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We’re All Kevin Smiths Now

(This is a copy of my Loose Wire Sevice column, produced for newspapers and other print publications. Hence the lack of links.) A few weeks ago a gentleman of, by his own account, more than average girth was thrown off a Southwest Air flight between Oakland and Burbank. Unfortunately for the airline this was no ordinary gentleman but Kevin Smith, director of such classics as Clerks and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and, perhaps more importantly, a man conversant with social media. As he was unceremoniously removed from the flight because he was a “customer of size” and therefore a safety risk, he turnedContinue readingWe’re All Kevin Smiths Now

The New Newswire: a Dutch Student Called Michael

Twitter is now a news service in its own right. ReadWrite Web, an excellent website dedicated to Web 2.0 stuff, points out that the recent earthquake in England–not that unusual in itself, apparently, but rarely actually strong enough to be felt by humans—was reported first by Twitterers and by a Twitter-only news service called BreakingNewsOn (www.twitter.com/BreakingNewsOn):  This story broke over Twitter in the past half hour, and nothing is up yet on the BBC sites, the Guardian, or the Telegraph. This story is breaking live on Twitter. Looking at the situation a few hours later, it’s certainly true that mainstream websites have been a bitContinue readingThe New Newswire: a Dutch Student Called Michael

Satellites to the Rescue

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation on how satellites and space technology are helping, and might help, in the case of big medical emergencies, from earthquakes to Ebola. It’s a slightly different tack for me and perhaps not the usual fare for loose wire blog, but I thought I’d throw it in here anyway. When former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was seen leaving a conference in Geneva in November 2005 clutching maps of the south Asia earthquake disaster, it was evidence that satellites – as a key weapon in humanitarian emergencies – had arrived. In the hours andContinue readingSatellites to the Rescue

Getting Ecards from Worshippers

You got to give scammers credit where credit is due. This latest wave of e-card spam at least exhibits some imagination on the part of the sender: At first it was from a friend, then a colleague, then a classmate; now it’s neighbors and worshippers sending you ecards. Good on them. I must confess I don’t worship that often, and I haven’t spoken to my neighbor since the Korean-funded mistress moved out from next door, so they’re not likely to dupe me. But they might dupe someone. (If I got one from from a Fellow Technology Columnist, I might bite.) Which would be bad, because theContinue readingGetting Ecards from Worshippers

Google Earth as Harbinger of Doom

Researchers are using Google Earth, the New York Times/IHT reports, to look for evidence of giant tsunamis, signs that the Earth has been hit by comets or asteroids more regularly, and more recently, than people thought: This year the group started using Google Earth, a free source of satellite images, to search around the globe for chevrons, which they interpret as evidence of past giant tsunamis. Scores of such sites have turned up in Australia, Africa, Europe and the United States, including the Hudson River Valley and Long Island. Chevrons are huge deposits of sediment that were once on the bottom of the ocean; theyContinue readingGoogle Earth as Harbinger of Doom

Indonesia’s Quake

For anyone interested in helping the victims of the Yogyakarta earthquake, in which thousands of people have been killed inside their heavy stone and slate homes, here’s Indonesia Help – Earthquake and Tsunami Victims. Sadly, this website was originally set up for the tsunami, now 17 months ago, but has been quickly resurrected to provide news and information on how to help. Even the website of the administration of the town of Bantul has updated its site with some news and photos of the quake. More information can be found at the airputih media center. The tsunami has clearly made local organisations and individuals awareContinue readingIndonesia’s Quake

Tsunamis, Warnings and the SMS

Systems — especially warning systems — need to work perfectly, or not at all. Take Thailand’s new tsunami early warning system, which recently failed a trial because busy phone networks took hours to deliver vital SMS messages, while some some warnings sent by fax didn’t turn up at all, according to AFP. (More on the drill from DPA here.) The report quotes Thailand’s National Disaster Warning Centre as saying that text messages sent by cell phones to emergency coordinators around the country took hours to arrive, while warnings sent by fax during the morning drill also failed to arrive. Said Pakdivat Vajirapanlop, the centre’s deputyContinue readingTsunamis, Warnings and the SMS

Googling the Tsunami

More from Google Trends, the sad rise and fall in our interest in the tsunami: At the end of 2004, the Asian Tsunami piqued/peaked our attention, but the later blips (F, the last little flag on the chart, is the first anniversay) reflect, perhaps, how quickly such things are forgotten.

Phones As Emergency Tools

The excellent textually.org  carries a piece about a technology which would allow people to “receive emergency messages on their mobile phones via an audio system — even when networks are down or out of reach, such as when underground”. The signal would be embedded as “data in an audio signal which can be transmitted over a radio, TV or PA system and sent using an encoded link via SLS to mobiles in the vicinity.”  It sounds like a good idea. I’d love to see the cellphone used more imaginatively as a way to reach and transmit emergency data — whether it’s information which may help theContinue readingPhones As Emergency Tools

One Kid, A Tsunami, Nineteen Days At Sea, And A Soccer Match

This is nothing to do with technology, but it’s such a wonderful story I have to share it. Here’s how AP reported it: Portugal welcomes a special fan: Indonesian tsunami survivor LISBON, Portugal (AP): When Portugal walks onto the field Saturday to play Slovakia in a World Cup qualifying match, its captain will be holding the hand of a special guest – an 8-year- old Indonesian boy who survived alone for 19 days after the December tsunami. Martunis, whose second name was not provided, was found on a beach in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, wearing a Portugal soccer shirt – prompting Portuguese soccer officials to inviteContinue readingOne Kid, A Tsunami, Nineteen Days At Sea, And A Soccer Match

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