<<< I wish it was over


Happy Halloween! >>>

Friday,  10/29/04  11:09 PM

Seems like the spinning on the Osama video is out of control.  Josh Marshall takes the left point of view ("The dynamic this week has been in Kerry's favor consistently"), Hugh Hewitt takes the right ("It is looking very good indeed [for Bush]").  And CBS "News" continues their unbiased reporting ("For Mr. Bush, it was one piece of bad news after another ").  I just want it all to be over

[ Later: Slate offers the Cure for Election Rage.  Excellent. ]

I've linked them before, but the Electoral Vote Predictor is a great website for tracking the polls.  For me the most interesting thing is not the map, but rather the graph.  Current prediction: Kerry 243, Bush 280.  That's too close to call. 

Rogers Cadenhead thinks Ellis Hedican asks a good question: "If we can trust banks to get millions of ATM transactions correct with a paper receipt every single time, why can't we trust the process of counting our votes?"  Well, that is a good question. 

I spent a good part of the 80s working on bank transaction systems, including ATM networks.  I can tell you that in the early days there were a lot of problems.  It took years before the hardware was debugged, let alone all the software in the networks.  Settlement between banks used to be a mess.  One key difference between banking systems and voting is that banks were able to keep a full history for each account, which aided reconciliation.  I don’t think most citizens want the government keeping a full history of their voting records.

IMHO we should have voting machines, they should be open source, and the whole process should be as transparent as possible so that the debugging process can be accelerated.  Obviously paper receipts should be printed – that was one of the best ways to reconcile in the early days of ATMs.  The machines should print paper logs as well, which might be a privacy exposure, but would be an important way to help secure things.

The key point with voting machines isn’t that they’ll work perfectly right away, but that they’re going to be better than our present system right away, and that they’ll improve over time.  The current manual and mechanical systems are horrible, and [although I have no special knowledge] there seems to be more fraud going on than is commonly reported.

Looks like Nasa Mulls Early Retirement for Space Shuttle.  So be it.  The economics of this "reusable" vehicle never made sense, and now there are plenty of less expensive alternatives for launching satellites. 

So, today was the 35th anniversary of the Internet.  "In order to log in to the two-computer network, which was then called ARPANET, programmers at UCLA were to type in 'log', and Stanford would reply 'in'.  The UCLA programmers only got as far as 'lo' before the Stanford machine crashed."  Not much has changed in 35 years :) 

There was a special symposium at UCLA to commemorate the event; Sean Bonner blogged about it, and Xeni Jarden posted a transcript of Google CEO Eric Schmidt's keynote.

Perhaps you feel I spend too much time writing about iPods?  John Gruber was wondering the same thing, but concluded the opposite: "At times I’ve wondered if I’ve devoted too much attention to it.  Based on the last few weeks of news, however, perhaps the opposite is true - that the iPod is such a genuine phenomenon that I haven’t written about it enough."  John also considers "Why Not Video", and concludes: "Jobs’ and Apple’s party line about their not being content for video rings true to my ears.

Normally I agree with everything John writes.  Well maybe not everything, but almost.  He hits a lot of nail heads in an entertaining manner.

I think he's wrong about video content, however.  There is a metric ton of existing video content which is not first run movies or recent TV series.  First and foremost, there is porn.  Man is there ever.  Then you have music videos, shorts, instructional videos, local sports, indie films, and there is a growing coterie of video bloggers.  You have digitized old TV shows and film reels.  You have trailers for games.  There is a huge amount of foreign-language content; movies, TV programming, foreign sports.  You have cable channels, many of which are not available outside of metropolitan U.S. cities (my wife would kill for the cooking channel on her videoPod).  You have all the movies rented by Netflix which you can’t find at Blockbuster, and all the movies in the IMDB which aren’t rented by Netflix.  Many of these are niche content from the “long tail”, perfect for digital distribution.  There is no shortage of content now, and of course additional distribution will foster addition content creation.

So if that is true – and as CEO of Pixar, a generally savvy guy, and the CEO of the company which created QuickTime, Steve Jobs knows it is true – then why not a videoPod?

I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that there will be a videoPod, and Apple is just not ready.  Most of the video content in existence is not in the right format, and ripping DVDs wouldn’t help (even if it were legal).  I think Apple will begin by enhancing their tools for managing video content, such as an updated version of iMovie which interfaces with acquisition hardware.  This might also provide PVR capability.  After that, an online mechanism for video exchange which will lead to the iMovie store.  And then – the videoPod.  This could take a year or longer to roll out.  I don’t think Jobs feels like he’s in a hurry; there were plenty of music players before the iPod, but nobody found the right combination, and iPod now dominates.

Can't decide what to be for Halloween?  Here are some printable Star Wars masks.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]  I always was afraid of Princess Leia. 

Well, they're really doing it; Los Angeles has made silly string illegal between October 31 and November 1.  The whole things seems, well, silly to me, but I guess the cleanup costs in years past were not silly at all.