Tuesday, January 29, 2008

YouTube Would Suck Without Copyright Infringement

Seriously, when's the last time you went to YouTube to look at a video that didn't have a copyright being infringed upon? For me, it was probably that stupid "Leave Britney Alone" guy.

The bottom line is that YouTube -- and all sites like it... college humor, brightcove, whatever -- would be nowhere if it wasn't for rampant copyright infringement. I don't really mind because it allows me to find really obscure videos and songs from the 80s like Jellybean's "Sidewalk Talk" and The Box "My Dreams of You". But I think we should stop kidding ourselves that YouTube is popular because it's some kind of revolution of peer to peer communication. No, it's popular because it allows everyone to watch the copyrighted videos they want to see right in their browser... whether or not the copyright holder wants them to. If Google actually succeeds in locking it down from hosting copyrighted material, I certainly wouldn't need to go there anymore.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stop Giving Version Numbers to Everything

Everyone's tired of "web 2.0." Nothing really differentiates the websites that people tried making between 1996-2001 and 2001-now except that they are separated by two different bubbles -- the former driven by no revenue and the latter driven by ad revenue. We wish they'd stop using it, but it's now part of the marketing hyperbole.

Right, so, Web 2.0 is one thing, but today I read a description for a startup that say it's garnering awards as part of "Office 2.0". There's even some lame Office 2.0 conference here in San Francisco.

WTF is "Office 2.0?" Is that Microsoft Office 2.0? Open Office 2.0? Because if they're talking about the general "office" -- like the place we go to work every day -- and claiming that their product is part of a brand new, awesome office that makes the world so much more efficient that it requires its second major revision.... then they're about 150 years too late.

How about the typewriter? Wouldn't that have been a pretty good time in history for "Office 2.0"? Or the mimeograph? Copier. Laserwriter. Drip coffee maker. Intercom system. Leather chairs. Executive washrooms. Sexual harassment training. NCAA tournament pools. Fire drills.

Yeah, there are a lot of opportunities for the "Office 2.0" to have already happened, but I guess it really arrives when someone copies Microsoft's software and puts it on the web, fronted by Flash backed by MySQL and some PHP or Java.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Prop 93 Lies

I'm amazed that the ad campaign for Prop 93 is able to continue.

Currently in California, the term limits are 6 years for the Assembly and 8 for the Senate. So in order to be in the California legislature for 14 years, you have to serve in both branches. Prop 93 wants to make it 12 years for both branches, and it can't carry over from one to the other.

The campaign they're running now says "it lowers term limits," but it doesn't really lower the term limit -- it raises it for the same job. This gives lobbyists and more time to let the cronyism settle in -- and California already has a lot of that.

And you have to ask yourself, if this wasn't a big deal, why are unions dumping over $13m dollars into pro-93 ads that have run every commercial break for the last month?

So I vote no on this and all propositions. Propositions attempt to get the voters to approve measures by way of trickery, not reason and wisdom.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Losing the senses of taste and smell is a great dieting technique

I can't remember ever having experienced a cold where I've completely lost the ability to taste and smell for days... except for this weekend. And I have to say, what a great way to diet!

  • When you can't taste or smell food, you might as well eat healthy all the time. There's no point in ordering something that tastes good. In fact, there's no benefit to ordering any specific item except the food that logically makes sense for you to eat for your health and will satiate your hunger.
  • There's also no desire to eat quickly, or eat too much. When you can't taste or smell anything, you just stop eating when your stomach indicates it doesn't need anymore food.
  • And won't need any alcohol.... even without feeling a sinus headache and other symptoms that make alcohol repulsive, drinking fine wines and scotches is again, pointless!
So there you have it. Why do people bother with these fad diets and gastric bypasses? Just catch one of these superbug colds and you're on your way to better eating!

Monday, January 14, 2008

What do quilting clubs, the Freemasons and Blackberries have in common?

Today I picked up some food after work and saw this guy waiting for his food:

  1. White iPod classic attached to belt buckle, listening in one ear.
  2. Other ear covered by bluetooth headset. Oh, he wasn't talking to anyone, he just has it there so he can answer a call with Steve Austin like prowess.
  3. Blackberry. CONSTANT Blackberry. Seriously... for at least 5-10 minutes, he did not move other than to take a sip of a drink. He was just clicking away at his Blackberry.
Otherwise he looked like a relatively normal guy.

It got me thinking... are people addicted to technology like this just because they're terrified of being with their own thoughts? That seems too deliberate, so I started wondering if it was some kind of evolutionary thing. I've been trying to break most human behavior down into evolutionary basics, and this one seems ripe for it.

It would make a lot of sense if there was some evolutionary drive for humans to want to feel connected to other humans. People survive in groups, they can fight off rabid platypuses and raise crops together. Oh yeah, and pro-create.

In lieu of having to do those things anymore by way of survival, Blackberries are the technological way of making you feel connected to millions of people, anytime, anywhere. And that's why they're like crack. Your brain has some motivation to do that all the time... and now it can.

Earlier in our history, once we had created societies that were sophisticated enough such that we didn't really need to group together to fight animals (just each other), that's when people started coming up with Quilting Clubs and the Freemasons -- things that make people feel included, yet socially interactive. I'd say religion is in the same arena. But once technology took over, we could feed that need much more easily. No one has to go anywhere, you can just do it all on the internet. Why do you think all of the most popular Web applications all have to do with social interaction -- is it because the business model is the best or is it because of the human need for that socialization drives people to those sites in the first place?

One more thing. Having an infant in the house has me theorizing about the evolution of sleep a lot. My idea is that we evolved to sleep because otherwise the parents would die. If kids didn't sleep, how would we ever be able to get anything done? Oh, you might think that one of the parents can take care of the kid while the other does whatever. Yeah, it never works out that way. So our ancestors who never slept died off quickly because their children would preoccupy them to the point of being eaten by bears. The End.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Port Ellen Scotch Whisky

While over in Scotland, we went to the Wee Whisky Shop, which sells 50 ml bottles of Scotch Whisky. I asked the owner to sell us the best wee bottle he had in the store.

He sold us Port Ellen, 23 year old, for £13. So that's approximately $420 per 750ml bottle.

We finally cracked it open tonight and it was pretty good.

It's not as smoky as the Islay Scotches I've come to love. Port Ellen tastes more like Macallan's with a touch more smoke, and a bit more of a fruity and slight vanilla flavor. I bet a lot of people would like this more than typical Islay Scotches because it is less peaty.

A couple interesting things. For one thing, the distillery has been out of business for 25 years. So basically this scotch was put into barrels no later than 1960. That's awesome.

Second thing is it was amazingly alcoholic -- 50%. So the bottle we got must have been at cask strength. I hadn't looked at the label closely before taking a sip, so the alcohol blew me away at first. With a dash of water, it really starting coming into its own.

Should have bought two. Oh well.

"It was meant to be"

A friend of a friend had some medical issues she had to cope with, and some co-worker said to her "maybe it was meant to be."

Since hearing this story, I've decided that quite possibly the most offensive phrase in English is "it was meant to be" when said to a person in the face of adversity they're dealing with.

Let's take some examples to demonstrate exactly how absurd it is:

  • You have pneumonia.  Instead of going to the doctor for a basic prescription of antibiotics, you decide your fate was "meant to be" by a higher power and you die. 
  • You score a touchdown and win a game.  Instead of believing that you worked hard and got a bit of luck, you believe this is how it was "meant to be":  God wills you to score a touchdown and the other guy lose the game in a meaningless show of competition.
  • There's no food in the cupboard and your family is starving.  Instead of going to the store, you decide it was God's will that you starve to death.

Actually, let me go back on my earlier statement.  I can't decide if "it was meant to be" is just offensive or pathetic.  There are only two ways to interpret it:

  • The person who says it assumes that you're an idiot who will accept whatever fate is "handed to you" in order to feel better.
  • The person who says it is such a loser that they accept the fate "handed to them", and don't think anything else is possible.

How pathetic and/or rude.  People who say this as a comfort phrase, please stop.  You're not helping.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Based on Zed Shaw's glowing review of Mingle in the midst of this classic rant, I installed this app to try it out, and actually, the front end isn't bad. We use Scam Scram Scrum at work and I have always throught that having some kind of web interface to managing that would be a good product.

But here's the thing. Mingle is apparently running Ruby on Rails on top of JRuby as its back end... and it takes half a gig of RAM on my machine, even when it wasn't doing anything with minimal data! And that is not including the database! Sure enough, 2GB of RAM is recommended to run Mingle. Even with all of that RAM, the app didn't really even seem that snappy.

I guess I must be completely ignorant because I cannot understand how people put Rails into production with numbers like that. Python with Clearsilver and Sqlite would run this app in.... maybe 20 megs of RAM? Java is an insane memory hog, so maybe it's just the fact that they're using JRuby for this. Still, as a standalone, "black box" install, it seems pretty bizarre to use that much RAM for an application that shouldn't remotely need it, or should be blazingly fast.

I don't know Zed except for having followed his work on Mongrel and this most recent rant, but I can't understand his glowing review of this product. Seems like most of his complaints about Rails is about performance but he thinks that Mingle is an example of a great back end using Rails? I'd love to know why.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

VMoTW: Virtual Machine of the Week

Hey, now that the language wars seem to be dying down, what's starting up? The VM wars, of course!

It seems that no VMs are possibly good enough for the guys running around in the open source world. Today alone I was introduced to two new virtual machines.
  • Factor (a new language, though some discussion is put into the VM on their page)
  • Rubinus (note cute Web 2.0 URL)
I haven't looked at Ruby in a while, but it appears that the community is working on no less than 3 new VMs for Ruby and two ports to existing VMs (CLR and JVM).

Let's not forget that Perl guys are working on Parrot. Then there's the LLVM.

Granted, I think LLVM is for smaller platforms than JVM and the CLR, but what I don't get is why everyone is writing a custom VM for their toy language. Does every guy with access to GCC seem to want to write and distribute another VM? It's like the people who continually write new blog software. It's been done, it's a tired, solved problem. Instead of reworking from scratch, improve what's there.

I guess i'm just surprised because I'd think that language nuts trying to make something new would be working on top of the CLR or JVM, like the Boo and Groovy guys have done.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

3008 Predictions

2008 will be boring, just like 2007. Let's make predictions for 3008.

  1. CPUs will no longer operate in base 2.
  2. Media will once again be stored in (what I'd call) analog formats. Binary data will be viewed as extremely wasteful to store once you get to the molecular/atomic level. Storing in an analog format would be the least wasteful way to do it. The media will be far more reliable and smaller than current analog technology like film and audio tape, though the major advancement in technology will be in reading from and writing that tiny analog media.
  3. AIs will exist. All innovation past a certain point will have to be done by them due to the complexity of the required solutions.
  4. Extra-solar space exploration will be taken on by AIs before humans. They'll be able to maintain themselves for hundreds of generations that such a project would take.
  5. The human population of the earth will have leveled off sometime in the next 100 years, and maybe started to decline due to population control.
  6. Genetic engineering of your children will be routine and expected of everyone.
  7. The Earth will still have oil, however...
  8. Speed-of-light teleportation will have been invented, bringing an end to all currency, governments, and the concept of personal privacy or property.

Ok, that last one is a bit preposterous, but wouldn't it be just great to put the airlines, oil companies and car companies out of business with one invention? I dreamed of that while I was stuck in an airplane for hours over the holidays.