Author
 Mitch Wagner

Profile of Mitch Wagner

California Bureau Chief, Light Reading
News & Commentary Posts: 1161

Mitch Wagner is California bureau chief for Light Reading.

Articles by Mitch Wagner
posted in March 2007

Microsoft Describes How Virtual Earth Was Built

3/29/2007
You want to know what the definition of "cool" is? It's sitting in the front row of a hotel meeting hall, watching a demo of Microsoft Virtual Earth on the 12-foot display in the front of the room, as the camera plunges from the sky to swoop and soar around detailed digital models of the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the streets of Philadelphia. Even cooler: Listening to John Curlander, general manager of Microsoft Virtual Earth, explain how it was built.

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Jeff Hawkins, Who Invented PalmPilot, Says He's Figured Out How The Brain Works

3/28/2007
You can't complain that Jeff Hawkins is falsely modest. Hawkins, whose last triumph was inventing the PalmPilot, claims to have solved the greatest problem in 60 years of computer science. He says he's figured out how the human brain works, and has built a model in software, with practical applications imminent. Not only that, he says he's released a lot of the code in open source.


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Photos Of The $100 One Laptop Per Child Laptop

3/27/2007
I was able to get my hands on the One Laptop Per Child $100 laptop at the O'Reilly ETech conference today. I took pictures, and they came out great -- take a look for yourself below the fold. The OLPC looks like a toy, with its hard plastic enclosure, soft plastic keyboard, bright colors, and handle. But it's a fully functional computer, designed for children in the emerging world.


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Jott Helps Keep Track Of To-Dos When You Can't Write 'Em Down

3/23/2007
I'm so excited I could just plotz -- I actually had a chance to field-test Jott yesterday and it worked like a champ. Jott is a new service that lets you phone in and record a 15-second sound bite, which it transcribes using speech recognition and then e-mails the text back to you. I used it to record an idea while I was driving to the dentist, and by gosh I had that e-mail waiting for me when I got back to my desk.


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For Sale In Second Life: Amsterdam

3/22/2007
Amsterdam is for sale on eBay.. It's one of the most popular areas in Second Life. More than that: It is, to Second Life, what Times Square is to New York, or Fisherman's Wharf is to San Francisco. It's one of the first places where newbies go, to look around and check out the scene.


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I'm Going To ETech Next Week -- How About You?

3/21/2007
I do not want to go to the O'Reilly ETech conference next week, because that involves leaving my comfortable desk chair. But those scoundrels at O'Reilly have thwarted me by putting on a conference with a mix of practical business advice and weird philosophical hocus-pocus that I find irresistible. I've been checking out the conference schedule and here's the programming that jumps out at me as most compelling.


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Simple Web Services Solve Simple Problems

3/20/2007
We've recently seen a few interesting Internet services focused on doing one thing -- one very small thing -- and striving to do it very, very well. These include the Twitter blogging service, Jott for recording 15-second voice messages and transcribing them using speech recognition, and Remember The Milk and Imified for to-do list management.


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Video: Grand Central Phone Service Explained

3/20/2007
I've been enthusiastically recommending the Grand Central phone service to anyone who listens. It provides you with a single number that you can give out to people, and when they call it rings your cell phone, office phone, home phone, and other phones -- whatever numbers you want it to ring. Grand Central has some other features as well, as David Pogue explains in this humorous video.


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Kittens Say Macs Are Superior

3/19/2007
This video of a kitten playing with a MacBook has been making the rounds of the blogs. Of course, real men don't watch kitten videos, so of course I didn't watch it. And I especially didn't say "Awwwww."

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Jott Provides Voice Reminders

3/19/2007
Jott is a new service that lets you make a note to yourself even when you don't have hands free to write something down. You phone Jott on your cell phone, record a message up to 15 seconds, and Jott will run the message through a voice-to-text application and e-mail you the results.


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Internet Atwitter About Twitter

3/16/2007
The Twitter blogging service is exploding in popularity, as twitterers fill each other in on what they're having for breakfast and where they're meeting up to party. But is it actually useful?

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Travel Tools That Let You Leave The Laptop Behind

3/15/2007
The South by Southwest conference gave me an opportunity to try out travel tools I've been reading and writing about for a couple of years. I found I could easily leave the laptop computer in the hotel room while continuing to write articles and blog posts from the conference. What a big relief for my back and shoulders!


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Firefox 3 Public Beta Due In Spring

3/13/2007
New features will include standardized support for running Web apps like mail and office suites while disconnected from the Internet, and support for Places, a redesigned bookmarks and history manager.

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Twitter Is Hot At South By Southwest

3/13/2007
Twitter, a simplified blogging service founded by Blogger co-founder Evan Williams, is hot at South by Southwest. Twitter is a service that lets people post one or two short sentences, using phone texting, the Web, e-mail, or chat, and read updates from others through the same channels. You can subscribe to networks of friends or like-minded people; there's a Twitter group set up for South by Southwest. John Edwards, a Democratic presidential candidate,
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Join Us In Second Life Tuesday For A South By Southwest Kaffeeklatsch

3/12/2007
Join InformationWeek and Dr. Dobb's Journal Tuesday morning for a kaffeeklatsch to discuss the South by Southwest conference, going on this week in Austin, Texas. SXSW is one of the leading conferences for Web 2.0 and it's where I am right now. DDJ's John Jainschigg (a/k/a John Zhaoying in Second Life) has arranged a special treat for Tuesday's discussion; if you miss it, you'll want to cut out your own brain.

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Web 2.0 To Web 3-D @ South By Southwest

3/12/2007
Participants at the "Web 2.0 to Web 3-D" panel at South by Southwest on Monday talked quite a lot about how Web 2.0 is participatory, but virtual worlds like World of Warcraft or Second Life are immersive. That sounds like a lot of marketing baloney unless you've actually been active in a virtual world. Sure, it's engaging to be involved in a Web 2.0 site like Twitter or Digg. But, when you're active on a virtual world, you

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Open Source: Tell Me Why I Care

3/11/2007
My first panel for South by Southwest was titled, "Open Source: Tell Me Why I Care." Four advocates discussed the reasons for using open source. Pleasantly, there was almost no Microsoft-bashing, and only a little discussion of using open source because it's socially the right thing to do. "One of the myths that keeps people away from open source is that it smells a little bit like patchouli," said one audience participant. Instead, the panel offered hard-headed, practical reasons why using op

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Ready To Go At South By Southwest

3/11/2007
I'm here in Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest conference, four days of Web 2.0. I think I like Austin. Getting off the plane, a woman pulled me aside from the crowd and asked me what flight I'd been on. I said where we'd originated, and she said we weren't the flight she was waiting for. "But," she added, "I'm glad y'all landed safely." That's the kind of friendliness you expect in Texas. In San Diego, where I live, she would have said, "Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude" and in New York, w

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Video: A Network Called Internet

3/9/2007
Have you heard about this new thing called "Internet"? This 1993 news report explains it for Canadians. One 1993 Internet user explained how there's not a lot of hostility, cussing, and swearing on this network called Internet. Yeah, that didn't work out, did it?

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Net Neutrality Is Too Important To Leave To The Government

3/8/2007
Techdirt takes a look at network neutrality and blasts the telecom lobby group Hands Off the Internet and its pernicious lie that big content providers like Google are freeloaders that don't pay for their bandwidth. That is simply not true: Any popular Web site pays colossal bandwidth charges to its Internet service provider. What the anti-net neutrality telcos want is the right to charge content providers like Google twice for t

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Colbert Interviews Editor Of Make Magazine, Murders Defenseless Robot Mouse

3/8/2007
Stephen Colbert seems to be having a great time interviewing Mark Frauenfelder, editor-in-chief of Make, a magazine designed to help people get hands-on with technology. Make helps users build projects like video cameras mounted on kites and model rockets, home-made credit-card readers, and do-it-yourself biodiesel fuel. Here, Frauenfelder and Colbert play with a tiny robot made out of a computer mouse -- Colbert is chagrined when he breaks it -- and a homemade gun that shoot

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A Formula For Fixing Consumer Customer Service

3/7/2007
I think Cory Doctorow didn't remember, until I reminded him, that he and I share a personal connection over the subject of his most recent column. Five years ago, I bought a Compaq Presario laptop that turned out to be a lemon, and Compaq refused to fix its mistake in a timely fashion. I made a huge, public stink about it, called a few of my influential industry friends (including Cory) and eventually -- surpri

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France, China, And Turkey Handcuff The Internet

3/7/2007
France, China, and Turkey have been in the news this week with wrongheaded attempts to handcuff the Internet. All three countries are trying to use regulation to control what they see as Internet-fueled damage to society. Sadly, all three countries are likely to find that the regulations are at best ineffective, and, at worst harmful.


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Get Productive By Using The Mac Keyboard

3/6/2007
Until a couple of years ago, I thought that the Mac was for dummies who were not smart enough to use a keyboard, and who, therefore, needed to use a mouse for everything. That may have been true back in the 20th Century, but the current Mac OS X, perhaps because if its Unix heritage, has keyboard shortcuts for just about everything. And if that's not good enough for you, just download and install the free Quicksilver utility, which lets you almos

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Is Second Life Bad For You?

3/6/2007
This morning's Second Life kaffeeklatsch was stimulating and entertaining, as always. The topic for today was "Is Second Life Bad for You?" We ended up talking about people for whom Second Life is a benefit because they're housebound due to physical disability, including one woman whose cancer was quite severe, for whom Second Life had become her first life.


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Exposing Second Life's Data Centers

3/5/2007
Today InformationWeek undresses Second Life and leaves it naked and trembling. We lift up its skirts and peer at its naughty bits. We open up its dresser drawers and paw through its unmentionables. In other words, we go inside the data centers and describe some of the server and software technology that keeps the virtual world running.


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Inside Second Life's Data Centers

3/5/2007
As Second Life strains to keep up with recent popularity, InformationWeek looks at the real-world technology foundations of the make-believe world and developer Linden Lab's plans to stay on top of growth.

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