dark side of casemodding

Millenium Falcon casemodBy squishing a computer into a vintage-model of Han Solo’s Millenium Falcon casemodder Russ Caslis made the Star-Wars-nerd’s heart jump high and right out of the galaxy. Alienware just seems to have achieved the opposite, according to boingboing: “Alienware has licensed the right to create an official Star Wars PC from Lucas, and then squandered the opportunity by shipping a pair of stock PCs distinguished only by cheesy van-art airbrush murals on their sides.”

A perfect example of casemodding becoming “‘ethnokitsch,’ commercially designed and profitably mass produced.” (Mitchell 1992: 174) Kitty, one of Michael Kitchenman’s informants has voiced that, too. In other words, but quite to the point: “In my opinion, the modding community is becoming more and more divided. There are those who are happy with all having the same mods as the other 95% of the group. To me, they are no better than those who are content with plain beige boxes. In fact, I see them as being worse. I call people like that “clusterfucks” – people who think they are being different, when in fact their work is no different from other modders.” (Kitchenman 2001: 3) This decidedly emic comment goes perfectly well with the definition of modding Russ gives at his site XKILL—mods:

What is a modder? Well, it’s someone who enjoys modding. To be a modder, you have to posses many different skills. You must be a technically oriented, artistic, don’t believe in warranties, and a little crazy.

But what is modding? The answer to that is different to every single person who’s involved with the hobby. In short, modding is modifying something, in this case computers and computer cases, to go beyond what they were originally. Modding can take the form of a functional mod, such as adding additional fans to cool your case better. Modding can also take an artistic form such as painting your case or some other aesthetic mod. A great mod incorporates both types.

via entry at boingboing

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hypermedia ethnography

Note to me: Checking your own referrer-log ain’t just a bonfire of vanity, but sometimes indeed proofs to be useful. Anthropology student Andrea Handl of Vienna urges me in her blog entry to have a look on the dissertation by Johann Stockinger. Then some soul was good natured enough to click the link to xirdalium Andrea had inserted and presto—I found it in my logs. That’s one of the ways the blogosphere works, I guess. Here’s what I am urged to read:

STOCKINGER, JOHANN. 2004. Ethnologische Wissensrepräsentation mittels XML. Univ.-Diss. Wien.

Unfortunately it seems not to be published yet. Mr. Stockinger, Sir, choose one of those and bring your wisdom online, please. All this reminds me of XML and Open Office, the OpenOffice.org XML Essentials and Astrid Blumstengels Entwicklung hypermedialer Lernsysteme. The latter being a true hypertext (in German, though) trying to fathom how to create a scientific hypertext.

Anyway, word has it that Stockinger tries in his dissertation to develope hypermedial ethnological (equals ‘sociocultural anthropological’ in this context) means of representing knowledge. This shall happen by an interactive process of data-collecting, data-analysis, represenation, publication, and interaction. But that’s not enough yet. Stockinger wants that this data can be worked upon in the future, too. So he includes ethnological meta-data and does everything in extended markup language. That’s what I have understood from Andrea’s blog-entry.
Another note to me: Urge Stockinger to take part in my panel.
via entry at zerzaust

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world wind add-ons

Death StarWorld Wind (see world wind works) was released by NASA as Open Source Software, and quite naturally a world wind community emerged, generating add-ons. See The unofficial unofficial add-ons list, which includes download-links. There is much which can be put to good use, and things beyond. For example the WorldWind 1.3 Deathstar addon—like Skall, the creator, said: “Useless, but somebody had to do it !” That’s absolutely right.

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german casemod masters

Alien caseconLast Saturday, 16 April 2005, the 4th German Casemod Masters (DCMM) took place at Dortmund. There were two categories: casemod, meaning the modification of an of-the-peg case, and casecon, meaning the from-the-bottom-up construction of an entirely new and original case. As a third category there was ‘most spectacular casemod’. The latter was not judged by the jury, but by the audience attending. Maico Bensien from Hamburg won the casecon-category with his creation “Alien” depicted here. For me another wonderful example of everything fusing together: pop-culture icon influence, resistance against the industry’s design-dictate, and cultural appropriation of computer hardware in the form of complete reworking. I am happy. See more at modding-faq.

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atari archives

Well, back in the 1980s I was in the other camp, because I was a proud owner of a C64—and we somehow looked down on those having an Atari. But that is history, and exactly from that point of view atariarchives.org is very worthwhile, as it “makes books, information, and software for Atari and other classic computers available on the Web. Everything here is available with permission of the copyright holders.”

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notebook’s roots

Alan Kay's DynabookMobile Magazine has a nice article on The Birth of the Notebook by Christopher Null. The article starts with Alan Kay’s 1968 idea ‘Dynabook’, which saw the light of day only as a mockup made of cardboard (picture from ↵Lees 1980:5), as the necessary technology to make it a real thing just was not yet in existance. The Dynabook was thought for kids [play!] and the field of learning and education—the software was thought to grow with the children. The contents of Alan Kays’s original draft notes at Xerox Parc, which are dated August 1972, are remarkable: “The size should be no larger than a notebook; weight less than 4 lbs; the visual display should be able to present at least 4000 printing quality characters [Did you hear the rumours about Microsoft wanting the next generation of operating systems to sport vector graphics instead of bitmaps for displaying characters?] with contrast ratios approaching that of a book; dynamic graphics of reasonable quality should be possible; there should be removable local file storage of at least one million characters (about 500 ordinary book pages) traded off against several hours of audio (voice/music) files.” (cited from ↵Lees 1980:5-6)

The OsbourneNull’s article goes on covering designs like the ‘Osbourne’ from the 1980s, which looks decidedly strange to our contemporary eyes, but may be inspirational to casemodders searching for the optimal shape of LAN-party machines, and concludes with ‘the 1990s and beyond’, when manufacturers ‘agreed’ on one basic shape for notebooks. Astoundingly enough this shape—to which we all are used to nowadays—comes quite close to Kay’s original design from way back.
hint via entry at infocult

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xirdalium::category::hardware

This weblog is meant to fulfil a whole array of purposes. Among those is organizing and structuring my material and thoughts. The magnificent search plugin is an essential part, but categories are nevertheless necessary. Problem is that I have to think up the categories myself, as the software won’t. I asked it to do so, but it stubbornly refuses. In my project’s abstract I already boasted: [...] the interpretation of the fieldwork-results will be set into relation to the appropriate parts of the history of technology [...]. History of games’n’software is all fine, but the machines themselves and material culture are absolutely vital. In consequence I created the new category hardware.

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