Tag Archives: animation

Reforestation, Google Earth Style

image

Here’s a very cool way to mix technology and environmental stuff, via the Google Earth Blog. (Interest declared: It’s part of the NEWtrees project, the brainchild of my publisher and friend Mark Hanusz):

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) offers you the opportunity to buy a tree which will be planted in a rainforest in Sebangau National Forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. In return, they not only plant the tree, but give you a Google Earth KML file in return with the location coordinates of your tree. Theoretically, as Google continues to update with higher resolution satellite and aerial imagery, you should be able to watch the growth of your tree (and the others who donate trees) over the coming years. To get started, you simply go to the web site mybabytree.org. They have a very cute animation that will guide you through the process, and you can use Paypal to make your donation. You can see the location and list of trees purchased so far here . Borneo is another location, like the Amazon, where rain forests are disappearing due to logging at a freightening pace. I hope WWF will extend the concept to the rapidly declining rain forests in the Amazon.

Why’s this so good? Because it leverages straightforward technology — GPS, Google Earth — to make the global significant on an individual scale. I remember when I was a kid my dad planted a tree for me in Northampton as part of a local Men of the Trees project (now the International Tree Foundation). Sadly the project was bulldozed to make way for a bypass, but hopefully that’s not likely to happen in Kalimantan. Certainly I could relate a lot more to one tree than a forest.

 

Google Earth Blog: Buy a Tree for the Rainforest – Get a KML

The Leopard’s Spot (On)

Just gotten back from a demo of the new version of Mac’s operating system, Mac OS X Leopard (must confess I don’t like the names. It’s slightly better than Vista, but still a bit lame in my view.) But that’s not the point. I arrived halfway through the demo and so missed a lot of the stuff, but, still. Wow. There’s something about Mac software that makes you go ‘ooo’ even when you don’t really want to.

I won’t bore you with details, but watching it unfold made me think a few things:

  • Rarely is there anything startlingly new here. It’s intuitive, obvious, like all good innovation. But it’s also “why couldn’t we already do this?” And sometimes we could, at least for a while. Like widgets that are actually just segments of a webpage — a daily cartoon, or a CNN news section. I remember we could do this in 2001 in Windows, courtesy of some company that later went bust. Wish I could remember the name.
    (It also made me think of Active Desktop, which I’ve never seen people use, probably because it was fiddly and because very few of us actually saw our desktop for all the programs we had open.) Of course, Apple made it fun, easy and the kind of thing you want to do, rather than do because you can. But it’s still something that should have been around a half decade ago.
  • Then there’s stuff that’s not new, just better. Spaces lets you have lots of desktops. We could do this on Windows years ago, and even Ubuntu has had it as a standard feature for a while, but on a Mac it just looks good, and works as you would want it to. You can drag programs, for example, between virtual desktops (one day, I hope, you will be able to drag data) and the animation is both fun and strangely helpful.
  • Then there’s stuff that looks a bit like a ripoff — data connectors, for example, that will grab addresses from emails for you. Anagram, among other programs, do this already. It’s good that Mac has recognised the usefulness of this application, but you can’t help feeling sorry for the folks who have spent so long developing a feature like this, only to see themselves being overtaken by the Leopard
  • Then there’s true innovation, based on watching how people work. Like the demo guy (who used the word “cool” about 398 times too many in the presentation) said, a lot of us use email software in a way that wasn’t intended — as a kind of word processor cum note taker cum to do list. Apple realised this, and have turned Mail into exactly that, allowing you to add to do lists with images and stuff embedded. Nothing startling, but acknowledging how we work and making it easier for us.

This is not to detract from Apple’s achievement. Leopard looks hot, and makes Vista look impoverished and, I suspect, somewhat irrelevant, like someone trying to sell aluminum siding to people who realise that while people still have it on their houses, no one really wants it anymore. Apple see what people want and give it to them.

Not once did the guy mention speed, or having lots of applications open, or ‘experience’. I find that telling. Maybe he forgot to, but I always shiver when I hear these words. I know that users don’t think like that; they want to know what they can do, not whether screen redraws are quicker or the edges of windows bend like willow. (They’re happy if they do, but that’s not why they buy an OS.) Neither do they want an “experience” — they want to do stuff. Leopard, it seems will, let them to do that.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Another Way to Share

I am increasingly enjoying using the Google clipping tool Google Notebook. I like anything which lets you grab content from the web — I put together a list here a few months back which I’ve just updated; a collection of more socially oriented tools is here.. Well, here’s another: Jeteye .

Basically Jeteye is a download that allows you to not only save clips of text from the web but also images, including video, audio and animation. You can then make Jetpaks™ — an awful name for what are customized Web pages collecting stuff together like everything you need to know about Condoleezza Rice. Useful if you need to create a quick and dirty collection of stuff to share.

Reservations? It does feel a bit top down, as if the company’s trying too hard to impress and be cool. First off, you can win prizes — to me a sign a company’s got cash to burn and is trying to reach critical mass in a hurry, without necessarily having too much confidence it can do it via quality. Secondly, the front page is a bit over the top, as other reviewers have noticed. Finally. the language on the About page is a bit too breathless:

Our company stands for freer communication on the web — how we move through it, take from it, add to it, own it, and affect it — how we pull information and contribute thought, experience, opinion, and depth; expressing the possibilities, challenging the status quo and delivering a way for everyone to actively inhabit the web.
Jeteye

Built as a platform for communication, Jeteye changes how we interact with what we find on the web, providing us with transparent tools to gather, build and share what we collect.

Challenging the status quo? Still, it’s worth a try. Sort of halfway between a MySpace page and something like Clipmarks (which has another facelift, I see. Looking a lot tighter.)

Malaysia’s New PDA Phone

Malaysian company Fifth Media (beware: lots of Flash animation) will this week launch the Axia, a PDA phone that is small, and, at $525, ‘arguably the lowest-priced PDA phone’, according to today’s New Straits Times.

The Axia A108 is a GSM tri-band phone using Microsoft Windows CE.NET, with GPRS, MP3 player and 1.3 megapixel camera. There’s no Bluetooth, in case you’re wondering.

It will first appear in Singapore, Bangkok, London and Hong Kong. It will later be launched  in Paris, Mumbai, Jakarta, Manila and Dubai. Fifth Media, the Times reports, plans to launch three more models in the next year: the Axia A208 with a pocket personal computer and facsimile, a A308 with Bluetooth and a 2.0- megapixel screen, and the A338 with WiFi.

News: Draw Your Own Website

netomat, “a pioneer in communication software and network-based art”, has just released its new personal multimedia communication service. The beta (for both PC and Mac) is now available as a free download.

netomat allows anyone to “create and publish or send multimedia websites, emails and blogs using any combination of digital pictures, audio, voice, text, free-form drawing and animation — all in just a few minutes”. Looks intriguing.

Software: Messenger 6.0 Is Out! Whee….

 The new version of Microsoft’s Instant Messaging program, MSN Messenger, is now officially out. The new version comes with, wait for it, more than 60 new emoticons (smiley faces to you and me), including ones that come alive with animation (o horror of horrors), and the ability to make personal emoticons (even more horrors); dozens of background images and personal display pictures for the IM screen, online games such as Tic Tac Toe and Minesweeper which users can play at IM speed with friends (no wonder companies don’t like their employees using chat programs at work), an integrated, easy-to-use Webcam service to share live video and voice with other users, easy ways to save your favorite IM conversations to a personal hard drive.
 
 
What’s probably more interesting in the long run is MSN Messenger’s closer integration with other devices, including cell phone, personal digital assistants (PDAs), MSN Direct watches or Tablet PCs. Clearly this whole IM thing is going to converge at some point with SMS or text messaging — a mobile phone version of the same thing, really — while the more fancy enhancements are, as Microsoft says, “to help the online network attain its long-term goal of providing broadband users a growing array of communications services”. That’s short for making messaging a serious tool in the work place (presumably with lots of self-designed smileys with it too).
 
I have not used Messenger ever since it tried to automatically load itself every time I use Outlook or Outlook Express. (If you have the same problem, try this). I prefer Trillian, which keeps my desktop free of little IM clients. But then I’m a grouch.

Software: OpenOffice Almost Open For Business

 OpenOffice, the free open source challenge to Microsoft Office, is in its last stage before general commercial release next month. It includes the usual — a word processor, a spreadsheet application — and can save in Office formats. This version can also export files in the portable document format (PDF) and in Macromedia’s Flash animation format. OpenOffice 1.1 also supports non-Latin character sets, and is available in 30 languages. Maybe now is the time to try it out. You can download the ‘release candidate’ version here.
 
 
If money is a problem, it’s a great solution. Am I using it? Er, no. But that’s because I’m too lazy to get over the (admittedly rather gentle) learning curve involved in making the transition. This is professional software, and it’s good enough for prime time.