Google Wave Bots I wish I knew

Building off of a previous post talking about the separation of data from application on Google Wave, here is my list of Bots I would most like to be able to include in a Google Wave (watch back later for Gadgets and Extensions):

1)Gluebot. This would be a robot from Adaptive Blue that taps into the Glue data and API. This means that when I am writing in a Wave, it is listening and when I mention an item, it inserts the Glue profile page for that item. It should also allow me to query interactively for recommendations. For example, if I am writing an article on Imogen Heap, I should be able to type in and the bot will substitute in the correct data. If I have also included a shopping bot, it should be able to interact with that bot as well to give me best place to buy.

2. Secure CheckbookBot. This bot would need to be completely secure and have access to the data flow from my bank account. As I interact with shopping bots, it will record the transaction and keep my checkbook register up to date and in sync

3. PersonalDataBot. This bot will know all the personal things I can not remember about the people I interact with. Not because I manually typed it in, but gleaned from all of their other social networking interactions. It will know their birthday, their anniversary, that their kid is sick or their spouse just got fired. It will remember where they went for vacation, and if they commented back to me recently. It would show this data in a private ( HUD-like) display as I am collaborating with people.. showing me select images or reminders on special occaisions. ( yes, I fully expect this one to freak people out.. but that big pile of data is out there, why not actually coordinate and use it?)

4. DataTransformBot. We are starting down this path already. There is a simple Maths bot that will take 5*4 and subsitute 20 in the wave. But I want this one to do more. And probably, it will have to be a collection of bots to start with. Here is the basic starter request list:
a) currency translator (like Rosie, but for dollars instead of words. I
type in my currency, the bot auto translates to the appropriate currency
for the viewer)
b) complex Math ( there is a LaTex bot, but how about the equivalent of a
natural Language bot for math?)
c) unit conversion ( metric to english and vice versa are the first start)

5. TranscriptionBot. If I include an audio file in a wav with an indicator, it subsitutes/includes the transcription

6. SemanticSearchBot- will do Semantic Search where I indicate and substitute the results. Natural Language would be icing on this cake.

7. CodeTranslationBot. People have started writing syntax checking bots already ( handy when they work well), but I want one that I can paste in code from one language and it will give me first pass at my language of choice. I am willing to have it limited to matching language types at first pass… Object oriented to other OO, scripting to other scripting, etc..

(edit. corrected this is not an official Google site ( see comment below) but still very useful)
You can find a very cool and useful Wiki of Bots , but what Bot would you add to conversations if it existed?

Network Security: a teachable moment

As parents, we are always on the watch for the “teachable moment” . These are moments that take basic concepts out of the abstract and into a concrete immediacy. For the simple, basic things in life ( compassion, humility, kindness, life and death, etc..) there are many opportunities to share those life lessons. For others, the opportunities are few and far between. One of the life lessons that are hard to find concrete examples for is Network Security. Safe networking ranks right up with safe sex when you are trying to find non-theoretical examples to share with your kids. I recently had the perfect teachable moment to hammer network security home with my teen aged daughter.

Growing up in a geek household, on the net early, my kids have always had a good grounding in online safety ( don’t talk to strangers, don’t give out personal information, people may e lying about who they really are, etc..) but when we talk about people hacking into networks or computers, it is feel to them like a remote- “only to governments and corporations” sort of event. Kids visit from house to house, from Starbucks to Panera, easily plugging into anyone and everyone’s free network- not pondering any potential risk.
Then, I had the great opportunity to use my iPod touch to bring this home. My daughter and I were sitting in the car and I noticed on my iPod that it was seeing wifi from the school. Being sure it was a locked down network, I clicked connect ( geek psychology) and was astonished to find that the campus had implemented open WiFi. When asking what the big deal was, I pull up the NetScan application on my iPod and showed her how I could start to gather information about objects currently connected to the network. ( yes, there were open ports and some potential vulnerablities spotted). We talked about how, given a laptop connected instead of my iPod, this information could have been used to look for vulnerabilities, break into computers and gather data. She was astonished at how easy the first steps were and that gathering data did not require massive amounts of “hard core” programming.
It occurred to me that we had talked a lot about network safety, but we had never sat kids down on our home or any public network and showed them how it worked. If you are out with your kids in a place with a public network and have a secure device you do not mind connecting, I encourage you to do a quick demo. Don’t crack someone’s computer… it’s just not polite ( and fairly illegal in most places)- but showing how easy it is to scan for information proved a big eye opener here…

Cell phone desperation

Well, I have reached a crash point now in my tech reality– my cell phone has well and truly died. It is an old treo 700p which I much much loved and ( apparently) used to death. It has, of course decided to die while I am traveling and at a conference. But that is beside the point. I need to figure out a replacement and Fast. Prefer something I can call and order tonight and get it delivered to the house ASAP. My current carrier is Sprint, but I am not locked into them. My contract is expired, so I have the option of switching carriers if there is a better deal out there.
Here is what we need:

Phone on a network with a fast data connection.
Decent sized screen display for google map usage, web browsing, etc
text
camera
ability to add an application to ssh
good calendar system and able to synchronize with google calendars through some add on
I type on this a lot, so a good keypad for input ( not a number pad mapping and NOT an onscreen simulated keypad, real keys please)
ability to expand storage via SD or mini SD card

carrier need to have a plan where I can put two or more ( by christmas it may be 6) phones on a single plan to share minutes. The first two phones need unlimited text and unlimited data.

suggestions? recommendations? please respond here as my phone is dead and twitter is unreliable. I am hoping to order something tonight.

Strange, mind numbing cell phone withdraw symptoms already setting in….. waiting for the twitching to start…

Geek Weekend: Part 4 Adventures with a netboot

It was bound to happen, after a few painless upgrades and installs, something was bound to go wrong.

I was trying to install Ubuntu from CDROM on the Dell Latitude C610, just like I did on the Inspiron. It would get partially into the process and then freeze and hang. It always hung at the same point: at 46%, trying to start the partitioner when it read “scanning disks”. This was also a brand new unformatted drive, so my only options were that the CDROM had issues ( it was making a horrid grinding clunking noise) or my brand new hard drive had issues.

I broke down the laptop, removed the hard drive and put it back in, just to make sure there were no issues with how it was seated, or connections. It was perfectly fine. I tried booting from CD again. And Again. And Again. ( yeah, I can be stubborn in a “head to the brick wall” sort of way). I was starting to get tired and frustrated. At that point trying to boot from CDROM starting throwing FileIO errors and just complaining. I knew it was time to just shut off the laptop and take a step back. OK. At this point, I had to assume that the CD was bad. How was I going to boot? I figured it was either USB or the Network. I copied the ISO file to a USB thumb drive, but this laptop model does not have a “boot from USB” option. The Network it would be. I knew this would involve some other research and complications, so I voted to go to bed last night and approach it again $later.

After a full day of chasing kids, $later=tonight after dinner. Some research showed there were a few options:

1) mount the ISO image on a tftp server on the network and PXEboot to that
2) PXEboot using the Ubuntu netboot files and just pull the whole install over the network

Just to try something completely different, I opted for #2. It seemed like time for a change in approach and this was a good chance to learn a little more about netboot. Poking around on the web found some useful references here and here.

Now comes time for some true confessions. It has been about 7 years since I have done any serious sysadmin work, and a good 5 years since I spent time immersed in unix or linux. The command line is coming back to me as I work, but I am not even close to as comfortable as I once was. ( really, this is one of the reasons for doing the linux installs… beyond hoping for something other than VISTA to migrate to). I was prepared to do the tftpd and SHCP server installs and configs on the Ubuntu installed Inspiron and even started down that road. Then I found this site on how to use a windows box as the tftpd and DHCP server and I took the cheesy route. I wanted failures to be because there was really a problem, not because I made a typo in a config file. Remember, at this point I was still not sure if the new hard drive was good.

Bad try #1: Attempting to use the windows box as the tftpd server, and my default DHCP setup on the linksys router.

Problem #1: for some reason, my router decided to lose its brains and not let me log in. At All. Or even display the login prompt. Or re-assign DHCP when I powered it off and back on. For a moment, it looked like the router was trying to become toast. I did a restore to fosctory defaults, reconfigured it, then poked about for a good way to designate the PXE startup file. Nothing I could find easily.

Bad try #2. Attempting to use the windows box at the tftpd server and DHCP server. This came so close. I actually got to the PXE and the install started. But once I got to the menu where it prompted me for an archive, it always responded that I had a bad archive mirror or it was not available. I checked from another computer, and the archive was in act present and serving files. Sigh. This laptop was really wanting to be scrapped. Seriously.

Problem #2: A little poking around and I found this mention that although all the instructions tell you to leave the WINS setting alone, you need to put your default gateway in as the WINS server. Yep, sure enough. Woot. Now I had a full intall going nuts.

Problem #3: OK, this was not really a problem, but a momentary freak out. The install paused and ran and ran at the point where it was starting the partitioner and scanning the disk. I was convinced for about 60 seconds that the hard drive was bad after all, and all of this had been an exercise in futility. But the install cranked forward and everything was OK

Problem #4: After install over the net, I had a good install of core Ubuntu. Command line only. no Desktop or programs or….. Yikes. OK, Yes, I used to live in this world, but I do not know Ubuntu at all yet.. WTF? I really wanted a desktop and some cool applications to play with tonight. Although an unrelated cause, this link gave me the command to do the apt-get for the desktop. I really need to read up on apt-get.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… while all this was downloading and installing over the network, I decided to run the Xubuntu install on the very old Compaq M300. The install from CDROM went smoothly for this one and was actually completed before the over the network install of Ubuntu desktop was completed.

Problem #5: D’oh- do NOT forget to reset the BIOS so that the newly installed laptop does not try to go out to the network and re-do the install.

So, I now have one laptop with Ubuntu and another with Xubuntu. I am going to go toddle off to the office, plug them both into the network and so the software updates and alternate installs. My next post may well be from Ubuntu land.

Geek Weenend: Part 3

Ubuntu 7.10 install on Inspiron 5600 with new laptop?

Wonderfully easy.
This install included a HardDrive replacement on the laptop( the old hard drive was dying) and an install of Ubuntu from CDROM. The install was fast, smooth and very easy.
I added on a Java and Netbeans install for Ogre and it is ready for basic stuff.
Things still to debug/do:

1) could not get wireless working with our current WEP setup ( it wanted a 128 bit key or nothing.. I really did not want to have to go there). I opened up the security on one of our access points( not like we have many high tech neighbors nearby, anyway…) and it connects just fine. I would like to dig into this more tonight and figure out how to get it working with WEP.

2) Still need to configure it to mount the shared drives on the network. This is probably not the most important thing, shared drives here are either media or network backup. But I want to get it set up before the weekend is over, so backups will be easy later.

3)Decide on a methodology and configure to connect to the HP InkJet Printer on the network. Still thinking on how I want to do this.

4) Get AVG on it. GOing to do rounds of AVG stuff on all computers tomorrow, so this one is just waiting.

All in all, I am pretty pleased with how it went. Now, the install on the Lattitude C610 is just not going as pretty… more on that later on. For now, I need to go back to wrestling it and cooking dinner.

Geek Weekend: part 2

Part two is short, sweet and simple. A memory upgrade for the old eMachine computer in my youngest daughter’s room. It is a good little machine, really. All she does is word processing, internet ( read facebook and youtube),iTunes for music and watching DVD movies with her friends during sleepovers. It was originally a Win2000 box when we bought it new back in the day, and it got updated to XP a couple of years ago. At that point, with 256 MEG of memory, the performance got very very draggy. Since she was only using it for schoolwork and paper typing up until about 8 months ago ( is is not quite 14), it was bearable. However, as she grows into more and more video and music on the box, it was becoming painful to even listen to, much less to watch her use.
So, a fairly cheap 1 Gig memory stick to add in, and voila! now she has a box with significantly less drag and more zip.

Geek Weekend: Part 1

The weekend actually got an early start, because Dell Delivery was insanely fast, and parts for Desktop, along with both laptop hard drives, arrived late Thursday afternoon. So it was a memory and video card upgrade evening.
I was upgrading a Dell E510 to 3gig memory with an Nvidia Gforce 8400 card. It was insanely easy. Plug and chug for the memory, and a plug in and a driver install for the video card.

Life is very sweet at 1920X1200 on my desktop, and I can not believe how QUIET this computer is when it is not paging Virtual Memory off the hard drive all the time. It is a joy.

I was tempted to start on the laptops then, since it all went so smoothly, but I still had to work in the morning and was concerned it would turn into an all night affair. So- off to bed and dreaming of a world in rich rich color definition.

I told you once was not enough

Early this week, in preparation for the upcoming announcement of iTunes movie rentals, I rented a movie from Amazon through Amazon unbox. I wanted to play with the competition a little before I tested iTunes, and I am becoming more and more enamored of the Amazon mp3 store, so I wanted to see how their movie download process worked before iTunes woo’d me. ( more technical stuff after I get some sleep…)

The prices on both services are the same, and the terms are the standard, stupid watch it once within a 24 hour period some time in the next 30 days that all downloadable rentals are doing. This is the major reason I will not be doing this very often. Once is never enough in our family. I could not stand the thought of spending 3.99 to see a movie once on my computer screen ( yes, I AM cheap), so I found one of the movies on sale. It was .99 to rent at the time. Less than a bottle of pop- I can drop that without blinking. It was Waitress, a movie I had never heard of- but had the bonus that it starred Nathan Fillian.
It turned out to be a slightly sappy but wonderfully romantic, OMG almost made me cry and got me hot and bothered movie. I watched it tonight, because sleep was eluding me. It will go immediately on my Netflix queue.
Why would I put it on my Netflix queue?

1) I have two teen-aged daughters, and once you get beyond the fact that the two main characters are having an affair, this movie is about real love, and not settling. It is about how that moment of birth is transforming. It is about taking care of yourself and the ones you love. It is about having faith in yourself. It is about being able to start fresh, even if you made some mistakes and having life still turn out wonderful. It is exactly the kinds of things I want them to learn. I want them to see this movie. With Xandra’s schedule, it is unlikely they will be able to see it at the same time. That is at least 2 more viewings next week. And then I want it here next weekend, so I can watch it again while Ogre is here and the kids are gone. It is incredibly romantic in a million unlikely ways, and well, it made me feel like this- I want to share that with the one I love.

So, this unlikely, movie that was just part of a small technology experiment cemented my belief that the draconic playback limitations of Rented VoD embedded in every major player will prevent this from ever taking off and being a huge success in the middle class family market. Kids will not learn this from their parents, the model does not hold for how kids watch movies. Teens will not pay the cost very often- they do not have that much money. The single, well employed folks who live alone and watch a movie once and return it will be the largest market. That is certainly enough to make some money, but it is not even close to what it would take to replace a Netflix or a BlockBuster.
Now I need to convince my body to sleep…

Drop.io tests- come and play please

I have added a Drop.io widget to the page, to test some of the interesting functionality. Feel free to send me something interesting… a poem, a picture of your dog, a virtual gift. Please do NOT upload anything you do not already own the copyright to. It WILL be deleted post haste. This is a public box, so do NOT upload anything you do not want the rest of the world to see( if you don’t care if the rest of the world gets a good glimpse of your latest odd piercing, I don’t mind looking- but others will see). Please remember that this is a public blog and do not upload anything explicit.

I also want to test the voice to mp3 functionality. I will probably be calling later and creating something ya’ll can listen to, but you can try it out as well. Just dial 646-495-9201 x 91355 and leave me a message, or leave a message for the world.

Hmm…. this may turn into an interesting experiment into human nature, graffiti and self control….

Reviews of the technology and the experience in a future blog post. Feel free to comment and leave your thoughts about the user interface/experience.