Luis von Ahn on reCAPTCHA and his next project

Luis von Ahn speaking at TEDxCMUA friend and client, Luis von Ahn, gave a great TEDx Talk at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Luis runs through the creation of the captcha, his project reCAPTCHA, and his new language learning project, Duolingo.

One of my favourite things about working with Luis, is that one of his lead developers and co-founder of Duolingo is actually blessed with the name Severin Hacker.


Interesting chart mapping the life, death, and popularity of web browsers over time. I haven’t seen this type of presentation before.


Updated the previous post with a link to the presentation video: A Brief History of (and .org)


Live from Mozilla: A Brief History of (and .org)

Reporting today on location in sunny Mountain View, California and the lovely Mozilla headquarters.

A Brief History of (and .org)

I’m doing a talk in the Mozilla lounge about the history of the mozilla websites called A Brief History (and .org) today (April 12, 2011) at 12:30PM Pacific time (4:30pm Atlantic time for those back home on Prince Edward Island). The talk will be streamed live from the Air Mozilla website. Come watch.

The slides for the presentation are available in a few different formats. The video will also be archived – I’ll update this post with links when the video is available.

A Brief History (and .org)

Update: Video of the talk is now available download or watch directly (if you have Firefox 4+ or Chrome): A Brief History (and .org) – 14Mb Ogg Theora file (35 min). The lighting in the video favours the slides, so you can’t really see me. Just picture someone handsome and dynamic in the dark to the left of the slides.

You can also download the slides in Impress format, PowerPoint format, or as a PDF.


Music for Your Winter

I’ve a few musical recommendations for your December – though not Christmas music.

After hearing the single, “Be A Man” on CBC Radio2, I’ve been enjoying Justin Rutledge’s album, “The Early Widows” (available DRM-free from Zunior). Turns out it was also produced by Hawksley Workman.

More recently, I discovered that some of the remnants of the band Pure were back together on a new project. Pure’s 1994 album Generation Six-Pack is a favourite (available on cassette from Amazon for $0.98). I recall the 1994 departure of keyboardist Mark Henning explained due to the keyboards becoming irrelevant in an increasingly guitar-driven sound (and I do love those guitars).

Henning is partnered up with Pure vocalist Jordy Birch on a new keyboard-driven project called Guilty About Girls. Their album The Very Best Of… is available DRM-free from their own site and can be streamed for free.

Oh, and if you are looking for Christmas music, Acts of Volition Radio Christmas from 2004 pretty much covers the state of the art. One update would include Sarah McLauchlan’s Wintersong. It includes an excellent cover of the Joni Mitchell classic, River.


Space Pop

Fact: there is a Canadian-made Larrivee guitar on the International Space Station.


How the Venue Shapes Music

In David Byrne’s talk at the TED Conference, “How architecture helped music evolve”, he takes a walk though the history of venues and their accompanying influence on musical styles. Apparently birds adapt their music to the venue too.


Mozilla Summit 2010 Group Photo

I am proud, grateful, and generally delighted to be one of the many smiling faces in this photo:

Mozilla Summit 2010 in Whistler BC

Photo by Gen Kanai.


Map of Nuclear Explosions

This animated map of nuclear explosions from 1945 to 1998 is remarkable to watch. Note how France and England both have extensive tests, but none on their own mainland. Watch through to the end to see an overlay of all explosions. Since this animation was compiled, North Korea has conducted two nuclear explosions.

According to an article from Scientific American about the idea of using a nuclear explosion to seal the Gulf of Mexico leak, the Soviet Union regularly used nuclear explosions for domestic projects:

The Soviet program, known as Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy, was launched in 1958. The project saw 124 nuclear explosions for such tasks as digging canals and reservoirs, creating underground storage caverns for natural gas and toxic waste, exploiting oil and gas deposits and sealing gas leaks. It was finally mothballed by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989.


That Oil Was For Us

While lamenting the state of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, my wife pointed out that, as consumers of oil, we’re all a party to it. I seemed so obvious that I was embarrassed that it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. Most things in my life – the heat in my home and office, the gas in my car, and the plastics in so many of the good we consume – are all derived from petroleum products.

I don’t know if any of the oil I use (either directly or indirectly) comes from BP, or from the Gulf of Mexico. If anything, though, this lack of knowledge makes my role even worse.

Of course, if rules were broken (or the rules were inadequate), we should do our best to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen again. Still, we can’t eschew our own role in creating the type of economic and regulatory environment where this type of of disaster can happen. They were drilling that oil for us.