December 31, 2007

Spindling - Or, what to do with all those product keys

I've been rebuilding a machine at home over the holiday and wanted to share a trick that Ive indulged in over the past year. I'm particular about how I store my cds. I prefer to save them on a spindle. But, acting as a roadblock to this particular bit of tidiness is the cd cases with numbers on them. Yes, I'm talking about product keys. From operating systems to games to the rest, everyone has them. My games habit exposes me to them.

So, yeah, what do I do? I spindle them and email the product keys to myself. It's very refreshing and rewarding to do this. I have a tidy CD collection again. Thanks for listening. If I trusted rotating media more, I'd save the iso's to the home server.

Also: Hard drives -suck-. I had no less than 3 personal hard drives fail this year, and if I were not so damn obsessive about backing up my photos, I'd be a -very- upset fellow, I assure you. To wit: I backed up my main archive to 5 hard drives on three machines onsite and 2 spindles on 2 machines offsite. 3 spindles onsite failed, which left plenty of backup, but who experiences 3 hard drive failures at once?

Well, here's the coincidence. One was one of the first sata drives I bought and the other two were on the same p/s that went to the great capacitor recyclery in the sky. So now that everything is back to a stable state (5 spindles onsite, 2 off) I'm starting to think about online backup from a Mozy or something similar. I'd -hate- to lose my pictures and videos of the kids and , well, life due to something as stupid as an earthquake or something.

On Sound and Real Estate

So Christine (my wife) and I have been thinking about picking up some property up near where we used to live in Placerville. Mostly idle speculations, but one of the things that's important to us is the noise level on the property. You see, as a young girl, Christine would visit her uncles property on the American River and when it was pretty much unpopulated. No road noise, no trucks and the rest, you see. We asked the real estate dude to keep his eyes open for quiet river front property, accordingly.

And that's when the term 'jake brake' started being discussed around the house. You see, in the country, that's the big noise that can come from nearby highways, and something we're kind of interested in not hearing. Frannie, our daughter, hadn't heard the term before, so I found a video on youtube that plays a jake brake sound from a Jake Brake competition.

Wait, a what?

Yes, a competition to make the most noise with a truck. After hearing it, my daughter says "Is there are a competition for the littlest noise?", proving absolutely and without a doubt that she is related to us.

Speaking of which, if you are looking for some decent property in the Sonora area, my friend and co-editor Mark Stone is selling his house on 5.6 acres in the mountains overlooking that town. It's a very nice piece of property, with some pretty terrific trees, incredibly tall, almost shockingly so, I seem to remember. Good well, too. Check out the site he put together for it at

December 22, 2007

Google as done by XKCDs Randall Munroe

Recently, Randall Munroe, the artist behind the best online comic ever, came and visited the Googleplex and gave a very funny talk all about the comic, himself and urinals (watch the talk) and afterwards he did us the grand favor of doing a Google logo all XKCD style. Some folks have posted on flickr, but we scanned it in nicely and I figured, what the heck, lets get it out there.

(Click on it for a larger version. For those of you hitting this via the feed, you might need to click through to do so.)

December 19, 2007

Synthetic Feed Creation in Google Reader...or...You've Got Your Blogs Stuck In My E-reader!

Hello Egofoodians. Have you ever wondered if it was possible to subscribe to a particular tag in Google Reader?

For instance, suppose you, oh I don't know, have one of those new fangled e-book reader things that either charge by the feed or aren't that great at rendering html and you'd like to indicate which of your fabulous blogs are good for your device. Similarly some feeds mean more than others and some are better at posting full feeds than others, both important concerns when considering offline reader on a plane and such.

This was my exact quandary: I wanted to be able to read feeds on my Iliad e-book reader, but how was I to do it? How could I give it a snappy feed that allows for just the right blogs and such to show up on it, and the rest be left behind, like so much electronic detrius on the beach of unwantedness? Well, the answer comes in the form of Google Readers tagging system.

You see in the settings for your reader, you can turn a tag 'public' and then, by subscribing to this tags public feed, you can feed just the right mix of blog posts to a device, easy as pie. Kindle users , who must pay by the feed, should be delighted at this.

That's it! Enjoy your reader with your blogs. Thanks to CW for pointing me to this post telling me how...

December 6, 2007

The Most Funnest Google API Yet

Seriously, check it out, I present to you the Google chart API: You see, 4 out of 5 programmers agree that making charts is super easy. Well done on this, oh charts team....

December 4, 2007

Crankygeeks, now with more hair...

Almost forgot: John Dvorak had me up for Crankygeeks last week. Will he never learn? ;-) The comments are very nice about the extra hair I brought to the show. Mostly....

Also: I ordered a Kindle, it'll get here sometime in the next millennium. (they're back ordered) Once I get mine in I'll compare/contrast with the Illiad.

I Don't Think Anyone will be Quitting Gamespot over that

By now you've run across le' affaire de Gerstmann, the story of an intrepid game reviewer slagging the mediocre FPS Kane and Lynch by game company Eidos. But, sadly, I disagree with the idea that anyone else will be quitting CNET over this who wouldn't have done so anyway.

First off, I am not intimating that the folks who fired him, ostensibly to satisfy or placate an advertiser, are anything but total douche bags. An apology to my more delicate readers, there really isn't a better word to describe the moral compass that allows such indicated behaviors.

So why, you ask, why would our friends in the upper reaches of game journalism stick around a corrupt system? Well, simply put, where else are they going to go and still play video games for a living? The reality (as I perceive it) is that, like straight males in the porn business, game reviewers are often nothing more than people who take screenshots for a living and distribute the word 'fuck' around like its going out of style.

I speak from exceptionally limited experience: I once wrote an article for Boot (which became Maximum PC) reviewing the very fun GTA 2. This is when Grand Theft Auto was not the household name, Jack-Thompson-lawsuit attracting thing it is today, but back when missions included trying to kill the President from an overhead view. I came away thinking that a) what a fun job that would be full time and b) hating every minute of it. The editing was sloppy and given to 'enbitchenification' and in the end, they paid very slowly.

Its that last part that matters. Game reviewing doesn't pay its reviewers well at all, because, in the end, solidly good game reviews are a dime a dozen. A dime a gross. Anyone with a blogspot account can take a screen shot of their favorite or most hated game and be found instantly by Google or other search engines. I'm not saying that game journalism (dahling) doesn't exist, it does, in the form of the Escapist, for some, and the Penny Arcade blog for so many more. And wither trustable reviews? Take a look at Amazon, instead, which notes that the title is a 'rental only' and that 'The cover art is the best part of the experience'

I'll end this post by wish the best of luck to Jeff Gerstmann and know that there are plenty of jobs that pay better and , frankly, deserve the dedication you brought to your last job. Also, many of them, you'll be pleased to know, are douche bag free.

November 20, 2007

Speaking of Android, and other backed up ranting in my head about Harvard Business School, my Pal Karim and Cambridge...

For that text adventure lover in your house, I present : Z Machines for Android. Marius and Ben's little project for Android. It's funny, considering all the dead serious computer science that we release from Google into open source, I love these kinds of releases with my sf-fanboy soul more than I should. Enjoy!

Also, I'm getting practically banal here, but the Kindle e-book reader looks interesting, but is it interesting enough? I'll let you know if I get my hands on one, my iRex iliad review is still one of the most popular that I've posted, funnily enough. People love the gadgets, I suppose. My X-Ufo post still gets a bunch of traffic and I've not flown the thing in over a year, is my guess.

I'm way behind on reviewing for you, my dear readers, some of the stuff I've started messing with, the e-book stuff not the least of it. The Iliad proved its mettle when reviewing the new model law for software contracts, the ability to edit on the page is a compelling one for that particular use case.

This reminds me, I sat in on my friend Karim's Technology and Operations Management class at Harvard recently. I know it sounds weird to say this, but: It made me want to get an MBA. Those that know me know how weird that is for me to say, but he was a great teacher, and just sitting in his class was way fun. He reviews an absurd number of business model cases with his students, and the editing functions of the iliad would be useful in that student review context. Course the in-class laptop ban would be tricky, but the iliad is only -kind of- a laptop, right?

So, future HBS students, book yourself for his class, you won't regret it, unless you are a slack.

Similarly, MIT/Cambridge folks, if you haven't been to the MIT Museum lately or ever, it is worth the walk up Mass ave. They have some neat exhibits. John Durant was kind enough to turn on Claude Shannon's electro-mechanical juggling tutorial strobe thing. It was very cool.

Posts on a Plane..

Howdy speed racers;

Yes, a new post means I was on a plane again. At this point in time (8:16 PDT) and space (flying over the Rockies on the way home from a trip to Boston) I'm mostly shoulder surfing the guy in front of me's presentation. He works for a defense contractor (whose name rhymes with....well...never mind) and he's bulleting up a thing about IPv6 and its suitability for a task unknown to me as that is not in the spreadsheet.

There are little plastic tabs on the sides of his screen to take in the 3m privacy screen, (whose utility dear readers will remember I've written about before), but he's not using it. Or I have an absurdly decent vantage point. I'm sitting in 9f, a window seat, on one of United's domestic 757s. I almost never sit in a window seat when sitting in coach, as the curve of the fuselage tends to crowd my shoulder, but due to a mishap in travel planning, it was what was available.

No one in the middle seat, which is handy, but 9f is one of those seats that has no seat in front of it, as that part of the exit row buts up against one of the main doors, leaving room only for the inner 2 seats. My feet are stretched in front of me, but if I get it too close to the door, especially the underside of it, I get absurdly cold toes. I mean, sure, I know that the air is some -50 less than a foot away from me, but I don't need to be reminded via pinky toe.

Poor me. So , yeah, that blanket is wrapped around my poor feet. Woe is me.

So what's on my mind. Well, nanowrimo and writing in general. I'm in the midst of a lull in writing. This is my first post in over a month, and I'm really out of practice. Having succeeded in finishing Nanowrimo before, I feel no great challenge in doing it again, but I am strangely blocked fiction wise.

Here's a story for you:

A young man, who works for a large defense contractor, releases secrets that were not meant to be shared when the fellow sitting behind him, in 9f, happens to notice that they are up to no good, and powerpointing about it!


While others were watching the office, he was sniffing the network, and he found a vulnerable, unpatched windows machine. In seconds, he was in....and inside he found secrets he was not meant to see...


As he tied his shoes and wrapped his blanket around his absurdly chilled toes, our hero notices that the fellow in 8d who works for a defense contractor has dropped his usb thumb drive, within which was contained information that would set the world on fire!

Man, I should get into the thriller business.

Or, maybe, drama:

Sitting on the shelf in the bathroom was a pair of gold hoop earrings. She had left these earrings, a gift, behind after she realized that the man she loved didn't love her back and probably never had, as her old friend in Cambridge had told her they saw him with Shannon from the Pittsburg office.

Wow, a practically Bulwerlytonian romance. Hmm, a western is hard to adapt in a plane, I think, and I'm not looking to revive the deservedly dead spaghetti western on a plane genre. Let's leave this post as it is.

It's been an exiting time at Google and in life, which is why I've not been as typey-typey lately. Between having a new VP start and the big projects that he's started and combined with some family medical problems (mostly in my parents generation) and clearing rights and other open source miscellanea for the Android launch, I've been going pretty much non-stop since I graduated. (I just passed 200k banked frequent flier miles.)

This isn't really a good thing, as it means I've been spending too much time away from home where my heart and love are in the personages of my wife and children, but its all been so damn necessary.

It isn't a cheery thing, and in fact it is sad, that I get comments like the following from flight attendants:

Wow! You have more miles than I do.


"Weren't you on this flight last week?"


Didn't I see you on the London flight?

I shouldn't ever have more miles than the Flight Attendants, for those of you taking notes at home, but it happens. She was new, right? Mind you, I love the travel, and it's worth doing. But if only I could do it without being away....

September 30, 2007

Sometimes, the news makes very little sense, unless... read two stories in very quick succession. For instance:

I was reading a London Times Online article about how "Muslim checkout staff get an alcohol opt-out clause" saying, obviously, that those whose religion forbid such things can take a pass. This is similar to rulings here in America saying whether or not that pharmacists have to sell birth control or Pirates don't encourage global warning or something.

But then, next tab over, was a story waiting for me: "Italian Policewomen Get High Heels, in the Wrong Size" detailing the tragic story of the Romanians sending the wrong size shows for their thin blue line. I mean, in one country, you have people gravely concerned about clerks discomfort while selling alcohol, then another gravely concerned that the shoe that might enhance the femininity of the policewoman's calves might be a bit too tight.

Answer me this: Which country sounds like the one that is more fun? The one with the nice shoes who aren't so good at catching petty shoplifters? Or the one with the people who won't sell you a nice Campari? Just saying, you can see the real value is reading news about seemingly different things, until they are put together, cuisinart style, in the brain.

Disclosures: Many of these links were provided via the digg's and reddits or the world, which then went through various aggregators , but were written in the sites I linked to. I believe that in fact pointing the aggregator makes sense if the comments matter, but consider the title of this post? It's my Ego's food, we're talking about here.

Further disclosure: I'm Italian, so I'm predisposed to understand the value of fine footwear. It's genetic, I'm told.

Further Disclosure still: London's a pretty fun place to go to, never had any problem when ordering a drink there.

September 23, 2007

Zurich is a Dangerous Place

I am on a plane enjoying the last leg of a zrh/lhr lhr/ord ord/sfo flight, typing away with reckless abandon on the little Thinkpad. Okay, so that's twice I've used the phrase "reckless abandon" in three days, what's up with that? Anyhow, I've learned a few things in the last few weeks that I thought I'd share with you, my dear readers:

1) Zurich has a handle on the whole airport/customs/transport thing.

Customs at Zurich was a breeze both coming in and leaving ZRH. The airport was quite attractive and fun to walk through/chill while waiting for my late BA connecting flight, the little subway connecting the far gates where my flight left had one of the moving advertisement displays like those in Tokyo, however this one was of a cute 'heidi' noticing and blowing a kiss at the assembled transportees from a mountain slope which is where I assume all Swiss females must learn advanced cow herding.

I say this not to be funny, Switzerland seems obsessed with the cow thing to a degree I have not seen indulged since my sister worked for the California beef council. We assaulted her endlessly with cow-related gifts for -years- after that. It's not easy being related to my family, sometimes. But enough of that.

Why, you ask, is Zurich dangerous? It can't be the cows, can it?

Or can it?

Was there some great stampede? Leaving vast schools of haute horological fiends bleeding on the banhofstrasse? Was there some grand cheese related explosion? Did the chocolate shops experience and unfortunte run on Chocolate milk like that which precipitated the great chocolate milk inflation bubble of the 1960s?

No. None of these. But these are all good guesses and I'm to be lauded for my cleverness in considering each with some weight.

In fact what is dangerous about Zurich are the watches. The beckon from every jewelry store and they send out what can only be thought of as a geek pheromone.

These absurd Mechanical watches, I'll have you know, are not as accurate as your $30 quartz moved swatch. They are also likely less reliable, with their complications and tourbillions, large automatically driven mainsprings and their sweet sweeping hands of mechanical indication. They are heavier, often larger, and certainly capable of inflicting emotional and physical pain in ways that your average low end Timex is unable to upon striking it upon a railing or some other watch catching obstruction.

But, they are indeed the siren call for the engineer, the geek, the machine nerd. I was able to resist, but I was also able to study and think about these watches in their exceptionally expensive glory. Did I mention the price? I like the exposed movements and stylings of the Vacheron Constantin and the Hublot watches among others, but they don't exactly have a discount line.

Admittedly, they also don't have in their catalogs watches that are the equal in utility to my Citizen world time, a watch I love and whose price doesn't need an exponent to express.

This particular watch caters to the traveler. The one thing I think constantly about when I travel is what time is it at home, so I know when I can call or videoconference with my wife and children. It cuts down on the pain that I associate with travel. You see, the watch has a small lcd screen nestled between the 2 and the 4 hour position, which indicates a time zone and the time in that time zone directly beneath it. Hitting two of the buttons (the upper right and the lower left) and the time on the analog face will swap with this electronic time.

To give you and example, as I flew from Dulles to Heathrow in an earlier leg of this trip, I swapped the 'NYC' Time zone expressed in the analog for the 'LON' expressed in the digital. Then the LCD showed the 'NYC' time and the analog hands swept into position for London. When I flew from London to Zurich, I simply incremented the digital time zone to 'PAR' and swapped hands again. Then I decremented the digital display to 'LAX' to determine what time it was at home.

But Chris, you say, time simply isn't that hard that you need a paperweight on your wrist to maintain your calling schedule. You are probably right, but it sure is handy.

This is to not imply that there are no traveler friendly watches. There are multi-dial watches, 2 time zone watches, time zones, 4 + analog, etc... but this is just a terrific interface into the functionality. It's worth examining if you'll looking for a handy watch that is sturdy, accurate and well, not irreplaceable.

But, back to the danger, Zurich is dangerous not just because of the presence of the watches on the strasse, it is dangerous because once you visit, if you like these things at all, you start to recognize that not only is there a category of watches that exist to separate money from those who would acquire such works of horological art, but that it is even an art at all, with style and craft and cleverness part and parcel. And concomitant with such knowledge of course comes some small amount of desire for these absurdly expensive items.

A desire I've managed to avoid with the exception of my beloved Citizen, which is really something different altogether now, isn't it?

Anyhow, the short version of this post is this: Wow. Pretty watches.

September 8, 2007

Oh, the Apple Cult Beckons...

Hello dear readers, I went into the Palo Alto Apple store yesterday to buy my wife the newly discounted iPhone and walked out with said iPhone and the new fatty Nano. It's -so- cute. That is all. Got the redish 8gb one. It's soooo cute, it makes me want to puke rainbows.

And yes, I think the iPhone is very nice.

September 1, 2007

Lessons from OSCON: I gotta learn Russian (To read the Nightwatch trilogy)

Late July in Portland, O'Reilly's Open Source Convention was held and one of the things we managed to do before we left was, shocker, go to Powell's books. I allowed myself 3 books, with Frannie dogging my heels and counting up. I ended up picking up a few books and the Andrew Bromfield English translation of Sergei Lukyanenko's novel "Nightwatch"

Nightwatch is -really- good. I had heard about the movie, of course, but hadn't seen it yet, and the book looked interesting. I couldn't have been more right. I can't recommend this book, and it's sequel, "Daywatch" strongly enough. I'm about halfway through the second book and I can only imagine what the third book, "Twilightwatch" has in store for me.

Bromfield's translation can perhaps be called brilliant, as this is no mechanical translation but almost a spiritual connection between two cultures. I cannot honestly imagine the kind of work he had to put into this work to make it as remarkable in English as it is. Either that or Lukyanenko's source material shines so very bright that it can penetrate the barriers of different cultures.

There is really only one way to find out, I gotta learn Russian. Maybe work has a study group I can sit in on. Our folks in London and our St. Petersburg office have said they want me to visit Russia, so maybe in anticipation of some future trip I can start down this particular path of learning.

Spokojnoj Nochi for now, readers, go pick up those books. They're amazing.

August 31, 2007

Creeped out...

As my Mom sits recovering from a recent procedure (I'm keeping her company) I'm finding her roommate anything but charming. Nice enough, I suppose, but her Ring Tone and her constantly calling her husband a f'ing idiot (note, she expanded the f, often) and her firm, nay unquestionable belief that Hillary Clinton is a , and I'm quoting here, "Tramp that murdered that black don't really think they weren't involved do you?" Yes, I clarified that she was talking about Vince Foster, we say in Caleefornia "whatever, dude."

Okay, once you get past this, she's not that bad, but if I had to share the room 24 hours a day with her, I'd probably switch rooms. My mom doesn't seem to mind too much, she's way more tolerant than I.

Google Trick o' the Day

I was reading this Mark Perry's story about distressed home prices in Detroit, Mi and was glancing though these listings when I noticed a very pretty home for $1500. Mind you, I'm not in the market for a home in Detroit, but I thought to myself, "Hmm, I wonder what this home looks like from the air on maps?"

But there was , sneaky sneaky, no address on the listing. I could do research on the MLS site, for sure, but I figured , "Aha! I'll just punch in the zip code...and you can get a feel for the neighborhood. It may not be wholly accurate, but when the first listing is a drug treatment center, it makes you think you know?

It mostly makes me think "Poor Detroit", I mean, this is a city that drove innovation for a solid 40+ years in this country, and now it's a shell, at best. What would you do to revive it, or is it simply another symptom in the decline of middle america? I worry, mind you, with a post like this that I'll alienate my friends in Michigan. I really like Michigan, actually. I've hung around AA for a bit with friends and it seems to be a very sweet town.

Please note: The google trick o' the day is not a daily thing, but a thing that I will do maybe only this one time....just sayin'

Talking about Wireless, man...

I was reading the SF Gate story about "Google a victim of EarthLink woes with cancellation of S.F. Wi-Fi" and while I have no comment, and actually no knowledge about the subject as I don't daily work with likable Googlers Minnie or Sacca. I gotta say this, the language of the story is awfully dire. Mountain View wireless has been up and running for a little over a year and it has been pretty terrific. I can't tell you how handy its been. While one of my children was doing an activity in which parents had to basically wait around, I and at least one other were able to work or play (or in my case read blogs) on the wifi.

That was the first time I used the bandwidth, then I set it up on my Nokia 800, the Pepperpad and finally on the Touch (reviews coming for each, I assure you) and I was able to setup a video call with a pal via the 800. I was in the future! No ipass, no having to select or relogin to different networks, just a tap and a hello to my pal while standing outside on Mountain View's castro street. (Yes, I likely looked like a dork, but a dork from the -future-)

And now, my wi-fi phone happily finds the city's network and uses that higher speed connection to update the mail and other apps. It's quite handy. In short, I wish SF could make this work because citywide wi-fi is pretty cool. And SF has always been cool, right?

August 29, 2007

My Amazon Unbox Review

Since we recently purchased a Series 3 HD Tivo (which we'll talk about later, but it's great) I decided to try out Amazon's Unbox service. This video on demand service allows you to buy videos from a largish selection and have them downloaded to your Tivo via the internet. You can also download them to your laptop and watch them there.

This is not a bad service in theory, prices are on par with buying the DVD, and they provide with many downloads a portable device version. In theory, this is a sweet thing. In practice....well, let's look at the service and what I really like or dislike about it.

I really like being able to download programs directly to the Tivo. Christine and I recently started watching Arrested Development, which has an irregular rerun schedule on broadcast TV. Amazon Unbox was able to download the series to the Tivo easy-peasy, and the Tivo interface is a pretty terrific way to watch television.

I really like watching the programs on the Laptop. I spend a fair amount of time in hotels and such, so this is a cool feature.

The User Interface:

The website is simply awful. It makes you wonder if there is anyone on amazon's staff actually using the service. There are no easy indicators to figure out which have been downloaded to the Tivo or the Laptop. The transmission times are often opaque.

The laptop client application is decent, but fairly brittle. It is incredibly sensitive to the network status of the machine and I must have crashed it 20 or 30 times before I figured out what would crash it, or more importantly what kind of magic I had to do to keep it from failing.

At least the Laptop Client (and the Tivo) give and indicator of how the download is going. The Tivo actually is less informative than the Laptop, but that's okay.

The laptop experience when you are playing is really nice and pretty. I have a thinkpad x61s ultraportable, so having a non-dvd requiring way of playing programs is handy in keeping my bag light.

The portable connection:

I've never been able to make this work with the Archos 504. It just stalls. I'm going to try to give it overnight to transcode and transmit. If it is transcoding, then maybe it'll be on the device tomorrow morning and I'll report on that. That said, why isn't there some kind of indicator that this is happening in the UI? Very frustrating. Update: Don't know what the delay was, but it ended up working after some time. Patience is still a virtue that is elusive.

Getting it to work on the laptop:

The only trick here is to update Windows Media Player to the latest version, and just pick the express options. Make no mistake here, the DRM is really intrusive, it doesn't trust you and you have to accept that for things like Unbox and Netflix's instant watch, which I'll review some other time.

Finally some things that the internet needs to know and the website is -so- bad at telling you:


You can start watching the video once you have gotten past the halfway mark (The program, assumes consistent network speeds).

Offline operation:

If you download a video from Unbox, play it (and thus collect the DRM license) while online, you can then watch it on a plane or offline.

If you download a video from Unbox, go offline, then attempt to play, it may fail. I'll be testing this soon.


It's very pretty actually. It's not HD or anything, but it looks nice. Takes up about a gigabyte per hour of content, os that's solid. The sound is decent, too. Fire renders without artifacts, sunlit scenes. The image to the right, if you click on it is a screen shot which is being re-saved as a high quality jpeg, so there is some transcoding artifacts, but the clouds are cleaner and sharper in the playback than you are seeing here. Go ahead and click on it to see some stuff and things.


Amazon's support is at best slow and polite and not very useful. This blog post will solve more problems in shorter time for the majority of users than thier FAQ or support will. I should be thanked for this, you know?

Overall, it's not bad, once you have it working. But if you own a Tivo, it's worth the trouble to have a program magically appear in your playlist.

Update: Read the comments, there's some very good clarification/information there.

Sphinn is great stuff

Danny Sullivan's new-to-me site Sphinn is fantastic reading. I would consider subscribing if I were you. It covers all kinds of search and general internet-related news and has some pretty terrific writing by Danny and others. I know that the idea of yet another news aggregator is odious, but this is worth your time. Check out their feeds page for different approaches to following sphinn.

August 27, 2007

Greg Stein Mugged

Former Apache Software Foundation Chairman and my officemate, Greg Stein, was pretty harshly mugged on the way home on Friday, and as such. Read way more about it on Kevin Burton's blog.

That's a fair amount of suck, for sure.

August 23, 2007

Masters: Done. What's next?

Warning, long, navel gazey post follows, future posts will be shorter:

3 years ago, I started at Google and at the time I felt as if I were the least educated person ever hired in the history of the firm. I knew that my history and leet interviewing skills got me through the door, but being surrounded by the vast scholarly brainy insanity that is Google I felt that maybe it was time to take the last class that I needed in my CS bachelors.

George Mason was cool enough to let me take my last AI class remotely, and I got an A. It was a largely project oriented class, so it worked well for me as a remote student. For the mid-term and the final Dr. Kaznachey emailed me the test as he passed them out in person and I had to have them done by end of class. They were proctored by a fellow at work who made sure that I only referred to my notes and the book. Since the tests were open book/note it didn't make much of a difference that I was doing them on the computer and not with a pencil.

Of course, giving the, ahem, quality, of my handwritten script, this was a very good thing for me to be able to do. I sometimes think that I should grab one of my 6 year old daughters writing notebooks and practice my upper and lower case writings.

Anyhow, I got an A and I that year I even took part in the National Novel Writing Month, in which I wrote a 50,335 word novel, finishing just shy of 11pm on the final night, having written the last 11k words or so. The ending is a little weak, but overall it was a fun book to write. Go read it if you like.

It is worth pointing out that I was also commuting on a weekendly basis back and forth to Placerville, where my (incredibly supporting) wife with our daughter was finishing out her pre-school. It was hard being away from them, but it left a lot of time at night at Google (with her bounteous kitchens and such) to do these things I have detailed.

At this point, as you might imagine, I was pretty surprised with myself. All this while I was starting my first 6 months at google, in which we launched, put a solid open source compliance regime and I began speaking for the company worldwide. If I could do these things, should I , as a colleague at work suggested, go further still with my education and go for a Masters?

Enter CMU's West coast campus. CMU, a Pittsburg based school, has opened a few satellite campuses in both Qatar and in the valley. I drove to Moffett field and was directed to the solitary campus building by the security guards. The upshot was I applied, was accepted and over the last two years, finished my masters. All of this occurred, mind you, during a very busy time at work and at home. Eagle eyed readers will remember that we had a new baby, a son, join our family about 8 months ago.

Having graduated last Saturday, I didn't realize how freeing and focusing having more than 5 hours of sleep a night could be. It's frightening. It's like the time I learned that the '92 Honda I got from my sister Trish had been firing on 3 cylinders and that's why the trip across country was so weird. I remember times writing papers for the degree where I was literally typing in my sleep (I tended to lean back while typing so I'd end up sleeping while sitting up). It was often hilarious, honestly, what I'd end up writing, but mostly it came out like kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk if you get my drift. I once filled dozens of pages with spaces before I awoke.

So, you ask, what's next? Well, Google is really ramping up developer relations and open source with the arrival of my new boss (he hates it when I call him that) Vic Gundotra (whom I will call 'vicg' in future posts) and as such, I'll be very busy making that happen.

"But what about your scholarly pursuits?", you ask? Well, since I have some Cambridge based employees, I let a pal of mine at the MIT Sloan school know I'd be visiting a fair amount, so he named me a visiting scholar starting the end of August. I hope to run a few seminars for the Sloanies (Sloanites? Sloanscovites? Help me out here...) around open source and the like. I also have a few other ideas on how I can inflict my ideas upon Sloan.

After that? Honestly, I love working at Google and pursuing a PhD or a JD would be something that I'd have to quit work to do well and I'm not looking to stop working for Google anytime soon. Also, a part of me is pretty done with that kind of scholarship. That could be the burn-out talking, mind you, so let's just back burner that for a while.

Before you ask, my Masters program, which was in Software Engineering had a fair amount (too much really) of MBA-like stuff in it due mostly to the influence of the Tepper school on CMU West, so I'm not going to go for one of those any time soon. I will frankly scream if I see the words "PEST" or "SWOT" any time soon so don't test me.

One of the great things about being a visiting scholar at MIT is that you can sit in on any class you like at MIT or Harvard. Don't know what that means for me, but I do know a few classes that might have a doofus sitting the back taking it all in.

The reality of my work and life is that I'll be spending a fair amount of time on planes and as such I'll be blogging more and writing more. As you've likely observed in the above paragraphs, I'm a bit rusty on the whole sentence construction thing, not to mention the whole lets string together a narrative thing much less plotting or storytelling. I've also got a kickin' install of Ubuntu running in a VM on this insanely cool laptop of mine (the Thinkpad x61s) so I'm going to try to revive some of my web programming skills, for cripe's sake.

It is worth pointing out that almost anything is better than "NBC in FLIGHT" which is playing on the domestic flights overhead screens at this moment. This, my dear readers, begs the question: How is it even possible that Saturday Night Live is still being produced? I mean, really...what are they waiting for? The next Tim Meadows?

July 20, 2007

Next Week: Heading to Portland

As you might imagine, next week I'll be visiting fabulous Portland, Or. for the O'Reilly Open Source Convention. I'll be giving a talk there about our open source efforts with Leslie. Leslie is the person on my team who runs the Summer of Code for Google. I'll also be presenting the Google/O'Reilly Open Source Awards with Nat Torkington on Tuesday Night.

Finally, I'll be a panelist in the "Who Gets to Decide what Open Source Means?" session. Which should be fun. Note this is not a violation of my no-panels policy due to the presence of other activities :-)

I've intentionally left some time in my schedule to visit some talks, so that's unusual. I'm really looking forward to it, actually. Hope to see you there!

July 8, 2007

Fish -n- Chips in Wolverhampton

Just now, I'm riding on the Virgin Train from Wolverhampton to London's Euston station. For some reason, it feels like the future. I'm online via my phone's cellular data connection, which works (albeit slowly) going above 100 mph along to English countryside.

That means, dear readers, that I just passed a field full of Sheep (Which I think uk citizens have to, by the Queen's decree, call "mutton" or something) I was in Wolverhampton to speak at Lug Radio Live. It was pretty fun, but Wolverhampton was a bit depressed, as far as towns go.

As a frequent traveler and speaker, I rarely go to areas that are not at the top of their form, economically speaking. Conference traffic is rarely to smallish towns in economic depression. To sum up one aspect of the town one of the other conference goers, upon seeing the shut down and closed up Wolverhampton University, pondered its sale details on eBay, saying ,"One university, unused, for sale, comes with prominent police presence"

Also, the comic book store closed too early for Nat Friedman, Joe Shaw and I to partake of its wares. Too bad, as I think there is a new Powers anthology out.

Sleep and I have been having our regular back and forth. I slept about 7 hours last night, then another 3 , which sounds like the right amount, or even more so, but this is after 26+ hours up with minimal trip-napping. I'm a bit ragged because of it, but I should be fairly well centered by tomorrow morning.

Had some tasty Fish and Chips though.

July 7, 2007

Airplanes are not Clothing Optional

So here's a tip for my readers who fly a fair amount. It is -not- cool, and I'd very much appreciate it if you would pass this on to other people, to , when shimmying past your seat mate, to zip up your fly while you're in front of me. The fellow next to me kept on unbuttoning upon sitting, and rebuttoning upon standing. He was an older dude, with weird stained white lips, imagine if your mentat friend drank bleach stuff instead of that intelligence enhancing red wine they drink.

There was no mistaking that this dude was in rough shape. I felt for him, but still, button and zip before you're in front of me, it's impolite. Luckily nothing waggled out at me.

Also, when there is something pretty outside, I really don't want to chat about it. I wear my fabulous noise blocking outing earphones for a reason.

Oh, and try not to smell that bad on the plane next time, cool? Thanks.

June 19, 2007

Narita, Sakura Lounge, nursing a pokemon wound

Sometimes, Japan is everything you need it to be. I'm only here for 3 hours, waiting on my flight to Guangzhou, but it has already infused my brain with the Japanness. It's not the mini akihabara that is the duty free, nor is it the odd lack of a Cinnabon. No, it's the kid who flung a pokemon at me.

Well, okay, not at me, but sort of near me.

I choose you pikachu. Man, I'm sleepy.

June 16, 2007

Synergy, I wub you.

Synergy is an amazing little utility that allows you to share your mouse and keyboard (and to a lesser degree your clipboard) from machine to machine, independent of OS. So, for instance, at work I have a Linux desktop and a windows (with virtual machines) laptop. Google provides a handy dock and such, so when I get to my desk, I pop her in the dock and run the synergy client. Then the keyboard and mouse on my desk simply move from one screen to another as if they are made of sparkley magic. All hail synergy, the best little utility ever.

June 15, 2007

Overheard at work....

My pal Todd, who runs the no-name cafe in building 43 responding to Jeremy Allison's profession of culinary love and admiration of the peach soup:

"That's funny you say that. That was a very polarizing soup"

June 14, 2007

Heading to China Next Week

I'm heading to the Linux Annual Summit in Ghuangzhou next week pre-foo camp. This will be my first trip to China, which might seem unusual, but our Chinese office asked me to consider the conference and I thought it would be interesting to expose myself to Linux in Asia in this manner and also, obviously, to experience a Chinese city for the first time.

I admit to being a little worried about the Air quality, although I was told by a friend that Guangzhou is one of the cleaner cities from that perspective. The energy (mostly coal derived) that is consumed in China is truly fearsome. I heard that they were adopting a crack schedule of nuclear power production and I think that from what I hear that it'll be none too soon from an air pollution perspective.

When I was a child, I remember how filthy the air in Salt Lake City was. You'd go skiing in the beautiful mountains, where the air was so clear it was astonishing and you'd literally drive into a miasma of pollution on your way down the mountain. This was most pronounced going down little cottonwood canyon after a fun day of skiing at Alta.

That all said, I feel like, with this trip to China, that I'm visiting the birthplace of all of my Electronics. Sort of a trip home for them.

June 10, 2007

My pathetic predictive performance....with major spoilers!

So, just watched the sopranos, as promised. And here's how I did:

Space to protect the innocent...

1) Tony's gonna die. Or live and hope he's dead. Okay, I'm leaning towards dead.

-1 I clearly suck at predicting.

2) Tony Jr.'s not gonna die, he's too annoying to .


3) Hesch will live.


4) Sil won't.

-1, He was alive at the end...

5) Paulie will, but you'll wish he didn't.


6) Carm, Meadow will likely live.


7) I take it back, Meadow is going to die. Sorry Meadow.

-1, but she not good at parallel parking.

8) Fed dudes at Satriales will not arrest tony. (but something will happen with them, maybe)

+1! (I might claim +2 for how much the fibbie helped tony)

9) Phil's gonna die.


10) That creepy looking guy working for Phil's gonna die. The one with the beady eyes?

-1, Beady was the peacemaker/traitor to phil.

11) We'll see Dr. Melfi for like all of 3 seconds.

-1, Nope.

12) There will be loose ends that are never gonna get tied up, cause, you know, that's life.

+1, I should get major credit for this one :-) This was the genius of this episode, Tony's life continues.

13) The last scene will be Tony sucking on a stogie.

-1 Nope. Does an onion ring count?

14) The ducks will be back in the pool.

-1, not in evidence.

All in all, one of the nerviest endings I've ever seen a tv go out with. My score, 0. Half right, half wrong.

Soprano's Lock Down. Confirmed...

So I am so interested in keeping tonight's episode a surprise, that I will not be checking email, looking at Blogs or doing anything even remotely electronic until -after- the episode. No spoilers for me.


1) Tony's gonna die. Or live and hope he's dead. Okay, I'm leaning towards dead.
2) Tony Jr.'s not gonna die, he's too annoying to .
3) Hesch will live.
4) Sil won't.
5) Paulie will, but you'll wish he didn't.
6) Carm, Meadow will likely live.
7) I take it back, Meadow is going to die. Sorry Meadow.
8) Fed dudes at Satriales will not arrest tony. (but something will happen with them, maybe)
9) Phil's gonna die.
10) That creepy looking guy working for Phil's gonna die. The one with the beady eyes?
11) We'll see Dr. Melfi for like all of 3 seconds.
12) There will be loose ends that are never gonna get tied up, cause, you know, that's life.
13) The last scene will be Tony sucking on a stogie.
14) The ducks will be back in the pool.

Have fun! See you after and I'll grade my predictions then :-)

May 30, 2007

In Sunny London...

Arrived into Heathrow yesterday afternoon. I was pretty lagged, so I took a quick nap before a dinner meeting at the Wolseley in Picadilly. The Wolseley was fantastic, honestly, it's like London arguing persuasively that you don't need to take the Eurostar to Paris.

I'm here for Developer Day, Google's new global (and hopefully annual) developer event. So as you might imagine speeches, press work and the like are in my immediate future. I still find speaking to be incredibly fun and satisfying, but I'm starting to disengage from panels. I only have one scheduled (as an adjunct to a keynote I'm giving in China in a few weeks) and I think that I'm not going to do them much anymore.

I've written about panel participation in the past, but I think that I'm not getting much out of them and I'm honestly not sure what the audience is getting out of them. Let's lay it out, shall we? A 60 minute long panel has:

1) 15 minutes of lead-in, intros and av messing around.
1.1) Divided among 4 panelists and one moderator + intro, so figure 2 minutes of any individual panelist.
2) 30 minutes of lead-questioning from the moderator
2.1) Divided among 4 panelists, so 7.5 minutes of any individual panelist.
3) 15 minutes of audience Q&A
3.1) Divided among 4 panelists, so 3.75 minutes of any individual panelist.

So then each panelist can expect just around 13 minutes of speaking to the world. I've spent more time on this blog post, and I didn't have to fly, drive or whatever to do it. It also reaches more people than a single room at a conference. But at conferences I reach people who don't normally subscribe to my blog, so that's something.

Is this an indictment of any one conference or conferences in general? No. I think the personal interaction parts are actually quite valuable, but they come at a high cost with regard to time, travel expenses, and here's the really important reason, time away from my family. Some events matter enough to justify the time and expense and I'll add in ancillary Google work to further justify the time away from Google HQ and my family.

But bringing this back to general panels, I'm not likely to do just panels anymore. Please don't take this personally.

But, greetings from London! If you are here for Developer Day or would like to intersect, find me at the conference or email me. If I miss you, know that I'll be back again in a July for Lug Radio Live, Guadec and a variety of Googley London things. See you soon!

May 22, 2007

Comics, Baby, Comics

So Cory's post on Boing Boing made me think...hmmmm...I've not posted on my slight habit of buying graphic novels every two weeks or so. Here's the roll-up:

1) Powers

Think Law and Order, SVU where the 'S' means superheros. It's really a remarkable rethinking of the entire superhero-among-us genre. Terrific art, story, pacing and suspense from book to book spanning the entire arc of the series so far.

2) 30 Days of Night

Go read Cory's post on it, he summarizes it handily. The art style is incredibly creepy and takes a little getting used to. Don't read at night. Don't visit Barrow, AK. This book proves that Vampires can still be frightening.

3) Ex-Machina

In this book, a superhero with otherworldly granted power over machines and electronics becomes Mayor of New York city. It's not awful, but sometimes it isn't great, either. The art style isn't really my favorite.

4) Transmetropolitan

What could I possibly write about Transmetropolitan that hasn't been written? Nothing, really. It's okay, not as great as I'd have expected given the size of its fan base.

5) Invincible

Think a young adult targeted high-school to college targeted superhero comic and you're pretty much spot on. It's fun enough, and better than no comics at all, but it's a lightweight, for sure. A really fun drawing style, too. Reads like a huge homage to ever superhero ever made.

6) Y the Last Man

While the most recent compilation is weak, this is a very strong series detailing a world without men (save one) following a global catastrophe that left only women.

7) Walking Dead

This is a grim book, bring to the reader a world filled with zombies. Think of it as a companion piece to 28 days later and you won't be far off, it's sad though. Lots of death, as you might imagine.

8) Fables

So I thought I'd hate fables. The premise is that characters from old fables are real, immortal and living amongst us in the middle of New York City. Like I said, sounds pat, and cute, and such, and except for the most recent compilation "Wolves" it's a very entertaining, enjoyable collection.

9) DMZ

Fantastic if only a little too fantastic (I won't release any spoilers, but the thing under central park is just a bit too unrealistic for my taste) , this book is at its best, which is very good, when it concentrates on the travails of its main character, a reporter embedded deep in the city, experiences the civil wars effects on the city (New York) that straddles the line between the two sides.

10) Exterminators

Freaky good stuff, including: horrifically addictive bug spray, horrifically addictive bug spray resistant bugs, large evil horrifically addictive bug spray corporation pulling the strings on the small business exterminators that are finding out how horrifically addictive their bug spray is. Sounds goofy, I know, but it's really very good. Although a little creepy crawly.

Individual Books:

Supermarket and Pride of Baghdad, just go buy them.

May 19, 2007


Jim Gleason, an old pal, and I were having lunch in Chelsea, about 2 blocks from the New York Google offices, when a hubbub ensued. Jim and I were chatting about Linux (predictably, for sure) and our kids and such when we hear fighty noises coming from in front of the restaurant. People in the restaurant were watching and Jim and I, hidden from view, peered around the corner to see what was happening.

A riot? The fall of civilization? Not yet anyway. Turns out that this particular indian place was the fighting place for a local school. According to the proprietor, this happens every day, and every day he has to call the cops or shoo away the kids beating each other silly and those that watch it happen. He said "Everyday I have to deal with this! 50 people watching 2 idiots beat each other silly."

I felt bad for the guy. He had recently bought the space from another Indian place, and he must regret being the spot where kids fight. Of course, the cynic in me thinks this: Can you turn this around? Maybe a special 2pm fight special. Setup some tables that specifically face outside so that diners can watch the fights, etc... in fact setting up something like that may well drive the kids away faster than any police or irritated scramming by the waiters.

May 14, 2007

And thus, the inevitable patent apocalyse was made closer....

In this fortune article Microsoft, yet again, threatens "Linux" with patent action. What's new about this? They're doing it themselves in public instead of hiding behind BayStar capital, SCO or through back-room dealing. This is mildly interesting, and here are my predictions around what will actually happen.


Or at least it will look that way. Microsoft'll bitch and moan to keep the news cycle up for about a year, while trying to strongarm companies into signing cross licensing agreements and such. Many will, many won't. Then when they think they have a critical mass, then they'll sue a company without a significant patent portfolio to sue back with. Then that company will lose.

This will take about 7 years.

So, my advice to people out there: Linux is so useful that Microsoft simply doesn't have the option of marginalizing it. It is simply too late for that. They very simply cannot compete with open source once it has taken hold. I wrote about this very topic in 2005, in Linux Journal, where I wrote:

The time to kill Linux was when it was a project with ten developers who lived on university stipends, not when it has thousands of connected developers and $14 billion in Linux-related sales (IDC's number for the year 2003, if you believe analysts). It was vulnerable when it was still a university project, not now when uncountable school districts are using it to reduce their dependence on the punitive cost structures of proprietary software. It was vulnerable when it was in use in a few countries by a few dozen users, not now when it is used by a few dozen countries to ensure their software sovereignty. In short, it was vulnerable when it meant nothing to a few, not now when it is central to the information age economies.

While I dislike linking to my own work (it seems a little weird to self refer), I do so now to show that this is not a new thing, just a new thing to have happen in the public. They have been threatening companies for years for using Linux. In fact, I'd be willing to bet this whole thing is more about Redmond being upset that Dell, for once, can't be bullied into shipping Linux only in Denmark and instead has the cheek to ship desktop Linux in the United States. Dell ain't playing the game anymore.

Be strong, my friends. This will pass.

May 12, 2007

MC Hammer is nice and all, but would you pay >2k to see him pontificate on technology?

This is one of those posts I probably should just leave to the title, but....well, I call it egofood for a reason.

Let it be known that M.C. Hammer is a nice enough fellow. He visited the 'plex a year or two ago, and seemed awfully nice to people, you know, for someone named after a whacking implement. But with that said, I have to admit I found it a bit...well...specious...that he is on a panel at this Techcrunch conference dealie.

I thought that I'd join the tired jawboning that the other folks out there have been saying about it, but I figured, hell, it's been said, but maybe, just maybe, the internet needs one more cranky fellow like myself bitching about MC Hammer being elevated beyond his experience as some kind of thanks for a career in puffy pants.

But then I remembered...

Panels don't matter. So who cares if they have Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Rowdy Roddy Piper or freaking Hulk Hogan on it. And thus who cares if people bitch about it. Thus....I will now stop talking about MC Hammer for another 2 decades or so.

Observant DiBona followers will be putting together 2+2 now and will have figured out why I skipped on the panel at SXSW. It was, I admit, because they added more people to the panel than my upper limit allowed (and something else came up too, but they made it easy when I realized I would be 1 of 6 panelists)

May 7, 2007

iRex Iliad Reader Review

So I picked up the iRex Iliad reader, and so far I am way more impressed than I thought I'd be. What does that mean? Well lets break this down. I read an entire book on the device, one sized by specifically for the Iliad, and so I have a good feed for what it means to read on it now.

First, the screen: A nice roomy 8 inch electrophoretic screen. This is the E-Ink that has been talked about for a few years now. The screen on the Iliad is has 16 shades of gray and is functionally a 768x1024x160dpi screen. The contrast is really quite remarkable. Not as good as an actual book, but this technology is really getting close.

The real issue of sorts for these devices is the ghosting and the interpage reset flashing of the screen. It seems if you are going to be updating a significant portion of the screen it will cycle the screen. I don't like it but I also don't think that it is a huge deal. The ghosting has the effect of degrading the experience as well, but it isn't a major big deal.

Page turn speed could be faster, too, but it isn't a big enough problem to break the flow of reading for me (and I am a fast reader). It is significant when the pdf is heavily graphic (like a graphic novel) but acceptable for more pdfs, for me. Screen size being what it is, your PDFs should be sized for an A4 paper to give a good experience on the device.

The pen based input is fun, but unless the software is improved, I can think of only a few tasks that would excite me to use this feature, and that is editing a document. By editing I mean "editing", as in, reading a manuscript and noting where it needs to be edited. The delay inherent in the system right now is annoying and frustrating if you try to sketch something.

The Iliad companion software so far is pretty disappointing. They were going for syncing functionality for the machine, but the implementation is horribly weak. Luckily the device is functionally a usb hard drive. Also, the 'news, books, docs, notes' buttons only apply to the limited internal memory, not on the externally changable cf or sd cards.

SD cards work, by the way, even though only mmc is noted to be supported. I haven't plugged in a CF card yet.

Settings are easy enough to , ah, set, and I had the Iliad on the network, updated and runing quite quickly. The presence of wireless, like the pen enabled input, was neat but in the end nothing all that exciting due to the lack of fun things to do with the pen or on the internet from the device.

The software that is running on the Linux based Iliad is, well, serviceable. I've certainly used worse software on a ce device, but they could make the device quite a bit more usable. The mobipocket reader which recently pushed to the reader is pretty great, but I think that the main reader app should be revved to be just as good. The Sony software is, well, better than the Iliad software, but it is my hope that Iliad continues to improve.

Also, power management needs a fair amount of work, as does the aforementioned ui. As I found out, if you lose your pen, then you can't set a variety of settings. Also, I want to smash the ethernet/usb/power dongle. It angers me. The device should have USB built in and charge from it. To add insult to injury, it wants a B style USB connector to connect to the dongle, while every other device I own wants a usb-mini.

The form factor is just about perfect. Great texturization of the chassis and the page flip bar is brilliant. Good, big screen with decent enough contrast. Books are better for contrast, but reading the Iliad is like reading a very thin-papered paperback book. it worth the price? If it were cheaper, then I'd say yes, right now, it's pretty expensive, if useful. I'll post again in a few months, if I'm still using it and after a few trips to London....

April 25, 2007

New Laptop, an X60s

I've been meaning to post about this for a little while. I was getting tired of a nasty battery problem on my old T43p and we've started getting in the new 60 series of laptops at work. I decided to replace the old machine with the X60s and I'm super glad I did.

It is a remarkable laptop: 100gb sata drive, 7 hours of battery life (with the extendo battery) and 1.83ghz core duo proccy's with up to 4 gigabytes of ram. It's insanely fast and at twice the battery life and half the weight. It has a built in EDGE card and more than enough power to run Ubuntu in a vm. I've not tried installing Linux native yet on it, but the performance under linux is plenty snappy enough. I've even started using this little side bag from 2007 that's perfecto for it.

I understand they have a 1400x1050 version, but I'm actually happier than I thought I would be with 1024x768. Full screen modes (F11 in firefox) are your friend. Also, it has a video card fast enough that I can play Homeworld 2 on it. It is a fairly remarkable thing.

April 24, 2007

Flop Sweat, Parts 1 and 2...

You know, I had much longer posts that I was going to write about this post by Hugh MacLeod and the billboards that Ask has been putting up about the algorithm having killed Jeeves, but you know what? It's really not worth my time. I'm going to watch TV.

It's all quite pathetic, really. It this the best they can do? I mean, Really? Come on...

April 7, 2007

Squirrel OSHA and some Graffiti: Library people are retards.......

I'm sitting in a private study room on the UIC campus and some friendly soul has written, with marker on the wall, "Library people are retards" . The UIC is a funny place. They have flying squirrels here. Seriously! I'm looking through the window at a squirrel who appears to be gathering nesting material for its den. Quite the industrious animal, imagine climbing up 4 stories of external wire fencing and other construction to get some detritus. The drama of hanging 4 stories over the quad, the adventure of hopping around the fence by scooching around the wiring. The excitement of the locating of the seeds that blew onto the roof.

To be a squirrel in Chicago seems like a lot of cold high wire work. Is there a squirrel OSHA? Nope...but searching for Squirrel OSHA is fearsome and not for the faint of heart or gentle of soul.

Man I'm sleepy. It's been a good visit to Chicago though. More on that when I'm at some real bandwidth and can upload my pictures.

March 23, 2007

In which I speak out of school, and likely sound quite smug doing so.

So I don't work on YouTube and I only barely know these very new Googlers. Those that I've met I like. They seem quite googley, engineery and are very competent. So, with that in mind, there are times as a Googler when you see the actions of those who would wish us ill and you think, very simply, "Go ahead."

Not like the George Bushian "Bring them on" but just... "Go ahead." as in... It's a big old world....if you make a bigger & better YouTube than we can, then terrific, do it.

And this bring me to the topic of todays post. Those last two , nikean, words.... Do It.

Don't say you're going to do it.

Do it.

You see this all the time in the computer industry.....a pr person calls a reporter or preps a press release and it talks about the grand innovation that they (and perhaps their pals) will bring to the market. It'll be great! It will change the world. It will be the Google of that particular vertical, market, or whatever.

Sometimes, when these are specifically targeted at my employer, she of the grand cafes and profligate collection of physioballs, I can only think if you do these things you speak of you will be doing us a great favor. Yes, I'm talking about the possible combination of...

News Corp, Microsoft, NBC, AOL, MSN and Yahoo.

I'm picturing the meetings. The posturing. The bandwidth provisioning. The advertising meetings. The legal reviews. The pr reviews. The plans. The emails. The cross-functional , inter corporate steering committees.

Who pays for what with what? Who is in charge? Who picks the content? Does anyone pick the content? Who can upload? What can they upload? When can they upload? How long will it take to transcode? Can a video be downloaded to iPod? Archos? Zune? Who will monitor the uploads?

The Layers.....oh god, the layers.....The managers, the lawyers, the executives, the ops people, the accountants, the lawyers, the programmers, the lawyers, the qa teams, the lawyers, the secops people, the users, the producers, directors, key grips and craft people. The talent, the fx houses, the compressors, the vast use of ffmpeg and all that entails. All from all the different companies.

Funnily enough, I don't wish them to fail. I truly believe that YouTube can continue it's remarkable path even in the presence of an efficiently functioning service like that being aspired to above. But....and I mean this.....I'm glad to not have to to be the one deploying the consortium based video site.

But they would have been better to have launched their site than to talk about it.

Secondly.....this week Microsoft got a -lot- of pr attention for announcing their intention to open source FoxPro.

Those of you who read my previous rant on the subject know that one of my favorite pet peeves centers on those that would claim open sourceyness when none is in evidence.

Microsoft says they will release source code into codeplex. This, my reportering friends in the media and on blogs, doesn't necessarily mean open source. This means that they are planning on releasing code into codeplex. No more, no less.

Until they actually do release the software onto codeplex, we have nothing but talk to rely on. It would be great if they release foxpro into open source , but until they do, it's just code you can't use. Again, nothing wrong with -not- releasing code into open source, but if it is not actually released under an open source licences, then it is just software.

So, end of today's post. The moral: Don't Talk. Do. Don't yammer. Launch. Release. Ship. FCS, you know?

March 20, 2007

Find me in .... Chicago in April

As an FYI, I'll be speaking in Chicago at Flourish in early april. Chicagoans might want to stop by.

Space X Webcast going...

It is t-30 minutes and counting....mark.

I went for the beach theme with a cool ice tea.

So about three months ago, Google stopped stocking Tejava ice tea in the micro-kitchens. I was suffering through relying on diet coke to provide my caffination needs. This had an effect on my quality of life, and I was going to order a few cases or twelve of the stuff.

Tejava is a iced tea made by the crystal geyser people. It is simply tea, no more, no less. No sweetening, no lemon, no chemicals of note, served in a glass bottle to deter plastic tastingness, it is a very good and tasty tea to add lemon and such to.

UPDATE: The nice thing about this is that this week they started restocking Tejava....Duh...thought I mentioned that.

Happily today, on the same day we launched themes on iGoogle, and I chose the beach theme. Ahhhhhh.....

March 13, 2007

Delayed Flight Blues

While the SJC airport isn't the worst place in the world to spend 3 hours, a plane delay shows the mettle of the average traveler. I just watched some dude holler at the United rep here at gate C2. To what point, I honestly have no idea, as they've been very good at keeping us up to date, offering to rebook folks, etc... I think that it is hellishly tempting to indulge in some handy outrage when things like this go on. I've felt it at times, sure, but I don't indulge in that particular vice.

And I suppose I do consider it a vice. I have no better way to cross the country than a non-stop flight, even with a 3 or 4 hour delay. For a trip to LA, I'd have hopped in my car by now, but for flying to DC.....I see it as saving many days of driving, many months of covered wagon riding, or a solid year of walking. Not that I'm saying "Gosh, how lucky I am to be delayed" or even "Look at how good I'm handling this, admire me" but I guess I'm saying: "Christ, it's just a damn plane delay, dude, leave the customer person be."

I have some sensitivity to their plight, I was a customer service rep (csr, natch) at Circuit City when I was a pup. This was a pretty good high school/early college job, really. The pay was decent and you got a handy discount on the stuff they sold. And back then (I don't know if this is still true) CC had the leverage to basically force manufacturers to take back returns and get credit for them. This meant that we had broad power to be nice to the folks with incoming broken stuff.

The only thing we had to do (and who could blame us for doing it) was ensure that the device was actually broken. If it was , 99 times out of 100 we could give them a credit and send em into the store, even if it was wildly past the warranty period. This made a lot of sense for us too, we could simply send it back to the manufacturer, slapping on an RTV sticker on the thing, and we'd never have to see the machine or the customer again. For nice people, it felt good to just give them a new VCR or whatever. For jerks, you knew you wouldn't have to see them in a few weeks after a repair job.

Most people were pretty okay. Not that there weren't many jerks, of course, this was the store in Tyson's Corner, near the mall there. Washington DC and the surrounding environs is a place where power, for some definition of power, matters a lot to people. Whether it is power over an electorate, power over their children or power over their broken VCR and the CSR who'd dare question their word by plugging it in. It was a great way to learn about people.

Not long after Circuit City, I took a job at a litigation boutique law firm in downtown DC. A punishing commute terminated at the underground parking. I'd park at the lowest most level, at the end. 7 stories underground. Then I'd get out of my car, walk down two flights of stairs to the copy/support level. Seriously. Think of this: 20 stories (or something like that) of fabulous office space, then 7 stories of parking, then 1 level for the computers, the copiers, the accounting department and the people who worked in them.

My job there was to nurse along, hospice care really, 20 servers running Microsoft Mail for the Macintosh. This was before exchange. I had 1200 mail users that were under my care. After a short period getting used to the system, I ran it well enough. To keep the system healthy, I had to compact/vacuum the databases every 2 or 3 weeks, otherwise the servers would die, and my pager would go crazy. There was a fair amount of yelling anyhow as the Lawyers and the other folks would delete mail by accident or other related mishaps. I learned a lot at the firm as well. The first was that, of course, shit rolled downhill. In our case, shit got in the elevator, swiped a badge, and descended 120 feet. We were in service of all the groups, so any minor problem with the computers was instantly cause for hollering.

I had my pride and I walked out of not a few offices until they calmed down, but for the most part I just fixed the machines and kept the mail flowing. After the law firm, I moved to California and have been concentrating on the technology production side of things (vs the consumption side) and it is a happy place to be but it isn't a lie to say that I was yelled at professionally for some 4 or 5 years in total. 3 or more years at Circuit City, a year at the lawfirm, and some other places here and there. Strangely, I'm decent at handling people, and like doing it. It's kind of weird.

Funnily enough, none of these places were bad to work at, and I mostly felt bad for the people who had to unload on the kid behind the counter in the silly grey CSR vest whose only real desire was to give them a new VCR.

March 7, 2007

BBC Story about Palimpsest up...

One of my favorite projects at google is one that we don't talk much about, but I think is pretty important. Darren Waters from the BBC came by and I'm guessing he liked the project as much as I do :-)

March 3, 2007

Bose.....still a bunch of jerks.

At the Denver airport, to sell their over-priced crapfest headphones, Bose has installed, next to the food court, a demonstration and sales booth. Here's how it works:

1) A mark walks up to the booth
2) Bose dude says "Hey, check this out....put these on."
3) The mark puts on the headphones.
5) Bose dude turns on a very loud low frequency noise. (through their crappy subwoofers)
6) The mark likely notes that he can't hear the low frequencies as much as he used to be able to without the headphones.
7) 125 diners look at Bose booth wondering what the hell is wrong with Bose employees that they think it is okay to do this every 45 seconds.
8) Bose dude doesn't notice, continues to sell his crappy crapola.
9) Cute tiny Kittens all throughout the airport look and complain.
10) The mark does or doesn't buy the earphones, not noticing the enormous hole in the mid-frequencies that real engines assault if you use them.
11) People with real headphones look on with pity at the mark who is now a purchaser of the bulky, poorly made, terribly designed, Bose headphones.

That is all. Yes, I was annoyed by marketing at the airport. Again.

(also, I lied again about the presence of kittens. No kittens were annoyed by the Bose people that I know of)