Computer interface for the brain

I have always been a slow typer, due mainly to the fact the I have cerebral palsy, albeit a mild case. Unfortunately as a result of my car accident, I’m now a quadriplegic. I have some use of my legs, good arm movement and some hand movement, but I can only use my thumbs and left index finger for typing.

So I was very interested when I saw the Wired article “Transforming Thoughts Into Deeds.” The story is mainly about a company called Cyberkinetics and their brain-computer interface called Braingate, which has already allowed monkeys to move a cursor with their thoughts. Clinical trials should begin sometime this year and a product might be on the market by 2007.

Other companies and researchers are working in the same field, but only Cyberkinetics appears to be close to a commercial product. While it seems likely that I will walk again to a degree and that more hand function will return with time, it’s nice to know people are working on these things.

Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book”

I initially thought that Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” was going to be full-text searchable. Well, not exactly. You can search for words but the results are displayed as images of the page the text is on. This is mainly for copyright reasons and I guess it makes sense. If they were making a research tool actual text would be good but they’re not really doing that.

I think what Amazon is trying to do is recreate the library browsing experience where you search for a subject in the library catalog and then head to the stacks to flip through books and see if they’re what you really want. This makes finding random interesting books on Amazon a lot more likely. I think it will definately make me buy more books from Amazon, like I don’t buy enough already.

Wired has more on this new feature of Amazon.

iTunes for Windows and anti USA PATRIOT Act bumper sticker

Yesterday was my birthday. In case you are wondering I am now one score and five. Just thought I would lead off with that. And I have a recording of a certain clown singing…. On a related musical note I just installed iTunes for Windows. Nice software. The reason I installed it was so I could more easily share the my library between the iMac where I have all my music and the Windows box. Works flawlessly and I am quite happy.

In other news I am the proud owner of an anti-PATRIOT Act bumper sticker offered on eBay by Jessamyn of fame. Am I going to put it on my car? Probably not. I do most of my traveling by foot anyway. The auction just seemed like a good excuse to donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and show my disdain for the infamous PATRIOT Act. I may frame the sticker and put it on my wall.

Software that works

A couple of days of ago I installed the alpha of Thunderbird, the mail client from the folks now known as the Mozilla Foundation. My early impression is that it’s as good as any mail client out there, but being an alpha it of course lacks polish.

Slightly more polished (beta) is the RSS reader FeedDemon. I like it quite a bit. It’s very easy to use and nicely laid out. Maybe now I can find more interesting things to post here at Library Monk.

And then there is Sizer. It’s a freeware app that resizes windows. Very handy for web designing. I’m glad I found it because the software I’d been using since 1999 to do that kind of thing, BrowserMaster, doesn’t work very well anymore and appears to be abandonware.

Zone Alarm Pro

I just got Zone Alarm Pro for my Windows machine, not that I really needed it, I’m already behind a router so not a whole lot gets through anyway but ZA Pro has some good ad and pop-up blocking features and email protection.

Update: the ad and pop-up blocking is nice but Zone Alarm is past its prime. It’s ok as a firewall but if you want/need that just get the free version .

I’m not dead yet!

Marc Andreessen was quoted Tuesday as saying ?There hasn?t been any innovation on the browser in the last five years. And five years from now there won?t be any changes.?

I think that estimate is a bit early but there is little doubt that web browsers are stagnant. However I do agree with Web Standards Project that if browser innovation is dead now would be a good time to make sure the current browsers work.

NASCAR goes high tech

Proving that information technology is everywhere, it was announced today that the NASCAR Winston Cup Series will be called the Nextel Cup Series. That’s quite a big jump to go from a tobacco company to a wireless company. Maybe it will mean free wireless networking and/or cell phones at the tracks.

iTunes or “The Musical Apple”

Just ran across this video about the iTunes Music store. Describes iTunes well and has Bono in it which is very cool. I’ve bought quite a bit of stuff from the store including Elvis, U2 and the Clash. I have to say I like purchasing the music better than using P2P software, because you know what you are getting and you support the artist. Although what the artist gets is largely dependent on their label and I think recording companies are mostly evil, but that’s another story.