Another kind of boo :(, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo suffers deadly crash. Crap. Testing spaceships is fraught with peril, two steps forward, one step back.
Check out this post from Doug Messier, yesterday, before the crash:
The rubber hybrid engine did get a workout in three flight tests, but the vibrations and oscillations it produced were so severe the motor couldn't be fired for more than 20 seconds. The engine was sufficient to get SpaceShipTwo through the sound barrier, but it couldn't get the vehicle anywhere near space.
It was not until May 2014 – after spending nearly a decade on the program, and a reported $150 million on engine development – Virgin Galactic announced it would be switching to a different type of hybrid engine, one powered by nitrous oxide and plastic. They are hoping for much better performance in flight.
Flight tests with the plastic engine are set to begin shortly. It remains unclear whether the new engine will get SpaceShipTwo above the Karman line at 100 km (62 miles), which is internationally recognized boundary of space. Ten years after SpaceShipOne, its successor might not be able to replicate what its predecessor achieved.
It seems like just yesterday SpaceShipOne was collecting the Ansari X Prize for "reaching space", and yet here we are ten years later, and seemingly no closer to space tourism.
And it must be pointed out, the 100km barrier might be the definitional boundary of "space", but the International Space Station is in low Earth orbit at 400km, 4 times as far and 16 times more difficult to reach.
Let's hope this is a learning experience and progress continues!
Boo! Happy Halloween everyone ... (and so when did ghosts start saying boo?)
The costume at right most definitely gets my vote for scariest of 2014. IRS targeting, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, Obamacare, Solyndra, Syria, the VA, Iraq, Ebola, ... the hits just keep on coming. Next Tuesday can't come fast enough!
Good to know: slutty Halloween costumes, a cultural history. "Halloween was about sex before it was about 'trick or treat,' and the wonder is that we ever saw it any other way."
Personally I've detected a shift; there now seem to be more scary slash weird costumes and less plain sexy witch / caveman dressing up. Everyone has to be something amazing. And the influence of mobile is strong; seems like every third person is an iPhone app :)
So be it; I will say, Facebook is always fun on Halloween.
Tonight we celebrated Halloween ... by going out to see a movie, Gone Girl. A weird movie. The first 2/3 was great; a good setup for a nice whodunit, in which you ping ponged between hating the guy and hating the girl more. And then the last 1/3 blew it away; a weird unbelievable pat ending which made no sense and left you wondering "so what"? The critics liked it but we did not.
Wrapping up a great weekend, today I sailed in Westlake Yacht Club's trick or treat regatta, crewing for my 11-year-old friend Will. Was pretty much a perfect ending... but meanwhile, it's all happening...
I'm going back in time for this one: Russell Beattie's post from September 2013, in which he announced his decision to stop building a feed reader and to join Amazon's Lab126. That's the team that have built the Fire Phone, and I have to believe Russell was a big part of it. Cool.
Google's Eric Schmidt: "really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon". It's a great post - check it out, there's a lot more - but this is such an interesting point. I honestly think more companies feel Amazon is their biggest competitor than any other, and that includes Wal-Mart in retail and Google themselves in tech. I wouldn't even be surprised if Facebook thinks Amazon is a competitor :)
Do you consider yourself liberal or conservative? It might just be your name. According to this I'm moderately conservative, which seems right...
Watch the Hobbit trilogy in 72 seconds - in animated Lego. Excellent! (I can't believe the time people have for these sorts of things ... but I'm so glad they do!)
WSJ: Never mind software ... mobile is eating the world. "For all the recent growth in tech, today’s companies still have tremendous opportunity. Amazon, for instance, represents just 1% of total US retail." Um, just 1%? That's amazing.
The other day I bemoaned the lack of desktop apps... Cult of Mac says the Mac App Store is broken, and developers are sick of it. That isn't the entire problem, but it's certainly part of it. The Microsoft Windows Store is a ghost town.
But meanwhile: Tumblr debuts its first desktop app on the Mac App Store. Could this be the start of a new trend?
But ... don't get used to Mobile Apps - their days are obviously numbered. Hmmm... it feels like this should be right, but it isn't happening. At least not yet.
Here's a nice survey: the shifting landscape of mobile. In which reports of the death of mobile apps are apparently somewhat exaggerated ... (lot's of great data in this article).
Mobile App of the day: point your phone at math problems and PhotoMath solves them. Way cool, a perfect use of Visual Search technology.
And speaking of mobile apps: Yelp has strong Q3, 45% of reviews now from mobile. I'm surprised it's only 45%, but of course, it's growing...
And finally and crucially: Why 2014 is the year of the ginger cat. I haven't yet seen Boris in Gone Girl, but I will!
Yesterday I had the honor and pleasure of acting as best man for my great and longtime friend Peter, in a beautiful wedding ceremony at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. It was a fantastic event, a chance to hang out at a wonderful resort and to see many old friends and make some new ones, a time to laugh and dance, and most of all a celebration as two people who genuinely love each other vowed to spent the rest of their lives together.
It was a Jewish ceremony, thought light on religious dogma and nicely updated to the 21st century, and I thought the rabbi did a great job. Along with the joys of marriage she spoke of the challenges in any relationship, and in a nice turn of phrase referred to the need to "give each other space without creating distance". It's interesting to ponder; I agree that's crucial to making a long term relationship work, although I hadn't thought about it quite that way. It's sort of equivalent to letting the other person be who they are, while still appreciating and supporting them closely.
The best thing about weddings and funerals and other people's life events is the way it gives you a chance to think about your own life, and put it into perspective. I can't say I've enjoyed all the funerals I've been to (and fortunately I haven't been to that many) but surprisingly they each seem to have left a philosophical mark.
Weddings are of course more fun - though often just as stressful - and they, too, leave an impression that lasts long after the details have faded.
I'll most definitely remember space vs distance...
I'm stuck coding so I might as well blog...
And even coding is a distraction from creating a pitch deck.
And even creating the deck was a distraction from practicing a presentation.
Deeply nested yak shaving, you have been warned :)
This looks cool, need to learn more about it: mobile linking gets deeper. I, too, have wondered about the difficulty of interaction between links and apps. This is one thing - perhaps the main thing - which the web has going for it, and it is a big thing.
Hehe this is awesome: Spanish comedy club uses facial recognition to charge customers on a per-laugh basis. Good thing I didn't have to pay per-laugh while reading it. What an inventive use of visual search :)
Hurry! Six mobile innovations retailers have time to adopt for the Holidays. I notice visual search didn't make the list, but maybe it will take too much time. Next year!
This is pretty cool: new photo app protects your pics from screenshots. A most intriguing plugging of "the analog hole", reminiscent of the Macrovision hack which was used to protect VCRs. Will be interesting to see if this catches on...
Dave Winer: the backs of receivers today suck. Yes they do. And it's because they're mired in old technology ... like ... RCA plugs (click through for a great picture of the back of a 1940s-era radio). My 12-year-old Yamaha receiver is the oldest piece of electronics in my house, because there's nothing with current technology to which I can upgrade. Every receiver should just be on your WiFi, accessing your media server, right?
Eric Schmidt: Google's biggest search competitor is Amazon. Not competitor, but search competitor. How interesting. Read the whole article, it's full of good stuff...
Really? Amazon to open New York retail store. For picking stuff up though, not for picking stuff out. Still, weird.
After watching the League Division Series, I must agree: Baseball's strike zone expansion is out of control. This is presently a weak spot in the game; human interest is all very exciting, but how lame is it when the announcer's report "so and so is a low strike umpire".
Pretty thought-provoking, from Scott "Dilbert" Adams: ISIS Puzzle. "In the long run, I think ISIS will be the best thing that happened to the Middle East because of what it does to the common psychology of who the "real" enemy is. And it comes when the problems in the Middle East seemed otherwise unsolvable. Is that a coincidence?" I like, you think.
The app that helped launch a revolution: FireChat. When the revolution cannot be televised, Tweeted, or IM'ed, a decentralized phone-to-phone network steps in. How fascinating.
Last Thursday Apple held another announcement event, billing it "it's been way too long", but in the end it wasn't much of an event. Cult of Mac posted a nice summary: The twelve biggest takeaways from Apple's iPad event. My summary from the summaries is ... a bunch of expected upgrades. Which doesn't mean they aren't cool, but they aren't significant, like the announcement of the Apple Watch a few weeks ago. Perhaps the fact that most of the announced products had a version number tells the story. Onward!
I do agree the graphic shown at right is a cool summary of Apple's current product line.
On the long trip to Mars, virtual reality could help keep astronauts sane. Well, yeah. Of course if the spacecraft and sensors are good enough, no need to send people at all, just use virtual reality to let them experience the trip!
Lockheed Martin announces a major breakthrough in nuclear fusion. Excellent! Given their gravitas, I doubt this is simple announceware to placate investors, there must be something real behind it. More, faster!
Meanwhile: The physics of why 'cold fusion' isn't real. I'm reminded of that saying, when a scientist says something is possible, they're probably right, when they say it's impossible, they could be wrong.
the new dock ... whacked with an ugly stickLast weekend I installed Yosemite, aka OS X 10.10, and I've been using it off and on during the week. Blech.
I am so tired of this overdesign Bauhaus less-is-more ugly minimalism. First Windows Phone, then Windows 8, then IOS 8, and now OS X too. I can't escape it but boy I wish I could. (I've actually turned on Accessibility on my phone so the buttons look like buttons again - although they are ugly buttons.)
Ironically this trend has occurred just as hardware makes incredibly detailed shadings and effects practical. What's wrong with affordances? Why can't buttons look like buttons, and "click" like buttons? Why can't sliders slide, and folders open, and trash cans get full? Those are good things in a UI, not mere complexity, and taking them away reduces usability.
the evolution of buttons (in reverse)I like some of the functionality of Yosemite - like the integration with iCloud, and the improvements to Spotlight - but the bland crayola look-and-feel predominates my reaction to it. For all the gory details, please read John Siracusa's impeccably detailed review in Ars Technica. Weird that Apple chose "Yosemite" as the code name for this release; I can't imagine anything more beautiful than the National Park, more complexly beautiful, and yet this OS is the opposite of that, and they must have known it. In fact, we know they knew it, because they did this weird "vibrancy" thing where colors from underlying windows bleed through into the front window. There's no functional advantage to that, it was purely an attempt to make things prettier, a rather desperate attempt at that.
icons, old and new, which are prettier?One interesting part of John's article was a detailed discussion of Swift, Apple's new programming language,and the underlying SIL (Swift Intermediate Language). As I expected it isn't as fast or cool as we thought, and developers haven't flocked to it in droves. The incompatibility with other platforms is definitely going to hold it back. One of the under-appreciated reasons that Android has taken off is that there are so many Java programmers around who easily became Android programmers. Even Objective C was a little "off" from C++ and C#, and Swift is a step in the wrong direction. You can remind me I said this, but I expect most IOS and OS X developers to stick to Objective C for a long time.
why not just use a colored rectangle?Well onward. The world doesn't stand still, but I don't have to like this change. I wish there would be a new OS version which was actually more beautiful than the one that preceded it. Surely this pendulum will swing back?
The awesome thing about 3D printers is that they let you code with atoms.
The other day I was talking to a colleague who started his career as a coder, switched for a while to patent law (!), and is now back coding. And we agreed the great and wonderful thing about coding is that you can create anything. You just sit down at your keyboard and start typing, and a few [well okay many many] hours later, poof! you have created something that never was before. That's pretty awesome.
So one of the things I love doing is messing around with my little 3D printer (I have a Makerbot Replicator 2, they're great). And it occurred to me, that the reason 3D printers are soo cool is that they let you be coder-creative, but with atoms instead of bits! You sit down at your keyboard and start typing, and a few [well okay many many] hours later, poof! you have created something that never was before, but it is a tangible object you can touch and feel and play with and even (gasp!) use.
I've created lots of cool things, but my favorite so far is a center console for my car. It was designed from scratch using an amazing free cloud-based tool called Tinkercad. Every time I use it - basically every time I drive anywhere - I love it; not only that it gives me a good place to put my coffee and my keys and my phone, but that I created it myself. Excellent!
this is "now" :)
Greetings blog public; checking in after another busy week of coding. I started in Word, and then moved to Excel, and next week hope to get back to Visual Studio. But in the meantime, it's all happening...
Paul Graham: Before the Startup. On the importance of history and chemistry between founders. I agree entirely; one of the things that makes eyesFinder so cool is that we're all longtime friends. Echos a key thought from Peter Thiel's Zero to One.
Google turned a camel into a street view car to map the Liwa Desert. Hehe, excellent! (although perhaps "street view" is not exactly the way to describe the result... :)
Following in eBay/PayPal's footsteps, HP plan to break themselves in two. Interesting ... seems as if the goal is to unlock value, but where will it come from? The PC / printer business is stagnant, with no innovation, and the enterprise division is mostly services, too big to grow fast. A sad epilog for the once-great tech company.
Interesting that many "tech" companies really don't invent much new technology, they're just users of existing technology. eBay and HP's enterprise business fall into this category, while PayPal and HP's PC business do not.
Speaking of PayPal: Square Cash now lets you send money to nearby friends via Bluetooth. So be it. (PayPal's original product enabled Palm Pilot owners to "beam" money to each other via their Pilots' IR ports. Not much demand for that. But there was demand for PayPal's next product, which let eBay users settle auctions online...)
According to TechCrunch, There's something going on in LA. Excellent. Perhaps eyesFinder will be the next big success story to come out of Caltech :)
The greatest keyboard ever made. The IBM Model M. I agree entirely and have in fact just ordered one ... yay. I first used one on an IBM 3151 terminal, back in the dawn of time.
ESR: Time, Clock, and Calendar programming in C. A great guide to a pretty archaic collection of APIs. The handling of timezones is especially tricky and well-explained.
From the Magazine: Nine hard lessons from a top iPad publisher who is calling it quits. Interesting to read that IOS 7 (and 8) were a step backward.
Awesome: The Thirty-Meter Telescope's construction is finally under way. Looks like something out of a science fiction movie, doesn't it?
How interesting: one-third of Google product searches happen in the wee hours. Come to think of it, many of those might have come from me :)
Okay, back to coding...
Congratulations to Dave Winer on 20 years of blogging!
I was an early and avid reader of Davenet... even when it was a column in Wired Magazine, and remain subscribed to Scripting News via Dave's own RSS technology.
Dave is one of the pioneers of the web, still diggin' (as he likes to say) - a key innovator in blogging, RSS, podcasting, and a bunch of other cool stuff, and I can't wait to see what he does next.
One of his most important and long-lasting contributions was inspiring me to start Critical Section back in 2003 :)
I took this picture of Dave at Internet World in 1996; he was live blogging in the Apple booth. Same as it ever was...
Rats! Looks like I might have to get a new car :)
Tonight Tesla announced their Model S/D, a dual-drive monster which accelerates from 0-60 in 3.2s and actually gets better range than the rear-drive models, along with a new package of safety features which will be incorporated into all Model S cars from this point forward. So be it.
I was invited to the launch event, held at Hawthorne Airport adjacent to the Tesla Design Center (and not coincidentally, the SpaceX construction hangers!) It was pretty cool, somewhat like attending a movie premier. I was struck by the youth, good looks, style, and energy of the attendees. As Chief Designer Franz Von Holzhausen said when introducing Tesla CEO Elon Musk, "tonight the coolest place to be in LA is ... Hawthorne Airport".
Big excited crowd - felt like a movie premier
The stage is set ... ladies and gentlemen ... Elon Musk!
The D itself makes an appearance, held by a massive robot
Four different systems - radar, camera, ultrasound, and GPS - combine for autonomous safety
The new dashboard view ... showing the hazards surrounding the car
This is all pretty impressive, and shows Tesla taking cars beyond what gas-powered vehicles are capable of doing. Onward!
I didn't exactly stay up to catch it, but I was up anyway, so I figured what the heck
and I must say I was amazed that I could capture this picture with my iPhone 5S
Yesterday was a day to play - yay - and today was a day to work ... on various different things. Many of them qualitatively different, bringing to mind a great quote from Henry Ford: "If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse." Of course Henry didn't do that, he went from Zero to One, and gave them cars, instead.
The more I think about Apple Watch, the more I think ... this is them, doing something new, again. Each time we didn't see it so clearly at first ... the Mac, iMac, OS X, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, App Store, iPad, but then we did, and then ... they were big zero to one moments. And now we have Apple Pay, which could be a sleeper biggie, and Apple Watch, which isn't sleeping so much as still gestating.
The secret history of the Michelin Man. See, just when you were wondering why you even ever read my blog, I link to something like this and you remember :)
ESR is creating a new Unix calendaring API. Yay. As a would-be user, I can't wait. The current hodgepodge is badly broken. Let's hope we can migrate it to Windows for a cross-platform solution, too...
Nice design: how IOS 8 time lapse feature works. This is a great example of making good assumptions to avoid a raft of user preferences.
Wow. In 2013 Samsung paid Microsoft $1B in royalties ... for Google's Android. That means Microsoft made more on Android than Skype, Windows Phone, and Xbox combined. Wow.
Cassini watches mysterious feature evolve in Titan sea. "The [NASA team has suggested the feature could be surface waves, rising bubbles, floating solids, solids suspended just below the surface, or perhaps something more exotic." Awesome!
Not quite Google Glass: a week with Epson's awkward smart glasses. The criticisms of the functionality cut deeper than the ones about style. Interesting that their augmented workplace features were the most compelling. Someday they'll include visual search,and that will be even cooler :)
How fast could you visit every state? Randall Munroe asks the important questions... (BTW I'm a big xkcd fan and have downloaded What If?; I can't wait to read it!)
Did you know (and apropos): scientists seen as competent but not trusted by Americans. Unfortunately this says more about "Americans" than scientists.
47 years ago, the fastest manned spacecraft ever. Weird to think such a record would have stood for so long... shows that we're pushing the envelope on many fronts, but not all of them.
Redbox to shut down on October 7th. [Update: not Redbox itself, just their joint venture with Verizon. Thanks, Mike] Like Blockbuster before them, they've been Netflixed They haven't quite been Netflixed... yet.
Happy 25th birthday to Sim City. Wow. Cannot believe it has been that long; quite possibly the coolest game of all time (well, along with Myst :)
So, the New York Times believe that Silicon Valley has a diversity problem. Why? Because "Most of their employees are white and Asian men." So their solution is blatantly racist, like explicitly interviewing minority candidates and requiring quotas. I suppose they just couldn't face the possibility that many tech companies are colorblind meritocracies, and the resulting gender and racial mix is the result. (Oh and meanwhile, the Times editorial board are ... mostly white and Asian men.)
This is excellent: Dutch airline KLM's cuddliest member of their lost and found service... a Beagle.
Today I downloaded and installed Windows 10 Preview (in a VM, of course). And my first impression is ... it's a winner. While I would never consider replacing my everyday Win 7 OS with Win 8, after about fifteen minutes I concluded that yes, I could see replacing it with Win 10. I can't say yet that I like Win 10 better - that will take more than fifteen minutes - but at least I don't hate it on sight.
I don't like the look and feel - those flat primary colors remind me of Windows 3! - but the performance was snappy and the functionality I needed was there. Best of all there was only one Explorer environment - the Start menu was back, albeit modified with those ugly blocky Win 8 -style tiles - and I could simply find and run things the way I expected, instead of clicking back and forth like I was in some kind of kids game.
It's a low bar when we celebrate just being able to use a new version of Windows, but given the history with Windows ME, Vista, and now Win 8, that's a bar we have to hurdle. I just started playing so I haven't had a chance to notice much that's new yet, but I do like the new Win 10 switcher:
One thing that struck me about the whole experience was the degree to which cloud-based storage of preferences made the installation easier. When I signed on as "me", Microsoft recognized my settings from when I played with Win 8, and automatically carried them over (things like the desktop pictures, windows placement, etc). And then later when I downloaded and installed Chrome as my default browser, Google did the same thing (search history, autocomplete, etc). It's a little unsettling to realize how much these big companies know about me, but it did speed things up.
So ... onward, it's a new day. I think this puts a dagger in what little chance there ever was that I would run Win 8 for anything meaningful. I can just keep up with the Win 10 previews and hope they release it sooner rather than later, and then jump directly to Win 10. YMMV but I doubt it :)
Fairly recent posts:
For older posts please visit 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
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
the inflection point
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
in praise of paddle shifting
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
shining a light
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
discovering the third quadrant
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker