Critical Section

Archive: June, 20

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the Graduate

Saturday,  06/12/04  12:41 PM

Congratulations, Jordan!Congratulations, Jordan, you did it!

I just want to say how proud I am of my daughter Jordan, who graduated from High School last night.  Amazing to think she's almost 18 now, and off to College.  Seems like only yesterday she was a tiny kid running around at high speed, interesting in everything.  Well she's still tiny (sorry!), she still runs around at high speed (in a car), and is still interesting in everything (especially boys men).  But she's not a kid anymore.  We're really really proud of you, Jordan, and wish you the best in the next phase of your life.

The high school commencement at Agoura High School was really well done.  Two of the students spoke, and I must say I thought they were great, mixing just the right amount of gravitas, humor, nostalgia, and optimism.  One of the speakers noted that this was one of those moments which occur in every life, that forever divide before and after.  I'm trying to remember my high school graduation - now 30 years past - and I guess that's right; I don't exactly remember the details of the graduation itself, but graduating from high school was definitely an inflection point in my life, marking the moment when I left my parent's house and went out on my own.  You might even say it's the point at which teens have to stop pretending to be adults, and start actually being adults.  (Although thinking about my college days, it isn't clear we actually acted like adults :)

This time is an inflection point for my other kids, too; Alexis moves on to middle school next year (6th grade), leaving Megan alone in elementary school (2nd grade).  It's such a cliché but yes, they do grow up so fast.  And I couldn't be prouder of them, too; each with perfect report cards (please excuse a little parental chest beating) and each on their way to being fine young women like their older sisters.

I couldn't help wiping a tear from my eyes as I listened and watched.  The principal made note of the amazing events which took place in the world during these kids high school careers - Y2K, 9/11, two countries invaded, the economic boom, bust, and recovery.  It isn't hyperbolic to suggest this was one of those times in the world's life, which will forever divide before and after.



Saturday,  06/12/04  01:35 PM

Yeah, so I'm back, sorry for the radio silence.  I have much to write about, and will try to catch up.  Actually I have so much to write about, it is daunting; I feel like I have to write about everything, which will take forever, and I don't have forever (in fact I don't have any time at all), so I don't write anything.  A vicious cycle.  Fortunately the need to congratulate Jordan broke the logjam, and I can start dribbling out updates - please stay tuned.

Earlier this year I faced a similar gap - that one was six weeks, this one was four - and I responded with a massive catch-up post.  Perhaps this time I'll try filtering more strongly - you don't really need me for the daily news, now do you - and catch up gradually.


Windows video conferencing?

Saturday,  06/12/04  02:31 PM

Does anyone have comments about Windows-based video conferencing systems?  I'd like to have an iChatAV setup, but for Windows laptops.  If you have comments or suggestions, please email me.  Suggestions to buy a Mac are not helpful :)

iSight cameraP.S. I understand people have been able to use Apple's iSight camera as a firewire device under Windows, but that's only part of the solution; in addition to a camera, you need a microphone, and most crucially videoconferencing software.



under God

Saturday,  06/12/04  03:27 PM

Did you know it is easy to send email to the President, Senators, and Congressman who represent you?  It is!  Simply go to this website, select your state, and then enter your mailing address.  You can send email letters to any or all of your elected leaders.

I discovered this recently in attempting to write my Senators (Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer), and Congressman (Elton Gallegly) regarding the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming ruling on inclusion of the phrase "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance.  Now that I know about this website, they're going to be receiving a lot of mail from me.  Of course I have no idea if they will actually read it - I assume they gave staffers which filter their mail - but perhaps my voice will not go completely unheeded.

By the way, here is what I wrote:

Dear [Appropriate Salutation Will Be Inserted Here]:

I am contacting my members of Congress regarding an issue of concern to me.

I am concerned about the tone of debate surrounding the "'Under God' in Pledge of Allegiance" issue.

I am personally opposed to ANY religious references in National traditions.  I am not an atheist, but I think there is strong value to the separation of church and state envisioned by our Country's founders, and codified in our Constitution.

More important than my view on the issue itself, I am really concerned by the knee-jerk reaction of many politicians to this issue.  Rather than engaging in legitimate debate, people have rushed to deride the Ninth Circuit Court's decision, and the citizen who raised this issue, Dr. Newdow. (I often disagree strongly with the Ninth, but not this time.)

Although the founders of our Country clearly intended a strong division between church and state, over time the predominantly Christian background of America's leaders has allowed a default religious ethic to creep into America's traditions.  Phrases like "in God we trust" on our currency and "under God" in our pledge of allegiance don't raise eyebrows, because most Americans are Christians and believe such phrases to be appropriate.  Even Americans with other religious traditions such as Jews and Muslims believe in a God, so they can feel these traditions are consistent with their own views.

My point is not that there could be zero Gods or more than one God, nor that there are Americans who are excluded by references to a God.  (Although these are true statements.)  My point is that such issues are religious, and as such should have no place whatsoever in the traditions of our secular government.

I urge you first and foremost to give these issues serious and scholarly consideration, rather than reacting based on emotion.  I urge you furthermore to make decisions on these issues based on what is right, based on our Constitution and the fundamental separation of church and state we cherish as Americans.  Your constituents will most likely disagree with this position, since they are predominantly Christians who would view removal of references to God from our Country's traditions as negative.  I suggest that this is an area where our country's leaders must lead, by establishing a neutral moral tone and deciding issues based on logic, rather than blindly following the popular opinion.

Thank you most sincerely for your attention,

Ole Eichhorn


unused keys

Saturday,  06/12/04  06:24 PM

Have you ever wondered about all the unused keys on your keyboard?

Compaq Evo keyboard

I've been using computers for about 35 years now, and all through that time, keyboards have been remarkably similar.  Keypunch machines, teletypes, dumb terminals, system console, PCs, Macs, Sun workstations, and now laptops - they're all very similar.  You have a "standard" QWERTY setup with four rows of keys with the alphabetic and numeric characters.  You have a space bar, two shift keys, a return, etc.  The ASCII special characters are always pretty much in the same place, except for maybe the weirder ones like backslash and pipe ("|").  But - and this is the thing - there are always keys you don't use.  In fact, they are mostly keys you don't even notice.

On my laptop, at this moment, there are several: scroll lock (?), pause/break, caps lock, "Windows", and "Menu" (shaded pink above).  I believe scroll lock is completely unused, and if pause/break has a purpose, I am unaware of it.  Caps lock's only purpose is to get accidentally pushed, which means I have to push it again to disable it.  (WHO USES ALL CAPS ANYMORE?)  The Windows key is always in a different place on every keyboard, and I'm just not used to it; I know what it does (it brings up the Start menu), but if I need to do that I just, er, click Start.  And the Menu key is new to me on this laptop; I see what it does (essentially a right-click), but have no use for it.

As well, most keyboard these days feature twelve function keys (shaded blue).  There are probably programs which use most or all of them, but I don't use any of them, not even F1 which is mostly but not always Help.  As for shifted function keys, forget it; who could possibly remember all that?  As a counterpoint to those who think I'm hopelessly mouse-centric, I generally prefer keyboard shortcuts to mousing and love CLIs.

And then - there is a weird convention shared among laptop manufacturers that laptop-specific hardware functions be invoked via a Function key (shaded orange).  For example, on my laptop, Function-F2 toggles WiFi, and Function-F4 changes the monitor mode.  These functions are mnemonically indicated, so they're easy to use, but that Function key in the lower left corner throws me off - I expect the Control key to be there.  Since I use a laptop-specific function about once a month, how about putting the Function key in the upper right corner instead, and while you're at it, get rid of the pause/break key altogether?

[ Later: Several of you wrote to point out something really interesting I should have thought of; which keys are missing?  The main missing key is Help, which should have been added at time zero.  These days Mac keyboards have +/- keys for adjusting volume, and another for Mute.  Many laptops have these functions as buttons which are separate from the keyboard.  Those are pretty useful.  Any others?  ]

[ Later still: I received some good feedback, please see more unused keys... ]


Journey through the center of the Earth

Saturday,  06/12/04  07:20 PM

Here's today's thought experiment:

Imagine a perfectly straight hole drilled through the Earth, passing directly through the center.  Now imaging falling into this hole.  What would happen?

[ Later: here's the answer... ]


La Semana

Saturday,  06/12/04  09:40 PM

Ottmar Liebert - La SemanaToday is the big day - Ottmar Liebert's new album La Semana has been released!  Available as a standard CD or in a special limited edition, with special packaging signed by OL.

I've been listening to these tracks for a month now, and I assure you they are wonderful.  Check out Carrousel (RealAudio stream)!

(daa daa da da daa, da duh da duh da duh daaa...)


Saturday,  06/12/04  11:01 PM

So this is first attempt at catching up since resurfacing.  We'll see what happens :)

"Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts."
Ronald Reagan

So "Dutch" has died.  I can't add much to the mounds of things which have been written to eulogize him; he was a great man and President, and his place in history seems secure.  I found it particularly poignant to read Lech Walesa's tribute in the WSJ; it seems amazing that it was only 20 years ago that communism was such a force in Eastern Europe, and in the World.

Amazingly, I was actually at the Ronald Reagan library on June 4, the day before he died.  My daughter's 5th grade class was participating in a Constitutional debate, "We the People", held on the library grounds.  I passed through the museum, and stopped at a display commemorating Reagan's first challenge as President: the Patco strike (air-traffic controllers).  Reagan summarily fired the striking workers, and in so doing he not only ended a disruptive (and illegal) strike, he also served notice to the world of the kind of President they were dealing with: "I said what I meant, and I meant what I said".  He went on to prove this many times, as in his exhortation to Mikhail Gorbechev: "tear down this wall".

I am struck by two things among the remembrances; first, that Reagan was a man of principle, and second, that he was modest and gentle.  It would be better if today's men of principle were the same, our present President included...

Other Serious Business:

  • Gary Kasparov: Stop the Moral Equivalence.  "It is said that to win a battle you must be the one to choose the battleground."  A great strategic thinker, in chess and in life.  [ via LGF ]
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a 75% tax on punitive damages.  Excellent.  That's tort reform.
  • More Arnold doings, Moody's Upgrades California.  He's doing good things.  Optimism and confidence work.
  • Bill Cosby speaks the truth.  "In the presence of NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and other African-American leaders, comedian Bill Cosby took aim at blacks who don't take responsibility for their economic status, blame police for incarcerations and teach their kids poor speaking habits."  Wow.  And people are not happy about it.  More from GNXP and Acidman, who notes: "Have you ever noticed that he can do a one-hour comedy routine, have the audience rolling in the aisles and NEVER use the word 'm*th*rf*ck*r'?"  I had noticed that.
  • Glenn Reynolds on the SAT: "My sense is that hostility to the SAT stems from the fact that it does exactly what it was designed to do - it makes it harder for college administrators to discriminate in admissions."  Exactly.

Space and Science:

  • The Hubble Telescope and new Webb Telescope as time machines: Peering Back at the Universe's Past.  Really makes you think that time is the fourth dimension.
  • The Mars rovers are on a new mission.  "The two interplanetary Energizer bunnies, NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers, keep going and going.  The pair of robotic explorers are now well into their extended missions on the surface of Mars."  Opportunity is being sent into the steep Endurance crater, from which it may never come out.  Meanwhile Spirit is on the road again, a month-and-a-half trek over two kilometers to the Columbia Hills.
  • The Riemann hypothesis may have been solved.  This long-standing conjecture is pretty inaccessible to those of us who aren't mathematicians ("The Riemann hypothesis asserts that all interesting solutions of the the Riemann Zeta function: z(s) = 0 lie on a straight line"), but one consequence is that there are infinitely many prime pairs p, p+2.  Most feel the hypothesis is true, but many also feel it is unprovable, but that the unprovability is unprovable.  (paging Kurt Gödel.)  Mathworld reports the proof is false.
  • SETI@Home logoWow, so SETI@home has turned five!  And I've been a user for five years; I've donated 125 years of computing time so far.  Wow.  No ET yet, but the search continues...
  • AlwaysOn: The Robot Business Sucks.  Pun intended.
  • The Scientist: Arnold Beckman dies at 104.  "The son of a blacksmith, Beckman created instruments that are now employed in virtually every laboratory across the globe, then used his fortune to up the pace of basic research."  The CalTech legend began his career by designing a pH meter for measuring the acidity of California lemons.
  • Hey, a new dinosaur! ...and it stumps scientists.  "The 50-foot-long sauropod has a number of distinguishing features, but the most striking is this second hole in its skull, a feature we have never seen before in a North American dinosaur."  You've got to love that...  it couldn't be a gunshot wound :)
  • Oh, and Chimps are not like Humans.  "The difference is 'much more complicated that we initially imagined or speculated'."  So be it.
  • And this explains a lot: Brains Cannot Process Two Tasks in Parallel.  "It's readily apparent that handling two things at once is much harder than handling one thing at a time.  Spend too much time trying to juggle more than one objective and you'll end up wanting to get rid of all your goals besides sleeping."  Um, is sleeping a goal?
  • We recently passed the 50th anniversary of Alan Turing's death.  This remarkable man was responsible for many of the foundations of Computer Science.  In a landmark 1950 paper he begins "I propose to investigate the question, 'can machines think'", and went on to found the field of Artificial Intelligence.  To this day "Turing Machine" and "the Turing Test" are crucial concepts in the science of AI.  Sadly he committed suicide at age 42 because his homosexuality was not accepted.  The world has grown in many ways since.

Life and Stuff

  • The Da Vinci Code was a fun book, but was it real?  Uh, no, but apparently a lot of people thought so.  And comments by Dan Brown, the author, that he left out the most controversial part have Catholics in a spin.  C'mon, it's a novel.
  • Remember the missing Stradivarius cello?  Well, it's been found.  Yippee.
  • robot protest! proposes a robot protest.  Be sure to check out the comment thread :)
  • PVRBlog notes: Tivo killed the rerun.  "Apparently, a sizable number of PVR owners are impacting their bottom line as their recorders automatically pass over old episodes."  Well, yeah.
  • I really liked Harry Potter, and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  I liked the first two, too, but this one was my favorite so far.  The effects were less intrusive but cooler (the marauder's map was excellent), and the kids were cooler and more kid-like, too.  Looks like this series does too have legs, which is great news.
  • Ottmar Liebert muses before La Semana was released:  "It has been a very hard year for us and frankly, if 'La Semana' doesn't bring a turn-around, I will spend 2005 to think of something new to do with my life.  Maybe become a resident guitarist in a hotel on the coast of Mexico?"  A great excuse for a Mexican vacation :)
  • What do you think is safer, a Mini or a Ford F150?  Check out these pictures, then revisit your opinion.  [ via Scoble ]
  • Jos Leys strange attactorHere we have 3D Kleinian Groups.  Fractals made by Jos Leys from strange attractors which are, um, strangely attractive.
  • Eric Sink is posting a great series based on The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, the classic book from Al Ries and Jack Trout.  Check them all out, it's great stuff.
  • GNXP's Razib visited his native Bangladesh, and posted this remarkable report on their culture.  It is amazing to realize how different cultures around the world are from our own.  Please check it out!
  • The Incredibles Wired: Welcome to Planet Pixar.  "By any standards, Pixar Animation Studios has reached infinity and beyond.  From 1995's Toy Story - the world's first all-CG feature - to last year's Finding Nemo, Pixar's five hermetically crafted movies have grossed a staggering $2.5 billion at the box office, making it the most successful film studio, picture for picture, of all time."  They'll have to do something pretty incredible for an encore :)
  • Diet Coke with limeI really like the new Diet Coke with Lime.  So there.

Computers and Electronics:

  • Samsung 46" LCD TVI'm drooling; Samsung has released a 46" LCD TV, with a resolution of 1920x1080.  Okay, it's $10K.  But wow.
  • Here's a great slashdot thread: Worst Explanation from Tech Support?  "Uh, it looks like the bytes are getting through to you ok, but the bits are getting stuck someplace."  I love it.
  • This is amazing and terrible: Clear Channel has patented selling Live CDs after a Concert.  Think "business method" patents haven't gone too far?  Unbelievable.  [ via Ottmar Liebert, who comments "Next they'll give out patents for breathing on Thursdays with your head turned East".  Check out the comment thread on his blog, too. ]
  • localhost doormatOkay, you're a geek if you think this doormat is funny.  Thanks, Adam.
  • Steve Gillmor: Gates Paying Attention to RSS.  "Bill Gates finally speaks the 'R' word as he highlights the increasingly strategic role of RSS in Microsoft's seamless computing direction."  Even Google seems to be using the 'R' word, at least internally.  And Sam Ruby suggests Détente.
  • Brian Storms wonders Where have all the Users gone?  "I was astonished to see what the trends are in the past six months, for many of the sites I visit.  In a word, the trend is down."  Wow, can this be right?  [ via Doc Searles ]
  • Mark Andreessen considers web progress.  "First it was email, then web, then IM, then Napster/ Kazaa, then Apple iChat, now RSS.  One thing after another."  (italics are mine.)  [ via Dave Winer ]
  • Mac desktop for your PCPeter Rojas explains How to turn your PC into a Mac.  "So, you wanna make your ugly Windows XP interface look like Mac OS X, huh?  It's really not all that difficult to do, and with a little luck, you'll be able to convince all but the most die-hard Mac users that you run an Apple computer."  Cool.  I'm going to try this, but not on my main laptop :)
  • I'm sure you saw where Apple announced AirPort Express and AirTunes, hardware and software allowing music to be streamed wirelessly from your Mac to your stereo.  Pretty cool.  And now there's speculation that the next move is a wireless iPod, which will serve as a remote control and music source.  Excellent.
  • This is pretty big, if expected: Tivo Breaks into Home Networks.  "TV watchers can now connect their basic TiVo Series2 DVR to a home network and share content between two or more TiVo boxes in the same household, schedule recordings using the Internet, play music and view digital photos -- all features previously available with the company's home media option for an added fee."  I've always thought the RJ45 jack was more important than the Coax jack, looks like Tivo is starting to agree.

So, that's what happened.  One giant catch-up post.  Whew.


more unused keys

Sunday,  06/13/04  11:14 AM

Yesterday I considered the unused keys on my keyboard.  I got quite a bit of feedback - thanks! - and wanted to follow up.

Many people pointed out that the Windows key has other uses besides Start:

  • Windows-E - launch Explorer
  • Windows-R - launch Run command line
  • Windows-D - toggle minimize all (show desktop / restore all windows)
  • Windows-F - find files
  • Windows-Tab - cycle through buttons on taskbar
  • Windows-L - change users

Okay, I admit it; those are pretty useful.  The Windows key isn't quite in the same catagory as Scroll Lock.  I guess I'll have to force myself to use it, and after a while it will become second nature.

Speaking of Scroll Lock, Liron Shapira pointed me to Scroll Lock is the most Unappreciated Key.  I definitely don't appreciate it :)

As far as useful keys which are missing, here's the consensus list:

  • Help - definitely missing.  If F1 were consistently supported that would be okay, too.
  • Copy, Cut, Paste - really useful.
  • Undo - also really useful.

What's cool about this is that an enterprising keyboard manufacturer could add these keys without requiring any software support, simply wire it so Help=F1, Copy=Ctrl-C, Cut=Ctrl-X, Paste=Ctrl-V, and Undo=Ctrl-Z.

Finally, a correspondent proposed a "blog this" key.  Now that would be useful!



(new yorker, 6/6/04)

Sunday,  06/13/04  12:22 PM

what I did on my summer vacation - a prequel

So, what are you planning for this summer :)


Sunday,  06/13/04  11:19 PM

Was it just me, or was tonight's Lakers - Pistons game the most poorly and one-sidedly officiated game you have ever seen?  I don't want to imply it was the only reason the Lakers lost, but man, that was terrible.  Let's hope a different crew shows up for game 5 Tuesday night.

Another wildfire photo - of the Korean peninsula.  Many more in the North than in the South.  Amazing.

Korean wildfires

Dave Winer has started a site for RSS users: Really Simple Syndication.  If you're interested in RSS but have questions, this is the place to start.  You might also check out my RSS cookbook for a quick way to get started.

Speaking of RSS, Robert Scoble comments on the politics of RSS vs. Atom, and Microsoft's role.  You might also check out the comment thread on his blog - some great discussion (and some minor flaming, too :)

Watts reports LA's Cultural Affairs Department has scraped together enough money to keep the guided tours of the Watts towers going.  These towers, built by Simon Rodia between 1921 and 1954 from whatever junk was lying around, are unique and amazing.  If you're ever in L.A. check 'em out - and it looks like you can still take a guided tour.

Roger Dean - "September"The other day Halley posted about album covers - you know, the packaging for those one-foot round plastic discs called "records" we used to play music.  Anyway it reminded me of the great Yes album cover art from Roger Dean - a perfect combination of Fantasy and Heavy Metal, best viewed when under chemically altered conditions.  So I decided to see if Roger was on the web, and he is!  Check out this Flash presentation for a great flavor of the Yes albums...  I only wish they were higher resolution.

Here's an interesting theory from FuturePundit: Beauty and Brains often come together.  "Brainy men use their greater intellectual abilities to achieve economic status to enable them to mate with beautiful women and this is selecting for beauty-brain hybrids."  I believe this, in fact, I think beauty may be a genetic marker which physically indicates brains for purposes of sexual selection.  No wonder I'm attracted to beautiful women :)

Harbin ice festivalHarbin ice festivalCheck this out!  Amazing photographs from R. Todd King taken from the ice festival in Harbin, China.  "The temperature in Harbin reaches forty below zero, both farenheit and centigrade, and stays below freezing nearly half the year.  The city is actually further north than notoriously cold Vladivostok, Russia, just 300 miles away.  So what does one do here every winter?  Hold an outdoor festival, of course!  Rather than suffer the cold, the residents of Harbin celebrate it, with an annual festival of snow and ice sculptures and competitions.
Sorry but I have to say it; this is cool.


more under God

Monday,  06/14/04  07:44 AM

The other day I noted my objection to the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.  I don't hold this view that strongly nor is it something I feel is particularly important to settle.  My main concern was that lawmakers seemed to be emotionally overreacting on this issue instead of treating it as a legitimate test of the constitutionality of blending church and state.

Well, the Supreme Court has ruled, and they essentially wimped out.  The case was dismissed because the plaintiff, Dr. Michael Newdow, did not have sufficient custody of his daughter to represent her in this action.  They did not speak to the central issue of whether a national tradition like the Pledge of Allegiance could or should contain references to religious deities.

So be it.  I imagine this will merely open the door to another challenge at a later time.  Perhaps it is just as well, we hardly need another issue to divide the country right now, and this would have been far from the most important...


Monday,  06/14/04  11:43 PM

If you're an L.A. driver, check out this great interactive traffic map.  Best of all, it works perfectly on my Treo 600 (in "wide mode").  This is great!  [ via Jason D - thanks! ]

I have a little Pioneer GPS map in my car - I've often thought the killer application would be live traffic updates for the GPS map.  A two-way service, you get traffic updates in exchange for telemetry from your car reporting on traffic (essentially, your position and velocity).  Great recurring revenue business which could ride on the two-way paging networks.  I'd subscribe!

zoetrope subway adsCult of Mac reports on cool zoetrope ads being used in Tokyo subways.  The idea is to put a whole bunch of images on the subway walls adjacent to each other, and as the subway passes them you see a movie, kind of like thumbing through the pages in a flip book.  What a cool idea!

Congratulations to Dave Winer for two years of non-smoking.  Wow.  Glad you're still with us, Dave, and not just for your excellent blogging.

Time Magazine: Meet Joe Blog.  I always think of Dave Winer as Joe Blog :)

This is interesting, AlwaysOn reports Starz has partnered with RealNetworks to provide a video-on-demand service.  $13/month for unlimited movies.  This is the first time someone has tried a subscription model for VOD over the 'net, I predict it will work.

And here comes news that Netflix is planning video-on-demand in 2005.  Not surprising.  I always thought of Netflix as a nice service based on transitional technology; they must realize the future of movie distribution is online, and they want to be part of it.

SnapperMailI'm now using SnapperMail 2.0 (beta) on my Treo 600.  Not an earth-shattering upgrade, but nice.  In fact, I like nice; I didn't have to re-learn a whole new UI or anything, it is just better in a few important ways.  If you have a Treo 600 this is the application to use for email.  In fact, if you don't have a Treo 600 you might want to get one just so you can run SnapperMail :)

water cooling for new Apple PowerMac G5Have you seen the new Apple PowerMacs?  Water cooled!  Dual 2.5GHz on the high end.  In addition to the performance improvements, the other new thing is a faster DVD burner - now 8X.  Wow, I want one!  (And please give me credit for not saying, "wow, these are cool" :)

Apple has been on a roll recently - the new AirPort Express, new G5 models, and so on.  And in just two week they have the Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference, traditionally a wild "just one more thing" Steve Jobs demo affair.  So with all these announcements before the conference, one wonders what they're going to announce at the conference!

NHJ VTV-101 - TV wristwatchAnd here we have - a TV wristwatch!  When you absolutely must have "reality" intrude on your reality.  According to the review the battery lasts an hour.  It is really small, but still too big to practically fit on your wrist.  Oh well, it is cool.

Adam Curry reports "The producers of 'Gilligan's Island' are teaming with the producers of the "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" to bring you The Real Gilligan's Island'."  And one of them could be you!  Unbelievable, but inevitable.


Wednesday,  06/16/04  11:55 PM

I don't want to talk about the Lakers, okay?  They were blown out, Detroit deserved to win, and so be it.  Just shows you never know what's going to happen, that's why they play the game.  All I can say is "Go Dodgers!"

Anne LauvergeonAnne Lauvergeon could be the most important woman in the world.  Who is she?  Fortune calls her "the Queen of Nukes".  She's head of French nuclear giant Areva.  "Areva believes that nuclear power is poised to make a comeback.  'You can't have a solution to growing global energy demands without nuclear power,' says Anne Lauvergeon, Areva's 44-year-old chief executive."  With all the emphasis being given to the world's oil supply and rising oil prices, you have to believe this.  And the French are way out in front; currently 75% of their electricity is generated from atomic energy, vs. just 20% in the U.S.  (By the way, are you surprised it is as high as 20%?  Me, too!)

This is interesting; the Scientist reports G8 backs HIV vaccine plan.  "The world's leading industrial powers have given their support to a US proposal for an international alliance to accelerate HIV vaccine research.  Working groups from 15 countries and UN agencies have already drafted elements of the strategic plan.  'The Human Genome Project has served as a model'."  Interesting to see if this project gains traction, and whether it is ultimately successful.

Philip Greenspun reports on an MIT workshop he attended on technology for community building.  "The elephant in the room that nobody wanted to talk about was education.  The non-profit world likes to think about affordable housing, leadership development, better health care, specialized training, etc.  If everyone in a poor neighborhood were educated to the standard of the average Harvard graduate all of the other problems would be solved."  So I disagree with this, because I think the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about is IQ.  You can't take random poor people and educate them to the standard of the average Harvard graduate, because they aren't smart enough.  And you can't make them smarter.  The problem is harder than education.

Here in the U.S. one thing we're good at is making millionaires.  "The 2004 World Wealth Report shows that the world's millionaires grew in number and accumulated wealth, with the largest gains being made in the United States.  The fact that the US had more millionaires than anywhere else probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone, but there are some real gems within the report for those espousing Europe's progressive 'tax the rich' philosophy."  Please note, this is not a zero-sum situation; there is no implication that these people are taking wealth from the poor.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

The WP reports N. Korea to Resume Nuclear Talks.  More six-way talks, in which the U.S. hopes to influence China to influence NK.  Let's hope it works.  [ via Citizen Smash ]

In the Boo Hoo department, the judge presiding over the SCO Group lawsuit against IBM has denied a crucial motion filed by SCO to have the case treated as a contract dispute.  This means they'll have to make their case as a copyright violation, which legal experts agree will be more difficult.  In related news SCO reported poor financial results with revenue down 52% and a $15M loss.

This Wonderful LifeThis is amazing!  This Wonderful Life is a completely computer-generated movie short by Liam Kemp, with unbelievable facial expressions and emotion.  This was done by one guy on one computer.  You can see that it is only a matter of time before it will be impossible to tell computer-generated people from real ones.  [ via Robert Scoble ]

Joel Spolsky has once again pounded the nail through the wood with his latest rant, How Microsoft Lost the API War.  "Microsoft's crown strategic jewel, the Windows API, is lost.  The cornerstone of Microsoft's monopoly power and incredibly profitable Windows and Office franchises, which account for virtually all of Microsoft's income and covers up a huge array of unprofitable or marginally profitable product lines, the Windows API is no longer of much interest to developers."  He doesn't think much of .NET or Longhorn, and explains why these strategic initiatives are going to hurt Microsoft in the future.  Anyway read it and see if you don't find his logic compelling...

It will be interesting to watch this in the blogosphere - it has already been posted on slashdot - I predict a sort of net-wide "YEEES" followed by rebuttal from Microsoft.  I'm waiting to read Robert Scoble's reaction.

iPod-FM bumper stickerCult of Mac reports on an iPod user who's broadcasting with an iTrip, and who has a bumper sticker advertising the fact, so nearby cars can listen in.  My own experience with an iTrip was pretty negative; I doubt this will actually be a good listening experience for the neighboring drivers.  Still, it is a cool idea.

Eric Sink continues his series on the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.  Today we have #12, the Law of Line Extension.  "It is a mistake to take the name of one product and apply it to another.  Companies do this often, but it basically never works.  We think that the power of the brand will help sell the new product.  Instead, the brand itself is tarnished."  This law is violated so often it's incredible.

Mozilla FirefoxThere's been quite a buzz around Firefox, a Mozilla-based web browser which was just upgraded.  I'm trying it now.  I must say it's nice - probably the nicest browser I've used - but it just seems a tad bit slower than IE.  Especially when launching.  Stay tuned for more...

Mark Pilgrim linked this interesting self-assessment quiz.  "The Clean Sweep Program is a checklist of 100 items which, when completed, give one complete personal freedom.  These 100 items are grouped in 4 areas of life with 25 in each group: Physical Environment, Well-being, Money, and Relationships."  So be it.


(new yorker, 6/13/04)

Thursday,  06/17/04  01:07 AM



C++ method pointers

Thursday,  06/17/04  08:57 AM

Have you ever wanted to use a pointer to a class method?  This might be basic C++ but I couldn’t remember how to do it, and spent some time Googling and messing around to figure it out.  So here’s the way:

To define a pointer to a class method:

returnval (myclass::*method)(parameters…)

For example:

char *(myclass::*pmethod)(int parm);

This defines a pointer named pmethod to a method of the myclass class.  The method has a single int parameter and returns a char*.

To assign a value to the pointer:

pmethod = &myclass::method;

For example:

pmethod = &myclass::mymethod;

This sets pmethod to point to mymethod.

To call the class method:


For example:

mychar = (myobject.*pmethod)(myint);

This calls the method pointed to by pmethod.

The pointer can itself be in a struct or class as well.  For example:

struct {                      // processing table

char  *name;

char  *(myclass::*pmethod)(int parm);

} proctbl[] = {

{ “text”,  &myclass::mymethod},

{ “text2”,&myclass::anothermethod}


This defines a table of structures with two entries, each of which has a method pointer.  The function can then be called as follows:

mychar = (myobject.*proctbl[index].pmethod)(myint);

In this example, the pointer proctbl[index].pmethod identifies the method to be called.

Note that “::*” and “.*” are actually separate operators in C++.  There is also a “->*” operator.

You might never need this, but just in case you do…


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