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Archive: May 2004

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nph and mod_gzip

Saturday,  05/01/04  08:14 PM

If you write nph CGIs, be sure to exclude them from mod_gzip.  That's the message of this post; feel free to skip the rest if this is geek to you.

This is only of esoteric interest to 99.99% of you, but posting it here this is the best way for me to find it again.  Also this wasn't anywhere on the web - that Google knew of, anyway - so now maybe someone else who's looking will be able to find it, too.

Today I wrote an nph CGI, and it wasn't working.  After a lot of poking around and trying things, I finally realized why it didn't work: I have mod_gzip enabled!  Of course.  The answer was to disable mod_gzip for nph CGIs, with the following apache directive:

mod_gzip_item_exclude file nph.*\.cgi$

In order to perform its compression mod_gzip has to buffer all the output from a CGI, thereby negating the "pass everything through in realtime" behavior of an nph CGI.

For those who are wondering, nph means "non-parsed headers".  Any CGI program whose name begins with "nph-" is assumed to use "non-parsed headers", which means apache will simply pass through the output of the CGI directly to the browser.  In such cases the CGI must generate all the HTTP headers, even the "HTTP/1.0 200 OK" response.  This is most useful for CGIs which generate ongoing output from some long-running process, such as progress messages or a debugging log.

And for those who are wondering, mod_gzip is an apache module which enables LZW compression for output pages to browsers which support it.  This enables a reduction of bandwidth of over 50%, and I highly recommend it (see my site optimization article from a year ago for more information).

 

Saturday,  05/01/04  11:17 PM

Catching up with the web...

Geoffrey Colvin whacks the nail through the wood on this one: Bush vs. Kerry: Who's Stupider on Jobs?  "George Bush and John Kerry are apparently competing to see who can be stupider on the hot-button issue of factory jobs...  The simple truth, which no presidential candidate can utter, is that America doesn't have too few manufacturing jobs.  It has too many."  Just wait until we get competing proposals for manufacturing subsidies.  It's a race to the bottom, and we lose.

Stephen Den Beste has the truth.  If you don't believe me, ask him :)  Great stuff.

He linked Dick Morris in the New York Post: How to buy a French veto.  More truth.

European Union enlargementThe European Union added 10 more countries.  "The EU began with six member states: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.  Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined in 1973, Greece in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986, and Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995.  The newest members are Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia."  The EU website has a lot of background.  Eight of the ten new member countries were formerly communist.  Perhaps someday the muslim countries presently so hostile to the U.S. will undergo a similar transformation.  We can hope...  (Adam Curry points out the EU website embarassingly reports "364 days left until Enlargement".  Maybe that's the next enlargement :)

NASA robonautThis is good news: NASA: Robotic repair of Hubble 'promising'.  "NASA is now taking a closer look at two or three robotic options for extending Hubble's service life and possibly even outfitting the telescope with one or more new instruments.  NASA engineers will pick the most promising robotic option by June, he said, and then spend the rest of the summer examining it in greater detail."  Excellent.

girl with powerbookThis is really cool; Cult of Mac links this story in The Morning News which pairs art from the New York Metropolitan museum with corresponding music.  The story has links to the art and the music (as iTunes music store previews, no less).

Ottmar Liebert comments on singles vs. albums.  "I believe that a song has to be able to stand on its own, but is part of a whole cycle. Think of a song as a single poem in a book of poems."  I think it would be very interesting to match Ottmar's music with visual art.

Peter Stumpf with Stradivarius celloHave you seen this cello?  Joz on blogging.la notes this rare Stradivarius cello was stolen from L.A. Philharmonic principal cellist Peter Stumpf.  It is worth $3.5M, but how could a thief ever hope to sell it?

the Parasol restaurantFriends of the Parasol have an online petition to save the Parasol restaurant, a kitsch 1960s throwback located in Seal Beach, California.  I've eaten there; it's pretty cool.  Save it!  [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]

By now you've been inundated with news about Google's IPO filing, so there's not much I can add.  John Battelle posted a nice analysis of the filing and the attendant "owner's manual" from Sergey Brin and Larry Page.  Mitch Kapor wrote some insightful observations, too.  You already know what I think - a great company, not a great stock.

Wired wonders Will RSS Readers Clog the Web?  Will they?  No.  Nice to see RSS syndication getting such mainstream publicity, however.  If people are worrying about it becoming too popular, it must be catching on :)

I really missed Matt Webb of Interconnected while he was recovering from a server disaster, and I'm glad he's back.  Check out this post about packing.  Who else would write this?  Delightful.  A source of unique memetic variation, to be sure :)

Finally - and I am not making this up - Barbara Walters is hosting a reality show where the winner gets a baby.  And psychic Uri Geller is suing based on a patent he owns.  He must have seen this coming, I sure didn't.  Wow.

 

the Meme Machine

Saturday,  05/01/04  11:42 PM

the Meme Machine by Susan BlackmoreI'm going to have more to say about this later, but for now let me recommend The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore.  This is an important book.  Any book recommended by Richard Dawkins is going to be good, but in addition to being interesting and entertaining, this book paves new ground in a very productive direction.  Armed with this new hammer, all sorts of things start looking like nails.  I've recently found myself explaining the behavior of people, business strategy, even my own emotions in terms of memetics.

One might even suggest - and I hereby do so - that blogging is essentially driven by memes' desire for reproduction.  After the evolution of the human brain, the Internet has been the best thing ever to happen for memes...

Very apropos, razib discusses a gene for controlling brain size.  Part of Blackmore's argument is that evolution of our big brains was driven by memetic selection, essentially driving genetic selection (in much the same way that peacock's have evolved huge ungainly tails).

Some overt memetic sexual selection: the NYTimes reports on Different Sizes for Different Regions.  Why evolve attractive physical characteristics when you can simply modify yourself?  People are reshaping themselves, poking holes and branding themselves, even changing their gender, all for what?  Genetic fulfillment?  No.  Memetic fulfillment.

This is the best answer, by the way, to the question of why homosexuality doesn't simply die out, since most gay people don't have children.  It isn't selected for genetically, it is selected memetically.  And from that standpoint, it is a very competitive replicator.

These days, memes rule.

And the fallout is just beginning.  FuturePundit wonders Aging Or Sex Ratio Bigger Demographic Problem For China?  In the near future, China will become much older, and much more male.  These are both memetic effects which will have far-reaching societal consequences.  Remember, China has five times the population of the U.S. 

The post excerpts a book by Valerie Hudson: "In 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause."  Entirely plausible, and therefore quite scary.

There are equally profound demographic changes taking place in India, which by 2020 will be more populous than China.

If this seems like weird disconnected stuff, please stay tuned.  I plan to discuss memetics in more detail...

 

Sunday,  05/02/04  11:00 PM

Welcome to May!  Already.  Wow is this year flying by...

beyond the Moon to MarsAstrobiology has an interesting review of a lecture: Beyond the Moon to Mars, Man or Machine?  "Nothing can replace the power of the human mind and hand in exploration.  These robots are incredible and currently the only way to do exploration.  But even the builders of the robots agree that eventually we will have to have humans for the next level of discovery."  I wish I could have attended the lecture in person, sounds great.

Mars waveThis is a pretty cool picture of Mars. [ via Xeni Jardin ]  After you click to load the image, hit F11 to maximize your browser.  Cool.  It looks like a frozen wave of rock.

Well, the Lakers are in a dogfight, and they may not win.  Yesterday they were beaten by the Spurs (88-78), there are no excuses.  The game was even until San Antonio put on the jets in the 4th quarter to pull away.  It was an entertaining game - lots of great athletes.  The Lakers played better defense than I thought, but they had more trouble scoring than I thought, too.  Ready for the next one Wednesday night.

So, the Dutch are now the tallest people in the world.  Average male height is 6'1".  I'm 5'10", and whenever I'm in the Netherlands, I feel short; the remarkable thing isn't the height of the men, but how tall women are in Holland.  Their tales are pretty tall, too :)

RIOT monowheelThis is pretty cool; Popular Science has an article on a guy who built a monowheel.  "[James] Lyall's 1,100-pound monowheel monster works on the hamster-in-a-wheel principle: Move a wheel's center of gravity forward and the wheel turns.  Lyall's hamster is a lead-weighted engine, which hangs by bearings off a stationary center shaft and uses its torque to move from 0 degrees vertical when stationary to 90 degrees forward at full blast, continually pulling itself forward around a sprocket bolted to the outer spokes."  Excellent.

Last Friday a group of truckers blocked several freeways in the L.A. area, causing major traffic jams.  This apparent protest over high diesel prices is going to backfire.  I'm sympathetic toward truckers, but not if they engage in these types of tactics.  Oh, and fuel prices are not coming down, so they better get used to it...

The NYTimes ran an article about a creationist theme park.  What!  "Kent Hovind, a former public school science teacher with his own ministry, Creation Science Evangelism, and a hectic lecture schedule, said he had opened Dinosaur Adventure Land to counter all the science centers and natural history museums that explain the evolution of life with Darwinian theory.  There are dinosaur bone replicas, with accompanying explanations that God made dinosaurs on Day 6 of the creation as described in Genesis, 6,000 years ago."  Words fail me.

I wonder if Mr. Hovind is also considering a flat earth planetarium?

Buddhist theme park in VietnamHere's a Buddhist theme park in Vietnam.  Another take on how the world came to be :)  {I wonder if there is any intersection of agreement between fundamentalist Christians and Buddhists?}  By all means click through and check out the pictures, it looks amazing.  Even the furniture is cool.

Ottmar Liebert emphasizes that music involves communication.  Susan Blackmore (the Meme Machine) thinks music evolved as a way for humans to signal their pattern recognition skill.  So there is communication on two levels - the emotional level of the music itself, and the meta-level of the fact of music.  And of course there are layers within the music - rhythm and melody.  I bet if you understood humans' attraction to music, you would be well along toward understanding human intelligence in general.

Matt Webb considers how dogs perceive.  "There's a different between using smell as the primary sense and vision. Vision is all about surfaces, about being outside.  And it's at a distance too...  Smell is all about hints.  You don't smell a lion, you smell 70% of the likelihood of a lion -- is it nearby in space, or in time?  Wherever you are in the field, there's the chance that something will happen."  I wonder if Ottmar would agree that listening to music for humans is like smelling for dogs.

The other day I mentioned Matt Webb's Interconnected as being, well, different.  Here's another data point.  Matt's RSS feed URL is http://interconnected.org/home/;rss.  Yeah, with a semicolon.  I asked him in email, "okay, I'll bite; why the semicolon?" and here's his response.  I love it.

Adam Curry's cute chicksAdam Curry really attracts cute chicks :)

 

 

 

Rendering Images in 3-D

Monday,  05/03/04  10:36 PM

3-D decovolutionThe Scientist has an interesting article about Rendering Images in 3-D:

To the uninitiated, three-dimensional microscopy makes the pretty pictures of fluorescently labeled cells that grace the covers of scientific journals.  But to today's microscopists, the capacity to render images from 3-D and 4-D datasets is critical for studying the distances between objects in a sample and for tracking how complex samples change over time.

The article discusses many of the techniques commonly used for 3-D imaging, including confocal microscopy and deconvolution (illustrated in picture at right).

Aperio's ScanScope digital slide scanner is capable of scanning microscope slides at multiple Z-levels, yielding a 3D dataset.   This is particularly useful for cytology preparations and other "thick" specimens.   Please click here for an example of 3-D virtual slide viewing.

 

Monday,  05/03/04  10:40 PM

Corrine du Toit takes a wonderful high-level view of the war on terror.  "What makes the War on Terror(ism) unique from the War against Communism, is that it is not a battle of one or more nation states against one or more other nation states.  It is about random populations of people who share an ideological perspective, and wish to impose that perspective on their resident nation state, and the rest of the world."  If you're wondering "what are we doing in Iraq", here's the answer.

SailrocketThis unusual sailboat is "Sailrocket"; a one-tack wonder designed specifically to break the world sail speed record of 46 knots.  "SailRocket comprises a full length weather hull with minimal drag due to a huge hollow in the middle allowing the hull to sit on just two planing surfaces when traveling at high speed.  The pilot sits in the cockpit right at the back of the hull and there is a foil, inclined to port forward.  The crossbeam extends forward to port and has a tiny bullet shaped float at the end of it on which the mast sits.  At high speed the boat will fly its leeward hull - the opposite of a conventional catamaran - and only the two planing surfaces on the weather hull will remain in the water."  Very cool.

Maldives coral - growing back!BigWig notes a real-world example of natural selection in action, as Maldives nurses its coral reefs back to life.  Apparently 70% of the coral in the Maldive Islands was wiped out by El Nino in 1998.  Now the coral is growing back - five times faster than normal.  "The pace of coral regrowth shouldn't come as much of a surprise.  There's not a lot of competitive pressure from other individuals when 70% of a population is wiped out.  The fact that the new corals seem more heat-tolerant should have been expected as well - anyone familiar with the idea of natural selection should've been able to predict that the children of the obviously more heat-tolerant surviving corals would dominate the next generation."  Excellent.

Global warming is back in the news with the imminent release of The Day after Tomorrow.  FuturePundit notes All Warming In United States Since 1975 May Be Due To Aircraft Contrails.  "NASA scientists have found that cirrus clouds, formed by contrails from aircraft engine exhaust, are capable of increasing average surface temperatures enough to account for a warming trend in the United States that occurred between 1975 and 1994."  Fascinating.

I think the real solution to global warming - and to the world's entropy problems - is to continue developing nuclear power plants.  But what do I know.

This is interesting, but I'm not sure what conclusions to draw: a table of U.S. states, average IQs, average incomes, and whether they voted for Bush or Gore in 2000.  [ via razib ]

I'm going to find some population growth data, and we can play the extrapolation game...

Seth Goldstein opines on Google vs. Wall Street.  "What I saw was the end of a certain kind of investment banking innocence."  The Google auction of shares is definitely going to shake things up.

Wired has an interesting article about Walt Mossberg, the WSJ's tech columnist: The Kingmaker of Personal Tech.  I like Walt's columns; I guess most people do, which is why he's successful.  He seems to have retained the common point of view.  His balanced and insightful reporting combines with the WSJ pulpit he occupies to make him very influential. I was at Intuit when Walt criticized TurboTax for it's intrusive registration process, and it really made waves.  Then-CEO Bill Harris literally called Walt to discuss his criticism.

Keep an eye on this: BBC introduces flexible TV with online trial.  "Later this month, the BBC will launch a pilot project that could lead to all television programmes being made available on the Internet.  Viewers will be able to scan an online guide and download any show."  Of course.  [ via Dave Winer ]

 

Alice in Wonderland in 3D

Monday,  05/03/04  10:51 PM

Alice in Wonderland by Robert SabudaSpeaking of 3D viewing (we were); check out this amazing pop-up version of Alice in Wonderland, by Robert Sabuda.  (click on pic at right for larger version.)  A 2D web page just cannot do this 3D creation justice :)

The pop-ups in this book are simply amazing.  Not only are they marvelous 3D creations that emerge effortlessly from a 2D book, but they are dynamic; the movement of the pictures as each page is opened illustrates the action of the story (for example, a white rose bush is painted red).  Each page has a major work of sculpture, as well as smaller books embedded on the page which contain an abridged version of Lewis Carroll's classic (and which have pop-ups of their own!)  The rabbit hole is a genuine telescoping tunnel into the earth which must be seen to be appreciated (yeah, it folds out from a 2D page, too).  Very cool.

Megan was recently given this book as a birthday present.  I'm not sure which one of us is enjoying it more :)

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small...
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall.

 

Wednesday,  05/05/04  10:03 PM

Hope you had a great Cinco de Mayo!  Olé!

I just want to say - there should be a special punishment for developers of software which automatically resizes your browser windows.

WP reports Federal Deficit Likely to Narrow by $100M.  That's good news!  Unless you're a Kerry supporter...  This, combined with the encouraging news on the job creation front, is taking away all the Democratic ammunition, and causing some "repositioning".  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Also from the WP, Virginia and Maryland are planning toll-based congestion free lanes.  Capitalism at its finest, pay more to avoid other people :)  [ via John Robb ]

Mars with waterWondering what Mars would have looked like, back in the day when it had lakes and oceans?  Wonder no longer, here's some amazing renderings of what it would have looked like.  These images use data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter and Terragen software to render the Martian surface.  Excellent!

I know it's around here somewhere, dept.: Nature reports "The most powerful search yet for the Universe's missing matter has come up empty handed."  This ongoing search for "dark matter" reminds me of the search for "the ether" at the end of the 19th century.  At that time light was known to exhibit wavelike properties, but the question was "what is waving"?  A mysterious "ether" was postulated.  In 1887 the famous Michelson-Morley experiment proved there is no ether.  I predict that soon we'll prove there is no dark matter, too.

Mark Cuban has posted Success and Motivation, Part 2, which follows Success and Motivation, Part 1.  "It’s always the little decisions that have the biggest impact. We all have to make that “make or break” call to follow orders or do what you know is right."  I don't know why Mark's comments seem so relevant, maybe it's because he's so successful, or maybe he just makes sense.

Mark your calendars: Steve Jobs will preview OS X 10.4, aka "Tiger", at the Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference on June 28.  Anyone want to bet it will have new video broadcasting capabilities?  I can't wait.

iPod ad - wild postingsHave you seen the latest iPod ad, "wild postings"?  Really cool.

Sony [finally] launched their entry into the online music store sweepstakes, called "connect".  Interestingly, it currently features Sheryl Crow, who was last seen talking up iTunes in Fortune.  Yahoo wonders where's the 'iPod killer'.

More evidence that video is going the way of audio: CNet reports one in eight Americans want to buy a DVD recorder.  Only one in eight?  The other seven must want Tivo, first :)

Freedom towerMore for your calendar; July 4, 2004, for the Freedom Tower groundbreaking on the World Trade Center site.  The Freedom Tower is planned to be 1,776 feet tall, making it the world's tallest building.

Yahoo reports Gates Promises Longhorn Beta in 2005.  I agree with my friend Gary Lang, who opines "my read of this is that WinFS is out".  So what's really in Longhorn?  3D rendering, vector graphics, XAML...

Looks like Russell Beattie agrees with me about Googlemania.  I'm starting to sense a bit of backlash, I don't think users are rooting for Google the way they were two years ago.

the MagicBikeYuri Gitman on his MagicBike: I am like the ice cream man, but with no music and I deliver free wireless access and not ice cream.  "MagicBike is a mobile WiFi (wireless Internet) hotspot that gives free Internet connectivity wherever its ridden or parked."  It is essentially a mobile bridge between WiFi and cellular networks.  Cool.

VW bus ball sculptureThe VW bus ball sculpture, at the Berkshire Botanical Garden.  Of course.

If you're a student of the great syndication wars, you will find this rant about RSS, Atom, and SOAP to be of interest (translated from French to English, but doesn't lose much in the translation).

$104M Picasso - Garcon a la PipeBBC has the story of the Picasso painting which sold for $104M.  I like Picasso - some anyway - but I've never found his work to be that compelling.  I have a hard time thinking any work of art could be worth $104M, but I guess worth is in the eye of the beholder.  I know what René Magritte would say: Ceci n'est pas une pipe!

Finally, here we have How Cheers is Like Star Trek Voyager.  Offered as evidence that you can find anything on the web, and no, I am not making this up :)  [ via Woundwort ]

 

Dog Blog

Wednesday,  05/05/04  10:38 PM

"dog blog"

[ by Red Ferret, via Smart Mobs, via Joi Ito ]

 

La Semana

Wednesday,  05/05/04  10:51 PM

La Semana

What could be better on Cinco de Mayo than Spring and beautiful weather?  A new album from Ottmar Liebert, of course!  He just posted a "first look" at the La Semana cover; the album itself will be available in early June on the Luna Negra website.

Lucky person that I am, Ottmar shared the tracks for La Semana with me, and I have to tell you it is awesome!  You'll definitely want to add this to your collection.

If you love excellent guitar artistry, you'll also want to catch Ottmar and Luna Negra in person; their upcoming tour dates have been posted.

 

Thursday,  05/06/04  09:46 PM

Have you ever wanted to smash a 635-ton barge into a bridge?  You know you have.  But the consequences are, well, not good.  Ah, but what if the bridge is slated for demolition anyway!  [ via Collision Detection,  an aptly named source ]  Too bad there isn't a really great movie of the crash :)

AlwaysOn considers the looming oil crisis.  This morning the price of crude oil passed $40/barrel, and I don't think it is coming back any time soon.  This could end up being a disaster, with bad timing for President Bush, especially if the Democrats succeed in positioning it as an effect of the War in Iraq (which it is, to some extent, but there are other causes as well, notably growth in US, Japanese, and Chinese demand).

Wow: "the Democratic National Convention Committee is pleased to announce that for the first time ever, bloggers will be offered Convention access through the official media credentialing process."  I hope Dave Winer goes, and takes Steve Garfield with him!  [ via LZBear ]

Check this out!  Tangled Bank #2 has been posted, on the Invasive Species weblog.  Syaffolee posted an interesting item about a researcher who fabricated data in a Cell paper (as previously reported by the Scientist).  What I find interesting is the mock-outrage of which results when fraudsters are outed.  Self-righteousness in any form is repulsive.

Medscape reports Human Brain to Machine Interface May Now Be Feasible.  "Directly using human brain neuronal activity to operate external neuroprostheses may now be feasible, according to a presentation on May 4 at the 72nd annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons held in Orlando, Florida.  This work could potentially benefit patients with quadriplegia or other focal neurological injury who are unable to use their extremities because of a breakdown in connectivity between their limbs and brain motor centers."  Wow.

Apropos, I just started reading Broken Angels, from Richard K. Morgan, a sci-fi thriller which is a sequel to his wonderful Altered Carbon.  In his 25th century world people can have "neurochem" enhancers and prosthesis which are brain-activated.  It might really happen, and sooner than he imagined!

nails in skull X-rayOuch!  That has to hurt!  CNN has a story about a man who ended up with six nails in his skull, due to a construction accident.  Unbelievably, he was okay.  [ via David Pescovitz ]

James Hague: Programming as if Performance Mattered.  Which, of course, it nearly always does.  The authors point of view is that performance doesn't matter, but to me, the piece backfires; he ends up unintentionally reinforcing my view that it nearly always does.  Longhorn team, take note!  "The golden rule of programming has always been that clarity and correctness matter much more than the utmost speed.  Very few people will argue with that.  And yet do we really believe it?"  Uh, no, we don't.

David Hornik engages in calendar calisthenics.  I'm glad to hear he's juggling his time between existing investments and potential new ones...  On the entrepreneur side of the table, I'm juggling mine between existing customers and potential new ones, and between existing products and potential new ones.  Efficient use of time is critical to productivity, which means you have to set priorities.  So why am I blogging?

 

Happy Birthday Megan!

Thursday,  05/06/04  10:28 PM

Happy Birthday!Just wanted to say: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful daughter Megan.  Seven years old!  I love you to Sedna and back.

 

 

 

 

Judicial Selection

Saturday,  05/08/04  12:02 PM

CNN reports "Judge Orders Couple Not to Have Children".   Amazing.

Monroe County Family Court Judge Marilyn O'Connor ruled March 31 that both parents "should not have yet another child which must be cared for at public expense."

"The facts of this case and the reality of parenthood cry out for family planning education," she ruled.  "This court believes the constitutional right to have children is overcome when society must bear the financial and everyday burden of care."  [ emphasis added ]

When I was working on Unnatural Selection, I ruled out this sort of government action as politically impossible.

Attorney Chris Affronti, who chairs the family law section of the Monroe County Bar Association, said he's not sure how the ruling could be enforced.   "I think what the judge is trying to do is kind of have a wake-up call for society," he said.

Wake up call?   Let's hope so.   I know people will comment that one of this couple's children could be the next Mozart, but let's be realistic; isn't it statistically far more likely that this couple's children will end up just like them, having lots of kids which have to be raised by society...

 

Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday,  05/09/04  09:44 PM

Happy Mother's DayJust wanted to wish my wife, my mother, and all mothers everywhere a wonderful Happy Mother's Day!

We had a really nice one, thanks for asking.  Sitting around the pool drinking wine, eating cheese, and watching the kids splash around.  Perfect.

 

Sunday,  05/09/04  11:51 PM

CNN reports Job growth rocks again.  This is good news, but I find it surprising.  The largest growth sector was business and professional services.  This will spur inflation, which will hasten higher interest rates.  Bad news for some, but I say a badly needed reversal of the pendulum.

TV news is bad for your brain.  "A new study has revealed that people who rely on television to get their news are more likely to be misinformed on the facts about Iraq, WMD's and Iraq's ties to 9/11 than those who get their news from other sources or even who don't follow the news at all.I'm shocked.  [ via Adam Curry ]

Well, so that's what the Lakers look like when they're trying.  They blew out the Spurs today, winning by 24 points so convincingly that the last 20 minutes were extended garbage time.  Now we know they're capable of playing that hard.  But will they?  Who shows up next Tuesday?  We'll see...

Los Angeles DodgersAnaheim AngelsHey, the Dodgers no longer have the best record in baseball, they've slipped to #2.  The new #1 team is the Angels.  Both teams are playing well and surprising critics, and delighting their fans.  An all-L.A. World Series?  Could happen...

FuturePundit notes DNA Ultra-Conserved Sequences Found Between Humans, Mice Rats.  "Hundreds of stretches of DNA may be so critical to life's machinery that they have been “ultra-conserved” throughout hundreds of millions of years of evolution.  Researchers have found precisely the same sequences in the genomes of humans, rats, and mice; sequences that are 95 to 99 percent identical to these can be found in the chicken and dog genomes, as well."  Reusable code - the key to life :)

This is pretty amazing: DNA bot targets cancer.  "Researchers from the Weizmann Institute in Israel have constructed a molecular-size computer that is programmed to find signs of cancer cells, and when they are present, dispense DNA molecules designed to eradicate those cells."  The other day I noted that I'm reading - and enjoying - Richard K. Morgan's latest sci-tech thriller, Broken Angels.  It is amazing how the similar the advances of the present day mirror the imagined [25th century] future.

And here's some important scientific research: Genetic secrets of good wine.  "Discovering the genetic secrets of good wine is at the heart of a project launched by Spanish and Canadian scientists, who are conducting the first large-scale, integrated genomics effort focused on single-model cultivars for wine and table grapes.  The genetic determinants of grape quality are practically unknown, and how local environmental factors interact at the cellular and molecular levels to cause differences in fruit quality is not understood."  Studying grape genomics, that's what I was doing yesterday, poolside...beer monitor

More important scientific research: Students at Cornell have designed a wireless beer pitcher monitor.  "We created a wireless device to affix to the bottom of a pitcher that alerts the wait staff when the pitcher is empty.  By affixing an accelerometer to the bottom of a pitcher we can detect the angle of the bottom in relation to the ground.  The signal from the accelerometer is transmitted from the pitcher to the server station."  Sounds like important work.  Left undecided is whether, when half the beer has been poured, the pitcher is half-empty or half-full.

SpaceX Falcon VThe latest update from SpaceX is out...  more good news as the company continues to move inexerably forward.  In this update Elon Musk, the company's founder and CEO, say his eventual goal is to build "the Saturn VI".  I wouldn't put it past them!

Star Trek apartmentIf you're interested in living in Star Trek conditions but don't want to wait for SpaceX's Saturn VI, check out this apartment, at auction on eBay, from 24th century interion design.  The pictures look awesome!  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Have you been thinking about sticking your toe in the Linux water?  Consider Ignalum Linux.  "Ignalum Linux OS version 9 is an intuitive graphical environment that works right out of the box and offers unrivaled compatibility with Microsoft Windows.  This new release is one of the most advanced and powerful Linux systems currently available, with industry-leading usability features such as single sign-on authentication for a mixed Unix-Windows environment and Ignalum's advanced Internet-sharing and IPv6-over-NAT capabilities."  Apparently you can run Microsoft Office unchanged!  I'll have to check this out - need...  more...  time...

newschopper crashAdam Curry linked this amazing video of a New York newschopper crash.  Amazingly, no one was seriously injured.  According to Adam, a helicopter pilot himself, "the pilot made several life-saving decisions".  Wow.

Ottmar Liebert is running a Subscription Survey, regarding your online music preferences.  Go over there and tell him what you think!

Applied memetics: Wired reports How the Word Gets Around.  "The blogosphere has a strange ability to push a seemingly obscure idea into the forefront of people's minds in a heartbeat. How this happens is a bit of a mystery."  Mystery?  No, I post it, you read it, and that's how it gets around :)

 

The Killer

Monday,  05/10/04  10:40 PM

cancer deaths, US, 2004I've been posting recently about Cancer, and how various forms of cancer are now the leading cause of death in the U.S.  This interest is personal - I've lost my father to cancer, as well as some close friends - and professional - Aperio's customers are the Pathologists who diagnose cancer and researchers attempting to cure it.  Recently I came across some comprehensive statistics from the American Cancer Society which quantify the problem.  A summary of these statistics is shown at right.

In the U.S, in 2004, over 560,000 people will die as a result of cancer.  That's about the same as the entire populations of Boston or San Francisco.  Wow, talk about a killer.

This sure puts the U.S. combat deaths in Iraq in perspective.  As of May 11, 560 U.S. servicemen have been killed in Iraq, three orders of magnitude fewer than will have been killed by cancer this year.  I don't want to minimize those deaths - at all - merely to put them in perspective.

At least I can get up in the morning knowing I'm working on the right problem.

 

Monday,  05/10/04  11:07 PM

Wired: Kid Robot and the World of Tomorrow.  "Kerry Conran spent years rendering retrobots on his home computer.  Now his garage blockbuster starring Gwyneth & Jude is hitting the big screen."  The cost of video production is coming down, and distribution is being disintermediated by the 'net, just like music.  Watch out!

And 2004 is definitely the year of the video blog.

Here's a worthwhile post by Rebecca Ryan: The Front Porch.  "What role do porches play in building cool communities?  I just moved into an old house with a cool porch off my kitchen facing the street...  I can sit on my porch and mind everyone's business...  I think my sense of community is stronger here...  thanks in part to my front porch."  Fascinating.  I've never had a front porch - but I love sidewalk cafes, and I think the same sort of thing is happening there.

Last night at 2:00AM there was a whole lot of shakin' going on...  magnitude 4.6, off the coast of Santa Barbara...   Doc Searles reports.

Knowledge@Wharton wonders Does Venture Philanthrophy Work?  The short answer - it depends.  "What seems so new about venture philanthropy may have been the sizzle, not the content...  Venture philanthropies have underscored the fact that helping others is not simply a matter of dispersing money but of making a deep, long-term commitment and casting a hard eye on results."

David Burbridge considers Evolutionarily Stable Strategies.  A nice summary.  "As usually defined, an ESS is a strategy such that, if all the members of a population adopt it, no mutant strategy can invade."  The ideas of strategy sets and ESS are key contributions from John Maynard Smith, who passed away recently.

Interestingly, the concepts of ESS are not specific to genetic evolution, they are applicable to any evolutionary environment, including especially memetic evolution.  Can memes have evolutionary stable strategies?  You bet.

The Spot logoDo you remember The Spot?  If you were online in 1995, you do.  In its day it was an exciting new experiment; I remember the articles wondering if this type of "show" was the future of online entertainment.  It was way ahead of its time, and ultimately suffered a dot-com demise.  For a long time the site sat on the 'net, unchanged, frozen in time.  But now The Spot is back!  And now the timing is perfect - it was (and is again) an online reality show, featuring extensive audience participation.  "You are now part of an extraordinary online project called THE SPOT.  By reading these words, you are already part of the story. How involved you want to become is completely up to you."  Excellent!

Introducing The Iron Blog.  By analogy to The Iron Chef, the great face-off show on the cooking channel.  And the first contestant steps into the, er, kitchen...  it's Battle Rumsfeld...

Quicktime logo (not 1MB!)No so quick thinking: Cult of Mac reports on Apple's 6.5.1 Quicktime updater; "the file weighs in at a whopping 33 Mbytes, which is exceptionally bloated.  Some genius at Apple added 15 MBytes in the form of 15 identical QuickTime logos, each weighing 1 Mbyte each; the same image is DUPLICATED for each language in the installer."  Nice.

I don't often report hardware news - there's too much of it, and you can monitor Engadget and Gizmodo same as I do - but the recent announcement of Hitatchi's 400GB drive is worth noting.  400GB for $400.  Wow.  (Perfect for storing Virtual Slides :)

Sharp 30" LCD TVLooks like I'm never going to get a plasma TV.  Just as my salivation over 80" plasmas was reaching critical mass (and their prices were coming down from the stratosphere), on the horizon we have LCD TVs!  Sharp now has a 30" model for $4,500.  So now these are going to get bigger, and less expensive, and they are inherently better quality than plasmas...

 

 

Fire Season

Tuesday,  05/11/04  09:34 AM

This is very cool - NASA's Earth Observatory has a satellite picture of fire season in Central Africa.  [ via Adam Curry ]  Here's the high-resolution version (250 meters per pixel):

Fire Season Roars to Life in Central Africa

(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.

As usual, I upsampled the image and am serving it with Aperio's image server software.

 

Wednesday,  05/12/04  01:06 AM

Ben's gameThis is so cool - Apple has the story of a nine-year old boy suffering from leukemia who designed a computer game in which the hero kills cancer cells.  The Make-a-Wish foundation jumped in to help, and now Ben's Game is available for download.  You've got to love that!

Well, the Lakers showed up again last night, especially Kobe Bryant, beating the Spurs by 8 in a game that wasn't that close, after another overwhelming third-quarter run.  So we have a series.  Interestingly this series parallels the Lakers-Spurs series of a year ago; the Spurs won the first two in San Antonio, then the Lakers won two in L.A.  Last year the Spurs went on to win out at home, we'll see what happens this year...

In other L.A. sports news, the Dodgers won - again - but the Angles lost a thrilling rain-delayed extra-inning game to the Yankees.  So now the Dodgers and Angles are tied for the best records in baseball.  Yippee.

Global IQ: 1950-2050.  Animated extrapolation from IQ and the Wealth of Nations, reaching the same conclusion I did, that average global IQ is declining rapidly.  [ via Jason at GNXP, which has an interesting comment thread. ]

Russia's new space agency chief is an optimist: he predicts Russia will have a manned mission to Mars by 2013.  Good luck.  Sending people to Mars is really hard, but it is even harder to send them back.  This is not going to happen.

African frogs threaten San Francisco.  (Looks like an Onion headline, but it's not.)  "California biologists are alarmed over the latest invasive species to take up residence in [San Francisco]: African clawed frogs, which eat just about anything and tend to breed like crazy.  Even worse, they're kind of cute - and thus more likely to be whisked away by children and dumped into other ponds, where they spread even more."  Hide your children!

Another looks-like-Onion-but-it's-real headline: The return of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'.  Warm up the Tivo for this one.  There's a great line from Desi Arnaz in this article: "How many people do you think you entertain when you're on television?  Four.  The mother, the father and [two] children..."

Bill Gates at iMacAdam Curry posted this great picture of Bill Gates, at an iMac.  "no comment".

Sony Vaio 1TB PVREvery once in a while I have to relay gadget news: Sony has announced a PVR with 1TB of storage and seven tuners.  What!?  It is Japan-only, for now...  [ via engadget ]

[ Later: Matt Haughey comments... ]

Cult of Mac reports online marking firm DarkBlue will award an iPod to the person who earns Google's top search ranking for the nonsensical term "Nigritude Ultramarine."  So be it.

Eric Sink's latest Business of Software column is up: Closing the Gap, part 2.  If you hadn't already, you might want to read Closing the Gap, part 1 first.  Great stuff - Eric is so down to earth.  At the highest level, to close the gap between your customer and your product, you must:

  1. Make Sure Customers Know About Your Product
  2. Make Sure Your Product Is Something Customers Want
  3. Make Sure They Can Afford Your Product
  4. Offer a Full-Featured Demo Download
  5. Answer the Customers' Questions
  6. Provide a Place for Community
  7. Make It Easy to Buy Over the Web

So be it.  If I had to fault Aperio, it would be (6) - we have a blog, but our customers are not using its comment facility to interact...

Wired: Endless Summer (on demand).  "Kerry Black is bringing world-class waves to the malls of America.  Grab your board - surf's up 6 a.m. to midnight, 365 days a year."  Am I the only one who thinks it won't quite be the same?

leaders of the world...Finally, I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but it's cool.  More evidence, if any were needed, that some people have too much time on their hands...  [ via Doc Searles ]

 

 

Wednesday,  05/12/04  11:08 PM

George Packer, in Mother Jones: the Revolution will not be Blogged.  "To see beyond their own little world and get a sense of what's really going on, journalists and readers need to get out of their pajamas."  This is the argument that we're all in a little echo chamber, writing for each other, ignoring the bigger world outside.  Which is ignoring us.  Wishful thinking on the part of a Luddite, methinks.  But read it and form your own opinion...

Want an example of blog dialog?  Charles Johnson quotes Joe Lieberman: "a marginalized and ignored voice in a party which increasingly caters to its most extreme elements, [who] reminds me why I used to think of myself as a Democrat:  Who’s really owed an apology?"  Mark Frauenfelder put the same event a bit differently: "Fake democrat Joe Lieberman sucked up to his true allies during Rumsfeld's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week."

So who's right?  Well, that's up to youYou read, you decide.  That's the power of blogs.

I really like this post from Halley: Come Away From the Window.  I can so see that little girl.  Or is it a little boy?

John Robb: "Everytime I get concerned about offshore outsourcing, I go back and read Marc Andreessen's e-mail to me on America's strengths."  Read it yourself, it makes me feel better, too :)

Of all Marc's points, the most insightful is this one: Risk-friendly culture (this is hugely important).  The "hugely important" is Marc's comment on his comment, and I agree.  This enables the memetic variation which provides the grist for selection.

Mark Cuban: Success and Motivation, part 3.  "...what was done, was done...  I had to get my ass back to work, and do so quickly.  That’s exactly what I did."  Follows part 1 and part 2.

Peter Stumpf with missing Stradivarius celloJoz has more on that missing Stradivarius cello.  "A grainy surveillance camera videotape from a neighbor's home showed a man lugging the 4 1/2-foot-tall silver-colored cello case in one hand as he tries to ride away on the bicycle.  A few moments later, there is the sound of a crash as he apparently runs into some trash cans on the sidewalk."  Ouch.

Apple bioinformatics workgroup clusterApple is sponsoring a competition for bioinformatics projects, and they're giving five bioinformatics workgroup clusters away as awards.  This is really cool.  I'm going to apply on behalf of Aperio; these systems would be perfect for running pattern recognition algorithms on large virtual slides.

Dare Obasanjo has Some Advice for the Bloggers @ Google.  I agree with all of them, especially #4: "Provide an RSS feed.  I understand that Evan and the rest of Blogger have had their beefs with Dave Winer but this is getting ridiculous.  If an evil Microsoft employee can turn the other cheek and rise above holding grudges, I don't see why Google employees whose company motto is 'Do No Evil' can't do the same."  Amen.  [ via Robert Scoble ]

This could be really important: the Internet archive has announced FreeCache, a free HTML caching service.  "FreeCache works by moving content 'hot spots' on the web closer to users.  This provides several advantages to various parties involved: Users get faster downloads, content providers pay less for Internet-bound traffic, and ISPs pay less for Internet-originating traffic."  This is so simple it is going to work.  Say you have a page and suddenly everyone wants to download it.  You build a URL like this: http://freecache.org/<your_original_URL>.  The freecache servers get the page from your site, cache it, and serve it to users.  You don't have to do anything else.

lulop.com is the market place for video news.  They have an RSS feed with enclosures.  [ via Adam Curry, who notes: "perhaps the revolution will be televised after all?" ]

And on another video-on-demand front, CNet reports Disney to expand MovieBeam service.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the movie, is in production.  And the production team has a blog.  So, I loved the book, but I'm unsure about whether it's going to translate well into a movie.

Mt. Fuji from Tim BrayTim Bray has some awesome pictures of Mount Fuji.  (be sure to scroll down.)  "Sometimes you just get lucky."  Yeah, right.  There's a lot more than luck going on here...

 

 

(new yorker, 5/10/2004)

Wednesday,  05/12/04  11:28 PM

the phones of Dr. Moreau

(you never know when you'll need a crème brûlée torch)

 

Friday,  05/14/04  01:20 AM

I've held off commenting on the Abu Ghraib photos and the Nick Berg video.  This reader email to Andrew Sullivan sums up my thoughts exactly.  "I see the true nature of what we are up against, and am more committed to winning this thing than ever before."

Okay, last night's Lakers - Spurs game was the best basketball game I've ever seen.basketball  Three lead changes in the last 11 seconds?  Two in the last second?  Are you kidding me!?  Wow.  I'm happy the Lakers won, but lets face it; they escaped.  After winning most of the game handily, including especially the 3rd quarter, when they seem to find their high gear, they almost gave it away in the 4th.  Only 10 points in 15 minutes is not going to get it done (at one point they were 2 for 18 shooting).  Now the series comes back to L.A. - if the Lakers don't win game 6 at home, they're going to have a hard time winning game 7 in San Antonio.  I still think the winner of this series will go on to win the whole thing.

You just never know what you'll find out there - on the 'net, or in space; Astrobiology interviews Brother Guy Consolmagno, curator of Meteorites at the Vatican Observatory.  Among other things he talks about the juxtaposition between religion and science, and the probability that we'll encounter alien life.  Fascinating!

Katie Hafner in the NYTimes: The Do-it-yourself Cineplex.  Or how to convert a garage into a home movie theater, on a budget of $3,000.  Excellent stuff.  [ via Dave Winer ]

BTW, I happen to believe that in the future all middle class homes will have a home movie theater, only it will be an "experience room".  All the walls and the ceiling will have full-length LCD panels, and the room will feature surround sound.  Interactive games which run in these rooms will be a huge business.

why you should never put your picture on the Internet :)Why you should never put your picture on the Internet.  The Photoshopmanship here is impressive, and hilarious.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Andy Budd takes An Objective Look at Table-based vs. CSS-based Design.  I'm a big fan of tables, unfashionable though they may be; they're easy to explain and use, and they work in all browsers.  Every time I try something cool with CSS, I discover it doesn't work the same way under IE as it does with Safari. 

I honestly think there's a snob factor operating here.  Web designers and other techies are drawn to the precision and complexity of a more complicated approach, but the good old simple way ends up with overwhelming adoption.  The same thing is happening with the RSS vs. Atom wars in syndication.  The more complicated technology is adopted by the cognoscenti (CSS, Atom), while the simpler technology is adopted by the masses (tables, RSS).

Speaking of RSS (I was); the RSS advisory board has a new look.  Alongside founder and longtime RSS advocate Dave Winer, the board now consists of Rogers Cadenhead, Adam Curry, and Andrew Grumet, replacing Brent Simmons and Jon Udell.  The function of this board is essentially conservative, it is not a standards body, and the RSS specification is frozen.  Meanwhile the IETF and the W3C are debating which standards body will represent Atom.

An RSS-related note; the RSS weblog interviews Luke Hutteman, author of SharpReader, which happens to be my RSS reader of choice.  "I'm nothappy with the standards wars and resulting competing formats.  A single, well specified, extensible spec would certainly have been preferable over the current situation of RSS vs. Atom.  Since Atom won't replace RSS, it will just be yet another syndication format to support."

 

Saturday,  05/15/04  01:05 AM

basketball!So - just when you thought playoff basketball couldn't get any better - the Lakers-Suns battle last night featured three lead changes in the last 11 seconds, and two in the last second - we get tonight's awesome triple-overtime spectacle, in which the Nets finally outlasted the Pistons.  Wow.  I'm exhausted.  When Chancey Billups hit the trey from half court to send the game into overtime, I was literally yelling.  And the game went on for another hour.

Mr. IncredibleThe trailer for The Incredibles is out.  See it on the Incredibles website or the Apple trailers page.  It looks, er, pretty incredible.  How can one little movie studio bat 1.000?  (Toy Story, Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo were all hits.)  Is is their technology?  No.  It's their stories...

Apple did something interesting with this trailer, in addition to small / medium / large versions, they have a fullscreen version which launches iTunes, and plays inside it.  Fullscreen movies are a Quicktime-pro only feature, except apparently if you have iTunes.  Apple is saying either you buy Quicktime Pro, or you download and install iTunes, and we'll let you watch fullscreen movies.  This also highlights the previously unknown fact that iTunes can play movies.  Now why would it be able to do that? :)

One of the coolest tools for creating blogs is Moveable Type, from Six Apart software.  They recently released version 3.0, and changed their license terms and pricing.  As a result, many people who had used previous Moveable Type versions free will have to pay to use the new version.  Amazingly, instead of being grateful for having had such a great product for free, they are pissed off that the new version costs money!  And it doesn't seem to be how much it costs that bothers them, it is the fact that it costs at all.

Mark Pilgrim was upset enough that he exercised his freedom to switch.

tee-shirt folding videoAnd once again proving that you can find anything on the 'net, here's a video showing how to fold a tee-shirt.  [ via Mark Frauenfelder, who comments "it looks so good you almost think they're playing a tape of someone unfolding a shirt backwards." ]

 

RSS cookbook

Saturday,  05/15/04  09:38 AM

Okay, today we are going to get YOU to use RSS.  Follow the simple steps, and you'll be using RSS and loving it.  I promise this is worth it.  You will thank me.

[ This has been updated - it is now even simpler :) ]


Introduction

Many of you know, I'm a big fan of RSS and syndication technology.  It is simply a great way to process incoming information in less time.  I used to spend a lot of time "surfing around" to find news.  Now it just comes to me.

RSS stands for “really simple syndication”.  It is a way of creating a table of contents for a website.  The site could be a blog, a newspaper, a library, a company – any source of information.  The website creates a file which is their RSS feed.  It is a text file with a simple format that describes all the items on the site.  Items are typically in chronological order.

You use a program called an RSS reader to subscribe to feeds.  There are a bunch of these programs out there, many of them free; they work a lot like an email program.  Your RSS reader checks your subscriptions periodically to see if there’s anything new.  It displays one-line summaries which easily can be scanned.  You delete the ones you don't care about, and if you see something interesting, hit return, and poof – the item is loaded into a web browser.

That’s the theory, but like all these things once you see it in action you'll get it.


Cookbook

Here’s how to get started.  You're going to install an RSS reader called SharpReader, and then use it.

  1. (click for larger view)
    SharpReader installer
    Download and install SharpReader - click here.  When asked whether to Open or Save the file, please select "Open" to download and run the installer (see screenshot at right).  It doesn't ask you any questions, you don't have to make any decisions.

    It might have to install the Microsoft .NET framework if you don't have it installed already; if so, it will do so seamlessly (but the install will take a bit longer).
     
  2. (click for larger view)
    SharpReader!
    Run SharpReader.  Double-click the SharpReader icon on your desktop.  As installed, SharpReader is subscribed to five“feeds” (see screenshot at right).  Each of these feeds corresponds to an index to the content of a particular website.  A lot of weblogs and news sites publish a feed like this, using a format called – ta da – RSS.

    (click for larger view)
    SharpReader in action
    If you click on the name of a feed, you'll see a list of the current items for that website at the upper right.  Clicking on one of the items displays a summary of the item in the big window.  It you want to go to the website, simply double-click the item, or hit Enter, and... Poof! – the page of the website will be displayed(see screenshot at right).

    This is a terrific way to gather news and information, because you easily can scan through the one-line summaries of each item.  If you see something you don't want to read, hit Delete, and you won't see it again.  If you see something you want to read, the summary will be displayed automatically, and to read the entire item you just hit Enter.  Very simple.  Compare this to surfing to CNN or your favorite blog, where you have to visually scan to figure out "what's new".
     
  3. Subscribe to a new feed.  Okay, so RSS readers are a cool way to browse websites.  How to you add websites?  Well, just put the URL of a website in SharpReader's address line.  (Try this with my blog, enter http://w-uh.com/.)  Poof! - you’ll get a list of all the items from that site.  If you like the site, click on the Subscribe button, and it will be added to your list of subscriptions on the right.  Subscribed sites are checked once per hour for new content, so generally SharpReader is pretty much up to date with all the sites you’re monitoring.

    You may notice sites which have a little orange XML icon icon.  This is a link to the site's RSS feed.  You can simply drag this icon to SharpReader, and it will display the site's items.  Very cool.

So that's it.  Email me if this doesn’t make sense or my instructions were crappy, and we'll figure it out.  Once you see this in action, you'll realize there’s a whole new thing going on here.

 

 

The All-in-one Toy

Sunday,  05/16/04  11:54 PM

HP psc2501 all-in-one printer / scanner / copier / fax machineWe just acquired a new toy; an HP psc2501 all-in-one printer.  Well, I say printer, but it is also a scanner, a copier, a fax machine, and a photo printer.  And best of all, it communicates with WiFi, so you can put it anywhere on your network.

So let me just say - so far I love it.  The user interface engineering is impressive; there is a little LCD display which walks you through any task, and there are a minimum of buttons.  Each function is straightforward.  For example, to make a copy you press Copy, then either Black&White or Color, and Poof! - you get a copy.  The print quality is really impressive, too.  I bought an optional photo print cartridge, which allows you to print photo-quality prints on photo paper.  It really works.

I have PCs and Macs, and they both worked out of the box.  The HP software installed seamlessly on both, even to the extent of providing TWAIN drivers so I could scan from Photoshop (both platforms).

Another cool feature - the printer has a website!  You simply put its IP address into a browser, and you can monitor cartridge ink levels, change configuration data, even initiate a scan (the resulting image is downloaded through your browser as a JPEG or TIFF file).

And another cool feature - the device is a reader for photo media; it supports CompactFlash (I & II), Memory Stick, MultiMediaCard (MMC), Secure Digital, SmartMedia, and xD memory cards.  I have an Olympus camera which uses SmartMedia, and I was able to put the card into the printer and print photos right away.  The device also acts as a reader; you can download photos from a memory card to your computer.

Overall I am really impressed.  There are about six devices in my household we no longer need - a 10-year old Apple LaserWriter, an Epson Stylus Color dot-matrix printer, a Canon scanner, an Olympus photo printer, and a Canon personal copier.  (eBay, here I come :)  If we had a fax machine we wouldn't need it anymore, either; we've actually been using my computer as a fax machine, which is kind of a pain.  So now we have a dedicated fax machine.

Nothing is more fun than a great new toy...

 

Monday,  05/17/04  12:27 AM

Some unsolicited plugs:

  • Ottmar Liebert.  Watch for La Semana, his new album coming out soon.  It is just excellent.
  • X1.  This fast search tool for Outlook folders and hard drives is wonderful.
  • pickem, a PictureMail replacement for the Treo 600.  Among other things, it fixes the "blue dots of death" problem.  (And if you're a Treo 600 user, you know what I mean.)  [ via Gizmodo ]

Slate considers Election Time in the World's Largest Democracy.  That would be India, of course, and yeah, the recent election was quite an upset.  Fascinating.

Looks like the Indian stock market is upset, too.  Down 16% in one day.  Wow.

60 Minutes ran an interesting story: The New French Revolution.  Muslim women fight back against their unbelievably oppressive culture.  Excellent.  [ via GNXP ]

David Weinberger notes What I look Like I'm Doing (when working at home).  "Apparently, worklife means clicking on a keyboard for 10-14 hours a day."  I have the same exact thing.  My family jokes that they only know what I look like from the back.  Well, at least they get to see me.

Longhorn 3D ExposeExtremeTech has an interesting review: Longhorn In-Depth.  ("Longhorn" is the next version of Windows.)  They have a bunch of screenshots, including one of a new 3D-Expose-like feature.  "Hit Alt-Tab and all open windows align into a 3D stack."  Cool, one of the things I like best about OS X is Expose.  [ via Cult of Mac ]

metal velcro - microscopic viewThis is awesome - NewScientist reports on metal velcro.  "Early tests show that these joints will last far longer than current composite-metal joints, which are held together by adhesives."  Very cool.  First shoelaces get replaced by velcro, now metal welds?

Arsenal make history by having the first undefeated season in English Premier League [soccer] history - 38 matches without a defeat.  Kind of like if the 1972 Miami Dolphins went undefeated in 1973, too :)  [ via Marc Cantor ]

Is a Giant Panda a bear?  Yes, it is.  The Panda's Thumb ran an interesting reader survey on this issue (the readers were wrong!) which features a cool diagram of the bear family tree.  Did you know Walruses are closer to Raccoons than Dogs?

Matt Webb with another amazing ramble.  Definitely not like any other blog.  Interconnected.

John Gruber opines on the mistakes Six Apart made with their Moveable Type announcement.  He links Brad Choate's good overview.  John nails it: "People will not pay for upgrades without features.", and "Pre-announcements are almost always regretted."  In both cases expectations were missed, and that's why people are upset.

Vonage is really hitting mass adoption; now RadioShack is selling their service.  Wow.

 

Is Hell Exothermic?

Monday,  05/17/04  10:19 PM

Here's a good answer to an important question, in our continuing attempts at understanding engineers.  [ courtesy of my colleague Justin ]


(The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid term.)

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law, (gas cools off when it expands and heats up when it is compressed) or some variant.  One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time.  So we need to know the rate that souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving.  We can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave.  Therefore, no souls are leaving.

As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.  Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell.  Since there are more than one of these religions and since people generally do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.  With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.  This gives two possibilities:

  1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
  2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?  If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa Morrison during my freshman year, that "...it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you," and take into account the fact that I still have not succeeded in having sexual relations with her, then #2 cannot be true.

Thus, Hell is exothermic and will not freeze.

The student received the only "A" given on the exam.


I'm sure this student went on to become an engineer :)

 

 

Monday,  05/17/04  11:17 PM

Today was the 50th anniversary of the historic "Brown v. Board of Education" decision, which outlawed racial segregation in schools.  The NYTimes marks the moment, observing 50 Years After Brown, the Issue is Often Money.  "As the clamor for integration wanes, the fight for opportunity in the nation's public schools has largely become a battle over money."  This is particularly true in California, where the legacy of Proposition 13 is horribly under-funded [and horrible] inner-city schools.

Josh Marshall makes a talking point: "The one point of solace Republicans find today in the polls is this fact: despite how egregiously bad 2004 has thus far gone for President Bush, and regardless of the broad deterioration in the president's poll numbers, John Kerry is still, at best, only a few points ahead of him.  And in some cases he's not ahead at all."  This is because the war remains the right issue for Bush.  I think Democrats are beginning to understands this, too; as Kerry attacks Bush on Schools, and Kerry attacks Bush on Health Care Costs...

Matt Webb reminds us that relations between France and the U.S. weren't always strained; he found an 1884 article announcing the Bartholdi Statue of Liberty.  "[Benjamin] Franklin believed in the sincerity of the French people, he attested the vast and inestimable worth of their aid, and declared over his own honest hand that they 'expected no return but that of gratitude and friendship'."

Hy-wire fuel cell car chassisWired test drives GM's Hy-Wire fuel cell concept car.  "In addition to a notable lack of floor pedals, the Hy-wire also has no engine."  An interesting experiment.  In addition to the futuristic power source and controls, the car is build on an interchangeable "skateboard" which can serve as the chassis for many other vehicles.

AlwaysOn suggests Mobile Phones: Credit Cards of the Future.  This seems quite plausible to me.  Much more so than passive stored-value devices.

Dave Winer has announced that Userland Software is planning to release the Frontier kernel as open-source.  This kernel underlies other Userland products like Radio and Manila.  A very interesting move, and a wise one, IMHO.  This will give the products a much longer life, with access to more development resources than Userland could give them.  Dave also posted some FAQs.

This is a bit odd: Author Shelley Jackson is publishing her new book, Skin, on the bodies of volunteers.  "Each of the necessary 2,095 participants will be tattooed with a single word from the text."  I hope there aren't any grammatical errors.  [ via David Pescovitz ]

Lego Rubik's Cube SolverAnd here we have - JP Brown's Lego Rubik's Cube Solver.  Amazing.  The technologies here are diverse and tricky; grippers, color calibration, pattern recognition, compensating for backslash, compensating for ambient light – it’s practically the same problem as building a ScanScope :)

Caviar lovers take note: The Meridien Hotel has a new $1,000 breakfast special, an omelet featuring 10 ounces of Sevruga.  C'mon guys, for $1,000 at least make it Beluga.  Some regard this as proof that the economy has turned, I regard it as proof that some people have more cents than sense.

Gwyneth Paltrow gave birth to a baby girl, and as Cult of Mac reports, named her Apple.  The iBaby?  Perhaps her second child will be Banana?

Proof that girls are evil.  There's probably a corollary to W=UH, I need to think about this :)  [ via Dave Winer ]

 

Tuesday,  05/18/04  11:19 PM

Are you, like me, a fan of Ottmar Liebert?  And are you, unlike me, in the market for a new guitar?  Then you might check out this eBay auction of a Pimental guitar made from two Ottmar Liebert guitars (the neck of one, and the body of another).  The auction didn't meet its reserve, but the seller might still be interested...

fabprefab - prefab dwellings of the futureCheck out fabprefab, modernist prefab dwellings.  This will be the future, when land is at a premium.  I can imagine apartment buildings like container ships, where you buy your 120U prefab apartment and it snaps right into the rack, with power, water, sewer, garbage, recycle, and [of course] internet connections all standardized.  You'll buy them at Fry's, and they'll be delivered by helicopter.  [ via David Pescovitz ]

civilian space eXploration team rocketThis is excellent - the civilian space eXploration team has reached space!  As reported by ARRL, the 21-foot Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) GoFast rocket quickly attained the 100 km altitude to make Amateur Radio and amateur rocketry history.  Another X-prize contestant?

CNet notes Point, Click, and Swap - digital photos go P2P.  "OurPictures, a Palo Alto start-up, plans to launch its service for letting subscribers share pictures over the Internet but without the constraints of e-mail attachments or Web sites."  Photos today, movies tomorrow?

I'm loving this: Wired considers Online Grocery Shopping, Take Two.  We were dearly-departed Webvan's biggest fans three years ago.  Would I pay more for home delivery?  YES.  Too bad suburban Los Angeles is so spread out - it makes a lousy pilot area for this kind of project.

semacode_exampleWant to know what this is?  A URL, of course!  Semacode is a way of representing URLs using datamatrix 2D barcodes.  This allows 'net-connected cameraphones to scan a code and automatically retrieve the URL.  This is going to have a lot of applications... look for them on a product near you, soon.  I predict this will be big. 

I'm going to print them on the back of my business cards :)

From FuturePundit, Longitudinal Brain Scan Study Shows How Brain Matures:

The brain's center of reasoning and problem solving is among the last to mature, a new study graphically reveals. The decade-long magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study of normal brain development, from ages 4 to 21, by researchers at NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) shows that such "higher-order" brain centers, such as the prefrontal cortex, don't fully develop until young adulthood.

brain time lapse development movieA time-lapse 3-D movie that compresses 15 years of human brain maturation, ages 5 to 20, into seconds shows gray matter - the working tissue of the brain's cortex - diminishing in a back-to-front wave, likely reflecting the pruning of unused neuronal connections during the teen years. Cortex areas can be seen maturing at ages in which relevant cognitive and functional developmental milestones occur. The sequence of maturation also roughly parallels the evolution of the mammalian brain, suggest Drs. Nitin Gogtay, Judith Rapoport, NIMH, and Paul Thompson, Arthur Toga, UCLA, and colleagues, whose study is published online during the week of May 17, 2004 in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This is just amazing, please see the article for more information and a lot of links to other resources about brain development...

A new blog I'm subscribed to: Joshu Newman's self-aggrandizement.  Found through my referer logs.  I feel I'm in a bit of a rut, need to follow some new blogs.  Anyway check him out - for example, transmorgification...

 

Human Robotics

Wednesday,  05/19/04  12:28 AM

Halley on WorthWhile: Robotics.  Not what you might think, but interesting; Halley is proposing that "we" work too hard:

"I do think our human working culture has turned into a robotic working culture without us noticing.  The statistics on how little time Americans take for vacation, how many hours we work, how productive we are, all this points to one thing -- we stopped being humans with flaws and turned into shiny silver worker robots somewhere along the line."

Asking why we work so much is a bit like asking why trees grow so tall.  Wouldn’t it be easier if all the trees just agreed not to grow so much?  We’ll all share the light, just like we do now, and we’ll expend a lot less effort.  But then what?  Some tree decides to grow a little bit taller.  Bad tree.  Now I have to grow, too, just to get my share of the light.  Then you have to grow, and then we all do.  So trees grow as tall as they can.

I've blogged a bit about Evolutionarily Stable Strategies (ESS).  Not working hard is like trees not growing tall, they are both evolutionarily unstable.  In the sense that, other strategies will supplant them despite their obvious benefit.

Any human society based on everyone scaling back has been a miserable failure.  Communism doesn’t work very well (true communism like Israeli kibbutz’, not the funky stuff they practiced in Eastern Europe, which was really dictatorship wearing other clothes).  Right now the 35-hour work week in France is causing big time problems; their GNP is declining, they have problems assimilating immigrants, etc.

We’re doomed to work hard, just like trees are doomed to grow tall.  So the trick is to make work enjoyable.  The whole premise behind “work is bad” is that there are things other than work which are more fun than work.  Why should this be so?  That gets to the key issue – what makes something fun?  The short answer – happiness comes from liking yourself, so “fun” things are things that make you feel good about yourself.  (See try, or try not for more.)

Last night I was listening to the incomparable Jim Ladd on L.A.'s KLOS, and he was interviewing George Thorogood, who observed: "hey, get a job you really like and you’ll never work a day in your life".

That's an ESS :)

 

RSS cookbook simplified

Thursday,  05/20/04  10:36 PM

The other day I posted an RSS cookbook, hoping to entice those of you who haven't yet discovered how cool RSS readers are to do so.  Well I figured out a way to make it even simpler, so if you haven't already, please check it out - again.  This will be worth it, I promise.

 

Thursday,  05/20/04  10:55 PM

Busy day, for me, for the world, and for the blogosphere...

The frustration Democrats have with the electorate is understandable; even after all the "bad news" from Iraq, cheered on by big media, Bush remains ahead in the polls.  Command Post notes Kerry is now trying to make the price of gas an issue.  That's a good tactic for him, but realistically there's little the President can do about them.  The world is running out of gas, and prices will continue to reflect supply and demand.

John Robb quotes the WSJ: "If current oil prices are sustained, the estimated losses at the airlines is expected to top $5B this year."  So be it.

Not shocking, but too bad; China Shelves Plan for Astronauts on Moon.  "China plans to build its own manned space station by around 2020 but has shelved plans to put a man on the moon for financial reasons."  So be it.

AlwaysOn: Video Gets Personal.  "Analysts generally seem to agree that the 'Tivo-ing' of America opens up new markets for on-demand Internet-based video content."  Yep.

So today I get an email from Vonage, offering to change my plan from $30/month to $25/month.  What!  No strings attached.  Excellent.  They also introduced a new $15/month plan which offers limited calling.  If you're still using analog phone lines, you are overpaying for phone service.

P.S. They're offering a $40 referral fee; if you sign up and let me refer you, I'll split it with you :)

Steve Sailer points out Mind - The Adaptive Gap, from the Scientist.  A nice review of the current state of evolutionary psychology.  "As a field, evolutionary psychology (EP) has the difficult, and some say untenable, mission of discerning whether complex human qualities--everything from sexual attraction to language--are adaptations honed through natural selection or just nonadaptive byproducts of a uniquely human collection of cognitive systems."  Great stuff.

The Heisenberg Penguins: The Scientist reports on a study which found penguins with flipper bands are late to breed and less successful at it.  (Sounds like a job for RFID.)

Seattle public library, designed by Rem KoolhaasIf you're a regular reader you know I like modern architecture, and especially Rem Koolhaas.  Check out these pictures of new Seattle public library.  Wow.  That's art.  (I love the floor of babble - what a great idea.)  Oh, and here are some QTVRs of the interior.  [ via Cult of Mac ]

PearPC - Mac OS X under WindowsWant to run Mac OS X on your PC under Windows?  (Slowly?)  The check out PearPC.  Here's a report from a guy who got it running....  The use case for this is weak, but I love it!

Mac SE web simulation, running OS 7Remember the old Mac SE?  I do, in fact I still have one (named Hen3ry).  Check this out - Oliver Soehlke & Lukas Pajonczek have created a web-based simulation (in German, no less)!  More proof that some people have too much free time.  I must say, it is cool.

It was pretty cool having the OS X screen shot (above, right) and the OS 7 screen shot (above, left) sitting side-by-side in Photoshop.  You've come a long way, baby :)

The Atlantic considers Broken Windows, from 1982.  This seminal work strongly influenced William Bratton, who first as New York Transportation police chief and then New York city police chief had unusual success by focusing on “broken windows” (literally and figuratively).  He was impressively successful at reducing graffiti and crime in New York, and subsequently wrote a book ("Turnaround") and then became L.A.’s police chief (!).  So far he's receiving high marks with his efforts here. 

Ongoing application of this theory may explain Why Is There a Plunge in Crime?

The Sun reports Star Wars Episode III will be called Birth of the Empire.  So be it.  "The highlight of the space epic will be a thrilling lightsabre clash between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) while surfing on lava."  Cool.  In the wake of Episode II my expectations have been lowered to the point where I'll probably like this one.

MSNBC has a running commentary on "how Episode III can be saved".  I'm sure George Lucas appreciates the help (but probably not the suggestion that somebody else direct), but as the creator of what is arguably the most successful movie series in history, I doubt he really needs it.

Tuck Andress on learning to play guitar: It's the Guitar's Fault.  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

Soon it may be illegal to drive while distracted in L.A.  What!  "Drivers distracted by eating, talking to pets or combing their hair could face new fines under a bill that passed the state Senate."  These guys have too much free time.  Are they kidding?  What if you're driving and a pretty girl catches your eye, does that count?  [ via Blogging L.A. ]

My friend Cynthia told me about this the other day, and I didn't believe her: Born a Boy, Raised a Girl, Became a Man.  "Dr. John Money, who had authored 40 books on human sexuality, had radical advice.  He believed that the gender of a person depends on how a child is raised rather than genetics."  This guy was a doctor?  Sigh.

Oh, but four trans-gender people are graduating from the LAPD police acadamy.  I am not making this up.  (I couldn't, I'm not that creative :)

Microsoft.com: The four-letter word that can get people excited.  Hint: It starts with a B.  [ via Scoble ]

Bill Gates gets blogs and RSS, too.

The RSS bandwagon keeps rolling, Time and ESPN.  As Dave Winer says, big bing!

Want to get your feed wet with RSS?  Check out my RSS cookbook...

 
 

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