Paper, paper, paper….

I’m getting ready to go to TNC2010 – this years edition of the TERENA Networking Conference. By tradition, the conference, held annually, roams Europe, from north to south, from east to west. This year we go to Lithuania. As always I’m looking forward to meeting my colleagues from around Europe, to catch up with people, projects, and ideas in the community, to get inspired, and hopefully provoked.

As always when I go to these event – and, actually, whenever I travel – the last step in my preparations have been printing. Hotel reservations, airline reservations, google maps, addresses for restaurants, agendas and locations for meetings, etc. I might live the digital life, I might be heading to a conference about advanced technology and community for the digital life, but for my travel essentials I’m still strictly analog. OK, I do also copy all this stuff to dropbox, as PDF’s, for easy access from laptop and iPhone, and I do copy stuff to my kindle. But I’m not relying on that. I’m a seasoned traveller, I’ve had both flight and hotel reservations disappear mysteriously, and when that happens in a far away place, a place I don’t know much about and where I do not speak the local language, I want my papers. I want paper to show at check-in counters and hotels, and I want paper to show to the taxi driver when I arrive four hours laten, and say “take me to my hotel”. And I don’t want to have a flat battery get in my way.

It’s a hassle with all that paper, and environmentally wasteful. Hopefully some day I will trust the digital version. But not yet.

Bing? I’m not feeling lucky.

Cory Doctorow tweeted about #fail at Bing, the Microsoft search site. I decided to poke around a bit. First impression: pretty picture, cool. But what about the search results?

First search for Firefox (open-source web browser competing with Internet Explorer)

  1. Firefox in French
  2. The mozilla Firefox site
  3. Firefox in Norwegian.

Not too bad, but the Danish Mozilla / Firefox sites do not come out on the first page. Bing guessed I’m in Denmark, yet they give me French, Norwegian, Hungarian, Portuguese, German, etc. With Google, I get the Danish Firefox site first, then the official one in English.

Next a search for “Thunderbird” (open-source competitor for Outlook)

  1. Thunderbird School of Global Management
  2. Mozilla Thunderbird auf Deutsch (from http://www.mozilla-europe.org)
  3. Thunderbird – O cliente de email da Mozilla. (Brazil?)
  4. Thunderbird – Reclaim your inbox

The real thing comes out fourth. Still no Danish in the first page. Google gives me the US Thunderbird site, then the Danish one.

How about “Explorer”? I get

  1. Japanese site about Jeans
  2. French Internet Explorer (IE) site
  3. Domain hijack site
  4. Domain hijack site
  5. Dutch Internet Explorer site
  6. Wikipedia entry for “exploration”

With Google, I get Danish IE site, then the US one.

Augmenting reality

At the recent NORDUnet conference in Copenhagen, Pranav Mistry gave an excellent talk on his many experiments in reality tagging and augmenting reality.

The talk was recorded and is available in streaming video

The talk was both an inspiration and a call for a different perspective on the way we use (internet) technologies. A recurrent theme in the talk was that Pranav prefers the real world over virtual realities, prefers to interact with physical objects to interacting with things inside a computer, and very much prefer interacting with people face-to-face to computer-mediated interaction. As a result, he pursues ways to make the computer assist and help in invisible ways; he seeks to improve physical-world objects and interactions by using tech to augments them. At times it’s sort of reverse human-computer interaction research – he’s using handwriting recognition, but not as an input method for computers; instead, the computer is used to improve the handwritten note. In Pranav’s vision, the paper with handwriting on it is the real thing; the computer is as invisible as the paper mill, contributing to making the paper useful, but not the subject matter for the user, or even an objet the user should be aware of.

It’s worth pointing out that there’s nothing luddite about it. There’s lots of tech, and even exciting new tech in what Pranav is doing. The result is just very different from what you usually see. His hugely exciting mobile phone device is a good example. It’s impressive tech, but it actively projects attention on the world around it – in a way that could hardly be more different than the iPhone i have in my pocket.