Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mainstream 64-bit earlier than previously thought

RAM is insanely, insanely cheap. To make any money, computer makers are going to have to configure machines with lots of RAM and disk and try to make margins on that upgrade. Dell already charges about $150-$200 more than Newegg for 4GB of RAM, for example.

Why will this drive 64-bit? Frankly, because people want to use what they paid for. Someone gets 4GB of RAM in their machine and they run out of memory running Firefox with a bunch of Flash apps. Or they just see a little RAM meter that says they only have 3GB of user-mode RAM in the machine (in the case of using the /3GB switch). Ultimately people are going to ask how they can use the whole 4GB, and the answer is to upgrade to 64-bit. For most users, this will probably be fine.... as long as they don't try using shell extensions (e.g. right clicking for 32-bit Winzip commands is an example of a shell extension that's lost).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Aliens are Stupid

In the background right now I'm watching the History Channel's "UFO Files". In an episode called "New UFO Revelations", they're debating whether cattle mutilations are the work of aliens visiting the earth.

Two things... first, what do UFOs have to do with history, and why does this History Channel run these things all the time? If an alien really came down and only learned about our planet by watching the History Channel, he'd think that human existence only consists of Jesus, Nazis, Engineering Disasters, UFOs and Nostradamus.

Second... how come aliens are dumb?

You'd think with all of their UFO technology, they'd find better ways to study us than go around abducting people in the middle of the night and slaughtering cattle in really weird ways and leaving the carcasses out in the open. Talk about being obvious.

Need cattle? It's not hard. Just use superior Alien technology hack into bank computers, create bank accounts with millions of dollars and buy a ranch or a meat packing plant. Then you can do whatever you want with your cattle. Need money? Alien technology could make for really great counterfeiting, I bet.

Wait.... oh my god, this cattle mutilation researcher is dragging a magnet around the ground to find "magnetite, associated with UFO activity". Now they're cutting the hide off of the cow. Does this lady just really enjoy being around rotting cow carcasses, or is this a niche job that needed to be filled by someone.

And if aliens need to study people, just bribe some doctors to run the tests. People are clueless, they won't know what the tests do or even that they're being studied. But instead, the aliens beam people out of their beds and drill into their brains. Yeah, subtle.

I think the X-Files approached this the right way... if aliens of superior intellect were here, they'd simply get a bunch of insiders with a lot of clout and bribe them into doing the dirty work. So, instead of mutilating cattle, if the conspiracy was more like aliens recruited Bill Gates to produce Windows Vista in a plot to handicap human innovation -- now there's an alien conspiracy I could understand.

Chernobyl: Life in the Dead Zone

I watched this documentary yesterday and found it fascinating. It follows a group of feral cats in the "exclusion zone" around Chernobyl. One of the things I find most interesting about these kinds of documentaries is wondering how they got the photography without disturbing the wildlife.

Check it out if you get a chance.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Check out this new weather map

Weather Underground's new Wundermap. Very cool. Little slow to load like most Google Maps mashups but the info displayed is very nice.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Traveling with GSM

I'm not sure why people subscribe to GSM here in the US in order to travel. It makes sense for business, sure. Who cares about $1000 roaming bills when your work is paying. But for personal use, it makes no sense to me that someone would pay $2/minute with their US phone to make overseas local calls (restaurant, taxi, whatever).

Here's what someone advised me to do years ago and what I've done since then. I keep an unlocked Motorola V60, bought in 2002. When I get to... wherever... I just find the local Vodafone/Telefonica/etc. store and buy a prepaid SIM card kit for around £10 or €25. Pop it in the phone and voila, local number. I then SMS the number to my family in case they need to get in touch with me while I'm over there. In the meantime, I have a local phone. It's great.

Thought I'd spread the word on this since a co-worker mentioned today that he might be switching to GSM so he has coverage in overseas. After hearing this idea, he thought it sounded better than paying roaming fees.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Worst B2C Website Award Goes To....

Comcast.

Have you ever tried using their website for billing? It's outrageously horrendous.

But let's start with the non-billing site. Comcast's main site could be one of the worst ASP.NET sites deployed. It takes about 5-10 seconds just to get the front page loaded. Then, get this... they recently added a little form in the upper right so you can "quickly" log in with your username and password. Except the password part of the form is a standard, not password, input. OOOPS. (Although I just loaded the page again and it was a password input this time, maybe they just fixed it as I typed this).

Then, once you enter your plainly visible password, you get redirected to some third party site that apparently every cable company in America has decided to use for online billing. This is a Java site (at least it uses the "do" extension, so I assume it's Struts). I click on "View My Bill", and seriously, 90 seconds later it tells me what I owe.

What is this "ConvergentCare" or "Convergent Care" website they use for billing anyway? They have no main website, but if you google them, they have subdomains for tons of cable companies (Time Warner and Comcast being the two majors).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How Macs Can Sink Your Business

If you ever are considering switching your business over to Macs, let me warn you in advance of a little tidbit I learned today.

Say you have a mission-critical application you're using, and you're using that application on Tiger. Suddenly, Leopard is released. Your mission-critical app doesn't work on Leopard, so you choose not to upgrade to Leopard. Fine.

Here's the kicker... when new machines are released, they will not run Tiger. Apple will not let older OSes run on the newer machines, they won't supply drivers. So if you end up in the situation where you need more machines, but you can't afford to upgrade everyone to Leopard because that mission-critical app doesn't work, you are screwed. The new machines you need to buy won't run your app.

And there you have it. I hadn't realized this until a Mac user mentioned it on a mailing list I'm on.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Why is MySQL popular?

Maybe this is like asking why Windows is popular, or why Buick is popular, but... why is MySQL popular?

I wouldn't be able to use it anyway because we use XML types in our databases. But most of the things I've ever heard are bad things about MySQL. For example, at one point the developers didn't think that foreign keys were useful, and actually wrote defenses of not having them.

I haven't used MySQL for a production tool in a while, so is it purely speed that brings people to MySQL?

I guess the benchmark I think of is, "Would I trust my money to a bank using MySQL?" Would you trust that bank? If so, why?