In my recent New Yorker story (still just an abstract online), about Jerry Baber’s shotgun-toting robots, I describe a few of Baber’s demonstration videos — some of which have been viewed a couple million times on YouTube. But it’s hard for a paragraph to do them justice, so I’m including here a sampling of my [...] Read more – ‘Watch Baber’s back-yard arsenal in action’.
Obama’s signature on the stimulus bill yesterday brought with it further complaints that the new administration isn’t living up to its transparency pledges. It seems that the White House is having trouble squaring the need for emergency legislation with their explicit promise to post bills for five days before the President signs them. A better [...] Read more – ‘Recovery.gov: Free the data! But are they actually gathering it?’.
“Shoot!,” my latest piece for The New Yorker, hit the streets today. It’s available to subscribers on the Web, but everyone else will have to shell out for a copy, retro-style. It’s a profile of one Jerry Baber, an engineer from Piney Flats, Tennessee, and his work. That work being the making of gun parts, [...] Read more – ‘Bullets and batteries’.
At yesterday’s press conference describing the administration’s new “financial stability plan” for the banking system, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner offered what seems to be the obligatory new Web site for any Obama administration proposal: Our work begins with a new framework of oversight and governance of all aspects of our Financial Stability Plan. The American [...] Read more – ‘New administration Web sites appear to be “shovel ready”’.
When the Obama transition team posted the President-elect’s first weekly video address on YouTube, several transparancy advocates complained that, without comments or response videos enabled, the addresses were merely a one-way conversation. The Obama camp soon relented on comments, resulting in a typical flood of juvenille nonsense following each of the President’s sober monologues. But [...] Read more – ‘Boener to Obama: do you fear my videos?’.
The most vexing phenomenon I encountered in my recent reporting on Obama’s Web team was the insistence by Obama press folks that everyone inside the transition team speak on background, with quotes attributable only to unnamed “Obama aides.” At first it reminded me of the way certain corporate PR departments — hello, Google — tacitly [...] Read more – ‘Transparency through anonymity?’.
The first week of the Obama administration has offered answers to what were probably the four biggest questions about how he would translate the campaign’s tech acumen into the White House: The first, which I addressed earlier in the week, was to what extent would the White House Web site feature the kind of social [...] Read more – ‘Four Obama reboot-the-White House questions answered’.
Just back from drinking mimosa’s and celebrating the inaugural festivities, I checked in on the new White House Web site. TechPresident reports that the handover happened precisely on time, at 12:01 pm eastern; pretty cool that the Web operation mirrors the transfer of power tradition online. As Obama’s online folks had told me back in [...] Read more – ‘@Potus: virtual transition equally smooth, less historic (for now)’.
My story in this month’s Wired, on how technologically savvy Obama’s presidency can be, headed to the printer just before Christmas and came out online today. There were several developments on the Obama Web/technology front in the interim (although, for better or worse, not as many as I’d expected). The most significant was probably a [...] Read more – ‘@Potus: a wired presidency?’.
Just in time for the inauguration, my latest feature for Wired — on whether and how President Obama will carry out his promises to reboot the federal government — is available online. The glossy version should be out sometime later this week or early next. I’ll have more to write shortly here about what has [...] Read more – ‘@Potus (full disclosure)’.
You can catch me over at Salon’s blog The Machinist this week, guest blogging about various topics of at least tangential relevance to the blog’s general subject matter. Stop by and watch the commenters carve me up as I try to subsist without my usual thousands of words allowance, 3 month deadlines, and army of [...] Read more – ‘For one week only!’.
My latest feature for Wired, about the science of cellulosic ethanol, begins its run on newsstands this week. The full story is also online, here. That’s a stalk of switchgrass adorning the cover, but the cellulosic ethanol described in the story actually involves making fuel from a wide variety of different plants—e.g. poplar trees, wood [...] Read more – ‘Pipe dream to tailpipe?’.
“Cartographers manufacture power,” the eminent geographer J.B. Harley once wrote. So what happens to that power when cartography goes digital? That’s the question I endeavor to tackle in my latest feature for Wired, “The Whole Earth Catalogued.” It’s just out, in the July issue that features the Transformers movie on the cover (or alternately, if [...] Read more – ‘Armchair cartography’.
The most recent issue of Discover magazine (not yet online online here) contains a long interview I did with Paul Allen late last fall. Allen, of course, in addition to being the cofounder of Microsoft and one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, is the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers and a prolific [...] Read more – ‘A Medici of modern scientific exploration’.
My latest feature in Wired is just out (on the newsstands at the moment; not yet online but I’ll post it when it is online here). It’s a profile of Numenta, a new company founded by Jeff Hawkins, the inventor of the Palm Pilot and Treo. Hawkins has been studying neuroscience on his own for [...] Read more – ‘Software on the brain’.
My most recent feature for Wired, which has been out on the newsstands for a couple weeks, went up online today, here. It’s about a New York company, Meaningful Machines, that has come up with a novel technology for doing machine translation — software-based translation of text from one language to another. I wrote about [...] Read more – ‘What’s the meaning of this?’.