Critical Section

Archive: January 2004

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Thursday,  01/01/04  10:04 PM

Happy Blogiversary to me!  Wow, one year of blogging.

Some stats of possible interest:

463 posts on 291 days, with 592 images.
253,335 page views, 336,713 RSS feeds, and 164,087 robots visits.
2,963,834 hits, of which 1,714,767 were images.
31,190 referrals from sites, and 27,622 referrals from search engines.
101,132 unique visitors, of whom 36,788 visited at least three times.

That is so cool!  Thank you all for visiting and reading!  Some of these numbers might be a little low because I didn't quite get my act together on compiling statistics right away, and on two occasions I disabled logging for a while (once because I was slashdotted (!), and once because I screwed up).

I just watched the Rose Bowl.  An aerial shot of the Rose Bowl is a great way to visualize 100,000 people.  That's about the number of people who visited during 2003.  Now that is just amazing; I actually don't believe it :)

Whatever 2004 will bring, it will surely bring more blogging on my part!


Thursday,  01/01/04  10:57 PM

Did you watch the Rose Bowl today?  I did.  Can there really be any doubt that USC is the #1 team in the country?  No.  They dominated a very good Michigan team.  The Wolverines allowed 5 TD passes all season, and 4 today.  They suffered 15 sacks all season, but 9 today.  As the USC T-shirts said, "smells like Roses, tastes like Sugar"...

May I once again (!) sing the praises of Tivo.  How any football fan can get through New Year's Day without one is impossible to fathom.

The Command Post posted an interesting retrospective of their 2003 highlights.  An interesting way to relive the events of 2003.

Times Square 2004 - QTVRHere's a great Quicktime VR panorama of Times Square last night.  Excellent!  [ via Dave Winer ]

CNN reported Security Tight for New Year's Day.  I guess it was tight enough; despite all the people and excitement, nothing "bad" happened.  Whew.

Rumor of the day: the iBox.  "The iBox plugs into your TV and acts as a hub for your digital devices and computers."  Fascinating.  This is a pretty detailed report for an unverified rumor.  We'll have to watch the upcoming Macworld closely.  (We would anyway, of course :)

This would essentially be a Mac-OS X-based Tivo.  The possibilities are staggering!

This is really cool: India aims to fly hypersonic plane in 2007.  This would be the first "real" scramjet plane ever flown.  India has already used this technology to build the world's fastest cruise missile.

Wow, Tim Bray is looking for a job, and posts some interesting reasons why various companies should be interested.  Scoble thinks Microsoft should be.

Google 2004 logoI've mentioned before how cool Google is, and how cool their logos are.  Well, they're still cool.  And the company is still hot :)



Friday,  01/02/04  10:21 PM

I just read John Grisham's The King of Torts.  Now, I'm a Grisham fan, going all the way back to The Firm.  This is his worst book by far.  The setup is great, the characters are great, everything is going along - and then the book ends!  What!?  I was eagerly anticipating one of those patented Grisham plot twists, where he ties up all the loose ends in a nice bow.  Nope.  Skip this one.

Ever wonder how this happens?  There's this artist you really like - author, musician, playwright, painter, etc. (or winery!) - and they are so consistent, and so great, and then suddenly it's like they just give up.  They get bored or something and put out low quality work.  How disappointing is that!  Do they know?  Or is it just me?

Check out this terrific speech by author Michael Critchton, given at Caltech about a year ago.  He takes on "fake science" in many areas, including SETI, nuclear winter, global warming, and second-hand smoke.  Really thought provoking - especially for those trying to figure out the Future of People :)

Mark Kleiman comments, including especially his thought that while models are indeed imperfect (as claimed by Critchton), they are important, as the future cannot be known any other way.  As usual the truth lies in the middle; models are imperfect, and they are important.  How imperfect or important depends crucially on the model, the timeframe, and the phenomenon of interest.

This is good news - U.S. to visit N. Korea nuke site.  Not because we'll find something, or because we won't, but because any interaction with NK is helpful.

Aki - Final FantasyYou knew I was going to link this - the Miss Digital World pageant is a beauty contest for digitally-rendered women.  I love it!  [ via Cory Doctorow ]  My vote goes to Dr. Aki Ross in Final Fantasy.

Philips SL400i media hubAdd Philips to the long list of vendors making "media hubs" for connecting home entertainment centers to PCs.  It does video as well as audio, and includes a wireless networking adapter for your PC.

The NYTimes reports Astronomy's New Grail: the $1B Telescope.  When you're trying to gather photons, size matters.  For example, the proposed ESO 100M OWL telescope.  Yeah, that's 100M as in a 325' mirror.  Wow!

Meanwhile, up in space, NASA's Stardust space probe has successfully passed through the shimmering tail of the Wild 2 Comet, collecting dust samples and taking photographs in the process.

And tomorrow night the Spirit Mars Rover lands!  It sure is great to have all this space exploration activity going on.

California has banned the use of computers in the front seats of cars.  I am not making this up.  No more blogging from my Treo while driving?

Star Wars scout walkerHey, I want one of these!  For auction on eBay, a Star Wars scout walker.  Currently going for $19,000...

Matt Haughey writes users have figured out how to hack the Gateway connected DVD player.  Notably, they're now able to stream DivX movies.

Jim Fawcette posts Challenge to Open Source, Innovate, Don't Copy.  But Tim Bray thinks Fawcette Doesn't Get It.  Read them both, you decide.  Personally I think Open Source projects have an impressive track record of innovation.  And the implication that Open = Free is misleading.

USAToday discovers Freewheeling bloggers are rewriting the rules of journalism.  We are?  "People are no longer simply consumers of political news.  They're publishers of their own...  It's like having a giant communal brain."  Excellent, I'm part of that brain!  [ via Doc Searles ]

And so are you!



Saturday,  01/03/04  05:51 PM

For the web nerds among you (and maybe others as well), I've published my current RSS subscriptions as an OPML file.  If you don't know what this means, don't worry; please ignore this post and continue.  If you are interested feel free to click the little OPML button in the nav bar at right to get my current subscriptions.

As you may know, RSS is a way for blogs and other websites to publish a directory of their contents.  Programs called RSS readers (or "aggregators") retrieve and display sites' feeds as a shortcut way to access their contents.  (I use and recommend SharpReader for Windows, and Shrook for Macs.)  OPML is an XML-based format for storing "outlines".  One popular use for OPML is for people to publish the RSS feeds they presently read.  By accessing my OPML file, you can see what blogs and news sites I read regularly.

If this kind of thing interests you, check out Dave Winer's Yahoo discussion group.  There's also an experimental website for people interesting in exchanging OPML files and discussing them.


One Year Ago...

Saturday,  01/03/04  10:19 PM

Doing a little blog tinkering...  Implemented "One Year Ago" (new link in nav bar at right).  This is one of the cool things about having blogged for over a year, I can see what I was thinking a year ago.  (Please, no snickers from those of you who have been blogging for seven years :)  I also beefed up the Archive a bit...


Saturday,  01/03/04  11:47 PM

(click for larger pic)
Spirit - first images

Yippee!  The Spirit has landed!!  The little golf cart essentially pounded into the Martian surface, cushioned by a giant air bag.  "The $400 million rover Spirit, designed to conduct unprecedented geologic and photographic surveys on the Martian surface, transmitted a simple hello to Earth minutes after landing."  This is so excellent.  Here's NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission page...

The NYTimes explains From Vinyl to Digital, Hold the Crackle.  Or how to "rip" phonograph records.  Personally I recommend PolderBits highly for recording any analog source (I've used it with cassette tapes).

While I'm at it, let me put in a plug for VirtualDub, an awesome tool for editing and converting video.  I just used it to transcode The Italian Job from MPEG to DivX.  Piece of cake.

I saw LOTR Return of the King again, today.  I like it just as much as the first timeAwesome!

Glenn Reynolds links another excellent Michael Critchton speech, on media speculation.

Robert X. Cringely makes his predictions for 2004 (and reviews how well he did in 2003).  The most interesting: "The SCO debacle has created a crisis within the Linux community.  They pretend that it hasn't, but it has.  This will come to a head in 2004 with either the development of a new organizational structure for Linux or the start of its demise.  Linux has to grow or die, and the direction it takes will be determined in 2004."  Hmmm....

Have you ever wanted to build your own Scanning Tunneling Electron Microscope?  Aha, I thought so.  Well, here's a do-it-yourself kit.  Warning: it doesn't look trivial.  Where's Heathkit when you need them :)

Yeah, where are they?  At the Heathkit Virtual Museum...

Scoble is excited about his site optimization efforts.  As he should be.  Of course, he'd be really excited if he implements GZIP compression...


Two-Party Politics

Sunday,  01/04/04  12:58 PM

Do you think the U.S. two-party system is optimal?  I don't.  It would be great if there were more points of view represented, more opportunity for candidates with a unique perspective which don't naturally fit into either mainstream party.

The biggest problem with the two-party system is exemplified by the current debates among Democratic presidential candidates over "who is the most electable".  The implication is that any Democrat capable of defeating George Bush in 2004 is better than any other candidate who is not.  The most important thing, in other words, is for a Democrat to win, not who they are, or what they think, or what they propose to do if elected.  This is quintissential two-party thinking, and it works against any innovation.

If you agree, you might ask "what can be done?"  The basic problem is that U.S. elections are won by a majority vote.  In order to win, you have a have a majority.  If there are small parties who have views which differ significantly from either of the two dominant parties, there is virtually no chance their candidates can get elected, because of the "majority wins" characteristic.  One way around this is to have proportional representation.  If there are ten representatives for a given {city, district, county, state}, instead of dividing the {city, district, county, state} into ten regions, with a representative for each region elected by majority vote, let people make ten votes for ten candidates.  The top ten candidates receiving votes win.  This way even a minority candidate with a strong following can be elected. 

This idea also prevents gerrymandering, which has gone completely out of control in many states.

This idea also helps under-represented minorities such as racial, ethnic, or social groups to get representation.

If this proportional voting were used to select electors for the electoral college, don't you think we'd have a much wider range of candidates running?  Candidates would be free to think and say and propose policy according to what they actually believe, instead of pandering to their party's "middle" in order to get elected.

Well, it was just a thought :)



Sunday,  01/04/04  03:02 PM

I had an academic appreciation that it is complicated to send a rover like Spirit to Mars, but until watching this animation I didn't appreciate how complicated.  What a terrific project!  It makes me proud, once again, to be an American.  (And also to be an alumnus of Caltech, whose Jet Propulsion Laboratory is responsible for NASA's unmanned missions.) 

Spirit Mars rover - animation
(click for animation)

This animation is fabulous and awe-inspiring.  By all means check it out!  [ via Joi Ito ]

Also, you might want to visit the JPL website, they have a ton of great Mars pictures, animations, and discussions...


Sunday,  01/04/04  11:14 PM

Great football today, eh?  The Green Bay win in OT against Seattle was a classic!  And the Sugar Bowl was a great game.  I was rooting for LSU, because of Oklahoma's disasterous loss against Kansas State, and so now we have a split NCAA championship; USC wins the AP poll on the strength of their victory in the Rose Bowl against Michigan, and LSU wins the coaches poll by winning the BCS.  So be it.

Spirit - Mars' surfaceMars rover Spirit continues to do well, and wakes up to a new day.  I love the coverage of the Mars missions in the blogosphere; there is so much good stuff out there.  Like Susan Kitchens' blog, and the raw images on the JPL website...

Paul Graham on What You Can't Say.  A great discussion about the fashions in forbidden thoughts.  "To see fashion in your own time, though, requires a conscious effort...  How can you see the wave, when you're the water?"  Great stuff.

Scott Raymond thinks BitTorrent + RSS = Tivo.  "Gillmor's vision is upside down: we shouldn't use BitTorrent to carry RSS, we should use RSS to carry BitTorrent.  The beauty is that this synergy can so easily be realized.  You can start publishing RSS feeds of BT files today: just point to a .torrent file in the element."  Fascinating.  I wonder what Adam Curry will make of this; it seems to have the benefit of RSS enclosures without the server-side overhead.  [ via Matt Haughey, who comments "Of course, the legal issues around this type of technology would kind of make it impossible to do for very long, but it's perhaps a glimpse into the future of where entertainment could be going." ]

[ Later: Slightly different formulation from Scott and Matt.  The <enclosure> of RSS items could be the URL of a .torrent file.  That way enclosure-aware aggregators can retrieve the media - with BitTorrent - before you "read" the item.  BT makes it more efficient to download a big media file, but it still takes time.  The difference is putting the .torrent in the <link> makes downloading discretionary (you click the link if you want the file), putting it in the <enclosure> makes it "free". :) ]

Interesting article in the Seattle Times about cheap consumer electronics, like $40 DVD players.  Explains how they can be so inexpensive (they're made overseas from commodity components) and the drawbacks (less features, low reliability, can't be repaired).  Overall it is amazing.  For one thing, every DVD and CD drive contains a laser, thirty years ago any laser was a major, expensive piece of electronics.

Of course, now they're pet toys :)


More Party Politics

Monday,  01/05/04  09:03 PM

The other day I lamented that the U.S. two-party system is suboptimal, and suggested that proportional voting might enable minority parties to have more influence, thereby enabling more innovation among candidates.

Be careful what you wish for!  I received an email from Ivan-Assen Ivanov, a Bulgarian, reporting that they have proportional representation, and it isn't working out:

Bulgaria is a prime example of the perils of proportional representation.

In our electoral system, the country is split into around 25 regions, and parties issue separate proportional lists for each of them.  The parliament seats assigned to each region are split among parties proportionally to their results in the region - more specifically, according to a procedure called Dont's method.  Any parties who get below 4% on a national level don't get represented, no matter how high their result in an individual region is.

What is the result of that?

We have currently three major political parties: the ex-communists, a pro-Western conservative party, and a populist centrist party which came out of nowhere three years ago.  And a small party, DPS, claiming to represent the Turkish minority, but hijacked by shady corporate interests.  Currently the DPS is in coalition with the populist party, but in all possible outcomes from the next elections, none of the three (or possibly four, since the pro-Western conservatives are on the verge of splitting in two) major parties will have majority, and the DPS will be the most likely candidate for a coalition.  Their participation in future governments is virtually guaranteed, and they're selling their position to the highest bidder.  (And they're using their ethnical origin to threaten with the spectre of ethnicol violence if they are eliminated from Bulgarian politics - after all, Kosovo and Bosnia are both within a day's drive from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.)

I understand that similar cases of overblown influence of fringe groups are common everywhere where there is no stable two-party system.  E.g. in Germany the Green party, which is ultra-left, some would say communist by their ideology, is the key to Chancelor's Schroeder stability - and they're pulling the entire government to the left and to their agenda, shutting down nuclear powerstations and holding violent "peace" demonstrations in front of US army bases.  (There's a joke in Europe about Green parties being like watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside.)

So, I'll take your bipartisan system any day over the tyranny of small parties who've been lucky to be at the right place at the right moment :-)

So be it - nothing like real data!  I also received email from others pointing out that in Israel's system fringe parties have undue influence, with negative implications.  Fascinating.

So the downside of proportional representation is that small fringe parties have too much influence, while currently in the U.S. it could be argued they do not have enough.  I wonder if there is a middle ground?  Or perhaps every system has its upside and downside, and none is “best”.

Another aspect of this issue is whether it makes sense at all to have electors, or whether there should just be "direct" democracy.  A great issue for another post, stay tuned :)

P.S. It is SO awesome that I post one little entry on my blog here in California, and within hours I get informed emails with counterpoints from readers all over the world.  Absolutely amazing.


Monday,  01/05/04  09:53 PM

Hey, this is progress!  Pakistan's Musharraf Meets Indian Leader Vajpayee.  Maybe they just discussed cricket (probably, they did!), but any dialogue between these two leaders is great.

More good news: The Afghan Loya Jirga approved a new constitution Sunday.  "The charter, ratified after a last-minute deal to recognize minority languages, creates a strong presidential system that the country's U.S.-backed interim leader, Hamid Karzai, says is critical to uniting a country torn by two decades of war.  It also states that men and women should be treated equally--a key demand of human rights groups."  Wow.  That's just about all I can say.  [ via Citizen Smash ]

Apparently the CIA thinks the new Bin Ladin tape is authentic.  I have a funny reaction to this; I'm actually pleased that he might still be alive.  Because if he is, we'll catch him.  And that would be good.

I wonder what he thinks of the new Afghan constitution?  His actions sure backfired, didn't they!

So, Pete Rose did bet on baseball?  Nice of him to come clean, but he still did it, you know?  I don't think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.  We need the deterrent.

Ars Technica has a thorough review of Windows XP SP2.  "Service Pack 2 addresses security concerns, fixes previous security issues, and implements new security features... Windows XP SP2 is all about security."  It also features an IE update which - yippee - blocks pop-ups.

Steve JobsAnd tomorrow will bring - Macworld!  Yippee another Steve Jobs keynote.  What hardware will be announced...  a new smaller iPod?  The iBox?  You know we'll get iTunes business updates.  What about software?  New video editing software?  I guess we'll just have to wait and see :)



Tuesday,  01/06/04  11:53 PM

Busy year so far.  Whew.

first color picture of Mars from Spirit

If you've been on the web at all the past 24 hours, you've seen these new color pictures of Mars, courtesy of Spirit.  When I saw that first picture, it literally gave me chills.  It just doesn't seem real - but it is.  Awesome!

India and Pakistan announce the start of "peace talks".  Excellent. 

North Korea offers to halt its nuclear activities if six-way talks are restarted.  A key contingency: they want the U.S. to begin supplying heavy oil, power and other energy resources.  Also excellent.

Meanwhile Libya is trying to reestablish diplomatic ties with Israel.  Again, excellent.

What's going on here?  Peace seems to be breaking out all overGlenn Reynolds comments: "A funny thing happened on the way to world war.  Despite claims that President Bush's war on terror would set the Middle East -- and the rest of the world -- aflame, things haven't worked out that way.  In fact, they're looking pretty good."

Governor ArnoldArnold Schwarzenegger gave his first State of the State address tonight.  Citizen Smash is all over it, with excerpts from newspapers prior to the speech, and a review of the highlights afterward.  "Over the last five years, the state's income has increased 25 percent, but spending increased by 43 percent.  This was irresponsible...  If we continue spending and don't make cuts, California will be bankrupt.  Every governor proposes moving boxes around to reorganize government.  I don't want to move the boxes around; I want to blow them up."  Smash sums up: My governor can kick your governor’s ass.

iPod mini family

So did you catch Steve Jobs' keynote at Macworld?  Excellent as always.  Here's a summary of the announcements if you don't have an hour to watch Steve...  For me the coolest new thing is Xgrid, Apple's computational clustering facility.  Perfect for pattern recognition in large Pathology images :)

Brett Simmons and John Gruber like GarageBand.  "GarageBand turns your Mac into an anytime, anywhere recording studio packed with hundreds of instruments and a recording engineer or two for good measure."  Very cool.

Chris Anderson in Wired: Memo to the Next Head of the MPAA.  "Congratulations on your new job - and on having the courage to take it.  You arrive at a historic moment, with big shoes to fill and a tough challenge ahead...  So what should you do?  Start by accepting that new technology means a new way of doing business."  I think it's right on - read the whole thing.

SCO really pisses me off.  Now they're asking 6,000 Linux licensees to certify that they in compliance with their Unix agreements.  Piss on 'em from a great height.

Another thing that pisses me off - fake political correctness.  Like this post on GNXP, where razib reports a school banned "the three little pigs" for fear of offending Muslims.  Are you kidding me?  Just because you don't eat pigs doesn't mean you can't read about them.  Wow.

Pete Rose aka Charlie HustleDave Winer thinks Pete Rose should be in the hall.  "Ask the fans, we want to honor the best hitter of all time. For all his moral weakness, there was a reason he was called Charlie Hustle."  I don't think Dave intended this to be a double entendre, but if you ask me there were two reasons he was called that :)

Rob Smith notes the 2003 Darwin Award candidates.  Like this one: "In February, according to police in Windsor, Ontario, Daniel Kolta, 27, and Randy Taylor, 33, died in a head-on collision, thus earning a tie in the game of chicken they were playing with their snowmobiles."  And they get a tie for my favorite, too.


Wednesday,  01/07/04  09:50 PM

I'm feeling sick.  Not good.  Arg.

Spirit - Mars 3D landscapeDid you see this 3D picture of Mars?  Wow!  Amazing detail.  You must get 3D glasses for this...  Apparently Spirit will wait a few days before venturing out; controllers are having trouble clearing away one of the air bags.  I hate when that happens :)

Lost in all the great news from Spirit is another successful NASA mission; Stardust flew through a comet tail, gathered a bunch of dust particles, and is on its way back to Earth.  Excellent!

The Beagle news is less good: Mothership fails to find Beagle on Mars.

Timbu muses about two-party politics, and introduces Condercet voting as a possible compromise.  It seems like it might work, but it is way too complicated.  And another possibility: choose people at random to govern.  Seems weird, but that is how we choose people to judge criminal cases.

Ottmar Liebert has mixed emotions about GarageBand, Apple's new music app.  "Why would a child attempt to spend years learning a musical instrument when s/he could be making music with GarageBand instantly?  I envision a boy, two hundred years from now, who learns trumpet from old movies, because nobody plays the instrument anymore and there is no teacher who can show him....  On the other hand it would be a great tool for a student to practice along cool loops rather than having to play to a metronome all of the time."

Netgear wireless digital music playerNetgear seems to be getting into this wireless media stuff in a big way; they've introduced a wireless media router and a wireless digital music player.  The music player tunes Internet radio stations as well as playing your MP3 collection.  Where is all this going?  Are people really buying this stuff?  They must be =)

BW interviews Niklas Zennstrom, creator of Kazaa and more recently Skype.  Among the more interesting discussion points, he contrasts Skype with Vonage.  "They're using your broadband connection to replace the last mile, and they're offering a calling plan that may be a little bit more attractive than the local phone company's.  We think it's much more efficient to use the Internet to make calls between two Internet end points.  That's why we can offer this free of charge."  True, but Skype can only be used between two people with Skype, whereas Vonage can be used with plain old analog phones, too.  [ via John Robb ]

For the geeks among you: has posted a detailed technical overview of Mac OS X.  "This document attempts to give a hacker over-friendly answer to the question 'What is Mac OS X?'."  I really learned a lot from this...

And more geekness: Dave Winer wants the ability to subscribe to OPML files.  "It's the next level after RSS.  Not only do I subscribe to your feed, but I want to subscribe to a set of feeds that you choose for me."  Interesting, it would reinforce the idea of bloggers as filters...

Doc Searles is Macwhirled: "A sub-par Steve Jobs keynote for product announcements, I thought.  Not that it mattered...  What will happen when all of us can be the first sources of music and movies as well as journals and books?  A bigger, freer and far more interesting marketplace, is what."

Gollum's new precious - an iPodSeems like everyone likes iPods!
(tee shirts available here)



Thursday,  01/08/04  11:52 PM

I spent the whole day heads down, coding.  From 0600 until now.  Whew.  Was it a good day?  Hard to tell :)

If you've hung around my blog for a while, you know at one point I was planning to write a book.  In fact, that was actually the point of the blog.  There's a long story here - I'll post it soon - but in the meantime consider this quote from E.L. Doctorow: [ via Cory Doctorow ]

"Planning to write is not writing.  Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing.  Writing is writing. . . .  Writing is like driving at night in the fog.  You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

I've given up on CNN.  Not only are they hopelessly biased, but now they're carrying ads with sound.  What could be worse than that?  There are plenty of other news sites, not to mention Google...

So, what do you think of Bush's Immigration Plan?  I think it is an interesting step forward.  I don't know all the details, though...  Check out Citizen Smash's analysis, with his thoughts and tons of links.

Oh, and stay tuned for more policy: Bush to Announce New Missions to Moon, Mars.  I'm a big fan of space exploration, but I fear these will be manned missions, which means they'll be really expensive and not nearly as useful.

Bruce Sterling doesn't think anyone will settle on Mars anytime soon.  "I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people setting the Gobi Desert.  The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach."  Yeah, but it isn't as cool.  (Sorry)

You know how there's this glut of "media adapters" so you can network your PC with your home entertainment system?  Well now Philips has Internet-ready TVs, too.

networked breadmakerRemember the networked toaster?  You thought I was kidding, right?  Well here's a networked breadmaker.  And no, I am not making this up.

CES is going on at the moment, as I imagine you know; check out Gizmodo for complete coverage of all the cool new gadgets...

Another VoIP survey, from BW; Finally, 21st Century Phone Service.  "VoIP has been around as long as the Internet.  But until recently, it was the province of geeks and college kids who had more time on their hands than money.  Now, VoIP is reaching a tipping point."  When something is better and less expensive, it tips.

Interesting NYTimes interview of Steve Jobs, on video iPods...  His reasons why video players won't take off:  "First, on a video player 'there’s just no equivalent of headphones.'  Second, Hollywood has done a much better job of providing outlets for its wares than the recording industry.  Finally, people just don't consume music and movies the same way."  I'm inclined to agree; I love my iPod, but I listen to it most often in my car, and I can't actually imagine watching a movie while driving...  [ via Matt Haughey ]

Matt also shares some new Tivo announcements, like the HDTV DirectTivo and video extraction software.  Excellent!

And in other news, Yahoo reports Divers probed for giving fish champagneDavid Calkins comments: "Of course they're being arrested.  Everyone knows that when poaching fish, you use white wine - not champagne."  Bada bing.

Lord of the Rings Barbie and Ken Here's a weird cross-marketing attempt: Barbie and Ken as Arwen and Aragorn.  Are you kidding me?  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Megan will want these - badly - as soon as she finds out >:) 

David Lindley quotes Hunter Thompson: "The music business is a dark, plastic hallway; where pimps and thieves run free, and good men die like dogs.  There's also a negative side."  Well put.  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]


(, 1/9/04)

Friday,  01/09/04  08:45 AM

rock and rule


Friday,  01/09/04  11:41 PM

Another day of heads' down coding.  Whew.

Cory Doctorow comments on Tivo's DRM.  "No TiVo customer got out of bed this morning and said, 'Damn, I wish there was a way I could do less with my videos'."  The problem is that end users aren't really Tivo's customers, content providers are.

Toshiba tiny 40GB driveAccording to Steven Webster, Toshiba is breeding huge humans.  "Rumours that Toshiba have in fact just announced a tiny hard drive are being dismissed as ludicrous."  [ via Xeni Jardin ]

Samsung 80" plasma TVOh my gosh!  An 80" plasma TV (from Samsung).  Please Santa, is it too late?

Vonage seems to have perfected the attack from below.  Not content to take on fixed-wire CLECs, they're now going for cellular operators as well.

Stereolize!Robert Scoble wants to Stereolize.  Pretty awesome demo, I must admit.  But what is it?  Oh, well, check it out!

Stone Skipping Gets Scientific, at the Scientific American, of course.  I am not making this up.



Saturday,  01/10/04  11:41 PM

A really quiet day.  Is it the cold?

I must tell you, it was nice and warm and beautiful here in SoCal.  I worked all day (!) except for a bike ride, which was wonderful.

Ottmar Liebert makes a remarkable prediction:

Here, folks, is the bottom line.  Eventually, and I am talking in 50-100 years (if the planet has survived), most items will be made in your home.  You want a hammer, you find a recipe on the net and after paying a license fee you will download the recipe and stick it in your matter compiler where you will find your hammer a while later.Lego Mindstorms robot

This is horrible!  Lego is killing Mindstorms!  Anyway they're in big trouble, firing executives, and cutting back.  "The company now plans to stop making the electronics and movie tie-in products and return to its core mission: producing colored plastic building blocks for children."  That's really too bad.

Salon reports Professor Lives Life as Cyborg.  "Mann, a 41-year-old engineering professor at the University of Toronto, spends hours every day viewing the world through a little monitor in front of his eye -- so much so that going without the apparatus often leaves him feeling nauseous, unsteady, naked."  Will we all be cyborgs in the future?  It wouldn't surprise me.  I'd love to have my Treo built in :)

"Lord of the Rings" cleans up at L.A. film awards.  "In a possible precursor to Oscar night next month, the final installment in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy has won four prizes at the ninth annual Critics' Choice Awards, an event whose picks are often echoed at Academy Awards."

Wired interviews Michael Powell: FCC Head Says Broadband Is Vital.  "'We should be working to bring in technologies and policies that spin things away from large centralized institutions that determine what you see and hear and listen to, and push more power to consumers,' Powell said. 'Why I like my TiVo is I'm the programmer, instead of NBC or ABC or CBS'."  And that's why I like Powell...  I can't really see the FCC stifling VoIP and other new Internet services on his watch.

Just wanted to plug  An excellent group blog I've been checking out regularly, despite the fact that they don't have an RSS feed :(


Sunday,  01/11/04  11:27 PM

Taking a quick break from work to blog.  Yeah, I know, it is Sunday night.  So?

Joi Ito notes Lawrence Lessig gives his opinion of the Supreme Court justices like a sommelier describing a collection of fine wines.  "So an underplayed aspect of this campaign has been how the Democratic candidates would differently select the Supreme Court."

Want to see an example of CNN anti-Israeli bias?  Check out this headline: Israelis kill Palestinian, another dies in explosion.  Read the story to find out the Palestinian in question was lighting a Molotov cocktail, and the explosion was a suicide bomber whose explosives detonated prematurely.  Horrible.  The bias is so evident, it probably backfires.  I hope so.

Reuters reports Iran reformist MPs fight hardline ban on candidates.  "Outraged reformers said the bans were bound to draw international fire and vowed to resist the powerful Guardian Council...  2,033 of the 8,200 aspiring candidates had been barred."  An unstable situation if ever there was one.  Let's hope they don't develop nuclear weapons before the hardliners lose control.  [ via John Robb, who comments "Iran begins a political free fall" ]

The Sims!Don Hopkins, who works for Maxis (creators of The Sims) reflects on The Sims' appeal.  "Maxis designed The Sims in spite of what the focus groups said -- it wouldn't have been interesting nor would it have ever shipped if its design was based on market research."  Interesting.  My daughters love "simming", as it's known in our house; it is the main computer-based activity for them.  When their friends are over, they "sim" together.  [ via Dave Winer ]

Dave Winer wonders why more bloggers don't subscribe to the NYTimes feed.  That's easy, we don't have to subscribe because he does.  Seriously.  Bloggers like Dave are excellent filters!

I just tried subscribing to a Google News RSS feed.  Absolutely like drinking from a firehose.  Everything is there, but sorting the wheat from the chaff is too hard.

CNet hosts a McKinsey study: The Answer to Video Piracy?  "Stop me if you've heard this one: A novel form of media distribution is promising to launch lucrative new content services, but the industries involved can't agree on how to protect them from theft or how to split the revenues they generate.  At the birth of the cable TV industry, in the 1970s, the story had a happy ending...  Fast-forward 30 years and, as a famous baseball player once said, 'It's deja vu all over again.'"  Broadband Video-on-demand: opportunity or threat?  Both.

Tmsuk robotA Slashdot post discusses the world's largest robot, from Tmsuk.  "It's 10m wide with its arms fully outstretched, is powered by an onboard water-cooled three cylinder direct injection diesel engine, has a maximum speed of 3Km/h, and carries seven 680,000-pixel CCD cameras with a separate monitor for each camera."  Yeah, I want one.  Handy for taking out the trash :)

The Rad2Go Segway clone (aka "the fakeway")Check out these excellent reports on the CES conference from Gizmodo:  Day 4 report 5 (includes an 80" plasma TV!), The Fakeway (a four-wheeled Segway clone), and Day 4 report 6 (includes Alpine's iPod car adapter).

Looks like Yahoo is adding an RSS aggregator to their My Yahoo service.  Doesn't seem controversial or surprising, in fact, why has it taken them so long?


(new yorker, 1/12/04)

Monday,  01/12/04  12:28 AM

Can't Talk Now


Monday,  01/12/04  10:04 PM

Man, a long tiring day.  Good, though; productive.  And here's the story:

Little Spirit Morphs, Ready to Roll.  "The U.S. robotic rover on Mars completed its transformation from folded landing craft to mobile explorer earlier than expected and may roll off its landing pad as early as Tuesday."  Cool.

Mars QTVR panoramaOh, and here's an amazing QTVR panorama - from Mars.  Unbelievable, it literally brings tears to my eyes.  [ via Xeni Jardin ]

Steven Frank:  Confidential to T-Mobile: NASA is downloading 36 MB TIFFs from Mars and I only get 2 bars of signal on my cell phone inside my house.  Please look into upgrading.

Glenn Reynolds notes people are turning increasingly to alternatives such as the Internet for news about the presidential campaign, shifting away from traditional outlets such as the nightly network news and newspapers.  "Even if the revolution is televised, I guess a lot of people won't be watching...

Japan is sending troops to Iraq.  Wow.

Sabine HeroldThe Atlasphere has an interesting interview with French freedom activist Sabine Herold.  "In general we're going to continue taking action to make the people more conscious of what libertarianism can be, in terms of concrete issues — because we want reforms.  We don't want to wait for and we don't expect a future libertarian revolution.  We're anti-revolution."

Harretz has the story behind a WiFi burglary.  Pretty high-tech.  [ via Doc Searles, in a post titled "the new burglar mask" ]

GM recalls more than 820,000 cars.  Wow.  I hate when that happens.

This is really funny; Comedy Central pokes fun at Dean's Anger.

This is pretty cool; Mandrake has a version of their Linux distribution called "MandrakeMove", which lets you burn a bootable CD which runs Linux with no installation necessary.  Now that's cool!  I'm off to try it...

So, do you think iPods will ever support Windows Media Audio format music?  ConnectedHome reports Hell Freezes Over as HP Announces iPod Pact with Apple.  "HP's blockbuster deal with Apple will have one exciting side effect.  The company will be working with Apple to add support for Microsoft's superior Windows Media Audio (WMA) format to the iPod by mid-year.  You heard it here first."  Indeed I did!

And apparently Microsoft GM David Fester  is not thrilled...

Eric Sink thinks "dogfooding" is important; the practice of software companies using their own software internally.  This is why IBM is moving "everyone" off Windows in the next three years...

Shooting Yourself in the Foot, in 100 different [computer] languages :)  [ via Adam Curry ]

New blog of the day: The S-Train Canvass.  Check it out!

And in .nu news, Niue, a tiny island nation off the coast of New Zealand, which administers the .nu domain, has been crippled by a cyclone and is considering disbanding.  I guess if that happens, the disposition of the domain will not be the biggest problem, but I wonder what will happen to it?


Tuesday,  01/13/04  11:36 PM

The Ole filter makes another pass...

Medscape has a fascinating review of Robotic Surgery.  Lest you think this is a future, two years ago my then-four-year-old daughter had open heart surgery to correct an Atrial Septal Defect, and the surgeon used a robotic arm.  Amazing and wonderful stuff.

If you're at all interested in medical technology, check out Medscape's RSS feeds.  A wonderful and valuable resource.

This is a logarithmic map of the universe (click for larger version):

logarithmic map of the universe

Both time and distance start at the left (with Earth as "the center"), and extend out to the right...  Very coolSaul Steinberg New Yorker cover  The NY Times has an essay...  (Reminiscent of the Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover :)

Queen Mary 2The QM2 sets sail!  "The world's largest cruise ship, Queen Mary 2, set sail for the United States on its maiden voyage Monday, carrying 2,600 passengers who paid up to $48,000 for the privilege."  A throwback, but a delightful one!

Wow.  Kodak has stopped selling film cameras in the U.S.  "The move comes amid Kodak's controversial plan to focus on high-growth digital products, such as medical imaging systems, and reduce dependence on its declining film business."

John Gruber thinks the HP/Apple iPod deal is BIG.  And he makes a solid case.

Scoble posted a nice rant about Microsoft's whining.  "Start a weblog, for instance, instead of talking to"  Heh.

Marc Cantor:  Today has been a hell of a day.  Now it is tomorrow and my birthday.  Two birthdays in a row - the rest of my lifeCongratulations!

Mark Pilgrim proposes a great thought experiment.  "Here’s the thing: that wasn't a thought experiment; it all really happened...  The client is the wrong place to enforce data integrity. It’s just the wrong place."

the Vos PadIs this the apartment look of the future?  Here we have the Vos Pad, a futuristic apartment lit solely by LEDs.  Looks very cool.

Finally, Xiaochun Li, a mechanical engineering professor and laser expert from the University of Wisconsin at Madison has figured out a better way to slice cheese - just use a laser.  "At any other university, people would have just laughed.  But this is Wisconsin.  It's cheese.  And this is no laughing matter."


Wednesday,  01/14/04  11:14 PM

Muslim Wakeup on Fast-Food Islam.  Or why Wahabism is the McDonalds of religion.  Interesting stuff, I learned a lot from this article.  [ via BigWig, in a post titled "Ronald McJihad" ]

CNN: Supreme Court takes up air and water pollution cases.  "The Supreme Court was told Wednesday that Southern California's smog problem calls for rules stricter than national standards for vehicles that pollute the region."  Excellent.

Oh, and the Economist wonders if Arnold Schwarzenegger is A Green in Wolf's Clothing?  "Mr Schwarzenegger has gone far beyond the usual 'greenwash' of politicians. His platform is stuffed with specific proposals for protecting the state's forests, improving air and water quality, and dramatically expanding the use of renewable energy."

Spirit is Ready to Roll!  "Engineers cut the last cable tying Spirit to the lander that delivered it to Mars, and took the rover for a short spin -- a 25-centimeter (1 foot) roll backwards and a clockwise pivot of 45 degrees."

And I'm sure you saw this already: Bush Unveils Vision for Moon and Beyond.  "Saying 'the desire to explore and understand is part of our character,' President Bush Wednesday unveiled an ambitious plan to return Americans to the moon by 2020 and use the mission as a steppingstone for future manned trips to Mars and beyond."  Great stuff, although as I noted earlier I wish the emphasis was more on exploration and less on manned exploration.

Bruce Tognazzini, founder of Apple's Human Interface Group and all-around usability guru, takes a look at Panther (Mac OS 10.3).  "For a long time, people have been writing me, asking that I do an in depth review of OS X.  I held off because I really didn't think OS X was ready for prime time.  That's all changed.  OS X, in the form of the Panther release, is more than ready."  Really interesting and thoughtful article, please check it out!

I hope Apple engineers read this, too; his suggestions are right on the mark.

Samsung personal video playerGizmodo has a nice post-CES review of personal video players.  No videoPod yet, but plenty of other companies are making these things...  Question is, is there a market for them?

Matt Haughey wonders the same thing...

URU screenshotAlwaysOn reviews URU: Ages Beyond Myst.  "I suggest anyone who needs a break from reality pick up this $50 game and heed the advice of the game makers: 'Close the door, turn down the lights, turn up the volume, and experience URU as if you were actually there...  And remember the journey is the reward.'"  I have it (birthday present from my kids!) but haven't played it yet.  Too much blogging!

There are lots of game screenshots on the URU website...

Jess Jarvis notes "Every damned car stereo should have an input plug on the front so we could plug in our MP3 players and phones (it would make my Treo into a speaker phone) and whatever else comes down the electronic pike.  It would be so damned simple and cheap.  But no."  I totally agree.  Unfortunately my car is thirteen years old; long before MP3 players and Treos were imagined.  But even today's cars don't have this...  why?  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Dave Winer wonders should you always give a user what they want?  His answer is no, and he goes on to observe "The reason we have XML is so we don't have to scrape HTML.  If the XML becomes as hard to deal with as the HTML, then we might as well just scrape the HTML."  I used to scrape HTML - a lot - and it wasn't pretty.

Sam Ruby quotes Tim Bray:  "When you're explaining something to somebody and they don't get it, that’s not their problem, it’s your problem; When someone’s explaining something to you and you're not getting it, it’s not your problem, it’s their problem."  Could you explain that again, please?  :)


Thursday,  01/15/04  10:45 PM

Spirit rolls off landerHey, Spirit is free!  It has rolled off the lander platform and now has its six wheels sitting in Martian dirt.  "JPL engineers played Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out" in the control room as they watched new images confirming that the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit successfully rolled off its lander platform early Thursday morning."  The picture at right is a look back at the lander platform; note the tracks in the dirt.

Joshua Marshall discusses a poll which shows Kerry leading Dean in Iowa.  "Dean's support is falling -- not precipitously, but measurably -- and at least some Dean supporters appear to be going to his near rivals in each state.

By the way, Josh's Talking Points Memo is a great blog - check it out if you haven't already...

So, it is freezing cold in the Northeast U.S..  A bad time for Al Gore to make a speech blaming George Bush for global warming?  As Citizen Smash notes, "this stuff defies parody".

CNet reports CinemaNow debuts download-to-own movies.  This is going to be big.

Art Museum, Graz, Austria

Check out this Art Museum, in Graz, Austia!  Wow!  I love it when Architecture becomes Sculpture.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Have you read about bloggers who track reporters?  Dave Winer thinks that a bad idea...  "It would be much better to track the candidates by issues, rather than watching reporters.  What you'll find out when you track reporters is that they aren't doing their job.  This has very limited value."

Yahoo has an article about Windows of the Future.  "The exotic windows resemble those you'd see in a normal house — until they change colors or start showing you the latest 'Friends' episode.  The windows are fitted with a microfiber LCD screen, which can make them opaque or display light from a television projector.  The computer monitor is fully integrated into the window, allowing it to receive and display information without projection."  That would be cool.  Does anyone doubt this will happen?  What a great time to be alive...

Robert Scoble notes today is Personal Firewall DayYou do have a personal firewall, don't you?

Lego has issued a press release stating that their Mindstorms robots will not be discontinued.  Whew!

Han Solo frozen in carbonite - in lego!Here we haveHan Solo frozen in carbonite - made from lego!  Pretty amazing.  [ via BigWig ]



Saturday,  01/17/04  11:03 PM

Always on hosts Bill Gurley interviewing Michael Dell.  "Gurley: Everybody in the world has heard about the Dell model.  It’s become a metaphor for a very well-run supply chain.  The question I'm most curious about: was it intentional?  Dell: [Laughs.]  Did we think all this up or did we just get really lucky?  Gurley: Well, along the way you might have fine-tuned it, but did you know early on about the economic benefits of the model?  Dell: No."  Very interesting, check it out.

The Essential Library, courtesy of godless.  Very difficult to argue with any of these; I've read most of them and some of them are among my favorites.  If I had to pick one, it would be The Selfish Gene, and if I had to pick another, it would be The Blank Slate.  Some light winter reading :)

These guys say Every OS Sucks.  A funny fake cable show.  [ via Scoble ]

Mazda transformer car!
(click to activate)

The Mazda transformer car!  I want one.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

You know how I hate patents, particular tech patents?  Well Simon Willison says this could be the most ludicrous tech patent yet.  "What is claimed is:  1. A method for assigning URL's and e-mail addresses to members of a group."  You have got to be kidding.

CNet reports Oops!  They're Swapping Again.  "Illegal music downloading could be making a comeback, according to market researchers who note a surge in the use of peer-to-peer services."  Time for the RIAA to initiate more lawsuits?  Or will they figure it out?  Nah.

Paul Thurrot flies in the face of conventional wisdom, and thinks HP's iPod moves could hurt the industry.  I disagree; seems like a de facto standard is helpful.  Consumers want choice in products and features, not choice in internal formats.

For you browser nerds, Mozilla 1.6 is out.  I haven't tried it.  I must confess I kind of lost interest in Mozilla, now that Google's toolbar blocks pop-ups in Internet Explorer there just isn't any reason to shop around.

Although Tristan Louis has a modest browser proposal; why doesn't Microsoft drop IE altogether and adopt Mozilla?  Yeah, like that would happen :)  Sam Ruby is hosting a nice comment thread on this.

And while we're talking about browsers, remember Favorites?  I do.  But I never use them anymore; seems like RSS and SharpReader have completely replaced Favorite-based surfing.

Heck, even PRNewsWire is offering RSS feeds.

Tim Bray is a self-proclaimed Open-Source Person.  Notes from his job hunt...

Dude! Check this out.  Yeah, it's a new website called "Dude! Check this out."  How recursive.  Hey, check it out!  [ via Scoble ]


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!


Monday,  01/19/04  10:39 PM

Man, it is busy out there!  It's all happening...

So let me start tonight with Kerry's (and Edward's!) victories over Dean in Iowa.  They say Iowans don't pick the winner, but they prune the field.  So Gephardt is out, and Dean has lost momentum, if not the race.

Doc Searles, who is an ardent Dean supporter, lets the roots speak.  The results, and the emotions.  He also observes "The best looking candidates won in Iowa...  Kerry and Edwards aren't just the best looking candidates, but the best-talking ones as well.  They are practiced and excellent public speakers.  As message delivery boys, they hit the porch every time.  Dean is an okay speaker.  He's not great."  Is communication important?  Yes.

It is pretty tough to follow "everything" in a campaign these days; Taegan Goddard posted this wonderful quote from Michael Barone: "In the 1980s, I believed that you could cover a presidential election from five rooms--the morning meetings of the two campaigns, where the day's message was set, and the afternoon meetings of the three networks, where executives decided what part of that message would make the evening news...  But today you couldn't cover the 2004 fall campaign from 100 rooms.  Too much of it will be going on over back fences and on the Internet."

Dave Winer premiered an RSS feed for political junkies following Dean: Channel Dean.

My favorite way to follow the campaign is The Command Post, which has a 2004 Presidential Election feed.  What a wonderful resource.  I love comparing their timeliness and accuracy against "big media"; they are consistently better.

Martin Luther King Day.  Doc Searles posted a picture of a plaque with this quote:  "Through our scientific genius, we have made this world a neighborhood; now, through our moral and spiritual development, we must make of it a brotherhood.  In a real sense, we must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools."  Amen.

Did you know 35 countries have troops in Iraq?  Unilateral action, eh?

Steven Den Beste lauds Japan as an unsung ally.  "Japan has emerged as the second most reliable ally we have."  Who would have thought...

As I was spacing out the other day, I noted a difficulty of manned space missions lies in the need for return. contemplates the Helium-3 found on the moon.  "Helium 3 fusion energy may be the key to future space exploration and settlement."  It could be a "cash crop", or merely fuel for a return voyage, or a trip to Mars...

Yahoo!is cheering again, as are their shareholders; AlwaysOn reports Yahoo emerging from dot-com gloom.  "Yahoo's comeback represents another hopeful sign for the high-tech industry.  As more people get high-speed Internet connections in their homes and invest in portable devices to stay online, tech leaders also are reporting higher profits."  I don't use Yahoo nearly as much as I used to, thanks to Google, but they have a huge variety of useful services.

Apropos, the NYTimes reports Television Commercials Come to the Web.  "Beginning tomorrow, more than a dozen Web sites will run full-motion video commercials in a six-week test that some analysts and online executives say could herald the start of a new era of Internet advertising."  Yuk.  How soon before someone builds a free tool to disable them?

Joi Ito links some excellent articles on writing, including this one: Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do).  Really great stuff.

Ottmar Liebert ponders the difference between Musiker and Musikant ("craftsman" and "artist").  "Think of a musician who plays only cover tunes...  Not art, but a lot of craft.  On the other hand a punk guitarist who knows only two or three chords may be an artist because of his vision.  Not a lot of craft, but art.  Very tricky, this stuff, isn't it?"  Then there is Ottmar himself, who is both :)

OpenSynth Neko64 synthesizerIs this the musical instrument of the future?  The OpenSynth Neko64 has a music keyboard, and a computer keyboard.  With dual AMD 64-bit Opterons, 64MB of memory, and MIDI interfaces.  And it runs Windows.

Vertical Hold wonders about Radiohead's desire that their albums be played all in one piece.  "My CD player has a random feature. Am I allowed to listen to the Radiohead album on random play?  If my house were to catch on fire while I was listening to the Radiohead album, would I be allowed to escape certain death if it meant not hearing the whole album?"  If they regard the album as one piece, why not release it that way?  On the other hand, few people play the movements in Vivaldi's Four Seasons out of order.

I love Adam Curry's Quote of the Day series.  Yesterday's was from Eric Hoffer: "You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."  Indeed.Big Hair!

More Adam: He notes Big Hair is back!  You have been warned...

And finally, the Joke of the Day, courtesy of Citizen Smash: The Cow from Minsk.


The Grand Canyon of Mars

Monday,  01/19/04  11:46 PM

The ESA's Mars Express orbiter has begun taking some phenomenal high-resolution photos of Mars.  This image shows a region of Valles Marineris ("the Grand Canyon").

Valles Marineris (the Grand Canyon of Mars)

(click image for full-size interactive viewer)

Be sure to hit F11 to maximize your browser's window so you can see as much of the image as possible.

As usual, I upsampled the image and am serving it with Aperio's image server software.


Blog Holiday

Saturday,  01/31/04  10:13 AM

Whew.  12 days without posting.  Sorry.

First, I'm fine.  Thanks to all of you who emailed asking if everything was okay.  Second, I will start blogging again, probably tonight.  Thanks to all of you who emailed saying you missed me!

I've been heads' down cranking out code for customer delivery.  It is crunch time at Aperio - after two years of development we have finally begun shipping production systems in quantity.  (Well, "quantity" is relative - we're not talking hundreds here, but more than onesies and twosies :)  We now have a ScanScope device which can scan a rack of 120 microscope slides reliably in about 10 hours - 5 minutes per slide - completely unattended.  You put in your slides, go home, and come in the next day with beautiful high-quality in-focus images waiting for your inspection.  Awesome.

We've also been doing a lot on the software front, so there are things you can do with these "virtual slides".  Of course we have a terrific viewing application, which zooms and pans smoothly through these massive images (typically around 5GB of image data!).  The viewer supports a cool annotation facility.  We have remote viewing over IP networks, so you can do "telepathology".  And multiple people can join together in one viewing session, so everyone's viewing is synchronized, including annotations.

We also have a really cool flash-based web viewer.  So you can view virtual slides remotely on any computer without installing software.  Remember, these are multi-GB images!

And the coolest thing of all - my focus, pun intended - is our pattern recognition software.  I'll probably blog about that some more in the coming days, as we begin rolling that out.

For more info, you might like this post about Aperio's mission.

I didn't plan it this way, but it was actually good to have a brief blogging holiday.  Please, stay tuned...


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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?