30 May 2007

When it all works, the world does get flatter

I gave a talk to a consortium of universities in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. We connected from an IP-based video conferencing unit in my office to a gateway in Australia, and from there they redistributed the talk in real-time to 25 directly connected sites and others via a webstream. We had a clean 1-megabit+ video and audio stream, with smooth video. It actually all worked, and the technology mostly stayed out of the way so the audience could concentrate on the content.

It was a little difficult to try to get feedback from the group as I spoke versus face to face. But of course, this was a lecture that never would have happened face to face. It was really gratifying both to experience an audience in multiple distant countries that was interested in what I had to say, and also to see the technology work so flawlessly.

Here's a link to the web stream. Oh yeah, the topic was Identity and Access Management, if you care!

29 May 2007

Teaching Basketball with Textbooks

A trenchant article from Milton Chen for Edutopia about how not to educate people. When our educational methods fail, we seem to assume one of two things - we're not doing enough of it (more more more) or we're not "holding people accountable" - if we can strike enough fear into the hearts of our teachers and children, they CAN learn to play basketball by reading a textbook. Folks, it ain't gonna work...

The Shift

It's easy to see when large institutions decline, but sometimes harder to see what's really happening to kill them. In all the hype about music swapping supposedly killing the music business, or Google News scavenging the newspaper business, this essay by Jesse Kornbluth illustrates one piece of the huge economic shift underway, enabled by the Internet. For every Tower Records that goes out of business, there are dozens of new channels of information and distribution that spring up, providing more flexible and personalized access to media.

25 May 2007

The Good Stuff Lasts

Who would have thought that you'd see something like this - on a computer - in 2007 - and my 15 year-old son would send me the link? It gives you hope for the future of humanity.

The Tuxedo Travels - Official Home Page

The Tuxedo Travels - Official Home Page

These guys are pretty remarkable, and their blog, photos and video are educational, entertaining, and sometimes even profound. I just wish I had their guts!

3D Printer Users: It Ain't Smoke and Mirrors!

3D Printer Users: It Ain't Smoke and Mirrors!

Here's a posting from a new blog, written by an educator in Maryland. I think it's a great example of the kind of latent enthusiasm for this technology that's waiting to burst out as the new generation of printers becomes available.

18 May 2007

two radio pieces on 3D printing

The program Future Tense, hosted by Jon Gordon, recently featured brief interviews with Evan Malone from Cornell, discussing Fab@Home, and Cathy Lewis, CEO of Desktop Factory. Well worth listening to both interviews.

Evan Malone - Fab@Home

Cathy Lewis - Desktop Factory

13 May 2007

Happy Peak Day

Many many years ago I was a consultant for Bell Labs, and I learned a bit about the "old" AT&T. In those days when virtually every telephone call in the USA was carried by AT&T (and when a landline telephone call was virtually 100% of the real-time 2 way communications available) Mothers' Day was known as "peak day". That's because it was typically the day with the highest call volume, and thus was the day that the engineers used to determine the capacity of all the components in the system. The goal was assuring that even on peak day, you had a near certainty of being able to pick up your telephone, get a dial tone, and complete your call.

So today we're looking at placing a call to North Carolina to my Mother-In-Law, and I realized that we have 5 different, readily-accessible ways to attempt it from my house - two cell phone carriers, Vonage, Skype, and our AT&T landline we keep for emergencies (and fax). And if all else fails, she does read email, which she learned to use in her seventies.

It's not always easy to remember how fast we went from a communications monopoly to remarkable communications diversity - it pretty much happened in just 20 years. And the kind of statistical calculations and careful engineering that built the Bell System are, while still relevant - we still have a communications backbone that all these calls depend upon - they are both far more difficult and far less important in a world with many more options.

10 May 2007

If you can't wait for your desktop 3D printer...

Fabjectory is a service bureau that will take your Second Life Avatar or your Mii (from your Nintendo Wii) and make it for you with a 3D printer. Since the first generation of desktop 3D printers is just now coming out, and the first ones probably will have relatively poor resolution and no color, there's certainly a window of opportunity for Fabjectory. (And even today, you have the choice of printing you own photos or having a service print them for you - and most people get better results from a service.)

07 May 2007

Beam It Down From the Web, Scotty - New York Times

Beam It Down From the Web, Scotty - New York Times

A nifty article about 3D printing, focusing on Desktop Factory, a start-up in Pasadena that's developing a low-cost, desktop 3D printer. They expect to get the price down to about $1000 in 5 years. Either they will do it, or someone else will - probably a half-dozen companies.

I'm quoted in the article saying that the market for 3D printers is huge, but smaller than laser printers. In thinking about it further, I guess that's true in the short run, but in the long run 3D printing will be much much bigger than laser printing. I know I'm a hopeless optimist, but I really believe at some point we'll learn to live with less paper (I know I certainly have). But we'll always want things. After all, 2D printing is really just a special case of 3D printing.