feeds | grep links > Limited Lending on Kindle, MIT Media Labs’ 25th Anniversary, Unity as Default in Future Ubuntu, and More

  • Amazon to allow lending of Kindle books
    Groklaw pointed to this ABC News piece over the weekend. Details are scant, other than while a user has lent a book out, they will not be able to read it themselves. Books can be lent for two weeks at a time. Slashdot has one more tidbit, namely that books can only be lent out once. Superficially attempts to emulate the scarce nature of physical books but utterly fails on the one time limit and that lending is enabled or disabled by the publisher, a right of action current unencumbered for print editions.
  • MIT Media Lab’s 25th anniversary
    I clearly didn’t read closely enough the BBC article on the Lab to which I linked last week. Several other sites since then have posted reminiscences about the various interesting projects to come out of the Media Lab. John Timmer at Ars Technica posted this one over the weekend, which is a bit more whimsical but I think very much in the spirit of play that animates much of what the Lab has done over the past two and a half decades.
  • Ubuntu switching to Unity for future desktop
    Ryan Paul at Ars Technica was one of several people to mention this in my feeds today. Unity is the alternate shell for Gnome developed by Canonical specifically to improve the experience of users on netbooks. Reactions to the announcement so far are mixed, with some even thinking this signals a split between Canonical and Gnome, which I think is far from the case. Bear in mind that Linux has a long traditional of experimenting with desktops and undoubtedly if you dislike Unity, replacing it with the ordinary Gnome shell, or anything else for that matter, will remain trivial.
  • Carl Malamud’s ignite talk on why building codes should be open, BoingBoing
  • Mozilla pre-alpha demonstrates new way to customize its browser, The H
  • What you need to know about link shorteners, O’Reilly Radar
  • Bees beat machines at traveling salesman problem, Slashdot

feeds | grep links > Ozzie Leaves Microsoft, Developer Snafu as Neutrality Argument, and More

  • Ray Ozzie leaves Microsoft
    Cory at BoingBoing links to Dan Gillmor’s scoop at Salon. I think it is safe to reason that the all to brief FLOSS accommodation period at the Redmond giant is over. First Ramji leaves, and then the horrible OpenOffice.org attack video of the other day. Ah, well, as many have said, Ozzie is now free and likely to go on to do something more consistent with his past innovations.
  • T-Mobile cites developer mistake as defense against network neutrality
    The Register has details of the incident that caused a twelve fold spike in traffic and the inevitable “I told you so” rhetoric from the carrier. The details mentioned in the article indicate that this isn’t even a bandwidth issue but a poor understanding of how programming approaches that work fine on the wired internet can cause unexpected problems for wireless. Seems to me like a technical solution is needed, that this isn’t anything to do with neutral or discriminatory networks.
  • Profile of the MIT Media Lab, BCC via Hacker News
  • CAPTCHA breaking trail to proceed, despite problematic use of Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Wired

Unified Approach to AI

Slashdot links to a story at MIT News that literally explains how Noah Goodman, a researcher in Brain Science and Cognition and Computer Science and AI, has managed to unify the advantages of the classical rules and inferences approach to AI with the more modern probabilistic approach. The result is a system that gains considerable advantage in terms of classification and inference but isn’t bogged down with the earlier problems of training or encoding all of the rules and knowledge ahead of time.

From the article, it sounds to me like the system that Goodman built, Church, is able to suss out its own rules and inferences from a reasonably small starting set. Beyond the theoretical breakthrough this represents, the article doesn’t consider how this may affect or even improve applications using the newer probabilistic approach like speech recognition. One hurdle will be optimization as Nick Chater, a professor at University College London following the work, explains that at the moment Church programs are very computationally intensive.

There are a couple of compelling, if abstract, examples mentioned in the article from a presentation given by Goodman and a student at the time, Charles Kemp. The sort of abstraction they were able to realize out of patterns of email suggests to me that there may eventually be applications that rely on sophisticated and non-obvious modeling and classification, like spam detection and recommendation systems.