“‘Charlie Rose’ by Samuel Beckett”

Something has happened to PBS favorite “Charlie Rose.” The erudite conversations and sober intellectualism have been replaced by an absurd world where illogic, inane dialogues, and open hostility rule. The one-on-one interview between Charlie and his guest begins as usual but quickly goes awry, so much so that Charlie is warned that, somewhere, a man named “Steve” is “not happy.” Though this seemingly random statement might confuse us, Charlie understands it for what it is — a threat. But who is “Steve” and why is he angry? And why does the mere mention of his name stop Charlie cold? Using appropriated footage from a single episode of “Charlie Rose,” filmmaker Andrew Filippone Jr. creates something both disturbing and farcical in “‘Charlie Rose’ by Samuel Beckett.”

Windows Is ‘Collapsing’

A few days ago, I had the, um, pleasure of having to install some lock-programming software on a Windows laptop — a process that should have taken five minutes but instead took upwards of an hour. Endless DLL conflicts, an uninstallation fiasco, an installer caught in a circular loop, literally hundreds of entries being written to the registry… The whole farce would have been hilarious if it hadn’t wasted so much of my time. I run Windows so seldom these days, I forget how bad it can be.

Sounding a lot like the BeOS founders and evangelists from a decade ago, who used to talk about Windows being held together with bailing wire, chewing gum and twine, a pair of Gartner analysts recently came out and said it: Windows is ‘collapsing’ (Computerworld):

Calling the situation “untenable” and describing Windows as “collapsing,” a pair of Gartner analysts yesterday said Microsoft Corp. must make radical changes to its operating system or risk becoming a has-been … Analysts said Microsoft has not responded to the market, is overburdened by nearly two decades of legacy code and decisions, and faces serious competition on a whole host of fronts that will make Windows moot unless the software developer acts. “For Microsoft, its ecosystem and its customers, the situation is untenable,” said Silver and MacDonald in their prepared presentation, titled “Windows Is Collapsing: How What Comes Next Will Improve.” Among Microsoft’s problems, the pair said, is Windows’ rapidly-expanding code base, which makes it virtually impossible to quickly craft a new version with meaningful changes. That was proved by Vista, they said, when Microsoft — frustrated by lack of progress during the five-year development effort on the new operating — hit the “reset” button and dropped back to the more stable code of Windows Server 2003 as the foundation of Vista … “Windows as we know it must be replaced,” they said in their presentation.

It’s one thing for the userbase to talk like this, but analysts like Gartner are serious about what they do, and don’t make heavy-handed proclamations lightly. Something is in the wind, and it smells like carrion. You can only put so much lipstick on a pig.

Music: Ivan Boogaloo Joe Jones :: You’ve Got It Bad, Girl

The Long Zoom

&tConvening themes: The world viewed as a network of digital photographers collectively shooting every square inch of the globe, the ability to stitch those images together into a cohesive, navigable, continuous view, and the world-changing cognitive power of zooming through scale, now becoming commonplace.

Dan Sandler points out that Google Street View (which is mind-blowing both in its power and its privacy implications) is not only one of the few Google apps to require Flash, it’s also “the first Google app to feature the Be Man:”

Thanks for the images Dan.

Humor, history, and coincidence aside, Street View changes the world, just a little bit for the better and a little bit for the worse. For the SF Chronicle, Mark Morford on Street View as invasive: I Can See Your Thong From Here:

Ah, Google, you great wicked benevolent super-cool vaguely disturbing Big Brother überbitch mega-company, quietly taking over the entire goddamn Net universe and most of the terrestrial world, too, one cool but simultaneously unnerving innovation at a time. … The question has been raised: How much is too much? How much implied privacy should we have as a society, as a community, as a city, and do we let this sort of technology run free simply because the draconian creepiness of it all is so easily offset by how damn fascinating and helpful and nifty a utility it so very obviously is?

Posted last August about Photosynth, a product emerging from Microsoft Labs designed not only to be a digital photo album conceptually way beyond iPhoto or Aperture, but that is also capable of intelligently stitching together images from disparate sources into zoom-able, photographic, 3-D representations of places on earth. In this video from a recent TED conference, Blaise Aguera y Arcas demonstrates a 3-D, navigable reconstruction of the cathedral at Notre Dame created by stitching together images scraped from Flickr — photos taken with everything from cell phones to high-quality SLRs, by photographers who have never met one another.

I’ve been playing a bit with Flickr Maps and looking more into the options for geotagging photos, but Photosynth blows the doors off the concepts of 2-D image-place connections, opening up a realm where all photographers on earth are unintentionally collaborating on a single, global, steerable, zoomable view that never ends.

Steven Berlin Johnson did a fascinating seminar for The Long Now Foundation (available both as podcast and as a summarized blog entry) on what he calls “the long zoom” — an entirely new way of grokking our world, started by the famous Powers of 10 and now becoming almost de rigeur thanks to emerging photo / video / vector technologies. What once blew your mind (and all previous senses of scale and proportion in the universe) with “Powers of 10” has become an increasingly commonplace quick swoop around Google Earth to find a business address.

We live in amazing times.

Music: Rickie Lee Jones :: I Was There

Conflicted Over Philanthropy

Going through all kinds of conflicting feelings about Gates’ philanthropy vs. his legacy as a business predator. MS hater David Pogue sums up the internal conflict many of us are feeling in his NY Times blog:

It’d be one thing if he were retiring to enjoy his fortune, or if he were using it to buy football teams or political candidates. But he’s not. He’s channeling those billions to the places in the world where that money can do the most good. And not just throwing money at the problems, either — he’s also dedicating the second act of his life to making sure it’s done right…

At pseudorandom, Frank Boosman puts the conflict many of us are going through eloquently:

I, too, have found it hard to reconcile the contradiction between Gates the businessperson (whom my friend Mike Backes was, I believe, the first to call “a wolf in nerd’s clothing”) and Gates the humanitarian. Given his company’s poor track record of innovation (quick, name something Microsoft invented), and its predatory behavior, it would be all too easy at this point to dismiss as posturing (or worse) anything Gates does. But what he’s doing can’t be dismissed. Everything I’ve read about his charitable efforts — every single thing — suggests that he’s doing great works, using his money to address big problems, and involving himself deeply in the process. It’s a profound transformation, and if he keeps it up, he will leave a staggering legacy.

Keep in mind that Boosman was a suit and brain trust at Be, Inc. — a company hit hard (some might say killed) by MS’ predations (cf: He Who Controls the Bootloader).