Critical Section

Archive: June 2005

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song of spring (New Yorker 6/1/05)

Wednesday,  06/01/05  04:38 PM

Ah, the song of spring...

By Peter de Sève

Cult of Mac notes this is the first time an iPod has made a New Yorker cover.
I suspect he's listening to Ottmar... 
Then again, maybe he's listening to Adam Curry - or the Gillmor Gang :)


Wednesday,  06/01/05  09:34 PM

zacht ei - soft eggFound an interesting Dutch blog (in English): Zacht Ei.  (Literally, "the soft egg"; the motto "doorbakken kan altijd nog" means "cooking thoroughly can always be done later".  What a great motto for a blog!)  Anyway there are lots of posts about the Dutch referendum on the EU Constitution; you probably heard it was resoundingly rejected...

According to this article at Blogspotting, blogs tilted the French vote.  "A law professor named Etienne Chouard's blog received 25,000 visits per day, and was linked throughout the French blog world.  His blog turned this professor into a national celebrity, one who went head-to-head with the leading French politicians."  Excellent.

Laguna Beach landslideGerard Vanderleun reports on the horrible landslides in Laguna Beach.  The picture at right is captioned: "This is the route I normally take home.  I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to be taking the longer back way in for some time to come."  Unbelievable, about 20 homes destroyed.  And it isn't raining or anything.

CNN is celebrating its 25th anniversary!  Amazing.  The network which came of age during the first Gulf War - and kind of imploded during the second - ushered in the current era of worldwide always-on news.  Long before the Internet, and blogs :)

Fighting cancer with math.  "By using a mathematical formula formula designed to strengthen the immune system, a team of scientists in Spain have succeeded in curing a patient who was in the last stage of terminal liver cancer."  It sounds cool but I'm from Missouri; there are no details in the article to suggest how the tumor's growth was arrested.  The posters on this slashdot thread are pretty skeptical, too.

TechNews reports Microsoft will drop 'my' prefix for Longhorn.  The mind boggles.  Yeah, I just wish they would do Shorthorn instead of making dramatic changes like this :)

John Koetsier thinks I am "improbably named".  So be it.

MS did just announce new "open" XML feeds for Microsoft Office.  I'll wait for the experts to opine on how "open" they really are, but presumably this is a step in a good direction.  For many of us it won't particularly affect our day-to-day work; I've been using Office XP for four years now, and I haven't seen a reason to upgrade, dinosaurs notwithstanding.  Plus, did we really need to change the file formats again?  [ via Robert Scoble ]

[ Later: Tim Bray weighs in; he notes "the popular wisdom is that it takes Microsoft until Release 3 of anything to get it right; but the early word on the new Office XML format makes Release 2 look pretty good" and "the news coverage says 'late 2006'; good luck to the team in the tough job of getting it shipped."  Late 2006 huh - more announceware like Longhorn.  After it ships let's talk about it. ]

Peter Rojas wonders Microsoft + IPTV = Trouble?  Interesting to see how this plays out.  I think the xBox is in the strategy somewhere...

Yesterday we noted Video4Skype, now today we get Sony's Instant Video Everywhere.  This is happening fastVoIP = Video over IP.

PS/2 to USB converterGizmodo: the PS/2 to USB converter.  $19.  This seems so obviously useful.  And it seems the best way to connect old PC keyboards and mice to a new Mac Mini :)

Check this out: the placebo mini-pattern.  How to keep users happy while your program churns.

John Gruber has posted a fascinating look inside Tiger, the latest Mac OS X release.  Among other more-useful nuggets: The "waiting for login" window apparently uses the placebo mini-pattern (a "fake" progress bar).

Apple store Mission ViejoHave you been in an Apple store?  They are awesome.  I went to the store in Mission Viejo yesterday; walked out with a new Airport Extreme WiFi hub and SpongeBob SquarePants Teaches Typing.  Great shopping experience, including knowledgable salespeople (Me: "does the Mac Mini support the 30" display?"  Him: "no, the highest supported resolution is 1920x1200, like on the 23" display."  Okay, got it.  Try that at Fry's!).  Imagine you wanted to buy a computer, but you didn't know anything, this would be the place to go.

Einstein the birdCheck out Einstein, the bird.  Wow.  I'm speechless, but she isn't.  [ via Woundwort ]




dances with kids

Friday,  06/03/05  09:05 AM

I went to a dance with my daughter Megan last night
(<-- she's eight).  This is what happened!

Would you read a blog written by this guy (-->)?

You have been warned.


Saturday,  06/04/05  09:28 AM

Will Chief Justice William Renquist retire soon?  We'll see, it certainly seems likely.  And Judge Michael McConnell appears to be the front-runner.  I can't wait for these confirmation hearing; he would make some of those extreme Democrats look pretty bad.

household savings ratesThe Economist posted a great survey article on the state of pensions: getting grayer, and poorer too?  "Populations are ageing, in rich and poor countries alike.  This means big trouble for governments, who need to find some way to keep their retirees out of poverty without breaking the budget."  This is really the most important economic problem we face at the moment, more important than the price of oil.  Letting people invest their own social security money doesn't solve it, either.  The problem is exacerbated by the ongoing decrease in household savings rates (graph at left), which means that old people have less money saved, even as they live longer and governments have less money to support them.

Okay, you knew I had to link this: the NYTimes reports Researchers Say Intelligence and Diseases May Be Linked in Ashkenazic Genes.  The Economist survey of the paper is good, too.  GNXP has more in a post entitled Overclocking.  Ann Althouse quotes Steven Pinker: "It would be hard to overstate how politically incorrect this paper is."  Ah, but is it true?  If you are interested in these things, I encourage you to read the paper itself.  Amazing how we are just now starting to talk about these things in public.  (What's next, Unnatural Selection? :)

Howard Dean is really an embarrassment for our country, let alone for the Democratic party.  And I say this as a Democrat - albeit one who continuously finds himself on the same side as Republicans, please can we move the party back toward the middle!  Politicians spin a lot, and they often exaggerate the truth, but Dean's specialty is flat-out lying.  Horrible.

FuturePundit compares next generation coal and nuclear plants.  "For large scale expansion of base generation capacity the two realistic choices today are nuclear and coal.  If you oppose one you have to be willing to support the other."  Some good analysis, which leads one to support the nuclear option...

Wired reports Koreans forge ahead on cloning.  "Cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk and his research team shocked the world a year ago by cloning a human embryo. Last month, the team at Seoul National University created the first embryonic stem cells that genetically match injured or sick patients."  This genie is out of the bottle, no way to keep it in.  [ via Ottmar Liebert, who notes "Nothing is going to stop stem-cell research, not the politicians, and not the religious leaders... because when people suffer and there is a potential cure it is impossible to stop the wheel from turning." ]

Apparently there will be a .XXX top-level domain.  (Joi Ito has some notes.)  This means porn sites will be able to use for their domain names.  It doesn't mean they must use .xxx, so there will continue to be thousands of sites your kids can "accidentally" reach by mistyping names.  Not sure whether this matters.

The rumors are swirling that Apple is going to support Intel processors.  Probably "support" not "switch to".  I don't get it, but I don't have to...  Maybe after I read enough blog posts, I'll get it.  Right now it seems like a good way for Apple to commoditize (cheapen) the Mac "user experience".  Stay tuned as I cogitate...


apple on intel

Saturday,  06/04/05  12:18 PM

Earlier today I posted about the rumors that Apple is planning to support Intel CPUs.  I'd wrote "probably 'support' not 'switch to' but after one bike ride's worth of cogitation I think this is exactly wrong.  "Switch to" means there would be Apple Mac computers which have Intel CPUs, while "support" means that Apple's OS X would run on Intel-based PCs.  I seems much more likely that Apple would release Intel-based Macs than that they would support OS X on PCs.

First there is the practical aspect.  Since Apple owns the code, moving their OS from one CPU architecture to another is no big deal; first order they just recompile and port a few low-level subroutines.  However supporting all the PCs out there in the world is a very big deal, essentially an impossible boil-the-ocean deal.

The other day in my rant about Longhorn Shorthorn I gave Window's device support short shrift, which was unjustified.  (Except possibly as a rhetorical device in support of my argument :)  The truth is that supporting thousands of different computers and chipsets and storage devices and printers is really hard.  Microsoft deserves credit for the Windows' device architecture, but this magic really happened because of the market; nobody is going to release a new computer or chipset or storage device or printer without first developing a device driver for it and testing it under Windows.  However if Apple wanted to do this, they would have to support everything themselves, unless they emulated Windows' device driver architecture (!), which seems unlikely.  Even then it would be impossible to test everything.

Second there is the strategic aspect.  Apple has built their brand on a superior "user experience".  (They have even their own stores to ensure a superior "shopping experience"!)  With Mac computers running the Mac OS, they control the user experience.  If the computers happen to have a different processor inside, so be it; Apple still controls the user experience.  The average computer user won't be affected one whit; any more than they are affected by the brand and type of memory or disk drive or power cord for that matter.  However if OS X ran on PCs, the user experience would be partially determined by the PC vendor.  Crummy low-end PCs might result in a crummy low-end user experience.  It is hard to imagine Steve Jobs allowing that kind of brand dilution.

Okay, so we have Intel-based Mac computers, so what?  As noted Apple can easily create a [separate] version of OS X which runs on them.  (Actually we've been reading that they did this a long time ago.)  However for software developers this will pose an interesting problem.  Unlike the brand and type of memory or disk drive or power cord, software is dependent upon the brand and type of CPU.  Essentially every Mac developer would have to ship two versions of their software, one for PowerPC and one for Intel.  Not good.  This would cut down on the number of software titles available for Macs, and create consumer confusion.  Neither of which Apple wants.  So I wonder what their strategy for this is going to be?  Some kind of emulation?  Maybe...  It is interesting to note that as rumors have it, Apple will announce Intel support at their upcoming Worldwide Developer's Conference.  Hmmm...

Of course porting could be a two-way street.  Maybe Apple is doing this to simplify porting PC applications to OS X?  Or to make Windows emulators like VirtualPC run faster?  Maybe it will be possible to run Windows programs "as is" without any changes on top of some kind of runtime emulation inside OS X?  Now that would be a good reason to do this!

[ A bit later:  Wow.  Big threat to Windows.  Big.  Especially with Longhorn so late.  Wow. ]

One final note:  Assume Apple really does this and there are Intel-based Macs.  Assume they do not support Intel-based PCs, and assume they go to great lengths to stress that they do not support Intel-based PCs, maybe even with some kind of hardware-based lockout.  Do you really think hackers won't figure out how to port it anyway?  Of course not!  We should start a pool to see how soon someone announces on Slashdot that they have OS X running on their PC.  And this would be delightful for Apple.  They could test the waters in the early adopter community for free, to see how well people with PCs like running OS X instead of Windows.  If there are horrible device incompatibilities or performance problems, they can say "of course, we don't support that".  But if it works great and everyone is downloading bittorrenting a hacked OS X to run on their PCs, they get great publicity.  Maybe someday they would even decide to release OS X for PCs.

So that's my current thinking.  I'm going for a sail now, which will foster more cogitation, so stay tuned :)

[ Later: More Apple on Intel... ]


more apple on intel

Sunday,  06/05/05  09:27 AM

I have nothing brilliant to add to my musings yesterday about Apple on Intel.  I still feel the key reason must have something to do with binary compatibility with Windows applications.  All the other things Apple gets from this transition - efficiency, cost savings, branding - just don't see worth the trouble.  Especially in games, Apple trails Windows dramatically in the availability of software titles; this factor is holding back the Mac platform more than any other.

Some (like Jason Kottke and Doc Searles) are suggesting that perhaps Apple on Intel doesn't mean Apple on x86.  Like Intel will start making PowerPC processors.  Or that this involves a new platform for home media or something and not the mainstay Apple line.  Both of those possiblities seem remote to me.  Maybe Apple will use Intel chips for video processing, but not for the main CPU.  That could work, although it is less delicious than many other possibilities...

Check out MacRumors for a link-filled roundup of blogospheric speculation.  A most intriguing rumor was on CNet that this has something to do with their video strategy: Apple/Intel coupling could woo Hollywood.  Unfortunately "could" is pretty indefinite and there are no details to explain "how".  And then why announce at a developer conference?  Nah, that just doesn't feel right.

If you haven't already please read John Stanforth's thoughts; he argues that it should be Apple on AMD (maybe it is, maybe the rumor was distorted, but I actually don't think so; that kind of detail would have emerged), and that Apple will use Xen for Windows emulation (I don't agree; Xen requires Windows to emulate Windows, if Apple wants Windows API emulation they'd integrate Wine).  Russell Beattie thinks it will be for servers only (pretty much the opposite of what I think).  And John Gruber believes the rumors but can't explain them.  "The only way this makes any sense is that there’s something else.  Something big.  Not that CNet and the Journal have the story wrong, but that they only have part of the story - and the part they don’t have is what’s going to knock our socks off."  I love it.

Well, I guess we'll find out tomorrow :)

[ Later: Even more Apple on Intel... ]


even more Apple on Intel

Sunday,  06/05/05  10:39 PM

I know you're probably sick of the Apple on Intel speculation and you don't care anymore or maybe you never did.  Please skip the remainder of this post.  Thank you.

Intel inside iPod?Meanwhile the rumors are swirling, and I blow hot and cold.  I read Cult of Mac's post in which some new technology from a company called Transitive supposedly will enable realtime emulation of PPC code on x86 processors (yeah, right) and Wired's article in which Apple is "wedding" Intel to woo Hollywood (yeah, right).  I listened to Engadget's podcast (which was accompanied by the great picture at right).   I read the NYTimes article which states definitely Apple is switching OS X to run on x86.  I read John Gruber's update which states definitely Intel will be making PPC processors.  I've exchanged about 30 emails with John Stanforth in which we have debated the nature of the infinite and reached no definite conclusion.

Here's the bottom line: I have to believe the next big play at Apple is online video.

Okay, here’s my final guess.  Apple is going to announce a home entertainment hub.  It will look somewhat like the Mac Mini.  It will be based on an Intel x86 processor.  It will not be a general purpose computer, it will be dedicated to downloading video streams from the ‘net and from other computers, and serving them to your home entertainment system.  It will have a TV-based GUI somewhat like Tivo and it will not be running OS X.  And - wait for it - it will interface with the spiffy new Apple video store.  Ta da.  Apple is going to make a toolkit available to developers to enable them to build on top of this device like a platform.

Whatever happens tomorrow it will have been a great weekend for speculation.  BTW “Marklar” is the name of a weirdplanet from a South Park episode.  Now that fits.

[ Later: wrapping up Apple on Intel... ]


Sunday,  06/05/05  10:49 PM

Okay, back to the real world.  I spent all weekend sailing, and it was wonderful!  Yeah, I'm a bit tired and a bit sore and a bit sunburnt, but man it is good to stay away from the keyboard for a while.  And Apple on Intel wasn't the only news this weekend, either...

This is like a total embarrassment - Harvard's Diversity Grovel.  "Diversity" has to be the dumbest concept in the history of concepts.  I don't mean equality - of course that is a good thing - and I don't mean lack of bias - of course that is a good thing - I mean Diversity, as in, it is somehow important and better to force differences in background and gender.  I sure hope the pendulum on this bogus concept swings back.

More crap on the political correctness front: School to pay $2 million in marshmallow choking death.  "Casey's parents had argued that Glenview School District and teacher Kevin Dorken were responsible for the girl's death because Dorken, who had been supervising the game, was out of the room while the children were stuffing marshmallows in their mouths to see who could hold the most and still say the words 'chubby bunny'."  Look, I'm not trying to trivialize this poor girl's death - at all - but in what way was the school district responsible?  "This case was never about money" said the family's attorney, Francis Patrick Murphy.  Yeah, right.

Two great rants from Victor David Hanson: Our strange war ("Our dilemma is that we have not sought to defeat and humiliate the enemy as much as wean a people from the thrall of Islamic autocracy.") [ via LGF ] and A Dying Europe ("Millions of proud, educated Europeans are tired of being told by unelected grandees that the mess they see is abstract art.") [ via Kehaar ].  Hanson seems to whack the nail on the head every time out.  I find myself saying "yeeesss" every time.

Etienne ChouardThe other day I mentioned Etienne Chouard, a French law professor whose blog was influential during the recent referendum on the EU Constitution.  Here's a great picture of him, courtesy of the Horse's Mouth.  Looks like a painting by René Magritte!

Powerline comments on the EU Constitution rejections: Maybe it meant something, after all.  "When American corporations have lost their way and can't figure out how to improve their market position, a common 'solution' is to merge with another similarly befuddled company.  I think a similar phenomenon has been at work in Europe, where merger via the EU has been seen as a solution to all sorts of problems that Europe's peoples and politicians lack the will to address in a more meaningful way."  Most interesting to me is the speculation that failure to ratify the EU Constitution may affect the future of the Euro.

Randall Parker has a lot more On The Evolution Of Ashkenazi Jewish Intelligence, which I noted the other day.  The basic hypothesis is referred to as 'overclocking': "Some hobbyists turn up the clocks on their desktop PCs to them run faster than they were designed to run.  This can cause system instability and other problems.  In the case of the Ashkenazis in Europe the hypothesis proposes that selective pressures for higher Ashkenazi intelligence were so high that it caused the propagation of mutations that pushed their intelligence up so quickly (evolutonarily speaking) that the selective pressure overrode the reduction in reproductive fitness caused by the deleterious side effects on some of those who received those mutations."  I don't know whether the hypothesis is correct, but I am pleased that this type of discussion can take place in a scientific manner, without charges of racism or the blinders of political correctness.

pretty in spaceEver wonder How do space pictures get so pretty?  As Slate's explainer explains, the answer is Photoshop!  (of course :)

new iPod!Do you have an old iPod, and wish you could have a new one?  (I do, and I do.)  Now Apple has a trade-in program: "Bring any used iPod, iPod mini or iPod photo to any of the more than 100 Apple Stores in the US for free environmentally friendly recycling and get a 10% discount on the purchase of a new iPod that same-day."  You have been informed.

Hey, guess what?  AP reports Mars Rover Frees Itself From Sandy Dune.  "The Mars rover Opportunity resumed rolling freely across the Martian surface Saturday after scientists freed it from a sand dune where it had been mired for nearly five weeks, NASA officials said."  Very cool.  We're definitely in "extra time" with these little guys.

In other Martian news, BBC reports Next US Mars lander gets go-ahead.  "The lander will touch down in Mars' northern polar region to explore its climate and geology and to look for signs of life, past or present.  Its robotic arm will dig down to the Martian ice layer and deliver samples to the lander's deck for analysis.Wired has more, too.  Excellent.

Akimbo does iFilmEngadget reviews Akimbo.  "Well, basically it’s a new video-on- demand/IPTV service that lets you pick what shows you want to watch and then automatically download them over a broadband connection...  Is it worth it?  $229.99 for the box and $9.99 a month for the service isn’t completely unreasonable, but it’s hard to imagine a lot of people signing up for a service that isn’t a satisfactory replacement for the cable or satellite TV package they might already have, at least not until Akimbo has a more attractive selection of programming."  Interesting that everyone doing this seems to use a dedicated box.  And you have to wonder how this will compare to Apple's offering :)  [ via PVRBlog ]

The Tour of California - coming February 2006.  Awesome!  I'm guessing this will be big.  A new goal for me :)


wrapping up Apple on Intel

Wednesday,  06/08/05  10:21 PM

Okay, I was wrong.  Completely.  So be it.

The "good call" award goes to Gary Lang, who emailed on Sunday:

BTW Apple's move is not about video or a WMC combatant, it’s about notebooks.  Most PCs sold, including Macs, are notebooks.  IBM has not made a competitive fast chip for notebooks.  It’s as simple as that.

Apple - still juicy after IntelNo doubt it isn't quite as simple as that, but Gary nailed it.  You can watch the Stevenote here, or view Engadget's liveblogging here.  Not Mr. Jobs best performance, IMHO, but he did a good job with a tough message.  Left unsaid (but certainly not unanalyzed) is the extent to which Apple will be "Osborned" by this.  The Economist published a good analysis (including the stock price graph at right, entitled "still juicy"), and you may enjoy this Slashdot thread.  Scott Loftesness thinks new laptops will be out soon (this year?), and John Gruber tries to cover up his bad guesses :)  Tom's Hardware drinks in the irony of an Apple - Intel alliance.

[ Later: my favorite take so far comes from Robert X. Cringley: Going for Broke, in which he suggests Apple and Intel are taking on Microsoft.  Hmmm.... ]

Now, as someone working on porting Windows software to the Mac, I wonder, what does this mean?  In the short term, not much.  In the slightly longer term, use Xcode instead of CodeWarrior.  And in the longer term, who knows?  Stay tuned :)


RSS feed splintered

Wednesday,  06/08/05  11:12 PM

I have changed my RSS feed!  Now when I do daily "aggregator" posts, each item is broken out separately into the feed, instead of being chunked together in a single item with the posting date as the title.  Please let me know 1) if it doesn't work, and 2) if you don't like it this way.

[ Thanks to all of you who have nagged me about this for the last three years... ]


Thursday,  06/09/05  09:15 PM

Parental chest beating: My daughter Alexis was named the top science student in her 6th grade.  Whew.  She's going to be a Bond girl - the improbably beautiful nuclear astrobiologist who saves the world.  Way to go, Alex!

From James Lileks, a devastating dose of perspective:

I can imagine in late 2001 asking a question of myself in 2005:

What’s the main story?  The smallpox quarantine?  Fallout from the Iranian – Israeli exchange contaminating Indian crops?  A series of bombings in heartland malls?

"Well, no – the big story today has to do with soldiers mishandling terrorists' holy texts at a detention center."

Mishandling?  How?  Like, you mean, they opened it up without first checking to see if it was ticking, and it blew up –

"No, they handled it in a way that disrespected it.  Infidels are supposed to use gloves."

Oh.  So we lost, then.

Citizen Smash also adds some Clarity.

Abqaiq oil fieldSo this is what running out of oil looks like.  Check out this graph of the Abqaiq oil field in Saudi Arabia, from a report by The Oil Drum.  The green area is oil, and the red area is gas; the large blue areas are water pumped into the well to push up the oil.  [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]

In response to Linda Foley's refusal to either substantiate or retract her charges against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, journalist Hiawatha Bray is running for the Newspaper Guild executive committee as a write-in candidate.  "Choose Honor."  Excellent, I hope he wins.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Titan in the news: Possible Ice Volcano Found on Saturn Moon.  "The international Cassini spacecraft has spotted what appears to be an ice volcano on Saturn's planet-size moon, a finding that may help explain the source of Titan's thick atmosphere.  Infrared images snapped by the orbiting Cassini reveal a 20-mile-wide dome that appears to be a cryovolcano, a volcanic-like vent that spews forth ice instead of lava."  Awesome.

The 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge semifinalists have been announced.  Of course Team Caltech is one of them.  The goal is to build a robotic vehicle which can travel 175 miles over open desert within 10 hours, navigating and bypassing obstacles without human intervention.  Maybe this year we'll get further than seven miles from the start :)

giant park mirrorsClive Thompson reports on plans to use giant mirrors to reflect sunlight into a park which is permanently shaded by adjacent buildings, in Battery Park, New York.  "The mirrors ... will reflect enough of the sun's rays to keep the park in sunlight year-round, he said, and in some ways will be more effective than broad daylight since the rays can be directed to different spots at different times of the day or season, as needed."  Sounds pretty cool.

David Bryne ruminates on the difference between performed and recorded music.  (Yes, the Talking Heads' lead singer is now a blogger.)  "When music as a product, as a consumable object, is subverted and undermined by technology and by its own success, then maybe we have come full circle.  Maybe if music is no longer seen as an object, but as pure information, data, sound waves, then the object becomes at best a mere delivery device, and we’re back to viewing music as an experience, albeit still one that other people produce."  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Matt Webb ponders the correspondence between the Web and San Francisco.  "I never realized I was a 'them' until I went to California."  Living in Southern California, I never realized I was a 'them' until I went to San Francisco itself...

Cory Doctorow has seen God in a cup of chocolate, at Hemingway's in Florence, Italy.  "There were medieval princes who spent lifetimes searching for experiences that did this sort of thing to your sensory apparatus.  Whatever they found was nothing so good as this."

Ottmar Liebert comments:  "If they don't run out of chocolate by then I will experience the place in October.  I will give you a detailed report."

house carved to look like booksHere we have a house carved to look like it's made of books.  How excellent!  Even the furniture in the house is hand-carved to look like they're made from books.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Pierre-Jean Couarraze - lumiere de l'espritThis reminds me very much of the work of Pierre-Jean Couarraze, who paints books which look like they're made of stone - on canvas.  They're just amazing, you reach out your hand to touch textured stone, and touch smooth canvas...

You know the famous Monty Hall Problem?  ("Do you switch doors after he shows you a donkey?")  Well here's another one which seems to be similar: The Serbonelli Problem:

Of three prisoners, Matthew, Mark and Luke, two are to be executed, but Matthew does not know which.  He therefore asks the jailer ‘Since either Mark or Luke are certainly going to be executed, you will give me no information about my own chances if you give me the name of one man, either Mark or Luke, who is going to be executed’.  Accepting this argument, the jailer truthfully replied ‘Mark will be executed’.  Thereupon, Matthew felt happier, because before the jailer replied his own chances of execution were 2/3, but afterwards there were only two people, himself and Luke, who could be the one not to be executed, and so his chance of execution is only 1/2.  Is Matthew right to feel happier?

I'll let you chew on this one for a bit...

Walt Mossberg relates What the Apple Plan To Switch to Intel Chips Means for Consumer.  "For all but the techiest techies, changing the processor in these machines will be a nonevent, sort of like changing the engine in next year's Lexus cars.  As long as the new engine is at least as fast and smooth as its predecessor, few drivers would notice or care."  So be it.

Russell Beattie's gadget bagYou would have to say Russell Beattie is a gadget freak.  Check out the contents of his "bag" on the way to Mobile Monday.  So, Russell, I have to ask: "what, no Treo?"  Doesn't look like he has a Blackberry in there, either...




Ottmar at the Canyon Club

Saturday,  06/11/05  09:07 AM

Ottmar Liebert - live!Last night we saw a concert by Ottmar Liebert at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills.  Wow, is he great.  If you ever have a chance to see him live please take it; you will thank me (and have a wonderful time!)  Along with the great music we had great friends along, and of course great wine (Arietta 2000).Arietta 2000  It actually doesn't get any better than that...





RSS feed splintered, take two

Saturday,  06/11/05  09:40 AM

Reaction to my new "splintered" RSS feed has been, well, splintered.  Some people like it, some don't.  It is easy for me to have two feeds, one with aggregated posts, one without:

Splintered feed - separate items for separate posts.
Aggregatedfeed - one item for all posts for a day.

But it is not easy to communicate that I have two feeds.  I can't really have two  icons, and there is a thing called RSS autodiscovery wherein you have a <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" href="posts/./rss.xml"> in your pages, but you can't have two of them.  Even explaining the difference is hard!  So, what to do...

Here's what I'm going to do, for now.  I am going to have two feeds, and I am going to ask you which one to make the default.  The other feed will be available as a link somewhere, for those smart enough to find it (and nerdy enough to care).  So, what do you think?

I like the splintered feed
(separate items for separate posts)

I like the aggregated feed
(one item for all posts in a day)

total votes = 35

  (ended 06/18/05)


Saturday,  06/11/05  10:24 AM

Have you voted in my "splintered" feed survey?  If not, please do.  Oh, and if you have no idea what this is all about, please see my RSS cookbook.  If you read a lot of blogs, RSS is the coolest thing since sliced bread.  You will thank me, I promise!

Okay, so what's happening?  Well, let's see...

SpaceX Falcon I burns!SpaceX has posted a new update: Fire on the Launch Pad, which means you have to read it.  "As you may have read, we test fired Falcon I on our launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Vandenberg, for those that don’t know it, is the primary US launch site for polar or close to polar orbits and is located about a third of the way up the California coast.  The five second test was picture perfect this time around, starting on schedule at 9:00:00 am and finishing at 9:00:05 am."  This is the coolest company, they really are going to make space travel a reality.

So, it's hurricane season again.  Have you checked out the National Hurricane Center website?  A great way to follow the progress and predictions for Arlene or any other tropical storm...

The Economist frets about a post-dot-com bubble: An echo of a boom?  "Investors with stakes in big internet companies, and Google in particular, might pause for thought.  Although revenues and profits are rising steeply, valuations are rising disproportionately quickly—suggesting that another correction is likely at some point."  Google seems lighter than air, for sure...

Here's an interesting discussion on GNXP: Is it really bee-cause of culture?  "There are many good reasons to doubt cultural explanations a priori, but a more direct test is available.  One possible way to control for distinct ethnic values is simply to raise the children of higher or lower scoring racial backgrounds in another ethnocultural environment of purportedly different values."  The question, why do Indians excel in spelling bees?

James Pinkerton on the really intelligent designers.  "The evolution vs. creation debate will never stop.  But that endless wrangle is destined to take some new turns.  How so?  Because the evolution side of the debate, which is to say, the science side, is about to beget some serious creationism of its own -- that is, creations by human scientists."  I sure hope the debate will stop, someday.  We no longer debate whether the Earth orbits the sun...  [ via Panda's Thumb ]

Another bag gets tossed from the balloon: No New Command Line for Longhorn.  Looks like Microsoft is creeping up on Shorthorn, bit by bit.  Except that AFAIK they're not fixing paging, and not fixing networking.

Wes Obermueller after wild pitching in a run on an intentional walkThe other night I saw something I was sure I would never see.  The Dodgers were playing the Brewers.  Dodgers at bat, runner on third.  The Brewers decide to intentionally walk Mike Rose.  Wild pitch!  Runner scores!  No way!!  I have always maintained that the intentional walk is the least interesting play in baseball.  Why not allow the pitcher to say "okay, intentional walk", and let the batter take first?  Why waste time with four crappy lob pitches?  Well now we know.  If you live long enough, you will see everything :)  The picture at right of Brewer's pitcher Wes Obermueller kind of says it all.

wireless service provider customer satisfaction rankingsAre you a Sprint customer?  (I am.)  Do you think their customer service is poor?  (I do.)  Well, you're not alone, apparently; they finished last in a J.D.Power survey of customer satisfaction rankings.  So why do we continue to use them?  Well in my case it is because they are the only provider with a signal at my house.  So I'm locked in.

Fly the friendly skies.  Reassuring, isn't it?  [ via Gerald Vanderluen ]

This site is just, well, weird.  Extremely weird.  Check it out and see.  Just when you think you've seen everything, you realize "everything" is so much more than you thought.  [ via Clive Thompson ]


PC productivity tools

Saturday,  06/11/05  12:23 PM

As an experienced Windows user, I have my little set of "tools I use".  You probably do, too.  Here are the ones I think really improve productivity:

  • Install SharpReader.  (Or your RSS reader of choice.)  RSS is really an incredible productivity enhancer.  Instead of surfing to tens or hundreds of sites in search of "what's happening", the information comes to you.  (See my RSS cookbook to get started, and you can download SharpReader here...)
  • Install X1.  (Or your deskstop search tool of choice.)  X1 lets you instantly find email items, contacts, files, etc.  Really an amazing tool.  Unlike many utilities, this is one that really should be built into the operating system, but since Longhorn is at least two years away (and it isn't even clear whether Longhorn will include desktop search), use X1.  (I use an old free beta of X1 which you can download here...)
  • Install Norton Antivirus.  (Or your antivirus tool of choice.)  On Windows you must have a good antivirus tool, and you must have it setup to automatically download updates.  I use 2003 because it is much faster and less intrusive than more recent versions, your mileage may vary.  By the way Norton Firewall or anything Norton Internet Security are not necessary, IMHO, if you have Windows XP SP2 they only get in the way.
  • Install Stomp BackUp MyPC.  (Or your backup tool of choice.)  You do have current backups, don't you?  You don't?  So what will happen when your hard drive crashes?  Or when your laptop is stolen?  And I mean when and not if...  By the way, these days the best way to backup an entire hard drive is to another hard drive, via Firewire or USB.  Cheap protection.

Later: Wow, left out an important one:

  • Install SpamBayes.  (Or your spam filter of choice.)  If you use Outlook this is essential.  This great tool is free, and integrates easily with Outlook.  Over time it learns what you consider spam, and does a terrific job of separating spam from ham with little fuss.  I've tried various commercial filters but SpamBayers is at least as good as any of them.

Here are some other things which aren't as important or dramatic, but which I use anyway because, well, I like them:

  • Install Elprime Clock Pro.  A cool little analog clock which "floats" over your desktop.  Does anybody really know what time it is?
  • Install Desktop Icon Save and Restore.  This is especially important if you have a laptop or you're a gamer, and you change screen resolutions often.  Very nice.
  • Install Sysinternals Freeware.  Great tools.  I like Process Explorer (a great Task Manager replacement), File Monitor (what is using what files, and how often), and TCP Viewer (what is using which ports on the network, and how often).  Autoruns is nice, too (what runs at startup).  Amazing that all these great tools are free...
  • Install Space.  The best visual disk space manager.

Any tools you use I should know about?  Please tell me.


RSS feeds, take two, again

Sunday,  06/12/05  09:51 AM

Well, it looks like most but not all prefer the aggregated RSS feed.  So here's what I've done.  The aggregated feed, with one item for all posts in a day, is once again the default (rss.xml).  This is what people will use if they don't know or care, and/or if they use RSS autodiscovery, and/or read feeds in a browser like Firefox or Safari.  The splintered feed, with separate items for each post, is still available for those of you who prefer it (rss2.xml).

So how do people find out about the splintered feed?  Well, at the bottom of each aggregated post in the default feed, I've added the following blurb:

[ You are reading the "aggregated" RSS feed for Critical Section, with one item for all posts in a day.
If you would prefer the "splintered" RSS feed, with separate items for each post, please use this link instead. ]

Seems like a decent solution, doesn't it?  Okay, back to the real world.


It's the Water...

Sunday,  06/12/05  06:55 PM


It's the Water...

My 25-year old C-15, still fast after all these years...
picture taken at Westlake Cup last weekend
crew Ryan Shaw

"Believe me, my young friend, there is absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats"
-- Kenneth Grahame, the Wind in the Willows


(New Yorker 06/13/05)

Sunday,  06/12/05  07:48 PM


New Yorker - relief blogger


Relief Blogger?



Sunday,  06/12/05  11:42 PM

Want to know what's really happening in Iraq?  Well you won't find out on CNN - or on Fox - but you will if you read bloggers like Michael Yon; check out The Battle for Mosul.  Great reporting, pictures, and insight.  Excellent.  [ via Gerard Vanderleun ]

Dave Winer, four years ago: "The notion that independent publications could challenge established media concern because it costs very little to publish online has fallen on hard times along with the rest of the Web's early illusions."  He must be chortling all the way to the bank.

Mark Steyn with the definitive take on the Guantanamo Bay Koran tempest: Piss and Wind.  These people are POWs, remember?  [ via Powerline ]

Am I allowed to link Mark Stern twice?  Here he is again, with a fascinating take on China.  "The internal contradictions of Commie-capitalism will, in the end, scupper the present arrangements in Beijing...  China won't advance to the First World with its present borders intact.  In a billion-strong state with an 80 per cent rural population cut off from the coastal boom and prevented from participating in it, 'One country, two systems' will lead to two or three countries, three or four systems."  Great stuff!  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

The Financial Times: Microsoft bans 'democracy' for China web users.  Not sure whether this reflects worse on China or Microsoft, but it doesn't say much for either one.

Fastrak transponderWired notes Toll Roads Tackle Traffic.  "The new system combines the latest technologies with good, old capitalism -- putting a price tag on a bit of uncongested roadway.  The concept is known variously as value pricing, managed lanes or HOT lanes, short for high occupancy tolls."  Let the market decide.

Market Forces by Richard MorganApropos, I've been reading Market Forces, a new book by Richard Morgan.  Or should I say "trying to read", because I just can't do it; I keep hoping it will get better, but so far, no.  I loved Morgan's previous books Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, but this one is terrible.  It takes place in the same future - or maybe I should say a future with the same feel - but this time out all the people are unsympathetic.  When you don't like any of the characters, you can't like the story, right?

Gerald Vanderleun rants, in a positive review of The Doctor is In: "There are a lot of really bad writers out there and most of them do not get published, but a lot of them get published again and again for reasons that have little to do with their talent and a lot to do with the vast publishing suckupathon that grows more intense as traditional publishing dies."

Spurs' Robert HorryMan, did you see the Spurs dominate the Pistons tonight?  If it was a fight, they would have stopped it.  Robert Horry was awesome, and the Spurs have to be the best team I've watched this year.  Admittedly, I haven't watched much.  Has basketball lost some of its following, or is it just me?

ESPN is one of those sites - unfortunately one of many - where you must have Firefox with Adblock, or you'll be inundated with ads.  And not just static graphics, all sorts of movies and animations and crap.  What are these people thinking?  (I doubt they're thinking, "oh well, everyone will have Adblock anyway" :)

Oh, and another annoyance; why open windows with a fixed size?  What does that do for you?  Invariably fixed-size windows are the wrong size, so you have to find the URL and open it in a normal window anyway.  Sigh.

Do you use Wikipedia?  I've found it to be a simply awesome resource, especially for techie subjects or things which have come along recently.  (For example, this reference on the various acroynms for screen resolution...)  If you didn't know, anyone can edit any Wikipedia page - add, change, or delete information - and so this is the strength and the weakness.  Earlier Dave Winer noted his name had been removed from the page on Podcasting, and now Jon Udell comments on how the editing process works...

In some ways Wikipedia is to encyclopedias as blogs are to mainstream media...

Systm: make your own MythTV boxThis is cool; an IPTV site called Systm has Bittorrent videos of do-it-yourself projects.  Like how to make your own MythTV box (essentially, an open-source Tivo).  Very cool.  [ via PVRBlog ]

Now they just need an RSS feed with enclosures, and they're all set...

Engadget reports Antor Media sues everybody.  "If you ever needed a better example of why patents for obviousness shouldn't be granted, a company called Antor Media is suing a variety of cellphone makers for violating their patent on a 'Method and apparatus for transmitting information recorded on information storage means from a central server to subscribers via a high data rate digital telecommunications network.'"  Argh!

Ole Eichhorn - spell with FlickrWell this is cool: spell with Flickr.  Again we note that the web is unbelievable.



more water

Monday,  06/13/05  10:58 PM


It's the Water... to weather

more It's the Water...
this time to weather....



Monday,  06/13/05  11:04 PM

The Ole filter makes a pass...  and I promise not to comment on Michael Jackson, setting me apart from 99.99% of the blogosphere, I know.  It was a good day, a summer day, a long, relaxing by-the-pool day.  Of course, I coded all day :)

Robert Scoble wants Microsoft people to "think small", as a result of his visit to the Reboot conference.  "I wish Microsoft would send more of its developers to these small geek-focused conferences so they can see the new competition that evolves in the hallways...  I'm looking for small teams inside Microsoft that are changing the world."  Man, that's a tough one.

It is nearly impossible to get teams in a big company to "think small".  I worked for Intuit for a while - a great company with a tremendous culture of innovation - but it didn't think like the startups I've been involved with.  Why?

Well, the kind of people who work at a big company are not the kind of people who think small.  If you're a "think small" kind of person, you work for a startup.  There may be people at Microsoft who want to "think small", but they'll probably leave at some point.  It is really hard to transform a big company's culture in this way because by its very existence a big company attracts employees who want to work for a big company.

When I worked at PayPal there were a ton of "think small" people.  Once PayPal went public, many of them left; not because they could, but because they found that they were no longer working for a small company.  Those that didn't leave then left soon after when eBay bought PayPal. eBay is a great company, but is is a BIG company, filled with big company people, and hence people who "think small" move on...

third rock from Glilese 876UCBerkeleyNews reports Astronomers discover most Earth-like extrasolar planet yet.  "The world's preeminent planet hunters have discovered the most Earth-like extrasolar planet yet: a possibly rocky world about 7.5 times as massive as the Earth.  This hot 'super-Earth,' just 15 light years away, travels in a nearly circular orbit only 2 million miles from its parent star, Gliese 876, and has a radius about twice that of Earth."  As more extrasolar planets are found, the odds that we're alone just get smaller and smaller.

Steve Sailer consistently goes where others fear to tread; this time out he reports Blondes Have Deeper Roots.  "A couple of decades ago, I began noticing that the leading lady in a movie was almost always fairer-skinned than her leading man."  Pretty amazing stuff.  [ via razib ]

average facesHere's an interesting test from the article, what is the gender of the people pictured at right?  Most people find the picture on the left looks female, and the one on the right looks male; in actuality they are identical except that the one on the right is darker.  So much for getting a good tan, eh?

Linked by razib is Survival of the Prettiest, by Nancy Etcoff, a book I keep reading good things about...

Rogers Cadenhead ponders how movie trailers are all alike, starting from a great article in the Guardian, To Cut a Long Story Short.  They all start with "in a world", they all have the same guy doing the voiceover, and they all use the same music.  Wow.  When test marketing goes bad :)

Early or right on time?  Twinmac is your dual-boot x86 Mac resource.  So be it.

Eric Sink reports on his trip to the Tech-Ed conference.  The best part was dinner at the Moonfish restaurant in Orlando.  "For future reference, I'll have to remember this guideline for identifying a truly amazing seafood restaurant: The menu lists the name of the person who caught each fish."  Excellent!



long may you wave

Tuesday,  06/14/05  09:41 PM

American flagHappy Flag Day!  June 14 is always a day of mixed emotions for me; it is my father's birthday, and I always miss him - he's been departed for 19 years now, since a brain tumor took his life.  But it is also the anniversary of my first date with Shirley, the start of our wonderful life together, and the beginning of our family.  And of course the day on which we all fly our flags and feel a bit patriotic, and think about our country and the life it makes possible.

We had a great dinner tonight - perfect scallops, with a '97 Peter Michael 'belle cote' - and spent most of it talking about our fathers.  They never met, unfortunately (at least on Earth :), but would have enjoyed each other's company tremendously as well as having a lot in common; both from Europe (Netherlands and Scotland), both naturalized U.S. citizens (and very proud of it!), both WWII vets, both aviators, both members of Rotary.  And both with a somewhat, er, unusual sense of humor.

Anyway, here's to you, Dad, and to you, Shirley, and to you, Old Glory; long may you wave...


Tuesday,  06/14/05  10:01 PM

For those of us who believe Unnatural Selection is an important problem, the Flynn effect has been troublesome.  Unnatural Selection posits that people are getting dumber, while the Flynn effect notes that IQ scores are rising.  However two new papers show that the Flynn effect has apparently been reversed in Northern Europe!  Does this mean the effect is no longer "in effect", or that it never was, and/or does this apply only to post-industrial societies?  Inquiring minds want to know...

space capitalistsThe NYTimes reports on Thrillionaires, the new Space Capitalists.  Included are Paul Allen, the money behind Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne, Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin, Elon Musk, founder (and funder) of SpaceX, and John Carmack, the brains and money behind Amarillo Aerospace.  "The rise of the space money men is a unique moment in history, said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, a co-founder of the X Prize.  'There is sufficient wealth controlled by individuals to start serious space efforts,' he said.  What's more, they are frustrated, he went on, adding: 'The dreams and expectations that Apollo launched for all these entrepreneurs have failed to materialize.  And in fact, those who look into it realize that the cost of going into space has gone up and the reliability has, effectively, gone down.'"  This is great stuff, and future history in the making.  Read it!  [ via Xeni Jardin ]

John Battelle reports Google to Expand Video Search on the Web.  Searching for video is a lot harder than searching for text.  It will be interesting to see whether it works!

Kuro5hin wonders Who will Google Buy Next?  I like the off-the-wall choice of Tivo :)

Dave Winer is apparently gearing up to release a new OPML-based "instant outliner" at Gnomedex.  Scott Loftesness posted some reflections and suggested SubEthaEdit as a way to experience this...  I'm ready!

Wow, practically a link on every word.  I must be reading too much Doc Searles...

Marshall Brain explains How to make a million dollars.  Basically, you start a business, and don't give up.  Being lucky helps, too :)  [ via Tom Coates ]

Flickr color pickerThe other day I linked spell with Flikr; a cool way to make words from pictures.  Jeff Atwood posted a bunch of excellent Flickr hacks, including the Flickr color picker, which is, well, cool...

People have complained noted that the items in my new "splintered" RSS feed don't have titles, and hence show up either with just the date and time (in Firefox and Safari) or bogus HTML tags (in Thunderbird).  So I decided to do what SharpReader does, and make a title from the first few words of the item, stripping out all the HTML tags.  See if that's any better...

disappearing dots!Yeah, this is too weird.  Stare at it long enough, and the moving purple dots disappear, to be replaced by a single green one...  (click thumbnail to get the moving picture.)  This shows the way your brain "subtracts out" the effects of motion to build a static image.  [ via Rob Smith ]




Wednesday,  06/15/05  10:20 PM

summer!Another pass through the blogosphere.  Not too much happening, it's the "June gloom" of the techno-world...  But tomorrow is a big day here; the last day of school.  Unbelievable that another year has passed.  Alex is now a 7th grader (oh, no!) and Megan a 3rd grader ((double) oh, no!).  Which means - ta da - it is officially summer.

Remember the discussion about evidence contradicting the Flynn effect (that IQ scores are increasing around the world)?  Thrasymachus asks "What makes you so sure (if you are sure) that IQ measurements of intelligence can be highly inaccurate across time but not across culture?"  I'm not sure of either.  I suspect that they would be more inaccurate across time, primarily because testing methodology has changed.

Day-by-Day: Torture, American styleChris Muir's Day-by-Day is excellent, on a daily basis :)  Powerline ran this with the headline: Torture, American style, and made a great comment, "No one thinks that playing Christina Aguilera music, shaving a guy's beard off, and putting him in the same room with a woman are the most effective ways to extract information from a detainee.  The reason why these unorthodox methods were used, obviously, is that the more effective, but less humane, techniques that have been used since time immemorial were banned by our civilian authorities."  Yep.  Bolt cutters would be more effective.  And these POWs are the same people which, if released, would immediately work to kill civilians.

John Fogerty is touring with John Mellencamp.  Wow.  Now that's a concert to see...  [ I heard it through the grapevine :]

Chris Anderson discusses Massively parallel culture.  "Here's my take on what the Long Tail is doing to pop culture.  Rather than the scary fragmentation of our society into a nation of disconnected people doing their own thing, I think we're reforming into thousands of cultural tribes, connected less by geographic proximity and workplace chatter than by shared interests."  How many of these memes are you familiar with:

  • Ellen Feiss
  • The Star Wars Kid
  • Dancing baby
  • Bert is Evil
  • Bonzai Kitten
  • Tourist Guy
  • MC Hawking
  • Leet speak
  • Subservient Chicken
  • First post

How many would be recognized by your spouse?  By your Mom?  By your kids?  Fascinating.

Tivo: downloading and uploading movies!Matt Haughey notes Tivo has demoed movie downloading and uploading.  I want it.  I want it now.  Downloading from Netflix, $2/movie.  Being able to watch home movies through my Tivo, $0/movie.  Downloading via Bittorrent and watching through my Tivo, priceless.

CNET reports The slow road to Windows XP.  Over half of all businesses are still on Windows 2000.  This is why Longhorn should become Shorthorn.  [ via Slashdot thread ]

Clive Thompson explains Why a poker website is bigger than British Airways.  "Man alive. porn, call-service-centers, Canadian Indian reserves -- it's like the wireframe model for a sci-fi novel cowritten by Cory Doctorow and Thomas Friedman."  I, too, wonder whether poker is a fad or a new fixture in global culture.  So many of my meatspace friends are "into it".

Dreamworks conference roomI read about this in Wired: Dreamworks has an awesome video conference room.  Here are two pictures (one, two) and a post about it from Xeni Jardin.  "The setup creates the illusion that distant collaborators are sitting at the same table."  Very cool, I'd love to see this in action.  My personal experience with video conferencing has been uniformly disappointing, but I remain optimistic that someday it will "work".

From Dave Winer: "I've been hearing rumors that Google is readying an iTunes-clone, based on RSS 2.0, and fully podcast-capable. Multiple sources on this one."  Well that would be interesting.  Of course, where would the content come from?  To me, that was the great breakthrough of iTunes; not the great UI, not the iPod, but the availability of "all" music.  When I'm interested in a new band, 100% of the time I find them on iTunes.  I'm not sure how Google would duplicate that...

Dave is preparing to release an OPML editor, billed as "Really simple groupware".  RSG.  Has a catchy sound, doesn't it :)

straight lines?The Horse's Mouth: straight lines?  Whoa.

Cory Doctorow notes this gallery of casino carpeting.  I really think the pattern at left would be perfect, don't you? :)




Murphy and UPS

Thursday,  06/16/05  08:05 AM

Last night at 1:00AM we had a power failure.  Not a big one, just a blip; just enough for my alarm clock to make a funny noise, which woke me up, and to start blinking its display at me.  I looked around, realized what happened, hit snooze to reset the clock, and went back to sleep.

MGE Pulsar ES8Unbeknownst to me, this little teeny blip fried my UPS.  Upon walking into my [home] office this morning, all my servers and my network were down.  And my UPS had a flashing orange light, and was making a soft beeping noise.  I tried hitting reset - no good - then tried power-cycling - no good.  Finally I moved all the power cables directly to line and brought everything back up.  Fortunately everything did come right back up, no problems (thank you, Red Hat).

Now if I didn't have a UPS, this teeny little blip might have been ignored.  Then again, it might have crashed everything, but since everything comes back up when power is restored, maybe everything would have come back up.  It might have caused 5 minutes of downtime while the servers rebooted.  But since I did have a UPS, I was down for seven hours.  Ah, the wonders of technology (thank you, Murphy).

BTW, this isn't a knock on MGE, which made my UPS.  I've had this unit for six years, and it has been under load that whole time.  So it was probably due for replacement.

I just wonder how many hours of uptime have been saved by UPS units over the years, vs. how many hours have been lost.  Is it actually worth it to have a UPS?  I don't know.  Anyway I'm going to get a new one, this is a shopping opportunity!  (thank you, Fry's :)



Thursday,  06/16/05  11:35 PM

Remember Rageboy?  Well Christopher Locke is still around, now posting as the Chief Blogging Officer.  He is a great writer.  And his tagline on rageboy was - well, still is - "where we write at night when we should be sleeping, and it shows".  I think of that often, as I sit at my keyboard, at 11:30 at night...  Yeah, I'm, well, you know, and yeah, it shows.  What can I say?

Steve JobsSteve Jobs delivered Stanford's 2005 commencement speech.  "You've got to find what you love."  This is an awesome speech, even on paper; I sure wish I was there to hear him give it, as great as he is in person.  "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right."  [ via The New Editor ]

This is a wonderful, positive, enthusiastic speech.  Perfect for college graduates moving into the next phase of their lives.  Isn't it sad when people abuse the honor and responsibility of giving a commencement speech and use it as a forum for their selfish political views?

Paul GrahamPaul Graham explains How to start a startup.  "You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible."  This seems exactly right to me.  The last part is the hardest, because the enemy of every startup is time.  And spending money often saves you time.  The hardest decisions in a young business are the trade-offs between spending money and spending time.  Anyway it is an excellent read, check it out!

Joel SpolskyJoel Spolsky criticizes Microsoft ("The best recruiting department in the world can't make people want to work at a company that's moribund and can't figure out how to ship a compelling upgrade to their flagship OS..."), and Robert Scoble criticizes Joel ("Our stock price is flat, yes, but new employees get given stock that vests over several years.  What do your new employees get?  Options?  Nothing?").  All fuel for a great discussion thread.

Robert ScobleRobert's greatest asset as a blogger, and as a public face of Microsoft, is his ability to “take a punch”.  I totally admire him for it; he is an inspiration to me.  I mean that seriously.  When someone criticizes me or my company, I think of him, and try to respond the way he would respond.

So here's the bottom line.  Joel is right, and Robert knows it, and that makes him defensive.  Understand, I am not a Microsoft basher.  I'm a critic, but I'm trying to be a constructive critic.

Microsoft is in trouble.  For being the best software company ever, surely the most successful, it really is in trouble.  In Warren Buffet’s most recent address to his shareholders, he commented: “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.”  This is true for MS, too.

On the Windows front, it is a fact that people haven't upgraded from 2000 to XP.  It is a fact that it has been four years since XP, and Longhorn is still two years away.  It is a fact that features are being pulled out of Longhorn, I'm not sure what the compelling features are going to be.  Etc.

On the Office front, it is a fact that people haven't upgraded from 2000 to XP, or from XP to 2003.  It is a fact that it has been two years since 2003, and that Office 12 is still two years away.  I don't know what the compelling features of Office 12 are going to be (XML file formats? yawn.)  Etc.

The best thing Microsoft can do is to be honest about these issues and try to address them.  That’s what Robert usually does, and I'm sure he’s going to do in the future.  The worst thing they can do is pretend there aren't really any problems.

CNet reports Apple has trademarked "Numbers".  A spreadsheet?  Could be.  Along with Keynote, Pages, and Mail, that would pretty much give them a Microsoft Office equivalent.  And soon, it will be running on Intel computers.  Yeah, if I'm Microsoft, I'm worried...

Robert X. CringleyRobert X. Cringley follows up on his Apple on Intel article; this time he reports on The Osborne Effect.  "Sometimes what everyone remembers is wrong."  This is terrific stuff; I'm so glad what everyone remembers is wrong.  Osborne lost out because they delivered a worse product for more money, not because they preannounced a better product.  I also like that Robert thinks kind of like I did; Apple is focused on delivering online video, and the Intel deal is part of that strategy.

Another great example where "what everyone remembers is wrong" is VHS vs Betamax.  What everyone remembers is that VHS won despite being inferior to Beta.  But the truth is that while Beta's video quality was superior, its recording time was inferior; VHS enabled recordings up to 6 hours long, whereas Beta only recorded 2 hours.  People wanted to be able to tape a 2 1/2 hour movie or a 4 hour ballgame.  So VHS won because it was superior.

Russell BeattieToday's conspiracy theory: Russell Beattie ponders Apple and Nokia: Who approached who?  "The situation then is that Apple has learned from past mistakes of relying on Motorola too tightly (think CPUs) and is looking around for other top-tier manufacturers to help them with their vision of the perfect mobile companion to OSX: the proverbial and mythical iPhone."  The iPhone, eh?  Sure, why not...

Mark CubanMark Cuban slams Macrovision.  "Now maybe I’m reading this wrong, but the way I understand it, the CEO of Macrovision, a company that sells copy protection software to DVD publishers, is sending out a press release saying…  'Our software doesn’t work.  It sucks.  We can’t stop a bunch of little companies from writing software that completely busts our copy protection that we are selling for millions of dollars to publishers.'"  I love Mark.

GNXP discusses The opportunity costs of affirmative action.  Eh, don't get me started...  If you're interested check out the comments as well as the blog post.

Yucaipa - 5.3 earthquakeDid you feel it?  I didn't.  But we had a 5.3 Earthquake out here...  Coming on the heels of a 5.2 in Idyllwild last Sunday.  I never know whether to feel good ("they're relieving the pressure") or worried ("they're harbingers of a big one").  Anyway I'm glad I didn't feel it.

Cassiopeia!And out your left window you can see - Cassiopeia!  Whoa.







Sunday,  06/19/05  09:19 AM

A weird thing.  This morning I woke up around 6:00, decided it wasn't time to get up yet, and so I went back to sleep.  And dreamed.  Actually I had two dreams.  At the same time.

In one dream I was in cabin in the woods, admiring the woodwork.  In great detail.  And I thought to myself (in the dream), "this is boring", I need another dream.  And I switched to a different dream.  In which I was skiing down a long, unending hill, only it was horizontal.  Kind of like surfing the Pororoca bore wave, but on snow.  (Yes, I had watched this video before falling asleep.)  Anyway the hill went on and on and on and suddenly I was back in the cabin.  Then I was skiing.  And so on.

So this is pretty weird.  How could my brain be doing this?  Was I multi-dreaming?  If you brain can really do two things at once, and they need not be realtime, then could you be processing reality and processing a pseudo-reality at the same time?

I can't wait until we have the network connection to our brains working :)


Sunday,  06/19/05  11:32 PM

Father's Day, 2005!  Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.  We didn't do much - sat around by the pool, barbequed tacos, and enjoyed a perfect summer's day.  Meanwhile, it was all happening...

walking the line...Michael Yon continues his excellent blogging from the ground in Iraq: Walking the Line.  "I did not come to Iraq with the intention of having someone tell me what the people on the 'front lines' were thinking and feeling. I came to see with my own eyes."  Eye-opening.

The Economist reports Europe's identity crisis deepens.  "The European Union summit has broken up with a deal on the constitution that means different things to different leaders, and no agreement on the EU's budget at all.  Even the summit's Europhilic chairman, Jean-Claude Juncker, admitted that Europe has slipped into a 'deep crisis'."  I suspect the pendulum will swing back.  Most of the anti-EU sentiment expressed by citizens in France and the Netherlands was actually anti-government.  The EU will recover, stronger.  But socialism will continue to decline.

Tony Pierce tells some incredible stories, but check out this one about jury duty.  Unbelievable.  It defies synopsis, you simply must read it all...

Montana - land of big sky and big spacesJohn Robb, after visiting Montana's big spaces: "Why don't we let another 200 m people into the country over the next 20 years?  There is certainly more than enough space and a sufficient number of qualified applicants.  Sure, it would be disruptive, but it is creative destruction.  The long term economic and cultural upside is enormous."  Seems like the upside would be a function of which 200M people we let in...

ancient text - hyperspectrally imagedMonks use hi-tech camera to read ancient texts.  "The technique, known as hyperspectral imaging, will use a camera to photograph the parchments at different wavelengths of light, highlighting faded texts obscured by time and later overwritings.  It should allow scholars to understand corrections made to pages of the Greek Codex Sinaiticus, written between 330 and 350 and thought to be one of 50 copies of the scriptures commissioned by Roman Emperor Constantine."  Excellent.

Interesting rumor on Marketwatch and NYTimes that Google is planning a PayPal competitor.  Good luck.  I think they'll find payments is a bit more complicated than search (one word: fraud), but then again who would have thought they'd win in search?  Still you can see the attraction; as they offer more and more "fee for service" offerings, processing the payments themselves becomes attractive.  Particularly online video[ Later: here's a Slashdot thread, too. ]

The Economist reports Google, meet Tivo.  About video search.  The money quote: "What is striking is that despite all the buzz around video searches, none of these companies actually searches the visual content of the video.  That is because actual video searching - finding all the clips that show a red car, perhaps, or George Bush - is an extremely complex problem."  No kidding.  In fact even 2D image search is text-based, there has been little traction for any pattern recognition, and video is 3D (time is the third dimension).  Not to mention, the business model is unclear at this point.

AP reports 73% of movie viewers prefer to watch movies at home.  [ via Slashdot thread ]

This sounds like an Onion article, but it is apparently real: Sony BMG helps customers crack DRM.  "Sony BMG has come up with an innovative solution for consumers who are frustrated with the company’s new DRM: They'll help you break it."  I can only echo Engadget: "Thanks Sony BMG.  Next time, how about just saving everyone the hassle and skipping the stuff in the first place."  Think of all the engineering effort that went into this at Sony.  Zero value created.  What a waste!

Rogers Cadenhead reports: "Microsoft has abandoned six million developers with its decision to end mainstream support for Visual Basic 6."  A bad strategic mistake, IMHO.

This is an amazing situation.  VB was one of the things that really allowed Windows to succeed; one of the few "breakthroughs" in programming technique which really was a breakthrough.  Yeah, you couldn't do "everything" in VB, but what you could do is build many applications quickly and simply and without debugging the low-level interactions.  Stuff just worked.

With VB.NET, MS tried to make it so VB could do everything (even though we already had C++ and C# for that), and so we lost some of the quickness and a lot of the simplicity.  What was gained wasn't worth gaining, and what was lost was really significant.

Worst of all, VB.NET isn't even backward compatible with VB 6!  How dumb is that?  So all those thousands of apps out there, all those millions of lines of code, actually have to be updated or rewritten to remain compatible.  All that work to get capabilities which didn't belong in VB anyway.  You can see why people aren't happy.

I'm not :(

Ottmar Liebert shares some thoughts about creativity.  "I am less likely to perform a song exactly the way it was recorded.  That may disappoint some and be exciting for others.  I am always looking for ways to set myself up for improvisation and that goes for live performances as well.  A good show is one where I play music I have not played before."  Personally I like it when artists perform a song differently live...

Classical music = oil painting, jazz = watercolor.  Ottmar is somewhere in between...

bewitched statue in SalemYou've got to love this: 'Bewitched' statue goes up in Salem.  Salutes one of the silliest - and most entertaining - sitcoms of all time.

For those of you podcasting aficionados out there - and as you know, I am not one of you - Xeni Jardin discusses the BadApple plugin, which enables iTunes to view and download podcasts directly.  This capability is planned by Apple in a future version of iTunes, but this way you can get it now.  Also, with this plugin you can view any podcast, not just those sanctioned by Apple (admittedly, it is still not clear how Apple's podcasting enhancement will work).

Treo 650 - now with bluetooth dial-up networking!Engadget proclaims Palm has added bluetooth dial-up networking support for the Treo 650.  This enables a bluetooth-enabled laptop to use a Treo 650 as a cellular modem.  This could be the final straw, I might have to trade up from my trusty Treo 600.

Gizmodo has a good how-to on hacking your car stereo to create a direct connection for your iPod.  I need to do this.  Radio transmitters have horrible sound quality, analog cassette adapters are better but still weak.  I no longer listen to CDs in my car - ever - so why not intercept the connection to the changer in my trunk and connect my iPod?  To do.

Mostly so I can find it later, but also if you happen to be a geek: the beginner's guide to Linux distros.  Very useful.  Most interesting is the way Ubuntu ("Linux for human beings") is apparently picking up converts quickly.  I've always used RedHat, but perhaps it has become old hat...

superball rainCheck this out as 2,000 superballs rain from the ceiling...  I'm sure glad I don't work with anyone like this.  Or do I?  (Be sure to check out the movie.)  I love the way this guy has three CRTs on his desk, too.




Mari Chi IV

Sunday,  06/19/05  11:35 PM


Mari Cha IV - a 140' planing dinghy!

Mari Cha IV

world's fastest monohull - a 140' planing dinghy!

[ courtesy of Sailing Anarchy ]



morning notes

Monday,  06/20/05  07:26 AM

A few notes as I drink my coffee:

There will be a lot of buzz around Google's payment system.  I totally think this is real.  They will need a solution as they offer more consumer-to-consumer solutions - like their Video search - and they don't want to give that revenue to someone else.  Completely understandable.  Will they succeed?  I think, no.

Consider the lesson of eBay.  They have a natural monopoly based on a network effect if ever any business did.  eBay began without a settlement solution.  I'm sure if they had to do it over, they would incorporate payments on day one, but they didn't.  So after a while there were about 50 companies in the person-to-person payment space, and they bought Billpoint.  But despite having high-profile partners like Wells Fargo and Visa, Billpoint lost out to PayPal.

Three reasons - first, the network effect.  PayPal already had a lot of momentum when eBay got behind Billpoint.  Today PayPal is the clear leader.  Second, PayPal was easier to use.  It might look easy to make something easy, but it isn't.  Google is great at UIs, but they will find it hard to be easier than PayPal.  Third, PayPal had a better handle on fraud, which enabled them to be less expensive.  The margins are razor-thin in the payments business.  Unless Google uses this as a loss leader for a while - quite possible - they'll find they will be more expensive than PayPal.

More on multi-dreaming.  I now think this is more like cooperative multi-tasking than multi-processing.  In my dream, I made an explicit decision to switch to the other dream.  I actually think the brain's hardware can probably only handle one scenario at a time.  This might explain why we only dream when we sleep, and it might even explain why we need to sleep.  The downtime from the real world enables us to explore new scenarios.

Beyonce on InStyle magazineHalley Suitt bemoans the fact that female standards of beauty are unnaturally thin.  "Women are constantly served up visual images in women's magazines and TV and all media that they should look like skinny little girls."  Is this as true as it was?

I think the pendulum on this is swinging back.  My daughter reads InStyle magazine, and on the cover each month they have glamorous pictures of “current stars”.  Recent covers include Reese Witherspoon, Beyonce (cover tagline: “I have curves, most women do – and I'm happy with them”), Drew Barrymore, Terri Hatcher, Diane Lane, Halle Berry, Liv Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, even Queen Latifa.  These are women who are shaped like women.  I'm happy for Alex – she’s 11 – that she's not growing up feeling like she has look like a boy.

317 spams in the last 24 hours.  Er, make that 321.  Thank you, SpamBayes.  However it isn't obvious why this won't increase without limit.  If I received 3,000 spams in a day instead of 300, I might be able to handle it.  30,000, not sure.  300,000, now we have a problem.  And especially since all 300,000 would pass through a mail server somewhere which has many more clients than just me.  Since the incremental cost of sending spam is essentially zero, this might happen.  Some sort of solution in the network is going to be required.

And note: with 300+ spams per day, I've already passed the point where I can review the classifications.  If SpamBayes says something is spam, I don't even look at it.  There is a nonzero probability that I've trashed good mail because of this.

This will be an interesting week.  I'm looking forward to Dave Winer's  editor - to be announced at Gnomedex.  Billed as "really simple groupware".  I sort of get OPML, but I think I don't get the whole picture.  But then, I didn't get RSS at first, either, and now I am a huge fan.


Thanks, Bill!

Saturday,  06/25/05  09:14 PM

Man, do I have a backlog of stuff to post.  Soon to come.

In the meantime I am sick as a [small] dog, with my wife out of town at a conference, and my kids each sleeping over at friend's houses.  So here I am, all alone.  Yeah, I was coding if you must know.

15GB iPodMichael ShenkerSo my friend Bill Smith comes over, and gives me a spiffy 15GB iPod!  Filled with music.  Excellent music.  Rockin', wonderful, amazing music.  I am listening to Michael Shenker right now and it has completely changed my mood.  Steve Vai will be next.  Then Bill Sheehan. 

Best of all, my productivity has jumped.  I've been working on this new feature for Aperio's WebViewer which I'm really excited about, and suddenly the parts are fitting together.  If you can't code to Michael Shenker's Three Fish Dancing, then you can't code :)

Thanks, Bill!


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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