Silly season

Almost only tech magazines and marketing bloggers keep filling up my RSS reader – this is the time of year when one better reads books than news: the silly season.

The US expression refers better to the fact that during these few weeks in the end of Summer, not many important things are happening out there: in the “slow news season” the Parliament, the courts – and actually almost everyone – is spending holidays.

Here in Germany, the name of the silly season is “Saure-Gurken-Zeit”, which would be something like cucumber-time or pickles-time in English. This expression originally referred to the time of year when only a few types of food is available – a great metafore to the lack of newsworthy.

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Prisoner’s dilemma: want to win?

Princeton University mathematicians discovered a previously unknown strategy for the prisoner’s dilemma, which guarantees one player a better outcome than the other. As the game has been widely used to understand to situations like the climate change negotiations or the Cold War, the new findings will surely rise a couple of questions.

That’s a monumental surprise. Theorists have studied Prisoner’s Dilemma for decades, using it as a model for the emergence of co-operation in nature. This work has had a profound impact on disciplines such as economics, evolutionary biology and, of course, game theory itself. The new result will have impact in all these areas and more. — Technology Review

Much more information in the paper: Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma contains strategies that dominate any evolutionary opponent

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Men at work

Back from holidays; after the week (and a long weekend) when I drove 300 kilometers a day, spent 20 hours on average in all cities visited and slept in a different bed every night, I can say: batteries are charged.

It’s hard to fit in yet – whenever I close my eyes, the road seems moving fast. The 100+ unanswered e-mails and the 5000+ RSS flood is over though, and apart from knowing nothing about the Olympics, it feels like being back in the world again.

Some finishing thoughts:

1. Holidays are for disconnecting from the world. Even if you plan to tweet and blog, if you are switched off, it won’t work. (And it shouldn’t.)

2. When driving in Czech, ignore all the signs of the road and leave everything to the GPS. We actually have reached the end of a road in a forest, following the Prague signs.

3. If holidays feel more tiring than daily work, it still can work out as a switch off. Perhaps it comes down to the mindset of time out, I don’t know. It just works.

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Drawing a weekly comic with the iPad

The first time I drew Frederique was about ten years ago, and since then, my preferred drawing technique didn’t change much: on paper, with ink or a black rollerball pen. As a disaster, I didn’t have access to a scanner the night the first episode should have been released, therefore I was forced to rethink my options – and I fired up the iPad.

From the first touch to the last: drawing on iPad, correcting vectors and finalizing graphics

There were of course plenty of other options: I could have reused my old drawings, or chose a more familiar digital tool like Photoshop or Illustrator. I wanted to go for something handmade though, and drawing with fingertips is quite similar to using a real pen – just that it has a built-in cheat, the option to correct the lines later. (But yeah, isn’t the eraser made for the same thing?)

This wasn’t the first time I used the iPad to do drawings though. I had a few goes with tons of apps, both raster- and vector-based. Because I wanted to have the comics in color, I went for the vector-based option, using neu.Notes+ (currently for 0.99$). This is a brilliant little app with great drawing tools and with a killer feature: it exports PDF files to Dropbox which can be directly fed into Illustrator from there – so that everything I draw with my fingers can be later edited with a professional tool that I use on a daily basis.

Tools optimized for touchscreens (neu.Notes) and trackpads (Illustrator)

Even with the already known tools, I’ve spent about 8 hours on the first episode: drawing, redrawing, checking on the computer, redrawing and finalizing the vectors on the iPad (unfortunately at this time, the PDF files cannot be transferred back), correcting the vectors in Illustrator, coloring, adding shadows and more details, and exporting the whole lot from Photoshop.

Since then I made ten episodes and some more images, practiced the finger-drawing and optimized the workflow a lot – now I’m down to around 4 hours per episode, which is about pen-and-ink-time. And there’s something even better to this process. Thanks to the vector-based graphics, I have a lot more options open: maybe one day we will see all these characters filled with life – and dancing in a cartoon.

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London Eye will be lit up by Olympic tweets

One of London’s most important landmarks got a spectacular decoration for the Olympics from EDF Energy: the lights will change their color according to tweets sent with the hash tag #Energy2012.

Lightshow and more info on

The company developed an algorithm that filters tweets, and the more positive tweeps are, the more lights on the wheel will be lit. The highs and lows of the day’s major sport events, together with Twitter results will be displayed every night in form of a lightshow, between 9pm and 10pm on the EDF Energy London Eye.

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Run, Forrest, Run (and track it)

Tracking runs and other sports is great fun, even if it means carrying another device. I got addicted to more data about my runs sometime last Summer, and tried half a dozen of apps since then. Now that the last update broke ‘My Tracks’ on my phone, it was time to look for a new one.

To look for a tracking app on Google Play is not easy though. There are hundreds of them out there, almost indistinguishable from each other and to make matters worse, I already have some preferences. They should be small, easy to use, easy to set up – and especially, don’t need any kind of registration or whatsoever. In fact, the less features the app has, the more I should like it: display the position on a map, measure time and speed – that’s all one can need.

I can’t really say why I did download Nike’s running app then. You have to register on before the first use. I don’t want to share anything on my Facebook wall. The app is huge. (16 MB, really? Will it do my runs for me?) And it’s not made by some nice indie developers on an island, but Nike, a giant. Yet, I did download it and tried it just now.

And I loved it!

The registration is annoying. I don’t even know what a calorie is, but it keeps showing me how many less of those I have. It always wants to share my embarrassing results with my friends and followers. But there is something to it that I really liked.

Great graphics, for starters. And while I’m not at all interested in calories, I really do like how it is displayed, together with the longest distance, fastest run etc -it’s just great to look at those screens. The whole lot is perfectly made and has some spirit, some unique touch to it. And the best thing is: I can’t wait for the next time to use it.

This app is a brilliant lifestyle product. Nothing less.

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Timelapse layer for Google Earth

To celebrate Landsat’s 40th birthday, Google made available a bunch of timelapse videos about Earth’s surface. With that, can watch the globe change over the last decade: the growing Las Vegas, the deforestation of the Amazon or the Aral Sea drying out. Amazing pictures and some food for thought.

more info and videos on Google Earth Engine

Google Earth Engine brings together the world’s satellite imagery — trillions of scientific measurements dating back almost 40 years — and makes it available online with tools for scientists, independent researchers, and nations to mine this massive warehouse of data to detect changes, map trends and quantify differences on the Earth’s surface. Applications include: detecting deforestation, classifying land cover, estimating forest biomass and carbon, and mapping the world’s roadless areas.

via 9to5Google

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Evolution of the F1 Car

An animated timeline of all F1 seasons from 1950 to 2012, created by Rufus Blacklock. If you don’t like motorsports but have an eye for graphic design, you will still love this video.

Evolution of the F1 Car from Ruf Blacklock on Vimeo.

More infographics available on Rufus’s blog at, as well as a list of sites that featured the video: among others it’s Engadget, Autoweek – and probably many, many more. Another reason to aim for the highest quality you can do.

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Inspiration: Indie Game – the Movie

The first rule for using my computer was, not to play games. A bit later, to play only with those I wrote. Of course I cheated from time to time, but at least I had a few goes making them – only to gain enough experience to know that this is an extremely hard thing to do. Maybe this is why watching Indie Game – the Movie was so catching, but nevertheless, it’s great fun to watch these guys sweating blood and tears for success.

First-time filmmaking duo Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky capture the emotional journey of these meticulously obsessive artists who devote their lives to their interactive art. Four developers, three games, and one ultimate goal – to express oneself through a video game.

You can watch the whole movie online at

(In the meantime I get off the shelf my most recent game loop. Muwhahaha!)

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The first iPad – from 2002

As a result of Apple’s recent patent wars we can see now some pictures about the first iPad prototype as it looked in 2002. A piece of history, and also a chance to see how an idea develops into a product before it finally reaches the market – in about a decade.

iPad then and now – more from the old video on NetworkWorld

“I’ll tell you a secret. It began with the tablet. I had this idea about having a glass display, a multitouch display you could type on with your fingers. I asked our people about it. And six months later, they came back with this amazing display. And I gave it to one of our really brilliant UI guys. He got [rubber band] scrolling working and some other things, and I thought, ‘my God, we can build a phone with this!’ So we put the tablet aside, and we went to work on the iPhone.” — Steve Jobs in 2010, at the All Things Digital conference

As for the patent war, I hope that brilliant minds keep chasing their ideas – and don’t mind that others use those to make their own products. In the end, being the only one in the market can be good from the business perspective, but having competitors moves the world forward in a much higher peak. A proof: Apple worked on the iPad for 10 years – for Asus, Acer, Samsung and others it took only a few to catch up.

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