The Graphical Web’s Interface Birthday

Today is the tenth anniversary of NCSA’s Mosaic, the world’s first graphical Web browser. Mosaic code still swims around in the guts of Netscape Navigator and IE.

Mosaic has a special place in my heart ’cause I wrote the book on it! I wrote The Mosaic Quick Tour: Accessing and Navigating the World Wide Web for Ventana Press. It was published in early 1994. I (with the invaluable help of Sean Carton) wrote the book in 30 days. It darn-near killed me. I literally lost a hip over it. It was the first book dedicated to the Web and to Mosaic. History: remember me, damn it!

Another excuse for bad driving?

“Sorry officer, I was trying to pick up that blonde in the Miata and I didn’t notice your foot.”

As a transportation engineer with more than a passing interest in road safety, I was surprised today to discover a service that essentially encourages more cell phone use in cars. Not just talking mind you, but SMS-messaging while you drive! Now I don’t know if you can SMS to a central number and just specify the licence plate to get your message out, or if you must go to their Web site to do this, both are easily done with modern phones.

The service is called and allows drivers to register their licence plate numbers so that other drivers can send them messages without knowing their cell phone numbers. I discovered through a ZDnet story that this isn’t even that new, even though in Australia there was already legislation discouraging use of phones while driving (though I don’t know if that covers texting while driving). The number of jurisdictions clamping down on handheld phone use has only increased since that time, but perhaps everyone will have a passenger on hand for this purpose (maybe it will promote carpooling, another of my interests! Ok, maybe not).

What really amused me is that while the ZDnet article (in Oct 2001) talked about the service as a way to vent your road rage, the Web site now seems to be aimed more at the singles market, and I quote:

“I noticed you today in your car… would you like to meet for coffee?”

This is the kind of message Australian DriverSMS subscribers receive on their mobile phones from other drivers.


If you have not yet registered, all messages sent to you by other Australian drivers have been archived since August 2001.

There you have it, finally an easy way to connect with all those people who have lusted after your fine form from the next car over, but didn’t know how to start stalking you. I’m sure the DriverSMS people would be interested in discussing overseas franchises.

iTunes Music Store; Apple Does Digital Content

To go with the new iPods, Apple has announced a new digital content service called iTunes Music Store. With a catalog of 200,000, the Music Store offers individual songs for $1/per directly from the upgraded iTunes music playing/organizing software on the PC. The songs can be previewed in 30-second clips, and then downloaded in AAC format at 128kbps. Plus, you can download the album art for free.

Three new iPods Announced

Apple has announced a redesigned and upgraded iPod for both Mac and PC. The new version comes in three sizes; 10, 15 and 30 gigs. The new design includes redesigned scroll wheel and buttons, but retains the mono screen. Best of all the 15 and 30 gig models come with a wired remote and a cradle that syncs with the computer using either USB 2.0 or FireWire, so PC users are more likely to have the required hardware for connecting ($40 extra for 10 gig model or if you want a spare). The 10 and 15 giggers are both 2.4″ x 4.0″ x .62″ at 5.6 ounces, and the 30 gigger is 2.4″ x 4.0″ x .73″ inches at 6.2 ounces. Price is $300, $400 and $500 respectively. Other improvements on the software side include PIM functionality (including text notes) and an alarm clock and sleep timer option, plus solitaire and other games. The best just keeps getting better, but not cheaper.

“Best Bet” Digital Camera Coverage

One of the questions we are most commonly asked here at Street Tech Labs is: “What digital camera should I buy?”, a network of sites dedicated to reviewing personal tech, has a decent site to help answer that question. It’s called OK, so the name is clunky, but we won’t hold that against it. In fact, the site was just named a PC World magazine "Best Bet." Check it out.

Killer Robot Treehouse!

And I thought our platform treehouse was cool when I was a kid! This enterprising geek dad turned two shipping crates (and a buttload of lumber from Lowes) into a BattleMech robot treehouse. Took him seven months. The truly geeky thing is that his kids don’t play MechWarrior, *he* does.

I can just hear the conversations with the wife: "I know I’ve been in the garage for seven months, honey, but it’s for the kids. Think of the kids." Yeah, right.

Tiny Desktop GNU/Linux System

PC-maker Mini-Box has got another very small PC. The M-100 is based on a mini-itx board, has 256 megs of RAM, a 40-gig harddrive, and the embedded GNU/Linux OS loaded on a 128 meg compact flash card. The CF card reader is built-in to the chassis, as is a small LCD display (for system info) and 14 buttons on the front for controlling system functions without need for a keyboard. The whole unit is about the same size as a CDROM drive, so it’s no surprise that there’s no optical drive in the system. Price is $650, or just $500 for a barebones system. Considering that the mini-itx board only costs about $110 on the street, and that that plus a case, power supply and HD with a dash of GNU are all you need for your own system, the price of the Mini-Box seems a little steep.

Personal Video Player Uses DataPlay Discs

NowEvolution is reportedly prepping a new personal video playback device that uses DataPlay discs. The device will be able to playback MPEG4, WMA, MP3, AAC and maybe other formats. The discs are 500 megs, and thus capable of holding several feature-length videos or 10 hours of music, but limited because they can only be written once (no deleting and re-recording). Despite this limitation, the video playback device from NowEvolution is an interesting use for the media, though unless DataPlay comes out with a DPRW, it’s likely the format will fail. Source for the pics and info is HotMP3Gear.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom — Free eBook!

For those of you who may have missed our first blog on this, Cory Doctorow’s first novel Down and Out in The Magic Kingdom is out, and available as a free download in any number of formats for PC or PDA reading — the author even permits use of P2P trading and printing. I’ve just starting reading it, but so far it’s a ripping read. Highly recommended. It’s also available from as a real book, if that’s your bag. Those inclined to micropay the author can probably just paypal him, though he doesn’t ask for it.

Update: Cory Doctorow was on NPR this morning (Thurs.) talking about the benefits of allowing his work to be traded in electronic form. Whata coincidence!