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Satellite TV interference, by pkmital on Flickr

Galaxy 15, a communications satellite operated by Intelsat, has drifted off course while still transmitting, threatening to cause interference to communications networks and satellite TV reception for customers across North America as it drifts past competitor’s satellites. Here’s more, from the Register:

Engineers have sent more than 150,000 commands to the roving craft in an attempt to regain control of it. May 31 to June 1 will be the riskiest time for AMC-11 customers as its parent, SES World Skies, tries to position it as far as possible from the wayward Galaxy 15 while still allowing it to operate as normally as possible.

It’s a good reminder that when we design complex systems, we cannot always predict every eventuality, and should plan fail-safes and contingency mechanisms for when things go wrong. Read the original report from Space.com.


Image credit: pkmital on Flickr

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Shot of newspapers by Shironekoeuro (http://www.flickr.com/photos/shironekoeuro/4040697914/)

Newspaper and magazine publishers see the the arrival of tablet computers like the iPad as a salvation for their ailing industry. They expect it to lower delivery costs and move them from a once-a-day news source to a constant, immediate service.

The excitement is justified, but misdirected. If tablets do save publishing, it’ll won’t be because they’re digital or more up t. It’ll be because they make newspapers interactive, and in doing so, let any reader place an ad right on the page they’re reading, opening up an entirely new revenue stream. Read more »

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Apple has just acquired Siri, a “virtual assistant” that can perform simple tasks for you from your iPhone, such as booking restaurants, movie tickets and taxis (see video right).

Siri is the first of a new genre of product, Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs), which could drive a move away from search engines that just find things for you, towards intelligent software agents that actually do things for you, based on knowing your context and preferences.

Apple’s purchase is exciting because it’s likely to bring the concept of agent software into the public awareness, and catalyse innovation in the space. If Apple add Siri’s functionality into the iPhone OS, it will also bring the iPad a step closer the Knowledge Navigator vision that Apple published way back in 1987.

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Videos of Microsoft Surface, a touchscreen tabletop computer have shown off its capabilities for sharing photos and recognizing and interacting with mobile devices, but there have been few compelling real world applications offered. This video shows how the interface can be used in the classroom as a digital storytelling tool. Students create animated movies combining drawings and real world elements with ease. You can read more about the TellTable here.

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Who owns your voice online?

Gagged on Flickr by Sebastiano Pitruzzello

When I call you, I don’t care who your service provider is. When I send a letter, I don’t care who delivers it to the door. But with online communication, it’s not so simple. If I want to “friend” you, I can only do so if we both use Facebook. If I want to share a thought publicly, you’re unlikely to see it unless you’re on Twitter, too. Twitter, Facebook, MSN and Skype are new forms of communication that did not exist before the Internet – but unlike their old world equivalents, they’re controlled by corporations and the messages you send with them are restricted in audience and reach.

Much of the media attention on Twitter and Facebook is on the products and the companies behind them, but we would do well to stop thinking in those terms, like we did with email, and start thinking more about the means of communication that they provide.

It’s only when we take a step back and think about the digital communications revolution in these terms, that the picture becomes evident. It’s not a pretty one. Almost every form of digital communication is dominated by one company, and locked in to members of that service (See table below). We are in a poor state for a free, open exchange of ideas.

Read more »

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Here’s a piece I just wrote for O’Reilly, which outlines many of the themes we’ll be discussing at this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington, DC at the end of May.  It was fascinating to write, and had input from several of the panelists and organizers; this is a hot topic in an era of national security concerns and unclear privacy legislation.

Peer-reviewed identity in the era of open social graphs is a game changer. Consider, for example, the work involved in creating a false identity today: Photoshopping childhood pictures, friending complete strangers, maintaining multiple distinct Twitter feeds, and checking in from several cities. It’s enough to make Bond retire.

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In this episode of CBC’s Spark Plus, Nora Young interviews Danah Boyd and William Deresiewicz about the ways in which social networks like Facebook are influencing how we think about friendship and changing what we mean by the term “friend”.

Listen to the MP3 (34:04)

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Primo Posthuman by Natasha Vita-More

In the coming decades, a radical upgrading of our body’s physical and mental systems, already underway, will use nanobots to augment and ultimately replace our organs. We already know how to prevent most degenerative disease through nutrition and supplementation; this will be a bridge to the emerging biotechnology revolution, which in turn will be a bridge to the nanotechnology revolution. By 2030, reverse-engineering of the human brain will have been completed and nonbiological intelligence will merge with our biological brains.

The conceptual diagram is by philosopher Natasha Vita-More, and the quote is from Ray Kurzweil’s “The Scientific Conquest of Death”, in which Ray sets out a vision for a route to indefinite human lifespans. You can read the full essay on Ray’s site or abridged highlights courtesy of DW2.

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Excellent infographic from German blog Trendone, which shows the shift in media from passive, consumed data to engaged, interactive, and ultimately augmented media.

You can download the image or a PDF of the illustration.

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SpaceShipOne in flight

The X-Prize Foundation is a non-profit charity which catalyzed the creation of a private space travel industry. Virgin Galactic recently completed its maiden voyage and will be taking passengers to space using technology first created for SpaceShipOne, winner of the Ansari X-Prize in 2004.

The Foundation has announced, in line with their mission is to bring about “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity”, $100 million of prizes over the next 10 years, in four key areas – Energy & Environment, Education & Global Development, Exploration and Life Sciences.

The Life Sciences category is of particular interest as it specifically mentions Human 2.0 devices, brain computer-interfaces, bionics, artificial intelligence physicians and telemedecine. If the prize gives the same boost to innovation and scientific development in this field that it has for space travel, we can be sure of some exciting progress in the next few years.


Image credit: sdawara on Flickr.

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