Critical Section

Archive: January 18, 2019


Archive: January 18, 2018


Archive: January 10, 2017

we're going to make some history today

Tuesday,  01/10/17  08:40 PM

Ten years ago, today:

Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone, Jan 10, 2007

"we're going to make some history today"

Well that was true.  Wow.

Notes on rewatching:

  • Hehe, Macs running on Intel, how amazing.
  • iTunes Store ... 5M songs per day.  Of course, no app store yet!
  • Zune, we hardly knew ya.
  • Those old iPod ads were the best.  Those white earbuds.
  • Apple TV!  Who can remember, it was introduced at the same time.  Nice hobby.
  • 22 min in ... every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.
  • Who wants a stylus?  Nobody wants a stylus.
  • iPhone runs OS X.  Really!?
  • Sync with iTunes.  Yep the first iPhones required a computer.  Quaint.
  • 3.5mm headphone jack.  "All your iPod headphones fit right in."
  • Accelerometer.  Weird to think turning your phone sideways didn't used to do anything.
  • "To unlock my phone I just take my finger and slide it across."
  • "You had me at scrolling."
  • "The killer app for a phone is making calls."  Hehe not any more.
  • Random access voicemail.  Another breakthrough we now take for granted.
  • First public call was to Jony Ive.  Of course.  "It's not too shabby, is it."
  • SMS texting pre-iMessage.  Hardly ever see green anymore :)
  • Pinch to zoom - big ovation.
  • Yahoo! Mail.  Yay.  Biggest mail service in the world.  That was then.
  • Realtime stock updates...  APPL was up $2.40 during this keynote.  Heh.
  • "I want to show you something truly remarkable" ... Google Maps on iPhone!
  • Calling Starbucks: "I'd like to order 4,000 lattes to go please" ... so great.
  • It's my pleasure to announce ... the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt!  This was before Android :)
  • "You can't think of the internet without thinking of Yahoo!"  Um ... yeah.
  • Launch network Cingular.  Remember them?  Eleven days after AT&T had bought them!
  • Love that anecdote about Woz and the TV scrambler at the end.
  • Wayne Gretsky: "skating where the puck is going to be".  Yep.
  • Finally, can I just say, that version of IOS looks so much better!
  • Pretty much the best tech product introduction of all time.  The benchmark.

Can you remember what was in your pocket on that day?  I proudly carried a Palm Centro.

I don't care what you say, that was a better time.  (...more history...)



Archive: January 18, 2016

already gone

Monday,  01/18/16  08:43 PM

A quiet day of coding, in which I had a most pleasant open source encounter, and otherwise made forward progress on a number of fronts...

Jessica JonesFrequent readers know, I do not watch TV.  And by "TV" I mean, any packaged video content, including shows produced by nonstandard channels like netflix, HBO, and Amazon.  I watch movies and sports, and that's it.  Sometimes my friends will be talking about a great show - West Wing, or Breaking Bad, or whatever - and I'm mystified.  So lately I've been reading and hearing a lot about Jessica Jones, a netflix-produced show starring Krystin Ritter, and I'm tempted.  Should I watch?

Glenn FreyAnd so we've lost another amazing artist, Glenn Frey passed away today.  He wrote or co-wrote and sang lead vocals on so many of those excellent Eagles songs, and went on to have an amazing solo career after.  He will be missed.

I'm already gone
And I'm feelin' strong
I will sing this vict'ry song
'Cause I'm already gone

Trumping all: "the number of Republicans who could see themselves backing a Trump nomination rose 42 - forty-two - percentage points in 10 months".  I'm one of them.

It's pretty interesting looking back over links I had saved for three months.  Trump has gone from wacky outsider who somehow was leading the race for the GOP nomination (but who was surely going to screw up and blow it), to a respected leader widely considered the front-runner.

The Loco CoyoteYep: Texas is like Australia with the handbrake off.  "There is no individual income tax and no corporate income tax, which explains the state's rapid economic and population growth..."  Amazing what can happen if the government gets out of the way instead of trying to help.

One of those correlation vs causality mixups: poverty stunts IQ in the US but not in other developed countries.  Who can explain this?  Why I can.  Let's just turn that headline around: Low IQ results in poverty in the US but not in other developed countries.  Aha.  That's what happens in a meritocracy.  The US isn't all the way there, but it's a lot closer than other countries.

Ponder this: what if Tinder showed your IQ

Related: do smart people have bad sex?

That reminds me to link this interesting analysis by Scott Johnson of the recent Supreme Court review of "affirmative action".  (Otherwise known as anti-meritocracy.)  It turns out the pursuit of "diversity" hurts those it is trying to help.

Pipistrel Alpha electric airplaneYay: A real-world electric plane.  "Perhaps the age of hard-of-hearing flight instructors will be coming to an end:  The aircraft is quiet. There is some noise, but it’s mostly from the propeller, and headset-free conversation is no problem, even at takeoff power."  Excellent.

Loved this, from Mark Suster: Why I Fucking Hate Unicorns and the Culture They Breed.  "If you’re fortunate enough to raise $100 million early-on to build your startup – congratulations. But to all of the 99.999% of other startups out there please know that this isn’t the success by which to measure yourself."  His blog is an ongoing source of great wisdom.

I'll leave you today with Sunset on Pluto.  As you view this, remember: this is a real picture of a real planet.

Sunset on Pluto!


open source

Monday,  01/18/16  08:45 PM

go open!In our world there are a vast number of software tools which are "open source".  That means 1) anyone can use them, for free, and 2) anyone can fix them, enhance them, or otherwise change them, for free.  These open source tools are mostly maintained by a small group of individuals, as a labor of love, although sometimes companies will contribute some of their people's time or even their intellectual property, as a sort of public good.

There are a significant number of benefits to open source, but one of the least appreciated is the quick response possible for making enhancements.  I experienced just such a case yesterday.

I'd been working on eyesFinder's Visual Search Engine, adding support for PNG images (we already support JPEG, TIFF, and JP2).  To do so, I chose to integrate an open source library called libpng.  Using this standard library made sense to ensure compatibility with the widest range of possible images, not to mention it's out there and it works, so using it saved a metric ton of effort.

As I started using it, I realized there was an API capability I'd like to have which wasn't exposed; the capability was already there, but it wasn't neatly packaged.  At this point I had two options, 1) use the existing API, or 2) make a custom change to implement a new function which did what I want.  To help me decide, I emailed Glenn Randers-Pehrson, a maintainer of the library.  Two hours later (on a Sunday), I received a response; Glenn had copied John Bowler, the primary developer of the part of the API of interest.  Shortly after that (on a Sunday), I received an email from John.  We discussed a potential change in email, he improved my idea of what should be done, and I offered to make the change.  John replied that he was already making the change, and should have it available in about an hour.  Which he did!

So I now have a spiffy custom slightly-enhanced version of libpng, and was able to cleanly integrate it into eyesFinder's VSE.  And yay, we now have PNG image support.

What's absolutely remarkable about this is that Glenn and especially John gladly gave their time to be responsive and help.  Not only do I have the tool I need, but this version of the tool will be released to "everyone", so everyone will have a slightly enhanced tool.  This process, repeated hundreds of times, yields incredible software; solid, robust, functional, debugged, and secure. 

Some of the most important software around is open source; the Linux+GNU operating system, which runs most of the servers on the Internet (and most of the phones, via the Android derivative), the Apache webserver, which runs most of the websites on the Internet, the Chrome and Safari web browsers, which are based on the open-source webkit library, Open SSL, which provides security for most of the communications on the Internet, MySQL, the database which powers more online systems than any other, etc.  Not to mention thousands of support libraries, some of which encapsulate imaging standards like libjpeg, libtiff, and of course libpng.

It's amazing that this works, and yet it does.  Yay, open source :)


twin jet nebula

Monday,  01/18/16  10:33 PM

Here we have the Twin Jet Nebula:

just because
(please click to enbiggen amazingly)

Astronomers believe there are two stars at the center of this system,
a large star which is dying, and has ejected a bunch of gas millions of miles out into space,
and a small white dwarf which is providing the illumination



Archive: January 18, 2015

hawks vs pats

Sunday,  01/18/15  11:42 PM

Did you watch the conference championship games today?  They were both played in 50o weather with intermittent rain, and both featured two solid teams with strong quarterbacks and defenses.  But the similarity ends there. 

Seattle over Green Bay in overtime!The NFC game, in which Seattle barely edged Green Bay 28-22 in overtime after coming back from being down 16 points at halftime was a game for the ages, featuring a fake field goal for a touchdown, great field goal kicking, five turnovers by the winning team, a successful onside kick, a wild two-point conversion, and two late drives for touchdowns by the winning team.  Whew.  If you didn't watch that one look for it, you should.

New England over IndianapolisThe AFC game was an old-fashioned stomping, New England thrashed Indianapolis 45-7 in a game which wasn't even *that* close.  Andrew Luck and his dynamic offense could only manage one TD against the Pats, in the first quarter, and the Colts defense couldn't do anything against Tom Brady and company.  Wow.  If you didn't watch that one you probably don't have to.

On the Super Bowl, one more game* to be played this season.  It should be pretty interesting, matching the two best teams in football at a point where they are both playing well and relatively healthy.  I'll be rooting for Seattle but honestly this one will be too close to call.  Pass the nachos!

* Pro Bowl does not count


Archive: January+18,+2014

Saturday,  01/18/14  12:14 PM

fool moon, as seen from the Stone HouseCatching up ... whew, what a wild week.  Did you catch the fool moon?

Can I just say, of all the crapping things about Windows ... and there are many ... the crappiest from a user interface standpoint is the way the icons on your desktop don't stay put.  Now why is that?  Surely this could be fixed, right?

It has been suggested that IOS 7 is a little like Windows 8.  Yep.

Google + Nest = yikesSo ... Google have bought Nest.  As a recent Nest customer I'm delighted with the thermostat and scared by this acquisition.  Scanning the net I see that I'm not alone; Google have long since ceased to be associated with their professed "don't be evil" credo.  I understand the need for companies like Nest to seek exits, and understand the desire of companies like Google to seek companies like Nest, but it isn't great for the end customers.  I wish the market could work differently and companies like Nest could stay independent forever.

I keep thinking ... if you're not the customer, then you're the product.  Of course I did pay for my Nest.  But perhaps the model will change, they'll give Nests away in exchange for knowing what you're doing at home?  Scary...

Bitcoin dreams...So, the Bitcoin mining race heats up.  As well it might.  Seems like more people are interested in Bitcoin as a potential investment right now than as a medium of exchange.  Until that changes it will continue to be more like gold than dollars.

Rolling Stone fawns over Jerry Brown's tough-love California miracle.  "I just want to get shit done."  I'm not a big fan of Californian government and we're not out of the woods yet, but I have to admit things are much better than they were two years ago.

Meanwhile: $90M in maintenance per year, for the website.  Now that's a contact I'd like to have, I believe I could do it for half of that :)

Are curved TVs a gimmick?  Is that even a question?  Who wakes up and says "gee, I wanted a curved TV?"  Maybe curving the screen improves the picture or makes 3D possible or in some other way makes the TV better, but having a curved screen in and of itself is useless.  (Unless you have a curved wall?)

Jason Brown!Finally, you don't need to know anything about figure skating to think this performance is amazing.  I fully agree.  I love it when athletes perform, instead of merely execute.  Go Jason Brown.

atomic soapOkay one more: Here we have atomic soap.  Excellent.

Isn't it weird how this picture seems slanted a bit?  I assure you it isn't, but it sure looks that way...




Saturday,  01/18/14  12:17 PM



Pretty cool ... seen on the wall at one of my partners' offices ...

(The amazing thing is that now that you know this, you like him better, right?)



bridging the gap

Saturday,  01/18/14  01:59 PM

bikini bridgesSo ... I've been following this whole bikini bridge thing with great interest :) and I don't understand why it's a "hoax", do you?  (In case you've been living in the Far North for a while, a bikini bridge is the gap between a flat stomach and a bikini bottom.)  So what's the hoax?  It is most definitely true that most guys like fit, slender, women, and I doubt that this "hoax" has any affect on that one way or another. 

People are apparently concerned that a campaign glorifying slender women will "do lasting damage by giving people with eating disorders a dangerous new goal to obsess over."  Well, possibly.  To me the pictures labeled "bikini bridge" are healthy, fit women.  And they are undeniably attractive, whether we pick a term for their fitness or not.

I'm a little tired of the way we bend over backward to defend people who are out of shape.  Let's face it, being fit isn't like being tall or short, or being dark or light, or having long hair, or wearing a beard.  Being more fit is ... more attractive than not being fit, at least to most people.  To me there isn't anything "fake" or wrong with celebrating fitness.



2013 in review

Saturday,  01/18/14  03:04 PM

I must have a lot to do this year, because poof! here it is January 18th already and I haven't made time for a year in review post.  So.  Here it is... 

Facebook: 2013 in reviewFor a lot of the year I posted solely to Facebook, and they have a great 2013 in review page.  Nice to see all that...  the pictures they picked for the page header are great choices; visiting Tuscany, seeing the Stones with Alex, visiting Ireland, and ... me, driving!

2013 revisited:



Archive: January 6, 2013

checking in after ten years

Sunday,  01/06/13  06:01 PM

Happy 2013!Greetings blog friends, and Happy New Year.  Yes, it is 2013 (yay!), and yes, it has now been over a year since I've posted regularly over here; I'm posting daily on my Facebook, and it's all public, so if you'd like please subscribe to me over there.  I know, I know, it's not the same - and I'm not ruling out returning to more or less daily blogging - but I have no immediate plans to do so.

I did want to check in because it has now been ten years since I started blogging.  Wow.  During that time I have posted 2,618 entries incorporating 7,556 pictures, and they're all still  online and accessible.  I like having that history, and love being able to go back and see what I was thinking around a given time.  (For example, during last fall's presidential election, it was so cool to visit blog posts from October 2008 and October 2004.)  You might be interested to know this blog is entirely home grown and lives on a server in a closet of my house, and yes, that server is a Pentium II from 1999, and yes, it is running RedHat Linux 8, and yes, it is stable as hell.  Old technology for an old blog :)

I do still intend to recover from my extreme Yak shaving and come out the other end with a blog I can completely maintain via email.  As I've shifted more and more of my daily spelunking to my iPad this has become more and more pressing.  Or speaking of pressing, I could move the whole thing to WordPress... hmmm.


2012 revisited!

Sunday,  01/06/13  07:14 PM

Something new...For the past ten years I've had the annual ritual of updating my blog's navigation bar with "this date in" links for the prior year.  As I added '12 to the list it occurred to me, there's not much there; I did my daily posting on Facebook.  Boo.

On 9/11 this year I posted my usual remembrance and on that occasion also paused to revisit everything that had happened in the past year. That was a pretty cool list to have (for me anyway).  So in lieu of having personal history in my blog archive, here's that list again, updated...

2012 revisited:

So what's next? Well, I'm still living on Westlake Island, and still working for Aperio. But I do have some cool new projects cooking, and I'm totally excited about 2013...

Please stay tuned and I'll keep you posted!


Archive: January 13, 2012


Friday,  01/13/12  11:57 PM

Well I'm moved.  And I now have FIOS!  And I like it; it's seriously faster than the DSL I had before.  And after two days of unboxing and messing around and running cables and configuring routers and ... whew, my servers are back up, and the bits you are reading right now came from deep inside a closet of my new house.  Yay.

my new blogstation

Also yay: the Tivo HD is up and online via FIOS without any problems.  And the AppleTV is up and running too, with HD movies now streaming in realtime.  All good.

I shall have more to say "soon" - assuming I ever get back to blogging, that is - please stay tuned...


Archive: January 17, 2011

Monday,  01/17/11  08:23 PM

Lake Westlake on a glorious winter's dayToday was the most beautiful day imaginable; I celebrated with a nice ride around Lake Westlake.  I didn't have the time but I did it anyway, and I'm glad I did :)

Lasers racingThe Tillerman examines Fairness and Laser sailing.  He is correct, everything is equal except the sails, and this inequality is important.  Still the class remains of a one-design than just about all others, 40 years after it was first started.

You wasted 34 hours in traffic in 2009.  Good to know.  But with a nice car and a great stereo, maybe it wasn't wasted...

video of the Tesla Model S, driving. Wow!A video of the Tesla Model S, driving.  I am still wowed. 
Perfect for wasting time in traffic :)

HTML5, the logoHTML5 has a logo.  Yay.  There a technical thing called HTML5, but I'm starting to feel there's also a marketing buzzword, which is only loosely related...


the iRoom?

Monday,  01/17/11  08:45 PM

A logical progression:

So what's next?  The iRoom?


Archive: January 17, 2010

Jets shock Chargers

Sunday,  01/17/10  09:24 PM

And so today my friend Yogi and I made our annual pilgrimage down to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego to watch the Chargers in a playoff game.  Last year the Bolts shocked the Colts, in one of the best games ever (overtime, baby!); this year they fell short against a Jets team that just wanted it more.  Not to mention, the Charger's all-pro placekicker Nate Kaeding missed three field goals, any one of which would have kept them in the game.  So be it.  The view was wonderful (front row again!) and the hot dogs were great, and it was a day well spent.

the obligatory panoramic view of Qualcomm Stadium
(click to enbiggen)

me and my football watching friend Yogi
he claimed to be rooting for the Chargers, but is a closet Jets fan, I know

(note the lack of anything between us and the field :)

Nate Kaeding prepares for one of his three missed field goals
perhaps he shouldn't have warmed up

once again this year we forgive the Charger Girls for blocking our view
dance dance dance

as the clock ticks down to 0:00, the Jets prevail
argh!  wait 'till next year

Some random observations:

  • The front row is all very exciting, but next year we're sitting higher.  And I do mean sitting, because in the front row you stand the entire game.  Not great on a day following riding a century :)
  • One of the cameras is mounted on a cherry picker which drives up and down the sideline, all game long.  Except in this game, they had two cameras on two cherry pickers right next to each other.  Huh?  Aha - ESPN is recording everything in 3D.  They don't have a way to show it yet, but they're getting ready.  Excellent.
  • Those Charger Girls are not only attractive, they work hard.  They're dancing pretty much continuously for three hours, what a workout.  Yes I did happen to notice.
  • Once again I was struck by the physicality of crowd noise.  You think you're hearing it loud on TV, but that's a mere echo of the WALL OF SOUND generated by a screaming crowd of 70,000 people.  Wow.

Until next year...  over and out.


Edie Brickell: Good Times

Sunday,  01/17/10  10:17 PM

Do you remember Windows 95?  Cast your mind back, waaay back in time...  ah yes, I sure remember; in fact I was running pre-release builds of "Chicago" for nearly two years before it was finally released.  One of the key cool new things in this groundbreaking OS was support for multimedia.  What a concept!  Previous to Win95 there was Video for Windows, an add-on to Windows 3.1, but with Win95 for the first time the OS itself had support for audio and video and graphics and so on...  big stuff.  And to demonstrate these new capabilities, Microsoft bundled a video with the OS, and it just happened to be Edie Brickell singing Good Times.  I remember that so well, double-clicking that movie, and watching it play.  I liked the song and the video (and the artist!) but I loved the way it just worked, kind of like a peek into the future.

Just the other day I came across this very video on YouTube, and it took me back with incredible nostalia:

Good Times indeed!


Archive: January 18, 2009

2009 California cycling schedule

Sunday,  01/18/09  10:08 PM

I just received an email from Chuck Bramwell, the über-meister of the California Triple Crown, and the 2009 schedule of events has been posted.  Those are all Double Centuries, there is also a smattering of Centuries and Ultra-Centuries.  So in the public interest, here is...  (the yellow divider is "now"; I actually rode the events in green above this line, and I intend to ride the events in green below the line.)

The 2009 California cycling calendar
updated 10/18/09



PCH Randos 200K Brevet





Stagecoach Century





Janus Century day 1+2

2 x 100

Thousand Oaks


PCH Randos 300K Brevet





Breakaway from cancer


Thousand Oaks


Camino Real Double*+





Death Valley Spring Double*



Death Valley


Solvang Spring Century





Solvang Spring Double*+





Spring Stagecoach Century





Mulholland Double*+





Mulholland Challenge**





Midnight Express





Devil Mountain Double*



San Ramon


SLOBC Wildflower Ride



San Luis Obispo


Breathless Agony**





Cruising the Conejo



Thousand Oaks


Central Coast Double*



Paso Robles


Encinitas Bicycle Tour





Davis Double*





Heartbreak Double*+





Heartbreak Hundred**



Palmdale (part of Double)


Ojai Valley Century





Eastern Sierra Double*+





Alta Alpina Challenge*





Terrible Two Double*





Grand Tour Double*





Death Ride





Mount Tam Double*



San Rafael


Cool Breeze Double Metric





Son of Death Ride





High Sierra Century





Everest Challenge

2 - 206




Knoxville Double*





White Mountain Double*





Lighthouse Century



San Luis Obispo


Furnace Creek 508

2 - 508


Valencia - Twentynine Palms


Angeles Crest Century



La Canada


Hemet Double*





Bass Lass Powerhouse Double*





Solvang Autumn Double*+





New Moon Century



Oak Park


Death Valley Fall Double*



Death Valley



Borrego Ordeal Double*



Anza Borrego


Solvang Fall Century




* - part of California Triple Crown series (need three or five) - currently have five - did it!...
** - part of King of the Mountains series (need all three) - and got all of them!
*+ - part of Grand Slam series (need four) - currently have five- did it!...

You're welcome!  I will try to keep this up-to-date, if you have additions or corrections, please let me know...


changes in banking

Sunday,  01/18/09  11:08 PM

Want to see something pretty incredible?  Check out this infographic from Wachovia Securities, comparing the banking industry in January 2007 to January 2009.  The size of each bubble is proportional to the market cap of each bank.

changes in banking - 2007 to 2009

I wonder how much of the difference is due to decreases in the value of their lending portfolios, particularly mortgages, versus a decrease in consumer confidence and market values in general?


Sunday,  01/18/09  11:19 PM

Super Bowl XLIIIHad a nice quiet day, my girls are all gone (shopping in Santa Barbara!) and had some friends over to watch football.  We were rooting for the Cardinals, who won (yay), and for the Ravens, who didn't (boo).  Both good games.  The Super Bowl will be pretty interesting, a study in contrasts.  The key will be whether Arizona's offense can move the ball against Pittsburgh's defense.  My heart says yes, but my head says no :)

One of the important issues we discussed today while consuming vast quantities of chips, dip, and beer, was whether the Pro Bowl shouldn't be played right after the conference championships, the week before the Super Bowl.  We decided yes (please tell the league office).  Of course that means nobody playing the Super Bowl would play in the Pro Bowl, but that's okay; having a game to watch in that "dead" weekend would be good.  Right now everyone cares about who is selected for the Pro Bowl, but nobody cares about the game or watches it.

The rehabilitation of George Bush is well under way, as people realize 1) Obama is going to have to do many of the same things Bush did, for many of the same reasons, and 2) people realize that blaming everything on Bush didn't work.  Sisu nails it: To trash Bush was to belong.  I'm not a huge fan of Bush but I thought he wasn't nearly as bad nor nearly as guilty as many people did, particularly in the mainstream media.

Sully Sullenberger is [justifiably] a hero (he was the captain of flight 1549 who piloted the plane into the Hudson River after it encountered a flock of birds just after takeoff), but FuturePundit points out he's also a genius.  "Innate intellectual ability matters a great deal. A dumber society will be a more accident-prone and less safe society."  Exactly why I'm so worried about Unnatural Selection...

Incidentally, since deciding that this year I have to focus myself on my book, I've told a number of people about it, and have condensed "what is it about" to this: the world is getting dumber.  When people ask why, I answer because dumb people have more kids than smart ones.  That isn't the whole story but it resonates; people "get it" right away.

I saw a billboard yesterday with the caption "do you leak urine?"  Now c'mon, do we have to see that?  Eew.  How do you explain that to a kid?  There are like five people who care about that problem, and zero of them are going to call an 800 number because of some billboard.  [ it is... ]

Plaxo logoSo I wired my blog posts into Twitter, and that was good, and I wired Twitter into Facebook, and that was better; and now I've wired Twitter into Plaxo.  Can't hurt, right?  I'm beginning to realize just how non-universal use of RSS really is.  A lot of people like being notified about new posts this way...

Floyd LandisYou all know how I think Floyd Landis was innocent, right?  (He won the 2007 Tour de France, then was found guilty of "doping" on stage 17 because the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in his bloodstream was too high.)  Well you can take my word for it, or not, but you also might like to read Floyd Landis and the Magic Water Bottle, Part I, Part II, and Part III, posted by Oliver Starr, a former professional bike racer.  Dead on, IMHO.

The other day I rediscovered the utility of "hard links" in NTFS.  You do know about hard links, right?  No?  Well then you can read Jameser's Tech Tips and learn all about it, like I did...

Finally, want to know how to build a great UI?  Avoid annoying the user.  That's it.  Easier said than done, unfortunately, users annoy easily...


Archive: January 18, 2008

desperately seeking sympathy

Friday,  01/18/08  10:58 AM

sad hard drive :(The problem with my new 250GB drive was worse than I thought.  After futzing a little bit to try to get POP to work in Outlook, I rebooted.  Er, I tried to reboot.  I received the dreaded "error reading boot device".  I know what this really means, it means the boot record is messed up, and it also means I am reloading the entire drive again.  Sigh.  So the data on the drive is good - I was able to back up Documents and Settings (where all my volatile files live) using a TrueImage recovery CD, reinstall my old 100GB drive, restore the volatile files, and poof! I'm back on the air.  But I still have a whole recovery session ahead of me...  well, that's what football is for, right?


Friday,  01/18/08  08:13 PM

Man, what a boring day!  It isn't all happening, in fact, nothing seems to be happening.  And yes, I am still on my old drive.  A recovery of the new drive is pending, but boring, so I won't say more about that...

Powerline: What does success in Iraq look like?  They show you...

Rand Simberg pens an Ode to Laziness.  His real subject is Fred Thompson ("As an engineer, I'm extremely impressed with his efficiency"), but he memorably quotes Robert Heinlein: "Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things."  I like that a lot.

Robert X Cringley gives us The Big Picture following Apple's announcements at Macworld.  "So Macworld was just another step in a very measured plan to establish global media dominance for Apple and probably for Google, too."  He makes two interesting observations, first, that special small core-Duo processor that Intel made for the Airbook wasn't just made for the Airbook, and second, there will be collateral damage to ISP's bandwidth from downloadable HD movies.

Everex Linux PCLast summer the "Wal-Mart PC" was announced; a cheap little PC from Everex, running Linux instead of Windows.  Well, it sold out.  And has since spawned a bunch of $200 competitors...  Is this the future of the desktop?  Not clear, but once side effect from the rewriting of desktop apps in Ajax is that Windows is no longer as important as it used to be.

BTW I've read that the most contentious Wikipedia page is this one: Comparison of Windows and Linux.  There's a three-cornered battle between fans on each side and those who want a dispassionate analysis.  To me it comes down to the network effect of Windows' dominance, and the software that only runs on Windows; the technical merit is irrelevant.  You can debate all you want about 110v and 220v power, but if your house has 110v plugs, what kind of lamp are you going to use (pun intended)?


Archive: January 18, 2007


Archive: January 18, 2006


Archive: January 3, 2005

Monday,  01/03/05  10:30 PM

Now I'm in San Diego, and it's still raining.  What!  This is Southern California, it never rains here.  Anyway here's what else is happening:

David Hornik's New Year's Resolution is the same this year as it has been every year; he wants to meet great entrepreneurs.  So what makes a great entrepreneur?  One thing.  You must be able to convince others to believe in you.  That's it.  If you can do that, you can raise money, you can recruit people, and you can do anything.  If you can't do that, you'll have trouble raising money and recruiting people, and it won't matter how great your ideas.

vitamin D structureRandall Parker reports Vitamin D could decrease overall cancer risk by 30%.  "A long-term study of 50,000 men by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health suggests vitamin D may reduce the risk of all cancers.  The study, which is still under review for publication, found that men who consumed higher levels of vitamin D reduced their overall cancer risk by at least 30 percent...  a separate study of women is expected to produce similar results."  Wow, 30%?  That's really moving the needle.

I have to report - TivoToGo is live!  This feature allows people to copy video from their Tivo to their Windows PC.  Or course, the video is DRMed.  And I want video to go the other way, from my PC to my Tivo...  [ via George Hotelling ]

Tropical Island dome - Eastern GermanyTropical Island dome - Eastern GermanyHere are some pictures from the Tropical Island dome; a converted zeppelin hanger which is now a beach resort in Eastern Germany.   This building is three football fields long, and taller than the Statue of Liberty.  Wow.

Okay, you knew this was going to happen; the Vonage WiFi phone.  Yep, this is a cell phone, except it's not; it's a cordless phone, except it's not.  Well, it's a working phone and it is cordless, and it's practically free.

Vonage cordless phoneOh, look, another Vonage cordless phone.  Only this one doesn't use WiFi, it has it's own 5.8GHz wireless receiver.  For ten points explain the difference :)

Either way, VoIP is taking over.  It is only a matter of time, now, before analog phones are history.

the hobbit holeFinally, here we have a hobbit hole, inhabited by humans.  "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."  Proving once again that just when you think you've seen everything, you realize "everything" is so much more than you realized :)  [ via Clive Thompson ]


two years ago

Monday,  01/03/05  11:46 PM

Now that I've been blogging for over two years, I added another link to my sidebar: Two years ago.  Kind of fun to see what was happening...  Two years ago I had just started blogging, and I posted my plan for my book.  Sigh.  And Steven Den Beste was pondering the [upcoming] war in Iraq...  Double sigh.

Know what would be really cool?  A a link to one year into the future :)

The Great Wave off KanagawaP.S. I also added a link to Amazon's Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund Donation page.  Just in case the urge strikes you to help while you're reading my blog.  I decided to use an image of the classic woodcut "The Great Wave off Kanagawa", by Katsushika Hokusai, depicting a tsunami in 1831.  "Oddly, though it's a sea storm, the sun is shining..."


Archive: January 18, 2004

Life and a Couple of Cans of Beer

Sunday,  01/18/04  10:38 AM

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar... and the beer.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.  He then asked the students if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.  So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.  The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.

Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with an unanimous "yes".

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.  The students laughed.  "Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

"The golf balls are the important things -- your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions -- things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.  The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.  The sand is everything else -- the small stuff.

"If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.  The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Play with your children.  Take your partner out to dinner.  Take time to get medical checkups.  Listen to some good music or play another 18.  There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal.

"Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter.  Set your priorities.  The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers."

Have a good day!



Spacing Out

Sunday,  01/18/04  10:48 AM

I thought I'd comment on President Bush's plans for space exploration.  Punch line: I'm strongly in favor.  And I'm impressed that he has time and energy to spend on strategy as well as tactics.

The bottom line is Bush has created an inflection point for NASA; the old expensive programs are being phased out (Shuttle, ISS, etc.) and new ones must be created.  With only $1B more in their budget, NASA will have to be much more frugal to achieve lofty goals like a moon base and manned mission to Mars.  Hopefully they'll be forced to rely on private enterprise much more than in the recent past, and they'll have to create value for private entities in return.  This kind of public/private joint effort is key to successful exploration of space, just as in earlier centuries it led to the exploration of new continents.  Who knows, maybe NASA will auction off extraterrestrial property rights.  I can see it now - eBay's Moon Properties category.  :)

The scientific value-per-dollar of unmanned missions is far greater than that of manned missions.  Sending people in space is hard - people are heavy, their life support systems are complicated and heavy, the margin for error must be much less, and most importantly, the mission must return (although see Paul Davies comments, below).  Indeed there are only two reasons for using people in space missions, first, for the publicity value, and second, because they'll help pay.  The first reason is important; the U.S. public must remain involved and excited in space exploration or they won't tolerate the tax-funded expense.  (However, ask yourself which attracted more support for NASA, the Columbia shuttle mission, or the Spirit Mars rover.)  The second reason is also important; a significant number of wealthy people will pay serious money to travel into space.  Overall attracting funding is the most daunting challenge of all space exploration.

The technical details of the President's proposals are unimportant.  It is the vision which is important; broad new goals which will take years to achieve, and which will stimulate tremendous technological development and scientific knowledge in the process.  Doubtless critics may focus on the expense, and claim "x number of homeless people could be housed and fed for the same money."  Yes, but...  If I'm the taxpayer, this is what I want my money to be used for, not welfare.

Already the President's policy is having effect; NASA is halting all space shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope.  This doesn't have as much to do with Hubble as it does with shuttle missions, which are expensive and no longer strategic.  "The shuttle is also gradually being wound down, and all remaining flights until it goes out of service in 2010 will be used to complete the International Space Station."  The Hubble has had a great run since its launch in 1990.

The International Space Station is a financial sinkhole, with very little scientific knowledge left to gain; but we have made commitments to other countries which must be fulfilled.

Spirit rover IDD (arm)Meanwhile on Mars, Spirit Studies Mars at 'Arm's Length'.  "Scientists detailed another milestone in the traveling road show that is the Spirit rover -- using the fully deployed arm (instrument deployment device, or IDD) to scrutinize the Martian soil in minute detail.  One of four instruments mounted on the arm -- a Microscopic Imager -- has taken the highest resolution picture of the Martian surface to date.  Throughout Spirit’s exploration of Mars, this device serves as a geologist's hand lens, outputting close up views of select rocks and soils."  I love it.

By the way, has excellent Spirit coverage.

Here are some others' interesting thoughts:

Charles Krauthammer: "The president's proposal is a reasonable, measured reconfiguration of the manned space program."

Ken Silber: "In its financial aspects, the Bush plan also is pragmatic -- indeed, too much so. The president's proposal would increase NASA's budget very modestly in the near term, pushing more expensive tasks into the future."

Paul Davies: "Why is going to Mars so expensive?  Mainly it's the distance from Earth.  There is, however, an obvious way to slash the costs and bring Mars within reach of early manned exploration.  The answer lies with a one-way mission."

And check out NASA Watch.  Current missions [ via Michael on Slashdot ]:

The Mars Space Exploration Rovers.  Uh, you know about them, right?

The Kepler Spacecraft which will search for terrestrial planets around nearby stars.

The New Horizons Mission to explore Pluto and the Kuiper belt.

Deep Impact which will fire a small impactor into a comet to study the insides.

Messenger which will fully photograph Mercury for the first time.

The ESA's Herschel Infrared Space Telescope.

The ESA's Rosetta Spacecraft which will land on a comet for the first time.

What a great time for space exploration!


Archive: January 18, 2003

Saturday,  01/18/03  09:49 AM

I'm baaack!  Vancouver was cold but great.  As expected, rsync updating to my 'blog was an utter failure.  I need a good way to post from the road.

Lots to do today... but first, I need a solution to remote email.  My Treo has a really cool interface to my desktop email (Outlook).  But - when I'm traveling, so is my "desktop".  Handspring has a product called Treo Mail which solves this problem, but it only supports one email account.  So I'm trying One-Touch Mail from JP Mobile.  Keeping my fingers crossed...  {There's a cool site called Handango which has a lot of Palm OS stuff - worth checking out it you're a Palmist.}

Are you a Windows XP user?  Do you use System Restore Points?  I didn't even know they existed until today, but they are really cool.  A restore point is a checkpoint of all system files, registry entries, etc.  Checkpoints are created automatically by XP whenever you reboot, install new software, or remove software.  You can also create them manually with Start | Programs | Accessories | Systems Tools | System Restore.  This is also how you can view the checkpoints already created, and actually restore to a checkpoint.

It is old news today, but Alinghi defeated Oracle again to take a 4-1 lead in the best-of-five Louis Vuitton Cup finals.  The winner becomes the "challenger of record" against New Zealand in the America's Cup later this spring.


About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji The Nest Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?