Friday, October 21, 2005


Socialight (beta) could be one of the more interesting products of the Web 2.0.
In the homepage the service is defined as a Location-Based Messaging system, "a mobile phone and web based platform that allows users to create and share location-based messages called StickyShadows™".
The whole idea is based on StickyShadows, virtual multimedial stickies, submitted by users via mobile phone or internet and available in defined places for specific people.

As you travel around the world, you can find StickyShadows that are tied to the places you go. The system can notify you via your mobile phone any time you step on a StickyShadow. As your phone buzzes, it will display the media, along with some information about the person who set it. From there, you can instantly respond, leave your own StickyShadow or just move on.

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Single-molecule car

A team of scientists from the Rice University developed a single-molecule car, consisting of "a chassis and axles made of well-defined organic groups with pivoting suspension and freely rotating axles. The wheels are buckyballs, spheres of pure carbon containing 60 atoms apiece. The entire car measures just 3-4 nanometers across, making it slightly wider than a strand of DNA. A human hair, by comparison, is about 80,000 nanometers in diameter". Beware buyers: to drive it you'll need its gold highway.

Now, MCC Smart drivers, who steals parkings to who?

(From Physorg, via digg)

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Free professional books from Apress

Looking for new readings? Maybe free?
Apress is offering some ebooks you should check out:

  1. A Programmer's Introduction to PHP 4.0;
  2. Writing Perl Modules for CPAN;
  3. Programming VB .NET: A Guide For Experienced
  4. COM and .NET Interoperability;
  5. Dissecting a C# Application: Inside SharpDevelop;
(via Weblog tools collection)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

RSS Power user tips

Being an avid feeds user, I couldn't be more interested in this list of 10 RSS power user tips by Steve Rubel (Micro Persuasion):

1. Build feeds for your favorite writers;
2. Got a car? Subscribe to its rss feed;
3. Merge several RRS feeds into one, then stick it on your firefox bar;
4. Track audiobooks with RSS;
5. Find cool stuff with a Inbox feed;
6. Build a library of search feeds in a heartbeat with;
7. Track Wikipedia revisions with RSS;
8. Find new desktop wallpaper with Flickr;
9. Subscribe to RSS feeds in Gmail;
10. Take a break with RSS;

I'd add a few more:

  1. Follow updated blog comments;
  2. Weather forecasts via RSS: i.e. RSSWeather
  3. Follow TV schedule updates as RSS;
  4. Keep track of your projects/to-do lists: Remember the milk and TracksLife, for example, support feeds;
  5. Be notified on changes in collaborative/shared documents: Writely and Writeboard can do it;

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Google, come here! - Yes, mum!

After a search engine, a mail service, an rss reader, satellite tools, etc... Google put his name on a child.
Don't get me wrong, there's not a beta-reproductive tool (last time I checked, at least): Walid Elias Kai, a Lebanese living in Sweden who works in the search engines field, called his son Oliver Google Kai (see the official site).
Mr. Kai (aka Google's father, according to a lebanese tradition) said:

"When we first knew that my wife Carol is pregnant, I said, 'we will name our child Google.' Everyone laughed and did not take me seriously. My brother said, 'Yeah, name the next one yahoo fuji nikon." And then, says Dr. Kai, the day came to make the baby official in the Swedish Registry. "I was with my friend Magnus Foss and my wife Carol, and I said yes, GOOGLE KAI. Carol knew how serious I am – she knows how much I adore Google services."

(via Official Google Blog)

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Skeptical views on Web 2.0 ?

With all this raving about Web 2.0 and moving everything online, a skeptical opinion is an eye-catcher: in an article published by News Forge, Robin Miller lists three reasons why internet-based applications are a bad idea:

1. Peering agreement falls apart;
2. Cut one line, cut off DSL all over Florida;
3. Mysterious outages abund

Read the full article for a close examination of the three points (the overall concern is the [still] poor internet reliability).

But seriously, is anybody actually thinking of leaving computer-based software at once, in favour of online applications (many of which are still in beta-stage) ? In 2005?
A good mix of online/offline tools, plus a certain amount of common sense shoud be the preferable solution.

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Never trust a printer

Geek-blackmailers should better leave their modern gear and switch back to the old-fashioned technique, involving press cutting, scissors and glue.
The EEF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) discovered - and broke - a code hidden in documents by some laser printers on the market. The code, consisting in a series of microscopic yellow dots repeated in each page of the document, reveals the date/time of the print, along with the serial number of the printer itself.
Now, don't stare at those prints on your desk like a fool: in order to see the dots you'll need a blue light, a magnifier, or a microscope.
Just in case, on the EEF page there's a guide on how to see and read the dots and a program for automated decodings.

(via Boingboing)

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Monday, October 17, 2005

Blue Marble: next generation

...from the cyber-space to the 'outer' one: NASA's Earth Observatory has recently released a new series of stunning high-res (up to 12MB PNGs) pictures of the Earth, one for each month of the year 2004.
Scrolling down to the bottom of the main page you'll find a list of links to interactive viewers (YaWah is just amazing!) and animations.

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Atlas of Cyberspaces

Ever wondered what's between your monitor and the rest of the web?
The Atlas of Cyberspaces is a huge resource of graphical representations of the new electronic territories of the Internet, the World-Wide Web and other emerging Cyberspaces, ordered by thematic areas including Conceptual graphs, Art (the cyberspace as portrayed in literature, games and movies), amazing maps of fiber optic networks, submarine cables and satellites, maps of ISPs from all over the World and more.
Definitely worth a visit (and a bookmark).

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

First :-) ever

Geek-trivia: where did this :-) smiley appear for the first time?
Microsoft shows the contents of the "joke" thread on the CMU CS general bboard, where Scott Fahlman introduced the first emoticon/smiley to let people distinguish hilarious posts from the serious ones.
Here is the famous post:

19-Sep-82 11:44    Scott E  Fahlman             :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use


(via Digg)

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Hey, who did doodle on my Centrino?

If you think that integrated circuits are just boring pieces of silicon and aluminium (well... they are, indeed, unless you have a microscope), read on: you could have a little MOMA inside your old computer. The layered structure of microchips allows designers to mark their products with a variety of colors and patterns: looking (really) close, it's not uncommon to discover pictures and writings on the surface of a chip, hidden pieces of art, microscopic Easter-eggs testifying that even an engineer's brain has a rive gauche.

Some interesting links: Chipworks (with explanation and galleries); Silicon Zoo.

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Homebuilt Segway Version 2

Just yesterday I saw a guy riding a Segway near the Duomo in Milan: after a sudden burst of envy, I recalled an article about a homebrew balancing scooter, built using off-the-shelf parts and 500 lines of C; by chance (or maybe it's just a matter of Intelligent Design...) today I stumbled upon the Balancing Scooter Version 2, an evolution of the 2002 model:

Version 2 is faster, lighter, smoother, and has more range. It has 3 inches more ground clearance, it's an inch narrower so it fits through doorways better, and it has a much better steering system.

Oh, it's even Bluetooth-equipped, so you can drive it using a laptop:

I can now leave my scooter parked somewhere and use my laptop to have it come and get me

I definitely want one.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

What's up with Bloglines?

Could anybody tell me what's wrong with Bloglines lately?
It's since yesterday that when I click on a feed showing (x) new items, the right panel shows the site name and nothing else, as if the site/blog wasn't updated at all. This is getting more and more frequent and annoying, and the need for a reliable alternative is becoming quite pressing.
t3h Blox0r coud be a good candidate: it has a clean GUI, folders (why most online feed readers lack this vital feature?), easy OPML import and even easier registration (just a user ID and a password). Too bad it sometimes has a few images/layout issues I can't live with...

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Can you resist to click?

Well, it's quite like having a jelly in your mouth and trying not to chew it.
In the welcome page, warns you: click here for the last time before entering the project. And it's true: the entire [beautiful] interface is built in flash and allows users to explore the whole site just hovering the mouse over the contents, without a single click.
The project also proposes alternative approaches to common web elements (such as buttons activated by a left-to-right mouse gesture or a timer) and multimedial contents always under the leitmotiv: Can you resist to click? It really depends on your habits, but if the click-addiction is just too strong you can always use the Mousewrap, a funny mouse-sized cilice which will teach you not to click the hard way.

(Via Geeksquare)


Traveling Magellan-style

GPS users, you'd better get your old maps out of the drawer: according to Norman Bonnor, president of the Royal Institute of Navigation, one day the GPS system could stop guiding us, mainly because of its reliance on satellites, which have a limited life-span (apart from the CryoSat...); a conspicuous part (16) of the satellites currently working (28) is on duty beyond the planned service period, and 24 are needed in order to provide complete signal coverage.

(from ITWeek via Slashdot)

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Friday, October 14, 2005

.eu domains coming soon

Next December, the first .eu domains will be finally assigned: EURid (Eupropean Registry of Internet Domain Names) wlll launch the .eu in several phases: the Sunrise period will start 7 december 2005 and will be limited to owners of 'prior rights' (e.g. holders of trademarks), while the Land Rush phase - open to everyone - will start 7 april 2006.

(via downloadblog )

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Bloglines hotkeys

Today I noticed that bloglines added hotkeys to navigate (not a minor news if you have hundreds of feeds...).
The shortcuts are:

j - next article k - previous article s - next sub f - next folder A - read all r - refresh left pane

Kudos to Bloglines for this improvement. Now, if only I could definitively get rid of that plumber...

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Mobile Phones: Italy the 2nd country in the World

To realize that here in Italy the mobile phone-insanity spreads faster than any possible avian flu, all you have to do is go out and look at those 8-years old boys furiously typing sms' on their UMTS phones, or check how many mobile accounts the average guy uses.
No wonder if Italy (according to an Itu survey partially anticipated here) is officially the 2nd country (the 1st in Europe) in the World, behind Hong-Kong in terms of mobile-phones concentration (109,42 phones every 100 inhabitants) and - in absolute terms - holds the 2nd (in Europe) and 7th (in the World) place among the countries with most users.
Where Italy lacks - the Itu says - is convergence, mainly because of the different policies adopted by the (four) phone companies - not too prone to cooperate - and the feeble links between private operators and institutional bodies.


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Happy birthday OpenOffice!

Five years ago StarOffice source code was donated by Sun microsystems to the openo-source community, laying the foundations for OpenOffice, the advanced, free productivity suite we all know, now supported by a growing number of companies and a large community of independent developers.

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Remember the milk

Yet another Web 2.0 application: Remember the milk is the free, online equivalent of putting yellow post-its all over your walls.
RTM allows you - through one of the cleanest GUIs I've seen lately - to create to-do lists (shareable, of course), classify and label them, set 'color coded priorities', store unlimited notes for each task. Reminders can be received via e-mail, instant messenger or sms and, for maximum usability, the service supports iCal and Atom feeds.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

MSN Messenger and Yahoo compatible?

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal (subscribers only) Microsoft and Yahoo! will make their instant messaging and voice-to-voice services compatible.

(From Whatsnextblog via blogs4biz )

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Little incomes for bloggers

In spite of the speculative bubble everybody's talking about, the blogosphere doesn't seem a big source of ads incomes; according to this Qumana survey, "69% of bloggers earn less than 20$/month from all income sources".
Read more here.

(Qumana via The blog herald)

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Garçon...a bottle of your best INK, please.

If the ink required to print your last vacation reportage costed more than a brand-new printer, say thanks to Mr. Gillette and his "razor blade" business model: in the first years of the last century, the company sold razors at low prices, but made large profits selling disposable razor blades.
According to this analysis from the New York Times, printers manufacturers adopt the same strategy with inkjets and ink:

Printers return relatively low profit margins. But the ink, ounce for ounce, is four times the cost of Krug Clos du Mesnil Champagne, which sells for around $425 a bottle. Ink is about the same price as Joy perfume, considered to be one of the more pricey fragrances, at $158 for a 2.5-ounce bottle.

(from NYTimes via Manteblog)

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Seth Godin's Squidoo

Seth Godin has just published another ebook (available in .pdf), entitled Everyone Is An Expert, and is launching Squidoo, a platform which allows users "to teach people about topics they care about".
From the SquidBlog:
It’s a guide (like and a reference (like It’s a place for personal expression (like and an open platform for real people (like

Beta-testers can ask for invitations in the homepage.

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Google Reader

Google just announced an online feed reader.

(via BoingBoing)

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Friday, October 07, 2005

A 6-legged robot will watch your guts

If you're more frightened by a doctor putting a rubber tube down your throat (or worse), than a robotic bug wandering around your guts, I've good news for you.

Today, the only alternative to a traditional endoscopy is a camera capsule which, during its journey through the guts, takes and transmits images from the patient's intestine: unfortunately, the pill can't be controlled, making this instrument less efficient than the classic endoscope.

I'm proud to read that an italian lab, the CRIM (Center of Research In Microengineering), at the Sant' Anna School of Advanced Studies (Pisa), developed a small radio-controlled robot with a built-in micro camera, which crawls up and down the patient's guts, moving on his six tiny legs; when the device reaches a point of interest, the operator can fix it to the intestine walls thanks to a clamp which grabs the tissue (strong enough not to be pushed away by the muscle contractions), allowing an aimed analysis of the organ.

Read the abstract and the full article in PDF.

(ZDnet via New Scientist)

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Wink - when Google and social bookmarking meet

Wink is a brand-new search engine, which adds the power of Google to the responsiveness of social bookmarking services as Spurl, and Digg, providing - along with the results - tags and 'user-contributed' contents, as Wikipedia pages or 'Wink Wikis', a smart tool to limit the search within one of the possible meanings of a query. The results can be voted, blocked (to avoid spam) and tagged, allowing the user to build a customized search engine.

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Let's add another application to this feverish Web 2.0 buzz. I'm always looking for new ways of reading my RSS feeds: KnowHow just announced eLerts, a browser toolbar (Explorer only) which warns you with a popup every time one of your feeds is updated. When you receive an alert, you can directly read the article, mark it as a reminder, or ignore it (the message will disappear within 10 seconds). Watch the flash demo.

(via theofficeweblog)

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Litter-Robot - Stuff for geek cats

At least once a day I dream of a device like this. Maybe it's not the coolest tool out there, but a gadget - first of all - should be useful: well, this is the mother of the useful things.
Litter-Robot is a self-cleaning litter box for geek cats (and owners), disguised into a space capsule: your feline-friend enters that ball and "drops the bomb"; when he leaves the box, a 7-minutes countdown starts (don't worry, if the cats re-enters the countdown is stopped) at the end of which the robot begins rotating, separating the waste from the clean litter and letting the clumps fall in a drawer.
Audrey, forget that tuna supply I pomised you, I've just found a better xmas present.

(via Engadget)

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Let's add one more application to our list of online tools.
If you need to keep track of your goals and activities (e.g.: keep your new blog updated...), then you might try Trackslife, an online service conceived to help you follow your marching orders.

With TracksLife you can:

  • Keep track of almost anything with Tracks — spreadsheets/databases that combine columns of money, numbers, words, paragraphs and yes/no’s.
  • If you ever forget to update — and you will — you can have the Friendly Trackslife Remindbot send a link through email or RSS politely reminding you.
  • And — if you want — you can share your progress with friends, family, coworkers, bloggers — whoever!

(Via Lifehacker)

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Einstein's Manuscripts online

If I'm to tell you the truth, I don't fully trust some of those cheating physics teachers, so I've decided to take a look myself at Albert Einstein's handwritten manuscripts.
At, digitalized images of The Scientist's writings have been grouped into three sections (Scientific material, Non-scientific material, Biographical material) and are available in .jpg format.

(Via Digg)

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Free Wi-Fi in Europe

Free HotSpot, a european ISP, is planning to offer free Wi-Fi access in public places all over Europe, starting from Paris and London.
On the homepage, a search engine with more than 6.000 free Hotspots around the World.
It's easy to use FREE HotSpots in public places such as cafés, restaurants, pubs, retail centres, transit centres and more. Bring your Wi-Fi enabled device (laptop, PDA, etc.) to a selected FREE HotSpot, log on and start surfing the Internet!

(Via Punto Informatico)

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Monday, October 03, 2005

A movie from the italian blogosphere

Alberto Puliafito, an italian blogger, is the director of Kandinskij, a short movie born from the italian blogosphere.
On his weblog, L'Indignato, an entire category (BlogMovie Production) is the written 'making-of' of the movie.
Kandinskij is released under a Creative Commons 2.0 license, and is available for download in .mov format.

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Writeboard - Another collaborative writing software

37Signals, the authors of Backpack, released Writeboard, a free online collaborative writing software. Once a document is created, authorized users may subscribe via RSS and be notified of the changes, compare different versions of the same document, share it with colleagues. Of course, Writeboard supports Backpack integration to keep the files organized.

(via Digg)

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Do it online - list of useful online tools

With the spreading of the broadband, a conspicuous part of our digital activities is migrating to the www.
eHub by Emily Chang (thanks, Cristiancontini) is a definitely huge, constantly updated list of web-based applications, services, resources and so on. A must-subscribe feed.

I'll add a few more resources:

  • gOffice: browser-based word processor and desktop publishing suite (free for personal use);
  • Goowy mail: free email application in flash;
  • PDF Online: online conversion from many document formats to PDF;
  • Notepaper Generator: create personalized (name, font, summary box, optional punch holes) notebooks;

edit: another interesting list from ZDnet suggests:

  • FCK Editor: web based word processor;
  • Web-based: spreadsheet program;
  • S5: standards-based slide show system;
  • Webnote: online tool for taking notes;
  • Bindows: desktop application framework;
  • Zimbra: collaboration suite

Suggestions are welcome.

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Saturday, October 01, 2005 - know what's happening near you

So it's saturday night and you don't know what to do?
Go to and search for your city and/or a kind of event (lecture, concert... you get the idea): now pick a happening from the list and have fun!

(via Luxist)

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After What should I read next, Literature-map: another online tool which helps you to choose your next reading.
Starting from the name of an author submitted by the user, the site generates an animated map showing other writers: the closer the two names will be, the more likely the user will like the suggested author.

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Free BMWs

The good news are that BMW is giving away free cars and I'll finally own a gorgeous Z3 Coupé;

The bad news is that I'm not that skilled at folding origamis.

(Via Autoblog)

edit: if you don't like BMWs (really?), here you'll find tons of schemes to fold
(almost) every kind of car;