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....