Douwe Osinga's Blog: April 2004

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The ultimate cell phone

To some people, (cell) phones are just things you make calls with. I think that the cell phone will evolve into the one device you'll take with you. PDA, GPS, Camera, Mp3 player, radio, memo recorder, e-book reader, they will all be replaced by the ultimate cell phone. Specialized devices, some people would say, do the job better. But the thing is, in electronics/computers, things become better all the time, until the general purpose thing is good enough. The ultimate cell phone is good enough for every thing and great for making calls. So where will it end? Here's my current idea about the ultimate cell phone.


Size
I like a digital carry all, but it should still fit in a pocket, so not larger than 5"x2" (12.5cm x 5xm). A clam shell like design can create more space. I like the MPX of Motorola for example, though in general, things that move are things that break.


Screen
Here the motto is: more pixels is better. On the other hand, the screen has to be smaller than the phone obviously, and more than 300dpi resolution doesn't make much sense, so I'll settle for 800x360, which should be reasonable for basic web browsing or reading books. There are already pocketpc's with 640x480 resolution, we just need to shrink them a bit.


Camera
Camera's on phones are here to stay. The only need to become a little better and they will start replacing standalone camera's and camcorders. 2-3 MPixel, 3X optical zoom and auto focus should do the trick. Sure, you'll be able to get a better camera than that, but you phone will be with you when you need it.
For video 640x480x30fps is quite enough for most situations and not that far off from the current capabilities.


Speed
A 500Mhz computer is able to do most of the stuff I want, so my phone probably is going to be around that speed too. The intel PXA27x seems about right.


Operating System
I like Symbian, it seems clean and stable, but I think it is mostly that I don't want Microsofts monopoly extended to the cell phone world. A Nokia led monopoly probably isn't much better though. Linux really is the only way to go. This would also create access to a huge set of applications, development tools and most importantly, developers. Nokia seems to have a version of Python for the series 60, but I don't and if it was on SourceForge, I would.


Storage
The days when the storage capacity of a phone was measured in the number of phone numbers you could enter, are long gone. Top of the line phones support memory cards and they could have 512Mbyte or more. Still, I'd like to take a decent music collection and a couple of movies with me, so we're talking 10Gb+. This will probably mean a harddisk, unless memory prices drop fast soon.


Connectivity
Internet everywhere. GPRS roaming is pointing in the direction of the future. The telecom people are bound to get 3G right at some point and universal UMTS at 2Mbs is quite enough. I don't think Wifi will not become universal anytime soon. But UMTS will have to be fast and cheap, i.e. unlimited plans for a reasonable price.
I also would like my phone to able to connect over USB to keyboards, mice, printers etc. Bluetooth is nice, Wifi or some other network protocol.


Other features
Stereo sound, VGA/TV out to watch your presentation/game/video on a bigger screen. GPS for location based apps. Integration with some payment system (could be just the phone bill). Loud speakers for music or hands free. Connects to a computer over USB for charging and installs itself as a mass storage device/network card/what have you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Israel-Palestine problem

If you ask around, people will tell you that the conflict of Israel and the Pallestinians is one of the worst and possibly one of the biggest threads to peace and stability of the world. 9/11, the conflict in Iraq and the problems with the integration of Islamic new comers in European society are at times all connected to the problems in the Holy Land. I thought about it and here is the solution.


Let's look at the conflict again at measure the size of it. There are 2.2 million Palestinians on the West-Bank, another 1.2 million in Gaza. Israel has a population of 6.1 million, all in all 9.5 million people, slightly less than Belgium. The conflict has taken the lives of about 3500 people over three years, slightly less than half the people dying in traffic accidents in the same period in Belgium.


Compare this with other conflicts. The Civil War in Congo killed 4.7 million people in four and half years. In Somalia, 350.000 people died, Bosnia about 200.000. AIDS killed more than three million people last year and could kill 70 million people by 2020. Malaria and Diarrhoea together killed 5 million and quite a lot of children at that. Global warming killed 150.000 this year and this number could easily double.


These are real problems and these problems are solvable way easier than the conflict between Israel and Palestine. I'm not saying it isn't bad what's happening over there, but let's face it, the world put a lot of energy in that specific conflict all to no avail, we really should move on and focus on things that are fixable and have a bigger effect.


So just let's pretend this thing is happening somewhere in Africa (where it would be a minor confict) and ignore it. Let's learn to pick our battles.

Monday, April 19, 2004

The land of the brave and the free (and the uniform)

This morning I returned from a trip to the US. We flew into San Francisco and worked our way downto Las Vegas, which took about 10 days. A great trip in a great country.


Compared to Europe, the US is the same, same but different, like the Cambodians say. What stroke me most, is the appearant uniformity of the US. I'm not saying there are no differences between the West and East or North and South, because obviously there are; they are just amazlingly small.


Take dialects. You can hear if somebody is from the South or has a thick New Yorkian accent, but usually they are still quite understandable. If you compare that with the Netherlands or for that matter probably any European country, you'll find that if somebody from the south appears on TV, he will be subtitled when speaking his dialect, otherwise viewers wouldn't be able to understand him. And deep south here means 200 km or so from the capital (125 miles). The same goes for somebody from the north or east.


Partly this makes the US such a dynamic place. People can just up and leave if they feel like it move thousands of kilometers away, without too much trouble. In some more remote European areas people are still considered outsiders because their families moved there only 200 years ago.


The fact that Americans do move all the time probably keeps it relatively uniform, which it turn allows the easy moving around.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

4 Month Google News Map

4 Month ago, I launched Google News Map, a small app that shows the headlines of Google News on a world map. Time for a little evaluation.


About two month ago, I build in a function to log the names of the countries that the news was about and the time of the headline. By counting the references and projecting those numbers on a world map, you get an impression of which countries are how popular in the news.



The results are as expected, except for a couple of things. Niger scores very well, but this is probably because my program maps in sometimes on Niger. The US scores pretty bad, but that is because the US is hardly mentioned in the news as United States of America. The same goes for the United Kingdom. I've fixed these problems and hope to have a new newsmap in a couple of months that is even better. Meanwhile, it'd be interesting to see how the news focus changes (though Iraq seems to have a strong hold on the headlines).

Friday, April 2, 2004

Collective Proza

You know this game where everybody gets to add one sentence to a story? Well, here's the online version. In order to make it a little bit more interesting and protect the concept a bit from abuse, each visitor can contribute one candidate sentence. When there are four options, a vote starts and the first one with two more votes than the others gets added. Repeat. What do you think?

Read_Me 2004 Software Art and Cultures Conference

I sent in an abstract for the upcoming Read_Me 2004 Software Art and Cultures Conference in Aarhus and I just got an email, saying they accepted my proposal. Cool. The Read_Me conference and the following Dorkbot City Camp are going to be really interesting if a bit weird. Why not come and join the fun?


Like the website says: From the 25th-27th August, Ã…rhus will be filled with 'people doing strange things with software', as well as more traditional campfire activities such as eating, drinking, talking, socialising, showing off and relaxing together.


Basically, I'll be presenting some of the results around the  Mapped Web project, I developed together with Ernst Wit. We've come up with a couple of interesting extensions to this project, so it really should be fun. I'm also looking into the option of doing a real world Mind World experiment.


A map of the world is projected on the screen. One pixel flashes red. Everybody has a console (cell phone/pda/whatever) and can press the land button or the water button. As soon as five people have pressed a button, the majority vote will decide what the pixel will be, land or water and new pixel will be randomly chosen.