Fresh links for May 18th through May 24th

  • Plan a Trip Through History With ORBIS, a Google Maps for Ancient Rome – How come it took three weeks for me to hear about this mapping hack to help you understand travel routes and expenses in Ancient Rome? Maps, history, digital humanities — what's not to love? I only wish this existed for other time periods. Imagine how useful it would be for people writing historical fiction!
  • Criminal Creativity: Untangling Cover Song Licensing on YouTube – A few interesting things here, including the little-known fact that you need a (nearly impossible to get, if you're an ordinary person) synch license to post a cover song on YouTube, and that ContentID can now identify cover songs, up to and including drunk guys belting out "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the back of police cars.
  • Brodustrial: WWJD? – Via jwz: an industrial music performer discovers he's booked to play alongside some really nasty bigots. Asking, "What Would Jello Biafra Do?" he ends up calling out the racism and sexism of the other bands' lyrics, videos, and album art in a PowerPoint presentation — while opening for them. It's good viewing, but NSFW.
  • bootlegMIC | Open Music Labs – A better mic for your iPhone, inspired by the crappy sound of all the concert videos on YouTube. Sold as a kit, the bootlegMIC is a small electret mic that plugs into your phone's headphone jack. Gain adjustment is done by swapping out resistors til you find one that works for your phone and use case.
  • DJ Rupture’s Sufi Plug Ins – Great post about Western assumptions built into music software such as Ableton, and some plugins that challenge those assumptions.

Fresh links for May 14th through May 15th

  • Mitt Romney, Bully In Chief? – s.e. smith brings a solid analysis of Mitt Romney's school "pranks" (read: homophobic bullying) and what it could mean for his possible presidency.
  • Chumbawamba – The Diggers’ Song – YouTube – Who knew that Chumbawumba had recorded an album of songs of political rebellion from 1381-1914? Not me for sure. This is their rendition of "The Digger's Song", a 17th century song by the same group that Billy Bragg sings about in "The World Turned Upside Down".
  • MOTU 4pre – Really nice looking 4-channel mixer/analog-digital converter from MOTU. I've got the Ultralite Mk2, but if this had been around when I was shopping, I would have bought it for sure. The two "Hi-Z" inputs so you can plug in an instrument without a DI look particularly handy.
  • What’s behind the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece? – A good overview of what's going on with Greece and the neo-Nazi party "Golden Dawn", who won a surprising number of seats in the country's recent election.
  • Mapping hacks for the 17th-18th centuries – Say you're an early modern historian with a bunch of data about 18th century Paris. How do you display it using modern mapping tools, given that old streets may have changed or disappeared?

Huh! OSM on iOS

Somehow I missed this back in March (see also: not being very functional online lately), but it seems like Apple is ditching Google Maps in favour of OpenStreetMap. They’ve already started using it in iPhoto and word is it’ll replace GMaps throughout iOS in the not-too-distant future. Official announcement, more commentary and analysis from searchenginewatch.

This is great, because it saves me from trying to figure out how to do it myself. I’ve tried a couple of OSM apps for iOS but haven’t found a particularly good one. They tend to be slow, ugly, and of course not integrated with other apps. So, I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple delivers.

I’ve been trying to get away from using too many Google apps since they showed their true colours last year. Opting out of the Google monoculture only to buy into an Apple one wouldn’t seem like a win, except that the underlying data is open licensed, which makes a big difference as far as I’m concerned. In some ways this reminds me of a project I worked on at Monash University, lo these many years ago, where the policy was, “use whatever proprietary crapware you want, as long as it supports open standards.” At the time we used it to choose Netscape SuiteSpot (pause to laugh — but it supported POP, LDAP, iCalendar and the like) over Microsoft Exchange. I don’t now what Monash is using these days for email, but I bet the transition was made easier by the fact that they could drop in anything that supported those same standards.

Like the open standards that underpin the Internet, OSM’s open license means a variety of apps and platforms can be built on it, and users can choose between them. And, with any luck, corporations like Apple will contribute back (with money or staff or just a vague aura of legitimacy) bring OSM the same sort of respectability that Linux and other open technologies have gained over the last decade or so.

So anyway, once I can cut over to OSM on my phone, the most important Google apps I have remaining are mail and docs. With regard to mail, does anyone have an alternative which is:

  1. as searchable as GMail is, or nearly so, and
  2. has decent keyboard shortcuts?

I rely heavily on those features, and would find them pretty hard to live without. I’ve tried IMAP with Thunderbird and Mail.app in the past, and am not particularly happy with them, so let’s assume those are off the table for now. I’m actually almost tempted to go back to a command-line based solution, perhaps offlineimap and mutt with some heavy indexing.