Archive: May 9, 2005
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!
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?
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 :)
The saga of my laptop trouble continues... (Links to 1, 2, 3, 3.5) Here is episode 4...
From: Ole Eichhorn [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 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...
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.
BTW, 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!
I'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.
The 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.
So, 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.
Online 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!
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...
Return to the archive.
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
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
where are the desktop apps?