Thursday, November 29, 2007

The next small thing

Many people are trying to predict the "next big thing" - the invention that will change our world like computers, internet or mobile phones did. The successful ones will undoubtedly make big money on it.
But I have notice many small "big things" that are less known, probably less important yet very helpful, too. For example LED lights and reflective materials.LED lights are interesting because they have very large expected lifetime (around 100,000 hours) and they are very effective (no heat is generated). Notably, most trucks in the US use them already; they are also used in the street lights everywhere. The reflective materials are used on many things - street signs for better visibility in night, clothes etc. They are able to reflect the very little light that hits them back to the source (I'm not sure I understand how they work in detail), which makes them VERY visible in night.
The combination of these two is cool, too. I was riding a bike with a LED light that lasts more than 20 hours with three small AAA batteries, while generating so much light. And all street signs and warnings were so visible I did not have to be afraid of riding of the road etc.
These small things are pretty much trivial, right? Yet they improved our lives significantly for better, in certain areas.
This makes me wonder what will come next. Big hopes are on the carbon nanotubes, but something else might come first. For example, the mechanism by which certain plants (like water lilies) keep themselves clean using only water seems to be understood, allowing it to be replicated in factories. The secret lies in a special structure of their surface that makes cleaning very simple (using water and no pressure). Image the possibilities - easy to clean kitchen, shoes, cars, walls that can be cleaned from the dust or graffiti with just water hose.
This or any other small thing will not change the way we live (LEDs did not either), but it can make life much easier.


And while I'm at bashing IT companies and their services, I have an advice: Do Not Use Facebook! Read why, maybe you will learn something. I did.

(Diet) Coke

I was never a fan of "Diet" things. However, when the hormone of youth (no kidding) starts to fading out and body fat starts to kicking in, it would seems like a good idea if the taste were not too bad. The first soda I had here was Pepsi Diet Black Cherry and French Vanilla. No sugar, but tastes like syrup (sweet, but ok). Also other "diet" cokes do not taste much worse.
And the most surprising thing is that when people have choice (at lunches when everything is free), the diet sodas are gone first. Mind boggling...

ICQ -> Jabber

My patience with ICQ/AOL is over. You can read at why, but that is not important. If you want to talk to me, get either jabber account (mine is myslivec at at or anywhere else. You can also use Google Talk (via to contact me at myslivec at gmail dot com. I'm not going to use ICQ anymore, even though I might reply to your messages if I receive them.
This is a take-it-or-leave-it offer. If you don't like, don't talk to me. It is stupid to use ICQ anyway, so I'm in fact making you a favor. You are welcome.


The great idea of E-voting is spoiled by corrupt and/or incompetent politicians, as article and its predecessors document. I can understand that the voting system (purely paper ballot, hand counting) can be problematic in country where a significant share of population does not speak English and some 200m people might come to the elections. So the proposed solution is the "paper trail", when the machine taking your electronic vote will print on a trail of paper your choice. This is obviously absurd, because you can get to know who voted for whom simply by knowing the order of people.
Ok, so lets fix it. The E-machine has to print something, but it should not be in fixed order. So what about e-machine printing your ballot on a paper. You will take this paper, check whether it looks ok (is there a name of the guy you wanted to vote for?) and put it into the box (the same we put paper ballots now). This combines the advantages of e-voting (immediate results, easy voting) with verifiability of the "correctness" of the results - you can randomly select machines for "recount". This itself can be very fast, because paper have nothing written on them, everything is printed, so OCR can achieve VERY high precision.
This clearly cannot be path-breaking idea. So why I have never read about it?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Lara Shipley via Megan McArdle:
"No one would ever do anything if they realized how much they suck."