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Magazine Review: June Wired 1999

One of the better past Wired stories had to do with how former power mad general Alexander Haig and his transexual partner were working on a scheme to use low altitude blimps to transport broadband communications systems (The original story appeared in September 1996 and was updated in November 1997. Both stories are available online at Wired Magazine.)

Last I heard, Haig and the newly engineered she—the former "Martin" Rosenblatt, now "Martine", still the father or mother of four—were making some progress.

In that same vein, I found that the most interesting story in this month’s June Wired had to do with another grand scheme for broadband on the cheap. It’s written by the always very dependable Charles Platt, who, I believe, has never written a dull story.

Formulated by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, the plan to Take Over the World involves using a flying wing that stays aloft indefinitely and that delivers satellite capabilities.

The only other "big" story that Wired spent a lot of space on that I found interesting was a very descriptive account of how Amazon beat off the efforts of Barnes and Noble online.

As usual, I found the most interesting stories that Wired had to offer were the smaller stories in the margins. Specifically, short pieces about Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung and Sony’s new Robo Dog Aibo were interesting.

Other stories:

 

>St. John’s Divine Gamble: About a fund manager who’s trying to mix science and religion in a positive way.

>Review of the Linux GNOME Gui in their Street Cred section

>Quick review of Neal Stephenson’s new book Cryptonomicron

 

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Magazine Review:

May/June Issue of MIT's Technology Review

If you’re into science fiction, and I would be shocked if you weren’t because you’re been reading this site, then you’re probably aware of the Borg, the evil cyborgs whose robotic mantra told us that "You will be assimilated" and/or "Resistance is futile".

This brings us to the May/June issue of Technology Review. Their cover story is about one of those guys who aspires to be the Borg. He’s got the eye piece and the gadgets seemingly glued to him. But he seems like a nice guy, I guess. He even uses the Borg analogy to explain things about wearable computing, or as MIT explains it: Humachines.

The other highlight is a big discussion between MIT Big Thinker Michael Dertouzos and aspiring Trillionaire Bill Gates.

While I don’t doubt Dertouzos’ ability to challenge Bill on all sorts of questions, that ability sure didn’t seem to show up here. Of course, Bill just gave MIT about $20 million to build a building in his honor. Would you toss tough questions at a guy who just gave your university $20 million?

Two issues that Mike should have taken a swing at but didn’t: Bill’s argument that the cost of software is fundamentally fair—try telling that to a poor kid who wants to buy an office suite for $500—and Bill’s unseemly bragging about his philanthropy. So, you give away $6 billion out of your $100 billion and you’re what, one with Gandhi?

So if you’re looking for Eric Raymond or Ralph Nadar vs. Bill Gates, you won’t get it. Bill, or Mr. Gates as I always refer to him both in private and public because he frightens me to death, gets yet another forum to not be challenged in.

Must be nice being the king.

 

Other Stories of Note:

 

 

>Seeing is Believing: Artificial Vision

>Artificial Heart

>Japan’s Friendly Robots

>The Fountain of Ideas: about MIT’s computer labs

 

 

 

Forbes, May 17th 1999

 

Back in the late fifties and early sixties, personal hero Frederick Pohl in collaboration with Cyril Kornbluth and Lester Del Ray wrote some novels that focused on various professions Taking Over The World. Advertisers ran amok in the Merchants of Venus, Lawyers made all the closing arguments in Gladiator At Law, and Insurers were the Premium rulers in Maximum Risk.

So who won in real life? After all, this is the Jetsons like future many of those books were set in.

Well, according to this article about Priceline founder Jay Walker, worth a respectable $9 billion dollars, the attorneys, specifically patent attorneys, were the winners.

Yet, if you are not on top of all internet minutiae, Priceline is also controversial for they were the first company to prove that you could patent a business model. As I understand it, that really hadn’t happened before. This would allow a future Microsoft, say, to patent the very idea of "operating systems", so that all potential challengers such as a future Red Hat or a future Be would have to pay them a "reasonable" fee to market their wares.

You can see why some people don’t like the idea of patenting business models.

Moreover, as you read through the article, those very same people aren’t going to like the other billion dollar idea that’s run by Walker, otherwise known as Walker Digital. Walker Digital is an idea factory modeled on Edison’s famous Menlo Park, where he and other inventors cranked out dozens of inventions and applications.

Walker’s team has what you might expect from an idea factory: people fluent in math, physics and computers. The scary guys are the three patent attorneys who are also on the staff. They’re already involved in 200 patents and just one of those evolved into a multi billionaire Priceline.

So, in the future, if you have a swell idea about how to turn a good idea into internet moolah, you better check to see that Walker Digital doesn’t own it yet.

Other stories of note:

>Patent Terrorist: Henry Yuen is feared by AT and T, TCI, Time Warner and Comcast (This is kind of related to the Walker Digital piece).

>Science For Sale: A Noble Prize or Options. Professors Crave Both.

>Northern Light: Nortel’s John Roth gears up for an all internet future.

>Profile on Quantum Hard Drives: "The disk drive maker wants to cache in on the Web".

 

 

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Fortune, May 24th, 1999

 

 

 

Fortune’s lead stories really didn’t do a lot for me. They did several stories on successful E companies. Yet the information I got seemed a little obvious. Apparently, Amazon believes in "customer care" and Yahoo aspires to being "sticky".

Hey, well thanks.

Now I too can rule the world. God these stories were so flattering I don’t know if any of these companies needed to bother with advertising this week.

Personally, I found several other stories more interesting.

"Hatching a DNA Giant" is about a cutting edge genetics company. Genetic firms were foretold to be the Microsofts of this generation but it hasn’t quite panned out that way. Not because of those disturbing books by Jeremy Rifkin, but because it takes eons to get a new product to market. However, this company, Millenium Pharmaceuticals may have found a model that works.

So, one day, I will be able to grow my own Big Blue butterfly wings. And soar soar soar.

Something to look forward to.

The other story I liked was a rarity. A positive profile on an environmentally conscious capitalist.

You don’t read that everyday. I thought it was an interesting piece not just because I don’t read a whole lot about successful and ethical businessmen, but also it realistically portrayed how difficult it is do good in certain industries. The title was "In the Future, People Like Me Will Go to Jail."

Other stories of note:

 

 

>A review of Caldera’s New Linux OS

>Pfeiffer’s gone, but PCs Rock On

 

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