Hao Wu's "Beijing or Bust"

Beijing or Bust documentary

Finals days of Excite@Home
KQED, the San Francisco PBS station, just finished broadcasting "Beijing or Bust", a documentary on the experiences of American expatriates of Chinese descent living in present-day Beijing. It's an intriguing vignette by first-time film-maker and former Excite@Home colleague Hao Wu. His interview subjects are intelligent and articulate observers of what is currently happening in China and of what is happening within themselves as they embrace it. I admire each of them for their ability to navigate this fascinating place and time.

Congratulations to Hao for a truly impressive maiden effort, and many thanks for insightfully conveying the adventure of present-day China to the American audience.


PhotoBlox pop-up windows

Using rich media while keeping page weight light

I stumbled across some old tests of ways to incorporate the Laszlo PhotoBlox and realized I could make any in-line image spawn the PhotoBlox in a pop-up window. The small thumbnail to the left works in precisely this manner. This seems like an ideal way to incorporate that rich media widget while keeping page weight to a minimum. Now, if only this were made easier for the general user, the popularity of the PhotoBlox could increase 1000 fold.

Tags: |


Living the Analog and Digital Life

Basis of the New Generation Gap?

MTT performs Copland
The Music

Laura at Davies Sept 16, 2005
The Crowd

MTT and the SF Symphony
The Band

Business Week's recent article on the MySpace Generation underscores the newest generation gap. In contrast to most of my peers, younger Americans in or recently out of school appear to have embraced the 'digital life' enabled by Web communications and publishing tools. They blog their thoughts openly instead of, or in addition to, keeping private diaries. They embrace new technologies freely in part thanks to their fluency with markup languages such as HTML. Activities confined in older circles to software developers and the digerati, seem second nature to a much broader cross-section of our youngest adults.

Well, just to prove I'm no dinosaur (yet), I offer my own MySpace style blog entry complete with Amazon Music link. While Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony may not top the pop charts, their performances of the music of Aaron Copland are the cat's rear end. Short of checking them out live, I suggest you buy the CD!


Running Rails and MySQL on OS X 10.4 (Tiger)

Working through the "Depot" example in the widely praised book "Agile Web Development with Rails", I encountered a well known problem with Ruby and MySQL on OS X 10.4 (Tiger), identified in the footnotes of the book on p. 53:

"Unless, perhaps, you’re running OS X 10.4. It seems as if Tiger has broken Ruby’s
standard MySQL library. If you see the error 'Before updating scaffolding from new DB schema, try creating a table for your model (Product)', it may well be because Ruby (and hence Rails) can’t get to the database. To fix Apple’s bad install, you’re going to need to reinstall Ruby’s MySQL library, which means running the script on page 21 to repair the Ruby installation, and then reinstalling the mysql gem."

The book's advice did not work for me. But Tony Arnold's advice did work. I needed to install the Xcode Tools from the OS X 10.4 Developer Tools CD. This provides the GCC 4.0 "C" compiler needed to build a working Ruby MySQL binding from source.

My working configuration:
MacOS X 10.4.2
ruby 1.8.2 (2004-12-25) [powerpc-darwin8.0]
Rails 0.14.3 (updated from Tony Arnold's Rails distribution for OS X Tiger)
mysql-ruby-2.7 binding compiled from source using GCC 4.0

I converged on Tony Arnold's information only after wading through much other material surfaced through Web searches. The information on the RubyOnRails site covering this same topic struck me as more complex to digest. I can not confirm whether that material works, but the commentary reveals some confusion among developers. Hopefully, recording my successful experience here will save others some time.


Business Card Art

Robert Scoble's business card
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Robert Scoble presented his tres-hip business card earlier this morning at the Laszlo offices in San Mateo. With Robert's permission, I've posted it on Flickr. The impressive design by Hugh Macleod reminds me of the work of the esteemed Saul Steinberg, which I hope Hugh will accept as a high compliment!


Laszlo Mail goes public

Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Laszlomail is a grand example of what OpenLaszlo makes possible. It's now available for the world to try out, in the spirit of a living laboratory.

Interesting reading material is available at the Laszlomail blog.



Design, Markets, Customer Knowledge

Lessons from Sea Ranch, California

Gualala Beach driftwood

Sea Ranch coastline

Maynard and Lyndon

Gehry cube stools

Sea Ranch book cover

Tree House exterior

Tree House interior

I recently discovered for the first time the many charms of Gualala and the nearby Sea Ranch on the Northern California coast. I found much to my liking, including Maynard Lyndon's Placewares, Joel Crockett's Four-eyed Frog Books, the 'lusty, zaftig soulful food' of Pangaea, the charming Tree House and of course, the Sea Ranch's wonderful synthesis of the built and natural environments.

This beautiful region also brought to mind the tension between 'good design' and 'market appeal'. In both software and residential architecture, what the design professions deem good may only be recognized and appreciated by sufficiently knowledgeable end users. Hence superior ideas risk addressing a smaller market.

For example, among the digerati, Yahoo's Flickr is recognized as an outstanding example of Web 2.0 software design. But in order to deliver Flickr's immense power and flexibility as an online photo-sharing service, the UI design dispenses with old, restrictive metaphors, such as albums, in favor of new metaphors which presume greater familiarity with the abstractions of the Web. For those less familiar with the Web, Flickr requires greater effort to understand and use than earlier online photo sharing services.

Similarly, in the architecture profession, the Sea Ranch is heralded as an exceptional example of modern architecture and planning, melding people and the environment in an enlightened manner. To do so, the Sea Ranch allocates much of its land area to permanent, communally-owned open space and imposes strict planning guidelines for continued development. But the Sea Ranch approach to the built environment only appeals to home buyers who perceive the value of relatively esoteric ideas understood by few beyond the design professions.

In comparison to the built environment, the Web fortunately enjoys the advantage of greater maleability and rapid iteration. Thus both designer and end-user may quickly experiment, learn and evolve together. While good novel ideas in architecture may require decades or generations for the real estate market to digest, similarly beneficial ideas in software may only take months or years for the software market to embrace. In either case, progress requires a well-informed market in a position to understand the value of the latest advances.

Tags: ,


Tuned-in to Pandora at TechCrunch

Tuned-in to Pandora at TechCrunch
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

I headed over to the TechCrunch BBQ (#3)last night, in part to find out what all the fuss was about, and to see how the audience might respond to the Pandora demo. This fuzzy cell phone photo captures the attention Pandora attracted. Everbody appreciates a personal DJ at your service 24/7, spinning tunes you love and catering to your every wish. Pandora does just that via a practical AI implementation matched with a zen-simple user interface.

Tom Conrad closed his demo thanking OpenLaszlo, the GUI technology behind Pandora, and gesturing toward Jim Grandy and I. That was most thoughtful of him, and we were surprised by the spontaneous ovation.

Without doubt, the gracious tone of the whole event was set by the hosts and organizers - from opening up their residence, to creating an event t-shirt, and serving food and beverages for 200 strangers. With more gatherings such as this one, Web 2.0 may prove to be a more social version of the original Web boom, in several senses of the word.

Tags: , , ,


Neil Mix of Pandora with Laszlo team

Neil Mix of Pandora with Laszlo team
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Pandora CTO Tom Conrad and lead engineer Neil Mix paid Laszlo Systems a visit yesterday to discuss the experience of launching their new music discovery service. Much of the Laszlo engineering team is pictured here, digesting both pizza and Neil's remarks on the evaluation process and final decision to base the Pandora UI on OpenLaszlo.

I continue to be amazed everyday by the growing impact of the Web. Perhaps part of the secret behind it all is captured in this photo. Tom and Neil will demo Pandora again, tonight at TechCrunch.

Tags: ,


SoundBlox, Remix Culture and the Digital Life

The Laszlo SoundBlox, an open source MP3 blog widget, has quietly gathered an enthusiastic following around the world since its initial release in December 2003. Just this morning, I received a note of thanks from Patxi Trapero from the Basque region of Spain, who informed us of his wonderful use of the SoundBlox, complete with a mix of acoustic music, beautiful photographs and endearing personal videos.

Patxi's SoundBlox is another example of the human impulse driving what some call the digital life and others dub the remix culture. I find this impulse supremely humanistic and hope-inspiring. Thanks Patxi, for sharing your life, and for having the patience required to program the SoundBlox XML file! The SoundBlox of today requires substantial technical prowess to customize. In the years ahead, Laszlo Systems hopes to make this kind of digital life activity far more accessible to the world-at-large.

Tags: ,


The Boom is Back: Web 2.0 2006

Conversation with Terry Semel
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Technologists, investors and journalists have packed the Argent Hotel today for Web 2.0, including many gilded as well as scarred veterans of the first Web boom. The Web 2.0 Conference, now in its 2nd year, feels much like the Demo conferences of the late 1990's - meaning, John Battelle's hand-crafted industry gathering has quickly established itself as a preeminent gathering and oracle of the information technology sector.

My modest contribution to the event coverage takes the form of a photostream, mostly capturing a defacto reunion with numerous colleagues from the once-mighty ExciteAtHome.



Mobile Media and Blogging

SF BridgeToBridge 12K, Oct 2, 2005
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

On this morning's BridgeToBridge 12K race in San Francisco, I finally internalized the reality that everyone with a modern cell phone is a potential reporter of events in the world, complete with still photos, video and sound. Are you curious about my morning today? Probably not, but that is beside the point. The amazing thing is that I could report on it with minute detail even while on a rigorous run.

A commentator this morning on public radio station KNPR observed that all of us spend increasing portions of our lives consuming media. I would add that going forward, more of that will be the personal media of our family, friends and colleagues rather than the professional or mass media of prior decades. In this way, with the help of the latest generation of Web applications, the world potentially grows more intimate for each of us.


Scott Mace met David Temkin and I at OSCON to conduct a short podcast interview. The result is now available on the IT Conversations site. It's part of an intriguing podcast series called "Opening Move with Scott Mace"

A descriptive synopsis from the IT Conversations web site:

"Before AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) had a name, there was Laszlo Systems, a software tools developer using AJAX-like methods along with Macromedia's Flash Player to deliver richer Web experiences. In this conversation with Laszlo founder/CTO David Temkin, learn why he chose the Flash Player as a platform and why Laszlo went open source choosing IBM's Common Public License. What is planned for Laszlo Mail and Laszlo Calendar and how he plans to leverage rich client environments other than Flash Player."

It's a nuanced ramble on the genesis, status and future of OpenLaszlo. Ideal iPod listening for the home commute :-).


Pandora: a new service with UI powered by OpenLaszlo

Pandora music discovery
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Tom Conrad and I first met at Rob Scoble's Geek Dinner in December 2004, where Tom introduced me to the interesting work of the Music Genome Project, and I in turn introduced him to OpenLaszlo. Now, 8 months later, the result of our chance encounter is Pandora, a new "music discovery" service that combines a Music Genome recommendation engine with an OpenLaszlo-powered user interface. Tom has received enthusiastic early feedback on this excellent example of where the Web is headed. My only 'special request' to Tom is to add more world music to the service, especially from Latin America and Africa. But according to the Pandora FAQ, some of this is already on the way... awesome!

Tags: , ,


Setting up at OSCON 2005

OpenLaszlo at OSCON 2005
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

The OpenLaszlo team has arrived at OSCON 2005 in Portland, Oregon. John Olmstead (pictured) has kindly come up early with me to setup our booth. David Temkin will present a case study on Going Open Source. Friend Raven Zachary of the Enterprise Open Source Journal will hook up with us tonight for dinner. We look forward to a stimulating several days.


Convergence is a 'background assumption' at Supercomm 2005

Chicago Night View
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Spent last week at the SuperComm show in Chicago. Besides getting reacquainted with Chicago's majestic downtown, I got a first-hand glimpse of the current state of the Telecommunications sector. Here, telecom engineers told me their networks would be all IP-based within the next 5 years. So 'convergence' is now a background assumption, and all services will be IP applications.

The original architects of the Internet predicted communications services would converge onto a common network infrastructure, and make integrated applications possible.

The above seems abundantly clear to the exhibitors and attendees of SuperComm 2005. This bodes well for the near future of communications services.

Rogue River trip 2001

Rogue River trip 2001
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Well, friend Narendra Rocherolle wants to become the #1 search result for Google queries on "Narendra". Here's my helping hand, augmented with a photo of the two of us in 2001 on a trip down Oregon's Rogue River. On the stretch of river captured in this photo, Narendra earned the moniker "human river probe".


Bloggers and the propagation of knowledge

Last week, while entertaining good friend Masha Solorzano visiting from Toronto, I suggested attending a Chaat Cafe Geek Dinner organized by Robert Scoble and Marc Canter, to provide her with a taste of the unique culture which has produced the recent revolution in online communications. Masha's presence has been documented for eternity thanks to the presence-of-mind of Robert Scoble and his TabletPC. Now she wishes she had a blog like many others at the dinner table:

Robert Scoble | Steve Gillmor | Steve Sloan | Dori Smith | Farida Paramita | Michael Eakes | Dan Gould | Christopher Carfi | Masha Solorzano | Scott Rafer | Dan Farber | Lisa Canter | Marc Canter | Mimi Canter | Lucy Canter | Lyndon Wong | Ron Lichty | Tom Conrad | Marc Novakowski | Pierre Wolff | Nadeem Bitar | Kaliya Hamlin | Brian Hamlin | Ian Jones | Nicole Lee | Kevin Marks | Thomas Hawk | Neal Drumm | Tony Chang | Zack Rosen | Kieran Lal | Jasmeet Singh | Jason DeFillippo | Ian Kallen | Kevin Burton | Brad Neuberg | Renee Blodgett | Jeff Minard | Om Malik | June Parina | David Sifry | Jonas M Luster | Micah Alpern | eleanor kruszewski | Jim Grisanzio | Tantek Celik | Rebecca Eisenberg | Curtis Smolar | Russell Beattie

Over the past couple of years, I've gradually internalized the benefits of blogs combined with search engines, and I have been astounded at how effective these new Web-based tools are at propagating ideas. The Internet communications revolution continues to play out all around us, and we are all so very fortunate to have "a seat at the table".