Monthly Archives: September 2010

A Hitch-reader’s guide to a mindful galaxy

Hitch 22: Confessions and ContradictionsHitch 22: Confessions and Contradictions by Christopher Hitchens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The (almost) definitive word on Christopher Hitchens? No – more of a set of quickly and deftly executed watercolors of a life that, at least in the mind, defies any attempt at categorization.

It is rather ironic, but perfectly in script, that Hitchens spends quite a bit in the book discussing impending death and ever-present knowledge that "the party will continue without me", and then, virtually on the day of the book’s publications, discovers that he has contracted, if that is the word, cancer of the esophagus and will be "a very lucky man" if he lives another five years.

Anyway, read this, as much for the language and argument as for the story itself. It puts you in the presence of a mind that is not encyclopaedic (that would be rather boring) but uses literature, history, language and personal connections and experiences as an arsenal for painting the most multicolored, yet consistent canvases you can imagine.

(Incidentally, this is the first new book I bought for Kindle for PC, and the software works admirably, though I wish it was possible to clip out some text for citations.)

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Liberating the process followers

I highly recommend attending the following presentation at the Norwegian Polytechnic Society on Wednesday September 29th at 5 pm. In particular, I think anyone associated with creating systems for complex decision making, especially in the public sector, would find it interesting.

Update Oct.1: You will find a video of the talk here.

Innovative systems for public services: From process following to problem solving
Dr. Richard Pawson, Naked Objects Group

image Dr. Richard Pawson is founder of Naked Objects Group, and a former head of Research Services for Computer Sciences Corporation. He has 30 years experience in IT and related businesses, and has given presentations and consulted with companies all over the world. He holds a Ph.D. of computer science from Trinity University, Dublin, Ireland.

In this discussion, he will talk about how new innovative systems can change how case workers in public services do their job, transforming them from process followers to problem solvers. Richard has designed and implemented a large and very successful system for the Irish Department of Social and Family Affairs which, based on a Norwegian idea of object orientation, allows case workers ("saksbehandlere") to handle very complex problem situations under much larger degrees of freedom than previously possible.

Richard is a highly interesting and entertaining speaker with deep insight in the relationship between information technology and organizational issues. You can look forward to an eye-opening perspective on the organizational issues in public services and how innovative and advanced systems can contribute to solving them.

Notes on my new X201

image I was just about ready to prove my susceptibility to advertising and get a MacBook Pro, but our CIO refused to fund it (gotta standardize, you know) and offered me an X201 Tablet from Lenovo (for free) instead. I promptly demanded more RAM and a 125G SSD, and the matter was settled.

So – what is there to like? For a start:

  • It is about one cm shorter than my previous X61, which is important because it will fit into a standard A4 binder-style leather case
  • The screen is much brighter than the X61, including the wide-screen form factor which somehow seems more natural
  • The SSD really makes a difference. Word and other memory hogs start almost instantly, and the incessant restarts that for some reason still are necessary when configuring a new computer are a lot less patience-trying than before
  • Windows 7 is relatively stable (though my Matrox DualHead2Go has hung it a couple of times), is faster and has a more attractive interface than XP (BI has, rather smartly, avoided Vista), but it is a capable product, not the wonder some of my friends in Microsoft gab about. I do dislike the "switching between tasks" function on the alt-tab key – it will show the underlying applications on screen, but blanks out everything except the current task whiel you are still holding the keys down. The Windows-tab key combination gives you an animated lineup of active windows, but that literally makes me seasick if I used it fast.
  • The keyboard is about 2 cm wider than the X61, which makes it feel like a regular keyboard. Ihas a very nice feel for a laptop, though some of the keys are more noisy than others (an issue I also had with the X61, which could annoy people at conferences with two or three clicky keys.)

On the negative side: I am not impressed by the battery life, and there appears to be all kinds of issues with the suspend/standby/hibernate/whatever shut-down and startup routines, such as the wireless network shutting down at inopportune times. Hopefully this if fixable by fiddling with various settings.

All in all, the X201 looks to become a solid, rather boring but very capable "main working laptop" for me. I sometimes feel like I am the last person in the world actually using the tablet functionality – not, as was envisioned when it was introduced, for note-taking and text editing, but for teaching, especially for large audiences.

But, of course, if I had sprung for the MacBook Pro out of my research budget, I would have been able to get a BookBook. Oh well..

Bonus! I just discovered I can use my fingers to scroll and zoom, iPad-style, right off the screen. W00t! Coolness in a corporate package.

social Media, disruption, and Comic Sans

I gave a presentation at the RECORD seminar in Oslo today, with the title “Social media as a disruptive innovation”. The title was given to me – I do not think social media is much of a disruptive technology (with the possible exception of headhunting) but certain aspects of it, such as its ability to generate metadata and thereby organize information, certainly are.

Incidentally, speaking at an architecture and design school is always interesting – I feel like I really ought to shave my head, get a Steve Jobs mock turtleneck and a fake Mac to blend in with the natives. On Twitter, most comments (#recordseminar) were about my use of Comic Sans, which I do because a) I like it, and b) it is fun using it in front of designers since they are so predictably irritated by it.