Critical Section

Archive: June 18, 2003

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Ottmar Liebert

Wednesday,  06/18/03  01:09 PM

Ottmar LiebertLast night we saw Ottmar Liebert at the House of Blues.  We had a terrific time - drank too much ('97 Kendall "Artist Series" reserve - excellent / 92!), ate too much, and laughed too much.  Thanks Liz and Cyn for setting it up!

Ottmar was terrific.  I had never heard of him or his band, Luna Negra, but they have a great latin flamenco style.  (Their website plays a brief audio clip.)  The stage presence is very laid back, almost mystical - Ottmar plays guitar barefoot, sitting in an easy char, and one of his band members sits crosslegged on the floor and plays a Macintosh Powerbook.  Wow.  If you ever have a chance to see him/them, take it.

Naturally this morning I wanted to buy some of Ottmar's music.  Did I run out to the store?  Are you kidding - too hard!  Did I buy an album from Amazon?  Are you serious - I don't want to wait!  Did I download it from Kazaa?  No, of course I went directly to Apple's Music Store, where I could preview the music, pick the album I wanted, and download it.  I am now listening to Barcelona Nights, the best of Ottmar Liebert (Amazon).  It is synced to my iPod, so I can listen to it in my car.  I burned it to a CD so Shirley can listen to it.  This whole experience shows how right the Apple Music Store is.

Adding excellence to awesomeness, Ottmar has a blog!  Naturally I've added him to my extended blogroll, and intend to visit regularly.  It is really interesting to see the artist's point of view...  I encourage you to read it if you're thoughtful about DRM, the music business, consumer rights, etc.

His most recent 'blog entry was about something I've been interested in for some time - why is there no "Tivo for radio"?  Actually he put it differently, he asks "why is there no Tivo-like audio recorder", and perhaps that's the best way to look at it, because "tuning shows" like Tivo does for video is not really important for audio, what is important is simply recording a pre-tuned audio stream.  Actually makes the problem simpler.

He points out that with a handheld version and a microphone you could just keep it on all the time - recording everything around you - and when there was something you were interested in playing back, you could.  Great for journalists, students, businesspeople, and - musicians!



Wednesday,  06/18/03  02:03 PM

Praise for a tool I use often - WinRAR.  It is both faster and more flexible than WinZip, and provides a superset of functionality.  And it is only $30 (shareware, like WinZip).

Do you back up often?  Imagine you are sitting there at your computer, and suddenly the screen goes black.  Your hard drive is toast.  You have lost your email, your calendar, your contacts.  You have lost all your Word documents, all your code.  You have lost all your pictures.  All your music.  All your videos.  Are you toast?

This has happened to me only once, but it has almost happened to me many times; often through pilot error.  I do regular backups - at least once per week - because the fear of losing "everything" is so great.  It is not an exaggeration to say I live my business life on my computer.

I have two old PCs at my house which are setup as servers (running RedHat Linux); in fact, good old Critical Section is hosted on one of them.  I run samba, which lets me use Windows networking to share directories on the servers with the Compaq laptop which is my "desktop" (running Windows XP Pro).  Each night the servers back themselves up to each other.  Once a week I use WinRAR to back up my laptop to the servers.  The great things about using WinRAR in this way is that it only backs up changed files (new or modified since the last backup), and it incrementally appends to a set of archive files.  The archive files are limited to 2GB in size (by RedHat Linux, and therefore by samba), but I actually have about 10GB of files to back up, so WinRAR simply spans them across six files.  Works perfectly.

And if I ever need to restore a file, I can do so easily, on a file or directory basis...  I can even go back through different versions of the same file.

There was a time when removable media were terrific for backups.  Especially since the cost of CD-RWs is down to less than $1/disk.  But they just don't hold enough data - my "working set" on my laptop is about 10GB, and that would require about 20 CDs to back-up.  Even doing incremental backups, I'd have a whole stack of CDs to keep track of.  Just doesn't really work.

So - two points; back up often, you will thank yourself someday, and WinRAR is a great tool.  Over and out.


Wednesday,  06/18/03  04:04 PM

It's all happening...

Old news, kind of, but Linus Torvalds is leaving Transmeta to work fulltime on the Linux kernel; the Open Source Development Lab will be funding him.  [ Later: apparently it is a leave of absence, not strictly a departure... ]

Speaking of Linuses, Linus Pauling's research notebooks are now available online, spanning 1922 - 1994.  Dr. Pauling was a true giant in science; not only a Nobel-prizewinning chemist but a thoughtful philosopher who guided scientific practice throughout the 20th century.  My father was privileged to work with him as a post-doc at Caltech, studying the structure of Vitamin C.Fossil PDA Watch

Nerd alert: The Fossil wristwatch is now available from Amazon.  This is the watch with a Palm pilot built in...

Tim Bray discovers that Nasdaq makes stock quotes available online via XML.  Pretty soon he's going to discover OFX, and then he'll start thinking about SSL encryption and authentication and stateful servers :)

Another Tim Bray note, from a historical series he's doing; On Search: The Users.  The two biggest lessons:

  1. Nobody uses "advanced" search.
  2. People only view one page of results.

These both feel right to me; although I sometimes use advanced search I dislike it, the syntax varies with every site, and you never quite know what to do.  I do often view more than one page of results, but just as often if I can't find what I'm looking for on the first page, I change the search string.

Boo hoo dept.; Wired reports MLB umpires are complaining about QuesTec, a camera-based system which tracks pitches and rates umpire calls.  Personally I think the subjectivity of calling balls and strikes is not part of the game's charm, especially since the zone as defined by the rules is quite different from the zone as defined by the average umpire.  (Umps typically give pitchers an extra ball width on either side of the plate, but take away the high strike.)

Pre-hype about the as-yet-to-be-released Handspring Treo 600 is overflowing.  TreoCentral has some good pictures and diagrams.  If you're a regular visitor you know how much I like my Treo 300, but the one drawback is its size; small for a PDA but still big for a 'phone.  Looks like maybe the Treo 600 solves that...

Graeme Foster has built PopHeadlines, an RSS->POP3 gateway.  This allows you to receive RSS feeds as email.  Similar in effect to NewsGator but done differently; NewsGator integrates into Outlook, whereas PopHeadlines pretends to be a mail server.  Interesting...

You heard about Orrin Hatch's comments, right?  He wants to develop technology that will destroy the computers of people running file sharing software.  "Mr Hatch said damaging computers 'may be the only way you can teach someone about copyright'."  This actually speaks for itself, but boy, is this stupid.  And I thought Orrin was a reasonable politician.


Google and Escher

Wednesday,  06/18/03  04:35 PM

Google a la EscherIf you visited Google yesterday, you might have been intrigued by their logo; a grayscale drawing which showed a couple of hands drawing each other.  This was their very cool way of celebrating M.C.Escher's birthday.

Escher's Drawing Hands"Drawing Hands" is one of my favorite works (and Escher is one of my favorite artists); a print of this piece is actually hanging in my office as I, er, speak.  Please click on the pic at right for a larger view of this amazing piece.  Up close, the detail is nearly photographic.  But execution aside, the idea behind this piece is amazing; I like to call it "the C compiler" (because C compilers are often written in C).

The message seems to be a piece of paper drawing itself, or perhaps hands drawing themselves.  But at another level this is a metaphor for humans; we create works of art which are then perceived by us.  In essence we are drawing ourselves.  Escher created many interesting "self-portraits", but none more intriguing than this one.  Fascinating.


Wednesday,  06/18/03  09:16 PM

Much blogging today, much going on...

After reading through Ottmar Liebert's blog, I couldn't help but notice "the problem with music", a fascinating article from three years ago, linked from Dave Winer.  Read it - clearly the economics for artists in signing with a label are terrible.  No wonder they're eagerly embracing self-publishing on the Internet.  Business 2.0 has noticed "the MP3 economy".

The same post on Scripting News has a great entry, "where do I send the money'", about Napster.  Remember Napster?  Yeah, they were big in mid-2000, nobody bigger.

James Lileks: France is living down to our expectations.  More well-deserved French bashing...  "Parisians are reduced to sneering at each other, just to keep in practice."

It gave me great pleasure the other night to pass on ordering French Champagne at the House of Blues, despite a wonderful selection; the Schramsberg we ordered instead was great.

Another week, another Carnival; this one is at Real Women Online.  Despite the threat, entries were not limited to women only :)

Wow.  CNet reports that according to a study by the American Management Association, U.S. workers spend a quarter of their day dealing with email.  I hope this isn't true for programmers.  Actually I hope it isn't true at all.  That can't be right, can it?

Jeremy Zawodny: The Bot from Redmond.  MSN's new search bot is crawling...  Here's more on the MSN site.  Will this be the Google killer?

[ Later: Dave Winer posted this email from an anonymous source; "they have Google in their crosshairs" ]

Aaron Swartz presents Edward Tufte's essay about the evils of PowerPoint - as a Powerpoint presentation.  I love it!  [ via Philip Greenspun ]Handspring Treo 600

There's more on the Handspring Treo 600; apparently it has been formally announced a the CeBIT show in New York.  From the pictures it looks really cool.  The screen is the same size as the Treo 300, but the device is much smaller and lighter.  It includes an integrated camera, and has the ability to exchange pictures as "caller id" on 'phone calls.  Sprint will be selling it - and I will be buying it :)

Want to read something really bogus?  There are two modern ways to connect things to computers, USB and firewire.  A few years ago when they both became available firewire was much faster than USB.  The USB people figured out how to make USB somewhat faster, and the old USB was called 1.0, with the new USB called 1.1.  Well it was still way slower than firewire, so they kept working, and came out with a newer version they called 2.0.  This is *almost* as fast as firewire, and backwards compatible.  So far so good, right?  Well, it turns out people like you and me wanted USB 2.0 and not USB 1.1, so we began asking "what kind of USB does this PC have"?  And PCs with USB 1.1 stopped selling.  So what did the USB people do?  They renamed USB 1.1 as USB 2 "full speed", and USB 2.0 as USB 2 "hi-speed".  Is this bogus, or what?  Buyer beware!  Actually buyer should choose firewire, which just works, is still faster than USB, and has no downside or industry bogusness.


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