Critical Section

Archive: May 2005

<<< March 2005


June 2005 >>>


Thursday,  05/05/05  11:05 PM

Well, I'm back.  Whew.  Lots to talk about, but I'll have to dribble it out over time.

So today is fivesday!  Yep, 05/05/05, pretty cool.  Kind of like foursday and threesday.  What's weird is that when I posted about foursday I reported watching the final four, but also about reading The Phantom Tollbooth, and the character named The Dodecahedron.  So that makes a pretty decent segway to fivesday :)

give me five!

There are actually five "regular" solids, and this is the most interesting.  I'm sure you can name the others right off the top of your head, right?

More to follow...


Thursday,  05/05/05  11:43 PM

BW: Vonage raises $200M in venture capital.  This makes over $400M total.  Man, and I thought PayPal raised a lot of money.  Well, I guess they're thinking big, overthrowing the world's telecom industry is going to take some money :)

I've been messing around with Skype.  Pretty cool.  Like they say, "Internet telephony that 'just works'".  It does.  I've found that the voice quality is highly dependent on the mic you use - no surprise.  A crappy desktop mic from Radio Shack doesn't cut it, but a quality headset works great.  The best thing is that they've really wired the echo cancellation, you cannot hear yourself at all, even if you put the mic right next to your speakers.

skyme me!

Have you noticed that Google has become slower?  Noticably, for me.  They've added too much crap, and are no longer a skinny fast search engine.

I don't know what to make of Google's Web Accelerator.  Yeah, it might be faster.  But I really don't want all my web traffic passing through their site.  Same reason I haven't even tried their desktop search.  If this was offered by a small third-party, I'd try it in a heartbeat, but I do not trust Google anymore.  [ Xeni notes it is an anonymous proxy, too.  Yeah, anonymous to the sites, but not anonymous to Google. ]

John Battelle says this is evidence for Google's Web OS.  I don't know about that.  I don't see people writing applications for Google.  Yet.

I have about 20 domains that I maintain, for myself, my companies, and some charities.  I've been using for about four years, after having used Network Solutions since time zero (remember interNIC handles?).  I thought was a great improvement.  But now I've switched to GoDaddy.  The difference between $35/year and $8/year is pretty compelling.  Also's site is slow, probably because of all the ads clogging their pages.

Slashdot notes searching by image instead of by keywords.  I need to tell you about a project I'm working on which intends to do exactly this - content-based retrieval of images.  This is a hard problem - I do not fear other approaches as competition, I fear my own inability to execute.  Anyway stay tuned and I'll tell you about Picton.

OMG they're starting to cast Blog, The Movie.  [ via Dave Winer ]  Who would play me?


Megan's book drive

Thursday,  05/05/05  11:53 PM

Here's some parental chest beating!

Megan's book drive!From the Acorn (our local paper in Thousand Oaks, Calif):

"The Assistance League of Conejo Valley, a chapter of National Assistance League, recently received more than 200 new books donated by the students of Miss Rose's second grade class as Westlake Hills Elementary School.

"Megan Eichhorn, a student in the class and daughter of Assistance League member Shirley Eichhorn, wanted to help the League.  The students collected new books to put in backpacks that the League distributes to children in need in the Conejo Valley.

This really was Megan's idea!  And she convinced her teacher to do it.  And they made it happen.  That's my girl.  She's only seven (well she turns eight tomorrow) and she's already changing the world.  Watch out for this kid.

Also - thanks to my friends who generously donated books - especially Nick and Shelley DeNicholas.  You guys are awesome.  How great would it be if you were a poor kid to get a brand new backpack with some books in it?


desperately seeking summer intern

Thursday,  05/05/05  11:58 PM

Desperately Seeking Summer Intern
Hot Startup Needs Sharp Programmer

Aperio Technologies, located in Vista, CA, is looking for a student who’d like to work as a summer intern, programming .NET applications in C#.

Aperio provides systems for virtual microscopy.   We make instruments which scan microscope slides at high resolution (100,000dpi) and build software to manage, display, and analyze the resulting [very large] digital images.   Please see our website at for more information.

Desired qualifications:

  • Smart!
  • Experience with VS.NET and C#
  • GUI experience helpful
  • TCP/IP network experience helpful
  • Reasonable at foosball

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to develop and enhance the console software which provides the operator interface for our ScanScope instruments.   The console software communicates with the instruments using TCP/IP sockets.   You would join a small team of crack coders building cool systems which make cancer researchers and clinical Pathologists more accurate and efficient.  

If you are interested please send an email with your qualifications and experience to, or call (760) 539-1107.


happy birthday Megan!

Friday,  05/06/05  09:11 AM

Happy Birthday!It's May 6, which means my daughter Megan has successfully completed another trip around the sun. 

Happy Birthday, Megan!

She's now eight - I can't believe, it, eight! - going on about eighteen.  If you saw the note about her book drive you know she's already directing traffic here on Earth.  I predict when I fly to Titan, she'll come with me.  In fact, she'll probably own the corporation which makes travel to Saturn possible.  Anyway for now I hope you have a great day, Meg!


Friday,  05/06/05  10:00 PM

Today's big news is the glorious defeat of the broadcast flag!  Yippee!  This is good for all of us.  Many thanks to Cory Doctorow, Fred von Lohmann, and all their colleagues at the EFF who have engineered this defeat.  Now we just have to get rid of software patents :)

Apropos: The Make website has detailed instructions on how to build a combination DVR, music server, and game machine out of an old computer.  Very cool and would be impossible if the broadcast flag were in effect.  [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]

Robert X. Cringley has posted a rambly column in which he discusses the long tail of jet travel, and also his thoughts about Apple's video plans.  I totally agree, the iTunes music store will be the iTunes video store by the end of the year.  And there will be a video pod.  Only I don't think it will be a "pod", per se, I think it will be a Mini Mac -based home entertainment center.

OS X TigerBTW I missed this but Tiger is out, as you know, and it is great, as you know.  John Siracusa on ArsTechnica has a wonderfully detailed review; great reading for the Spotlight implementation details, file metadata, etc.  Check it out!

I like this - Spiked asked 250 well-known scientists one question: "What, if you could pick just one thing, would you teach the world about science... and why?"  [ via David Pescovitz ]

Richard Dawkins:  The scientific principle that I wish everyone understood is Darwinian natural selection, and its enormous explanatory power, as the only known explanation of 'design'...

CNN has a summary of Warren Buffett's and Charlie Munger's address to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.  I like this quote: "Some people seem to think there's no trouble [with Ford and GM] just because it hasn't happened yet.  If you jump out the window at the 42nd floor and you're still doing fine as you pass the 27th floor, that doesn't mean you don't have a serious problem."  [ via Philip Greenspun ]

Cosmos 1 launch vehicleThis is so cool - the planetary society (home of SETI) is planning to launch Cosmos 1, the first Solar Sail -powered spacecraft.  They have a great library of images and animations.  The spacecraft will be launched from a submarine.

Longhorn RSOD (red screen of death)Want to see something silly?  With Longhorn, Microsoft has changed the famous BSOD (blue screen of death) to RSOD (red screen of death).  I'm sure it will still happen.  So what color is Apple's Tiger's screen of death?  Uh, they don't have one.  [ via Joi Ito ]


As the laptop turns - episode 1

Saturday,  05/07/05  10:32 PM

While I was out, I had some laptop trouble.  The tale unfolded in email; over the new few days I'm going to post them...  Here is episode 1:

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Monday, March 07, 20051:37 PM
Subject: As the laptop turns (seeking sympathy points)

Feel free to ignore this email if you’re busy :)


This is a cautionary tale which ends badly.  Read it and be forewarned...

So when last we left our intrepid road warrior (me), he had just discovered a loose connection in his laptop’s display screen; wiggling the screen caused the picture to wobble.  Okay, so call next day support.  That’s why we have it.

So I didn’t get next day support, I got three-days-later support, but at least a guy showed up with a new laptop display.  He installed it, and I asked him to wait while I checked it out.  He was a bit grumpy about this – why is it techs always want to leave immediately after they fix something, they’re just going to have to come back if it isn’t right? - and unfortunately the display had a bright line running down the right side, always on.  No good.  Okay, we need another display.

Next day a different guy shows up with another display.  He replaces the display.  Again I ask him to wait while I check it out, again he doesn’t want to.  So the display looks fine, but the loose connection is still there; wiggling the laptop cover causes the display to wobble.  He says I need a new motherboard!  What:0  I don’t believe this – I think it is a loose connection – but whatever.  So he orders the motherboard and says he’ll be back the next day.

Well the motherboard was backordered so it really took three days.  But anyway this morning first thing he shows up with the new motherboard to install it.  I’m going to make a long and painful story short by saying now I have a fried CPU and a cracked laptop case to go with my new display and new motherboard.  (I secretly believe the original display was fine, and the original motherboard was fine, and this was just a loose connection.  But what do I know.)

So now we have a dead laptop, and a new CPU, new heat sink, and new laptop case on order.  I’m not really sure  if there’s going to be anything left.  Stay tuned.

Of course there is one original part – the disk drive.  You would think with all my experience I would have made a FULL backup of my laptop before this all began.  And I had the best intentions – I even went to Fry’s Saturday and bought a new 250GB drive for my server, so I could perform a FULL backup.  But, well, to make another long and painful story short I spent all weekend trying to get a third IDE drive which is bigger than 128GB  to run, and I did, finally, but it took all weekend, and I didn’t have time to do the laptop backup.

    { By the way, Fry’s has a special on Seagate 250GB drives, $125 with a $50 rebate.  Such a deal. }

Did I mention the tech showed up first thing this morning?  Yeah, I let him destroy the computer before I had a chance to do the full backup.  Bad Ole.  Really really bad Ole.

So now I’m going back to Fry’s so I can buy a 2 1/2“ USB drive enclosure so I can attach my laptop drive to my server and do a Ghost backup.  I am dumb but there is a limit to my dumbness.  (Please don’t contradict me on this :)

Stay tuned for the next installment...


Continue to episode 2, 3, 3.5...


Saturday,  05/07/05  10:38 PM

Man, we had quite a day today.  Thirty+ eight-year-olds running around and screaming, jumping in the jumpy and splashing in the pool.  Whew.

Profiting from Obscurity; Tom Standage examines the long tail in the Economist.  "Perhaps the most profound implication of the long tail, however, is its impact on popular culture.  As choice expands and people can more easily find niche content that particularly interests them, hits will be less important: so what will people talk about when gathered around the water cooler?"  [ via Chris Anderson ]

Tom Coates discusses his vote in the English election.  "And in the end, everything has worked out pretty much perfectly. The country's swing towards the Liberal Democrats was enormously significant, and should give the government a clear sign about where the centre of the debate has headed."  Prior to blogs, how could you possibly get this kind of insight about the politics of another country?

San Francisco was chosen as the headquarters location for California's stem cell initiative administration, beating out San Diego.  I'm afraid San Diego lost because of the political turmoil there, but truly this choice was a mistake.  San Francisco has a huge bureaucracy as well as very consensual, liberal approach; San Diego is much less bureaucratic and must more business-oriented, as well as the biotech center of California.  We'll see how it all works out, I guess, but it would have been a better start if San Diego had been chosen...

The Sony LibreJason Kottke: The Sony Libre.  The future of books.  Really.  Maybe not this device, but a device like it....

Greg London considers Copyrights and Patents in the wild west: Bounty Hunters.  Kind of long but the points are solid.  It is just so weird that ideas can be owned.

Advanced Imaging discusses Video Data turns into Knowledge.  The only thing harder than pattern recognition in 2D images is pattern recognition in video, which is essentially pattern recognition in 3D.  Fascinating.  [ via Radar O'Reilly ]

Russell Beattie posted a great discussion about The Mobile Web.  "The mobile web sucks right now.  Why is that?"  Seems like an intelligent HTML proxy would make the web on cell phones usable.  Right now, most of the time, it is basically in the "dancing bear" catagory; it is cool that it works at all, but it doesn't work well enough to be actually usuable.

Does anybody really know what time it is?  Well, here's The Official U.S. Time.  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]  You have to love Indiana, where some counties are on Central Time, some on Eastern Time, some observe daylight savings, and some don't.  People in Indiana talk in terms of "fast time" and "slow time", and in some cities you could hear things like "I'm meeting him at 5:00 fast time".  There's even a town called Santa Claus (not making this up) where some businesses are on slow time part of the year, and others are on fast time.  Most of the time "fast time" is an hour ahead of "slow time", but there are times when they are equal.  Whew.


Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday,  05/08/05  09:11 AM

To my Mom, my wife, and all mother's everywhere:
Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!


RSS reader cleanout

Sunday,  05/08/05  09:41 AM

Whenever I don't post for a while - which has been pretty often lately :( - I accumulate tens or even hundreds of blog posts in my RSS reader "to be blogged about".  These are items of interest which I would have posted about, had I been posting.  Some of them stand the test of time and are worth blogging about two months later, but most aren't.  This morning I happy deleted a couple hundred posts.  I'm happy because they had a kind of mental overhang for me, and you're happy because you won't have to read them.  Of course, you did have to read about not having to read about them :)


In praise of Epiminedes

Sunday,  05/08/05  11:24 AM

Epiminedes is one of my favorite Greek heroes.  Only he wasn't Greek, he was from Crete.  And as a Cretan, he is known for saying, publicly, "all Cretans are liars".  (So, was he lying?)

The short version of Epiminedes' Paradox is: This sentence is false.

We had a great discussion about this yesterday.  My daughter Megan thinks it is so cool that something can be true and not true at the same time.  It relates directly to Godel's Theorem and [the limit of] the power of logic.

We visited the island of the Knights and Knaves ("I am a knave!"), and the famous Monty Hall Problem.  ("Should you switch?  Yes, you Cretan!")

Here's a sample problem, courtesy of my friend Yogi:

"You come to the gates of heaven, and there are two doors.  St. Peter explaines that one door leads to Heaven, and one to Hell.  There are twin brothers guarding the doors, one of whom never lies ("a knight") and the other never tells truth ("a knave").  You may ask one brother one question, and then must select a door.  What question do you ask?

Stay tuned for an answer...


As the laptop turns - episodes 2, 3, and 3.5

Sunday,  05/08/05  07:56 PM

The saga of my laptop trouble continues...  (Link to 1)  Here are episodes 2, 3, and 3.5...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Monday, March 07, 20051:53 PM
Subject: Episode 2 - Re: As the laptop turns (seeking sympathy points)

As before feel free to ignore if you’re busy :)


So I reached a nice service manager at HP (I have a Compaq laptop) and he is going to have a tech meet me tomorrow in
Vistawith the new parts.  There is some reason to believe I might have a working laptop by tomorrow night.  If not, at least I’ll have another episode to relate.

Also those of you who have never seen a laptop reduced to a bag of parts can indulge your voyeuristic fantasies by looking at what’s left of  mine :)

Stay tuned for more...


-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Monday, March 07, 20057:15 PM

Subject: Episode 3 - Re: As the laptop turns (seeking sympathy points)

Okay, so I went back to Fry’s and invested in a USB 2 1/2” drive housing.  ($25 + 2 hours spent.)  With this, I can connect my laptop drive to my server.  So I do.  And it works, first thing.  Yay, now I can backup my drive.

So I launch Ghost and begin a FULL backup of my laptop drive to another drive.  It’s running!  

Oh Oh.  It’s running, but it’s running at 60MB/minute.  For those of you keeping score at home, that is about 10 times slower than a typical Ghost backup.  My server has a USB 1.0 interface, which is slower than tectonic drift.  My laptop drive is 50GB, so this is going to take about, er, 14 hours!  Oh, no, because I started it at
6:00and I have to leave for Vistaat 5:00, so it won’t be done.  SIGH.

I’m not sure what to try next.  I could go back to Fry’s again and buy a USB 2.0 attachment card, that would take about $20 and about 2 hours, and then I could back up the drive in another 2 hours.  Or maybe...

Stay tuned :)


-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Monday, March 07, 20058:42 PM

Subject: Episode 3.5 - Re: As the laptop turns (seeking sympathy points)

Okay, I had a brainwave.  My daughter Alex has a computer, and IT has USB 2.0 ports.  In fact, in an embarrassment of riches, it has four in the back and four in the front.  Thank you Sony.  So now my laptop drive is happily plugged in and being TruImaged at about 500MB/minute.  So it will take about two hours.  Whew.

The best part about this backup is that once I have it, I probably won’t need it.  But I know that if I didn’t have it, I’ll wish I did.

Stay tuned...


Continue to episode 4...


Sunday,  05/08/05  08:14 PM

I had a wonderful day doing absolutely nothing.  (Well, okay, I did a bit of coding, and a bit of blogging.)  This is Shirley's standing desire for Mother's Day - we enjoy the day at home with our family.  Happy Mother's Day, S.

Powerline links Victor David Hanson: What Happened to History?  Of course, "those who are ignorant of the past are doomed to repeat it."  There are [very] few writers with whom I agree as consistently as VDH.

Masters of DeceptionThe other day (well two months ago) I posted Cool art that will mess with your head, part 1.  "Soon" I will post part 2, but in the meantime I've received several emails telling me that work was by Rob Gonsalves.  The book Masters of Deception by Art Seckel was recommended as well (this piece is on the cover).  I'll have to get this book, it includes my hero Maurits Escher, and has a forward by another hero Douglas Hofstader.  Thanks for the emails!

Honda penny farthingMan, here's some awesome Photoshopmanship: the Worth 1000 contest: Current products in a vintage light.  Pictured: the Honda penny farthing :)  [ via Tom Coates ]

Clive Thompson notes that a Humboldt squid was captured in Victoria (Vancouver Island).  Now that is awfully far North for this "warm water" animal.  More evidence for Global Cooling?

Are you following the Kansas state Board of Education hearings on Intelligent Design?  Well I didn't think so.  I bet you're not following the proceedings of the Flat Earth Society either.  CNN notes Scientists Snub Kansas Evolution Hearings.  The best news has been posted on The Panda's Thumb, an excellent blog tracking the progress, or lack thereof, of ID advocates (aka "creationists").  I find this so amazing.  Not that people disagree about science, but that the subject of evolution is so emotional.  Only abortion rivals it among political issues which get people upset.  This must have been what it was like in the 1600s, when there was public debate about whether the Earth orbited the Sun.

Barbie USB driveAmong the hundreds (thousands?) of USB drives out there, this one absolutely takes the cake.  Pull the head off the Barbie, plug it in, and poof! 256MB.  And who says Barbie is an airhead?  [ via Gizmodo ]

Sidestepper - Critical SectionThis is so cool; Sidestepper.  You enter a URL, and a "virtual living room" is made from the images and text of that page.  You can pan and zoom around.  I took Critical Section *today* and ended up with a dodecahedron on the wall.  This is a really cool "HTML proxy", kind of an extreme modification of content.  [ via Clive Thompson ]

Thanks, Robert, for the link about Aperio's summer intern position!  I've already received a bunch of emails and resumes.  Very exciting!


non-realtime dreams

Monday,  05/09/05  07:36 AM

Last night I had an upset stomach.  Really bad, like I ate something bad.  I was barely asleep and barely awake all night.  I usually don't dream - or I guess I should say I usually don't remember dreams - but I had quite a few last night.  I was struck particularly that dreams don't take place in realtime.  At one point I was awake at 4:00, then fell asleep and dreamed, and then awoke at 4:15.  The dream was incredibly detailed and took place over the course of hours - even now I can remember many more details than could possibly have occurred in 15 minutes.  (I broke my leg skiing and was roaming a hospital trying to find a doctor to set it, if you must know...  I finally found one, and they finally had me about to have my leg operated on, and they began to give me anesthetic, and I woke up.)

Anyway this is a weird capability of the human mind, that it can play through events in non-realtime.  It just shows that "sensory time" differs from "CPU time" in organic brains, just as it does in computers.  I've written device drivers and they are always waiting on the device, the world of atoms is much slower than the world of bits.  Someday we'll have the ability to interface to human brains, both for input (adding information to brains from the external world), and for output (measuring what brains are doing, or even following along with what they're thinking).  Weird to think that you could "learn" something via a dreamlike experience in much less time than it would take if it really happened.  Shades of the Matrix!


VoIP is real

Monday,  05/09/05  08:52 AM

So, VoIP is real.  It is a really big thing.  A "the world is going to be different now" kind of thing. 

If you're online and you're reading my blog, maybe this isn't news to you; most of my readers are geeks, and most geeks know VoIP is real.  But to my Mom, and your Mom, VoIP is the funny sound a ball makes when it hits a wall.  Their world is about to change, but they don't know it yet.

This morning I spoke with one of Aperio's field engineers in our London office.  He called me from his Vonage phone, so it looked like a local call from San Diego.  Incremental cost $0.  I called him back using Skype to the Vonage phone.  Incremental cost $.01.  Both calls were clear with a slight delay.  If we made those calls using landlines the incremental cost would have been several dollars apiece, depending on how long we spoke.  Over the course of a year, that adds up.  And it isn't just the savings in money; when the incremental cost of something is $0, you use it more often.  Communications between our offices are going to improve based on being able to speak about anything for $0, which will have an intangible benefit to our business.

And of course it isn't just voice over IP.  How soon before it is video over IP?  Very soon.  Apple showed the way with their amazing iChatAV.  Soon it is going to spread, and we'll all have cameras in our monitors just like we all have microphones in our laptops.  Soon Skype or something else will include video as well as audio, and you'll be able to have a video-call online with anyone anywhere for an incremental cost of $0.  Nobody doubts this is going to happen, right?



Monday,  05/09/05  09:28 PM

Wow, I've been flooded with applicants for Aperio's summer intern position.  How wonderful!  The power of the blog!

It is striking that to the best of my ability to tell from names, except for one, all applicants are either Asian (mostly Indian or Chinese), and except for one, all applicants are male.  An uncontrolled data point on the state of computer science in America.  Not all the applicants are local, either, which is cool; if you're a coder in the frozen North, what better way to spend the summer than in San Diego :)


As the laptop turns - episode 4

Monday,  05/09/05  09:34 PM

The saga of my laptop trouble continues...  (Links to 1, 2, 3, 3.5)  Here is episode 4...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Wednesday, March 09, 20059:29 AM
Subject: episode 4 - as the laptop turns

Well the saga is ongoing.  As this is written I do not have a working laptop, nor the imminent prospect of having one.

When last we left our hero victim (me), I’d brought my laptop down to Vistaso it could be repaired.  (You may have enjoyed seeing all the parts spread out on a table, it isn’t often you can find a meatspace exploded parts diagram.  You’re welcome.)  After spending the whole day anxiously awaiting a tech, pinging HP every two hours, at 5:00he finally showed up.  And he had almost all of the parts he needed.  He had a new CPU, a new motherboard, a new heat sink, and several parts which didn’t go with my laptop model (for luck?)  Unfortunately he did not have a replacement for the cracked case, which proved important.

After spending four hours reassembling the parts into a working laptop, we attempted to boot.

I spent the day happily using bach as my computer, with my laptop’s drive plugged into bach as an external USB drive.  Worked great, I was able to use my Outlook configuration, P4 workspace, etc.  The computer room is a bit noisy but Mr. Van Halen and Mr. Satriani took care of that for me.  What did we do before iPods?  But I digress.

So I took my laptop drive and plugged it back into its home (after reassuring it that I had it safely backed up), and we booted the laptop!  Yes, it booted.  There was my signon prompt.  I signed on and poof, Windows!  Unfortunately then poof, laptop turns itself off.  My laptop is now working but only for about three minutes at a time.  Rebooting every few minutes would be annoying after a while so the tech and I tried to figure out what was going on.  The favorite theory is that the cracked case allows the heat sink to “play”, which in turns allows the CPU to overheat (remember my fried CPU from before?), and which causes the laptop to defend itself by shutting down.  I’m not sure I believe this entirely – we tried taping the case closed, but that didn’t help - but anyway the tech is coming back today with a new case.

My prognosis at the moment is not good.  I believe it is only a matter of time now until HP decides they’ve pissed away enough time and parts on me, and will replace the laptop.  After seeing a laptop opened I believe that laptops should be thought of as integral parts, and replaced as a unit; there just doesn’t seem any way to take them apart and end up with a working assembly again.  But the story isn’t over yet, please stay tuned...


Continue to episode 5, 4.5, 6, 7...


Monday,  05/09/05  09:41 PM

Astronomers have found twelve new moons orbiting Saturn.  Quite the archipelago, that makes 46, I think.  Most of the newly found moons are tiny, and many are retrograde (orbit the "wrong" way around), suggesting they are captured Kuiper belt objects.

Titan seen by CassiniBTW, here's a wonderful picture of Titan taken by Cassini; click to enlarge.  "This false-color composite was created with images taken during the Cassini spacecraft's closest flyby of Titan on April 16, 2005.  Green represents areas where Cassini is able to see down to the surface.  Red represents areas high in Titan's stratosphere where atmospheric methane is absorbing sunlight.  Blue along the moon's outer edge represents visible violet wavelengths at which the upper atmosphere and detached hazes are better seen."  I love it.  [ via The Horse's Mouth ]

Did you hear about the conference for time travelers at MIT?  "The convention, which drew more than 400 people from our present time period, was held at MIT's storied East Campus dormitory.  It featured an MIT rock band, called the Hong Kong Regulars, and hilarious lectures by MIT physics professors."  Unfortunately no visitors from the future attended - that we know of - but that could change.  I'm going to go, too, but not yet; I'll wait for another ten years or so, then go back :)

Here's a report from a 2005 attendee, who lists possible reasons why time travelers from the future might not have attended.  I like this one: "Time travelers keep changing things at will until by chance they do something that prevents time travel from being invented every time it might have been."  Has a Heisenbergian feel to it, doesn't it?

Paul Graham is one of those bloggers writers who seem to hit the nail on the head every time.  In his latest essay, The Submarine, he considers corporate PR.  "One of the most surprising things I discovered during my brief business career was the existence of the PR industry, lurking like a huge, quiet submarine beneath the news.  Of the stories you read in traditional media that aren't about politics, crimes, or disasters, more than half probably come from PR firms."  This is one of the reasons why, whenever you read about something you know a lot about, it is wrong.  Anyway read Paul's essay, it's great!

Toshiba Tecra M4I've been trying to see Tablet PCs with high-resolution screens.  There are some out there with 1400x1050 now, like Toshiba's new Tecra M4.  No dealers seem to carry them, however, and who's going to buy such a thing sight unseen?  Tablets would be perfect for Aperio's Pathologist customers, since it would make annotating so natural (for many people annotating on screen with a mouse is pretty unnatural).  But we do need a lot of pixels; 1024x768 won't cut it.  If you know where I could physically see a high-resolution tablet in Southern California, please let me know!  Thanks.

Written WorldsThe other day I gave attribution for Rob Gonsalves terrific The Sun Sail Sets, but neglected to link Discovery Galleries, which is selling prints.  Sorry about that.  They have a wonderful selection of his work; I think Written Worlds is my favorite (pictured at right), for the idea as well as the execution.

Rafe Needleman considers the Escape Route.  "If there were a system that could tell drivers which of their few known routes to work or home was the least congested at a given moment, they'd likely pay for that information."  I know I would; I think traffic information is the killer product for in-car navigation systems, particularly since it leads directly to a recurring revenue model.  Furthermore I think the information should come from the cars themselves, not "smart roads".  Here in L.A. we've spent a fortune building traffic sensors into the freeways, which is stupid; we should have subsidized development of a car network instead.  Strike that, we should have saved our public money and let private enterprises do it.  They will anyway.

iTunes logoSo, that sound you heard was the other shoe dropping, quietly.  Apple has released iTunes 4.8, and it includes videos.  Right now they only have a few music videos, but general support for any videos is clearly built in.  I tried adding a feature-length movie to my Library, and it just worked.  It played in a separate window, and full screen worked, too.  (Had to be a Quicktime movie, though; AVIs did not work.)  Uh huh.

Star Wars Revelations - battle sceneOnline video distribution is fostering a whole industry of "fan films".  The most ambitious I've seen is the wonderful Star Wars Revelations, a 40 minute long epic.  Pretty darn professional, right down to the Flashified website!  The battle scenes are awesome, with all the right sounds (we're going to be disappointed in the future when we discover spaceships don't really make noise!) and the classic "huge ship coming from above" effect.  We're going to see a lot more of this sort of thing, and we're going to love it.

Utility of the day: Desktop Save and Restore.  Saves and restores your desktop icon layout for each screen resolution, including multiple monitor configurations.  Right click, Save Desktop.  Later, right click, Restore Desktop.  Just works.  I love it!


Epiminedes revisited

Monday,  05/09/05  09:56 PM

So to yesterday's problem:

"You come to the gates of heaven, and there are two doors.  St. Peter explaines that one door leads to Heaven, and one to Hell.  There are twin brothers guarding the doors, one of whom never lies ("a knight") and the other never tells truth ("a knave").  You may ask one brother one question, and then must select a door.  What question do you ask?

How's this one:

"What will your brother say?"

If the answer is "he'll say he's guarding Heaven", go through this brother's door, if the answer is "he'll say he's guarding Hell", go through the other.  Works whichever brother you have, and whichever door...


As the laptop turns - episodes 5, 4.5, 6, and 7

Tuesday,  05/10/05  11:45 PM

The saga of my laptop trouble continues...  (Links to 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4)  Here are episodes 5, 4.5, 6, and 7...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Thursday, March 10, 200512:45 PM
Subject: episode 5 - as the laptop turns

Okay, here’s a quick update.  I’m so upset I don’t know if I can make this funny.

First, you’ll remember that my laptop is completely dead, a week after this all started.  I’ve made twelve calls to HP service in all that time, and they’ve called me zero times without first being prompted.

Okay, so it is now 12:42and I have not heard from HP service today.  I did call this morning to lob in a “hey what’s happening” call, but I have not received a response.

I have spent the morning configuring a desktop machine here at my house so I can conduct business.  Fortunately I am able to access the data from my laptop’s drive using an external USB housing so I have my Outlook PST file, my P4 work area, etc.  However you guys have all had the experience of setting a machine up from scratch to have Office, Visual Studio, working VPN, etc., and it is time consuming.  Sigh.

Anyway the only way they can make me happy now is to bring me a brand new laptop, and even then I’ll have lost a ton of time.  Not good.  Stay tuned for more…


-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Thursday, March 10, 200512:48 PM
Subject: episode 4.5 - as the laptop turns

This is out of order because I forgot.  On Tuesday I was in the Vistaoffice without a working computer, so I decided to setup bach to use it for development.  Bach already has “everything” installed, including Office and all the development tools, so this seemed like a shortcut.  Only thing was, I had to create a new P4 client so I wouldn’t interfere with the nightly builds.

Well, turns out it did interfere with the nightly builds.  I built some new versions of OCX files which conflicted.  Poor Steven didn’t know what I was doing so on Wednesday he spent a couple of hours digging out – cleaning up registry entries etc. which were messed up because I had created a new development work area.  So not only has this whole episode sapped my productivity, it has hurt Steven as well.

Not to mention all the time you guys have wasted reading these emails :)


-----Original Message-----
From: Aperio Admin []
Thursday, March 10, 20051:56 PM
Subject: episode 6 - as the laptop turns

Just talked to the dispatcher at HP, finally.  The only tech they have available to send out is the guy who destroyed my laptop in the first place.  Also, they don’t have one of the parts available (the top cover, which this tech cracked the first time he came out).

I asked that he not send this particular tech to me, and that he wait until he has all the parts before sending anyone out.  So that won’t be today.

My expectations are so low, I don’t even mind not having my laptop anymore.  I just want this all to stop so I don’t have to keep sending you guys email updates :)


-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Friday, March 11, 20053:36 PM
Subject: episode 7 - as the laptop turns

Okay, we have a happy ending.  Although the story is not over.

This morning I received a call from a completely new tech that was coming out to my house to repair the laptop, call him Rob.  (That’s what he calls himself, too.)  He wanted to make sure I’d be home and to see if the top cover had arrived.  Well the top cover had not arrived – in fact, as of this writing, it still has not arrived – however I asked him to come out and repair the laptop anyway.  Which he did.

Three hours later and after swapping the motherboard, CPU, heat sink, fan, and keyboard bracket, all is well.  My laptop is running happily with a brand new spiffy display.  I’ve been running nuclear algorithms on a large remote image to test everything out, and after a solid hour all is well.  The new fan is even quieter than my old one.

This represented several departures from previous practice.  First, he called me, I didn’t have to call him.  Second, he showed up when he said he would show up.  And third, he actually fixed the laptop.

Of course I still have a cracked top cover which has to be replaced, so there is plenty of scope for further disaster.  Let’s hope Rob shows up to do it.  Stay tuned :)


P.S. Oh yes, and now I have to copy everything back to my laptop and start using that as my main machine, so the productivity hit isn’t fully registered, either.

Continue to episode 8...


Tuesday,  05/10/05  11:57 PM

Watershed.  A blog about water.  "Whiskey is for drinking.  Water is for fighting over."  Excellent.  [ via Clive Thompson ]

About the drought in Zimbabwe: "One, if you are going to redress the racist distribution of land ownership that resulted from years of colonial rule, you want a guy in charge who is a planner, someone who can forsee the problems that will occur, and has the ability to come up with solutions.  Two, Robert Mugabe is not that guy."

Ottmar Liebert: Blue Gold.  "If you think terrorism based on faith was bad, just wait until people have to fight for such a basic resource as water.  Damn I knew seeing Nestle on every bottle was not a good sign."

Gerald Vanderleun: Media Shocked, Shocked, by Water Price Blowout!  "By failing to account for inflation, the media have some Americans so alarmed that we can't think straight.  'What costs more,' I asked customers at a gas station: 'gasoline or bottled water?'  The answer I got from almost everyone was gasoline.  At that very gas station, water was for sale at $1.29 for a 24 oz. bottle. That's $6.88 per gallon, three times what the gas station was charging for gasoline."

Remember when we drank tap water?  And used drinking fountains?  Nobody died.  Just saying.

The other day I noted that Paul Graham bats like 1.000 in hitting the nail on the head.  Another guy like that is Joe Kraus, ex-founder of Exite and founder of JotSpot.  His blog Bnoppy is must reading for me.  And his latest post is awesome, The Hackathon:

"We call it a 'hackathon' and we got inspiration from the good folks at Atlassian.  The idea is that you make a day-long event (at whatever frequency you want) where everyone works on something that is: valuable to the company, but not what they're 'supposed' to be working on,  and that can be taken from idea to working prototype in one day.  We started our hackathon at 9:00am and ended at 8:00pm.  From 8:00-10:00pm we did presentations where each team member or group showed their work."

Wow is that a great idea.  Aperio needs a hackathon, how fun would that be?

la.foodblogging!Another great new blog: la.foodblogging.  Subscribed!

Are you a web hacker?  Well then your mission is to dive into Greasemonkey.  Great stuff, the web your way.  (As opposed to say Google's way.)  Mark Pilgrim has apparently returned to hobbies which involve electricity and angle brackets.

Do you have a Treo 600?  Well then you know that the camera suffers from the dreaded "blue dot disease", especially indoors.  So immediately download Pickem which is a free app that cures this disease.  Also implements a software zoom.  I'm telling you with Pickem my Treo pictures are way better, the color even looks somewhat real!  Thank you thppfft (the author)!  Highly recommended...

Yesterday I noted iTunes 4.8 and its support for video.  Well here's a Slashdot thread discussing videos for sale on the iTunes music store.  (example: Feel Good Inc.)  Whoa.  It's happened, and [so far] without DRM.  Also see Engadget and Gizmodo who are all over this.

Participatory Culture: Internet TV is Open and Independent.  "Announcing a new platform for internet television and video.  Anyone can broadcast full-screen video to thousands of people at virtually no cost, using BitTorrent technology.  Viewers get intuitive, elegant software to subscribe to channels, watch video, and organize their video library.  The project is non-profit, open source, and built on open standards."  Very cool.  But what about $$$?  People will pay for video.  [ via Scoble ]

I missed it at the time, but Google is in this game, too; they've announced a beta Video Search as well as an upload tool which enables you to store your video on their servers for downloading by other people.  And they did not ignore $$$s, you can charge for downloads (as long as you give them a cut).  Matt Haughey has more...  and also posted a great discussion of the Long Tail of TV and coming IP TV revolution:

"It's an exciting time for people that watch TV and those that are on the cusp of new trends in delivering television to viewers, but it's likely a bad time to be a network TV executive, straining to keep old business models alive.  I can't wait to see where the world of TV is in five years.  I suspect I'll be picking shows I want to see off a website, buying copies for a small charge, and downloading them for to my home theater by then."

I suspect I will, too :)

And just wanted to link this so I can find it later: Tivo to DVD via Mac OS X.  Yeah, I have a Series/1, and yeah, I also have a [video] DVD burner (works great).  But this has the possibility of extracting movies digitally.

Final video note, from Wired: Cinemasports, "the Iron Chef of filmmaking".


location free TV

Wednesday,  05/11/05  07:34 AM

I've been testing a Sony Location Free TV.  The concept is really cool - you have two parts, a video server and a wireless video receiver.  The server sits in your home entertainment center, and the receiver can go "anywhere".  Well, it doesn't work.

Sony Location Free TVAfter playing with it for a while I have a bunch of quibbles, but at the highest level there is only one problem, the receiver cannot be far from the server.  The server itself acts as a wireless hub, using either 802.11g or 802.11a, but either way the range is about 30'.  When running this way the picture is perfect, but 30' just isn't useful.  I wanted to put the server in my family room and use the receiver in my kitchen, but the range just wasn't good enough for that.

You can also transmit video over your WiFi network, or any other network for that matter, but when you do that the picture quality is rotten.  I have 802.11g WiFi in my house and have good reception "everywhere", as measured with my laptop, but in this mode the picture was pixilated and the frame rate inconsistent.  No good.

I also found the device complicated; I could set it up, even enjoy the complexity, but this is not a device for the average consumer.  They also tried to do too much; you can use the receiver to surf the web and exchange email, but who wants to do that?  Anyway this is a first generation product, I have no doubt there will be many "location free" video devices in the future, and they will work.  Sony is on the bleeding edge with this one and it just isn't quite there.

So this device goes into the "dancing bear" category; it is cool that it works, but it doesn't work well enough to be useful.


As the laptop turns - episode 8

Wednesday,  05/11/05  09:00 PM

The saga of my laptop trouble continues...  (Links to 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 5, 4.5, 6, 7)  Here is episode 8...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Wednesday, March 16, 200512:56 PM
Subject: episode 8 - as the laptop turns

You knew, knew, that saying “we have a happy ending” was reckless precelebration, right?  Right.

So yesterday I’m at Clarient, the first time I’ve had my laptop on the road since the repairs.  And sadly, I discovered a whole series of little problems.  First, the display “goes white” randomly.  This seems to be triggered by the presence of a customer attending a demo.  Second, the display has a slight flicker.  Again, this seems exacerbated by digital slide demoing.  Perhaps it can read minds, and was responding to the black thoughts I was thinking about it when it “went white”.  Also, the WiFi adapter in this model is built into the laptop’s cover.  Not a bad idea from an antennae exposure standpoint, but a bad idea from an “affected by display replacement” standpoint.  Yes, you guessed right, the WiFi adapter’s connectivity is intermittent, and yes, you guess right, this seems to be guided by Murphy’s law of demoing.  (Perhaps proximity to St. Patrick’s Day makes Murphy’s Law even more relevant than usual?)  Finally the power button on the laptop no longer works – apparently an attempt to defend itself from being turned off in disgust when the other problems mentioned above manifest themselves during a demo.

So last night I left a little voicemail for my buddy at HP laptop support.  I just spoke to him and they’re now planning to replace the laptop entirely.  So be it.  This takes a week so I’ll be living with my present unit a few days longer.  The replacement laptops are “reconditioned”, not new, and they may replace my model with another model with “equivalent” specs, so it is now way early to say “we have a happy ending”.  As always, stay tuned…


Continue to episode 9...


Wednesday,  05/11/05  09:27 PM

I find this to be so cool; Inforedesign.  Here we find The Tyranny of Email, translated to Russian.  More proof, if any were needed, that you can find anything on the web :)

Another Tyranny linker: Coding Horror (".Net and human factors").  Some useful extensions: "There are a few ways that laziness can be harnessed to work for you, if you let it:"

  1. Choosing what not to do.
  2. Balancing communication with isolation.
  3. People don't scale.  (Truly lazy developers let their machines do the work for them.)

Some great posts on this blog; e.g. The Start Menu Must Be Stopped.  Indeed.  Subscribed and in the blogroll.

In case you think the whole "Tyranny" think is a joke; FuturePundit reports Work Distractions Lower Effective IQ.  "Getting interrupted a lot by email and other messages has the equivalent effect on work efficiency of a 10 point IQ drop."  I believe it.  And speaking for myself, I don't have 10 points to spare :)

Paul Graham: Hiring is obsolete.  Man he is batting 1.000.  Read this now, it is long, but it is good.

Junxion boxJunxion.  "With the Junxion Box, people can connect their devices to PC Card modems from wireless carriers using common interfaces like Ethernet and Wi-Fi."  This seems like a big seller.  A really low-end way to create wireless access points anywhere.

Did you see this?  CNet reports Toshiba announces 45GB next-gen DVD.  So that's pretty cool, 45GB on one disk.  Good for backups?  It definitely won't be used for media, because [as Mark Cuban opines] DVDs are dead.  The biggest problem isn't capacity, it isn't even that the media uses atoms; the biggest problem is that manufacturers insist on including some kind of obnoxious DRM.  And the 'net will route around it. logoHave you ever wished you could just "print stamps"?  I mean, this is the 2000s, right?  How silly is it that you have to go to the Post Office to buy postage.  I guess you can buy it online and have it dead-tree-mailed to you, but that requires forethought.  Okay, so there's  Perfect solution, right?  Well, no, it is no solution at all.  Although lets you print stamps, you have to print them on special serial-numbered stock.  By the time you've purchased the stock and had it dead-tree-mailed to you, you might as well just have bought postage.  How silly is that?

the M-sorterEngadget: The M-Sorter, a gadget that can automatically sort M&Ms by color.  Well that's certainly useful!  Some people have too much time...

BTW, I usually read Engadget from their RSS feed, but if I ever go to the site boy am I ever glad I have Firefox with Adblock.  That site would be unreadable using Internet Explorer.

Superfriends do Office SpaceThe Superfriends do Office Space.  I love it!  (But alas, no red stapler...)  [ via Kehaar ]

Hell frozen!From The Horse's Mouth, comes this evidence of global cooling...

This sounds like an Onion story, but it's not: Service Helps Dog Owners Interpret Barks.  "Users must first connect to Internet with their cell phones, and then register information of their dogs such as the breed and age.  The service will then record the dog's bark.  The owner will receive text messages telling them how their pet is feeling, such as 'I am happy' or 'I am frustrated.'"  I am speechless.



(new yorker, 2/28/05 - shades of gray)

Wednesday,  05/11/05  10:24 PM

J.J.Sempe - untitled



As the laptop turns - episode 9

Thursday,  05/12/05  10:09 PM

The saga of my laptop trouble continues...  (Links to 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 5, 4.5, 6, 7, 8)  Here is episode 9...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Tuesday, March 29, 20059:08 AM
Subject: episode 9 - as the laptop turns

Just thought I’d give you all an update on my laptop saga.

When last we left our hero (me) I was awaiting a brand new laptop graciously provided by HP to replace what’s left of my old one after their service reps worked it over.  So a week ago it arrived – a brand new nc8000.  This machine is superior to my old laptop in every way but one.  It is 2½ years newer, and so the specs are 2½ years better.  (That’s about 25 in laptop years.)  The CPU is faster, the memory is faster, the disk is faster, it has GB Ethernet instead of 100MB, it has USB 2.0 ports instead of USB 1.0, it has 802.11g WiFi (54Mbps) instead of 802.11b (11Mbs).  Heck, even the cover opens faster.  It also has stuff my old laptop didn’t, like built in Bluetooth, built in firewire, external audio controls, a button to disable/enable wireless easily, a built in security chip for encrypting files, etc.  The screen is exactly the same – 15.4”, 1400x1050.  In short, it is [almost] the perfect laptop.

So I’m happy, right?  The story has a good ending.

Uh, well, as I said it is superior to my old laptop in every way but one.  And that one is style

Compaq n800c - the originalThis is where vanity rears its ugly head.  I picked my old laptop – a Compaq n800 - because I liked it, I thought it was cool.  It was sleek and thin and shiny and pretty, and it represented “me”.

HP Compaq nc8000 - the new laptop (aka "SUV")This new laptop is, well, not sleek and not thin and not shiny and not pretty.  It is boxy.  It isn’t ugly, but well it is utilitarian.  There is no way I would have chosen this laptop among all others for myself. 

Imagine you choose a car you really like, a Lexus coupe, for example.  You’ve had it for some time, it is a bit worn, but you love it.  And then one day it is totaled.  And your insurance company replaces it with a brand new top-of-the-line Lexus SUV.  You’re happy and grateful that they gave you such a nice car, but, well, it’s an SUV, not a coupe.  You know in your heart of hearts you would never have bought an SUV, you would have bought another coupe.

Okay, so what to do?  I had three choices, 1) do nothing (how bad is it really?), 2) call HP and see if they’ll give me a different replacement laptop, 3) sell this computer on eBay and buy one I really want.

HP Compaq nc8230 - the newer laptop? (aka "couple")I decided to try (2) first, no harm in asking, right?  First I scoured the HP website and found the model I really want, an nc8230.  This is essentially the same computer specwise as the nc8000 they gave me – slightly worse specs in some areas, but not important – but is it thin – 1”! – and sleek and pretty, and has a wider screen.  It is even less expensive than the nc8000, such a deal.

Next I explained this whole thing to my service rep at HP – who by the way has been great, and very understanding about all the problems, and quite sympathetic, actually – and he got it.  I used the coupe/SUV analogy and fortunately he drives a Mustang so he really got it.  He’s going to poke around HP and see what can be done.  If there is any way they can take the nc8000 back and give me an nc8230 I think he’s going to do it.

If that doesn’t work, well, there is always option (3)…  In the meantime I do have a serviceable laptop so it cannot be regarded as a tragedy.  Stay tuned…


Continue to episode 10...


Thursday,  05/12/05  10:31 PM

I heard a great term applied to a startup: "uninterrupted financial backing".  I think it might have been used by Elon Musk in his terrific series of updates about his new company SpaceX.  Anyway this sure isn't something most startups get to enjoy.  Usually you are looking for money out of the gate, and either positioning to raise money, actively raising money, or digesting money at each point.  You don't want to take too much, too early, but not enough is bad, too.

P.S. Noticed SpaceX' "hotfire" for new engine scheduled for today.  Cool.  Er, Hot!

Paul Graham: A unified theory of VC suckage.  Or why it is tough to raise money, and why uninterrupted financial backing is so compelling.

Virgin Galactic planes (aka SpaceShipOne and launcher...)SpaceX isn't the only space-oriented company posting updates; I received my first update from Virgin Galactic.  Among other things they've posted a questionnaire for their "members"; it aims to find out how much you're willing to pay to go into space, and whether you'd be willing to pay more to go sooner.  I figure going "into space" soon will be great practice for going to Titan later on :)

Will Collier rants: Yesterday United Air Lines was allowed to dump it's pension plan on the Federal government.  Great, so you and I get to bail them out.  Not good.  In fact, horrible.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Trey Jackson rantThis is unbelievable: In this video clip, Neil Cavuto totally bags on Senators and Congressmen who complained about being evacuated because a small plane entered airspace above the capital.  I might have to start watching TV "news" again.  Nah.  Anyway click the thumbnail at left to play.  [ via Trey Jackson ]

Ground Zero memorial waterfallHere's a cool story about the waterfall being planned as a ground zero memorial.  "Perhaps the most striking thing when the mock-up came into view, nestled incongruously in a suburban setting, was that the water walls were not the 'thin sheets' described by the design jury that chose 'Reflecting Absence' last year.  Rather, they were more like beaded curtains, with a striation that called to mind the vertical bands of the twin tower facades, dissolving in a cascade of tears."  This seems like it will be really awesome.  [ via Clive Thompson, who notes: "Now I think the design sounds quite beautiful" ]

Joel Spolsky has posted another winner: Making Code Look Wrong.  As usual, I agree with him 100%; I like HN, although I don’t use it religiously, and I dislike exceptions, although I don’t avoid them religiously.  I do agree that coding style is important, some style, and that “clean” in code doesn’t mean the same thing as clean in general (or even clean in ovens).  This is closely related to the idea that when you modify code, you must do so in a way which is stylistically consistent with the code you’re modifying.  You have two choices, adapt to the original style, or restyle the module.  Door number three - mixing styles – has a donkey behind it. is a new search engine, "searching 198,319,894 lines of code" (at the time this was posted).  From their about page: "Our source code optimized search engine provides developers with an easy-to-use interface to search for source code examples and discover new open source projects which can be leveraged in their applications."  Very cool.  [ via John Battelle ]

Firefox promo videoThese are awesome: Firefox promotional videos.  Think they won't get passed around?

Among the interesting properties of Google's Web Accelerator - which scares me - is that it pokes through the "great firewall of China".  Well that's a good thing.  Especially if (but not only if) you're Chinese.

Ottmar Liebert notes "Ottmar" is now listed in the Slang Dictionary:  "Ottmar:  The New Age Southwestern style acoustic guitar music that stores and restaurants use as background music over the PA system.  The word is derived from Ottmar Liebert, whose music it likely is."  You practice and practice and practice, but you never dare hope...

By the way, Ottmar is about to go out on tour again; dates have been posted.  We're going to see him with a bunch of friends on June 10 in Agoura Hills, at the Canyon Club, along with a case of great Cabernet.  It really doesn't get much better than that.  We'll be Ottmared :)


Lake Geneva winter

Friday,  05/13/05  08:18 AM

File this one under "Global Cooling"...
[ thanks to my colleague Mark Wrenn ]

Winter in Lake Geneva...

[ Thanks, Iain, Mike, and others, for the correction from Newfoundland ->Lake Geneva ]



As the laptop turns - episode 10

Friday,  05/13/05  10:27 PM

The saga of my laptop trouble continues...  (Links to 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 5, 4.5, 6, 7, 8, 9)  Here is episode 10...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Monday, April 04, 20055:48 PM
Subject: episode 10 - as the laptop turns

By this time you’re either on the edge of your seat, waiting for my next laptop episode, or so sick of this you’ve already clicked delete.  Anyway for those of you still reading, here’s the latest news…

Remember I had some choices?  And well I chose door #2.  I called HP and rather sheepishly explained my plight to a sympathetic service advisor.  So guess what?  No, no donkey behind door #2, it was another new laptop!  My plea worked!  They went ahead and sent me another brand new laptop, this time the exact model I wanted.  Nobody deserves this, right?  (I know what you’re thinking: “you sure don’t”.  You’re right :)

So I now have a Compaq nc8230 which is even thinner than my original laptop, and a wide-format screen at 1650x1050 pixels.  It is pretty darn cool looking, sleek, gray and black, blue LEDs, the works.  Nice keyboard.  And the specs are better in every way than my old laptop.  Traded in the SUV for a sport coupe, I did.

There have been a few drawbacks.  First, I’ve had to migrate my entire working environment three times in the last month, first to a desktop after the original disaster, then to the new laptop, and now to the newer laptop.  I’ve become pretty good at configuring the thirty-seven programs I use every day.  Then there’s the fact that I now have to get a new port replicator, a new spare battery, etc., because all of my laptop accessories are incompatible.  So be it, a minor inconvenience and expense considering everything.  And finally this laptop is so  w i d e  that I needed a new laptop case.  Oh wait a minute that’s not a drawback, that’s a shopping opportunity!  Yay, time to buy a spiffy new  w i d e  laptop case.

All’s well that ends well.

Of course, it hasn’t quite ended, yet.  Here I sit, with my old laptop and all it’s various accessories (which sort of works, but is a bit cranky), the new laptop (brand new, back in the box with all the original packaging etc.).  And it appears HP does not want either the old laptop or the new laptop back!  This can’t be, you say?  Well I’ve called several times now to ask what I should do, and they take messages and say they’re going to call me back, but so far – nada.  So there will be at least one more installment to the story.


P.S. At the highest level you could conclude HP has lost a fortune on this incident, clearly you should short their stock.  But I don’t know about that.  I am a happy camper, and I would definitely buy another HP laptop.  (If I they don’t keep giving me new ones).  Their service was crummy in the beginning but they made it up to me in the end.  And finally, I’m telling everyone I know about it.  So maybe you would buy an HP laptop, too.  That’s the thing about customer service, the ROI is so hard to compute.  Based on this, I think you should go long …

Continue to episode 11...


Friday,  05/13/05  10:43 PM

Curse of the Were-RabbitThis is excellent news; there's going to be a new Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit!  (A trailer is out, but the quality sucks, unfortunately.)  [Update: here's a good one at Apple.]  Also good news, John Cleese is currently writing a pre-historic comedy for Aardman (the people behind Wallace and Gromit).

Robert X Cringley thinks we've reached an Inflection Point.  The combination of the launch of xBox 360, Google bringing out their Web Accelerator, and Apple's Video distribution moves (H.264, Quicktime).  Read it all, for he concludes: "So Apple takes over video and movies while Yahoo threatens with a low-priced music subscription service and Google threatens to take control of, well, everything.  And Microsoft?  Microsoft kicks the dog."

BTW if you're a geek you might enjoy this discussion of the chip strategy in the xBox 360.  "Officially launched Thursday night (May 12) over broadcast TV, the Xbox 360 uses three custom 3.2-GHz PowerPC cores, each handling two threads.  Each core includes a 128-bit vector graphics unit sporting a full 128 registers and a 1-Mbyte cache.  In addition, the console includes a graphics chip from ATI Technologies Inc. that processes up to 500 million triangles per second.  The ATI chip contains 10-Mbytes of embedded DRAM and works with 512-Mbytes of external GDDR3 memory running at 700-MHz clock frequency."  In with the new (IBM, ATI), out with the old (Intel, nVidia), so be it.  [ via Scott Loftesness ]

dual photograph card trickDual Photography: a technique in which you shine light from a light source to a camera, record the result, then use it to synthesize the view which would have been seen at the light source.  The physics works and actually the technique works (watch the video!) but it sure seems counter-intuitive.  [ via a slashdot thread, where the posters were a lot less impressed than I was... ]

Excite query distributionJoe Kraus: The Long Tail of Software.  I find his posts fascinating, especially wisdom drawn from "the old days" when Joe was a co-founder of Excite (I was an interested observer in the front row when I was with Intuit).  His focus in this article is the market rationale behind his new company JotSpot, which is understandable, but I see another point, too; unlike other markets like Media (Books, Audio, Video, etc.), software has always been bits only, and software distribution has always been easy.  In some ways there was more of a long tail to software in the early days of PCs then there is now; these days every company with an excellent product for consumers is trying desperately to move up the food chain and sell it to businesses.  (Labeling something "Enterprise" means "expensive" and "doesn't work".)  The essentially greatness of the Internet is that anyone with a computer can create something cool, and then everyone can use it.  At really close to $0 marginal cost.  Now that is a  L O N G  tail.

Interesting post for those of us in Software Development: Schedule Games.  Jeff Attwood links Johanna Rothman's posts.  Personally I like #4, Hope is our most Important Strategy.  Yes, until you've passed the deadline you can always hope.  Even after you've passed, you can hope nobody noticed :)

Final thought - why do bloggers so often tell you when they're travelling?  Even the most interesting bloggers will post "I'm off to San Francisco", like we care.  Hey, if you have something interesting to post about, like why you're going to San Francisco, or what you're going to do there, or even how you're getting there, great, post it.  But your iternary is not interesting.


GoToMyPC is horrible

Saturday,  05/14/05  08:50 AM

So GoToMyPC is horrible.  Not the product, which seems to work very well, but the company behind it, which seems to have no clue when it comes to customer service.

A couple of weeks ago I was experimenting with various approaches for remote customer support.  Aperio has customers all over the place, mostly behind firewalls on secure networks, and connecting to their machines so we can provide technical support has been an ongoing challenge.  Anyway one possible approach was to use GoToMyPC, which would enable our technical support people to go to a customer's computer.  The approach seemed to have some technical merit; I signed up for a "free" trial, conducted an experiment with a remote computer, verified that the approach worked, but ultimately decided there were other products which would fit our needs better.

Fast forward to this morning; I noticed an email which informed me that my credit card had been charged $20 for "GoToMyPC Personal Edition".  Apparently this is a monthly charge.  So much for the "free" trial, eh?  Can you say "bait and switch"?  Yes, I thought you could.

So I went to the GoToMyPC website and found their "24/7" customer support number.  I sat on hold for the [expected] 10 minute wait, and then was routed to an [unexpected] voicemail box, which informed me that customer support is available only certain hours on business days!  What!!  So much for "24/7", eh?  Can you say "horrible customer support"?  Yes, I thought you could.

So I left an appropriately angry message on their voicemail - I have no expectation of getting a call back - and I sent an appropriately angry email to their customer support address - I have no expectation of getting a reply back - and I'll have to call them during certain hours on business days, wait for 10 minutes, and then explain to an untrained kid support person what happened, and beg them to cancel my account and refund my $20.  All of which will cost me way more than $20.

What motivates this sort of horrible behavior?  Here we have a nice product which good technology, but which has somehow ended up in a not-nice company with a rotten approach to customers.  And this happens all the time; I'm sure you've seen it yourself, all too often.  Sigh.

[Update: I just received the following automated email:]

This is an automated response from the GoToMyPC Customer Care Center.  We received your email message on 5/14/2005 at 8:51:20 AM.  We are available to respond to messages 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  If your message requires any follow up you will receive a personal response by email.  Messages are normally answered within two business days from the time received.

Stay tuned...

[Another Update: I just received the following email:]

This is to confirm that the following amount has been refunded to your credit card:

INVOICE #523044445-3
CREDIT: 1 PC Monthly purchased on May 13, 2005

I have to give them credit, that was a fast response on a Saturday.


As the laptop turns - episode 11

Saturday,  05/14/05  08:47 PM

The saga of my laptop trouble continues...  (Links to 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 5, 4.5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)  Here is episode 11...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Monday, April 11, 200510:44 AM
Subject: episode 11 - as the laptop turns

It’s Monday, so it’s time for a new episode of ATLT.

Okay, so I have my new spiffy Compaq nc8230.  I’ve been using it daily – this is being typed on it – and it works great.  I’m one happy camper.  The story appears to have a happy ending, which I understand makes it somewhat less interesting to you, but better for me :)  I’ll try to have a full-on disaster next time.

You will remember there were a few hanging chads.  First, I was still in possession of my old laptop, and my old new laptop, as well as my new new laptop.  I finally convinced HP to pick up the old laptops.  I am pleased to report that HP did pick them up, so I am now down to one laptop.  So HP are not quite as bad as I thought they were.  They’re even planning to “recondition” my old laptop – which still has a questionable display – so perhaps it won’t be junked, and of course my old new laptop was brand new.

P.S. I highly recommend a utility called killdisk.  This zeros your entire hard drive.  It doesn’t merely erase all the partitions and files, it writes zeros to every sector several times.  This way nobody can recover old ScanScope source code and other valuable tidbits from my old drives :)

Next, I did need a new port replicator, since my new laptop is incompatible with my old one.  I bought a new one and have sold the old one on eBay.  Net loss $100 so not bad.  Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for this story, the new replicator arrived dead.  Well actually it sort of worked but not really; in particular, it could not drive my 21” Viewsonic display without a blizzard of snow.  So I had to place a trouble call, they mailed me a new one no questions asked, and I mailed the defective one back.  The new one works perfectly and score another point for HP service.

Finally, there is still the matter of laptop memory.  You’ll remember since you’ve been taking careful notes that my old laptop had 1GB of memory.  Well the new one has “only” 512MB, so HP did agree to send me a new 1GB chip.  The chip duly arrived, but unfortunately for me and fortunately for this story, the chip was the wrong kind.  It looked like it should fit, but there was this little notch that just quite didn’t line up.  Turns out it was 3.0CL memory and I need 2.5CL memory.  EVERYONE knows what CL means, right?  I don’t.  All I know is that the little notch didn’t line up, so now I have to get another chip from HP and return the old one.  This project is single-handedly keeping UPS delivery in business.

So that’s the news, as always, stay tuned for more…


Continue to episode 12...


Saturday,  05/14/05  08:55 PM

AICN tours Pixar - the great room
AICN tours Pixar - animator huts
AICN tours Pixar - conference room

Here's something I meant to post about, but, um, I wasn't posting so I didn't, but now I can...  Ain't It Cool News tours Pixar!  What a wonderful workplace...  The top picture at right shows the "great room"; apparently Steve Jobs wanted everyone to pass through one place together each day, and this was the answer.  It also allows rooms like the conference room in the bottom picture to have views "outside".  The middle picture shows the flexibility granted employees in arranging their personal workspaces - no cubicles here! - these animators have little huts like the dwarves in Sleeping Beauty.  I love it!  [ via Xeni Jardin ]

Another one from recent past; Christopher Locke, aka Rageboy, aka Chief Blogging Officer: Winning through Worst Practices.  This defies summary; you'll just have to go read it.  Bonks about five nails on the head, and keeps you laughing meantime.  He still writes at night when he should be sleeping :)  [ via Sam Ruby ]

Chris Anderson, he of the Long Tail, contrasts the Long Tail vs. the Bottom of the Pyramid.  The bottom of the pyramid is all about commodification, the idea that the same things can be made less expensively to serve more people, while the long tail is about niches, the idea that different things can be distributed less expensively to serve less people.  Not the same.

Speaking of Long Tail markets, how about the long tail of lending?  Wired reports: "A new U.K. website called Zopa aims to hook up two distinct groups of people -- those with spare cash and those looking to borrow some.  The auction-style exchange could give banks a run for their money."  Then plan to use an eBay-style reputation system to score credit.  Interesting!

tablet PCs used by CardiologistsHere's an interesting video on CNet: tablet PCs used by Cardiologists.  Tablets are a great technology for medical imaging, they're a very natural way for doctors to interact with images.  The portability is nice but the ability to draw right on the image is essential.  I've been waiting for the screen resolution to improve so they can be used for Pathology images.  Toshiba just announced two models with 1400x1050 pixel screens, that might do it...

This is/was a good call by Dave Winer: "Sounds like Barry Bonds' career is over, and he knows it."  I guess time will tell, but I had the same reaction.  Recovery from knee surgery at age 40 is a lot tougher without steroids.

I never know how to react to this sort of article: Tom's Hardware on How to Crack WEP.  One side is that by publicizing security problems, they help plug them; nobody with a WiFi network that uses WEP should feel secure.  The other side is that this enables a great many more people to become hackers, and the average guy with a WiFi network in his house doesn't read Tom's Hardware.  I guess in the end information wants to be free.  Anyway it isn't that easy; sort of like copying encrypted DVDs, yeah, you can do it, but no, it isn't easy and you have to invest more time than it is probably worth.

Lego HarpsichordHere we have the Lego Harpsichord, by Henry Lim.  Thought you'd seen everything?  No, you didn't think that, but here's more proof that "everything" is so much more than you thought.  Unbelievable feat of engineering, imagine how heavy this must be!  [ via Gizmodo ]



As the laptop turns - episode 12

Sunday,  05/15/05  10:55 PM

The saga of my laptop trouble continues...  (Links to 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 5, 4.5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)  Here is episode 12...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Monday, April 25, 20053:02 PM
Subject: episode 12 - as the laptop turns

Here it is – the next episode of our serial.  Grab a cold one, relax, and I’ll regale you with the latest laptopular doings of our hero (me).

It has been a couple of weeks, so to bring you up to speed – I have my brand new laptop, my brand new port replicator, and all is well except that HP still owes me a memory chip.  Fortunately for the story this did not turn out to be as straightforward as you might think.

You’ll recall HP has already sent me a 1GB chip, but it was the wrong one, so they had to send a new one?  Well, to make a long story short - something you didn’t think I was capable of doing - they couldn’t do it.  Literally the part could not be ordered.  My correspondent at HP – who I now count among my friends – tried and tried, we had daily conversations, but his order requests kept getting rejected.  The upshot is that the nc8230 is a new model, and it takes a couple of months before parts for new models are available as “parts”.  You can order them retail from “small business”, but you cannot order them internally from “parts”.  HP is a big company and these things happen.  I guess.

Incidentally, I looked up the price of the 1GB chip they sent which was the wrong part.  The HP “parts” price was $1,450.  I am not making this up.  The same exact part on the Crucial or Kingston website costs $200.  Go figure.

Okay, so two weeks and 14 phone calls later, I still don’t have my new memory chip.  And by this time I’m corresponding with my HP rep daily via email.  In fact to give you an idea of how often we’ve corresponded, here is an actual email I received from him:

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 20052:43 PM
To: Ole Eichhorn
Subject: RE: Thank you...

My Pleasure.

P.S. I am married with two boys...8-)  I couldn't resist.

I am not making this up.  Maybe after this is all over, we’ll write a book together.  But in the meantime what do we do about this memory chip, eh?

This morning I had a brainwave.  I know I can order the very 1GB chip I need from Crucial or Kingston for $200 and have it here next day.  But if I did that HP could not reimburse me directly.  However, they can send me parts!  So I suggested that I will go out and buy the chip myself if HP sends me a new port replicator.  I’d bought a new port replicator from them already, however if they send me another one I can return the one I bought for a refund.  Somewhat complicated but it would work.  And guess what - they agreed!

So I excitedly bought a 1GB chip at for $160, next day delivery, and am now waiting to receive a new port replicator from HP.  When I get it, I’ll return my old / new port replicator (which is actually the second one, you remember the first one was defective?)

So, that’s the news.  There are at least two directions this can still go off the rails, and if past experience is a guide Murphy’s Law is in force.  First, the memory chip could turn out not to be available, or could turn out to be the wrong one, or it might be that a 512MB chip doesn’t play nice with a 1GB chip next door.  Second, maybe they can’t order a port replicator internally for the same reason they couldn’t order the memory chip internally, or for a different reason.  Or maybe something else will go wrong :)  So, please stay tuned for more…


Continue to episode 12.1, 12.2, 12.3, 12.4...


Barcelona in winter

Monday,  05/16/05  09:46 PM

Another one for the "Global Cooling" file...
[ via the Horses Mouth ]

Winter in Barcelona...

Barcelona winter 1

Barcelona winter 2




As the laptop turns - episodes 12.1, 12.2, 12.3, and 12.4

Monday,  05/16/05  09:57 PM

The saga of my laptop trouble continues...  (Links to 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 5, 4.5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)  Here are episodes 12.1, 12.2, 12.3, and 12.4...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Monday, April 25, 20053:24 PM
Subject: episode 12.1 - as the laptop turns

Picture me whacking myself on the forehead.  Got that image in mind?  Okay.  Whack.

I just realized instead of asking for another port replicator, and returning the old / new one, I should have asked for something I don’t already have.  That would make up for the memory chip aggravation and then I wouldn’t have to return anything.  I have been plotting to buy a DVD recorder.  Everyone needs a DVD recorder, right?  Especially people who mess around with multi-GB digital images.  My new laptop has a DVD drive which is a CD recorder, but it needs a DVD recorder.

Okay, so a DVD recorder is $300.  This is more than the port replicator ($200) but less than the 1GB memory chip ($500).  Do I dare ask for this?  After they’ve already agreed to send a port replicator?  After they’ve probably already ordered a port replicator? 

What will I do?

Stay tuned.



-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Tuesday, April 26, 20053:05 PM
Subject: episode 12.2 - as the laptop turns

I did it.  You knew I would ;)  Stay tuned.



-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Tuesday, April 26, 20054:05 PM
Subject: episode 12.3 - as the laptop turns

Email received from my friend at HP:

-----Original Message-----
Tuesday, April 26, 20053:16 PM
To: Ole Eichhorn
Subject: RE: memory chip suggestion

I have obtained the part # for the drive:





I am going to order the drive today.

Wow, unbelievable.  Of course much can still go wrong, but much has already gone right.  Excellent.

Stay tuned :)



-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 20055:07 PM
Subject: episode 12.4 - as the laptop turns

Memory arrived today.  Plugged it in.  Woo Hoo 1.5GB.

Since Windows uses about 200MB just sitting around, this is really an increase from 300MB to 1200MB.  Lovin’ it.

Of course I immediately launched ImageScope, set the cache size to 1GB, loaded my trusty Weinberg_A_40X slide, and ran a Positive Pixel Count on the entire image.  Think of it as the Aperio CPU and Memory test :|)  The full power of AAF is unveiled…

Lessons learned:

  • Memory really helps.  Extra memory really helps.  Windows loves memory.
  • Always buy memory from (or Crucial, or Kingston).  It really is a commodity, and it really is WAY less expensive when you don’t buy it from hardware vendors.

Nothing bad to report, sorry.  But stay tuned…


Continue to episode 13...


Monday,  05/16/05  10:07 PM

Cox & Forkum - "flushed"You've probably heard about the Newsweek fiasco by now; Glenn Reynolds posted a link-filled overview.  To me the main point is not that Newsweek screwed up and ran innuendo as fact.  Mainstream media like them have been doing that forever; it is horrible, but it is what it is.  No, the main point is that merely writing an article could cause religious zealots to go crazy and kill people.  The problem isn't Newsweek, it's the zealots.  And they seem to be Islamic zealots, 100% of the time.  Not that Newsweek isn't culpable, too...

Cox and Forkum did their usual fine job of capturing the point; see "flushed" at right.

GNXP: Thirty years of research on race differences in cognitive ability.  It is almost impossible to do research on this subject, you are immediately branded a racist regardless of your methodology or your findings.  Anyway I link, you decide.

There are a lot of interesting bloggers out there, a lot, but nobody is as different as Matt Webb.  Just check out this post about, well, stuff, and tell me he isn't different.  "If we have no expectations, there are no surprises; that's why it's hard to tell jokes to dogs."  I think that's pretty deep :)  Interconnected!

Harry Potter - triwizard tournament dragonComing this November, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  This link is to the teaser trailer; it is cool the way the start, showing the growth of the characters (and the actors that portray them).  And I can't wait to see the triwizard tournament; bring on the dragons!

Here's some important news: Supreme Court allows direct shipment of wine.  I'll drink to that - better distribution, more sources, lower prices.  It's all good. notes Dodger broadcasters honored.  Vin Scully is the best, no question.  Although I don't understand Spanish very well, so perhaps Jaime Jarrin is even better.  For sure the Dodgers are blessed to have such a wonderful team.  The sounds of summer, for sure.

Roomba vaccum = robot child-herderChris Anderson on the Roomba vacuum cleaner: Robot Child-Herders.  I love it!

Mark Pesce writes Piracy is Good - Hyperdistribution.  How Battlestar Galactica marked the end of TV as we know it; distribution models for Bittorrent.  [ via Adam Curry ]

Wired reports on Narrowcasting; or whatever you want to call online video distribution.  (I kind of like the category name Wired gives this stuff: "Digiwood" :)  So this is about Jeremy Allaire's Brightcove, and Akimbo, and Dave TV, and all the rest.  This is real.

Dell Tech Force - the movieThis is pretty funny: Dell Tech Force, the Movie.  The caricatures are perfect.  This is another kind of "amateur" video content.  [ via Engadget ]

Gizmodo discovers Apple is planning a remote for AirTunes - via an Apple error message.  "Apple must now sue itself for leaking info."  Har.  Anyway it will be a useful addition to an already useful appliance.  I just wonder if there won't be a video version...


As the laptop turns - episode 13

Tuesday,  05/17/05  11:34 PM

This is it!  The finale to the saga of my laptop troubles...  (Start here, or links to 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 5, 4.5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 12.1, 12.2, 12.3, 12.4)  Here is episode 13...

-----Original Message-----
From: Ole Eichhorn []
Friday, April 29, 20058:34 AM
Subject: episode 13 - as the laptop turns

This is the final episode of as the laptop turns.  All great sagas must come to an end.

Our story has a happy ending!  (Good for me, bad for the story.)  Yesterday the DVD recorder arrived without a hitch.  I plugged it in and immediately made a 3.5GB DVD-R without problems.  (A stand-alone ImageServer / WebViewer demo for carrying into Fry’s and CircuitCityand Best Buy, so I can test tablet PCs.  But I digress.)

So at the end of the day, two months and countless phone calls and emails later, I have to say HP really came through.  Their reputation for excellent field service is well deserved.  We’re already using HP in our customers’ systems for servers and workstations, and for high-res monitors.  As we need to buy new equipment for our own use we should really use HP – especially laptops, which are finicky and which generally cause “must fix immediately” emergencies when they break.

We want Aperio to have a reputation for excellent service among our customers, and it is instructive that this reputation comes from attitude and follow-through, not necessarily from doing everything right.  HP didn’t do everything right – in fact, one of their field engineers turned a working laptop with a loose connection into a smoking collection of parts – but they ended up delighting their customer (me) by caring, and making it right in the end.


P.S. Does HP make tablet PCs?  Oh, they do!

The end - thanks for tuning in!


Tort reform now!

Tuesday,  05/17/05  11:45 PM

I just read something which boils my blood, and needed to share it.


When private parties prevail upon the court system to settle a dispute, is called a “tort”.  The U.S. tort system is badly in need of reform.

Currently in a tort each side hires lawyers, makes their case, and the court rules.  In the event either party doesn’t like the ruling, they can appeal, and each side hires more lawyers, makes their case, and the appeals court rules.  This can be bubbled all the way up to the Supreme Court if both parties haven’t run out of money.  In addition to ruling on the matter under dispute, the court can also assign damages to either party.  Very rarely does the losing party have to pay the winner’s legal costs.  And this is the fundamental problem.

Because there is no liability for legal costs, anyone can bring a suit against anyone else with impunity.  In many cases the plaintiff don’t even have to pay their own lawyers, because their lawyers will take a case on contingency.  This means they’ll take a percentage of the settlement.  Most suits are settled “out of court” even when there is no basis for them, because fighting a suit is so expensive.  The lawyers will get paid no matter what.

The solution is simple; make each party responsible for the other party’s legal fees.  This would strongly discourage people from filing suits without merit, because they would be taking a substantial financial risk.  This single change to the U.S. tort system would transform the entire landscape, not merely for patent disputes, but for product liability, organization negligence, etc.  Right now when someone in the U.S. suffers any kind of misfortune, their immediate instinct is to sue someone, and with small effort they’ll probably find to find a lawyer to take their case.  This change would greatly reduce the number of frivolous suits which get filed.  In case you wonder whether this change would have horrible consequences, this has been the way torts have worked in Western European countries since time zero.

We’ve all read about the guy who committed murder in a McDonalds, then sued McDonalds alleging their food made him do it.  Or the student at Columbia who failed a class, then sued her professor and the University for causing pain and suffering.  Or the woman who was awarded $2M because she hurt her back opening a pickle jar.  Or the burglar who sued the owner of a house he broke into, because he cut himself on a broken window.  How about the drum majorette who was cut from the spirit squad, and sued the High School for violating her civil right to perform?  I’m no fan of cigarette smoking, but if you choose to smoke, should you then sue tobacco companies when you get lung cancer?  Recently there have been lawsuits filed by fat people against food companies for making them fat.  It goes on and on.

I am not pro-lawyer or anti-lawyer, I am pro-tort-reform.  And you should be as well.  If you have a chance to support candidates who are pro-tort-reform, take it.  This single issue is hurting U.S. business productivity more than any other.  It affects the price of our products and reduces our global competitiveness.  It is not a stretch to say this one issue has more leverage over our average quality of life than any other.


Oh, the thing which boiled my blood?  Remember Rachel Corrie, the young woman who was run over by an Israeli bulldozer in Palestine, while protesting on behalf of refugees?  Her parents are suing Caterpillar for knowingly selling a bulldozer that could endanger lives.  I am not making this up.

P.S. TangoMan agrees, and suggests this was Darwinism in action.


Tuesday,  05/17/05  11:52 PM

BW: Better Weapons in the Cancer War.  Interesting article, but they don't mention ScanScopes!  They will.

Iowahawk is a great satire site; they outdid themselves with this one: The Lutefisk Jihad.  There's just something funny about lutefisk, I don't know.  Of course there's very little funny about jihad.  [ via LGF ]

Glenn Reynolds thinks the Newsweek Toiletgate affair is a tipping point for mainstream media.  I would have thought it was Rathergate, but he may be right.  Surely Newsweek's retraction came much faster than CBS'.

Sometimes the satire is tough to distinguish from reality, consider College Profs denouce Western culture, move to caves.  [ via GNXP ]

This is kind of cool; there's this site,, a discount travel site.  Essentially if you wait until "the last minute" to buy tickets, you can get them really cheap (because they're about to be worth $0).  So the site has a link in the upper corner: "The boss is watching, look busy".  It takes you to a page that looks like an Excel spreadsheet, filled with some awesome buzzword bingo.  "Target leading-edge web-readiness."  I love it.

Revenge of the SithRevenge of the Sith opens tomorrow.  I don't care if it is good, or bad, I'm going to see it.  And you are too.  Of course I don't want it to be bad, but after Attack of the Clones my expectations are very low.  How much suspense can there be in a movie where we knew the ending 25 years ago?  Anthony Lane's review in New Yorker is an artful skewering; he didn't think much of it.  It's worth reading for the flames alone: "The general opinion of 'Revenge of the Sith' seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, 'The Phantom Menace' and 'Attack of the Clones.'  True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion."  Ouch, put a bandaid on that cut!  [ via Tim Bray ]

Mark Cuban does it again: Yahoo forces RIAA staff cutbacks.  Essentially, since Yahoo is now offering unlimited music for $5/month, the recording industry cannot claim that online piracy hurts them any more than $5/month.  Tough to poke a hole in that argument, unless Yahoo is operating at a loss and paying more than they take in (which is possible).

the shark's mouthThe Horse's Mouth posted a great picture.  It's a mouth, but not a horse.  Click through for a bigger pic.

Google+Tivo!You can use Tivo's Home Media toolkit to link Google Maps!  And Keyhole!  Wow.  This might be the last straw, I probably need to get a Series 2.  [ via Matt Haughey ]

[Later: This might be a dancing bear (cool but not useful).  But it is cool!]

Tim Oren explains the Tech Industry: Addicted to Buzz.  "Buzz phrases and their attendant theories are a bit like drugs.  Taken in moderation, they can be beneficial to your business analysis and model.  Butbeware of quacks."  At least, that explains the investor side of the tech industry :)  (Tim is a VC.)

Milwaukee Power Tool - too much powerWhen your power tool is too powerful (link to movie).  Great ad for Milwaukee Power Tools.  [ via Greg Crandall ]

world's longest error message - .NET fatal errorThe world's longest error message?  Courtesy of .NET.  In its own way, impressive.




Wednesday,  05/18/05  10:40 PM

Tonight I used Skype to interview a summer intern candidate for Aperio.  He was in India.  Worked perfectly; voice quality was excellent, although there was a slight delay.  We spoke for 30 minutes and it cost 5 EUR ($7).  If he had Skype too, it would have cost 0 EUR ($0).  Awesome.

[Later: Called my Mom who is visiting friends in Holland tonight.  Also with Skype.  Another perfect call.  Cost was .23 EUR ($.40).  Awesome.]

Palm LiveDrivePocketFactory reviews the new Palm LiveDrive.  The 4GB hard drive seems like an inflection point; from now on PDAs will have hard drives, it seems, and it is only a matter of time before there's a Treo which has one, too.  This device is big for a PDA, and it has a big screen.  Too big for me now, I'm too used to my Treo 600, after having had a Handspring Visor for a while.  Here's the most thought-provoking part: "But LifeDrive isn’t just about photos and digital slideshows.  It handles video as well.  A new built-in app called Camera Companion can import video files and images from digital cameras, using the SD card slot."  So we have a 4GB hard drive and it can play movies.  Will this be a videoPod?  We'll see.  I happen to agree with those who think people consume video differently from the way they consume audio ("those people" includes Steve Jobs).

xBox 360 - the new Media Center PCGizmodo reports xBox 360 officially supports Media Center.  Not a well kept secret, but the cat is now fully out of the bag; this is a key element of Microsoft's strategy for the future.  I actually think this is how people will consume video.  And I expect a Mac Mini -based home media center from Apple later this year.  Along with an online video store.  Will the Apple and MS machines be compatible.  No.  Will that be a problem?  No.

Release 1.0: Network TV signs off.  Networked TV logs on.  Yep.

Matt Haughey comments on the NYTimes new paywall: "The first thought that came into my head after hearing The New York Times will be adding paid subscription walls to their content was that Dave Winer just totally sealed the win on his bet."  The bet in question: in 2007, which will be more authoritative [on the issues of the day], blogs or the NYTimes?  This bet already seems sealed to me :)  [ via Dave Winer ]

P.S. Glenn Reynolds comments "there's a subscriber born every minute".  Heh.  Indeed.

Wired News: The Beeb shall inherit the Earth.  "America's entertainment industry is committing slow, spectacular suicide, while one of Europe's biggest broadcasters -- the BBC -- is rushing headlong to the future, embracing innovation rather than fighting it."  [ via Tom Coates ]

The Jedi of OzWant to see some awesome photoshopmanship?  Check out the Worth 1000 contest to remix Star Wars cliches.  Wow.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Charles Miller finds Discord in Harmony.  "The best way to start an open source project is with code. Working code."  That's the best way to start any project.  Just do it.  You can't overthink programming, sometimes you just have to start typing stuff, knowing you're going to change it all later.  [ via Jeff Atwood ]

auto-update: install of new installerWant to see something lame?  Check out today's auto-update from Microsoft for Windows XP Professional.  It installed a new version of the Windows Installer.  Only.  No other updates, just a new installer.  Oh, and then it wanted to reboot!  

{ Coincidentally, Jeff Atwood just posted about XP's annoying update nagging: "You get two choices-- Restart Now, or Restart Later".  The solution is to turn off the Automatic Updates service, but yeah, this is annoying... }


Cremona revisited - the science of violin making

Friday,  05/20/05  09:31 PM

Itzhak Perlman plays the "Soil" StradivariusOne of the pleasures of being a Caltech alum is the quarterly Engineering & Science publication, which contains a smattering of fascinating articles by and/or about Caltech research activities.  (The periodical is available to anyone for a $10 annual subscription, and after a suitable amount of time has elapsed from publication of the print edition, the articles are posted on the web as PDFs.) 

In the most recent issue there was a wonderful article entitled Cremona Revisited - the Science of Violin Making.

I am not a violinist nor even particularly a fan of orchestral music, but this article was terrific; well-written, and interesting on the subject of how the best string instruments were made 400 years ago.  Current technology has not been able to duplicate or even fully understand the excellent products of a small number of artisans, concentrated in the small town of Cremona, in Italy (the most famous of whom, Antonio Stadivari, has become iconic; "Stradivarius" has become a synonym for "excellent").

Violins are constructed from over 70 pieces of wood which are carefully treated and fit together to produce sound from the vibration of strings.  The resonant harmonics of the instrument body are a function of the shape and material, and are unique to each violin.  Great stuff at the intersection of technology and art!


Friday,  05/20/05  10:45 PM

Sorry I was gone for a day.  Having exhibited an alarming tendency to stop posting, for weeks at a time, I know any lapse is automatically a possible harbinger of another gap.  You don't like to see an alcoholic reaching for that 1st glass of wine :)

Elroy JetsonYesterday I had the pleasure of reuniting with a group of ex-colleagues from my days at Intuit, aka "the Elroy team".  (All projects and products of this team were code-named after Jetson's characters.)  This group was actually a separate company half-owned by Intuit and half-owned by a consortium of VCs, charged with building "Web Quicken" in the wild dot-com days of 1998.  Ah, the stories that could be told...  Anyway it was really cool seeing everyone.  People really don't change.  And even the people you didn't particularly like at the time are wonderful to see seven years later :)

Bill Whittle has posted a new essay, Sanctuary, which means you have to read it.  Go ahead.

Jeff Jacoby: Why Islam is disrespected.  "Yes, Islam is disrespected.  That will only change when throngs of passionate Muslims show up for rallies against terrorism, and when rabble-rousers trying to gin up a riot over a defiled Koran can't get the time of day."  100% right.

The Economist reports on stem cell progress in South Korea. "Unlike many Americans, up to and including the president, Korean scientists - and the authorities that support them - do not wring their hands in agony about experimenting on tiny clusters of cells that might, in other circumstances, grow into people.  They just get on with it."  This is one of many areas where I totally disagree with President Bush.  Good thing California has a $3B stem cell initiative of our own - hopefully the Federal government will stay out of our way.  As if.

personal medical recordsEsther Dyson talks with innovators about Personal Health Records (link to page with movie).  "Is a complete electronic record of your medical history available to you or your doctors?  Chances are, it isn't.  At least not yet."  A key aspect of having a full online record for each patient is capturing Pathology information, which requires digitizing microscope slides.  Which requires a ScanScope!

Joel Spolsky: Wall Street survival 101.  "Never, ever, ever buy bonds at retail from a full-service broker.  Especially municipal bonds."  Okay.

Bittorrent goes "trackerless".  Wow, there goes the neighborhood, if it hadn't gone already.  I downloaded Star Wars Episode III last night, just to see if I could do it (I do want to see the movie in a theater, first).  There were so many seeds active the download only took about 45 minutes, for a 1.4GB file.  The MPAA is going to have a tough time putting this genie back in the bottle.

The popularity of "stuff" in a market area seems to follow a power-law distribution.  Clay Shirkey had done some interesting analysis of power laws, which Chris Anderson summarizes in a power-law primer.  "Powerlaw distributions occur where things are different, some are better than others, and network effects can work to promote the good and suppress the bad."  Like movies :)

Clive Thompson wonders: How ugly will you be in high-def?  Don't ask.

Robert X. Cringley follows up on his inflection point article with another, on creating the future.  I sure hope he's right about Apple's plans for an online video service.  How silly is it that the MPAA are fighting online distribution, instead of leading it?  I guess they didn't learn as much from the RIAA as we'd hoped...

Google's input line has so much power, it is basically a command-line interface to the web.  Jeff Atwood reviews Google-fu.  And since it is available as an HTTP interface, it is already available as a web service for any program which wants it.  The new OS?  Well, yeah, kind of...

kitten cannon - 451'Finally, here we have the Kitten cannon.  [ via Kehaar ]  I don't know that I should be proud or embarrassed that my record is 451'.




The Force is with Return of the Sith

Saturday,  05/21/05  11:39 PM

the CHancellor's office...Today I saw Return of the Sith with my daughter and her friend.  I loved it.  Yeah, really really.  Okay, it is a bit campy, but look, this is Star Wars, it is supposed to be campy.  I don't care if the dialog is a bit stilted, or if the "love scenes" don't really work.  At the highest level this movie did what it was supposed to do - it entertained.  We all knew how it was going to end, but the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader worked; in the particular logic of the Star Wars Universe, it made sense.

The Star Wars movies began as a kind of B Western set in space, cowboys and indians, white hats and black.  They were fun to watch, and the popcorn went down easy.  No, they weren't "deep", and no, the character's weren't fully rendered (although Han Solo came close), and no, the science didn't make any sense.  But it was fun.  You could see real live space battles without the strings showing.  And never mind that sound doesn't travel through space, the sounds were great.  There was a force behind these movies that made them so successful.

The "new" Star Wars movies were at once too serious and too silly.  With the weight of the franchise behind them, they had to perform, and the labor was evident.  The special effects were cool ("pod racing!") but overdone, and the stories faltered.  Episode I was okay, but Episode II sucked, by general acclaim.  (Yes, we all watched it, but yes, we all hated it - in fact hated is wrong, the movie was too lightweight to merit hate - let's say we all disliked it.)  Now we have a "new" movie worthy of the "old" ones, with a clean connector between the stories.  I do think I'll watch this one again, and again, and again, just like the original, and just like Empire Strikes back.

Yoda at batSome critics have opined that this movie is too dark.  Some have read political statements into the story.  Some have bemoaned the weird science, or the illogic of the plot.  I think these people are overthinking things.  Just go watch the movie, and enjoy it.  Take in the wonderful alien planets, the space battles, the light sabers, and Yoda's strange grammar, and enjoy it all.  How often have you seen a light saber duel on a lava flow?  At the end we have a fully formed villain, complete with tragic past and axe to grind, and a brand new hero, just born.  And may the force be with you.

P.S. Having seen this, I am now convinced there will be an Episode VII.  Remember the end of Episode VI?  Yeah, Vader was vanquished, not killed.  And the best part will be, we won't know where it's going until we get there :)


Sunday,  05/22/05  10:33 PM

I began today in nerd mode, spent most of the day in Dad mode, and ended it in fan mode.  Well okay since I'm posting maybe I ended in nerd mode, too...

The day began with a 5-way Skype call including a participant on a cell phone in India.  I am not making this up.  The call wasn't perfect - sound was a bit fuzzy, especially for those on analog phones, and there was a bit of delay, and the line dropped a couple of times, but it worked.  And it wasn't in the "bear dancing" category, either; not only was it cool, but it was useful.  As a result of this 45 minute call, we're planning to hire a summer intern presently located in India.  I love it.

The remainder of the day was spent at Malibu beach with my daughters and their friends.  Perfect day - sunny, with a bit of fog, wonderful breeze off the ocean...  I'm reading Market Forces, by Richard Morgan, the author of Broken Angels and Altered Carbon.  Great so far.

Upon my return I watched the Dodgers lose two straight games to the Angels (on Tivo).  Sigh.  Just when I thought maybe we had a team this year...  Strangely, this Dodger team can hit, but our starting pitching is suspect.

Day by Day... by Chris MuirDo you visit Day by Day, every day?  You should.  (And yes, Chris Muir should have an RSS feed.  And permalinks.  Anyway.)

Gerald Vanderleun bemoans The Unremitting Stupidity of 21st Century "Civilized" Man.  "These stunted souls seem determined to wallow in the banal and the trivial, asserting that only these tiny concerns have any meaning.  It is the zero-sum 'philosophy' of moral relativism branded into actual lives."  Reminds me a great deal of Bill Whittle's recent masterpiece, Sanctuary...

It is exactly this kind of stupidity that has Keith Thompson Leaving the Left.  "I have come to believe, and gladly join with others who have discovered for themselves, that the single most important thing a genuinely liberal person can do now is walk away from the house the left has built."  Interesting, eloquent, and dead on, IMHO.  And published in SFGate, too - I wonder what the majority of its left-leaning liberal readers thought of it?

Yesterday I noted I'd seen Return of the Sith in a theater, and that I liked it.  This was the day after I'd downloaded it from the web.  Does this make sense?  Yes.  So what's with this story:  MPAA Blames BitTorrent for Star Wars distribution?  Do they make any sense?  No.

Samsung 40-inch OLED displayLike many guys, I'm in the market for more inches.  In my home entertainment screen, of course.  And Samsung now has a 40-inch OLED.  Oh my.  1280x1024, and 5000:1 contrast ratio.  I know, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.  I remember a while back John Dvorak wrote, "the PC you want is always $5,000".  Which used to be true.  Now it is hard to spend that much on a PC.  But now it seems "the display you want is always $10,000".  I wonder if that will change, too?

Andrew Grummet: Tales from the duct.  He has been bitten by the scourge of all sailors, “store-bought duct tape”.  REAL duct tape, of the kind used by contractors when assembling ducts, bears no resemblance to the gray tape sold at Home Depot as “duct tape”.  The contractor grade tape is made from real cloth, is stronger than steel, and is the stickiest substance known to man (even when soaking wet).  I’ve heard it said that when duct tape sticks to itself the bond is stronger than the tape, and this might even be true.

P.S. Once I was in a gas station and I happened to have a roll of tape sitting on the front seat, and a guy walking by saw it and said “hey, do you race motorcycles?”  So I guess it is used in other sports besides sailing :)

Tim O'Reilly notes there will be podcast support in the next version of iTunes.  Cool!  But not surprising.  Also note when you read it Steve Jobs' comments on video...

Photoshop with a 3D interfaceEver wonder what Photoshop would look like with a 3D interface?  Wonder no more.  Looks pretty darn cool.  [ via Tom Coates{ The coolest was editing the thumbnail at right in a 2D version of Photoshop... }

cockroach driving robotHere we have a robot controlled by a cockroach.  No, I am not making this up.  "The system uses a living Madagascan hissing cockroach atop a modified trackball to control the three-wheeled robot.  Infrared sensors also provide navigation feedback to create a semi-intelligent system, with the cockroach as the CPU."  Unbelievable.  This is one device that cannot be debugged :)



The new world currency

Monday,  05/23/05  08:23 PM

I was EVP/Engineering of PayPal for a while - something of which I'm quite proud, although the company was already on path for major success before I joined - and at that time, 2001, we used the slogan "PayPal, the new world currency".  This is something we actually believed, even back when everything was done in dollars; all the conference rooms were named after currencies.  (As I recall "Yuan" and "Won" were adjacent, leading to a bit of confusion :)

Anyway the latest issue of the Economist has an interesting survey of international finance, and I was curious to see where, in the eyes of this magazine's London editors, PayPal fit in.  They don't get it, at least, not yet...

From: Ole Eichhorn []
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 6:35 PM
To: ''
Subject: PayPal revisited

Dear Sirs:

In your otherwise excellent and accurate recent survey of international payments, your correspondent notes “Even PayPal, which is used for payments on eBay, an internet auction site, is only an intermediary between the bank accounts of the buyer and seller.”  This is false.  PayPal is an online transaction system where account holders make deposits and withdrawals, and transfer funds from one to another in payment for services entirely outside conventional financial institutions.  There are currently 71M accounts held by users in 45 countries, and funds may be held in any of six currencies.  PayPal pays interest on deposits, offers debit cards, and facilitates online bill payment, among other banking services.  PayPal is indeed useful on eBay for settlement, and this is its largest market, but an estimated 42,000 websites accept PayPal as an alternative to credit cards.

To those who thought “the internet would come to replace the simpler parts of the banking system”, this has indeed come true.  It is only a matter of time before this disruptive technology’s attack from the bottom of the market upward becomes felt by major banks.

Thanks for your attention.



From: Letters to the Editor []
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 6:37 PM
Subject: Re: PayPal revisited

The Editor wishes to acknowledge your email with thanks.

It will be passed on to the appropriate person.

Stay tuned...


Monday,  05/23/05  08:54 PM

According to, by 2050 you will be able to download your brain.  "Dr. Pearson thinks that today's younger generation will benefit from the advances in technology to the point that death will be effectively eliminated."  Very reassuring, I might still be alive in 2050.  This was the excellently executed premise behind Altered Carbon, the terrific sci-fi novel by Richard Morgan.  [ via Slashdot ]

This does of course have interesting consequences for Unnatural Selection!  When memes run the world, turnover among genes is no longer interesting or important.  In fact, immortality is the ultimate gene-stopping meme.

Allen Orr gives a terrific overview of "Intelligent Design", the latest in the long line of Creationist attempts at pseudo-science.  "The movement’s main positive claim is that there are things in the world, most notably life, that cannot be accounted for by known natural causes and show features that, in any other context, we would attribute to intelligence."  Perfect.  So it you can't explain something, you give up and postulate magic.  [ via Panda's Thumb ]

Chris Anderson wonders is the Long Tail full of crap?  Quick answer: Yes.  Slower answer: Yes, but, it is also full of stuff which is every bit as good as the popular stuff at the head.  Mass appeal does not equal "quality".  Consider Aston Martins, they are definitely targeting a niche, but they are definitely not crap.  Great point.

Slate on the Search for 100 Million Missing Women.  "While Oster found, for instance, that Hepatitis B can account for roughly 75 percent of the missing women in China, it can account for less than 20 percent of the boy-girl gap in Sen's native India."  This pretty much defies synopsis, please read it when you can.  Fascinating.

gas prices!YAUFGM - yet another use for Google maps: find the cheapest gas.  Wow, is that ever a market leveler!  [ via ]  Pretty soon those little cell phone apps which read UPC codes to do price checks in stores will have maps to show you were to go for a lower price :)

Microsoft is again fast-following; as Scoble reports on Channel 9, "Virtual Earth" is under construction (this link is to movie).  So be it.  Can't wait for v3 of Virtual Earth in 2008, when it works.

So, I am officially a non-participant in the great podcasting hype-a-thon of 2005.  I think blogging is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or maybe since Gutenberg, but podcasting is always going to have a narrower audience.  It just isn't possible to "fast forward" through audio to skim it, and that's the beauty of blogs.  I don't have the time to listen to anyone - no matter how interesting - for extended periods of time.  What about you?

Sigh, even Business Week is podcasting.  I predict this fad will indeed be a fad, and in two years will have gone the way of all fads.  It has its place, but it is not anywhere near as fundamental as the web or blogging.  Furthermore when video podcasting takes hold - coming soon - it won't get that big either (except maybe as a vehicle for amateur porn and other entertainment).

Jeff Atwood is blogging about blogging:

  • you have to want to write
  • you have to believe you have something to say
  • you have to have an interesting way of saying it
  • you have to be a decent (not great, but decent) writer
  • you have to enable blog comments

I agree with all but the last; my comment, left on Jeff's blog (since he does have comments):

"I agree with everything except 'you must have comments, period'.  I've had a blog for several years which doesn't have comments.  I do consider it a blog as [I think] do my subscribers and visitors and linkers.  People respond to me via email or by posting on their blogs, and we link back and forth.  I'm not opposed to comments but I've never felt I had the bandwidth to moderate comments; seems like you have to spend time weeding out spam and flames and stuff like that, and I haven't have it."

So what do you think, any comments?

USB lava lampFinally, continuing the great tradition of making everything USB-powered, here we have the USB lava lamp.  [ via Engadget ]  I am not making this up, and I want one :)




(New Yorker - 5/23/05)

Tuesday,  05/24/05  11:18 PM

How to avoid spring fever

"How to avoid spring fever"
- Roz Chast

Ada works well, too...


Tuesday,  05/24/05  11:31 PM

The Dutch are apparently losing interest in the EU.  So be it.  I'm Dutch, maybe that explains why I've lost interest.  Do you care?  No?  Hey, you might be Dutch, too :)  [ via Instapundit ]

Philip Greenspun found an awesome Easter egg: Fun with the Incredibles DVD.  "Sit back and enjoy a clip of my cousin Doug Frankel riding a scooter through the hallways of Pixar."  Whoa.

stunt city deodorant adStunt City - an awesome deodorant ad set in a city where everyone performs stunts.  I especially love the way everyone "drops in" to a meeting.  Must see.  [ via Cult of Mac ]

Here's a link worth saving - LA area hotspots!  [ thanks, Sean ]

Sign of the times - no cussing!Horse's Mouth with a sign of the times?

You probably saw this article about two Star Wars fans who were filming a mock light saber duel with fluorescent light bulbs filled with gasoline.  I wouldn't link it except as a segue to L.T. Smash: the force was not with these two morons.  I especially like Ben's comment: Darwin Award winners they will someday be.

kittenwar - may the cutest kitten win
Kittenwar.  May the cutest kitten win.



Intern update

Wednesday,  05/25/05  08:50 PM

The other day I noted Aperio was desperately seeking a summer intern.  I mailed flyers to all the local schools.  I called their computer science departments.  I told everyone I knew.  And I posted to my blog.  Guess which source of leads was the best?

If you said "your blog, of course", you would be correct.  In fact several other blogs linked to mine - most notably Robert Scoble - which amplified the effect.  (Thanks!)  I received literally hundreds of emails from interested students.

So what happened?  Well, we had so many qualified applicants we ended up hiring two interns.  One of them is a Masters student at Syracuse University (that would be in New York), who is presently in India.  The other is a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  These guys get to spend the summer in San Diego, on the beach coding for a cool startup.  Think the Internet hasn't made the world smaller!  Wow.

Anyway we are really excited to have two excellent interns joining us.  The power of the blog!


Wednesday,  05/25/05  09:04 PM

Interesting how much interest there is in the upcoming EU votes in France and the Netherlands, by people who don't normally pay attention to this.  I suspect it has something to do with the impending defeat of a Jacque Chirac -inspired initiative; people love to see him fail, at anything.  In a broader sense, I think this is an important issue, especially for people in the smaller states of Europe.  (Just as the people in, say, Rhode Island were more affected by the U.S. Constitution's safeguards than people in Pennsylvania.)  At the highest level it makes sense to me that there would be a "United States of Europe", analogous to the U.S.  However this particular effort at a constitution seems doomed to failure; the principles were too murky, and there was too much detail.

Did you know there was an election in Lebannon?  Yep, there was - and without the Syrians.  How cool is that?  Maybe Bush has gotten it right?

One area where Bush has gotten it wrong is stem cell research.  This issue is interesting because it is going to split the Republicans; the "true" conservatives vs. the libertarians.  Probably a good thing.  Maybe we need another party for ex-Democrats :)

Bitman's Place - teach your kids about computersTrying to get your kids interested in computers?  Check out Bitman's Place.  You can signup for the beta at Jeff Sandman's blogThis is really cool.  For parents as well as kids!

Chris Anderson on the dangers of "headism".  "The mistake of assuming that the economic incentives and other forces that dominate at the head of a demand curve apply equally down the tail."  As usual, great thought-provoking analysis.

Bittorrent adds search.  Well that's cool, but unfortunately a few tests reveal it isn't a very good search.  They have a ways to go before they're in there with isohunt.

the flying lawnmowerOkay, here we have a flying lawnmower.  More proof, if any were needed, that you can find anything on the web.  Unbelievable.

Ah, yes, the power of the white suit.



Friday,  05/27/05  10:56 PM

What's happening?  Well, let's see, shall we...

U.S. Constitution - one handwritten pageE.U. Constitution - 325 printed pagesThere's a great post on the Horse's Mouth about the upcoming referendum on the EU Constitution.  Tellingly, he's posted a picture of the US Constitution (a single handwritten page) and one of the proposed EU Constitution (325 pages of small print in a bound book).  Any questions?

So what do we make of Peter Lynds?  According to Wired, he is an apparent genius who has published a Physics paper 'Time and Classical and Quantum Mechanics: Indeterminacy vs. Continuity', in which he maintains that time isn't quantized.  "In his theory, reality is merely sequences of events that happen relative to one another; time is an illusion."  If that sounds like mumbo-jumbo to you, it is.  The low-level definition of time is not related to causality, it is related to the structure of matter.  This is where you wish writers for Wired and their like were scientists instead of English majors...

Titan's bright spot!Leaving no Titan-related stone unturned, I must note CNN reports Bright spot on Titan baffles scientists.  "The Cassini spacecraft captured an image of the 300-mile (480-kilometer) blotch during a flyby of Titan earlier this year."  It probably isn't a surface feature, more likely a persistent weather feature like Jupiter's red spot.  Cool.  Oh, and here's a Slashdot thread on the same subject.

Again I have to note that Matt Webb consistently posts the most "different" stuff on the web.  He asks for a new RSS reader feature:  "Every so often it should silently hide one of the feeds.  If I notice, and if I remember what it was is that's been hidden, I should be able to say:  Hey, you forgot feed X, give it back!, and the application would say:  Okay then, you got me banged to rights, here it is.  If I don't notice or can't remember, the feed is deleted permanently."  I love it!

Eric Mack discusses how to get your kids interesting in computers.  Now this is a blog post that's going to change my world.  I am a computer guy - duh! - but my kids are computer users, which is a different thing.  As expert as they are in the use of various programs, the idea that they could actually create their own programs has not taken hold.  [ via Robert Scoble ]

I think part of the problem is that development environments are so complicated.  When I was a kid, you launched Basic and poof, there you were.  Understanding VS.NET is a task for a lifetime.  It doesn't have to be that complicated, but it is.

Apropos, Jeff Atwood notes Incompetence considered harmful.  I love his list of coding paradoxes:

  1. Wicked Problems.  You can't understand the problem you're trying to solve until you've partially solved it.
  2. Iterative development.  Users can't fully express what they want you to build until you build a version of the software for them to experience.
  3. Extreme skill disparities. The worst software developers are profoundly bad; the best software developers are absurdly good. 

the Sea OrbiterHere we have the Sea Orbiter.  "The SeaOrbiter has a decidedly futuristic look, and a contemporary purpose.  Its mission: to follow the currents and give scientists a platform from which to observe sea creatures on their home turf and to study the interaction between ocean and atmosphere (and their effect on climate)."  I suspect it won't really work, but it sure is beautiful.  [ via the Horse's Mouth ]

I've continued to try using the new Bittorrent Search and have concluded that it doesn't work.  Yet.  Maybe their spiders just need time.  The bottom line on any search engine is whether it can find the stuff you're looking for, and this one can't...

Livestrong braceletHalley notes Livestrong is one year old!  Wow.  47 million little yellow bracelets.  I wear mine everywhere (actually I'm on about my 3rd or 4th one), and I've noticed people don't ask about it as much; I think they know what it is, now.  Extremely cool.  As is the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

I need to mention once again the sheer excellence of  If you ever fly anywhere, you must visit this site to select your seats.  Did you know that all seats in an Alaska Air B-737 are not the same size?  Aha, I thought so.  And did you know that the MD-80 is quieter than the B-737 because the engines are in the rear?  See, it's useful.  Check it out!

By the way, this is the kind of site where I love Firefox with Adblock.  They have Doubleclick ads and Google ads, but you'd never know it if you visit it the way I do.

Donky Kong does Van Halen's Maxwell...Donkey Kong does Van Halen.  Yes, you probably have to see this to believe it.  And you must see it.  An amazing compendium of old computer game screenshots, beautifully strung together.  Maxwell Jump!  [ via Gerard Vanderleun, in a collective link-filled post entitled 'Instapundit Lite'.  Indeed. ]

the iGuyFinally, check out the iGuy, "Gumby for your iPod".  One of the many effects of the Internet has been the speed with which company A responds to a product released by company B.  In addition to being a success in and of itself, the iPod has spawned hundreds of other products.  Excellent!  [ via Engadget ]




Saturday,  05/28/05  11:10 AM

This is going to be a long post.  I can tell.  I have all these thoughts, jumbled together, and it is going to take a lot of words to get it all out.  Sorry.

The subject is Windows.  I am a student of Windows; I have used it since Windows 2.0, and I have programmed for it since Charles Petzold first made writing SDK programs doable (shortly after Windows 2.0).  I remember Windows 386 (do you?), and Windows 3.0, and 3.1, and 3.11, and 95, and 95b, and 98, and 98SP.  And ME.  I remember NT 3.1 (do you?), and NT 4, and Windows 2000.  Now we have XP and 2003.  All through this evolution, Windows has solved three main problems, or should I say, has provided to software developers the means to create solutions for three main problems.  First, it enables development of reasonable and consistent graphical user interfaces.  Second, it enables multiple large programs to be run concurrently.  And third, it enables machines to be networked together.  Everything else - device management, multimedia, security, etc. - is peripheral.  (That ought to get me some email!)

So how well does Windows solve these three problems?  Well, it does a great job with GUIs.  Mac aficionados may beg to differ, but on balance, Windows has succeeded because it provides a nice GUI, and because developers can create reasonable and consistent GUIs.  It does a so so job with enabling multiple large programs to be run concurrently.  Multitasking is now a solved problem, as is multithreading, but storage management is still klunky and slow.  Windows has the worst paging algorithms of any OS in general use.  And it does a crummy job with networking.  Windows computers can easily join TCP/IP networks, but file sharing is a great mystery, domain management is difficult and idiosyncratic, and providing network services in applications is complicated.

Which brings me to my main point.  Microsoft has now spent four years building Longhorn, the "next" version of Windows, and it looks to be spending two more years at least.  When Longhorn is released, it will have been at least six years since XP came out.  That is a long time in computer years.  What will we get?  If it were up to me, Microsoft would stick to its knitting, and instead of trying for more and more functionality - which is properly the province of application software anyway - it would fix paging and fix networking.  Do the things Windows should do well.  I won't get my wish, but that's what I want.

In fact, the whole way Microsoft has approached Longhorn is flawed.  In the fall of 2003 I attended the MS Professional Developer's Conference.  This was where Longhorn was first unveiled to the public.  The conference itself was great, but at that time I opined that "there's a lot less here than it would at first appear".  MS appeared to be trying to change everything with the intent of providing a lot of new functionality, but actually it was just making things slower and harder.

What Microsoft should do, instead of this incredible six-years-in-the-making grand new version, is it should release a simple upgrade to XP/2003 which is faster, and which has a few new features.  You could call this Shorthorn.  Fix paging.  It is past time Windows had a decent implementation of virtual storage.  Fix networking.  It is about time for Windows to have a simple computer-to-computer communication mechanism.

I am the CTO of a company which builds medical imaging software for Pathologists.  These applications use a lot of RAM.  They would love it if virtual storage actually worked, but in practice as soon as you start paging under Windows, your performance goes out the window.  Meanwhile the same applications on a Mac can page easily with only slight degradation in performance, and the degradation occurs gradually.  Paging is a solved problem.

Have you ever had two computers sitting next to each other, and tried to transfer files from one to the other over a network?  Not easy, is it?  How many people have multiple computers in their homes?  How many can easily share files, or printers?  How many small businesses struggle to setup file and print servers?  How many people understand Windows domains, and active directory?  You need a PhD just to connect a few computers together.  The situation is ridiculous, especially since good solutions have been out there for years.

Imagine you are a developer king, sitting at your desk.  You have a state of the art PC and every possible development tool.  You have the entire Windows source tree.  You can do anything you want, build anything, change anything, fix anything.  What would you do to create value for all Windows users?  Would you implement some new multimedia features?  No.  Would you rewrite the presentation layer to use vector graphics?  No.  Would you implement some new security layer?  No.  Well, maybe you would, but I wouldn't.  Now imagine you made paging twice as fast, and made it degrade gracefully instead of falling off a cliff.  That would be cool.  It would benefit 100% of all Windows users, and it would be entirely upside, with no incompatibility, nothing to re-learn.  Just pure greatness.  Now imagine you made networking computers easy.  That would be cool.  It would benefit nearly 100% of all Windows users, and it would be entirely upside.

That's the technical view, but what about the business view?  Well, let's see.  For Windows there are two parts to the market, new machines, and upgrades.  You get the new machine market automatically; basically everybody who buys a computer buys a copy of Windows.  They don't particularly care or even know whether it is Windows XP or LH or SH or whatever.  (Corporate IT departments do know and care, but they still take what you give them.)  What about the upgrade market?  We have these millions of computers out there.  If you release Longhorn, with lots of spiffy new features but which makes everyone's machine slower, will they buy it?  I don't think so.  They might have to buy a new computer just to run it.  They might be afraid of the incompatibilities.  If you think this wouldn't happen, check how many people are still running Windows 2000.  On the other hand, if you release Shorthorn, with fewer spiffy new features but which makes everyone's machine faster, will they buy it?  Of course.  They won't have to buy a new computer, and they won't have to worry about incompatibilities.  If you think this wouldn't happen, check what happens in the Mac market.  Everyone upgrades from Jaguar to Panther to Tiger, because each release is faster, and they are all compatible.  Sure there are cool new features, but that's secondary.

The fact that each new release of Windows is slower than the previous one has opened the door for Linux, too.  The usual story behind any Linux box is that it's an old computer which couldn't run the latest version of Windows, so it was loaded with Debian and now runs just fine as a webserver or mail server or file server or whatever.  For example, this website is running on a seven-year-old Pentium 2 @ 233MHz, on Red Hat; no way I could do that with XP or 2000.

I would bag 50% of the code created for Longhorn.  Just trash it.  Make Shorthorn a smaller release, with fewer new features, with some key performance enhancements, and get it out there.  Release the spiffy new features as add-ons, when they're ready.

If you think Avalon is cool (the new vector-based presentation layer), great, release it.  If you think XAML is cool (the new non-procedural XML-based presentation description technology), great, release it.  If you think WinFS is cool (the new file system technology incorporating a metadata database), great, release it.  If you think Indigo is cool (the new web services -based communication technology), great, release it.  Just make these things optional, please!

Actually there are signs Microsoft is doing this; they've already tossed the WinFS bags from the balloon, and now we see that Longhorn won't be written in C# after all.  I think they discovered that GUIs are fine in .NET, but low level drivers are not.  There is a performance price to be paid, and the cost is too high.

Please, don't get me started on .NET.  Just don't, okay?  It doesn't make any sense.  Why create a virtual machine when you only run on one machine architecture anyway?  Just to copy Java?  Just to make things slower?  I don't get it.  So don't get me started.

As enlightened users, we should do all we can to accelerate this trend.  Post to your blog.  Write to your local Microsoft blogger.  You know there is panic in the halls at Redmond.  They did not plan to spend six years building a new OS, just so they could cut everything back.  They do not want Longhorn to be a disaster.  If we all - and I mean all - encourage Microsoft to release Shorthorn instead, maybe they'll do it.  They can claim the change in strategy is because they're listening to their users, and it will be true.


the nuclear option

Sunday,  05/29/05  11:23 AM

Relax, this is not a post about filibusters or approving Supreme Court justices.  No, this is about nuclear energy.

oil & natural gas supplies over timeAs you know, oil supplies are peaking, and prices are on the rise.  Neither of these questions is really open to debate.  We all understand that oil is a finite resource.  We can argue about whether supply will peak in 2010 or 2040, but it is clear that it will peak, and thereafter we'll be running out of oil.  Any resource whose supply is limited and decreasing is going to become more expensive.  [ Mark Frauenfelder had a great link-filled post about this. ]

So what do we do?  Clearly there are two paths to follow, and clearly we must follow both of them.  First, we must try to reduce our entropy consumption.  Second, we must develop alternative sources of entropy.

Note: people often use "energy" when they mean "entropy".  The first law of thermodynamics tells us that in any process energy is always conserved.  The second law of thermodynamics causes the problem, it says that in any process entropy always increases.  Think of "entropy" as "randomness".  The more ordered things are, the less random they are, and the more potential energy is available.  All processes which release potential energy to perform work reduce the order, and increase entropy.  Think of any two-year old - as energy is released, order is destroyed :)

Reducing entropy consumption is all very exciting, but I don't want to talk about that today.  In the end this can only help, but it can't solve the problem.  As the worldwide standard of living increases, so, too, does the worldwide consumption of entropy per person.  It is worth trying to slow the trend, but it will be impossible to reverse.

So what alternatives do we have?

First, there is certainly hydroelectric power.  Can we significantly increase production of energy from hydroelectric sources?  Not really.  First, all the low hanging fruit has been picked; virtually every big river flowing through a gorge has been dammed.  Over time we have to use smaller and smaller rivers, which are harder and harder to dam, and which ultimately produce less and less power.  And the ecologic consequences of damming rivers is significant.  Other sources of hydroelectric power like harnessing tides are speculative.  They might work, but they aren't proven to scale.  Furthermore each tends to have some negative effect on its environment.

Next consider solar power.  Can solar power be the solution?  It can certainly be part of the solution.  In sunny areas it is great for small-scale projects like heating swimming pools.  On the upside it seems to have minimal effect on its environment.  However it isn't efficient enough - by orders of magnitude - to replace oil.  The power produced is too low, and the cost of the power is too high. 

How about wind?  I've considered wind power previously.  It really doesn't make much sense; it is inefficient, expensive, and highly detrimental to the immediate environment.  Furthermore the number of areas with consistently high wind and large areas of land is small.  Maybe someday people will figure out how to generate wind power out on the ocean - a good combination of high wind and large areas - but that's speculative.

Which really only leaves the nuclear option.  Nuclear energy is actually the best alternative to burning oil.  First, it scales; it is already possible to build big nuclear power plants which produce energy on the scales required.  Second, it is relatively clean; although the problem of waste disposal is a problem, it is arguably less destructive than releasing hydrocarbons produced from burning oil into the atmosphere, or damming rivers, or covering vast areas with windmills.

Amazingly, this option seems to be gathering support.  FuturePundit reported American electric utilities planning new nuclear reactors, and wondered will most environmentalists decide to support nuclear power?  Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth catalog, makes the case for going nuclear.  [ via David Pescovitz ]

Even the NYTimes reported Old foes soften to new reactors:  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Several of the nation's most prominent environmentalists have gone public with the message that nuclear power, long taboo among environmental advocates, should be reconsidered as a remedy for global warming.  Their numbers are still small, but they represent growing cracks in what had been a virtually solid wall of opposition to nuclear power among most mainstream environmental groups.  In the past few months, articles in publications like Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Wired magazine have openly espoused nuclear power, angering other environmental advocates.

Interestingly the focus of this article was reducing global warming, which is a consequence of burning fossil fuels, but of course reducing our dependence upon oil as a source of entropy is important, too.

Perhaps the best recent survey was in Business 2.0: Going Nuclear.  One emphasis of this article was on why nuclear energy is safe, and especially why it is safer than it was.  Naturally we're worried about disposing of nuclear waste, but we're even more worried about avoiding another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl.  The risk is nonzero but low, and getting lower.

This is all good.  It seems that intelligent people of all stripes are converging on the nuclear option.  Which is terrific, because the alternative - continuing to burn oil until it is gone - is no option at all.


thank you all

Monday,  05/30/05  10:11 AM

in memoriumOn this Memorial Day, I just want to thank all the men and women in our armed forces, from the bottom of my heart, starting with my daughter Nicole (who is a master-at-arms in the Navy).  The Navy has a motto, "non sibi sed patriae", which means "not self but county", and that pretty much says it.  These wonderful people - many of whom have, over the years, given their lives - ensure that you and I can raise our families in peace and prosperity, secure and free.

I really can't express my thanks and feelings any better than L.T. Citizen Smash did; I love his sentiments and echo them 100% percent.

We should never forget them - ever - but today, especially, let us all keep them in our thoughts.


Tuesday,  05/31/05  10:20 PM

So the French have said non and the Dutch are saying nee to the proposed EU Constitution.  So be it.  Again I say the concept is fine, but the execution was not.  This idea will be back.

Tim Bray on Patent Reform (one of my favorite subjects).  "Whatever you think about patent law, as a longtime businessman I’m pretty convinced that the IP law profession, while it contains many good and intelligent people, is collectively a giant leech sucking money and time out of the community of innovators."  Absolutely, this is where the bottom feeders go to feed.  But we can't change people, so we must change the laws.  Tim links a great article: defending against patent greenmail, which suggests the best defense is a good offense; initiate a patent review.

video4skype - video over IPWell, I knew this was coming, I just didn't think it was coming so soon: video4skype.  "Dialcom's Spontania video plug-in is designed to be integrated with any 3rd party Internet-based communication solution.  Dialcom selected Skype, the leading VoIP solution, as the first integration candidate.  As a result of this, we are pleased to bring you Spontania video4skype, for free."  Whoa.  Now we can call it video over IP, instead of voice over IP.  [ via Slashdot ]

BTW, Tom's Hardware has a new review comparing Skype to Vonage.  They're both good, and have different characteristics.  Nothing earth-shattering but if you're new to VoIP this is a great primer.

Bathsheba Grossman 120 cellI've noted these wonderful meta sculptures by Bathsheba Grossman before; Mark Frauenfelder just posted about them.  I have a "120-cell" (pictured at left); which is a three-dimensional representation of a four-dimensional dodecahedron.  There are actually 120 dodecahedrons arranged in a beautifully symmetric pattern (each dodecahedron has 12 pentagonal faces).  Incredible.

Google hardware circa 1999Jeff Atwood notes Google hardware circa 1999.  You have to love it, now they have the largest collection of servers and disks in the world, but six years ago, 10 CPUs and 366 GB.  Wow.  I'm trying to remember the first time I tried Google; it might have been in 1999, because they were right across the parking lot from me when I worked at Intuit.

vi reference mugCafepress are selling a vi reference mug.  I want one!  Over the years I'm sure I've written more code using vi than any other editor, even though it sucks isn't very good.  At one point I even wrote my own editor (!), called ice, and in the doc I noted "vi was a great influence on ice, because it was an ever-present reminder of what an editor should not be".  [ via Rogers Cadenhead, who notes that he's lusting after one even though he doesn't use the program. ]


Return to the archive.

this date in:
About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
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
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?
still the first bird
electoral fail
progress ratches
2020 explained