Sunday, November 1, 2009

Episode 19 - Lordy Lordy Look Who's......

Robin, Isabelle (pinch hitting for Ken) and I got together the other night to talk user interfaces, usability and the internet. We started by talking about Windows 7 and Ubuntu and the horrible product that Isabelle was using in a French class she teaches at the University.

We then realized the internet was forty years old this week, which means it will leave its wife for a younger woman and buy a sports car... This lead us into a discussion of the history of huge communication changes, and Robin came up with what I thought was the best one of all, the invention of writing.

We talked a little sci fi of course as well.

We missed Ken this time out, hope you can be back next time buddy.

Enjoy episode 19 (just changed the web provider, hoping that this helps).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Episode 18 - Remembering the Interrupted Creativity

Well this is the final episode before the coming academic term at Algoma University, where we all work. The topic turned, not surprisingly, to education. (A note, the SD card that I use on the recorder ended up filling up so we end abruptly around 59 minutes or so, perhaps this is some sort of sign to shorten the damned episodes a little...)

We talked a bit about our experiences in education, including one from Robin where he talked about a prof whose name I edited out at Western. The key, you should not complain if the course materials are in Arabic...

Of course we talked a little about education in the past, and some sci fi, though not much. We also talked about the importance of memory vs creativity in learning.

Then Ken told us about blowing stuff up with the Canadian Armed Forces...

Enjoy episode 18

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Episode 17 - Searching For Evergreens

Yeah, we have all been talking about the Yahoo/Microsoft deal and Bing and google and what have you, but have you ever thought about the searching you do, and have done well before there were search engines? I am talking here about library searching. Yes of course, Ken and Robin are our library guys here at Algoma University, and if you have ever listened to TC at all you know that we talk a lot about libraries, but this is a very special episode.... (cue cheesy music).

We were joined by Art Rhyno of the University of Windsor and Dan Scott and Kevin Beswick of Laurentian University, librarians all, ok Kevin is sort of a poser librarian, but well, I was outnumbered by the librarians. Happily, later Maddie and Isabelle showed up. These guys are setting up an open source catalogue for our libraries. This is VERY cool, even for me, captain psychology. Evergreen, the open ILS system is now used all over the place, even Armenia!

Now there are times in this episode where I have no idea what the heck they are talking about, but for the most part they made it clear. The key thing here is that they are doing this open source, and this is the opposite of the way it usually works.

We did not talk too much Sci Fi in this one, and only a little history. The history we did talk about was about the Library of Congress, that apparently was started out by a donation from Thomas Jefferson, who knew? OK, like all the library guys knew and I am an idiot... I think the Dewey Decimal System is a scam, as Kramer mentioned in Seinfeld. Apparently Dewey is not open, whereas Library of Congress is. This just reinforces the point to me.

Many thanks to Art (who has a community newspaper in Essex, ON) Dan Scott (who has a fine blog called CoffeeCode and self confessed library nerd in training Kevin Beswick.

Oh and Dan has the best radio voice ever.

I hope you enjoy episode 17.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Episode 16 - Google Wave of Mutilation

It has been a while for sure. Ken, Robin and I often got together on the weekend during the last few months, but it was usually to talk about and watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Well, much to the delight of Josh from Israel, the hockey season is over, and we are back with an exciting new topic. Man what a lame sentence... Anyway, in episode 16 we talked about the new Google Wave initiative, that is explained here.

Robin and Ken did their homework and explained it to me. Wave seems to be a mashup of a wiki, all of your social networking and social media stuff, google docs, and email. Oh and twitter... This may replace email, but we were all quite skeptical.

Both Ken and Robin are not twitter people, though, I am. They claim not to have enough time in the day for all of this social networking, damn it I say, make time!

We discussed communication tools that have changed the world, such as printing presses, the telegraph, the phone etc. Robin feels this wave thing is just the phone coming back at us with more content, and he is opposed to phones. I am with him on this.

Both Robin and I remembered the ABC tv after school special called, The Wave from about 1981 or so. It was creepy..

We ended by talking about how many times we had met Prime Ministers, Premiers or the Queen. Both Robin and I figure she is not our leader, as we did not have a chance to vote against her. Ken believes this makes us traitors...

Shout outs to Jim from Fort Worth, and Josh and Esther from Israel. Thanks for the feedback guys.

Enjoy episode 16

Monday, April 6, 2009

Episode 15 - The GhostNet (and the virus) in the machines

This episode, we congregated beyond the confines of Dave's and Isabelle's comfy basement and returned to stately Hernden manor, which was last heard of in Episode 7 - Olymtech for those of you keeping score at home.

Without Battlestar Galactica to keep our motley crew talking, we turned this week to two separate yet tangentially related occurrences: the release of the report documenting the discovery of GhostNet by researchers at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto and the InfoWar Monitor as well as the imminent activation of the Conficker.c virus on April 1st. Heady times indeed!

We also took time out at the beginning of episode to read listener email from Joshua in Israel (hi Josh!) and raise him to the pantheon of minor Internet celebrity-hood (the fame clock is now ticking...).

GhostNet reads like it is right out of a fictional TV show like 24 (hat-tip to Christine): a suspected cyber espionage network of over 1,295 infected computers in 103 countries, 30% of which are high-value targets, including ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organizations, news media, and NGOs. Conficker.c is yet another of these pesky viruses that make IT types sweat and talking heads on TV lick their lips in anticipation of reading news that hopefully will be sexy and apocalyptic.

This led us to talk about cool hacking topics like social engineering which interestingly enough has less to do with modern, l33t code than it has to do with good 'ole fashioned confidence schemes. Conficker.c reminded us of very ancient biological viruses and what these have meant in human history and medicine. Along the way Ken plugged cyber-punk author Richard K. Morgan whose superlative creation, ex-UN Envoy Takeshi Kovacs, watched his comrades tear themselves apart after being infected by a Rawlings Virus strike at the Innenin beachhead.

We wrapped with the lovely Isabelle playing word association with us in the segment we like to call "Them Guys is Smart".

As a bonus, Dave interviewed guests at Alanna's house the next night, asking them about computer viruses.

So, a big shout again to Josh and we hope you enjoy Episode 15.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Episode 14 - So Say We Four, Part Deux, or, It's Not the Alcohol It's the Vodka

Last Friday was the finale of the amazing sci fi show we have talked so much about, Battlestar Galactica. I was out at the psychology honours thesis conerence but I made it home in time to hang with Maddie, Isabelle and Ken and watch the end of the show.

(By the way it is pretty good that Maddie is getting all of this podcasting experience, as she is taking over for Isabelle on Broca's Area soon).

Once the show ended we all started talking, and we figured we ought to record this episode, even without Robin. He actually asked us the next day 'what are we going to do on Fridays now?"

It was cool to see a resolution of the show (and there are spoilers here in the episode). We talked about colonization in general, and New France in particular a bit. Then, out of nowhere, I got the hiccups. Isabelle blamed it on the alcohol, but I am pretty sure it is the fault of the vodka, not the alcohol (which may be a subtle distinction...) I used my grandmother's old cure of drinking a glass of water upside down, and I was fine!

We hope you enjoy episode 14.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Episode 13 - It's My Duty 2 B 1337 LOL

So, we are pumping these things out like crazy eh? Robin is quite the motivator, as is his choice of Scotch for this week. The three of us went to the Algoma University Senate meeting as we do each week and before the meeting Robin told a story about not getting the proper sort of documentation that he needed for a project. As the story unfolded it was pretty clear this was about nothing other than a bad email, so our topic: communication.

Communication has changed a great deal in the past few years what with email, IM, twitter and the like.

I lamented the lack of communications problems in Sc Fi, but frankly, what are you going to do, the stuff has to be readable, watchable.

Historically one wonders if people were lamenting the decline in language when the phone came out, or when wax tablets started being used.

This episode features the debut of our new segment "Them guys is smart" moderated by Isabelle. When you hear that bit you will understand the title.

Enjoy episode 13.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Episode 12 - Robin Hates Clouds (but loves net neutrality!)

Cloud computing was the topic: connecting all kinds of computers together and seeing what happens. Terms were defined, examples given and discussion ensued. Ken mentioned Evergreen, the new computing system we're going to install to organize the library; Dave talked about time sharing on a VAX computer back in his undergrad days. General discussion about online storage and applications in the cloud developed into a musings about the cost to develop and run software in an organization, and how cloud based computing can challenge that model. Then Robin freaked out.

Robin who was well into celebrating his first paycheck in a long time with a bottle of Jameson's went off on a drunken rant about net neutrality. FOR THE RECORD: Robin is an ardent supporter of net neutrality. He was just thinking about unfair bandwidth allocation practices in a far away place. Feeling rather passionate about this far away place and prodded on by the bottle, he shot his mouth off in every direction and forgot utterly that we were talking, in general, about Canada. Robin and Dave sparred over the issue of net neutrality, Dave supporting, Robin dissenting. Robin then went on to attack Web 2.0 and then Yahoo! Mail. Bottom line, Robin has promised never to bring Jameson's to a taping again.

The issue of autonomous action (ie. working without a connection to your boss via email etc.) was discussed as well as the notion of information as stimulant, by Ken. Captian Kirk was mentioned. Dave did his Sean Connery/Captain Marco Ramius, impression and we passed the bottle, pondering Star Trek and submarine movies.

Dave and Robin sparred (again) over Web 2.0. Robin - really drunk - over simplified things a whee bit and went right off the rails with a defensive rant about people calling the IT help desk and being an IT guy in general. Dave and Ken developed and discussed conclusions: the good the bad and the ugly of the cloud.

Closing music:
"The Letter" by Dan Brodbeck and Corey Thompson, you will see why when you listen to they lyrics...

Enjoy episode 12.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Episode 11 - The Authors Guild Is Mad at the Amazon that is.

With the release of the Kindle 2, the Authors Guild of the USA came out against the text to speech capability of the new kindle. Their "reasoning" is that this capability violates copyright. Yeah, that's right, a computer type voice will stop the sales of audio books. Odd that Amazon would do such a thing, what with them owning There is an alternate hypothesis, and that is that it will help the sale of audio books, and that getting content available to people, say oh like blind people (like me) might actually be a good thing. Oh those crazy authors...

We officially welcomed Robin Isard to the show as our third TCer. Both Robin and Ken went to library school and are librarians here at Algoma University, they actually quite like books. (Note the understatement). They got all excited about handling medieval manuscripts, which I would too if I had ever done it.

We talked about the death of paper, and books, and how on Star Trek the captains always seem to like actual books. That led us into a series of Shakespeare references in Star Trek which Isabelle and Madeleine thought quite funny and (hopefully) cute.

We also talked about self publishing, such as Tom Merrit's Boiling Point (which is a really good book) and my friend Dave's book on getting in to grad school.

Welcome Robin, and we welcome your comments. Oh and thanks to Craig and Christian for the Scotch.

Enjoy episode 11.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Episode 10 - Another CENSORED Episode So Quickly?

Clever title eh?

Ken and I got together before BSG to discuss net censorship and censorship in general. This was originally Isabelle's idea, and you can hear a bit of Isa and a bit of Madeleine during the show.

Censorship is one of those hot button issues. There are times, maybe when it is ok. You know the whole yelling fire in a crowded theatre thing. That said, it is pretty hard to censor the net, as it is distributed, and it is also technically hard, even if you want to stop people from seeing the Scorpions (though that may be a laudable goal...)

We talked about both positive and negative censorship. Negative censorship is when you are told not what to print, whereas positive censorship is when you are told you must print certain things. The positive variety is one of the hallmarks of a totalitarian society. It turns out both Ken and I took the history of totalitarianism with the same prof at Western.

This brought us around to talking about dystopias like 1984 and We. We is probably the first of the dystopia genre. I think it is also the best.

As usual I talked a bit about a Canticle for Liebowitz because, well, because it is a cool book...

Enjoy episode 10.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Episode 9 - 1 2 3 4 I Declare A Digital TV Format War

We sat down with a lovely bottle of gin and discussed the upcoming (or completed, depending on your country) Digital TV transition. Now of course Ken and I are well aware that it is not really a format war, but this transition has some of the hallmarks of so many other format wars.

People are going to wake up one day and find out their stuff does not work, or does not work the way they expected, the public education campaigns notwithstanding. It would be like it I had a few crates of old records and found out I had nothing to play them on, wait, that happened to me...

The digital divide comes up here. Indeed, the poor, the old (and the old poor I guess...) will probably be most negatively affected by the transition. This reminded me of an episode of Sliders, I beleive I was the only person ever to watch Sliders... Cable companies have jumped on this bandwagon as well, they seem to be subtly or none too subtly telling people they need digital cable. Of course you do not.

Ken mocked me for not having enough HDMI ports on my TV. I have 2 TVs with HDMI ports though, so I think I win.

One wonders how much all of this will affect people once the TV becomes more of just a place to show content, no matter where it comes from, rather than something for receiving just TV signals. This is happening now with TVs, you know, streaming from your xbox, that sort of thing. Isabelle then brought up a great point, the CRTC and the FCC for example, do NOT control the net. This may be a huge change, especially here in Canada where Canadian content rules are strictly enforced.

This led us to discuss 3D TV which we think is stupid, but hey what about the holodeck? The holodeck is cool, and really is not that dissimilar to what people today call serious games.

Special thanks to Tom Merritt of CNET for all of the recent plugs, and welcome to all the new listeners.

Enjoy episode 9.