoding desired for voice. However, no one has yet coded a decoder for the digital transmission coming back from the cell towers, so all you get is a series of binary beeps. Mail to the cellphone-users mailing list asking if anyone is working on this feature is replied to with “Patches Welcome”.

The OS X Cell Phone: Originally build from the Linux Cell Phone, but with a working incoming decoder. Attempts to be the ‘hip’ phone include rotating images of the person you’re calling, and an intensive graphical display for every number entered when dialing. Due to its lack of ‘enterprise’ features, this phone is kept entirely out of the professional marketplace.

Okay, so it sounded better in my head than it turned out.

Keeping an Eye Out

Posted in Social on March 7th, 2006 at 14:21:34

Starting around April 1st, I’m going to be looking for a new fulltime position somewhere. If you have someplace you think might be good for me, and you know they’re looking for people, feel free to let me know.

Some of my previous work is pretty much the best resume I’ve got — the simple format I’ve got a text/pdf resume isn’t cleaned up yet.

I’m most interested in projects related to mapping, and take a secondary interest in anything open source. I primarily work in PHP and Python.

Contact can be made via email.

GNHLUG: MerriLug Roundup

Posted in Linux Users Groups, Social on January 22nd, 2006 at 08:51:05

Thursday night at the Merrimack Linux Users Group, we met at Marthas, in Nashua., as per our usual. We accidentally ended up split into two groups to start, but shortly after I arrived at 7:20, adjourned upstairs.

It was one of the larger meetings I’ve been too, with about 15-20 people in attendance all told. The informal discussion was centered around theWRT54G, and OpenWRT. Our friend from the Great White North (“That’s Maine, right?”) showed off his WRT router, which he had hacked to bitsand back again. Hardware changes include:

* Addition of two serial ports, one for the console, one for standard serial comms.
* Addition of SD Memory card
* Modification of USB GPS to work as serial GPS
* Modification of power input to work from cigarette lighter.

The router software was then modified to work as a wardriver-in-a-box: GPS and wifi hotspot locations are recorded and stored to the SD card.

There was then some discussion about geo stuff: GPSes, how to work withthem under Linux, how the GPS system works, and more.

Some stuff which were tossed around:
* gpsd, the gps daemon that makes communicating with GPS devices easier under Linux. This software basically turns a GPS device into something you can telnet to and ask for a current position.
* GPSDrive. This is mapping software, which downloads free maps from the web, and displays your current location on the map.
* Kismet, a wardriving program.
* The increase of macs in the Linux users culture.
* Open Guide to Boston (
* Lots of hardware mumbo jumbo I didn’t understand
* Some software stuff about the WRT54G, a la discussion of NVRAM.

Afterwards, we adjourned for dessert, and discussed the incompetencies of the Mass RMV (, the interesting ways of escaping West Berlin without a passport, and more geo geekery.

I think that’s a good summary of what was discussed: I had a few pictures that I’ll put on Flickr of the hacked device and the flock of geeks adoring it, at some point.

(Originally posted to GNHLUG mailing list. GNHLUG is the Greater New Hampshire Linux Users Group, one of the most intelligent and helpful bunches of Linux people around. I trek up to Nashua from Cambridge once a week to meet with these people because I can’t imagine a more interesting bunch of people to hang around.)

Symbian Hacks Mailing List

Posted in Mobile Platform, Social on January 15th, 2006 at 10:29:50

One of my biggest problems so far in my writing of mobile software is that I don’t have any form of regular communication with the users of these applications. Support queries, questions, etc. get posted in blogs and so on that I never read, feedback is posted to wikis I never use, or worse, it goes into email and conversations are lost forever.

In a possibly misguided attempt to fix this, I’ve set up a Symbian Hacks mailing list. This mailing list is designed to serve as a feedback mechanism for the code that I’ve written for the mobile platform, and hopefully will encourage me to give back to the community in more meaningful ways.

If you’ve ever used something I’ve written on your phone, please join the list and just send an email saying “I used $foo and I loved it!” You will really make my day.

Interactive Worlds

Posted in Social on December 7th, 2005 at 09:17:22

Recently, as part of the attempt to expand the realm of the full Swhack Cultural Forum experience, we’ve been investigating the possibilities for creating a virtual world. Yesterday, on the advice of Yoz, I set up a LambdaMoo based on enCore.

enCore is a nifty extension to LambdaMOO which includes a complete web interface for interacting with the MOO. This allows for object creation without learning tons of specialized commands. It makes interactions with the moo a bit easier for beginners, while still allowing “old hands” to do what they would have done in the past, via the telnet interface.

However, part of the goal of the interactive fiction aspect of the task was to have automatic interactions – without anyone else. LambdaMOO provides the equivilant of IRC+World Building, but aside from scripted tasks, there isn’t any “Quest” or other similar aspects. This makes LambdaMOO unsuitable for the task at hand, although it provides an excellent platform for initial world building, which can be used to come up with the platform for our IF world before we actually have to implement it.

However, that leaves me wondering what *is* out there for something that’s more “adventure” based. I know that Rivers Of Mud (ROM) based MUDs have this kind of functionality, but I’m not sure if they’re easy to build on. I don’t know what other kind of MUDs are out there, how hard they are to work with, or anything else about them.

Does anyone here run a MUD? Anyone know which ones would be easy to set up and allow for interactive building, while still supporting a relatively wide range of pre-built stuff so that we don’t have to do everything ourselves? Monsters, Questing, and similar abilities would be nifty, as would some pre-built world areas so that the initial environment isn’t *totally* empty.

I’m completely inexperienced in the field, but would love to hear from other people.

Digital Photography

Posted in Social on November 19th, 2005 at 19:55:56

In the next couple weeks, I’ll be getting a new Canon Digital Rebel XT (EOS 350D) with a 18-55 “kit” lens. I finally got tired of my 2 megapixel Kodak CX4230, and I got a nice deal worked out on the camera due to some rebate offers and talking with my father, who’s buying a Canon 20D.

I’d love to hear some interesting things that people are doing with creating and sharing digital photography from relatively high quality cameras.

MerriLUG and Ning

Posted in Ning, PHP, Social on November 18th, 2005 at 10:34:45

Attended my old Linux Users Group in NH last night: there was no scheduled speaker, so it was mostly just a “hang out and talk” type of meeting at Martha’s, in Nashua, NH.

Here’s a summary of how the meeting went from my point of view:

Had fun with all the MerriLUG folks last night. I also got to experience driving out of the Boston area during rush hour last night for the first time, which was significantly less fun.

Some things which were discussed:

* Results of the recent quarterly meeting, and location of the next one
* General questions on Linux:
** Why won’t my screen turn off when the computer goes into standby?
** How can I do load testing of MySQL and network traffic?
* Raffling off of books from Ken
* How Vendor/Client relationships are like teenage sex: They’re hormone driven and have no basis whatsoever in reality.

I also led some discussion on Ning. The reason I brought it up was in part because it is following the model of the open source world so much more closely than many other
services out there:

* Ning provides a “hosted” PHP framework
* All code, by default, is “open source” — can be viewed by anyone with an account.
* Users can “clone” applications: take the current application and customize it to their own liking from the same code
* Data is stored in a universal content store, and data is (by default) accessible to all applications across the server. So, my application “gnhlugbookshelf” can also read from the “restaurantreviewswithmaps application
* Income comes in via advertisements sold on the sidebar of the applications, as well as premium services (more space, removal of view source links, and the like)

Most of the time when this is described, it’s described as an “experiment” – can a company make money solely off ads to run their servers? Can premium services pay for all this? My experience with LiveJournal says yes: LiveJournal makes all its money off premium services (no ads), and they gross several million a year. However, their employees are paid much less than Ning’s are, so who knows.

I also mentioned the creation of GNHLUG Bookshelf, an application which “aims to store the suggestions and recommendations of the New Hampshire Linux Users Group on technical books that are the most useful of the bunch.”

Lots of interesting discussion on the business model behind Ning, where it could go from here, and how service is really where the money is these days. Give away the code: sell the service. RedHat learned from this model, and others are doing so too – Ning is simply a widescale demonstration of “give away the code”.

There are aspects of Ning which aren’t given away: the code that runs the playground itself is not open source, but the applications that run on it are. The “secret bits” are still probably important enough to Ning that open sourcing would give away a competitive advantage, but the PHP bits aren’t, since they’re easily reproducible.

Another thing that came up is how much control you have over code you write for Ning and taking it elsewhere. This is a question that has come up in developer discussion before, about how to take your application code elsewhere. What it comes down to is that Ning provides a lot of functionality: shared content store, tagging, user auth, etc., that doesn’t exist anywhere else. There’s no clone of the functionality which you can drop in and replace with something else. There’s nothing to stop people from mirroring the API and creating a way to drop Ning apps into your own webserver, it just hasn’t been done yet. So although you can take the code with you – you own it – it doesn’t do you much good without a lot of work to reproduce the functionality that Ning already provides for you.

Wikimania and Wikimedia

Posted in default, Social on November 11th, 2005 at 16:47:28

About a month ago, I participated in a couple of meetings at the Berkman Blog Group regarding Wikimania, the Wikimedia annual conference, which will be held this year in Boston. Talking with the local organizer, I was interesting in helping in a number of ways where I’m more useful than many other people — having a place to stay and possibly offer to other people, as well as technical skills which not everyone has that might be of assistance.

During the second meeting, I had the oppourtunity to engage with other Wikimedians who would be participating, and to get some of their feelings about the conference and the Berkman Blog Group’s attempt at trying to make things easier for them here in Boston during their convention.

I got a negative vibe from one of the people I spoke to, and later attempted to determine whether my understanding – that Wikimania was dedicated to Wikimedians, and local help in a significant way by people who were not active Wikimedia participants would be appreciated only so long as it didn’t affect the conference – was correct. Although I don’t have an exact quote of my question and the answer, the feeling was, again, negative.

The local organizer here asked me to clarify why I felt pushed away by the Wikimedia participants I had talked to, and this is what I wrote in response:

When I asked if it was the case that the purpose of Wikimania was to further the goals of Wikimedians, and that local people were not being invited to participate in the same way, I was informed that yes, this was the case: assistance from non-Wikimedians was unneccesary. (Sadly, I don’t have the log of this due to a client crash, because it’s the one thing that was said more than anything else that convinced me not to participate.)

Wikipedia has always had a very distinct aura of excluding outsiders. Although the wiki-nature of Wikipedia would seem to act as a counter to that point, many friends who have in the past been heavily involved in Wikipedia have left due to issues relating to negative personal interactions between themselves and other contributors. I have always held Wikipedia at arm’s length due to this, but given the local oppourtunity presenting itself, I thought that maybe I could be convinced otherwise.

What I stumbled into was exactly what I would have been led to expect – an elitist attitude taken by core contributors towards anyone who is not one of the “good ole boys”. Although you were extremely positive towards external help from the people on the ground, every other person I spoke to who in any way represented Wikimedia only left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

I was hoping that Wikimedia was really a good group of people, done wrong by the masses who consider themselves to be “better than you” because they participate more. Instead, I found out that that attiude is perpetrated all the way to the top, at least from my external point of view.

As a result of the general vibe and the specific statements requesting that non-Wikimedians not take part in the planning and activities surrounding Wikimania, I’ve decided simply not to bother.

Another friend of mine put it best: “The only way to participate in Wikipedia is to just edit, and ignore all those people behind the ‘Discussion’ link.”

Long Tail Camp

Posted in Social on October 31st, 2005 at 02:36:25

Long Tail Camp Logo
I sometimes wonder if things may have gone too far. I’m not really sure. But whether they have or not, I’m all in favor of Long Tail Camp.

I think it’s about time that The Commune hosted a camp.

Make sure to check out the LongTailCamp homepage, for all the wiki-est info around.

(Is this humour, or just reality? I don’t know, but I’m in favor of it either way.)