Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lamest Tech of the Decade

Here is a retrospective of what Technologizer considers the 87 worst tech screw-ups of 2000-2009. Why 87? They probably ran out of time. One hundred would have been more authoritative.

If you're old enough, you might guess that Windows Me would be there, and you won't be disappointed. Sony gets a black eye for their CD copy protection system that could be defeated by marking the CD with a black magic marker. For the rest, go here. (There are five pages.)

Posting here may get thin during the holidays. Have a nice one.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Admission: Future of Publishing Unknowable

Finally someone admits it: in this article in Resource Shelf, the author states his belief that the future of publishing is unknowable. So while some publishing analysts agonize over specifics, such as:

  • whether the B&N Nook will overtake the Amazon Kindle before Apple enters the field with one of several hypothetical devices,
  • or whether the brick and mortar stores will survive,
  • or whether *some* form of digital bookselling will win out,

the author of the article suggests that there are too many variables to make a reasonable guess. The variables include shrinking profit margins due to digital technology, the structural transformation of the publishers and sellers due to conglomeration, and rapid cultural changes that obviate serious reading.

Read the short article for more details of this issue, or go to this LA Observed article for yet more detail. The latter article is a summary of a speech given by agent/book editor Steve Wasserman, a former Los Angeles Times book editor.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Has Science Fiction Run Out of Steam?

Technology writer Stuart Andrews writes for PC Pro about the relationship of science, technology and science fiction, posing the rhetorical question, has science fiction run out of steam? In other words, has science and technology now ahead of the headlights of science fiction writers?

While the rhetorical question is quite interesting, the article focuses principally on equally interesting examples of scientists and technologists who were influenced by science fiction, and the SF writers and stories that influenced them.

Bruce Hillsberg, director of storage systems at IBM Research said:

“...I don’t think most researchers try to invent what they read about or see in movies. Rather, they try to move science or technology forward, and sci-fi can consciously or unconsciously help them think outside the box.”

Examples of these technologists include: Apple’s Steve Wozniak, Netscape’s Marc Andreessen, Tim Berners-Lee, Google’s Sergey Brin and the GNU Project creator Richard Stallman, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Some of the authors and works cited by Stuart Andrews:

  • Arthur C Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey): computing (with guidance from MIT).
  • John Brunner’s: The Shockwave Rider: "large-scale networks, phreaking, hacking and genetic engineering...."
  • Vernor Vinge’s True Names: immersive worlds and Internet culture
  • Cyberpunk authors William Gibson (Neuromancer), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) and others; and virtual reality author NealStephenson (Snow Crash): information technology (IT)

See Stuart Andrews' The sci-fi legends who shaped today's tech for more, including some of the innovations influenced by these and other authors. (Note: the article has four pages.)

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Google's Future of New Digital's Books

FFO has given some coverage [1 2] of this never-ending story after major breaks. This chapter involves Google's view of new books [Media Bistro] rather than the zillions of out-of-print books about which Google locked horns with the Authors Guild.

Google figures new publications will have digital versions and you'll not want to have copies stored on your e-book reader, smart phone, or computer. You'll want to store it on the cloud, where you'll always be able to find it.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

e-Book Reader Review by Wired

On the occasion of a new Samsung e-book reader, Wired reviews the top eight e-book readers. There are no surprises (except perhaps a tablet-sized reader by Plastic Logic), but if you're thinking of buying one, the article gives a concise opinion of the choices.

Not mentioned is the Apple e-book reader play, which is now just "vaporware." Speculation is rampant, but many agree that Apple will have to do something special to differentiate it from and stand up to their iPhone, iPod and iTouch products. The Business Insider article speculates about how the 900-pound gorilla, iTunes, figures into the Apple e-book reader and Apple's relationship with traditional book and e-Book sellers, such as Amazon.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Future of Science: Where's My Jetpack?

In March, we covered Gary Westphal's thoughtful piece about why science fiction writers have failed to predict the future. He gave 7 fallacies that plague SF writers. We also did a piece on Bruce Sterling's thoughtful look at the future of science fiction.

CNN has a piece that is more "where's my jetpack?" The article writer looks more at how the future failed the technologies than what has gone wrong with SF writers. The jetpack is one example. We've actually made some, but they haven't found a practical civilian or military application. In the military, a warrior in a jetpack is an obvious and easy target, and the jetpack lasts an embarrassingly short period of time.

Other technologies visited in the article include Rosey the Robot (robot housekeeper) and teleportation.

More interestingly perhaps, and more in line with current SF, is the turn from the pulp fiction view that technology is always a Good Thing that will make life easier, to a more dystopian view that technology is the enemy of survival. The author uses Battlestar Galactica as an example:

It depicts a world where human beings have created amazing technology that has brought them to the precipice of extinction. There's no Buck Rogers zooming blissfully through the sky.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mommas, Turn off you Baby Monitors, Please.

Please turn off you baby monitors, moms and dads. You're messing with my WiFi. (Oh, and don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.)

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Worrisome Geek News

Two stories to watch if you worry about what will happen to geeks who worry about stuff like this.

Google to buy Twitter? OMG.

IBM to buy Sun Microsystems? OMG.

Flash Fiction Online to buy Disney? Not.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Transhumanism: Point & Counterpoint

This post spans two issues of the Global Spiral, the online magazine associated with the Metanexus Institute, a group of scholars who study the “human meaning and purpose,” using transdisciplinary approach to science and religion. I thought this would be of interest to many writers since these topics span so much of literature.

The current issue of Global Spiral is an internal retort to their previous special issue on transhumanism, in which their guest authors expressed concerns about transhumanism, the idea that humans can transform themselves to superhuman (the guest editor would say posthuman) status through accelerated cultural evolution and technical means, such as bioengineering, medicine, cognitive studies and other disciplines.

Here is the guest editor's introduction to the first special issue on transhumanism, and here is the issue.

This is the stuff of many science fiction and fantasy novels about modified humans, described with certain level of angst by serious scholars in science and theology...cybernetics, genetics, nanotechnology.... (It is worth going there if only to see the incredible Tiffany stained glass piece.)

“If one accepts that transhumanism is more than an ideology, indeed a philosophy, one must look carefully at its understanding of the human, of biology, and of the relationship between technology and culture.”
Here is the guest editor's introduction to the current issue, which, as stated, is an internal retort to the first. Here is the issue. (This is the February issue if you go there after the next issue is published.)

“Transhumanists counter that nature’s gifts are sometimes poisoned and should not always be accepted. Cancer, malaria, dementia, aging, starvation, unnecessary suffering, cognitive shortcomings are all among the presents we wisely refuse.”

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Books for Visually Impaired

An Australian start-up company, ReadHowYouWant, is offering the visually impaired more options in large print editions: 16-24 point type, according to this PW article. They currently offer about 500 titles via their web site and Amazon.com.

This is good, of course. This idea seems a good fit for eReaders, too. When viewing FFO stories, your browser gives font-size options. In both recent Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers, it is under the View/Text Size menu. On Safari, it is View/MakeTextLarger.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Kindle, but is it Legal?

Some related stories: Amazon.com has a new Kendal with a lot of nice new features, including an improved display with 16 shades of gray and a reduced size. The WSJ article doesn't mention that the wireless cost has been reduced to zero; this information came from an e-mail from Amazon: "no monthly wireless bills, data plans, or commitments." Another new feature is text-to-speech, but this has turned controversial:

"They don't have the right to read a book out loud," said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. "That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law."
A new competitor to the Kindle is the Plastic Logic eReader to come out in 2010. This is a paper-sized device, which fits with Plastic Logic's emphasis on newspapers and magazines.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Men Want; What Women Want

By way of Slashdot, Yahoo reports that public venue ads may have tiny cameras that may detect the gender, age and ethnicity of viewers and modify the ads therefor. Perhaps this can be applied to eBooks, so that males will get lots of chase scenes. Yeah, and women...never mind. Bad idea. (It's coming, but bad idea.)

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kindle Economics

The Amazon Kindle is an e-book reader with downloading over a built-in wireless connection. It costs US$359. Is it economical? One personal gripe is the inability to get free stuff (like blogs) and read it for free. I think the quickly expanding netbook market may provide a platform for similar applications.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Writing-Mill Grist

Maybe something here will inspire a story:
Top ten technology breakthroughs and new organisms of 2008


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