Monthly Archives: June 2011

Oblong doesn’t remember using a mouse

Remember, the applications built for the mouse took a while to be perfected,” Kramer says. “The mouse wasn’t really pixel-perfect until the end of the 1980s. And even then, the consumer class were not there,” he continues, noting that just as the mouse evolved into the tool it is today, touch and gestures will be next.

Tech Crunch is touting Oblong’s new collaborative user interface. I haven’t used it, so I can’t say whether it’s good or not. I will say that I think it’s unlikely to succeed in its present form. The article says that it’s designed specifically for working in conference rooms and other large spaces, and that’s too small a market to have an impact on general UI. Look at the Microsoft Surface — it had a two-year jump on the iPad, and what sort of impact has it had?

But as someone who’s been using a mouse since the launch of the Macintosh in 1984, the above quote just strikes me as odd. Unless Kramer is using “pixel-perfect” the way Humpty-Dumpty would use it — “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more or less.” — the Macintosh has had that from day one.

If he wants to say that people found new and interesting ways to use the mouse throughout the eighties, that’s true; but it’s also true of the nineties and even to today.

I agree that the mouse is on the decline, but I don’t think it’s going away because of a technology that sees its main use only in conference rooms.

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Three things I learned from an article about Apple

I got these points from an article in Fortune magazine, which apparently doesn’t exist for free online; otherwise I’d link to it. EDIT: the article is available online now.

  1. Every project must have a DRI: Directly Responsible Individual. They are the final authority on the project.
  2. Treat every project as if it will be presented to the CEO. Make that presentation successful.
  3. The difference between a janitor and a VP is responsibility. If the trash doesn’t go out and the janitor says it’s because the locks were changed, that’s acceptable. For a VP, there is no excuse. You either get the job done or you don’t.

I like the third point, but it isn’t fair to janitors: there are no “janitor” jobs, just janitor people. Be a VP, even if you have a janitor job.

 

Aliens aren’t that stupid

I’m watching Falling Skies. Awhile back I saw Independence Day on TV, and I saw Battle: Los Angeles in theaters. They’re all reasonably entertaining (ID4 beats B:LA by a long shot though, jury’s still out on Falling Skies). Still, it’s disappointing that the writers/directors make the aliens so stupid.

 

Assuming the aliens aren’t in some way handicapped — that their intent is to invade, rather than them being shipwrecked here — they would wipe the Earth clean easily. It wouldn’t even be a contest. The most we could hope to do is be their pets or their food.

 

How Aliens Would Actually Invade, Scenario 1

Let’s make it hard on the aliens and say they have no more advanced weaponry or technical capabilities than we have, other than the self-evident fact that they are capable of interstellar travel. That still leaves them with an insurmountable advantage: the unassailable high ground of space.

We have no acknowledged offensive capability outside our atmosphere. We certainly have no way to put hardware in space in any quantity, especially beyond low earth orbit — a few hundred miles up. It’s possible we have the ability to point offensive lasers upward, but that’s about it (if we can do that). To ensure we can’t get to them, and to guard against any possible laser attack, the aliens set up shop on the far side of the moon.

To travel between the stars, the aliens must have (at least) the ability to apply a large amount of thrust to things. So once they’re set up 240,000 miles away, they throw rocks, which the moon has plenty of. The rocks might be only about 100 meters in diameter (Meteor Crater meteor). We might be lucky enough to have a few days’ warning, or it could be a complete surprise. Either way, our cities would be gone in a matter of hours. Not just the big ones — there would likely be several thousand rocks (List of urban areas by population). In a day or less, the world would have nothing left but villages, with over half the world either dead or homeless.

Of course, they won’t stop, they’ll keep chucking rocks. They’ll work their way down through every piece of infrastructure we have, systematically destroying everything that supports our current population and technological ability. Within a few months, our level of widespread technology will drop back to the middle ages, with a population to match; without infrastructure, more billions will die.

What happens next depends on how patient they are, and how strong an air and ground force they have. But assume they’re in a hurry, and they have a relatively small/weak force. They’ll take over our orbital space first, destroying everything of ours and putting their own in place. They’ll make sure to destroy every airport on the planet, and establish total air superiority as they move in from orbit. They’ll establish positions on small, relatively uninhabited islands, and start setting up shop. 

From this point it’s just further downhill: they set up infrastructure on any island they can clear of humans, while we’re kept primitive because anything we build bigger than a grass hut gets a rock from space. Depending on how fast they breed and how many of them there are to start, we’re totally wiped out in anywhere from two hundred to fifty years or even less.

How Aliens Would Actually Invade, Scenario 2

If the aliens are a little (not much) more technologically advanced than we are, they snatch a few dozen people. They research them, experiment on them, and develop a virus that causes cold-like symptoms at first, but then kills after a few weeks. They drop the virus in a few hundred cities. A month later there are only a few million of us left. Civilization comes to a halt. Then jump to the last two paragraphs of scenario 1 and you’re done.

How Aliens Would Actually Invade, Scario 3

If they aliens are fifty years of development time ahead of us, they send a few billion insect-sized robots down. The robots hunt and poison humans. We’re all gone within a few days or weeks. End of story.

Conclusion

It’s a good thing there aren’t any intelligent aliens looking to take over our planet.