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The Knowledge Navigator arrives - click opera — LiveJournal
February 2010
 
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Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 09:18 am
The Knowledge Navigator arrives

It's 1997. I'm a proto-Nathan Barley prancing around Clerkenwell in a Carhart camo jacket, military cargo pants and Converse shoes. Slung over my shoulder is my fluorescent yellow "digital bag", which contains a Nokia 9000 Communicator -- a QWERTY-keyboard-equipped cellular telephone capable of surfing the web, but with excruciating slowness -- a Panasonic PV-DC 1000 digital camera (which takes 320 x 240 snaps at maximum resolution, causing me to focus on big, bold, clear shapes) and an Apple Newton Messagepad 130.

It's on gadgets like these -- and London rent, of course -- that I've frittered away my Kahimi Karie royalties. Lots of them. The Apple Newton is particularly useless, or, I should say, exhibits the worst use-to-exchange value ratio. It costs me £600 and does pretty much nothing. I enter a few addresses on it, send a fax, doodle on the touch-screen, then prop it on my shelf as a tech-curiosity-cum-paperweight. A year or so later I give it to my ex-wife Shazna, who wants to prop it on her shelf instead, or perhaps use it as a slimline doorstop. The Knowledge Navigator (proposed by Apple in a 1987 video) this ain't.



I thought about these clunky 1997 gadgets when I got my iPod Touch in New York a couple of weeks ago. I was shopping for a digital camera, and happened to be in J&R Computer World when the first bag of iPod Touches arrived. It seemed like destiny, so I bought one -- the first they'd sold in the store, but surely not the last. Gadgethead friends in Tokyo had, it soon became apparent, made the same impulse buy. Jean Snow started formatting his page in iPod Touch-readable format (slightly annoying, since I'd rather see his page in its normal format, even on an iPod Touch screen), and Digiki declared the machine "overall, one of the best pieces of technology I have ever owned".

It was Roddy Schrock who showed me my first iPhone, at a dance performance in Berlin just before I left for the US. I knew I'd never get one -- cellphones, for me, are hellphones. I also hate iPods, and have never been even remotely tempted to buy one. But, as Digiki points out, the iPod Touch is "not an iPod, ie a digital audio player with additional photo/video capacities, it’s a completely new platform, already open to many an experiment via an easy to install hack, and soon with an official development kit".



This is very much the point. The iPod Touch is a small tablet computer that puts Google in your pocket wherever you are. Google is perhaps the biggest breakthrough in human knowledge since the Delphic Oracle, so the ability to have it with you at all times is pretty incredible. What's more, you can usually access the web via your Touch on whichever continent you find yourself, without the need for a contract with one of the robber barons of our time, the mobile telecoms companies. All you need is a prospector's nose for open wifi (something I've become very good at divining, I have to say). Not an iPod, then, more a mini-internet tablet; the ideal amalgam of that Nokia Communicator and Apple Newton I spent ridiculous sums of money on ten years ago.



It's true the iPod Touch lacks a camera (its big brother the iPhone has one). True too it lacks the Newton's handwriting recognition. But once you've hacked the system with iJailbreak you can install tons of interesting and useful software, from a scribble pad to Oblique Strategies. Who knows, maybe there'll even be a way to run Skype (and RealPlayer) on the Touch one day, and it can become a telephone and a radio without contracts or license fees. In that sense it's the perfect "mean machine" -- connectivity on the go for poor people who don't want to pay fees. One lean, mean slab of elegant digital power.



I've already used my Touch to play the backing music for a live show in New York and to navigate the streets of Wedding on a trek around a series of art openings. I've run Google Maps on it, and zoomed right down my Berlin chimney from high up in space. It's a great conversation piece at parties, but I doubt it's going to be a doorstop any time soon. Everyone I've met these last two weeks wants one the moment they touch it (and the re-discovery of tactility is one of its greatest assets: this machine lets you "feel" the digital world with the tips of your fingers). The only danger I can see is that suddenly there's nowhere non-digital any more. But even that's not really an issue: there's always someplace without an open wifi signal -- a sign that you should get back to the delights of the real world: eating, chatting, sex, smelling, touching, dancing, sweating, walking around.

54CommentReply

xchimx
xchimx
john fisch
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 08:44 am (UTC)

Personally I've been eying the Asus EeePC that is going to be released next month: http://eeepc.asus.com.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 08:58 am (UTC)

Well, without wishing to re-open the Mac-PC wars, that's a rather different (and more clunky, soft- and hardware-wise) proposition: a keyboard-centric sub-notebook computer, not a beautiful piece of design that lets you touch the web and lives like a featherweight sliver in your shirt pocket. I think what's really impressive about the Touch (or the iPhone) is just how far it advances the user interface over what we're mostly used to today.


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 09:58 am (UTC)

This cell phone got more functions than the iPhone.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 04:56 pm (UTC)
Funny.

That's funny. I was going to link to the Conan O'Brien iPhone spoof (it can work as sideburns or a pan flute) but the copyright gods seem to have removed it from YouTube.

Actually, here's a version in Spanish:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6RRRadHeI0


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diggets
diggets
diggets
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 10:13 am (UTC)

A lot of people who have never played with an iPhone or Touch simply don't understand how huge a leap it is technologically. And I don't mean that in the most obvious sense. It's far more than a gadget with a feature we've never seen before. It's the most perfectly designed digital companion yet devised, with seemingly limitless potential.


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peacelovgranola
-
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)

those ipod Touch(es)? look very cool. the sensuality of apple products is undeniable.

sorry for being a techno-hippie (!) but, i've been enjoying my new 15' mac book pro (intel core 2 duo (santa rosa chipset), new (more eviro-friendly) backlit LED screen, etc)....i guess it's an over-sized ipod Touch. the only thing i wouldn't like is the smallness of those Touch screens, but, of course, that's also apparently one of its appealing qualities. the world in your vest pocket, and all that. very cool, indeed.

as for the mini notebooks, the rumor continues that apple plans to release one themselves here at some point.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 10:25 am (UTC)

Yes, David Bowie, I WILL hold you, touch you, and lick you.


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC)

Oh hi, Mick Jagger! Pleased to see you here on Click Opera!


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insomnia
insomnia
Insomnia
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 11:06 am (UTC)

I have a deep loatheing of phones that dates back to my early days in technical support, where my only peace was to read Bastard Operator from Hell and think about all the awful things I would like to do to the customer.

As such, I viewed all phones and pagers -- and especially cell phones -- as hell phones until I was practically forced by those I love to carry one around with me all the time. "I got you a phone... and you're on my plan, so I can talk to you whenever I want to!"

Sadly, there is no good reply to such a statement when talking to someone you love.

My response to this new inconvenience of being convenient for others has been, ironically enough, to be as selfish as possible. I answer calls, but only from those closest to me, and I talk, but only very briefly. I try to avoid using them for business, and I don't give out my number often, or to many...

In short, they are quite useful, but only to the point where you're able to use it to intrude on others, without giving them much opportunity to intrude on you.

The iPod touch is a wonderful device, but they are very urban and pedestrian in nature. Try using one of these in a car or train as you whip past WiFi hotspots in the blink of an eye... And, while I agree that society needs to be more efficiently pedestrian, most people don't really have that option much of the time, as they are going between here and there... which, in my case, is a huge amount of why I would like a truely mobile internet. I need to know where there is, and what to do once I get there.

(In addition, an increasing amount of people are literally getting sick of our cities. I have to take about three prescriptions just to deal with city-oriented allergies alone. Not only are modern cities full of exhaust and manmade pollutants, they are also almost entirely populated by male ornimental plants, as female plants that help clean the air of pollen also produce food and fruits which attract pests. In that sense, cities are a kind of urban bukkake, with all the pollens and allergens trapped in the oftentimes stagnant bubble of pollution that never really clears up around our cities.)

A big problem that needs to be solved -- or worked around somehow -- is how people can maintain the ability -- or at least the illusion -- of being "always on". I need to be able to ask my device questions, and have it get back to me with the answers, as soon as its able to do so. Unfortunately, the software isn't up to snuff yet, and for companies that charge a premium to keep people connected, there isn't much of an incentive for them to make us less reliant on their $59.99 a month in perpetuity business plans.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 11:11 am (UTC)

Just installed two apps, iWoman, which tells me when Hisae is having her period (would have been very helpful the other day when I lost the tickets in Brussels and she ended up telling the police in Liege that she wasn't with me and that yes, I was annoying her) and Navizon, which is GPS software that locates your present location in Google Maps using wifi:


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 11:15 am (UTC)

IWOMAN???? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. SOMEONE TELL JOHN CALE ABOUT THIS.


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nato_dakke
nate
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 11:18 am (UTC)

I touched the thing at the big yodobashi camera in akihabara last week and really wasn't moved. It was more of a "that's a neat idea" feeling; like an ironic/conceptual necktie. It wants to fill a gap I don't have in my life.

Also, having 8 of the oiliest fingers on the planet, and two very oily thumbs, I am often made to feel like I've soiled myself when I glance at any piece of glossy plastic technology I own.

Though I expect the hackers (the only vandals in the world I don't hate) will come up with something really good and make me eat my words.


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 11:59 pm (UTC)

May I suggest Phone Fingers?


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 11:20 am (UTC)

My personal Touch factor is a Clairefontaine notebook, because every blog entry I've ever handwritten first has more honesty and readability to anything keyboarded. I think pen/paper still feels like divining something out of yourself, and keyboard feels like flow, being a tributary to feed an ocean of words. It minor-ises the act a bit. I'm curious as whether the iTouch can replicate the pen/paper major-ising thing. But then, if convenience is the cheapening factor, if convenience is death, maybe I should get a chisel and stone tablet.


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ankh156
ankh156
ankh
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 11:32 am (UTC)
Hi

Having read your post, this may interest/amuse you :

http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,,2198814,00.html


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 11:59 am (UTC)
Re: Hi

I love old Stephen and share his passions, but he doesn't write journalism as well as he ought to. Why must he resort to Americanisms like "woah" and "rock my world"?

And "In our culture we are becoming more and more fixated with an "it's one thing or the other" mentality". So clunky! Fixated "with"?


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 12:51 pm (UTC)

Fanboy-dom leads to a bypass of the critical faculty? The touch also happens to be the device that most clearly illustrates the new (or rather, found again) meanness of Apple Inc..

All the applications you praise above (Mail, GoogleMAps) Apple wanted to keep from you, for no other reason than to keep a gap between product lines (iPod v iPhone). To get these apps, you had to void the guarantee on your iPod (by hacking into it) and break the law (you use Mail.app and Maps.app without a license).

der.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)

Your point seems to suggest that you don't think the hackers are always ahead of the major manufacturers, der. Apple has agreed to open the iPod Touch up to 3rd party developers, thus following the lead of the 13 year-old kid who made iJailbreak, and tacitly admitting that it's he -- and people like him -- who's leading the way.

Hats (and handcuffs) off to AriX!


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aila76
aila76
ailas
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 01:00 pm (UTC)

The only thing I don't like about the iPod Touch is there isn't enough memory (that can be said of the iPhone too). It just seems like an obvious ploy to sell "new" models down the line with twice as much memory (when putting 30gb or more in now would present zero problems).

Also, you as the original Nathan Barley = hahahaha!


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 01:21 pm (UTC)
set-up

I just asked Lloyd Cole the question below, and now I'm wondering what set-up you use, especially since I think your vocals on your last albums were recorded nicely..

Q - Hi Lloyd, we're listening to some of your albums and are intrigued by the intimacy of the vocals on "Music as a Foreign Language", and were wondering what microphone you used. Did you record it through an API preamp?

A - Almost all of my vocals the last 10 years or so have been recorded with a Neumann U67 which I bought from Sear Sound in NYC after using it there on some Bad Vibes sesions. Current set up is 67 > API pre > Empirical labs Distressor (very gentle 2-1) > Geoffrey Daking EQ (almost flat).


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anglerfish96
anglerfish96
anglerfish96
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)

I really am tempted to write software that filters out any mention of Apple or its products.

I will call it:

IHATE.


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anglerfish96
anglerfish96
anglerfish96
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)

On a nicer note:

Saw your show in New York and enjoyed it very much.

You missed the guy right in front of us getting drunk, getting a handjob (?!) by a woman who was at least as drunk as he was and finally getting kicked out as he whined 'BUT I LOVE MUSIC!'

It was a boon for us, though; we snatched up his table.


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peripherus_max
peripherus_max
peripherus_max
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)

title or description

In leu of a righteous Touch hack, may I share my current obsession (the Samsung X210L MPEG4 Sportscam)? This is the gadget that I showed you in Paris. Alton gave it to me for my birthday, and now I take it everywhere like a spy. :)


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
brows.

Flash is not free software, which rather works against your "OS of the people" bit. And it's not a standard. And it ruins web sites.

The iPod Touch and iPhone are the best mobile browsers available, and do indeed support java.

If you think that all Apple does is make pretty hardware-- then obviously you haven't used many Apple products. Ubuntu is making strides, and I'd pick it over the world of compromise which is MS, but I'd rather be uncompromising in a different way and stick with the best-engineered and best-designed platform currently available: Leopard. It's worth the money.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sun, Oct. 28th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)

We´re organising a wiki raid tonight.


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