Death of a legend

The legendary Washoe died this week:

Washoe, a female chimpanzee believed to be the first non-human to acquire human language, has died of natural causes at the research institute where she was kept.

I met Washoe when I was studying at Central Washington University and was lucky enough to take a linguistics course with Dr. Roger Fouts.

Frankly, Washoe intimidated the hell out of me. She was queen of the domain, and we students knew it. We were warned not to stare when we met the chimps, as it’s considered a threatening gesture. We crowded into the room, desperately trying not to seem like we’re staring, as Washoe proceeded to stare intently, and fixedly, at us during the entire visit. However, when you looked in her eyes, you didn’t see hostility. You did see what I can only describe as a wicked sense of humor. She was wonderful.

Rest in peace, old girl.

Via Retropectacle. I also recommend reading the Friends of Washoe Timeline, even if Dr. Fouts does refer to CWU as a ‘backwater’ university. Which it was, thank goodness.


Gimp 2.4 released

According to O’Reilly GIMP 2.4 has been released.

The new version of GIMP is a cut above previous releases and deserves a closer look. People expect it to look and act like Photoshop, and that’s a mistake, because GIMP is based on its own unique UI. If you accept the uniqueness, you have access to a powerful and free graphics and photo editing tool.

I’ve been using the candidate release on my Mac, installed with Macports. I’m quite impressed with the tool. The Windows and updated Mac versions will probably follow within a couple of month.

Speaking of Macports, does it work with the new Leopard?

Social Media


Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The world is happily building away their new vision of a utopia based on social networking and an open OpenSocial API, which is going to link just everything together.

Perhaps the world will read the terms of use of the API, and realize this is not an open API; this is a free API, owned and controlled by one company only: Google. Hopefully, the world will remember another time when Google offered a free API and then pulled it. Maybe the world will also take a deeper look and realize that the functionality is dependent on Google hosted technology, which has its own terms of service (including adding ads at the discretion of Google), and that building an OpenSocial application ties Google into your application, and Google into every social networking site that buys into the Dream. Hopefully the world will remember. Unlikely, though, as such memories are typically filtered in the Great Noise.

Via a Wired article comes Anil Dash:

Regardless, Google’s move is a big bet on interoperability — and against the “winner take all” philosophy of social networking, according to Six Apart’s Dash.

“The market has already decided that there’s going to be a long tail of social networks, and that people are going to belong to more than one. As soon as you belong to more than one, this kind of interoperability is critical,” Dash says. “Open standards win every time.”

A lot of people have a different idea of what ‘open’ means than I do. Is this a Silicon Valley interpretation? Do we need Silicon Valley dictionaries that have entries such as:

o·pen (ō’pən)

Defined and controlled by Google.

From Russell Beattie, who took the red pill. Or is it the blue pill?

Would people be jumping on this bandwagon so readily if it was Microsoft unilaterally coming up with an API, holding secret meetings geared towards undercutting the market leader, and then making sure that only those anointed partners get a head start on launch day by making sure a key part of the API isn’t released – even in alpha. (It obviously exists already, all the partners have that spec and even sample code, I’m sure. The rest of us don’t get access yet, until the GOOG says otherwise).

Silly boy. Looks like he doesn’t use the Silicon Valley dictionary, either. If he did he would know that Microsoft is synonymous for doing evil while Google is synonymous for…well, you know.

But yes, I also looked for the RESTful part of the equation. It wasn’t there. One would think that OpenSocial was rushed out the door quickly, for some reason.

Open standards are not built in secret, with copyright and control owned by one, and only one, company. Open standards belong to the people, and though the standard development process may seem overly political at times–full of anger, rhetoric, accusations small and large, pissing contests, not to mention mind numbing discussions over the smallest points of disagreement–in the end you have a truly open standard that everyone owns a tiny piece of.

But hey! Why am I always so gloomy and paranoid! This is the future of the web, boys and girls. Jump in!

PS This is not a specification whose focus is to import or export your contacts and other relevant information between tools. This is meant for application developers; to create applications like Scrabulous (which is quite fun, btw) that work in social networks other than just Facebook. Until we see more of the RESTful portion of the API, we won’t know if an export/import is feasible.


Danny certainly has a way with words:

Reliance on megalithic corporations for operating systems and search is bad enough, but if web development starts a lemming dive down a similar path…well, they do say the Big One could happen any time.