Saturday, March 31, 2007

Wireless Power Moves from Science Fiction to Reality

It sounds like something out of Star Trek. Power broadcast through thin air to charge electronic devices like computer peripherals, MP3 players, cell phones, medical devices, and more. Darren Murph at Engadget sums up the idea pretty well, “energy without wires has always seemed like one of those novel concepts that sounds terrific in theory, but remains a tad difficult to imagine hitting the commercial scene for some time to come. Apparently, all that is about to become nonsense, as a Pennsylvania-based startup is set to capture the wireless-loving hearts of, um, everyone when it tackles contactless power products.”

An article in Business 2.0 Magazine has a few more details about the company and their upcoming products:

A startup called Powercast, along with the more than 100 companies that have inked agreements with it, is about to start finding out. Powercast and its first major partner, electronics giant Philips, are set to launch their first device powered by electricity broadcast through the air.

It may sound futuristic, but Powercast's platform uses nothing more complex than a radio--and is cheap enough for just about any company to incorporate into a product. A transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver (the real innovation, costing about $5 to make) can be embedded into any low-voltage device. The receiver turns radio waves into DC electricity, recharging the device's battery at a distance of up to 3 feet.

Picture your cell phone charging up the second you sit down at your desk, and you start to get a sense of the opportunity. How big can it get? "The sky's the limit," says John Shearer, Powercast's founder and CEO. He estimates shipping "many millions of units" by the end of 2008. (Quote from Business 2.0)

The technology is not quite ready to charge large consumer devices like laptops, which currently require more power than what can be effectively generated by this technology; however, as manufactures continue to develop laptops with increasingly lower power consumption, this might become feasible in a few years.

Personally, I am pretty excited about this. I tend to charge my electronic devices in the living room, and I am constantly tripping over cell phone chargers, laptop cords, iPod connectors, etc. Being able to plug a charger into an out of the way location to charge a cell phone sitting on a table without any wires is really cool!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

GPL v3: Yet Another Draft

The FSF has released yet another draft of the GPL v3 today. Needless to say, people are getting pretty frustrated by the lack of progress and difficulty in completing this update to the GPL. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on Linux-Watch considers how much longer it could possibly take: “Mid-2007? At least. Late 2007? Quite likely. 2008? Could be. 2010!? I wouldn't be surprised. I've got a bad feeling about this.”

Allison Randal at O'Reilly is pretty skeptical, and I have to admit that I have heard similar skepticism from others, including many who have been strong supporters of the FSF for years:

“I will say this much: I'm a believer in free software, and in the importance of free software in advancing the freedoms of individuals. But I'm beginning to lose confidence in the FSF as the primary defender of free software principles. The image they're projecting right now is more of an ineffectual nanny slapping the wrists of naughty children than it is of the bold community leader confidently striding on to the visionary future of the free software movement. It's unfortunate. Maybe we'll see change in this draft and the next. Maybe. (Quote from Allison Randal on the O'Reilly Radar)

At one point, I was following the changes and keeping up with the progress toward GPL v3, but I have to admit that toward the end of last year I gave up. I'll read the final version if they ever manage to complete it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Are You a Twitter Ninja?

Are You a Twitter Ninja?

News: Online or Print Format?

InfoWorld announced today that it is folding the print magazine to focus on events and online content. I think this is a good move for InfoWorld, and it made me think about how I personally use online and print content.

I still subscribe to several magazines, and it is a great format for anything that is not time sensitive – cooking, business analysis, etc.; however, I gave up my print copies of technology trade magazines and other news sources long ago in favor of online access facilitated by RSS feeds (official news sources, blogs, and podcasts). Technology moves way too quickly to be suited to longer lead time print format publications. Even articles in daily newspapers are usually out of date by the time the print version arrives on your doorstep.

Most of my daily news comes from podcasts, which I listen to during any downtime activities (getting ready for work in the morning, doing dishes / laundry, grocery shopping, driving, and much more). Podcasts are an ideal news format for me, since I can get quick snippets of news from NPR, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNET, InfoWorld, ... If I need more details on any story, I can always check my RSS feeds or Google News to find a few in depth articles with more information.

Over time, I think that we will start to see news moving away from print sources in the direction of online content. Like with the InfoWorld example, this will happen first for technology publications. Although most newspapers have embraced online content, Newspapers will be one of the last to move their news to an online-only format. They are still the best source of news in rural areas and other places where access to the Internet is more difficult and for older readers who may never be comfortable using the Internet as a primary source of news. I could even see newspapers gradually shifting more of the news content onto the Internet while focusing the print version on news analysis, lifestyle (fashion, cooking, travel, etc.) and other features (comics, crossword puzzles, etc.) I still think that magazines have their place, but not as a primary source of news.

Friday, March 23, 2007

OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) at the BarCamp Portland Meetup

I was lucky enough to get to play with a real OLPC last night at the BarCamp Portland Meetup. I was surprised by how durable it looked. The keyboard looked like you could dump an entire drink on it without any adverse consequences; however, we refrained from testing it!

A few people commented that these would be great for kids ... regardless of whether they are located in an emerging economy. In places like the US, Europe and other areas, we might be willing to pay a little more to have a durable laptop for the under 8 years old crowd. This might help subsidize the costs and make it easier to provide an OLPC to more children around the world. In addition to providing a stable revenue stream among customers willing to pay a little more knowing that profits were going to a good cause, opening these up for sale to others would increase the volume enough to help reduce the production costs. I've heard that they are having a hard time making these for less than $100, and additional volume might help.

Thanks again to Alex for bringing it and generously letting us play with his toys!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Web 2.0: What CIOs Want vs. What CIOs Have

I was just reading Richard MacManus’ coverage of Forrester’s recent reports about web 2.0 in the enterprise:

“Forrester Research has just released two reports concerning 'web 2.0' in the enterprise. Forrester recently surveyed 119 CIOs on the topic and their answers illustrate what IT honchos want – and don't want – from social software technologies such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS, social networking, and content tagging.

According to the report entitled 'CIOs Want Suites For Web 2.0', the enterprise Web 2.0 market "is beginning to consolidate". Apparently CIOs have a strong desire to purchase web 2.0 products "as a suite, as well as an equally strong desire to purchase these technologies from large, incumbent software vendors." 61% of respondents indicated that they would prefer both a suite solution and a large, incumbent vendor. According to the report, "integration issues, longevity concerns, and the occasional lack of polish" are counting against small vendors.” (Quote from Richard MacManus on Read/WriteWeb)

The data is interesting, but I am not sure that Forrester was asking the right questions or the right people. My experience with web 2.0, and other innovative technologies (open source, etc.) is that there is a big gap between what many CIOs want / think they have and what is really happening within their organization. Those of us who are passionate about web 2.0 technologies just tend to use them. This often means that we bring things like IM, wikis, and more into our corporate life as productivity tools regardless of whether or not the technology is officially sanctioned. For example, Intelpedia, an internal Intel wiki, was started as a grass roots effort on a test server without “official” buy in because Josh Bancroft and other Intel employees thought that Intel needed an internal wiki to help manage information. A better study might have been to ask people a few levels below the CIO about the web 2.0 technologies currently being used in their organization.

CIOs may want web 2.0 suites from larger, incumbent software providers, but I suspect that the reality of what is actually used within enterprises over the next few years will differ significantly from this CIO vision.

Monday, March 19, 2007


A few people are organizing a BarCamp style event dubbed Web2.Open to coincide with the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco on April 17th and 18th.

“This open event blends some pre-scheduled content with an open grid where the attendees fill in the sessions they either want to discuss or present themselves. It is the perfect space to provide the community at large with a place to connect with other attendees, learn more about elements of Web 2.0, and share one’s knowledge and experiences.” (Quote From the Web2.Open Site).

I found this thanks to Tara's Twitter feed.

I haven't decided if I'm going to attend or not. It's pretty hard for me to justify a purely web 2.0 conference with my open source job, unless I get invited to speak on an open source or community panel (hint, hint).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Save the date! BarCamp Portland Tech Unconference, May 11-12

I am pleased to announce that BarCamp is coming to Portland on May 11-12! We will also be kicking off the regular DemoCamp event series during BarCamp to highlight tech startup activity in the Portland area.

Tech + Geek + Culture. The event for the Portland tech community, produced BY the Portland tech community.

What is BarCamp? It is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants.

BarCamp is a FREE event and the content is determined by the attendees. The event will be hosted at CubeSpace, which has a number of conference rooms for breakout sessions, a large main meeting area, wireless access, easy access to public transportation, bike storage, and ample parking. Thanks to Eva and David at CubeSpace for signing up as space sponsors for the event (and to Ray at AboutUs for sponsoring the additional space costs).

We need your help to make BarCamp Portland a fantastic event for the tech community in Portland. Here's what you can do...

1) Forward this information on to people in the Portland area that may have an interest in attending. As we have done little marketing of the event (so far), assume that your local tech social network doesn't know about it yet.

2) If you have not already added yourself to the BarCamp Portland wiki page as an attendee, please do so. This will help us get a more accurate attendance count and plan accordingly (you want food, right?):

3) Add a session idea for the event. This could be a talk, a demo, a roundtable discussions - whatever! Please add it to the Proposed Sessions section on the wiki page:

4) Attend the BarCamp Portland Meetup this Thursday (03/22) evening 5:30-8pm at Jive Software downtown. Free beer on tap (thanks, Jive!), the opportunity to network with the tech community in Portland, and help plan for BarCamp Portland. More details:

5) Help identify sponsors. CubeSpace and AboutUs are already onboard as sponsors for the space and related costs (and Jive Software has been our ongoing meetup and planning sponsor). We are looking for sponsors to cover food, drinks, and t-shirts.

I hope to see you this Thursday evening at Jive Software for our monthly tech meetup and BarCamp Portland planning meeting!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Informal Portland BarCamp Meetup March 22

Our next informal Portland BarCamp Meetup has been scheduled! We have also settled on the fourth Thursday of every month as a regular date for the event. Any local techies are welcome to attend.

When: Thursday, March 22nd
Time: 5:30pm - 8:00 pm
Where: Jive Software Office (317 SW Alder St Ste 500)
Sponsored by: Jive Software

Jive Software

Jive Software is located on Alder near 3rd. Parking is available in a nearby parking garage, and it is short walk from the Max / Bus (directions to Jive Software).

If you plan to attend, please RSVP on the Portland BarCamp Meetup wiki (RSVP required):

The meetup will be very informal and similar in format to previous meetings. We'll do a few introductions, talk for a few minutes about organizing the BarCamp, and then see where the discussion goes.

If you would like to receive notifications about any last minute changes, future meetups, and other PortlandBarCamp communications, please join our Google Group to receive email announcements.

Google Groups
Subscribe to BarCampPortland


Browse Archives at

We have also created a BarCamp Portland Google Calendar for upcoming events and posted the event to

We are also trying to gain support for a real BarCamp event in Portland. We will start the planning process when we get enough people signed up on the Wiki, so please add yourself to the wiki if you want to attend a Portland BarCamp event!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

She's Such a Geek

I highly recommend reading “She's Such a Geek” edited by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders. Annalee and I were on a panel at sxsw, and I picked up a copy of the book during her book signing at the event. The book contains a series of essays written by various woman geeks of all types (science geeks, computer geeks, gaming geeks, and more). Even though I was already reading another book, I decided to read one of the essays while I was waiting for my plane home from Austin. I kept reading until I finished the ENTIRE book (granted, I had several delays making the trip from Austin to Portland a little longer than normal, but I could not put the damn book down!)

I do not typically read books “for women” or “about women”. Why? I am not entirely sure. Maybe it is my way of rebelling against stereotypical gender expectations. As a child, I was a tomboy more comfortable playing with snakes, salamanders, and frogs than with Barbie Dolls. Today I work in technology, blog for fun, and watch BSG religiously. Maybe I try so hard to resist gender stereotypes that I go too far in the other direction avoiding anything that looks feminine. This may just inspire me to write my own geeky girl essay.

I agree with Katie Hafner, Technology Writer for The New York Times, quoted on the back of the book: “These personal essays are exhilirating, hilarious, inspiring, and infuriating. Anyone with a daughter should read this book. Then make sure she applies to M.I.T.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Open vs. Controlled Knowledge at sxsw

I attended the Open Knowledge vs. Controlled Knowledge panel this morning, and Gil Penchina, CEO of Wikia, made a really good point. Robert Capps from Wired had just been talking about how vandalism has been a big issue for Wired whenever they open something up for community contribution. Gil's point is that if things have been tightly controlled and are suddenly opened up as a free-for-all, you can end up with what he called “principal for a day” mentality where the community wants to change everything and really mess with the people who have been in control for so long. At Wikia, since it has been completely open from the beginning, they have seen less vandalism. The Wikia community feels ownership for the content: they watch the content, monitor changes, and make immediate corrections when things go wrong because they have a vested interest and feel ownership for the content.

Gil also pointed out that not everything should be transparent. At Wikia, the content is open, but the bathrooms still have doors and walls – there are some things that people want to see and other things they do not need or want to see.

From my perspective, this balance is important. Too far in either direction (open or closed) can create problems within the community, and a drastic shift in the balance between open / closed can also result in issues. Achieving and maintaining this balance within a community can be a difficult and tricky process, but it seems to be better to err on the side of open rather than closed.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

About Our sxsx Panel, “Open Source: Tell me Why I Care”

This morning, I was lucky enough to be on the “Non-Developers to Open Source Acolytes: Tell Me Why I Care” panel with Annalee Newitz, Erica Rios, and Elisa Camahort organized by BlogHer. We had quite a few people attending, and some great questions and lively participation from the audience; one comment from Erica even drove the audience into spontaneous applause!

I love doing panel sessions, and this one was a lot of fun. Liz Henry was even kind enough to post a great play by play, live-blogging style post for the session, so I will skip the detailed summary here and point you to Liz's detailed notes.

Kimberly Blessing even called this the “Best SXSW Panel Ever” ... cool!

Update 3/14: A few additional reviews of the panel at InformationWeek,, BlogHer, On Women and Technology, and probably others I missed.

Picture is also courtesy of Liz Henry - thanks, Liz!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

BarCamp Austin near sxsw

BarCamp Austin is running in parallel with sxsw today, so I have been spending the afternoon here at BarCamp. The side conversations with really cool people are one of the biggest benefits of a BarCamp. I found another person to help organize BarCamp Portland (Thanks Alex!), talked to Chris Messina and Tara Hunt about coming to kick off BarCamp Portland, hung out with Scott Kveton (is it a bad thing that we both have to travel from PDX to some other city to chat?), and discussions with many other cool people.

Chris and Tara also held a meetup to talk about co-working. We hope to get something like this started in Portland, so it was really interesting to hear about what has / has not worked for them. A few dos / don'ts: don't hold it in a space where someone lives; do use word of mouth rather than marketing to attract interesting and like-minded people; do have good insurance. I should have taken better notes in this session, but it was just too interesting to open the computer.

They are also doing print on demand T-Shirts, which we should think about for Portland. Pick a size, pick a color, pick a design, give them a little $$, and viola! you have a T-Shirt (they even had small T-shirts!) If you know anyone in Portland who can bring a mobile, on demand printing unit, please drop me an email (geekygirldawn at the gmail).

Thoughts on Anonymity and Identity in Communities from SXSW

I just listened to an interesting panel at sxsw on World Domination via Collaboration. One of the many great conversations during this discussion related to anonymity in communities. One panelist allows anonymous comments on her blog because she wants to know what people really think, even if she don't like it or agree with it. Another panelist mentioned Slashdot's use of anonymous coward, which highlights the fact that people value comments more from people who share a name and identity. I also allow anonymous comments on my blog (with captcha and other spam filters). Some trolls hide behind anonymity to say nasty things, but I have been lucky so far to only have a few of those comments. I find that the vast majority of people commenting will chose to share a name or other identity, but I am not comfortable forcing it on people. I prefer to have people share an identity because they want to, not because it is required in order to leave a comment. Like many people, I value the comments from people who associate their comments with an identity over those who choose to remain anonymous.

The panel members talked about how people in a community can be anonymous from the standpoint of not sharing a real name / real identity, but having a log in and identity on the site. This is a better solution from a community perspective where people tend to interact together over a longer period of time. Community members get to know each other based on the site identity. I have noticed this recently with my interactions on Jyte. Some people share a real name, others share some other identity, but you get to know these people based on this identity whether it is an “anonymous” identity or a “real world” identity. Jyte uses OpenID, which is a great way to facilitate identity management within a community, since it gives people control over their identities and allows them to use their identity (or multiple identities) across sites.

I am looking forward to more really great sessions at sxsw this weekend!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

OpenID Gains Additional Traction with

I have become a big proponent of OpenID lately. I think it is a great solution to the growing problem of managing your online identity and login across many sites.

Today, announced that they would begin supporting OpenID:

OpenID is a new standard that hopes to alleviate some of the pain, and we’ve just made it available to everyone who has a blog. This means you can sign in to a growing number of sites using your existing account.” (Quote from

This is great news, but so far, it looks like a one way deal. You can use OpenID credentials to log into other sites, but you cannot use other OpenID providers to post to

“Unfortunately, you cannot login to WordPress (at least from what I can tell) with an external OpenID. This means that is just a provider of OpenID’s and not a consumer of OpenID’s. So I can’t use my MyOpenID or my LiveJournal OpenID post comments on blogs. Hopefully support for that will be coming soon.” (Quote from Scott Kveton, CEO of JanRain)

I suspect that is testing the waters by becoming an OpenID to provider as a first step. If it is successful, I would not be surprised if they decided to accept OpenID's to login and post to