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n3.n3 n3.n3 March 29, 2005 6:52 PM
N3 is the most powerful language for expressing things in the Semantic Web. Once you have read an introduction to N3 you will know you are a pro when you can read n3.n3, which is N3 described in N3. A few hints may help a long way.

I am not there yet. But its on my todo list.


Tim Berners Lee: The Emergent Semantic Web
Tim Berners Lee: The Emergent Semantic Web Tim Berners Lee: The Emergent Semantic Web March 28, 2005 7:34 PM
So following on again on the point mentioned by Brewster Kahle in his presentation I finally found the large archive of MIT videos, where I luckily happened on an excellent presentation given by Tim Berners Lee - the inventor of the World Wide Web - on the web and its future: the Semantic Web. He here gives an overview which should be accessible to most people. If you don't know much about the Semantic Web, and want to have a little glimpse into the future, this is certainly worth spending a little time watching.

Having worked with Semantic Web technologies for the last year I feel that I have come to have a good understanding of it, and am comfortable with this vision, believing it to be workable and functional.
Technologies like living beings have life cycles. The semantic web, is I believe in the late research phase to initial deployment phase, where people like me have come to grips with what the technology is doing and are starting to develop applications to test them out. The theoretical foundations have been very clearly laid out (these are built on some of the most powerful mathematical and logical basis), good software libraries are available for engineers to build their applications on, more and more such example applications are being written from which one can learn by example how to think about the problem, and people are starting to come up against the problems that lead one to understand the need for such a solution.
As Tim Berners Lee explains, this technology is emergent: Emergent phenomena are often unexpected, nontrivial results of relatively simple interactions of relatively simple components.

So be prepared to be surprised. :-)

Irvin Kaplansky - Fun with Mathematics: Some Thoughts from Seven Decades
Irvin Kaplansky - Fun with Mathematics: Some Thoughts from Seven Decades Irvin Kaplansky - Fun with Mathematics: Some Thoughts from Seven Decades March 28, 2005 4:56 PM
Following through on the leads opened up by Breswter Kahl's talk on the Internet Archive, where I believe he mentioned that MIT had started giving videos of its lectures to the foundation, I started exploring it, and ran accross a very large collection of videos by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI). I selected the first highlighted lecture, given by Irvin Kaplansky, and to my surprise, not being a mathematician, watched it from beginning to end with great interest.

Irvin Kaplansky gives the following advice to his students:

  • Search the literature
  • Keep good notes
  • Reach out
  • Try to learn one new thing a day

The first point, searching the literature, is the point he spends most time on, giving very careful references to the most important works and collections in the field. One of the most interesting tools it seems is a reference book that allows one to search from past papers to future articles that mention that paper. (Papers themselves usually mention their predecessors, but can't of course mention future work.) In any case he even gives pointers to the exact room location and area of the library where one may find these reference works.

This highlights what I believe is still very much a limitation of doing research at present on the internet. Even though a huge amount of work is now available online, most of the best work is still available only on paper. A lot of this can be bought online, but a large part of this very specialised work is going to be out of print or just simply way too expensive. One has to live in a great university town to do the best research.

Following his lecture though it is absolutely clear that if those works were available online and the lectures available in video form, one could do a lot of the research from anywhere in the world. The human aspect of "reaching out" could be partly taken care of by blogging, going to conferences and meeting up with people in one's vicinity. This is a little how I do research. But in the field of computing this is a lot easier as a very large amount of the relevant work is available online (computer people having of course immediately seen the advantage of doing so).

In any case, the four points he makes seem to cut across disciplines very well, and it is good to be reminded of them.

Brewster Kahle co-founder of the Internet Archive
Brewster Kahle co-founder of the Internet Archive Brewster Kahle co-founder of the Internet Archive March 27, 2005 1:33 AM
Last week I found my long lost applet using the Internet Archive's WayBackMachine. Today I listened to Brewster Kahle's presentation on the Internet Archive, again streamed as part of C-SPANs Digital Futures series. This must be one of the best and most important projects currently being worked on: the digitisation of all human knowledge. Listening to him speak with such passion, knowledge and experience, one has no doubt that he will succeed in getting all of the 128 million items stored in the Library of Congress's 530 miles of bookshelves digitised, searchable and online in the next 15 years.

The Internet Archive project does seem to define the whole Digital Futures series of lectures. It is the project of all projects, and I think he rightly compares it to sending a man on the moon. It sets a standard for others to measure themselves by, it helps us refocus on what the internet really is about and where we are all going to.

Just beware. You may feel dizzy contemplating a project with this broad and height of ambition. If you feel confident you can view it, I highly recommend doing so.

Notes: I found a text transcript of a very similar speech Brewster Kahle gave at the NotCon conference. This is much easier to search.

Lawrence Lessig: Intellectual Property and Creativity
Lawrence Lessig: Intellectual Property and Creativity Lawrence Lessig: Intellectual Property and Creativity March 25, 2005 12:19 PM
Lawrence Lessig gives a very clear presentation on the theme of Intellectual Property and Creativity to the Library of congress in The Digital Future series recorded by C-SPAN. This is required viewing for anyone working creatively on the internet.

He nicely summarises the points made in various books of his, the most recent of which Code V2 is now being rewritten openly on the internet in the form of a wiki. But for those who may lack the time to read these books, which are very approachable may I add, then this video will give a very balanced overview on how the laws need to evolve to allow the power unleashed by the internet to work with us and not against us. Don't miss the short debate at the end either.

In any case one should be subscribed to his blog.

My first java applet: The Fractal Lab
My first java applet: The Fractal Lab My first java applet: The Fractal Lab March 20, 2005 9:07 PM
Somehow this evening I ended up playing a little more seriously than usual with the WayBackMachine, a great service which aims to create an archive of the whole internet.

Using it I finally located my first ever java Fractal Lab applet that I had lost a few years ago. This applet was awarded a little cool flag on Gamelan in early 1996 which was part of what helped me get to the first JavaOne conference. At the time I was a poor penniless student and Sun microsystems agreed to drop the hefty entry fee, leaving just the air fare to pay (thanks Dad!).

It was during those two weeks in the Bay Area that I found a job with altavista.digital.com. At the time (1996) they were serving over 10 million requests daily and proudly stated this on their front page.

In 1997 I worked on the cow9 Java Applet (also known as AltaVista Refine). Given a search query it would draw a graph of related concepts that could be used to narrow the search further. It would be nice if I could find the applet again, but I fear that it was protected by an overly strict robots.txt file.

The archive also captures the start of the BabelFish, initially called the "Translation Assistant". But the WayBackMachine only started archiving the BabelFish one year later.

Well I am really happy I found the first ever applet I wrote! I have fixed it up a little (it was not only my first applet but also my first Object Oriented program) and have made it available again.

Tulip Computers
Tulip Computers Tulip Computers March 20, 2005 11:57 AM
C-Net has some great pictures of designer laptops produced by the Dutch computer company Tulip Computers.

It is surprising how long it took for intel based companies to start producing nice looking laptop like this. My guess is that the look of a laptop is going to outweigh many other considerations for a very large segment of the computer buying population.

If the market for "fashion laptops" does materialise, will Apple be able to diversify its portfolio enough to be able to reach each on of the fashion markets in existence? My guess is not. It would have to either work with these manufacturers or open up its technology a lot further to allow clones back in.

Since the above sounds unlikely, lets hope that a linux user interface succeeds in achieving the aesthetic finish level of OSX so that having linux could itself become a fashion statement that could meld with such a laptop.

U2's Bono is given three wishes
U2's Bono is given three wishes U2's Bono is given three wishes March 17, 2005 12:32 PM
In mid Febuary U2 spoke on Africa and poverty at the Technology Entertainment Design conference where he expressed three wishes:
  • I wish for you to help build a social movement of more than ONE MILLION American activists for Africa.
  • I wish to tell people ONE BILLION times about ONE, with as much of this as possible before the G8 Africa Summit in July 2005.
  • I wish for you to show the power of information - its power to rewrite the rules and to transform lives - by connecting every hospital, health clinic, and school in one African country, Ethiopia, to the Internet.

The acceptance speech is well worth viewing in its entirety.

Thanks to Gonzo for pointing this out to me.