Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What Hath Babbage Wrought?

(August 11th, 2007)
Online communities are here to stay, for a while at least, and you have to give credit where due to anyone who can make a living running one. At the same time I think we have only just started down the road to Andy Warhol’s “Fifteen minutes of fame” culture.

For the Internet consumer as opposed to the all-too-many producers, the trick is to get nourishment rather than what my mother-in-law used to call “empty calories” (she was referring to my dietary habits of the time). It’s not easy. One problem is with outlets that produce SO MUCH stuff that you are forced to sample (and even sample from summary feeds rather than whole content) and then draw your own conclusions about signal to noise ratio. I’ve tried several times to “get into” various Pirillo productions and been unable to stay with it, finding it just a cut above “somethingawfull” and a cut below Scoble’s various products, which are at least not completely ad-libbed.

I recently did a purge of my most prolific feeds and find that I am still finding most of the news I’m interested in from the old stand-by sources like Slashdot, WSJ, and some MSM that only produce 5-10 stories a day rather than hundreds (with lots of repetition and dupes of course).

They don’t call it “social networking” for nothin’ and while I’ll look for anything substantial that comes from Gnomedex, I think it is more a big tech party for people who normally only “meet” online to actually rub elbows with one another (nothing wrong with that if you live in the area). Last one I remember reading about had something about a red couch, I don’t remember anything else.

One of these days it may sink in to Silicon Valley (and by extension Seattle and LA offshoots) that when it comes to technology, your social lives are quite boring to the rest of the country. For those looking for vicarious social lives, Hollywood produces more than enough to go around, and the geek variety pales by comparison.



I *like* Scoble. Started reading him at Microsoft and found that he was about the only employee there that was not fully integrated into the Borg. Maybe that was the problem. Since then I've had trouble figuring out what his niche is. Maybe he has too.

The regular dose of "drahma" gets to me, whether it is accidental or a play for attention. Like so much on the Web, you can never tell if it is real, or is it manipulation.

One service VW provides is treating the Internet "stars" like they were the Hollywood type. The resemblance is becoming clearer to me every day.


Revise and extend...

and since I've never had much use for Hollywood stars, the Internet variety is getting more on my nerves too.

What hath Babbage wrought?

From feeds to Facebook, we have passed the point of diminishing returns on technology and are well into regression?

If you were to start a new widget company tomorrow would your first step be to get everyone a Facebook ID, an IM client, network them into iPhones with Twitter interfaces hacked in? (and yes I've tried all these things and even tried very very hard to like them).

Oh I forgot, we don't make things here any more (who has time?) we just buy it from overseas and then talk about it until it's passé.

Anyone who appears to be doing work on the current Internet economy is one way or another just a marketing middle-man. The trick is to figure out who they are working for.

Pray for another meltdown!

Works and Days: The Old Wisdom

Recently I went up on the so-called Kaiser Loop, a 15-mile round-about hike to Kaiser Peak (about 10,300 feet). Lo and behold!—there were three hikers on the summit in that rarified atmosphere. And after exchanging pleasantries about the beauties of the empty wilderness, one well spoken and nice person remarked about the exploitation of the forests (yet not a house, road, or human to be seen), and the greed of developers (the nearest road hasn’t been improved since the 1940s).

Then Presto!—out came Katrina, Iraq, Bush this, Bush that. The clear air, the panoramic vista, the Sierra junipers—none of that could stop the onset of this paroxysm, this fit of madness. I hiked down, unsure whether I should have called the paramedics to copter him to Fresno.

PolitiFact | A service of the St. Petersburg Times and CQ

Worth watching.

Robert Love: Those Dang DPCs Clogging the MMCSS

"In other words, consuming half of your processor is (surprise!) detrimental to multimedia playback performance. At this point, it becomes clear that the process scheduler folks and the networking folks are bitter enemies and do not converse. Whatever the case, the obvious solution of fixing the abhorrent networking performance was bypassed for a quick bandaid:"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Comes v. Microsoft

I had read a while back that the original site was taken down. Good to know someone preserved all the goodies.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Microsoft kills its ‘Get the Facts’ anti-Linux site | All about Microsoft | ZDNet.com

Sounds like anyone who wants to do "research" that proves Windows better than the alternatives should start sending in their proposals.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Most US adults in the dark about world politics

"Two-thirds of US adults admit to being in the dark about political issues outside the United States, and only a third are well-versed in US politics, the results of a poll published Tuesday showed."

Um... try this: Only one third of Americans are knowledgeable about politics either in the US or abroad.

I wonder where they hire their editors.

Chavez and Venezuella's Road to Hell

In an address to the National Assembly, Chavez laid out 33 changes that he says would incorporate socialist ideology into the constitution that he pushed through in 2000, and redistribute power and resources to the poor and disadvantaged.

Chavez proposedadding one year to the current six-year presidential term and eliminating the two-term limit, allowing him and future presidents to run for reelection indefinitely. He rejected criticism that he was becoming increasingly autocratic.

"It's not that I want to enthrone myself," Chavez said. "This shouldn't surprise anyone. It's done this way in any number of countries.

Oh, some of us aren't surprised...

Most politicians operate on a near certainty, call it 99 and 44 one hundredths percent certainty, that their ideas will improve the lives of their fellow man. When their plans fail, they say they just need more time. When they continue to fail, they say they have been sabotaged. That is the nature of political discourse in most places of the world, people with good intentions, trying things, and then unable to just observe the results and make adjustments.

Every now and then someone comes along that operates from 100 percent certainty. Unable to even conceive of failure they will do anything, literally anything to achieve success, even to the point of abandoning their original good intentions.

Chavez shows every sign of being one of these 100 percenters. How pathetic that so many of our celebrities have gone there to publicly shove their heads up his ass. Years from now they will be apologizing, saying "what was I thinking?".

Maybe some of them will ask that question sooner.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Louderback Leaves PC Week, and Maybe Windows Too.

I could go on and on about the lack of drivers, the bizarre wake-up rituals, the strange and nonreproducible system quirks, and more. But I won't bore you with the details. The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain't cutting it. I definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating system: I expected it to get the kinks worked out more quickly. Boy, was I fooled! If Microsoft can't get Vista working, I might just do the unthinkable: I might move to Linux.

Funny how suddenly when leaving the sphear of Microsoft influence (being employed by, or collecting advertising money from) the formerly loyal have the veil lifted from their eyes.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A conversation with IBM’s top intellectual property lawyer - Scobleizer

"The answer to your last question reinforces my opinion that in key positions Microsoft hires people who ACT smart, while IBM hires people who ARE smart. This guy described the IP system with complete clarity and honesty and drives at the issues it faces without even a hint of how this might adversely affect IBM. While IBM doesn’t always execute well, and has its fair share of mediocre middle managers, they continue to have a corporate philosophy that looks beyond the next contract closing. That shows in both their R&D efforts and in their approach to OSS, as witnessed here. IBM is a mature company, while I wonder if Microsoft is capable of maturing. This issue of globalisation coupled with IP may be the deciding factor."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wozniak's New Goal is Efficient Housing

Woz: The total formula for saving energy can be quite deceptive. It's not correct to say that you are energy efficient when it's only in one way but your net is negative. For example, an electric car may use only half as much, or a third as much, energy as the same sized car using gasoline. But if it costs $100,000 then you realize that you wouldn't spend that much on gasoline over the life of any car. And even using the car uses some gasoline or coal used to create the electricity, to charge your batteries. If the car is inefficient in some ways it may even use more coal per mile but you'll be telling all your friends that it uses none. The cost of something is a reasonable estimate as to how many resources (of the Earth) you used to build the device. Don't take your instant opinion on energy efficient technologies to be correct. Ask a lot of deep questions and hold off until you are very sure.

Make Healthy Food Choices

Call it a "public service announcement":

... or a free tune.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Steve Gillmor’s GestureLab Tough Guy

From my response to yet another post about Gnomdex.

"I recently did a purge of my most prolific feeds and find that I am still finding most of the news I’m interested in from the old stand-by sources like Slashdot, WSJ, and some MSM that only produce 5-10 stories a day rather than hundreds (with lots of repetition and dupes of course)."

While Gillmor himself has friends that produce a lot of these prolific feeds that I've stopped reading, the great Gillmor speaks rarely, and usually has something interesting to say.

When it comes to the Scobles, Winers and Calecanises, I've discovered Valleywag is a lot more fun, and whenever another food fight breaks out, they are on top of it. They even have the essential news on which bloggers have turned comments on or off, are on hiatus, sabbatical, or a monastery. Let's see, what other feeds can I delete?

Bloggers: Robert Scoble fails to change the world - Valleywag

This is why geeks shouldn't try to change the world. Nor should they be held accountable, as Scoble's trying to do to Kaplan, for not changing the world. They aren't equipped to. They are ignorant of the real world. They live narrow, insular lives defined by their monitor screen, a reality that has very little to do with the outside world. It's a world that they cannot learn about by searching Google, and a world they can't change by writing a blog post.

Will this laptop change the world?

Terra Nova: Death to Snow Crash

Posted comment:

At first I was in agreement with the gist of this, thinking back to a fellow I worked with (who was not a programmer) who continued to refer to new developments in programming as examples of "Artificial Intelligence". Eventually I grew weary of explaining to him the difference between AI and a "goto" statement. The concept kept him motivated, and as far as I could see, did no harm.

From the description here, I expected to read the Business Week article with the same sense of condescension. But the following snips tell me they pretty much got it right:

Such an advance in technology will require overcoming massive hurdles. The computer interface to take 3D imagery and interaction beyond the confines of Second Life or other virtual simulations will have to be intuitive to users.
For all the flurry of excitement, there's still a lot of skepticism among tech experts about whether companies can agree on standards that would allow an open 3D world to exist.
So it could take up to a decade before anything like this becomes mainstream. But companies already are developing new browsers and other technologies that are the baby steps toward making the 3D Net a reality.

To use Snowcrash as a model, it isn't unthinkable that would could eventually use "goggles" to view what we today call "the Internet" and that certain hand motions would allow us to move documents from one stack to another, hand copies to another person, or have a conversation with that person.

I doubt all that will happen in even 10 years, but it could, and I have little doubt that given enough time, that both our fantasies of AI and Virtual Reality can be realized.

In the mean time, while programs like Second Life fall far short of Snowcrash, we might still use those concepts found in Snowcrash to enlighten the design process of current software going forward.

Example: I've long wanted to be able to "hand" someone in SL a PDF file or other standard document type without a lot of hassle (and without having to write a script). Most of us know that such an exchange of documents even in 2D IM interfaces can be problematic. But with Second Life, I've already given the program pretty complete access to my machine (including 20 to 100 percent of its CPU power) and generally the person/avatar I'd be exchanging such a document with will be someone I know and trust. Ultimately, I see no reason I wouldn't choose to store large numbers of documents in Second Life, just as I am now doing with Google Docs. I'd want to have full access to those files both in 3D and 2D modes, and as Google appears to have learned (along with Yahoo and many others before them) the only way to prevent abuse of online storage is to charge something for it.

The great battleground for the next wave of online development I think will in fact be where you store your files. If Google wins there is a good chance that I'll be able to access those files (via open APIs) from just about anywhere. I would hope that eventually SL, and others will not only provide such APIs of their own (no need to wait for the program to be Open Sourced) but use the existing ones that are out there.

The "trick" and it's not a particularly big one from where SL currently stands, is to provide a triggering mechanism, animation and so on, for the transfer to take place (I'm suggesting that the actual transfer mechanism be peer to peer if the data isn't on one of the existing API driven storage mechanisms).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

New Softwares!

From valleywag we get word of some exciting new software from Microsoft...

The Uncertain Future of the Telecommunications Industry

WRT Previous story:

"If there is one certainty in these uncertain times for telecommunications, it is that this sector will continue to experience difficult change. Disruptive change is a necessary consequence of rapid technological innovation and the removal of decades-long regulatory restrictions. In the process, we safely predict that even more telecommunications providers will face financial turmoil, and some even bankruptcy. "

I, Cringely . The Pulpit . The $200 Billion Rip-Off | PBS

Despite this, the FCC says America has the highest broadband deployment rate in the world and President Bush has set a goal of having broadband available to every U.S. home by the end of this year. What have these guys been smoking? Nothing, actually, they simply redefined "broadband" as any Internet service with a download speed of 200 kilobits per second or better. That's less than one percent the target speed set in 1994 that we were supposed to have achieved by 2000 under regulations that still remain in place.

Should we say "Thank you Al Gore"?

While I think this is truly ironic, I've never given him credit, so I won't saddle him with blame either. If government participates it's going to be FUBAR. Get used to it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Groklaw - Court Rules: Novell owns the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights! Novell has right to waive!

BIG news of course.

FCW.com News - Navy secretary laments continued loss of private data

"In the past 19 months, Navy officials reported more than 100 incidents of such information of being lost. Those incidents affected more than 200,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel, including retirees, civilians and dependents, according to Winter’s message."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Microsoft not so 'open' after all?

"Michael Tiemann, president of the non-profit Open Source Initiative, said that provisions in three out of five of Microsoft's shared-source licenses that restrict source code to running only on the Windows operating system would contravene a fundamental tenet of open-source licenses as laid out by the OSI. By those rules, code must be free for anyone to view, use, modify as they see fit."

Google: Kill all the patent trolls | The Register

"Google's head of patents believes the U.S. patent system is 'in crisis'. Discussing patent reform at the annual Stanford Summit in Northern California, associate general counsel Michelle Lee told conference attendees that the American system is 'out-of-balance [and] needs to be remedied'."

Like a lot of things our government does, it best be scrapped outright. But don't hold your breath.

IBM's Project Big Green Spurs Global Shift to Linux on Mainframe

"The consolidation project capitalizes on the ability of a single mainframe to behave as hundreds or thousands of individual servers. This capability, called virtualization -- which IBM pioneered on the mainframe over 40 years ago -- parcels out a mainframe's system resources -- including processing cycles, networking, storage and memory -- to many 'virtual' servers. Each virtual server functions as a real, physical machine. The migration will use only a portion of each mainframe, leaving substantial headroom for future growth."

And as the article says, save 80 percent on energy use, while also saving on support costs, etc.