Blog » 2005 » November

30 Nov 2005

Microsoft and global knowledge assets

Filed under: Digital revolution,Economics — paulcook @ 2:13 pm

Microsoft is gradually approaching the release of its next versions of Windows and Office. For the largest software R&D spender in the world, their progress has been rather like a dead turtle swimming backwards through treacle. But at least that means the products will be bug free and secure, right? Yeah, right. But it does have interesting implications for total global knowledge capital.

You can probably guess my opinion on Microsoft software in general. But one aspect of the release does interest me: the Office user interface. It seems Office 12 will have a number of substantially different user interface tools, such as a much more context-sensitive “ribbon” toolbar, and much less use of menus. And it’s about time.

I really dislike the existing interface, in Word in particular — it’s hard to find useful tools, and Word is forever making the wrong assumptions about the formatting I want. Oh, I miss the days of WordPerfect’s “reveal codes” feature! Unfortunately, open-source competition such as OpenOffice.org is forced to essentially duplicate Word’s broken interface, since that is what everyone is familiar with. Apparently nearly all user-requested features these days are in fact already in Office, but users are unaware of their presence. So I really hope that this release introduces some new ideas in user interfaces. Chances are, since it is Microsoft, that the features will be a little too “cute” to be really useable, but it will hopefully open up some new ideas and options for others to use.

29 Nov 2005

Movie short – Alive in Joburg

Filed under: Blogosphere gems — paulcook @ 9:21 pm

This is quite possibly the most bizarre thing I have ever seen. I’m still deciding whether it’s great or just really, really weird.

Anyway, it’s a movie short set in Johannesburg in 1990, in the midst of Apartheid repression. Only thing is … the repression is against aliens, as in UFO aliens.

It captures the grittiness of the Apartheid struggle pretty well, and looks very authentic (though there are a few giveaways that it was filmed in the last three or so years). But I can’t decide whether throwing in UFO aliens is interesting artistic license, or disrespectful to those that suffered.

Anyway, the movie is here, linked to from MilkandCookies

21 Nov 2005

Climbing at Red Rocks

Filed under: Personal — paulcook @ 1:27 am

It’s been ages since I’ve posted, but that’s not for lack of things to post about. To start righting this situation, here are some photos of my rock climbing trip to Red Rocks, near Las Vegas, over Halloween weekend.


redrocks05_sunday/Attentive_belayingI went with Michelle, a grad student at Harvard, and Lukasz, a grad student at Stanford. We did a fair amount of climbing in Boulder, Colorado, during TASI (a string theory summer programme) in June, and wanted more: and Red Rocks it was to be.