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brin

I just had a bizarre and fairly interesting experience here at Google I/O 2012. After a small, closed press session on Google's Project Glass, company co-founder Sergey Brin decided to let the press here try on the devices for themselves. Including his personal pair.

The demo was set to nothing more than a looping fireworks video, but I got to have a first-hand experience with what Google's Glass is like for those wearing it right now (side note: Sergey was personally placing the glasses on people, and he snapped these photos).

The experience is not all that different from those bulky head-mounted displays that can be worn to see a full HD video without an actual TV in front of you, though the screen image is much smaller, and only...

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Brin-blues

Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin has expressed interest in retiring “in a year or so” to take up the intense study of blues guitar, sources inside Google say. The decision places the company at a crossroads in terms of management succession and a replacement is already being groomed.

Brin has been learning blues guitar from a number of major players including Eric Clapton (who was given $40,000 for a series of three lessons in a Palo Alto park), Keith Richards, and Ralph Macchio.

Those closest to Brin noticed a change in the billionaire as he began toting his electric guitar, a Fender Stratocaster he called “Beulah,” to many staff meetings along with a portable Pignose amp he had attached to his belt. He traded a number of riffs with VP Marissa Mayer at a recent off-site all-hands meeting that Brin called in order to show off how he learned to play Cocaine. Mayer is an accomplished slide player and plays at Mountain View clubs under the stage name “Lady M&M.”

Brin’s decision is an open secret at the company. “He has a little belt clip for the amp. It’s one of those small ones that runs on batteries. It’s on his waist most of the day. That’s where he used to carry his Blackberry,” said one Google exec who asked to remain anonymous. Brin has been known to grab his guitar during meetings and wail out a long, expressive series of notes evoking the concepts of hard-travelin’, women who done him wrong, and the green light being Brin’s baby and the red light being his mind.

He has led a joint Google/NASA project to identify Robert Johnson’s crossroads and has hooked up small, sensitive microphones to Google Self-Driving Cars that prowl the Southern states in order to pick up snippets of “real” music played at fish frys, juke joints, and honky-tonks.

In a leaked memo, Brin explained that the pressures of Google have become too much and that “don’t be evil” doesn’t mean “don’t be soulful.” Brin plants to quit by 2015 and “maybe go down to Baja” to listen to real “people’s music” and then move to Nashville where he will open a small recording studio focused on roots acts.

“I’m going down the road feeling bad,” wrote Brin in the email. “And I ain’t gonna be treated this way.”

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A webpage doesn’t have to look the same in every browser. In fact, a webpage shouldn’t look the same in every browser, according to former Yahoo developer and JavaScript guru, Nicolas Zakas.

Zakas, who spent five years as the front-end tech lead for the Yahoo homepage, recently spoke at the March BayJax Meetup group about what he calls Progressive Enhancement 2.0 — offering users the best possible experience given the capabilities of their device.

Not the same experience, mind you, but the best possible experience. That means progressively enhancing sites according to the device’s (browser’s) capabilities.

Progressive enhancement is perhaps best summed up by the famous Mitch Hedburg quip, “an escalator can never break, it can only become stairs.” In other words, if you’re building websites well they never break, even if you look at them in Lynx. The site may not look the same in Lynx as it does in, say Chrome, it may not function as smoothly, but the core content is still there and can still serve as a stairway that gets people where they want to go even when the enhanced ease of the escalator is absent.

More practically, progressive enhancement means starting with the least capable devices — an older phone, Lynx running on Windows 95 — and then adding more sophisticated features based on screen size, bandwidth and so on.

Zakas also takes on the common assumption that a web “page” is analogous to the printed page. In fact Zakas argues the web is more like television, which has a similar separation of content and device. In that analogy old browsers are like black and white TVs. No one expects a black and white TV to play HD content, but everyone would be disappointed if you served black and white content to an HD TV. Hence the need for progressive enhancement.

If you’re well versed in the history of the web the beginning of the video may be a bit slow, but stick with it. Also be sure to watch the questions at the end where Zakas addresses how to progressively enhance more application-like web pages.

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AGI 2011: Self-Programming Workshop

The Fourth Conference on Artificial General Intelligence Mountain View, California, USA August 3-6, 2011 Self-Programming Workshop: Self-Programming = Learning about Intelligence-Critical System Features. Presented by Ben Goertzel. www.iiim.is An Implemented Architecture for Feature Creation and General Reinforcement Learning. Presented by Brandon Rohrer. www.iiim.is Behavioral Self-Programming by Reasoning. Presented by Pei Wang. www.iiim.is Heuristic Search in Program Space for the AGINAO Cognitive Architecture. Presented by Wojciech Skaba. www.iiim.is Emergent inference, or how can a program become a self-programming AGI system? Presented by Sergio Pissanetzky. www.iiim.is Self-Programming through Imitation. Presented by J. Storrs Hall. www.iiim.is
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