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Microsoft's pie in the cloudy sky

Photo: Michael Kappel/flickr

What are we supposed to make of Microsoft? Has it finally found its groove, or is it a desperate wannabe consumer brand? 

At the company's recent BUILD conference, the Redmond-based software giant showed off Windows 10 and a new browser. It attempted to woo iOS and Android developers and did a second demo of its HoloLens augmented reality headgear. And, its cloud-based Azure platform is a chart-buster. At first blush, it looked like it was firing on all cylinders. 

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Missed call: The influence of cell phone culture on accuracy in political polls

Photo: flickr/Moyan Brenn

Politics and prophecy have ancient mutual origins in military tradition. It is obvious why knowledge of the future confers strategic advantage.

Once a tradition of mysticism and ritual, prophecy now involves the application of algorithmic calculation to large data sets for the production of useful extrapolations. This is how finance capitalism evaluates companies, how Target uses sales data to know about a woman's pregnancy before she does, and how campaigning politicians know which doors to knock on or avoid.

In the era of big data, we should not be surprised that big money remains the dominant influence.

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Redeye

Wikipedia not welcoming environment for women

October 26, 2014
| A survey by the Wikipedia Foundation discovered that more than 85 per cent of editors are men. Wikipedia Edit-a-thons are one attempt to address this imbalance, but women are still holding back.
Length: 11:52 minutes (10.88 MB)
MsRepresent

The brain and the ballet dancer: Dr. Crystal Dilworth on the co-dependency between art and science

September 16, 2014
| Does art need the structure of science? Can science grow without creativity? For Dr. Crystal Dilworth, the attraction between opposites is all about the brain and a little bit of chemistry.
Length: 28:06 minutes (51.46 MB)
Columnists

Consumer electronics and the miracle of materials

Photo: Kenny Louie/flickr

Who, three decades ago, would have imagined that the materials that would change consumer electronics would be glass, ABS plastic, sapphire, graphite and aluminum?

Back then folks might have said silicon, tin and polypropylene, since that's what made up the majority of cheap computers, cassette decks and mobile phones. Back then, most consumer electronics weren't cheap, they just looked it. High-end materials and elegant industrial design went into luxury cars and watches, not video consoles and desktop computers. 

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Columnists

Photographs and the illusion of the frozen moment

Photo: remediate.this/flickr

What's a photograph? If you answered: "a moment in time captured on film or as a digital image" your answer would only be right for the last hundred years or so. Back in 1839, when the Daguerreotype process was announced to the world, an exposure on a glass positive would take 20-30 minutes. When, two years later, Henry Fox Talbot introduced his calotype method of creating a film negative, the exposures were shorter, but still measured in minutes, not seconds or fractions of a second.

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Columnists

We can't get no satisfication: Computer systems, complexity and human nature

Photo: Phoenix Dark-Knight/flickr

Human beings are odd creatures. Example: we satisfice. We exhibit that tendency when we discover a way of doing things that is, however awkward and convoluted, strangely comforting over time.

Relatives who get to the google.com home page by searching Yahoo for Google are satisficing. No matter how often you explain you could just enter the URL directly, they will continue with their familiar routine. We are creatures of habit, no matter how wonky and convoluted that habit might be. But, and here again is evidence of our oddness, we route around the complexity imposed by others.

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Columnists

Scaling the rich media mountain

Photo: Scott Maxworthy/flickr

The PDF was invented 21 years ago. That means that a vast majority of the content that companies put online would have been right at home back when I Will Always Love You was in the Billboard Top Ten. It's like two decades of technology never existed. Why?

One of the main reasons is a lack of time. It's far faster to generate a PDF of a report than to make the effort to produce rich, interactive media more appropriate for online and mobile devices. 

So, clearly companies need to think through how their rich media production is scalable and sustainable given the organization's capacity. Either that or keep producing content as if the advances of the last 20 years never happened. 

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Columnists

Facebook and the bald-headed kid

Photo: Flickr/James Truepenny

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There's this cartoon you probably know. It features a big-headed, bald kid named Charlie and a girl named Lucy. Again and again in this amusing comic, Lucy promises not to move the football she's holding while the Charlie kid runs to kick it. And, again and again, to great bittersweet hilarity, she does and little Charlie goes flying landing on his back, chagrined but, we understand, still trusting in Lucy's innate goodness. We love that adorable sap, Charlie Brown.

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