My early Christmas present

OK. So, I know these are supposed to be for underprivileged children and all, but I just had to get my hands on the OLPC XO laptop, quite possibly the coolest tech gadget of the year. Sure, my BlackBerry probably has more processing power, but an afternoon spent playing with the pint-sized XO leaves me with the feeling that this little wonder could really change the world.

I am sure the machine’s intended users will find it even more compelling than I do. Still, I managed waste about two hours playing SimCity (the original version I remember from my childhood!)

I took the photo above with the XO’s built-in camera. Not great, but certainly adequate. I am also writing this entry in the device’s web browser.

The keyboard and trackpad are way too small for my fingers, but again, I’m not the target audience. Plus my Mac keyboard and mouse worked just fine when plugged into one of the device’s three USB ports (that’s one more than my PowerBook has).

On the whole, I have to say, I’m really impressed. Good thing I got two of these, so I can give one to a deserving kid in my family and keep one for my less deserving self.

P.S.: If you now have gadget envy, you should know that OLPC’s Give One, Get One program has been extended until Dec. 31.

Recently dugg on

Just testing out Digg’s widgetizer, which can generate all kinds of custom widgets that you can place on your site. Here’s a list of recently popular stories from the L.A. Times:

Google Earth — Live!

This is the coolest thing. I am aboard a Lufthansa 747 en route to Germany, and I am seeing my 3-D flight path in real time in Google Earth.

Google Earth image

The yellow line is our flight path. It begins in the place where I started up Google Earth — so you can figure out that it took me from Denver to Minnesota to think of this — and it updates every minute. The vertical yellow lines show our altitude above ground. That’s Lake Superior in the upper right. (In the few minutes since I took that screenshot, we’ve crossed into Canada).

This is all thanks to Boeing’s high-speed Internet technology (which goes by the awkwardly-spelled name Connexion by Boeing). Because it’s satellite-based, there is a noticeable lag time between my requests and the response — so it’s probably not ideal for real-time audio or video chat. Still, I’m dying to see how a video iChat session would work. But it’s a full flight, and I’m a little self-conscious about setting up my iSight while sitting sandwiched among all these people in coach class.

By the way, the flight tracking data is supplied through, which offers all sorts of cool ways of tracking flights in real time.

What’s in my Dock?

My Dock (for non-Mac users, this is where the most frequently used applications are kept) is literally overflowing with cool stuff. I must share…

  • Mail — The nerve center of my online life. Who says e-mail is dead?
  • Address Book — Helps me keep tabs on my 205 contacts — a few of whom I actually contact on occasion.
  • iCal — Shows me what I’m doing tomorrow (dean’s forum at noon, studying all afternoon, comprehensive exam at 6 p.m.).
  • Safari — Still trails the Mac version of Internet Explorer slightly in features and usability, but it’s much faster and more reliable, so I have to use it.
  • iChat — An elegant IM client with impressive videoconferencing capability that’s fairly useless because nobody else has it.

  • NetNewsWire Lite — Trusty RSS reader.
  • iTunes — Where I keep all my music.
  • iPhoto — Where I keep all my digital photos.
  • iMovie — OK, I hardly ever use it, but I think it’s cool, so it stays on my dock.
  • iDVD — Ditto.

  • GarageBand — Love it! I just bought the new Symphony Orchestra Jam Pack, which sports an absolutely stellar Steinway grand piano sample.
  • QuickTime Player — When you need to play something — video, audio, Flash, etc. — there is almost nothing QuickTime can’t handle.
  • Microsoft Word — This program is the epitome of bloatware, but everyone uses it.
  • Interarchy — My fav Mac FTP program.
  • BBEdit — The. Greatest. Text. Editor. Ever! I sometimes find myself writing papers in BBEdit and pasting them into Word.

  • Art Directors Toolkit — Remarkably handy little program for measuring things on the screen, converting units, picking colors and other things that web designers do all the time.
  • Adobe Photoshop — The de-facto standard for photo editing and bitmap image design.
  • Macromedia Dreamweaver MX — Actually this doesn’t work at the moment. All my Macromedia Studio MX programs just quit working all of a sudden, and reinstalling didn’t help. That’s OK, since I prefer to code HTML by hand anyway.
  • EyeTV — I do everything else on my Mac, so why not watch TV as well?
  • Calculator — Because I can’t add.

  • iSync — Lets me replicate my calendar and contact info on my iPod and my cell phone. So, “I couldn’t call you because I left your number at home” is no longer a plausible excuse.
  • Network Utility — Every now and then I get the urge to ping somebody.
  • Cisco VPN Client — So I can get to all the cool campus resources (library databases, etc.) without ever leaving my comfy poof chair.
  • Virtual PC — Once in a while I am forced to descend from computing Nirvana into the wasteland that is Windows.
  • CocoaMySQL — I’ve been working on a couple of database projects, and this is a handy little tool for dealing with MySQL databases.
  • VNCThing — This lets me drive my home theater/server Mac from my laptop.

Celebrating 10 years on the web

Though the actual birth date of the World Wide Web was some years earlier, many people think of 1995 as the year that the web phenomenon was born. Thanks to the development of a user-friendly graphical web browser called Netscape (offspring of Mosaic), that year saw the beginning of the Internet’s explosive growth into the mainstream medium it is today.

It also happens to be the year I graduated from high school. And 1995 was the year I, like many other Net junkies, first got serious about the web. (For the record, my first exposure to the web came in the summer of 1994 at Northwestern University, where I encountered a version of Mosaic running on a Mac, and I was fiddling around with HTML by that fall).

Anyway, I mention all this now because I was doing a little reminiscing today, thanks to the folks at Yahoo. In a fun little Flash retrospective, Yahoo revisits 100 memorable icons and events from the first 10 years of the web, including the infamous dancing baby, the sock puppet and Dotcomguy.