Tag Archives: Donald Knuth

Would You Buy A Bluetooth Car From These People?

Spare a thought for the car salesperson. Nowadays they’ve got to know as much about technology as they do about cars. A recent course held by Ford in the UK called True Blue Live to train salespeople in technology has produced mixed reports. A South African motoring website called motoring.co.za reports that “by the end of the session nearly half felt “very confident” and most of the rest were “reasonably confident”. Only a few were still unsure but, importantly, conscious of the need to brush up.”

But elsewhere The Coventry Evening Telegraph (sorry, can’t find original link) reports from the same training session that “feedback after the event indicated that around 35 per cent of the sales staff who attended had little confidence in their own ability to demonstrate high-tech in-car equipment such as BlueTooth devices and voice control systems.” What’s not clear from the story is whether this was their attitude before or after the event. But you can’t help wondering whether, if the salespeople have trouble explaining Bluetooth and other features of these cars, end users actually ever understand or use any of them?

Morph: Where You Sit

I’ve been invited to join a bunch of interesting folk blogging at the Media Center Conversation, “a global, cross-sector exploration of issues, trends, ideas and actions to build a better-informed society. It’s a collaborative project that rips, mixes and mashes people from radically different spheres of activity and thought to share and learn from each other.” The idea is to “explore how society informs itself, tells its story and creates the narrative from which we extract context and meaning about our world, our neighbors and ourselves. From this exploration we seek to connect people and opportunities, to incubate ideas – and to stimulate projects and action.”

Here’s an excerpt form my first contribution: Where You Sit:

Where you are influences what you write.

I write a technology column for the online and Asian editions of The Wall Street Journal, based in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Even my boss sometimes asks me why I don’t move to some geeky centre like Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul or Taipei.

Last time he was in town I was trying to explain to him — the diversity, the perspective it lends to geeky gadgetry fiddling with my Treo as a prematurely old woman drags a truck-sized cart of grass past my taxi window, the wow! factor when technology really does work in the real world — when a terrorist bomb went off outside an embassy less than a mile away. That stopped our conversation before I had really gotten into gear. Nothing like a bomb blast to break the mood.

Yes, I know it’s awful to quote oneself, but I just wanted to show you I’m staying busy. And actually there are some interesting folk posting to the blog, so you can ignore my stuff and read theirs if you prefer.

The Hidden Channel on MP3s

Why don’t MP3 files contain ‘hidden’ channel like DVDs do? Or do they? It would be a great way to cater to the modern remix culture, the podcasting revolution, the audio commentary and soundseeing movement.

I wrote a few months back about podentaries, my ridiculous term for what I later found was already a thriving, if somewhat limited movement. The idea is basically to offer an audio accompaniment to more or less anything, not just confined to washed-up ex-directors pontificating on their old movies (parodied imperfectly by Rob Brydon), but also to music (take it to a Beethoven concert, an alternative to the stodgy guided tour, to TV series).

But surely it’s easy enough to add an extra channel to an MP3 file, that, with some software, can be released and mixed into the original music or sound? This would solve all sorts of problems of synchronization, and allow musicians, commentators or anyone who likes to include their tuppence worth to the recording. (“Now, if you listen carefully in the background a few bars ahead, you can hear me fluffing the first few notes of my ukelele solo”).

Of course, it needn’t stop there. You could capitalize on the already burgeoning Remix Culture by releasing songs that can have their drumtrack, say, removed by listeners to turn it into a bit of chilled out ambient fun, or have the voice track mutable so karaoke enthusiasts could have a go. I’m sure this kind of thing is already available in some format or other. I just haven’t seen any.

In short, when is the MP3 player, the iTunes of our age, going to become a mini mixer so we ordinary folk who might not want to remix from the bottom up can at least redesign songs to our tastes, and, perhaps more interestingly dig into some hidden channels that tell us more about what we’re listening to?