Category Archives: Science and Technology

iPad: stuck between paradigms?

Just purchased a shiny new iPad, in the 32-GB wifi variety. So far, it’s been a joy to use. Browsing is great, and I think the email client will be super helpful for productivity. (although the longstanding complaint about having to descend into subfolders and mail accounts and update is still applicable.)

I don’t think I’ll be able to post a comprehensive review of the kind at Ars Technica (link coming). The one thing I’ll point out is that typing on the on-screen keyboard is not too bad– this post was composed using the WordPress universal app, for example, and the speed of composition was limited by my mental speed of composition, not my flitting fingers.

The one tricky thing seems to me is the ability to move data/content/information between applications, and the lack of a repository for files. Especially without the ability to multitasking, it’s vitally important to be able to cut-and-paste in a way that would replicate the intuitive dragging in Mac OS X.

In this app, for example, it seems that pasting is disabled (!), which makes no sense to me. Maybe it’s because the word press app would know how to deal with copied pictures or something.

I suppose this is a complaint, fundamentally, that the iPad offers slick-looking applications that appear so promising, but aren’t running on a general-purpose computer. We’ll see if my growing experience or the new os update coming on thursday addresses any of these issues.

Laptop: $100. Power: free as sunlight.

Sometimes living in Cambridge makes it easy to come up with material.

At lunchtime today I saw someone sitting with an XO Laptop from the OPLC project.  I know that this project has issues, but I like the idea in general, and especially its use of open-source software.

I guess I’ll consider the conversation I had with this person as off-the-record, but I will mention that I didn’t bring up the “nail in [OLPC’s] coffin” that I had read earlier this morning.

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But how much RAM does it have?

A seemingly complete description of the “Antikythera Mechanism” was recently published in the scientific journal Nature.  Mainstream accounts with interviews of the authors are also available.  (There’s also a cool streaming video, but I’m not sure if that’s accessible to non-scubscribers.)

This is a pretty amazing device, in that it appears (to me as a layman) at least as complex as the mechanical clocks that emerged in the early Renaissance in Europe.  This raises several questions: why are these devices so rarely described in contemporary texts?  What happened to the knowledge and technology required for designing and building things like this between Greek times and the Renaissance?  How could only one such device survive, to be discovered by fortuity in 1901? 

Given the importance of the mechanical clock to the age of discovery during the Renaissance, it’s amazing to think what might have been if a few of these had been safely kept and widely used in ancient times.

Figures from the Nature paper after the break.   Continue reading