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Archive: October 2003

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Gray no, Arnold yes

Thursday,  10/02/03  10:43 PM

I'm voting.  Absentee ballot.  In the end, it was easy:

I absolutely do think Gray Davis isn't doing a good job, and someone else could do better. 

Gray Davis no vote

I absolutely don't think voting for Cruz Bustamante makes sense; even if I liked his views, which I don't, and could tolerate his relationship with Indian casino operators, which I can't, he's part of the Davis regime.  How can you vote to recall Davis and then vote for Cruz? 

I like Tom McClintock.  I pretty much agree with his views and think he'd do a good job.  Maybe in a different world I'd pick him over Arnold Schwarzenegger, based on experience.  But he doesn't have enough support to win, so voting for McClintock means taking a vote away from Arnold, which means voting for Cruz.  So...

Arnold Schwarzenegger yes vote

Here we go, it will be interesting.


Thursday,  10/02/03  11:06 PM

Daniel Weintraub reviews Arnold's 100-day plan.  "Can he succeed?  I think he can.  Just as Schwarzenegger has rewritten the rules of political campaigning, if he wins, he will be able to re-write the rules of governing.  He would do this because he would have an ability that the Legislature does not have and that most governors before him have not been able to master: the ability to communicate directly with the people of California."  I've read this before; the idea is that California has a "weak-Governor" system, which requires that the Governor be able to lead rather than manage.

Donald Rumsfeld surveys Iraqi progress in the WSJ.  "The Coalition is not in Iraq to stay.  Our goal is to help Iraqis so they can take responsibility for the governance and security of their country, and foreign forces can leave."

Air France is buying KLM.  Wow.  As a Dutchman and France disliker, I can't feel good about this, but I have to admit it makes economic sense.  Apparently they will retain separate brands.

WineSpectator reports French Wines Still Facing Hard Times in U.S. Market.  Boo hoo.

Bill Whittle on Power.  As usual with Bill, it is long, interesting, and well worth reading.

So the baseball playoffs are under way.  Some great games so far.  Ole's picks: Giants over Marlins, Cubs over Braves, Yankees over Twins, and As over Boston.  Then Giants over Cubs, As over Yankees, and the Giants win the series.

With three games each day, how do you possibly watch all the action without Tivo?

CNet has a cool new area called Digital Living.  Really well done, although it is chock full of ads (sigh).  I like the way they've smoothly incorporated Flash and video.  Is this the home of the future?  Remember, "the future is already here, it just isn't evenly distributed."

Their "lavish living room" is really just a fancy den, centered around a home entertainment system.  Interesting.  Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't have any electronics in my living room, we use it for visiting with people...Creative wireless media adapter

Creative just joined the long list of companies making wireless media adapters; essentially a way to get music from your PC to your stereo system.  There is a fundamental realization behind these products that your PC is where music lives.  No more "hardcopy".

On the heels of Disney's new MovieBeam service, we find that Movielink is partnering with Roadrunner to provide video-on-demand services.  The difference is that Disney serves the movie in the family room, via a set-top box, while Movielink serves it in the den on the computer.

Wired considers The Incredible Shrinking Studio.  "Along with freeing musicians from the studio, the new power of laptops, and some of the software that has been written to use that power, has had a huge impact on the market for synthesizers.  Instead of spending $3,000 for a high-end hardware synthesizer, musicians can now buy software-based synths and load dozens of them on a laptop."  I'm sure Ottmar would agree!

Matt Haughey notes that the new Windows Media Center edition includes the ability to pause and rewind live radio.  So there we go, first we have a wave of products which do this, then Microsoft folds it into the operating system.  Their implementation is probably inferior, but it is free...

Don Box reminisces about PDCs past.  Was it really 1996 when the term "ActiveX" was unleashed?

Dell DJ MP3 playerDaring Fireball discusses Dell's Dud, the new Dell DJ MP3 player.  "Based solely on this single promotional photo, I could even start taking potshots at the Dell DJ, pointing out why it's not just an iPod knock-off, but an inferior knock-off."  But that isn't the real problem.  Rather, "This idea that the iPod's position is precarious - that any day now, some cheaper weak-branded knock-off will knock Apple off its perch - is exactly backwards."  So let the market decide!

Bruce Sterling makes a list of ten technologies that deserve to die.  It is a lousy list, including non-technologies like "prisons" and "cosmetic implants", and why exactly do DVDs deserve to die?

Zero-G parabolic flightWant to be weightless?  Then perhaps Zero-G is for you.  Not for me, I don't even like roller-coasters...  

ACME instant girlThis is terrific!  The ACME Product catalog, made up from frame-grabs of Roadrunner cartoons.  There's a lot of useful stuff in there, like "instant girl" :)


the Big Sombrero

Friday,  10/03/03  11:16 AM

The Hubble Space Telescope recently published a high-resolution image of the amazing Sombrero Galaxy.  Truly awe-inspiring, especially when you consider the scale.

This image was 211MB, labelled as "massive file", but of course in my work this is a teeny image.  I upsampled it by 2X into 800MB of data, and here it is...

the Sombrero Galaxy

(click image for full-size interactive viewer)

Be sure to hit F11 to maximize your browser's window so you can see as much of the image as possible.

In case you're wondering, the magic here is:

  • Aperio's software to upsample, filter, compress, and package the image.
  • Aperio's software to serve huge images over the net.
  • Zoomify's software to view huge images in a web browser (Flash-based).



Sunday,  10/05/03  10:56 PM

This weekend's bloglines...

National Post editorial: Stopping Iran's Nuclear Quest.  "Short of full-scale war, the Western powers must do all they can -- together -- to make it clear to the ayatollahs that they will not be permitted to build or possess nuclear weapons.  And if the West cannot present a united front, then the Americans -- again -- will have to take the lonely lead."  I agree completely.  Why wait until Iran is another North Korea?  [ via LGF; Charles notes "Ever have one of those dreams where you're standing on a train track, watching as a locomotive speeds toward you, but unable to move or do anything to save yourself?" ]

The WP is Opening a Window on North Korea's Horrors, and it isn't pretty.

In California Votin' Jack Ganssle considers the problems with electronic voting machines.  His suggestion: Let's get the mob involved.  Not really, but he points out that gaming machines are heavily audited, and fraud is rare.  "If a gaming auditor certified voting machines, elections wouldn't be so much of a, uh, crap-shoot."

The Washington Times notes Furor over Dane's breeding comment; Aarhus University professor Helmuth Nyborg suggested governments practice selective breeding among humans to prevent the cognitive decline of the human race.  "'Intelligence is hereditary,' said Professor Helmuth Nyborg, the dean of the Psychology Institute at Aarhus University.  'The 15 to 20 percent of those at the lower levels of society -- those who are not able to manage even the simplest tasks and often not their children -- should be dissuaded from having children.  The fact is that they are having more children and the intelligent ones are having fewer.'"  So, do I agree with this?  Well, maybe.  Although his view has been distorted in the reporting, note he uses "dissuaded" rather than any stronger term.  I would agree with his views at this strength; non-compulsory incentives like more government financial support would be a good thing.  (The opposite of programs like AFDC, which reward people for having children.)   [ via Alexander Beaujean ]

alien eggInteresting article on Wired, In Search of Planets and Life.  There may not be other life in our solar system, but it seems wildly improbably that there's no other life, period.  A great test case for natural selection :)

ZDNet UK interviews Craig Silverstein, Google's CTO: Boldly Googling into the future.  "'When search grows up, it will look like Star Trek: you talk into the air ('Computer! What's the situation down on the planet?') and the computer processes your question, figures out its context, figures out what response you're looking for, searches a giant database in who-knows-how-many languages, translates/analyses/summarizes all the results, and presents them back to you in a pleasant voice.'"  Anyone want to guess when this will be reality?  Ten years?  Twenty?  There isn't any doubt this will happen, right?

Dave Winer: The Rule of Win-Win.  "The Rule of Win-Win says that by choosing to participate in the Web, I can promote my own interests, but I must acknowledge the existence of others and their interests."  Essentially, you link to me and I'll link to you.

Have you been reading all these articles about the demise of email?  Essentially because of the flood of spam, some argue email's utility is limited.  I disagree, and so does Naval.  "Email is the ultimate network effect, and we're all locked in."  Of course.

If you are drowning in spam, try Matador.  It works.  Really really.

Hornik wonders how you would actually mail someone about Viagra.  Or what if you really were Nigerian?

DVD logoAre you Waiting for DVDs, the Sequel?  "Now that DVDs are almost 7 years old, which is an eternity in the consumer electronics world, what comes next?"  Well, how about online distribution...  It is here, and seems to be taking over.  Along with Tivo and its brethren, every day now there's an article about some cable company with a video-on-demand service.  I think media "hardcopy" is so 1900s.

Comcast launches service to fight Tivo.  [ via PVRblog ]

The real battle will be over the format for online video.  CNet wonders: DivX is ready for its sequel. Is Hollywood?  DivX is certainly the most prevalent compression technology for movies today, but is isn't really the "MP3 of video"; the quality is too far below even "broadcast", let alone "DVD".  (MP3 for audio "tipped" when MP3's quality was roughly equivalent to CD's.)  Perhaps Microsoft Media Player 9 or Quicktime will grab the ring.

[ Later: I think DVD players which can play DivX-encoded video are a transitional technology, analogous to CD players which can play discs with MP3s.  The real market will be iPod-like video players, and Tivo-like home entertainment boxes. ]

In case you're wondering Which TiVo is the Right One for You, Raffi Krikorian on O'Reilly has nice survey.

Philips is trying to improve the DVD, with dual layer DVD+R technology that allows 8.5GB to be stored per disk.

Oh, and the EFF has a great survey: Unintended Consequences, Five Years under the DMCA.

Ottmar wants flip-flops to go with his Yamamoto suit.  N.B. He plays barefoot...

Kotter halloween costumeThe world's greatest Halloween costumes.  Welcome back, Kotter.  Now that's scary.

Is it just me, or did Halloween start too early this year?  I guess it is just me.  One minute it's summer, the next minute it's Halloween.  And then it's Christmas...Neiman Marcus His and Hers Robots

Wondering what to get that special couple for Christmas?  How about His and Hers Robots, from Neiman Marcus...  Only $400K.


Total Recall?

Monday,  10/06/03  11:19 PM

So tomorrow is the big day - will Davis be recalled, and will Arnold replace him

total recallMy sense from friends and the blogosphere is that the LAT's last-minute negative articles have had a polarizing effect.  The campaign is now seen very much as Davis vs. Schwarzenegger (even though there are others, Bustamante in particular, who are running to replace Davis).  People who were leaning toward keeping Davis anyway are now strengthened in their position by the allegations against Arnold, and people who were leaning toward recalling Davis are mad at the apparent smear campaign.  The LAT articles have cost them credibility, but probably have not affected the overall outcome significantly.

Of course regardless of the results of the voting, there will be legal challenges to follow.  It will be interesting.... 


Monday,  10/06/03  11:31 PM

The Nobel Prize for medicine this year has been awarded to Paul C. Lauterbur of the United States and Sir Peter Mansfield of Britain for their pioneering work in developing Magnetic Resonance Imaging, aka MRI.  "The now-routine technique became available to doctors in the 1980s, and excels at creating images of soft tissue, allowing many patients to avoid exploratory surgery."  Now that is nobel work!

Nature reports Lasers Operate Inside Single Cells.  "With pulses of intense laser light a millionth of a billionth of a second long, US researchers are vaporizing tiny structures inside living cells without killing them."  Now that's cool.

Steven Den Beste has a strange dream.  "And suddenly I knew what had happened.  When we had reduced the amount of crime, we'd put lots of criminal lawyers out of work.  So they'd mostly switched into civil law, and there'd been an explosion of nuisance liability lawsuits."  Argh, nightmare!

Mari Cha IVThe Mari-Cha IV is attempting to break the sailing record for crossing the Atlantic.  Yesterday they logged over 500 miles in one day - the first time a monohull has ever done that.  They are averaging about 20 knots!  Wow.  It looks like a 140' Aussie 18...

AdAge wonders Will Tivo Survive the Revolution it Wrought?  "The question isn't, 'Can DVRs reach critical mass?'  They will, and that will transform the business models of the advertising and media industries.  The question is whether TiVo will be a leading DVR player when that happens."  They need to find a business model outside subscriptions and advertising...  [ via PVRblog ]

Then there is the attack from below -- Gateway's connected DVD player could be a sleeper PVR replacement...  Will PCs become the repository for video in a household?  They are already becoming the repository for audio.

PVRblog's Matt Haughey interviews MovieBeam execs.  Interesting.  Note the mushy answer to the quality issue "Q: What is the video quality and format like?  A: All movies on MovieBeam are digital quality."  Which means nothing, of course.  MovieBeam is the "top" of VOD, with first run movies, I wonder if anyone is working the "bottom"?

Hey, a blogger acting as a reporter!

PressThink notes Len Apcar, the NYT's editor-in-chief, attended BloggerCon (Dave Winer's blogging conference at Harvard Law School).  "I came here to get an idea of how we can do this."  Strange that you have to go to a physical conference to learn about an online phenomenon, but whatever works...  I don't see the NYT blogging, myself; the form lends itself more to commentary and analysis than reporting.

LG Electronics 76" plasma HDTVOkay, I said I would stop reporting electronic gadget news, but I'm salivating over this new 76" plasma HDTV developed by LG Electronics.  I want one :)

Mary Jo Foley lists Seven Things to Keep in Mind about Longhorn (the next version of Microsoft Windows).  Nice survey. 

She jokingly reports there are only three things to keep in mind, 1) it's late, 2) it's later than you think, 3) It's even later than that. To which I would add: 4) It's going to be later than that.


Word Bullet Miracle

Tuesday,  10/07/03  04:10 PM

I have the most amazing story to relate.  Sit down, and put down all sharp objects, because you will not believe this.

First some background.  I am editing a document using Microsoft Word.  I like Word, it mostly works.  But one of the things I don't like is the way it tries to "help".  One of the helpful things it does is auto-indenting bullets, only it never ever does it right.  It takes about five times as long to work around Word's "help" than it would have simply to enter the bullets the way you want them.  Auto-numbering bullets in an outline?  Forget about it.  Word seems to have a mind of its own.

Okay, so I'm editing, and I have all these bullets, and I've laboriously adjusted each paragraph to get the indenting and bullets just right.  This is a one-page document.  I go to print, and [of course] this causes the margins to be adjusted to fit the printer, and [of course] this causes my one-page document to be slightly more than one page.  Sigh.  So I decide - yikes! - I am going to shift all my indented bullets just slightly to the left.  This should make enough room to fit everything back on one page.

Now I carefully, gingerly, drag the first bullet's paragraph marker just slightly to the left.  Wham!  In an instant, the whole document is messed up.  I mean messed up completely, the indents are wrong, the bullet types are wrong, and oh yeah it still doesn't fit on one page.  Undo.  Try again.

word bulletsNow I position in the first bulleted paragraph, and type shift-tab.  This sometimes un-indents things.  Wham!  In an instant, all the bulleted paragraphs shift one indent to the left, and everything is perfect!  The relative indents are the same, the bullet types are the same, and all the paragraphs are shifted slightly to the left.  And -- everything now fits on one page.

The first and only known case where Word's auto-indent bullet logic actually worked.

Well, I said you would not believe me.



Tuesday,  10/07/03  11:17 PM

Today I was in a Mobil gas station.  They have big signs advertising their deal with Upromise, a company which helps you save for your kid's college expenses.  Nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, let's do a little math.  If you sign up with Upromise, Mobil will pay 1¢ for each gallon of gas you buy into a college savings account.  I drive about 10,000 miles per year, and my car gets about 25mpg.  That means I buy about 400 gallons of gas per year.  That means Mobil would pay 400¢ per year.  Wow, $4, that's really going to help send my kids to college!

This program must cost Mobil a fortune, because they are advertising it everywhere.  No doubt there is positive PR value to the message "we're helping you save for your kids' college", but don't people do the math?



Wednesday,  10/08/03  01:20 PM

So, Arnold Schwarzenegger is California's new governor.  Yesterday the citizens of our state voted rather decisively to oust Gray Davis after less than a year into his second term, and to opt for Arnold instead.

I won't join the throng of people speculating about the Schwarzenegger governorship.  (Not yet, at least!)  There are many big problems facing our state, not least our huge budget deficit, and Arnold will have to be smart and work hard with many people to solve them. 

Instead, I want to speculate about why he was so appealing.  What is it about Arnold that caused so many people to vote against the incumbent, and for him?


That's it.  Arnold exudes confidence.  He's a winner - he's been a winner his whole life - and when you see this big good looking millionaire with his beautiful wife and kids, you feel like he's going to continue being a winner.  And the people of California want a winner to lead them.

California is not like other places.  We are used to being bigger and better and smarter -- and weirder -- than everyone else.  We are used to setting the pace.  We often try new things - some of them work really well, and some of them are disasters - but our appetite for risk-taking is high.  We are used to being leaders for the rest of the U.S. and the world.  People like to make fun of California and in many cases they have ample justification, but in the end we are admired.

The current set of fiscal problems facing our state are worse than bad, they are embarrassing.   The "energy crisis" we faced in the summer of '02 was of our own making - bad policy, bad management, and bad execution - and this, combined with the dot-com bubble bursting and the economic impact of 9/11, have created a perfect financial storm.  The impact on our schools, our businesses, and our lifestyle have been felt. 

So things are bad, and we are bummed.  We look for someone to blame, and there's Gray Davis.  In some ways he wasn't responsible for any of this - the energy deals, the dot-com bubble, or 9/11 - but on the other hand he didn't appear to be solving the problems, either, so he was a convenient target.

And along comes Arnold, and poof, we want to believeHe has confidence, and that gave us confidence in him.  And that's why we voted for him.


the Treo 600

Wednesday,  10/08/03  05:30 PM

From: Handspring Sales []
Sent: Wednesday, October 08, 2003 2:28 PM
Subject: Treo 600 Available - Call Now!

Dear Ole,

As promised, I wanted to personally contact you and let you know that we are now selling the exciting new Treo 600.   

The Treo 600 smartphone is currently available with plans from Sprint. We expect that plans from Cingular Wireless and T-Mobile will be available within the next few weeks. We also expect to have service from AT&T Wireless available soon.

I will be calling you within the next few days to answer any questions you may have.  If you prefer to contact me sooner, please feel free to call me directly at 1-888-565-9393 and ask for extension 20028.  Please reference the source code T600CB when you call. 

Thank you for your interest in our new Treo 600.  I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Best regards, 

Handspring Sales Representative

Handspring Treo 600

Yep, I called, and yep, I ordered one.  Will arrive in 3-5 business days.  Stay tuned!

[ Later: Now available on Handspring's website, too... ]


Thursday,  10/09/03  08:26 AM

President Bush has a blog.  As does the Democratic national committee.

The Economist considers Peril on the Sea.  "Are terrorists now aiming to block shipping lanes and disrupt the flow of oil and other goods?"  Scary.

Here's an amazing map showing the distribution of Schwarzenegger supporters.  Looks like the North and South agreed, except for the Bay Area.  [ via Dave Winer ]

Mari Cha IVThey've done it: Mari Cha IV obliterates transatlantic record.  "Mari Cha IV completed their 2,925 mile crossing in 6 days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds, beating the existing record by over two days."  The fastest ocean-going sailboat ever built.  Wow.

Another man vs. machine chess match: In a few weeks Garry Kasparov will take on X3D Fritz.  Jeff Sonas thinks it is not true that machines will eventually become undeniably stronger than humans.  I think Jeff is wrong; this is a pure matter of CPU horsepower...

Bill Gurley is Watching the Digital Hand.  "Adam Smith proffered that an economic 'invisible hand' ensures that if companies act in their own interest, the good of the public or individual will also be optimized.  An equally powerful and unavoidable force controls high-technology markets today -- the 'digital hand'...  The invisible hand suggests that both companies and customers can profit simultaneously.  The digital hand is not nearly as charitable to the companies involved.  In fact, it can be downright brutal."  Ask the RIAA, or the MPAA...

Sony PSXDon't know whether this is Tivo news, or game machine news, but Sony has unveiled the PSX.  Seems to have all the features of a PS2, a Tivo, and a DVD recorder, along with a broadband Internet connection.  Wow.

Ashley Highfield, Director of BBC New Media & Technology, on TV's tipping point:  "Future TV will may be unrecognisable from today, defined not just by linear TV channels, packaged and scheduled by television executives, but instead will resemble more of a kaleidoscope, thousands of streams of content, some indistinguishable as actual channels.  These streams will mix together broadcasters' content and programmes, and our viewers' contributions."  He gets it.

CNN reviews SnapStream: "I have seen the future of television, and it lies within a computer."  Another money quote: "I'm surprised there aren't more startups springing up to capitalize on the combination of cheap hardware and the shareware and opensource programs out there to do it all."  Hmmm...

Oh, and Pioneer intros Media 9 compatible receiver.  It is hard work keeping up with this stuff.  This receiver would allow you to stream video from your PC directly to your home entertainment system's heart, the receiver.  Looks like Microsoft is really making Media 9 "a thing".

Wired covers Magnatune, "an upstart California record label trying to revolutionize the industry by making file sharing the heart of its business."  Their motto: "we are not evil".  It isn't clear what their competitive advantage would be over, say, Kazaa...

Here's a truly alien crop circle; Sandy Dougherty and his family have created a tribute to Indiana - and David Letterman - in their 7.5-acre cornfield.  In addition to being a crop circle, it's a maze; visitors encounter signs with information about Indiana and its residents.  I am not making this up.


the Second Treo 600

Thursday,  10/09/03  07:37 PM

Handspring Treo 600 upgradeSo I was all excited about ordering a new Treo 600.  And then I saw this; Handspring has a trade-in offer for existing Treo owners!  Such a deal!

So I called Sprint, and cancelled my order.  This was not easy; I had to fight my way through their 'phone system and it took a while, but it was done.  Then I called Handspring, and inquired about their upgrade program.  They were all sold out!  Oh no!  I explained my plight to the Handspring customer service rep, and he took pity on me, and I eventually did get my upgrade order in.  Whew!

So I expect to get my new Treo in about a week.  Stay tuned.

Treo 600 vs. Treo 300  [ 10 minutes later: Okay, you're not going to believe this. ]

As I was blogging the item above, sitting next to me on my desk was a received package.  I figured it was from Amazon - they usually are - but no, it was from Sprint.  It was my new [and now cancelled] Treo 600!  I am not making this up.

It looks just beautiful.  The fit and finish are superior to those of the Treo 300, and the size is noticeably smaller (see pic).  The keys are closer together but actually easier to hit, because of their shape, plus there's that new little cursor control.  And of course the 600 has a camera (!) and an SD slot (!), while the 300 does not.  Finally the 600 is not a flip phone, which is a good thing; note the broken hinge on my 300...

So now I have to return it (sigh) and wait for the one from Handspring to arrive.  Stay tuned.


Friday,  10/10/03  08:16 AM

Gov Arnold announced his transition team today.  Interestingly, it included Carly Fiorina, CEO of HP.  Her political ambitions have been noted before.  Arnold/Carly in '12?  Also on the list, San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.  A very shrewd choice, because San Francisco is the one big city in California which did not vote for Arnold...

Wired reports China's Great Leap Upward.  "Giving the firmest signs yet that China is about to blast a 'taikonaut' into orbit, news reports Wednesday said it would take place Oct. 15 and be shown live on television."  And no doubt on the 'net, too.

This is a good thing: A bill has been introduced into the House to encourage private manned spaceflight.  Excellent.  (You've got to love a blog called Transterrestrial Musings!)

godless thinks "the Bell Curvers" will win in the end.  "People can and will deny the validity of the g-factor until it becomes the basis for engineering."  Excellent point.  People could and did deny the validity of a round earth until it became the basis for colonization.

SETI@home is transitioning to BOINC, a general purpose distributed computing network.  Cool.  I've been a big supporter of SETI@home.  (I'm currently in 1,215th place out of 4,704,523 users.)

Napster logoWell, Napster 2.0 missed their launch date yesterday.  They are taking "pre-registrations", I pre-registered so I can watch what they're up to.  Stay tuned.

Samsung Napster MP3 playerIn related news, Samsung's Napster-branded MP3 player was announced.  They are trying for an Apple-like player/service tie-in.  In addition to a 20GB MP3 player, it is also an FM tuner.  Stay tuned.

And speaking of Apple, the Windows version of the iTunes Music Store will be announced next Thursday, October 16.  So by delaying two weeks, Napster will launch after the Windows version of iTMS.  Bad timing.  It will be interesting to see what Apple does for software; a big part of iTMS' appeal was the tight integration with Apple's slick iTunes application, for which there is presently no Windows equivalent (the Windows version of the iPod integrates with Music Match).

Yesterday I noted the new Pioneer receiver which supports Windows Media 9 streaming.  Julien Couvreur emailed to point out it only streams WMA 9 audio, not video.  So how long before another one supports video, too?

KiSS has a whole line of DVD players which have Ethernet connections.  Including the ability to decode DivX, which is Media 9's most direct competitor.

Asus PC receiverIn the same vein, Asus has introduced a "barebones" PC designed to sit in your home entertainment stack, not your office.  This is a Pentium-4 based computer with a TV tuner and FM tuner, built-in PVR capability, built-in LAN interface, and standard drive bays for disk and optical drives.  This really sounds like the future, an "open" system which replaces your receiver.  Sorry, Pioneer.

Dave Winer asks "what's the opposite of bing"?  Silence.



Sunday,  10/12/03  08:26 PM

So I'm down.  I'm blogging this, but nobody can see it.

Last night at 4:00AM we had a power failure, lasted about an hour.  Everything came back up except my XO Communications' data circuit, which is still down, sixteen hours later.  Unforgiveable.

Anyway, there's nothing I can do but wait.  Stay tuned.


Still Down

Monday,  10/13/03  05:35 PM

So I'm Still Down.  I'm blogging this but nobody can see it.

This outage is my longest ever, from 4:00AM last Sunday morning (now 36 hours, and counting).  It was triggered by a power failure so I have to believe we're just talking about resetting some box somewhere.  There are too many cooks, my relationship is with XO, who subcontacts with Covad, who relies on Verizon for the phone line.  Unacceptable.

Anyway, there's still nothing I can do but wait.  Stay tuned.


Monday,  10/13/03  05:50 PM

On the off chance that someday I'll get my data circuit back, here's a pass of the Ole filter...

LGF reports some infuriating statistics: "Of the $13.3 billion tax dollars invested in direct Foreign Aid only about 26% or $3.5 billion went to support people who endorsed American initiatives or causes.  A staggering $9.8 billion tax dollars went to causes and people who are in open and direct opposition to the United States' interests and objectives."  Seems like a waste of money, doesn't it?

Word of the day: Francopessimisme.  "From record unemployment to a chronic budgetary deficit, France's economic woes are taking a toll on the morale of the French.  The wave of negativity about the performance and future of the country has been dubbed 'Francopessimisme'."  Gee, I'm so sorry!  Now why am I reminded of another word, schadenfreude...

I'd like to encourage all visitors to visit the EFF website and send a message of protest to the FCC about the infamous "broadcast flag".  This would make all new PVR hardware and software subject to the approval of the Motion Picture Association of America before going to market in the U.S.  Preposterous.  Talk about stifling innovation!

Meanwhile back at the MPAA, 142 directors have signed a petition requesting an end to the ban on "screeners".  Despite the star power behind those signing on the letter the MPAA announced "...the screener policy remains as it was originally announced."  So be it.  Fools.

Matrix RevolutionsDid you know the second and third Matrix movies will be out on IMAX?  Yippee and Wow.

Tim Bray and friends have a solution for spam.  It seems quite workable.  I'd pay 1¢ per email to avoid spam, wouldn't you?

The NYT reviews Skype, the P2P VoIP service.  Interesting that in such articles Vonage is always mentioned, but never as "the answer".  I think Skype is cool but it will never cross the chasm from geeks to mainstream, the NYT article notwithstanding, while Vonage is already there.

I've forwarded my main home number to Vonage, so it is now our only phone service.  Works perfectly.  ($30/month, no long distance...)

Joel Spolsky has an interesting article out on Unicode and Character Sets.  As one of the many programmers who wish this would just go away so I could use good old ASCII, I found it very informative.

Joel is on a roll - he also explains why he dislikes exceptions.  I agree 100%.

This is a great example of a technique which some consider elegant, but which I consider kludgy; exceptions are a clear violation of W=UH (being both U and H).

Sharp 3D laptopSharp's 3D laptop is out.  This is 3D without goggles; the screen subtly shows different images to the left and right eye based on field of view.  I'm going to try really hard to see one in action - stay tuned.  Could be just the thing for viewing virtual slides.

Wired thinks Sony should skip making an iPod (MP3 player) and go directly to making a videoPod (movie player).  "Sony made a colossal mistake.  Rather than build a hard-drive-based MP3 player, the Japanese company sat back while Apple Computer wowed the world with the iPod.  Sony was so worried about piracy, and sapping revenue from its Sony Music division, that it chose to do nothing and let Apple ascend."  Maybe so, but Sony generally makes one of each and waits to see what will stick.

Remember Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair, the journalists who moved from Los Angeles to Rarotonga last summer?  Well, they've given up on Rarotonga and are moving to Waiheke, an island off New Zealand.  "We've gone anhedonic.  We seem to be unable to feel enjoyment.  I'm wondering if our time in Rarotonga has made us immune to natural beauty.  I look out at rugged spires of rock in a cove we're driving by, and feel nothing.  My mood is flat.  But maybe it’s something more than that. Maybe I'm suffering from the repercussions of a shattered fantasy."


Still Still Down

Monday,  10/13/03  11:31 PM

So I'm Still Still Down.  I'm blogging this but nobody can see it.

This outage is now at 43 hours, and nothing will happen until 9:00AM tomorrow, which will be 53 hours.  I have complained bitterly and often to XO, my provider, and they are sympathetic and I am still down.  Totally unacceptable.  After the dust clears I'll have to investigate alternatives.

Anyway, there's still still nothing I can do but wait.  I hope y'all are still out there.  Stay tuned.


Back Up

Tuesday,  10/14/03  06:56 PM

Woo hoo I'm back up.  Total downtime 63 hours.  Not good.

I'll be back later with more updates...


Tuesday,  10/14/03  11:25 PM

Now that I'm back up, it's all happening "out there"...

I'm trying to figure out which home media appliance to buy.  Essentially a wireless way to transmit video content from my PC to my home entertainment receiver.  Any suggestions?

PLOS headerIf blogs are "open-source journalism", then what would be the open-source equivalent for scientific journals?  Why, the Public Library of Science, aka PLoS!  "The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a public resource."  Think this isn't going to be big?  They launched Monday and were overwhelmed by traffic.  Excellent!

China manned reports China Launches its First Piloted Spaceflight.  "Blasting off from a remote space base in the Gobi Desert atop a Long March 2F rocket, a single Chinese astronaut named Yang Liwei is circling the planet every 90 minutes aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft."  Congratulations to them!  Hopefully this will act as a prod to the U.S.; rather than the ongoing national bureaucracy approach (NASA), the best thing we can do now is support private space exploration.

[ Later: CNN's coverage has a few more details... ]

The Supreme Court will hear the Pledge of Allegiance case.  On merit, this is open and shut, right?  How can including a phrase like "under God" in the pledge be anything but a violation of the separation of church and state.  On the other hand, the right-wingers are going to have a field day with this; I predict the court will be influenced to allow the Pledge to stand as is, on the grounds of "tradition", or something.

People sometimes defend the inclusion of God into the Pledge by noting the phrase "in God we trust" which appears on U.S. seals and currency.  Those are clear violations of the separation, also, and really should be disallowed as well.

For once I disagree with Stephen Den Beste, about Instant Runoff VotingI like it, and think it would strengthen the U.S.  The two-party system causes more problems than it solves, anything which weakens it somewhat is a good thing.

The [new] Red Herring asks Who Needs the Phone Company?  Combining VoIP with WiFi makes telcos seem so 1900s...  BW has a nice survey on Telcom, including this overview of The Wireless Challenge.  "There's no doubt the old order is crumbling."  None at all.

I continue to be happy with Vonage, by the way.

AlwaysOn has an interesting survey of the new Red Herring by Tony Perkins, founder of the old Red Herring.

Ottmar notes: "Still amazes me that you are allowed to publish a book on: how to crack safes, how to break into houses, how to murder people with household items, how to make atomic weapons, how to smuggle drugs, but if you publish an academic paper that mentions that it's possible to bypass some lame-ass CD copy protection system by holding down the SHIFT key... now THAT gets you in trouble."  Amazes me, too.

VentureBlog: Beauty Contests and Venture Valuations.  "VCs aren't being lazy or stupid when they use multiples and comparables to quickly set valuations - they are being completely rational, knowing that later buyers are doing the exact same thing."  A nice summary.  And yeah, on my side of the table it does look pretty arbitrary...

Small Things ConsideredHey, Joel has started a book of the month club!  Cool.  This month's book is Small Things Considered, which I've heard of before and have eagerly Amazoned...

PVRBlog has a nice review of AOL 9's integration with Tivo.  When I saw the headline I thought this was integration for video delivery, but no, it is merely integration for scheduling recording...  Not that exciting.  Time Warner does have a huge cable network, and the two companies are talking, so we'll have to watch this.  It triggered some adrenaline, so I thought I'd pass it on...

You know the Mono Project, an open-source version of .NET?  What if it was too successful?  This post suggests it would give Microsoft a way to hurt Linux.  Kind of farfetched, but interesting...  Here's an overview of Mono, by the way.

Doc Searles picture of Las Vegas (Mos Eisley)Doc Searles took this picture of Las Vegas from an airplane, and notes the similarity to Mos Eisley.  I've noticed that the inhabitants are similar, too :)


Wednesday,  10/15/03  11:13 PM

Boy, do I feel bad for Cub's fans.  When they were up 3-1 in the NLCS, you had to figure they'd make it back into the Series.  Anyway there's been some great baseball, both Florida - Chicago and Boston - New York have been very entertaining.  I pick Boston over New York, and over Florida, but as you know I've been wrong before...

Chinese taikanaut Yang LiweiHey, Chinese taikanaut Yang Liwei made it back safely, after orbiting earth 14 times!  Excellent.  "China's leaders considered the political risks of a launch failure too great to allow live coverage."  With this success under their belt, they'll probably feel different going forward; it will be interesting to monitor their progress...

Rand Simberg thinks there's less to this than meets the eye, but I don't know... 

I do agree with him that A very significant piece of legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives last week.  "Overall, this legislation is a major step forward, and I would encourage all interested in opening up the frontier to call or write their congressional representative and urge them to sponsor this bill.This is important, if you agree, you can help!

Gizmodo reports Vonage goes to Iraq!  "Vonage, which offers flat rate broadband Voice over IP telephone service here in the States, is shipping a bunch of their Analog Telephone Adapter boxes to Iraq so that soldiers there can make free phone calls to their families during the holiday season."  What a great thing to do, of itself, and for PR exposure.

For entertainment, read this report on VoIP by a Forrester analyst.  An absolute alphabet soup of acronyms which sheds no light on anything.  Absolute buzzword bingo.  Meanwhile Vonage is shipping boxes which work.

Derek Slater reviews various online music services.  And Apple's iTunes Music Store for Windows will be revealed today.  Stay, er, tuned...

Cory Doctorow reports: "On Saturday, Kevin Rose, the host of a guest on TechTV's Unscrewed will violate potentially violate the DMCA by modding an Xbox to run Linux."  Must-see TV.

Linus TorvaldsWired anoints Linus Torvalds Leader of the Free World.  Which he is, of course.  Interesting that despite his undoubted technical prowess, the skill which really makes him the leader is his ability to get along with engineers and mediate their technical battles.  And also - rare for a tech guru - he's humble...

The NYT says For Techies, School Bells Mean 'Let the Games Begin'.  "Ask teachers whether cellphones, PDA's and other gadgets have become magnets for in-class mischief and distraction, and most will say they are not a problem.  But talk to students and you get a different story."  Yeah, poor teachers, first it was guns in class, now it's universal remotes.

Vitamin C sunsetAs you know, I'm a connoisseur of digital microscopy.  I just came across Molecular Expressions, a great website with some fascinating microscopic images.  (Like this one; a "Vitamin C sunset" made from a picture of ascorbic acid.)  Great stuff...  { Of course - and I have to say this - the images on Aperio's are unsurpassed. }


Friday,  10/17/03  09:25 AM

world series logoNow you have to feel sorry for Boston fans, eh?  Great game last night, but the un-loveable Yankees triumphed in the end.  For me, Florida - New York is the least appealing matchup of all the original possibilities, I don't even know who to root for.  I guess I'll get more work done next week...

By the way, is it just me or is the ESPN website getting less and less usable?  Not only is it chock full of ads (including - arg! - pop-unders), but all the crap makes it very slow.  And the content is going downhill, too.  I always thought of ESPN as one of the really nice sites on the web, but I'm changing my mind...

[ Later: Dave Winer: Well, the Cubs lost and the Red Sox lost.  Why didn't we see that coming? ]

iTunes for WindowsSo - Hell Froze Over.  That's how Steve Jobs introduced Apple's iTunes for Windows yesterday, in his inimitable fashion.  Of course I immediately downloaded and installed it (I'm listening to Acoustic Alchemy in iTunes right now), and it looks and works exactly like the Mac version.  Interesting and nice.  In this CNet clip from the announcement Steve emphasizes "this is no baby version of iTunes, it is the best jukebox for Windows, and maybe the best Windows app ever".  No, he isn't given to hyperbole, is he?  So now virtually the entire desktop universe has a usable legal paid download alternative to file-sharing.  It will be interesting to watch the numbers.

Belkin iPod voice recorderIn addition to compatibility with Windows, new features for the iTunes Music Store include more songs, now up to 400,000, audio books, gift certificates, and celebrity playlists.  Nice.  There's also a little voice recorder add-on for iPods, and a media reader.

[ Later: Wow, just learned something new which was under-reported but potentially really important.  iTMS has an "allowance" feature, which let's parents give their kids money for buying music without giving them free-reign on the credit card.  I'm going to use this immediatelyExcellent! ]

Online coverage of this announcement has been heavy, as you might expect, and quite positive, with even stick-in-the-mud Salon proclaiming Steve Jobs leads Microsoft users to the promised land.

And for once, David Coursey makes a good point; Apple is still behind Windows as a "media hub", because they don't do [TV] video.  You have to believe that's going to change, right?

Meanwhile Matthew Fordahl reviews Napster 2.0, which is still in beta, and finds it "buggy".  Ouch.  I think they missed it by that much.

A Minnesota court has ruled Vonage is an "information service" rather than a "telecommunications service".  "Legal experts said the decision offers an early win for VoIP in what's sure to be a drawn-out legal battle with state regulators and local phone carriers worried about losing market share to a new brand of competitor."  Fascinating.

The BBC has a funny article which includes the top 10 data disasters.  #1 is "laptop shot in anger".  I haven't done that - yet - but I have done #6, "red wine spilt on laptop over dinner", and almost done #10, "laptop left on car roof as owner drives off".

Red Herring on DVRs for the Masses.  "Five years ago, if you had to pick the technology most likely to change the face of television, the hard disk drive would probably not have made your Top 10 list."  It would have made mine.  And the future trend: "In coming years, both Sony and Microsoft say they plan to make DVRs standard in their video game systems."  Kind of like BroadQ is doing now...

Sun continues to fade.  Yesterday they announced a net loss of $286M, on top of their 10th consecutive quarter with declining revenue.  They're rapidly becoming irrelevant - I debated whether it was worth even mentioning them in this post.

In Debbie Does Bittorrent, Tim Bray reports his experiments which this cool technology.  The bottom line, despite the cool technology, content is still king.


The Joy of Craftsmanship

Friday,  10/17/03  09:20 PM

Shimano dura ace cassetteThis morning I took my road bike to a local shop to have the derailleur adjusted.  (This is the thingie in the back that shifts gears.)  There was a young kid working there, clean cut, wearing a uniform, listening to Pearl Jam.  He said "nice bike" and after I explained my symptoms, "no problem".  Now I know adjusting a Shimano Dura Ace derailleur is not "no problem" (there are nine thin sprockets very close together, and if it isn't totally dialed in at least one of the gears will miss), but I figured he knew what he was doing.

Later on I picked up the bike.  The kid had decided to change the shift cable, and said everything was now okay.  So be it, the cable was a little worn.  Then I went for a ride.  Or rather, I tried to go for a ride.  The gears were messed up beyond belief.  Much worse than they had been.  Unrideable without damaging the chain and probably the cassette, too.  Sigh.

I took the bike back to the shop.  Instead of the kid, there was an old guy there in the back, kind of portly, wearing dirty clothes under a shop apron, listening to Mexican mariachi music.  I told my story.  He shook his head gently and put my bike in the stand.  Instead of looking at the alignment, he bent his head next to the gears and listened, while gently turning the adjustment screws.  After five minutes he was done.

I'd brought my shoes and helmet so I could take a test ride at the shop.  In the first ten seconds I knew the gears were dialed in perfectly.  Every one shifted with a sweet "click" followed by perfect silence.  That old guy had nailed it.

Kestrel road bikeI just love real craftsmanship.  It goes beyond mere doing things right, it extends into art.  It is a combination of skill and experience, driven by the desire to do a thing as well as it can be done.  This guy who could adjust a derailleur just by listening to it was a real craftsman.  When I went back to the shop to tell him how delighted I was, we both shared the joy of his work.

I'm really going to enjoy going for a ride tomorrow.


Monday,  10/20/03  10:37 PM

FuturePundit ponders Human Natural Selection In Taiwan, where there are two girls born for every three boys.  "An obvious consequence is that when the little king passes puberty, he discovers that the girl he liked in high school has gone to USC, probably never to return, while those who remain are being snapped up by other men."  A realtime experiment in artificial selection - with humans!

You know how I like SpaceX?  Their September update is out, including news of their first customer - the DOD!  "This is a significant vote of confidence, as many launch vehicles have no choice but to fly unpaid test launches with dummy payloads.  Overall, the Falcon launch manifest is looking quite promising and I think we will be able to announce both a second and a third customer in the next few months, one of which is international."  Excellent, looks like Elon Musk has another winner.  Be sure to check out the movie of the engine test firing - very cool.

Greg Costikyan is Recasting the Debate on IP.  "Recently, I went to a movie, and was subjected to a spot from some film industry organization, I do not remember which, that featured a fellow who is a set maker for the movies.  He spouted some nostrum about how people who 'steal' movies were screwing him, not the studios.  I was not impressed."  I saw that spot, and had the same reaction.  These guys make union scale, what do they care whether the movie is pirated?  Read the whole thing - good stuff.

Henry Sheehan: LA Crix Nix Pix Prix.  The LA Film Critics Association have cancelled the annual awards show because of the MPAA's ban on screeners.  Excellent.  [ via Roger L. Simon ]

Mirabella VThis is so cool - Yachting Magazine reports Mirabella V will be The World's Largest Sailing Sloop.  These dimensions are hard to grasp; overall length 75 meters (250ft.), mast height 90 meters (300ft.), beam 15 meters (50 ft.).  "She cannot fit in the Panama Canal, nor can she get under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, as the mast would be standing 40ft above the road."  The keel bulb will weigh 110 tons and the draft with the keel fully extended is 10 meters (40 ft.).  Unbelievable.  The owner is planning to charge about £250,000 per week for charter of this yacht.  Okay, back to coding for me!

Mark Frauenfelder relates A Night with Stephen Hawking.  I wish I could have been there.

I'll never forget my first Ernest C. Watson lecture, at CalTech's Beckman auditorium.  The speaker was Kip Thorne, the subject was Radiating Black Holes.  I was a 16-year old undergraduate, and I was in complete awe.  The audience was as impressive as the speaker and the subject; I can remember Murray Gell-Mann sitting next to Richard Feynman.

Scott Loftesness raves about Windows iTunes.  There's a lot of that going around.  "Apple now has a strong cross-platform offering for distributing protected data.  As the early lead in the market, they now have potentials to expand a lot beyond the world they run in."  Yep, in particular it will be interesting to see what they do with video.

Ars Technica has a review which points out some problems.  The Windows world is different from the Mac world...

The BBC reports Apple sold 3 million songs in the three days following the Windows iTunes announcement.  And over 1 million people downloaded the Windows version of iTunes.  Wow.  "'We're off to a great start, and our competition isn't even out of the starting gates yet,' Apple CEO Steve Jobs said."  Oh, yeah, Napster 2.0 launches next Wednesday.

For you Mac-ers out there, OSNews has a nice review of Panther (OSX 10.3).  I'm just about ready to upgrade my iMac from Jaguar (OSX 10.2), looks like it's time...

Maya visualizationIf you're interested in playing with a high-end video modeling / animation / rendering / effects tool, Alias is now offering a free "personal learning edition" of Maya.  You, too, can make 3D images like the one at left.  A terrific way to waste valuable free time!

Alex King posted a comparison of the Treo 600 to the Treo 300.  I was going to do this, but he already did, and did it better than I would have.  Check it out. announced their second annual "exuberantly non-scientific Weasel Poll": 

  • Weaseliest Organization: Recording Industry Association of America.
  • Weaseliest Country: France
  • Weaseliest Company: Microsoft
  • Weaseliest Individual: George W. Bush
  • Weaseliest Behavior: Blaming fast food restaurants for making you fat
    (Religious extremism finished a distant second)

Vodaphone "bowlingual" phoneOkay, I know I promised to stop reporting "gadget news", but Vodaphone just introduced a new phone with a 2-megapixel camera - and dog translation software.  The "bowlingual" feature translates dog barks into English.  I am not making this up.  Really.


What I want from the PDC

Monday,  10/20/03  10:42 PM

I'm hoping this makes the "PDC bloggers" blog, so the PDCpeople will see it...

So, I'm attending the Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference next week.  What do I want to get out of it?

  • I want to get the big picture.  What's new, and how do the new things tie together?
    • All these code words, all the inside jokes, all the mysticism - hey, keep it simple.  I'm just an experienced coder trying to build applications, tell me what I need to know.
  • I want to understand all the code words.  What do they mean?
    • Longhorn
    • Whidbey
    • Avalon
    • Yukon
    • WinFS
    • Indigo
    • MSBuild
    • XAML
    • etc...
  • Where does all this new stuff leave COM?  Are OCXs still a thing?  Will they still work?  And what's the blessed new way to build components?
  • I'm someone still developing mostly under VS6, with VC++ and VB.  I don't want to ship the .NET CLR with all my applications.  When should I move to VS.NET?  When should I migrate from VC++ to C#?  When should I migrate from VB to VB.NET?  When should I target WinXP instead of Win2K?
  • Tell me how to use SOAP.  I get XML, and I get HTTP.  I get XML-RPC.  SOAP seems so much harder, please, make it easy for me...
  • I want to get a list of "deep" contacts, so I can get further questions answered "from the inside".
  • And finally: What is .NET?  (I mean, really, all marketing hype aside...)

Hey, thanks!


Loving My Treo

Monday,  10/20/03  10:50 PM

Handspring Treo 600So I've got my new Treo 600 and I love it

I love everything about it compared to my Treo 300, which I also loved; the smaller size, the brighter screen, the lack of a flip cover, the navigation buttons, the improved GUI which no longer requires a stylus for most things, the sold feel, the rounded shape, the better sound, the faster processor, I could go on and on (and I probably will, sorry).

But the thing I really love is having a built in camera.  Happy snaps!  You have been warned.  I carry my 'phone everywhere, and consequently I now carry my camera everywhere.  Even on my bike...

Scenes from my ride yesterday:

The Start: Luke
The Start: Luke

Climbing along the Golf Course
Climbing along the Golf Course

More Climbing
More Climbing

Yippee a Descent
Yippee a Descent

Approaching the Landing
Approaching the Landing

Along the Lake
Along the Lake

Cruising around the Lake
Cruising around the Lake

Over the Freeway
Over the Freeway

Traffic! Downtown...
Traffic!  Downtown...

Climbing back up
Climbing back up

Back! 13 miles...
Back!  13 miles...

Yeah, it isn't professional quality, but hey, it works.  I love it!



Thursday,  10/23/03  11:05 PM

Wow, big gap since my last post.  I've been busy.  Sorry!

FuturePundit considers whether being tall or being smart is more important.  Turns out having a high IQ correlates better to "success" than being tall.  What's interesting is that being tall is widely agreed to be mostly genetic, with a small environmental component, but having a high IQ is not...

If you stretch yourself everyday, yeah, you can make yourself a little taller.  Same with making yourself a little smarter.  But overall you're either tall or short, and you either have a high IQ or you don't.  It is what it is.

Robin Jones has an interesting proposal for solving the abortion mess.  This seems to have elements which would appeal to both sides (and others which would repel both sides).  My personal bias is to remove all obstacles; if someone doesn't want to bring a new person into the world, they shouldn't, but this position can't be sold to everyone.  Perhaps a compromise is better than a disagreement.

Wired: Regrow your own [organs!].  "It was a staggering discovery. 'People had been studying regeneration for years and had zero evidence it could happen in mammals'."  Fascinating stuff, if even not real-world.  Yet.

Kind of an interesting milestone, someone used my review of my Sharp DVD recorder in their eBay listing description (they're selling one of these recorders).  So much for pro vs. amateur "journalism".

time-lapse CrocusThis is really cool - Cory Doctorow points to Plants in Motion, a website with lots of time-lapse photography of plants growing.  Makes you realize it isn't just animals which can move; we just have different timescales from plants.  (And they have different timescales from rocks, which also move, which have different timescales from mountains, which move, which have different timescales from tectonic plates, which move, which have different timescales from planets...)

John Patrick, a visionary at IBM, thinks ENUM is a big deal.  This is a way to "map" phone numbers to IP addresses, via a DNS entry.  "The most exciting application is a streamlining of Voice over IP, in which telephone calls can be made over the Internet."  You know this will happen; someday analog phone lines will be as retro as analog music.

Naval reviews technically progressive Dartmouth: Ubiquity Breeds Utility.  "In the late 1980s, Dartmouth College was the most wired campus on the planet, running 10Mb Ethernet into every dorm room.  Today, Dartmouth is the most unwired campus on the planet, with 560 access points covering 200 acres."

Dell is going to start selling DirectTivo boxes.  Think PVRs aren't mainstream?  Wow.

And PVRblog reports AOL's mystro is still cookin'.

So, my Tivo's modem died.  Yesterday it finally ran out of program data.  It is a four-year old Series 1, so this is a buying opportunity, right?  Time for a Series 2!  Uh, no.  Time for TivoNet.  Yep, I finally hooked up my two-year old TivoNet board, and my Tivo is now happy on my home network.  Works great!  (And thanks, Nick, for the ISA ethernet board...)

Dave Winer wants Netflix to upload movies to his DVR.  So do a lot of people.  Making this happen will be a big business for somebody...

And the NYT surveys Drawing PC, TV, and Stereo into an Entertainment Loop.  A great introductory overview to the explosion of devices hitting the market.

Walt Mossberg compares online music services, Apple's iTunes, MusicMatch, and Napster 2.0.  "I'm sure all three services will evolve and get better, and others will enter the fray.  But, for now, iTunes is the best choice on Windows."

Looks like the MPAA will relent and distribute "screeners".  But they'll be personalized so a pirated copy can be tracked back to the source.  This seems really dumb; suppose movie X is found on Kazaa and tracked back to person Y.  They'll just claim the tape was stolen somehow (e.g. left in an open car), and nothing will happen.  Meanwhile imagine the coolness of having movie X personalized for person Y, especially if Y is "a name".  So this plan won't do anything but cause work and irritation.

Dutch Nuon Team solar carThe Dutch Nuon Solar Team have successfully defended their title in the World Solar Challenge, crossing the Australian continent from north to south in a record 30 hours.  This is most excellent, a true blending of design and art.  [ via Adam Curry ]

Scoble: How to Hate Microsoft.  Interesting, but Robert is too nice; this falls woefully short of the mark.  For a better effort, see Michael Robertson on the world's most dangerous virus...


Saturday,  10/25/03  09:52 PM

IEEE Intelligent Systems wonders What if intelligent computing were centered inside humans?  "For long-duration space missions, we may have to put intelligent technologies inside of us."  Fascinating stuff.

Bittorrent rocks.  That's just about all I can say.

Versalaser burning woodPCMag describes a cool "laser printer"; the VersaLaser.  "The VersaLaser looks like an oversize printer without feed or output trays.  It accepts paper, wood, a variety of plastics, leather, some coated metals, and even stone and marble."  I've always wanted my specifications to be etched in stone :)

Bloggers magazineJoi Ito discovered a Japanese magazine about blogging.  Looks like the cover story compares TypePad to Blogger.  What're the Japanese characters for "Cool"?  Might be 涼雨 ?

Joel Spolsky thinks tokens are cool.  "With just one click you can create a token, and no matter how large the files you want to send are, the token representing them will be very small - just a few KB.  Anyone you send a token to can then download the free Creo Token Redeemer software, and with one click redeem the token and download the files."  Sounds like Creo ends up running a file warehouse - an expensive proposition.  They need a P2P scheme like Bittorrent :)

Andrew Tridgell has been named Australia's smartest person.  Not only did he invent Samba, the open-source implementation of Windows networking, and rsync, the standard-issue network file synchronization software, but in his spare time he reverse-engineered the Tivo and was the first guy to hook one to a network.  Awesome.

Wired reports Google Raring to Go Public.  Interestingly, they appear to be considering a non-traditional online auction mechanism.  The valuation is rumored to be in the $15B range.  I know they're a good company, but that's a bit steep.

Mark Pilgrim details What's new in Mac OS X ("Panther").  It looks cool - I'm going to try this on my iMac tomorrow.

Tom Coates has First thoughts about Panther as well.  He doesn't seem impressed; "this one feels half-done - that it wasn't possible to get it any further down the line before launch date."  Stay tuned...

AlwaysOn notes the problems the magazine industry is facing.  "There was scant evidence that the best and the brightest in the publishing business know how to solve their problems.  They were excellent at identifying trouble spots and superb when it came to complaining about them.  Solutions?  Not many on display."  Remember when online magazines were going to take over?  And then after the Internet bubble burst, the magazines had a good laugh at online publishers' expense.  Who's laughing now?

CNet's Michael Kanellos with nine tech myths which won't happen.  #1 is "Apple will adopt Intel chips".  Yeah, that won't happen anytime soon.  #2 is "Microsoft will move to Canada".  Please.  I especially like the last two because they aren't obvious:

  • #8 - "Web sites tailor their content to suit advertisers".  Only in advertisers' dreams.  Web sites tailor their content to suit visitors, so advertisers have traffic.  Period.
  • #9 - "Marketers will be able to target consumers via their Web-surfing habits".  This is the holy grail of online advertising, and it has proved elusive.


Where There's Smoke...

Sunday,  10/26/03  06:05 PM

Simi Valley fire...There's Fire!

We have raging brush fire here in Ventura County, fueled by hot, dry Santa Ana winds and high temperatures.  So far 80,000 acres have been burned in Simi Valley, and fourteen homes have been destroyed.  The Ronald Reagan library is threatened, as are the communities of Moorpark and Wood Ranch.  Portions of Highway 23 and 118 have been closed.

We're not in immediate danger here in Westlake Village, but we've spent the day under a gloomy yellow cloud with ashes everywhere.  The sun is a dull orange disk.  These Santa Ana winds are miserable anyway, and now they're dangerous.  Everyone is snappy and worried.  Not good.

Fires are burning in other parts of Southern California as well.  A big fire in Crestline has 40,000 people evacuated.  Nearly 400 homes have been destroyed in Clairmont.  And down in San Diego, a fire north of Miramar has burned 90,000 acres, claimed 100 homes, and caused the entire town of Ramona to be evacuated.  Really not good.


Sunday,  10/26/03  06:27 PM

I understand LAX is closed at the moment, due to smoke from the various fires enveloping Southern California, as well as the loss of FAA traffic control sites in the San Bernadino Mountains.  I'm attending the Microsoft Professional Developer's conference next week, a huge conference bringing thousands of people to L.A., and this is not helpful.  Sigh.

Scoble is blogging up a storm from PDC central.  He notes the technology behind the keynote.

Doc Searles' sunspotsDoc Searles used the smoke to get some amazing pictures of sunspots.

All day we've had intermittent power outages; last night we lost power for a couple of hours, but during the day today it has just been momentary spikes.  Which reminds me to say, I really love my MGE Pulsar UPS.  I have three servers and all my network equipment connected through one little 500VA UPS, and it just works great.  It gives me about 30 minutes of battery power, and smooths out all the spikes and intermittent outages.  After the two-hour outage last night it came up smoothly and recharged fully in about four hours, ready for more.

Dave Winer wants to know what is the Peer Site Network?  I don't know, but it looks interesting.  Kind of a public Extranet.

Matt Webb on the magic number 150.  "Robin Dunbar predicts that the maximum group size that humans can maintain as a cohesive social unit, based on the ratio of neocortex volume to brain volume, is 147.8.  The AOL Instant Messenger servers impose a hard limit on the number of people you're allowed to put in your buddylist: 150."  Cosmic.  Oh, and there's more...


PDC = Moo!

Tuesday,  10/28/03  01:26 AM

I'm at the Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles. 

Today Microsoft formally unveiled "Longhorn", the next version of Windows.  Scheduled for shipment in 2006, Longhorn features a multimedia-capable new display framework ("Avalon"), used to create a new Windows UI ("Aero"), a new database-like filesystem ("WinFS"), new inter-program and inter-computer communication mechanisms ("Indigo"), and a new object-oriented system API ("WinFX").  In conjunction with Longhorn Microsoft is also previewing a new version of SQLServer ("Yukon"), and a new version of Visual Studio ("Whidbey"), along with updates to .NET languages like C# and ASP, and a new declarative XML-based language used for specifying Avalon display objects and properties ("XAML", improbably pronounced "zamel", by analogy to Netscape's similar XUL, which was pronounced "zool").  There's a lot of new buzzwords and concepts, all for an OS which is still three years off.  But it is exciting!

Imagine 7,500 geeks crammed into the L.A. convention center.  Everyone has a cell phone, everyone has a laptop (free WiFi everywhere), and everyone has a PDA.  Many have devices which combine the three in various ways.  Everyone is wearing tee shirts and jeans.  The average age looks to be about 29.  The majority gender is male.  The favorite drink is Coke (Jolt is not available).  The energy level is high.

I'm always amazed at how many people skip sessions to read email.  Walking around outside a session, literally hundreds of people are sitting around using their laptops, most with Outlook in the foreground.  Uh, hello, you're at a conference.  Can't you do email tonight?  Obvious victims of The Tyranny :)

Day 1 featured a keynote by Bill Gates, given in his usual "I'm bored but I'm here so what the heck" style.  He surveyed "lessons learned" by way of introduction to new versions of Windows and new opportunities for developers.  If he wasn't the founder of Microsoft - and the world's wealthiest man - would you pay close attention?  No.  He is not dynamic when addressing big groups and never seems to have much of import to say.  Sprinkled into his talk were funny videos including a terrific backhand "interview" of John Sculley (ex-CEO of Apple), comparing Newton (circa 1992) to Windows CE (circa 2003).

One takeaway from Bill's presentation was the degree to which Microsoft is working with hardware vendors.  They are really concerned about security, and feel this is a problem best addressed with a combination of hardware and software features.  Some cynics have said this is just Microsoft cozying up to content owners with strong DRM, but I actually don't think so; anytime you have arbitrary data which can be executed as code you can have security problems, and the only way to make data non-executable is with hardware support.

During Bill's talk he (ta da!) introduced Longhorn.  Hillel Cooperman did a nice high-energy survey of Longhorn, the Avalon display features, and the Aero UI, as well as introducing WinFS and some of the capabilities of this object-oriented XML-metadata-based filesystem.  A great introduction but next time we'll keep Hillel away from the coffee.

Following Mr. Bill, Microsoft GVP Jim Allchin presented "a lap around Longhorn".  During the lap he called on several members of his team to drill down.  Key to the Longhorn architecture is that new 'stacks' are being created to implement Avalon, WinFS, and Indigo, building on the foundations in Windows XP.  So good old Win32 code will happily run on NTFS files, side-by-side with Avalon code using WinFS.

Don Box and Chris Anderson did some "real" coding on-screen using Longhorn.  They built a simple sample application showing the interplay between declarative XAML and procedural C# in an Avalon GUI.  (Quite reminiscent of HTML and JavaScript in a web page, actually.)  Don and Chris have interesting stage personas, and they did a nice job of milking the "Jim Allchin as the old-timer" angle (Jim looks to be about 20 years older than Don and Chris).  I didn't get sick of Don until the very end, which is doing good.  (Don knows more than anyone about everything, but unfortunately he hits you over the head with it.)  A nerdy side angle was the use of three old-time editors, emacs (Don), slickedit (Chris), and vi (Jim), to edit the XAML and C#.  At the end they showed the new Visual Studio editing some ASP, and the contrast was dramatic (syntax highlighting, smart prompts, interactive checking and auto-complete, etc.).  It was about as good as it gets with programmers coding on stage in front of 7,500 people, and the technology looked slick and worked.

So Avalon looks pretty cool.  It is nice to separate display "templates" from code, regardless of the setting; and XAML seems like a reasonable way to do it.  Performance is sometimes an issue with such systems and it is too early to draw any conclusions about Longhorn's.  I am skeptical about how much value is really added for users with a really glitzy GUI - it is pretty easy to go too far, witness the freak show some websites give you - but the capabilities are impressive.  And a key attribute of Avalon is that it is fundamentally vector-based, enabling simple scaling and transformations to support a wide-variety of display devices and resolutions.

WinFS seems like it is just going to be too slow to be useful.  Associating XML-based metadata with files doesn't in-and-of-itself slow file access, but running arbitrary queries and groupings against a WinFS disk is going to take forever.  (Have you done a query on your Outlook folders recently?)  Soon we'll have to invent indices for frequent searches, then transactions for integrity, and we'll end up with a full-blown database storing file metadata.  That seems like overkill.  Oh, well.

Indigo is a pleasant throwback; Microsoft is finally ditching its efforts to make object-to-object interactions work across machines, and more importantly recognizing that such interactions are inherently slower than request/response interactions.  First we had COM+, then DCOM, then .NET remoting, and each was harder and slower than the next.  (Okay, that's an exaggeration, but they are all hard to code and debug, and all  s l o w.)  It was notable that during the Indigo demo of a simple inter-program communication, the level of complexity suddenly increased.  We went from simple declarative syntax in XAML to procedural objects, including ports, connectors, protocols, messages, etc.  I got kind of lost.  Made me long for good old TCP/IP sockets.  Okay, okay, I know; this is the future.  Sorry.  (But way down below, Indigo does use sockets...)

It is notable that all these demos were done using plain-vanilla editors on text files.  The XAML and C# compilers ship on every Longhorn system, as does a new tool named MSBuild (an XML version of make).  So now your customers can edit and rebuild your applications.  Nice.  In a good way, and in a bad way.  Actually the simplicity of the development tools was reassuring and bodes well for the overall architecture.

After all the on-stage coding, Jim introduced three software developers who have been beta-testing aspects of Longhorn. 

Adobe did slick demo using XAML generated by After Effects.  Yeah, you read that right; the display template was a movie.  Then they integrated some simple procedural code which supplied data into the XAML, and poof!, animated stock quotes.

Merck showed off Indigo, using inter-computer communications to simulate doctor-patient-researcher interactions during a clinical trial.  It seemed a bit contrived - especially the "research" which found an anomaly by mapping pollen readings, really, who thought of that one - but Jim Allchin made a great patient :)

Amazon had their CTO Allan Vermeulen show off a slick rich-client shopping application built on top of Amazon's web services API.  Essentially anything displayed on the Amazon website or sold by Amazon can be displayed or sold through the API.  It looked pretty "real", and in typical Amazon fashion the usability was high.  I actually think this was the most impressive Longhorn thing I saw all day.

That wrapped up Jim's lap; overall it was a pretty meaty keynote.  It is hard to say how of this stuff will make it into the final release, but Microsoft did give every developer a preview copy of Longhorn which can run all the code they demoed.  Stay tuned as I become a XAMLer.

And in a brilliant move, Microsoft also gave everyone a copy of Virtual PC.  This way developers can play with Longhorn in a virtual machine without messing anything up.  And also, Virtual PC is known to be slow, so any perceived performance problems can be blamed on Virtual PC, not Longhorn :)

After lunch I attended three sessions which discussed Avalon, Whidbey, and Indigo in more detail.  The Avalon presentation by Michael Wallent was pretty boring and discouragingly short on detail.  (Too many powerpoint slides, show us code!)  There were some interesting questions at the end about interop between Longhorn and "legacy" Win32 applications.  It appears Microsoft is bending way over to insure backward compatibility for Win32 applications, and today's .NET applications as well.  It is possible to run Win32 and .NET applications "as is" on Longhorn, and also for Win32 objects to interact with WinFX objects.  There most likely will be a performance penalty for this compatibility, but hey, it works.

Whidbey was ably presented by Scott Guthrie, using ASP.NET and featuring the many objects Microsoft provides as web-application building blocks.  Whidbey looks reassuringly similar to Visual Studio, and appears to be an incremental upgrade rather than a rewrite.  It will be available well in advance of Longhorn, to enable people to develop Avalon, WinFS, and Indigo -based applications under WinXP.  The web development environment has been nicely simplified, eliminating all the bogus side files and directories required by FrontPage, as well as the requirement for FrontPage Server Extensions.  It all looks really nice, but for building web apps I still like LAMP.  Maybe with time and familiarity I'll feel differently.

The Indigo presentation featured Don Box at his most outrageous and pontifical.  It was entertaining for nearly an hour, but unfortunately the talk was scheduled for an hour and a half, and toward the end it became painful.  It appears Indigo is one of the least complete technologies presented so far.  As I mentioned above, the key to Indigo is the conceptual transition from objects calling other objects remotely to clients calling servers using request/response messages.  Don called it "service orientation" instead of "object orientation".  He made a good point that it is pleasant to treat program-to-program interactions the same as machine-to-machine interactions, but in the end they're really different, and Indigo recognizes this.  The underlying messaging architecture is called ASMX, a derivative of HTTP developed for SOAP.  (Hey, I'm getting pretty good at this acronym soup, huh?)  Microsoft seems quite committed to improving security in Longhorn, and since machine-to-machine security is more critical than program-to-program security within a machine, Indigo has a lot of security features.

PDC 03 BOFWrapping up the day was a well-attended BOF session (birds of a feather) for webloggers, hosted by Robert McLaws (host at the Longhorn Blogs).  Also present were bloggers Robert Scoble (of course), Marc CantorWerner Vogles, Clemens Vasters (author of Das Blog), Greg Reinacker (author of NewsGator), Scott Water (author of .Text), and about 100 others I don't know (sorry)!  And oh yeah, Drew Robbins and Kevin Schuler were there (hosts of PDCbloggers).

Unfortunately the discussion at the BOF was mostly about RSS vs. Atom (boring!) and MetaWebLog API vs. Echo (more boring!)  Marc managed to get people thinking about possibilities ("there will never be more than 3 million blogs, but there will be 6 million review sites") but the discussion was disjointed.  Oh well, the energy level was high; it reminded me of being in a High School club.  The boys with their little blog toys.  Except, well, you're reading this one, aren't you?

I left for the PDC at 5AM, and got home at midnight.  Cool.



Happy Birthday S.

Thursday,  10/30/03  10:03 AM

Happy Birthday to my wonderful wife Shirley!

Raleigh tandom


Friday,  10/31/03  12:37 PM

What a hectic week.  At the Microsoft PDC, traveling to San Diego, Shirley's birthday, and now Halloween!  Whew.  But it's all happening (anyway)...

Happy Halloween!

California fires from spaceYahoo has amazing pictures of the California fires taken from space.  Looks like the weather has changed and the firefighters are finally getting the upper hand.  750,000 acres have burned, claiming 3,700 structures, and 20 lives have been lost.  The fires aren't contained yet but with snow forecast for this weekend, the end is in sight.  Wow.

Don Park has similar pictures from NASA.  "It's the Santa Ana wind, high deserts' middlefinger to Pacific Ocean."

The Ventura County Star carries these pictures from readers, closer to the ground.

And MODIS has great maps of all the fires....

If you don't live in Southern California, it might be hard to imagine such a severe change in weather.  Tuesday we had 95° heat with dry 40mph winds.  Friday we have 45° with a cool breeze and patchy showers.  Yep, it is a desert.

Ted Castronove pointed out Earth Fires Destabilize Virtual Governments.  "In other words, a firestorm has knocked out the government that rules over 750,000 accounts.  There will be no police officers on the streets tonight."  Fascinating.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Speaking of virtual worlds, is there a there there?  Wired looks at "there" and wonders.  "One of There's main objectives is to attract women.  The theory goes that women will attract men into the world, while the reverse is not true."  Has anyone been there?  What's it like?

solar flareCalifornia isn't the only place on fire, consider the sun, which just erupted with one of the largest solar flares ever recorded.  If you're having trouble with cell phone reception, this could be why.

[ Later: there's another flare coming, too.. ]

Rand Simberg wonders if there are signs of intelligent life in U.S. space policy.  There are rumors President Bush may redirect national efforts back to the Moon, with Mars as a more distant goal (in time and space).  We'll stay tuned...

Steven Den Beste posted a characteristic long and rambly discussion of the Great Chipmunk Space Race.  Interesting as orbital relativity may be, skim through to the review of the mechanics of "space elevators", it's good stuff.

AdAge: Why PVR Technology is Good for Marketers.  "In fact, TiVo and other PVRs are a boon to marketers. It's only the broadcast networks that are in trouble."  Yep.  (boldface is mine.)  [ via Matt Haughey ]

Oh, and the Pioneer DVD recorders with built-in Tivo are out!  They look very nice.  Now you can make digital backups of content recorded from broadcast channels.  No ethernet jacks, though; I think the importance of IP distribution of video is still unclear.  To some.

And here we have a DVD recorder which uses Windows Media 9 compression.  This enables it to record 6 hours of video at "DVD quality", and up to 15 hours with less quality.  The race is on - WMA vs. MPEG.  Who will win?  You will!

Microsoft announced Portable Media Center, an architecture for digital media players to be available in the second half of 2004.  Media as in video, presumably.  So when will the videoPod be out?

Concorde's last flightAdam Curry posted some great pictures of the Concorde's last flight.  It might have been un-economic, but what a beautiful machine.

From MIT comes "memory glasses"; "Whatever you need to remember is programmed into a tiny computer that you wear.  The computer sends messages in the form of light to a mini TV screen on the glasses.  The messages -- like someone's name, or a word like keys or medicine -- flash before your eyes at 180th of a second. It's too fast for the eyes to notice, but not the brain."  Excellent.  I actually think this type of technology will be used for a lot more than memory.  Imagine looking at a person and having their identity recognized automatically and all the online information about them flash up on a screen.  It will happen.

Want to know whether you're male or female?  Among other ways to tell, you can use the Gender Genie.  Enter a block of text and it will tell you the likely gender of the author.  Cool.

Daring Fireball skewers Proteron’s Samuel Caughron.  "Oh, really?  For hundreds of millions of users, the feature [command-tab] has existed for over 10 years, after it debuted in version 3 of Microsoft Windows."  Don't you just love a nice fisking?

Driving while stupid, from aptly-named collision detection.  "To use two mobile phones is the height of stupidity."  Especially when Sprint's service for Treo 600s incorporates three-way calling :)

paper plate origamiwholemovement is a site devoted to origami made from paper plates.  Check it out, absolutely amazing!

CNN reports new shopping carts may talk to you.  Oh no!  Just the other day I was in a market with TV monitors playing ads aimed at people standing in line to check out.  I'm not going back to that market.

Finally, the brain-teaser of the day, courtesy of David Burbridge:

"Imagine a cube, which is going to be cut in two by a straight saw cut.  The saw-cut section, the raw face of the cut, can clearly be of various shapes, a square, or triangular (if a corner were cut off).  How would you cut the cube so that the section may be a perfect plane hexagon?"

I'll post the solution tomorrow...  [ Later: not quite tomorrow! ]


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About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
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
the big day
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?