Critical Section

Archive: December 7, 2016

 

Archive: December 7, 2015

 

Archive: December 6, 2014

physics or sorcery?

Saturday,  12/06/14  10:56 PM

table held up by buckets resting on itHere we have a table held up by the buckets resting on it.  Yay.  Yeah, it's physics, not sorcery.  The gravitational pull on the buckets pulls them down, which in turn pulls the table up.  When the buckets are resting on the table they're still being pulled down, but the table counterbalances the force.  As long as the buckets are heavier than the table, this is going to work.

power tower feeding frenzy psycho festivalOf "the power tower feeding frenzy" and hyper-large numbers.  "You know how sometimes you go through life, and you’re lost but you don’t even know it, and then one day, the right person comes along and you realize what you had been looking for this whole time?  That’s how I feel about Graham’s number."  I love this; all the ways to represent really big finite numbers.  What's especially cool is that each notation "maxes out", and then a new notation is needed to keep going.  (Yes, Virginia, we are told there are an infinite number of notational systems, but we aren't told what they are :)  After you think about this for a while, you realize ... whoa.

Orion liftoffHey guess what?  NASA have successfully launched Orion!  This is the next step in a progression that eventually puts people on Mars.  Yippee.

The two-sided YotaPhoneThe YotaPhone.  Two sides, zero gimmicks.  Not such a terrible idea, really ... the e-ink side can always be on for notifications, and respond to input without unlocking, while the LCD side is for more directed interactions.  Wouldn't mind trying this.



Asking the important questions: What if girls were browsers?  What if guys were social networks?  Hehe.

what if girls were browsers and guys were social networks?

 
 

Archive: December 7, 2013

rainy Saturday

Saturday,  12/07/13  11:19 AM

the pixel fireplaceBrrr ... a cold and rainy Saturday, where by "cold" I mean 34o, which is *cold*.  Looks like a good day for hanging out by the fire, reading, watching a little football ... and blogging!

the weather stoneYes, the stone is swinging today...

I've been reading The Everything Store, about Jeff Bezos and Amazon (I like it), and it includes the story, how one bad Thanksgiving shaped Amazon.  Like people, companies learn more from their disasters than their victories.


gravity, visualizedGravity, explained and visualized.  I don't know about you, but I get a lot more out of this kind of physical model than the mysterious "particle exchange" explanations.

On the value of content.  "What we're witnessing here is the first wave of the second world pop-up war. Those of us who lived through the first one can only describe the horrors to our disbelieving children."  Indeed.  Bonus points for the Idiocracy screen grab :)


Saturn's hexagonThis is incredible: Cassini gets amazing views of Saturn's hexagon.  There is a storm raging over Saturn's North pole which is 20,000 miles wide (twice the diameter of the Earth), featuring 300mph winds, and it's been raging for 30 years.  Oh yeah, and it's shaped like a hexagon, and nobody knows why.  Yikes!

rentable HublotYou knew this had to happen: Eleven James is a startup that lets you rent your wrist wear.  Now you, too, can wear an Hublot.  What's interesting about this trend to me is that people are more interested in showing off stuff to other people than owning it themselves.

This is rather cool: SolarCity, using Tesla batteries, aims to bring solar power to the masses.  Batteries will enable houses with solar power to store energy themselves instead of feeding it back into the grid.

2013 World Cup drawAre you ready for some football?  The 2013 World Cup draw has been announced!  Most observers feel the US draw is pretty tough, but as US Coach Jurgen Klinsmann says, "if you want to win, you have to beat the top teams anyway".  I think it's cool that the Netherlands and Spain meet in their first game, a rematch of the last World Cup finals.

Not everyone thinks this is great; Powerline's Paul Mirengoff comments how not to run a sporting competition.

I'm certainly ready for some American football; today features some great matchups, including Auburn-Missouri, Ohio State - Michigan State, and Stanford - Arizona State.  Stay tuned!

 
 

Archive: December 7, 2012

 

Archive: December 7, 2011

 

Archive: December 7, 2010

living in infamy

Tuesday,  12/07/10  10:40 PM

U.S.S.Arizona memorial in Pearl HarborPearl Harbor Day... to those who were alive in 1941, I'm sure it will always feel like 9-11 will always feel to those of us who are alive now.  I have nothing to remember except others' memories, but we should never forgot; truly, it was a day which will live in infamy, as the world changed irretrievably.  Perhaps it is amplified for me today because I just read Cryptonomicon, which starts just before Pearl Harbor and takes place in the immediate times after.  Far more people's lives changed dramatically on 12/7/41 than on 9/11/01, and for far longer...

And so how are you?  I'm fine; having a great week actually, and eagerly anticipating some interesting planning meetings and Aperio's Holiday party on Thursday night.  In the meantime, it's all happening...

Say Hi To Space. okay...Pretty cool: a viral video for a "project" called Say Hi to Space.  In which, apparently, you record a little video of yourself, which is broadcast into space.  What's cool about the video is 1) the waterjet which cuts a hole in the iPad, and 2) the fact that they're making fun of the iPad for not having a camera.  You can bet the iPad 2 will have one, and this will all be forgotten...

Ted Dziuba: the three basic tools of Systems Engineering.  They are 1) money, 2) time, 3) code, and he claims you must use them in this order.  Of course if you don't have money, you have to use time, but if time is short, you use ... code?  Not quite.  By "time" he means other people's time, and then it makes sense.

how to fix the economyI love this cartoon: It's complicated, aka how to fix the economy.  As Powerline note; it is easier to cut spending if you begin by asking, 'what is the proper role of the federal government?'

Ted Turner calls for one-child policy.  The fact that he has five kids of his own seems to make him a hypocrit, but I get it; you have to play by the current rules, even while you call for new ones.  Having spent considerably time worried about Unnatural Selection and having personally witnessed the impact of the one-child policy in China, I concede its virtues, but I fear there is no chance it will ever happen in the U.S...

So, have you switched to the "new" Facebook profile yet?  Me neither.  I'm afraid of it; Facebook's history is that they screw this stuff up, badly, and then have to recover.  Still it seems only a matter of time before we all do it...

Speaking of Facebook, there's a ton of buzz about Instragram, which seems to be a sort of Twitter with pictures.  I don't get Twitter so you will not be surprised to hear, I don't get Instagram.  Although I concede that random weird pictures are possibly more interesting than random weird messages.

the dumbo octopus made National Geographic's list of ten weirdest animals for 2010From the National Geographic: The Ten Weirdest Animals of 2010.  Cool!  (BTW not cool is the overwrought UI for displaying them; what would be wrong with ten pictures on one page?)

OMG how cool is this: Richard Dawkins will be guestblogging on Boing Boing!

 
 

Archive: December 7, 2009

Monday,  12/07/09  10:35 AM

And so a maximally busy week gets off to a rather weird start...  drove down to Vista this morning, took 4½ hours!  Yes it is raining - heavily - and in L.A. that means people have no clue what to do; I swear I saw people get out of their cars to take pictures.  Also must have been five different accidents.  And so then I got to play rock star (!) as we are making a fun video for an upcoming sales meeting; I don't think I've worn zebra-striped tights before, nor a mesh shirt, and definitely not with a Gene Simmons wig (stay tuned, maybe I'll have some video for you).  Then a four hour product roadmap meeting, after which I was ready to drink an entire bottle of Sanford Pinot Noir... so I did. 

And now I am blogging.  (hic)

Cool news of the day, or of any other day: Google Goggles, aka searching with pictures.  You could totally see this coming, and if you're a regular reader you know we've discussed this many times.  Small glasses-mounted cameras feeding this search, with a heads' up display, and poof! augmented reality becomes real and useful.

A report from the Copenhagen Climate Summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes, and caviar wedges.  Possibly the most pretentious sanctimonious and hypocritical political gathering of all time, amid strong competition.  Blech.

clippy: new media failTechCrunch: getting it right and wrong with the new media.  It's a good post, plus anything accompanied by clippy automatically gets style points :)

Google QR codes link to business infoThis is cool: Google is using 2D barcodes to link businesses to online information, a kind of assisted augmented reality.

Well you know this was going to happen: the iPhone orchestra.  Right now it is more of a dancing bear than anything real, but given time you could see smartphones gradually displacing other instruments; after all, they can sound like anything given modern sampling techniques...

BBC: winged vine seed vignetteCheck out this cool BBC science vignette about winged vine seeds which float hundreds of yards through rainforest from a football-sized pod.  Nature is radical.

Excellent news!  Cancer rates continue to fall in the U.S.  Deaths continue to fall, too, as the number of types of cancer which can be fought keeps going up.  The war continues but the battles are going well...

Virgin Galactic: Space Ship TwoCool!  Virgin Galactic announces Space Ship Two!  We're getting ever closer to private space travel.  Of course it is still *expensive* and there is still nowhere to go.  (Titan, anyone?)  But those things will change!

Ultraviolet blacklight posters!Wow was this a blast from the past: Boing Boing posts about blacklight posters.  There was a time I was heavily into these; I can probably close my eyes and picture them in my room, when I was fourteen...  definitely the Age of Aquarius.  The post is about a book called Ultraviolet which is printed with fluorescent ink. Whoa.

Twenty of the world's most beautiful libraries; Abbey Library in SwitzerlandHow excellent is this?  Twenty of the world's most beautiful libraries.  I love my Kindle and digital is the future, but books are beautiful and libraries are excellent.  I wonder how long they'll last?  (BTW it is very cool that Rem Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library made the list; not only have I been in it, but it is way cool :)

Liron Shapira has left Slide and started Quixey.  "For the last month I've been working full-time as a co-founder at a small startup called Quixey...  Quixey's mission is to enable you to discover apps."  Excellent, good luck!

ZooBorn: a rare Amur Leopard cubZooBorn of the day: A rare Amur Leopard cub.

I must confess I'm not sure when I'll be back; tomorrow is maximally busy, Wednesday even more so, and Thursday, well, is hideous.  Please stay tuned!

 
 

Archive: December 7, 2008

Mugu's wild ride

Sunday,  12/07/08  09:25 AM

Yesterday I rode a 200k (that's 130 miles), my first long ride in two months, and survived!  Yay, me.  In fact, not only did I survive - completing the rather flat course from Moorpark to Ventura to Malibu to Point Mugu to Camarillo to Moorpark in 8:05 - but I was the first to finish!  How cool is that?  I have to confess, the usual hotshots were missing; it is December, and a lot of people [apparently] had other things to do on a winter's day than ride their bikes, but still...  it was an amazing feeling to pass the leader at 90 miles and ride for two hours knowing that I was tete de la course.  I kept thinking of pro races where the breakaways are often caught by the peloton with just a few miles to go, but of course in this kind of ride there is no peloton, just a bunch of people riding, and nobody has team cars or radios or anything like that.  I did get some cramps with about 15 miles to go, and stopped at a liquor store and bought a liter of Coke (!), and kept worrying that people would pass me while I was in the store.  But in the event I won by over ten minutes.


6:30AM - off we go


Grimes Canyon - a nice descent with a strong headwind


self-portrait riding through Ventura


Channel Islands Harbour


PCH - 40 miles down to Malibu, 30 back up


these guys better watch out for rogue waves!


California dreamin' - on such a winter's day


the sky starts closing in - beautiful


Mugu rock - the focal point of the ride... almost home!

It was a beautiful day, a rather balmy 60o at the 6:30AM start and it stayed in the 70s for most of the day, cooling down a bit as some cloud cover descended mid afternoon.  There was wind - in fact a rather stiff wind - and in the way of such winds it was a headwind in every direction...  but it wasn't that bad.  And at just the right moment, as I was riding down PCH my philosopher iPod began playing...

All the leaves aren't brown
and the sky ain't gray
I've been for a ride
on a winter's day

I've been safe and warm
since I live in L.A.
California riding
on such a winter's day

So, another day spent in the saddle, my last long ride of 2008.  I ended up doing 2 centuries (100 miles) and 11 super centuries (over 100 miles), including 6 doubles (200 miles).  Amazing, at the start of the year I would never have thought it.  Who knows what next year will bring?

 

 

have you been good?

Sunday,  12/07/08  10:16 AM

 

Maserati GT for the holidays

Oh please Santa, I've been good...

 

 

spam be gone

Sunday,  12/07/08  11:10 PM

spam shuffleAn update on my great second-computer-as-a-spam-filter experiment...  it is working okay.  Not great, but okay.  I still haven't decided whether it is actually better.  The part that's really working is that when my laptop is not running, my phone doesn't get a ton of spam anymore, and gets all my personal email as well as my work email.  So the original goal of the experiment has been met.  But there are side effects which are annoying...

The most serious problem is that now that a second computer is my spam filter, I have to train and edit spam on that computer instead of my laptop.  The second is that the spam filter on the second computer isn't as thoroughly trained, so I have more false negatives and suspects.  And the third is that client-side rules on my laptop about distributing email no longer work - I think because all the email is marked "read" by the spam filter computer.

Plan B would be to run Outlook on the second computer only when I'm traveling, and use my laptop as the spam filter most of the time.  That might be the right answer, but the effort of swapping might be more than its worth.  If it were only just a matter of running Outlook and not running it, that would be okay, but if I have to do anything more than that...

Um, can I just say how annoying this is?  I can?  Okay, this is annoying!  I'm going to all this trouble just to keep the riff raff off my lawn.  Blech.  Stay tuned for more...

 

 

Sunday,  12/07/08  11:48 PM

And so ends my weekend...  it rained today, but it was nothing like as cold as Chicago and Pittsburgh and Baltimore, where I watched football being played; wow, talk about cold...  brrr... I can't imagine even being outside in 16o, let alone smashing into other people.  It was fun to watch from the comfort of my office, thank you Tivo and Slingbox...  I do now have the Sunday night blues, wherein I wish I had gotten more done over the weekend.  So be it.

Pearl Harbor attackToday is the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.  Wow.  Thinking about that vividly recalls my Midway experience (was that really six weeks ago already?)  It was the 9/11 of its day, exacerbated by the fact that we were already at war, and by the slower and more uncertain communications of that time...  imagine how it must have felt, sitting at home, and hearing about the attacks from a scratchy radio.  And looking outside at the sky, and wondering what would happen next.  Scary.

TOC - stage 8 profile (Mount Palomar!)The Tour of California route has been revealed, and as hoped for it includes the South Grade up Mount Palomar!  Yay.  You know where I'll be on Feb 22, at the top of that climb.  And the Solvang time trial remains of course, double yay.  You know where I'll be on Feb 20, too.  Can't wait!

Bonus thing to wonder about: we know Levi will lead Astana, but will Lance ride for him?  Will Contador?  Will Kloden?  Could be an all-star team right at the start of the season...

Scott Adams (Dilbert) blogs Google is my Doctor.  "About a year ago I started using Google Alerts to tell me whenever someone mentioned Dilbert, me, or anything about Spasmodic Dysphonia on the Internet.  About six months ago I got an alert with a link to an obscure medical publication with a report about an even more obscure surgical procedure for fixing spasmodic dysphonia.  I took that information to my doctor, who referred me to an expert at Stanford University, who referred me to an expert surgeon at UCLA.  Long story short, the operation I read about wasn't as promising as the article suggested, but the final surgeon in my travels had his own version of surgery that had a good track record. I tried it, and now my voice is normal.  I never would have found that path without Google Alerts."  This is not an isolated story.  Increasingly people are taking their medical care into their own hands, and using Google and other online tools to find information and make contacts.  A major trend in health care.

earth population growthThe Daily Galaxy asks what you think will be the population of the Earth in 2050.  The best guesses seems to be around 20B; see the chart at left for the trend.  An equally important question would be, what do you think will be the average IQ of the Earth in 2050?  Hint: it will be far below 100.

array of 500 clocks which spell a messageSo who thought of this?  An array of 500 clocks which spells a message every twelve hours.  Cool.

Robert X. Cringley makes a case for Steve Jobs to take over General Motors.  Boy, I don't know...  the idea that one person could turn things around is such a silver bullet, the big three U.S. carmakers have so many interrelated problems.  Brand image, consumer demand, label relations, manufacturing, finance...  it is a horribly complicated problem that defies a simple solution.  An interesting suggestion nonetheless.

ocean sunsetCheck out this ocean sunset.  Beautiful... looks like a rendering from Bryce3D, but it's real!

Finally, here we have softwear by Microsoft (as in tee-shirts).  I am not making this up.

 

 

 

 
 

Archive: December 7, 2007

 

Archive: December 7, 2006

 

Archive: November 26, 2005

to look or not to look

Saturday,  11/26/05  10:59 AM

Great shape - can I look?Okay, I need help with something.  I'm a man, and I like looking at women, particularly attractive women.  So, is this okay?

Here's the situation.  Women do everything they can to have great-looking bodies.  Then they dress to accentuate their great-looking bodies.  But it feels like it is not polite to look at them...  Why is that?  It is considered okay to look at a woman's face .  But is it okay to look at her breasts, even if they are beautiful, and even if she is wearing a low-cut tight top that screams "look at these"?  Is it okay to admire her legs, or her bottom, even if they are amazing, and even if she is wearing a short skirt or tight low-cut jeans?  Not clear.  So I'm asking you, what do you think?

I am a woman (or a homosexual man)

I am a man (or a homosexual woman)

I think it IS okay
to look at a woman's body
12%

I think it is NOT okay
to look at a women's body
0%

I think it IS okay
to look at a woman's body
80%

I think it is NOT okay
to look at a woman's body
6%

P.S. I do not think this is symmetrical between men and women.  It seems more acceptable - and unusual - for a woman to look at a man's body than vice-versa.

total votes = 146

  (ended 12/04/05)

 

Saturday,  11/26/05  11:45 AM

Can't really call these coffee notes, because I've already had my coffee.  In case you're wondering, yes, I did put up our Christmas lights yesterday, and yes, I did not fall off the roof.  It wasn't raining and it wasn't windy, so this year was easier than some.  (Of course there was a light string which worked perfectly in the garage, but failed when attached to the gable on the second floor, with me standing on the sloping roof, changing bulbs, trying to find the bad one...)  Anyway, here's what's happening...

Woken FuriesI am reading Woken Furies by Richard Morgan.  Almost done with it.  I love it, this is his best yet.  (The third in a series which began with Altered Carbon and continued with Broken Angels.)  And I am so happy because I really loved the first two books in this series, but then Morgan wrote Market Forces, which wasn't part of the series and which I didn't like at all (and didn't even finish), and so I didn't think there would be more books in the series.  But there are, so yay!

My favorite and weirdest part of this book is where Morgan describes huge vertical structures on alien planets.  (Morgan's planets were formerly occupied by "Martians", who flew, and who left behind amazing "buildings" made of inexplicable materials with unexpected properties.)  Somehow their verticality really confers alien-ness, I can feel my vertigo as I read the words.  Great stuff.

Saturn's moon HyperionSpeaking of science fiction (we were), did you catch this picture of Saturn's moon Hyperion?  Now that is cool.  How did those craters form?  What a mystery.  Almost like something from a Richard Morgan book :)  Cassini is awesome!

Christmas Cards are on my mind today.  Today is the day I must compile a collage of pictures of my kids, so we can print them, so they can be included with our Christmas Cards, so you-all can see how beautiful they are!  Seriously it sounds like a fun project, and it is, but having today as the deadline makes it a bit less fun.  I wish I'd done it, like, last weekend.  But I didn't, and so here we are.  Weird the way that works...

A little while ago Wired ran a story called The Silence of the Leaf Blowers.  With which I so agree.  I hate that sound - especially on a Sunday morning, or a Saturday, but all other times as well - and I wish there were a good alternative.  He who invents a quiet powerful motor will reap great rewards, and not only financial ones.  Talk about a problem worth solving!

This problem doesn't only affect yard equipment.  How about off-road bikes?  Or snowmobiles?  Or outboard engines?  There are a lot of recreational vehicles which make a ton of noise, and wouldn't it be great if they didn't?

Today is the day for SpaceX.  Finger's crossed, good luck, guys!  Although they don't need it.  I'll be monitoring Kimball's blog all day...

 

Web 2.0, "Live" and other meaningless jargon

Saturday,  11/26/05  12:42 PM

Do you hate business jargon as much as I do?  Blech.  Stephen Baker of Business Week's Blogspotting wants to Rid the World of "Solutions", and I heartily agree.  One of the first things I do when I encounter a company is check whether their website has a “products” page or a “solutions” page.  Products = good, this is stuff they make and sell.  Solutions = bad, it is sometimes impossible to tell what is being made or sold, besides marketing hype.  As an example, I received an email from a company called BSIL, and this was on their home page:

"We are a global, end-to-end IT solutions provider with a global delivery footprint.  With over 20 years of experience, we understand our customers’ needs better and provide a portfolio of services, using robust processes, which enable them to leverage their IT investments."

Do you have any idea what these people do?  Nor do I.  (Apparently they "provide solutions" :)

Is this Web 2.0?A classic example of meaningless jargon is "Web 2.0".  Nobody knows what it means, it doesn't mean anything.  It is simply buzzword-compliant crap to put in a marketing plan.  Or for naming a conference.

(And don't tell me it means "web applications built with AJAX", because that is not what it means, and anyway "web applications" and "AJAX" are two other examples of bogus jargon.  (meta-jargon, anyone?))

I'm not the only one to think so, there seems to be backlash forming:

Xeni Jardin spots trends before most of us: Web 2.0 cracks start to show.

Joel Spolsky's reliable BS meter reports: The Architecture Astronauts are Back!

And not only is "Web 2.0" itself jargon, it has spawned other jargon; check out this page, which allows you to create your own Web 2.0 company.  The general schema, "X via Y", is a great clue to the cluelessness of it all.  Truly interesting concepts are just "X", the "via Y" part is mere implementation...

Hey, and we even have Web 2.0 Bingo!

For an unbelievable example of jargon run amuck, consider Microsoft's recent "Live" announcement.  Talk about meaningless blather.

Bill Gates announces Microsoft "Live"Just look at this diagram, does this make any sense at all?

I happen to think Bill Gates is incredibly overrated as a smart guy.  He is a lousy presenter, and really smart guys give good, focused presentations that make you realize they are really smart.  Steve Jobs would be an example.  Kip Thorne - now he's a smart guy.  Or how about Richard Feynman; in addition to being interesting, he exuded intelligence and deep understanding.  Bill Gates may be a great businessman, but he is not a great technologist.  And he is not a really smart guy.  Sorry.

If you disagree, please refer back to the picture.  Would a really smart guy stand in front of that diagram?  (Click for a bigger picture, or see Niall Kennedy's Flickr photo, which has a great comment thread.  Via Tom Coates, who comments: "God, does anyone have the slightest idea what Microsoft are on about?")

We've all become a bit immunized to Microsoft's jargon; the reaction to the "Live" announcement was fortunately muted and mostly negative:

Steve Gillmor: Beep Beep.  "Remember Wily Coyote?  He's the Roadrunner's nemesis, chasing him out off the cliff's edge.  Then there's that exquisite moment where he stands on thin air, about to realize he's got nothing.  That's Microsoft, folks."  Ouch.

Joel Spolsky's BS meter pegged immediately: Massive Frontal PR is Incompatible with Ship Early and Often; a wonderful roasting even though it lacks Joel's usual pithy title.

Robert X. Cringley had Deja Vu All Over Again, in which he notes Microsoft's "Live" reaction to Google is analogous to Microsoft's "Active" reaction to Netscape.  Perfect; neither "Active" nor "Live" have any content at all.

Mary Jo Foley: Hailstorm take 2.  (You know you're in trouble when your new jargon is seen as the second version of your old jargon.)  "When you get past the marketing fluff of 'sea changes' and '21st century Internet,' Microsoft did not announce a lot of new deliverables."  She did go on to write, "We didn't notice a single mention of Web 2.0 during Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Technology Officer Ray Ozzie's remarks.  That earns Microsoft some big points in our book."  Okay, I'll give 'em that.  They piled on their own jargon, but steered clear of everyone else's...

Poor Robert Scoble was left to respond: "I don't think it was clear."  (D'ya think?)  "This was the beginning of a major rudder turn on Microsoft."  Iceberg ahead.

The "Live" demo itself was as lacking in content as the concept; Dave Winer liveblogged:  "An hour into it they finally start the demo.  The screen is blank, the guy is talking.  It's live.com.  The demo didn't work.  A total demo disaster."

(Gates' performance prompted Dave to link his classic Demoing for Fun and Profit, from 1995; as true and relevant today as it was then.  Perhaps Gates should read it.)

Even if the demo had worked, it would have been unimpressive; to my eye live.com is pretty uninteresting.  Okay, we have a personalized portal.  What is this, 1997?  Not to mention, it is not even a good personalized portal; maybe they should have visited My Yahoo! or NetVibes, or even their own Start.com.   Cue the clowns.

Perhaps we need some new jargon, a word which means "a word which actually means nothing".

 
 

Archive: December 5, 2004

checkpoint

Sunday,  12/05/04  10:27 AM

So - I am just now on negative time working on two projects, and haven't even made time for reading blogs, let alone posting (SharpReader is already backed up with hundreds of unread items, sigh).  Please stay tuned, regularly scheduled programming will resume "shortly".

I have now been blogging "daily" for nearly two years.  (No snickering about that four month gap, please.)  My daily viewership is about 500 people, who generate about 2,000 page views.  Of them, about 350 are people who have previously visited at least three times.  Plus, I now get over 2,000 requests for my RSS feed every day, and since my feed contains full item content a goodly percentage of these people are not web visitors.  All this is so excellent, I thank you all.

Because of all you guys out there, whenever I have any gap in posting I always get a few emails asking if everything is okay, and when I'll resume.  It isn't quite like the LATimes forgetting to put out an edition, but inquiring minds want to know.

So now you know.

Myst RevelationOh, and not to mention, my kids gave me Myst Revelation for my birthday - thanks! - and I can't wait to play it, only the real world is intruding...

 

 

 
 

Archive: December 7, 2003

Back from lunch

Sunday,  12/07/03  10:52 AM

Okay, okay, I'm back from being out to lunch.  The hard drive in my laptop failed and I was down.  Not completely - I used my iMac for a few days, and therein lies a story, and a blog post to be made later - but to the point where I couldn't blog.  Anyway I'm back - thanks, Compaq, for the excellent next day support - so stay tuned for a blizzard of updates...

[ Later: I had some old posts trapped in my laptop, which I've posted on their original dates.  Please see below, especially our Chardonnay tasting... ]

 

Sunday,  12/07/03  02:50 PM

Okay, here's five days' worth of stuff, over 1,000 RSS items.  Whew!

Citizen Smash chronicles the pathetic attempts to put negative spin on the "Bush serves Thanksgiving dinner to the troops" story.  A lot of links.  Why do people find it so hard to believe the simplest explanation?

Looks like IBM won a legal battle against SCO, but the war continues.  SCO has been ordered to respond to IBM's request that they specify exactly what parts of Linux infringe their Unix copyrights.  It will be interesting to see what they come up with...

Econopundit on the Economics of the Alternate Universe.  Really good stuff.  The best way to analyze policy is to compare what's happening to what else might have happened, not to the way things were.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

CNet wonders VoIP's Best Week Ever?  It is now such a Thing that you don't even get points for saying so.  Big companies have the most to save, and are diving into VoIP in a big way.  And with services like Vonage, residential customers are, too.  I can easily see the day when there are no 'phone companies, and no cable companies, only ISPs.  They provide two-way data, and you run voice, video, whatever on top of it.  "Hey grandpa, tell us about analog phones again, would you?"

So, there are now more female medical school applicants than males.  Does this surprise me?  No.  [ via John Robb ]

Look Out design competition winner, Aurland, NorwayCheck out the Look Out Design Competition, from Norway.  Yeah, there is a plexiglas barrier at the tip.  Whew!  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

Jubilee Church, Rome, ItalyAnd more architecture as poetry, the Jubilee Church, in Rome, designed by Richard Meier & Partners.  In addition to being beautiful, the concrete sails let in an amazing "play of light".

Andrew Anker contemplates Carrot Capitalism.  Gorillas use sticks, but startups can use carrots.  And also, your car as an open system?  Why not?

Jonathon Delacour is Overloaded.  Yeah, me too, especially after being mostly down for four days.  What would happen if you were on vacation for two weeks?  Would the earth keep spinning?  I guess it would, but it is hard to believe :)

Matt Haughey says Wait Until Next Year to Buy that Flat Panel TV.  Okay, I will.  I'm waiting for that 60" HDTV plasma for under $1,000.

Matt also notes the Dish Network's HD DVR.  "TiVo is being beaten (badly) to market by their competitors.  I know half of the posts on this site end with 'and this looks like another nail in TiVo's coffin' but it's increasingly looking to be the truth."

AlwaysOn agrees that HDTV Reaches Mainstream.  I think HDTV is still in the early adopter phase myself.  I live in a pretty geeky circle, and nobody I know has one - yet.

Kevin Laws suggests perhaps smartphones portend The End of the Laptop.  "First, people had computers at work.  Next, they got them at home.  Eventually, the work computer became a notebook, or one was added.  The next step is to eliminate the notebook and go back to a home pc with access via your smartphone."  Interesting point of view, but I still like the ability to blog upstairs while watching football.

Steve Gillmor thinks RSS will let Sun and Apple challenge Microsoft Office.  I don't know about that.  I think RSS is important, but...  Steve's argument is essentially that RSS levels the playing field.  Yeah, maybe, but I think Office still wins on a level playing field, the applications are that good.

Kazaa Lite K++ has been shutdown by Sharman Networks, owners of copyrights on Kazaa.  It continues to work, however, and many copies are available on the Kazaa network :)

Gizmodo is innundated with "connected media center" devices to review.  Poor babies!  This is the latest thing, and everyone has to make one.  Or so it seems.

Are you familiar with the ipodsdirtysecret.com story?  Yeah, these guys discovered that the iPod's one-year warranty is only valid for one year, and the unreplaceable battery actually cannot be replaced.  This irritated them, so they created the aforementioned (but unlinked) website, and ran around spray-painting Apple's iPod ad posters.  Anyway Daring Fireball suggests some nice alternative slogans.

So I was gone for a few days, and meanwhile blogshares died and then was resurrected.  So be it.  Personally I found it was an interesting concept, but it didn't suck me in.

This week's sign of the Apocalypse: Dodge plans Lingerie Bowl.  I am not making this up, but I wish I was.  Are you kidding me?  [ via Woundwort ]

 

I Switched! [temporarily]

Sunday,  12/07/03  11:00 PM

Windows LogoApple LogoSo, for the past four days my [Windows] laptop was down, and I switched to using my iMac as my "main" computer for a few days.  Overall the experience was pretty good.  I thought you might find a brief review interesting.

My "usual" Compaq laptop is a 2GHz P4 with 1.5GB RAM, running WinXP Pro.  My iMac is the original "lamp", with a 700MHz G4, 512MB RAM, running OSX 10.3 ("Panther").  The biggest hardware difference is screen resolution; my laptop has a 15" screen with 1400x1050 pixels, and when docked I have a 21" 1600x1200 external monitor.  The iMac's 15" screens has just 1024x768 pixels.  The lack of screen real estate was actually the biggest drawback to the [temporary] switch.

The real estate issue was greatly ameliorated by the single coolest thing about Panther - Exposé.  Hit F9, and poof, all your windows are visible simultaneously, making selecting the one you want trivial.  Hit F11, and poof, your desktop is visible.  I really loved Exposé, and miss it back on Windows.  Hopefully Microsoft will copy Apple on this one!

I have Office X on the Mac, and it's quite comparable to the Office XP I've grown to know and, er, like.  I'm a pretty experienced Mac user so the Mac-ish-ness of Office X didn't throw me; actually I liked it!  I had to use the online help every once in a while to figure stuff out (yeah, the Mac has one of those "clippy" pseudo-natural-language processors, too), but overall it was cool.

I use email a lot, and so I used Entourage a lot (the Mac equivalent of Outlook).  This worked fine, no problems.  I was able to setup my four email accounts in no time (taking care to leave messages on the server, so I could get them later on my PC), and poof, I was getting email.  In fact, I was getting spam!  So I found SpamSieve, a nice little Bayesian filter which integrates nicely with Entourage.  Seemed to work just about as well as Matador, the spam filter I use with Outlook.

Another thing I do a lot is surf, and so I used Safari (Apple's standard web browser).  I have to say, I really liked it a lot.  Unlike Mozilla (on either platform) Safari pretty much renders all pages exactly like IE on Windows, for better or worse.  I didn't encounter any sites which didn't work or looked funny.  And I really liked tabbed browsing.  This made a big difference since I had so little screen real estate.  On Windows I don't miss it, because I can space out a bunch of windows.

And of course I needed an RSS reader!  So I tried NetNewsWire, which is the most popular Mac client, but I didn't like it.  Your mileage may vary, but I found it was much clunkier than SharpReader.  So next I tried AmphetaDesk, but this didn't play nice with Panther.  Then I tried Shrook, and I liked it!  In some ways it is cooler than SharpReader - maybe because it is so Mac-ish.  Anyway that's the RSS reader to use, and once I had all my subscriptions entered I was off and reading.

The other thing I spend lots of time doing all day is coding (under Visual Studio), and this I could not do on the Mac.  Well, I could have installed VS under WinXP under Virtual PC, but I didn't.  So that part of my experience was incomplete.  I've messed around with Xcode a little but not enough to compare it, and anyway I don't have any "real" coding to do for Macs, so it wouldn't be a good test.

Oh, and what about performance?  Well, the Mac's specs were quite a bit worse than the PC's, but I really didn't notice any difference.  Programs launched quickly (especially Safari, which I launched a lot), the screen was responsive, network access was fast.  I was able to keep lots of stuff up and running without any degradation, despite having less memory.

Wrapping up?  It really was no big deal.  I was every bit as productive on the iMac as I was on Windows.  The one thing about Macs, you can pretty much figure out what to do because they're simpler.  Everything sort of seems to make sense.  If I'd have had a bigger screen, I might even have found the iMac to be better.

 
 

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On the Persistence of Bad Design...
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almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
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