ITP: Day One.

So Tuesday was my first day of Graduate School. My first class was Intro to Computational Media, taught by Dan O’Sullivan. I’m very excited about this class — generically, the basic concepts of programming are taught, mainly using [Processing 1.0]( Processing seems like a cool language — I’d played around with some of the examples on its website a while back. It’s sort of Java-lite; the developers have stripped down Java’s overly complex syntax to a useful minimum and made a simple environment for programming.

From the site:
>Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and sound. It is used by students, artists, designers, architects, researchers, and hobbyists for learning, prototyping, and production. It is created to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context and to serve as a software sketchbook and professional production tool. Processing is developed by artists and designers as an alternative to commercial software tools in the same domain.

There’s a lot of visual applications as this seems to be the initial audience (check out the [examples](, but it can be used for other things as well. And what’s cool is that the final output is Java; by the end of the semester the basic Processing syntax is peeled away to reveal its Java underpinnings, and more advanced functions can be implemented this way.

Even more important than the language and the concepts of programming, the class is about figuring out what kind of stuff you want to do with it. That’s the hard and fun part — for all the cool projects and ideas I’ve had over the years, I find myself on this first day feeling absolutely devoid of any creative spark. Which is okay — I’m sure it will come, but it’s a weird and ironic feeling now that I’m in this super creative environment.

My second class was *Applications*, which is taught by Red Burns, the department chair and founder of the program. It’s a seminar class where she invites a guest lecturer each week to present on ITP-related projects in the real world. Our first speaker was Heather Greer, an ITP alum (class of ’94 (!)) who has gone on to work as a photographer, cinematographer, filmmaker, relief-worker, installation artist, and it seems like twelve other things. Her work focuses on the connections we make with people as our reason to survive. I’ll try and find some links to her work and post them here, but suffice it to say she was an inspiring first guest as to the possibilities and opportunities that can arise from ITP’s multidisciplinary, collaborative approach.

Applications is also the only class that all incoming students take together, so it was a great opportunity to see everyone’s face and get to know some of the people I’ll be working with. We are divided into groups of five to present a response to the previous week’s speaker, so I met and enjoyed hanging out with the folks in my group. After class several of us went to Cedar Tavern for a drink, and it was amazing to sit and talk with people who were so engaged about *creative* uses of technology. With a few exceptions, I’m accustomed to people’s eyes glazing over when I start to talk about cool tech projects I’ve been seeing or thinking about — this was probably the first time I’d sat in a group of six or seven people who were all totally engaged in the discussion. Very cool.

So here’s my attempt at staying up-to-date on the blog with my ITP adventures. I have a feeling my time is going to soon vanish and blogging will once again take a back seat, but I’ll do my best to keep it fresh.

Cell Phone Viruses

I was visiting Ryan at Second on Second (the bar he tends, located at, let’s see if you can figure it out… yup, 2nd street and 2nd Ave) when I got an alert on my cell phone:

Nokia 7610 wants to send you a message. Accept?

I gladly accepted, being surprised and a bit excited that someone had a Series 60 phone (series 60 is the interface of Nokia’s smartphones, like my Nokia 6620), and had the wherewithal to send a Bluetooth message.

Almost immediately the same alert popped up again, and again and again as I pressed no, I would not accept.

I looked in my inbox and found the file that was being sent to me — CABIR.SIS — a Symbian installation file (Symbian is the actual operating system that Series60 and other ‘smartphones’ run on) had been delivered several times.

I knew well enough not to open it. First of all, I had heard of the Cabir virus spreading around Europe, one of a handful that infect symbian phones, but even if I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have opened a random installation file someone had sent me. Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know. It’s like a mantra, and it’s just as true with cellphones as PCs.

This particular virus is relatively harmless — once installed, it attempts to transmit itself to any nearby Bluetooth device; once that device is infected, the same thing happens. Pretty soon, everyone is infected. The biggest downside is a drain on battery life and performance as your phone gets overloaded trying to send messages and files via the Bluetooth radio.

I turned my phone off and rebooted in offline mode (hit the power switch, then UP on the d-pad 3 times to select offline mode), which disables bluetooth. This prevented me from getting any further unsolicited messages. Next, I went to the Notes application and wrote a short memo:

 Your phone is infected with a virus.  Believe it or not!

but sadly, by the time I tried to send it back out the the phantom Nokia 7610, it was no longer in range (or it’s battery had just died, which is not unlikely).

I love my smartphone. I love being able to install custom applications, the modularity and expandability make my mobile computing life much more satisfying. But if viruses are already this commonplace — especially among non-savvy users, i.e., people NOT like me –, we’re in for a long haul when it comes to acceptance and growth of the mobile phone as the everyman’s computing platform.

Bloglines / Safari Bookmarklet hack

After reading this at o’reilly radar (isn’t that [Gary Burghoff’s]( character on mash?)

> Combining nostalgia for the oh-so-1994 http:// with a cool tip by pal Duncan for using the otherwise barely-functional RSS reader in the Safari browser, I now routinely type feed:// (or feed: for short) where the http:// should be (e.g. and jump straight to a nice Table of Contents for any site sporting an auto-discoverable RSS or Atom feed.

I use [bloglines]( for my rss reading , and use the bloglines bookmarklet to subscribe to feeds — it does a good job, usually, but I noticed that it doesn’t always autodetect a page that I know has a feed. In addition, Safari 2.0’s rss view is nice, but the bloglines bookmarklet doesn’t like the “feed://” url protocol.

So I tweaked the bloglines bookmarklet to change ‘feed’ to ‘http’, works like a champ:

safari-bloglines-it < drag it to your bookmarks bar source: `javascript:location.href=''+(location.href.replace('feed:','http:'))` EDIT: Changed "feed" to "feed:" and "http" to "http:" just in case a url also contains the word feed in addition to the protocol handler.

Forza Motorsport

I’ve been kinda lax on the blog here, but I just saw a great review for the new XBOX game I”ve been playing:
Forza Motorsport Xbox Review from 1UP.COM

An awesome tidbit that shows how realistic this game is:

> Here’s a true story: As an import-tuning wannabe, I recently caught the Honda S2000 bug and became curious about the drifting capabilities of this RWD roadster. …. But initial test drives of my new S2000 confounded expectations. Instead of being able to kick out my rear end on a dime, the S2000 understeered itself into the dirt on high-speed corners if I eased up on the throttle heading into the apex. Frankly, it was pissing me off and, if Forza couldn’t even capture the handling of a popular car like the S2000, I was ready to write it off as fatally inaccurate. That is, until I Googled-up “S2000” and “understeer,” which lead me to a handful of real-life car reviews that mention the very same handling problem I experienced just hours earlier on my Xbox. I was stunned. Furthermore, I found a suspension tweaking guide (again, for the real-world car) that I was able to use and correct my S2000’s understeering problem. At that point, I became a true believer.

Another Day, another posting

I’ve decided to try to be a tad more regular with my postings to my blog. If for no other reason than if something interesting happens, I’ll be in the habit of writing about it.

Yesterday I went to the ITP Winter Show. As some may know, ITP — NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program — is one of the Graduate programs I am applying to for next fall. It was cool to check out what kind of stuff people were coming up with.

For the most part, I was generally impresssed. Probably the coolest things were music and sound based, like Jamie Allen’s boombox — a physical sound creation device; a suitcase outfitted with tons of sensors that detect motion and vibration, and a bluetooth connection to set off various sound effects. Picking up the box, banging it around, caused various sound effects to play (against a backdrop of airport noises — ‘Please do not leave bags unattended’).

While the sound projects were cool, I was a bit disappointed with some of the video stufff — as someone mentioned, everything’s a frickin’ mirror. I told my friend Theo I was convinced that the entire show was meant only to subtly influence my desire for large flat-screen televisions (as if I needed THAT)

All in all a good show — and was definitely encouraging in my decision to apply there; I guess if I do end up going I’d hope to put my own particular interests to the fore — performance, interactivity, fun.