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Long-distance relationships - volunteers for new technology?

I quite often read blogs where the blogger is involved in long-distance relationships (LDR) - typically they will be students, or ex-students who met as students. I also met my partner at university and, before we got married, me and WW also had to spend time apart and it was never easy, especially when you feel lonely and all you want is a cuddle and to fall asleep with the one you love... Thankfully, we had phones and emails, and we stuck it out - in a way, it may have made our relationship stronger as we learnt to appreciate each other in different ways.

Anyway - if any of you are in a LDR and one of you lives within 250 miles of Edinburgh, you can volunteer for an experiment with a new technology called 'Mutsugoto' (no idea what that means) - it is "an interactive installation that invites couples to experience an intimate communication over a distance." (Mutsugoto)
"Mutsugto allows distant partners to communicate through the language of touch as expressed on the canvas of the human body.
A custom projection system allows the two users to draw in light on each other's bodies whilst they lie in bed. Drawings are transmitted live between their two locations, enabling a different kind of communication that leverages the emotional quality of physical gesture." (Mutsugoto)



From what I can gather, each person has a 'ring' which they wear on their hand and while they see a real-time image of the other person, they move their hand and the other person sees that movement as light patterns on his/her body. It sounds like an interesting idea, and I can imagine that if we had had that we could have used it to increase our sense of intimacy and connectedness. I wonder what it's like in practice though... what happens if the connection is slow and the other person keeps moving! :-D
"A computer vision system tracks the movement of the ring and projects virtual pen strokes on your body. At the same time these pen strokes are transmitted to and projected on the body of your remote partner. If you follow your partner's movements and your strokes cross, the lines will react with each other and reflect your synchrony." (Mutsugoto)



Well, anyway, if you're living near Edinburgh and in a LDR - I wouldn't hesitate to volunteer. At a minimum your partner will appreciate the effort you make! The most difficult thing about a LDR is the fear that the other one is slipping away from you and not making as much effort as you do to keep the relationship going.

Chinese virus? Please help :'(

Hello you all out there, I was wondering if someone can help me?

I've been having a problem with my browsers for a few weeks now, and suspect there's an effing spyware or trojan in there somewhere >:[

I spotted this in the startup folder;
File Name: ??????????????e
Startup Value: ??????????????e
File Path: ??????????????e
Startup Type: Registry: Current User
Location: Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
Classification: Disabled
SpyNet Voting: Not Available

And in case the characters are not showing up in your browser, here's a screenshot


It's disabled now, but I'd really like to know what it is. I tried Googling - but although people have also had it, nobody has said what it is...

Can anyone translate the characters for me? Please??

A cloud over personal computing

I’ve got a problem with so-called ‘Cloud Software’ (e.g. here). Google has been doing it for a while, and now Microsoft is getting into it: basically it means using huge servers of Google or whoever to run applications and store information – so instead of writing your Word document on your computer, you go online and do it via a browser or something.

OK, actually I have no problem with that aspect of it, and it’s probably very useful to someone who doesn’t have a laptop/computer and so on. So good for ‘cloud computing’ in that respect.

My problem is with the name… you hear people saying ‘The data is in a cloud’, kind of like it’s floating in the ether around earth and only you can get at it. In fact, it’s not in a blinking cloud! It’s in Big IT Company’s servers! And they have access to it and can do what they want with it. And you can be sure they’ll have written something into the TOS to say that they can run various algorithms or whatever to ‘improve your service’.

So if you were writing a book, say, or keeping a diary, or planning a new company, or inventing something, and it was all in the ‘cloud’. You actually have a lot less control over it than you would over your own personal computer. It’s back to the old ‘dumb terminal’ days, and if it becomes widespread, the end of the personal computer.

Or maybe, what will happen is that only people rich enough to pay for their own better computer will not have to rely on these services, and everyone else will have to depend on using these 'clouds'. This would mean less choice and less innovation.

At least if they called it something different like… ‘Central Server Service’, or ‘Store-with-us’… or something more realistic. For me it feels like ‘Cloud computing’ is just used to mask the fact that your data will just be stuck with them, and to make it sound all virtual and ethereal, like the term ‘cyberspace’ which makes it sound like anything you do online is in another world unconnected to this one.

OK, just wanted to get that off my chest… :-)

Creating a blog just by sending an email

This email, in theory, should start a blog with this email as the first post on it. It must be the easiest way to start a blog, but I wonder how popular it will get - perhaps that also depends on other things such as being able to include photos, and stuff like that.

For example, if I paste a photo in this email, will it also come up in the blog?


And I suppose it will include links, anyway – such as one to my blog http://www.julianhopkins.net

And will you be able to Digg it?
[<]script src="http://digg.com/tools/diggthis.js" type="text/javascript">

It should create a blog using the part before the @ as the username – so it should be http://julian.posterous.com

(I learnt about this from http://kerim.posterous.com/ )

Let’s see if it works, and how long it takes (it’s 17.45 now). Sending…

++++++++++
Blog: www.julianhopkins.net
Skype: julhop
IM: jfprhopkins@hotmail.com


Well it worked! It was pretty much instantaneous, and you can see the results here.

I didn't get julian.posterous.com as some other Julian got it already, so it's julian_lzhga instead, but that can be changed.

The Digg script didn't work - I suppose it doesn't take html script, or java, or something.

Conclusion: not bad, for a rapid and easy blog. I can't see myself switching, but it might appeal to some people...

RSI – Don’t use a wrist support!

I think I have an Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) problem coming on – the wrist of my ‘mousing hand’ has a nagging pain most of the time, and it immediately gets worse when I start using the mouse or typing. It’s a problem, because my work basically involves typing and surfing the net (could be worse ;-)), and I spend easily 8-12 hours a day on my computer.

So, I went surfing (ahem) to find out more, and found out some surprising things from a reliable source, Cornell University: on mousing, and on typing posture.

• First of all – don’t use a wrist support, especially the soft gel ones!
“research has shown that using a wrist rest doubles the pressure inside the carpal tunnel” ( Professor Alan Hedge, Cornell University)
At least, if you do use one, put the heel of your hand on it, not your wrist. The reason for this is simple: try laying your arm flat on a table, you’ll notice a curve up at the wrist


therefore – you don’t want to be putting pressure at exactly the point where your body is designed to avoid pressure! This is addressed in an alternative wrist pad by Ergoguys
• Also, move your mouse from your elbow, not by flicking your wrist. Resting the heel of your hand on the wrist support pad is not going to help this though.
• Your ideal posture should not be a straight back, but actually leaning slightly backwards. The wrist should be lower than the elbow, and the keyboard lower than the wrists. So a keyboard that slants upwards is not good – notice how the keyboard in the picture slants downwards.


For this a decent chair is important, the problem is they are expensive, I find that the standard cheap office chair does not have good height control – but I’ve tried putting a cushion on mine to lift me up a bit higher. And a box to put my feet on, otherwise they dangle a bit (short legs!) which is not good either.
• I’m also trying to use my mouse with my left hand to give the right a rest. It’s a bit fiddly, but doable.
• Finally, take regular breaks. One useful way to do this is to have a software that reminds you, and forces you to stop by temporarily blocking your computer – I have installed Workrave (free OpenSource) which is nice because it gives you exercises to do, and has cute sheep :-) The problem is, it doesn’t always seem to always remind me – maybe because I use Vista (unfortunately). There are other similar ones out there too.

There are more things, but these stood out to me. So, take care of your body – do something to improve your habits today! :-)

Internet as actant


“The internet” doesn’t have any information. The internet (‘INTernational NETwork’) is the collection of hard and software that enables the storing and transmission of data. Basically, a massive version of the network in your office. You access the information, which is created and stored by individuals.

In practice, apart from people actively involved in its governance (The Internet Society), and network engineers of various types, ‘the internet’ – as an empirical material reality – has no practical prosaic reality for people (unless of course it stopped working…). However, simultaneously, millions of people around the world (as in the comic strip above) interact with ‘the internet’ – objectively, that is what they say is giving them information; so empirically we cannot ignore this. Just as if a person was to say aliens made her assassinate the president – we can’t locate those aliens, but ‘they’ did make her shoot the gun.

I think this is what Latour means by an ‘actant’: it is assigned agency by actors, and is ‘enrolled’ – brought to bear as part of their active engagement with others. Miller & Slater also use that approach in their classic - The Internet - An Ethnographic Approach.
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