Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Projectionist

I hadn't seen the news before, but the legendary projectionist of the Catlow Theater in Barrington, IL, Jim Hollister, died a couple months ago. A nice story about him and his obituary.

"The Man Who Wasn't There" was the last time I saw a movie at the Catlow and it was probably the most perfectly focused and weave-less projected film I had seen in 10 years -- and that includes Pixar and Dreamworks premieres I've been to.

Being a projectionist is a lost art in the modern era. Typically the local movieplex's acne-faced teen goes up there and flips the switch to start the platter system and the movie. They don't care. I'm not sure they even look at what they're projecting. Soon, film won't be distributed--movies will be digitally projected--and there will be even less manual intervention to get the film going. The film will probably start on a timer, the focus "automatic".

RIP Jim Hollister, I really appreciated the work you did at the Catlow for so many years, even before I knew anything about the technical nature of projecting film. Thanks.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I've had the Droid for 6 weeks, it's time for a full review.

The Droid is the most awesome "always connected" device I've ever used. Every self-respecting gadget geek should have one.

IMO, there are only two reasons to not have one:
  • Most of what you want to do with your phone is mostly play games, and listen to music. You don't do any kind of multitasking and you're not interested in sophistication at the user level (like having to manage backgrounded apps). In this case, the iPhone is for you -- and this is a LOT of people.
  • Most of what you want to do is type emails. In this case, the Blackberry's zen-like physical keyboard experience is for you. Again -- LOT of people.
Other than that, nothing bridges the gap between phone, internet, multitasking app device and media device like the Droid. It's the must-have device for someone who wants and needs it all.

The hardware is great. Coming from the iPhone, I was worried about build quality and thickness. Both are fantastic. After using it for a month, the only way I'd rate the iPhone better hardware than Droid is if it had a physical keyboard. A physical keyboard is a level-up multiplier for these devices, and the fact that Droid fits one in in roughly the same thickness as the iPhone is a pure win.

IMO, Motorola is not getting enough recognition for making a fantastic piece of hardware. Most of the recognition is going to Google for the OS. So, kudos to Motorola. I find this device infinitely more compelling than anything you've done since the StarTAC.

Other hardware upsides:
  • The SCREEN. It's amazing.
  • Great battery life considering what it's doing. I charge it during the day mostly out of paranoia, but have been able to go through entire days without a charge even in my workplace (which is a marginal signal area on Verizon).
  • Very fast. People have noted that the iPhone GS is clocked up 50mhz higher, but I find Android to be more responsive even at a lower clock rate than the iPhone GS.

The only downsides to the hardware I've found:
  • USB jack's in an odd spot.
  • I'd prefer the volume rocker on the other side.
  • Headphone jack and power button are too close together.

On the software side, Android 2.0 is really the first release of this OS where I considered using it full time. I'm glad I made the switch. In retrospect, there's very little about the iPhone that I miss, and Android offers so much more:

  • Continuity between context switching. If I click on a link in the Gmail app, it opens the browser. If i hit "back", it knows to take me back to the Gmail app. This applies for pretty much every app situation.
  • Notifier bar. This is much more handy than Apple's notifiers which pop up.
  • If you're in the Google fold with Gmail, Google Voice, Calendar, etc., the integration is of course the best you'll find on any phone.
  • Google Navigator.
  • Google voice search built right in.
  • Background apps? Yay, background apps. This should be a no-brainer for any smartphone maker but Apple keeps holding out on doing it. Meanwhile, my Android phone gives me background checks of Facebook and Twitter direct messages, Google Voice/SMS, Google Talk, Google Latitude and .... SIP?! Yes, it's true, I actually have my Gizmo5 phone constantly connected on my Droid and it uses almost no battery in doing so. You can do the same with Skype. Another one I use that can't be done on the iPhone: Locale.
  • Internet radio apps playing in the background.. it works on Android, not on iPhone. I'm one of the ten people who listen to internet radio but this is important to me.
  • The Android Market allows people to submit their own applications and updates as often as they like.
  • Speaking of backround apps and Market -- the app Market itself checks in the background to see if apps have an update available.
  • Free dev tools that work on Mac, Linux and Windows.
  • No browser crashing. Safari constantly would bomb out on me. I have very rarely had an app crash on Android. Android also gives me the "this app is not yet responding, force close?" dialog -- so at least i have a choice to wait a little longer. (The reddit app is very buggy and ends up in this situation often, but if I wait it out, it recovers).
  • OS updates are delivered over the air. This is incomprehensibly less annoying than using iTunes -- an app I truly hate -- to update my phone.

  • No voice dial over bluetooth is a serious WTF.
  • For some reason, some apps don't get spell checking or auto-correction (e.g. "dont" -> "don't" automatically). I'd love to know why this isn't consistent across the OS like it is on the iPhone.
  • Adding a ringtone for voice calls is as easy as picking an MP3 and assigning it. Yet I can't add my own ringtone for notifications in any way.
  • I've had to pull the battery twice because the phone locked up.
  • Google Wave's mobile site works great on the iPhone but not on Android? No matter what you think of Wave, this is a worthy WTF.
  • No good games. Just about every other app you can think of is available, but damn if there aren't any good games for Android. I imagine this is something Google is going to have to focus on in the future. They did release a native development kit though for people who want to create a more real-time application like a game.
An often pointed out missing feature is "pinch-zoom". I actually have not missed this in the least. When browsing the web, I simply double touch the DIV where I want to read and Android takes me right there. The DIV is almost always formatted properly for the screen so it then requires no scrolling and re-zooming. [Note: I am not sure if Android does this reformatting or if the website itself does it, but sites like the WSJ, Washington Post, etc., have text that generally fits perfectly into the width of my Droid's screen in portrait].

On the service: yes, Verizon Wireless does suck considerably less than AT&T. Streaming internet radio is not only doable on VZW, but works very well. I listen to internet radio pretty much every day on my commute because I can. On AT&T i would have constant disconnects.

That said, even if you don't want Verizon, something like the Droid will be available to you very soon. Motorola is using this platform for many different future handsets. Unless you fit into the categories I listed above, if you're in the smartphone market I highly recommend you look into getting Droid or something like it.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Google Wave is starting to grow on me

    Let me first say: without an email bridge of some sort, this thing will never take off. I highlyrecommend that Google figure out how they might like to do that bridge.

    Otherwise, how is someone supposed to use Wave as their complete communication/collaboration solution if it doesn't have connectivity to... oh, I don't know... thebillion people connected via email? It's like if the mobile phone system didn't call through to landlines.

    It could just be that vendors whitelist their SMTP server to connect to Wave. Bank of America, for example, should be able to hook in their email communication to Wave without extra coding on their part.

    The counter argument? How many vendors now spam you via Facebook and Twitter? They didn't seem to have a problem coding up those solutions. So it probably wouldn't be too much of a stretch to have the Comcasts and BOFAs of the world start sending you Waves instead of emails.

    And now... onto the review.

    Everyone's first impression of Wave is pretty much the same thing: "OK, now what do I do?" It's nifty, but email and IM are far more accessible and everyone... literally everyone... is connected via these now. Sending someone a Wave might as well be like leaving a post-it note on their spare bedroom's door. They'll see the message eventually, if and when they ever log in again. It's like when someone sends you a message on Orkut? Gunna see it? Unlikely.

    And my first real test of it was a long, long wave where a friend of mine and I tried using it like IM. It was very slow to use, couldn't keep up with our typing, and just generally annoying.

    But I think I'm finally starting to get it.

    A Wave isn't really an email or an IM. I mean, it could be, but that's not what it's most useful for. It's most useful for mini-collaboration. It's not meant for collaborating on a Word or Excel spreadsheet, but it's not supposed to be chat either. A friend of mine and I today made a Wave for collecting together 80s music we like. We can easily collaborate on the list, drop stuff in and such, but keep it nicely organized in terms of discussion and the list itself. Also, it's super-easy to drag and drop music directly into the Wave.

    One of the things that's really annoying about IM is that I have it running on 3 machines at all times -- my home machine, my work machine and my Droid. An initial IM message goes to all three. However, the conversation that ensues after someone pings me only happens from one of those three. Now, Gmail tracks and saves that conversation, but that requires going back in the logs, and replying to those logs replies via email, not IM.

    If you think about what Twitter and Facebook has created, it's very hard to track conversations and meta-conversations that fall out of even small blurbs. An Apple employee posts to twitter: "omglol! AT&T is the suxx0rs!". Discussion of the tiny, 160-char post ensues on twitter, blogs, private emails. How do you connect all of this conversation back to the original? Unless it was originally posted on /b/ and tracked with Encyclopedia Dramatica, it's almost impossible to find out where the original thought came from sometimes.

    In short, there is a major disconnect between all of the forums of communication we use right now. Wave is trying to fix that. It might not work but it's worth a shot.

    I actually tried embedding this post as a Wave, to show how this might work in the future. But I failed, the tech is a little broken still it seems.

    Wave is significantly flawed, no doubt. It's an unbelievable resource hog of Javascript. But I am starting to see the potential of it or something like it. I'd like to try collaborating with it a bit more and even attempt to use their API to write a Robot before I pass final judgement on the thing.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Stop being Sarah Palin's enablers

    I just saw this blog post about Sarah Palin's Scrabble strategy and felt I had to take a minute to write an open letter about it...

    To all of the Rachel Maddow-idolizing crazies who are obsessed with Sarah Palin: just stop and take a second to think about what you're doing. You're like the enabler for meth heads.

    First of all, you give the "other side" a reason to embrace her further. The more you hate on her in public forums, the more she gets people on her side. You make her the victim.

    Second of all, it gives the media a reason to put her on the air. What makes better "news" than someone people love? Someone people hate! We've heard more about Sarah Palin in the last month than we have Barack Obama.

    Third, there is no better destination for any politician than irrelevancy. The only way to start the ball rolling is putting out the ignore buffer. Sarah Palin was able to turn the health care debate into a raging inferno with the phrase "death panel." If only we all had started the ignore buffer earlier, this probably would have fallen on deaf ears. [Note: I am against socialized medicine, and even I would prefer not to ever hear her opinion on it nor have it sway anyone to my opinion]

    There you go. And this is the last time I ever mention her name, assuming she never will win any kind of public office worth mentioning on this blog.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Should I give up on PC gaming?

    For those of you who haven't been following the hub-bub over Modern Warfare 2 on the PC, basically they gimped the crap out of it. The PC title is now restricted to 18 people, and dedicated servers run by Infinity Ward.

    I've been playing CoD 4: Modern Warfare for about 2 years on a "hardcore" server that supports 50 people. The server is local, so it has a very fast ping time for me. It's crazy and awesome. Most people probably wouldn't want to play that, but I do, and I enjoy it. I enjoy the real-life aspect of PC multiplayer. Is someone cheating or 'sploiting? Do we all care enough to ban the guy? Or do we just have fun with the everything-goes realm? This is all gone with MW2.

    PC gamers will vote down on Amazon any game that looks at them wrong. Spore remains a 1 star game to this day because of its DRM solution. Modern Warfare 2 is therefore a 1.5 star game on Amazon. In this case, I would agree that this game deserves the low rating. It's not a game that appeals to a gamer into multiplayer shooters on the PC. Infinity Ward spent so little time on the port they didn't even bother to localize an error that reports you're having a problem connecting to "Xbox Live" (remember: this is the PC version).

    So I just have to wonder, is this a losing battle? Am I, as an aficionado of PC multiplayer shooters, just on my way out? The PC gaming market is pretty targeted towards MMOs at this point anyway, which I have very little interest in. Should I just buy MW2 for PS3 and call it a day?

    Sunday, November 01, 2009

    2010: Year of Linux on the desktop^H^H^H^H palmtop?

    5-6 years ago, who knew that Linux wouldn't break through on the desktop, but would on the "palmtop"? But it appears that's what's going to happen.

    Android is, at its core, Linux. Every day, we're hearing about more devices coming out with it. There's the Motorola DROID, of course, which is getting a lot of hype. But there are handsets from HTC, Sony Ericsson and more from Motorola on the way. There's also the Nook, the new eBook device from Barnes and Noble, which uses Android. There's a gaming device with android, and there are netbooks supposedly coming with Android.

    All of this Android stuff coming out has me wondering, will Linux begin a road to domination in the palmtop space in 2010? Gartner stats:

    The iPhone sold ~5m in Q209. Symbian (really, SYMBIAN?!!) dominated with 20m units. Blackberry had around 7m units. WinMo had around 3.5m. Android had only about 800k units in this sample. It seems like all of these combinations of Android, as well as what seems to be mobile carrier dedication towards making Android work for them, should start to make some serious inroads on these numbers. We shall see.

    Wednesday, October 07, 2009

    Joy Division is Genius

    I think this is my obligatory, once a year post that Joy Division is amazing.

    If you haven't ever listened to their stuff, you should.

    A co-worker told me he had watched 24 Hour Party People last weekend and it made me think to put their stuff on tonight.

    Tuesday, October 06, 2009

    Desperately Seeking Android

    Word is out on Engadget today of impending Verizon Android devices.

    I'm so there.

    A number of reasons, which I will now list in exact priority order.

    • AT&T sucks ASS. Now this is not due to a lack of trying to improve on their part. I admire and acknowledge the fact that they have recently increased coverage in Noe Valley, Diamond Heights and Glen Park. My iPhone now works in Safeway (sometimes), which is a vast improvement. However, present improvements cannot overcome other misdeeds. For example, the hours and hours of wait time when I rarely have to call customer service, or the dropped calls in my house with full signal, or constantly drop on 101 while dirving? I am completely convinced that AT&T employs subpar network engineers. How is it that I can get 5 bars in my house and consistently drop calls? The Verizon network is far better.

    • The iPhone is the buggiest phone I've ever had and I believe Google has far better engineers than Apple. If Android has even 25% less bugs, that will be a huge improvement. On the iPhone, apps crash constantly and there are new glitches all the time. iPhone 3.0 introduced possibly the most annoying bug of all time, which is that the iPhone now constantly asks for my wi-fi password at home. Today had a nice glitch where I couldn't get rid of the keyboard from the screen. Just poor programming all around. I have not yet heard of that range of problems with Android.

    • Google integration > Apple integration. My MobileMess subscription is running out in 4 days and I, of course, do not plan to renew. One of the problems with the iPhone is that I can only have Exchange connected to one server plus MobileMess. I'm hoping that Android will let me connect to one Exchange server as well as Google Apps, which is where all of my real data is anyway.

    • Real background apps, please. Kthxbye.

    • I would much prefer a smartphone that I have a prayer of programming. I refuse to buy a Mac just to program my iPhone, and besides, I can't upload my own apps to it anyway. No thanks. I'll take the open option that I can hack the crap out of--legally--if I so choose.

    • No more iTunes!

    So anyway, these are some of the reasons I'll be camping out to get my Motorola Sholes or HTC Android device on Verizon as soon as they arrive.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    This video brought back some great memories

    Around 1999, maybe 2000, one of my employers bought a Flame system with no full time operator to go along with it. I tried to bring in a few people but couldn't get the execs to agree that we needed someone.

    So during a conversation about a long-standing dispute over my title (I had been doing "CG Supervisor" work for a couple years and wanted it as my official title), I told my boss that I was going to instead be the full time Flame artist and she could find me in the Flame suite from now on. Then I ended up being that full-time Flame artist for the next two years or so.

    Those were some good times. There really isn't a social experience that I can recall in my career that is as fun and rewarding as working with cool clients over your shoulder. The Flame/Quantel/etc mentality is relatively outdated at this point -- the GPU in your computer at home can do what was once a $1m piece of SGI hardware and large, complicated composites are much better done in something like Nuke -- but Flame still has such a great workflow and interface for on-line sessions. It's nice to see it again.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Lyrics I Wish I Understood: "Serrated Edge" by The Dead Milkmen

    Up on the hilltop where the vultures perch,
    That's where I'm gonna build my church,
    Ain't gonna be no priest, ain't gonna be no boss;
    Just Charles Nelson Reilly nailed to a cross.

    I don't piss, I don't shit, I'm gettin' no relief,
    People shake their heads in disbelief.

    Just me on a hilltop with 15 girls,
    In a Nelson Reilly orgy that'll make your hair curl.
    I don't piss, I don't shit, I'm gettin' no relief,
    People shake their heads in disbelief.

    Yeah, Charles Nelson Reilly, he's our man,
    He can't heal the sick with the touch of his hand,
    He can't walk on water, can't make wine flow;
    Just another greedy actor on the late late show!

    I don't piss, I don't shit, I'm gettin' no relief,
    People shake their heads in disbelief.

    Just me on a hilltop with 15 girls,
    In a Nelson Reilly orgy that'll make your hair curl.
    I don't piss, I don't shit, I'm gettin' no relief,
    People shake their heads in disbelief

    [Ed: any thoughts on what the hell this means are welcome in the comments]

    Friday, September 18, 2009

    Effects of the depression on language choices

    If you're a frequent reader of proggit, Slashdot or Digg, you've been exposed to the popularity of new languages and frameworks that are taking the world by storm. Scala is a good example. And while not necessarily "new", Python, Ruby, Smalltalk, Haskell and Erlang have garnered increasing popularity over recent years.

    Since I also follow financials quite a bit, I started wondering if there is a correlation between the inclination of programmers to experiment with alternatives to mainstream languages/frameworks and the economy. Empirically, it seems like there may be some correlation -- I'd love to see data to correlate the two. Maybe O'Reilly or some of these code archiving sites can trend the information against economic indicators.

    For the moment, let's just consider the hypothetical of there being some correlation.

    Consider Java. Java's increase in popularity seems directly tied to the time of Bubble 1.0. Using Java was, at one time, as speculative as buying Pets.Com stock. It gained enough popularity during that 1995-2000 era to become "mainstream", but pretty much only within one demographic: the net itself. Didn't really get a lot of momentum after that, and today very few desktop applications are with Java, even though it runs a massive number of sites on the net (including blogger).

    So here's where the curiosity starts. I think Java became mainstream because it was applied so much to Bubble 1.0. Did Python, Ruby and these others gain enough steam during Bubble 2.0 (end of 2004-2007) to persist as "mainstream"?

    Furthermore, it was announced today that California's unemployment rate has hit 12.2%. Fortune 1000 companies have been laying off people in droves for 24 months with no end in sight. Do we expect these large companies to start taking chances with some of these alternative technologies when their entire businesses are at risk? Did Python garner enough steam for an intranet site at a Windows company to be written in Django instead of ASP.NET?

    And while VCs have kept the crack pipe going somewhat, how long can their investors continue to put in money to speculative ventures? [Side note: how did FriendFeed justify writing a Twisted clone with their VC money?] At some point, one must wonder if Bubble 2.1 here is going to fizzle off and the tech people invented go with it. I'm guessing no one should expect Fortune 1000 companies to be hiring Erlang or Javascript monkeys to write embedded widget manufacturing code.

    tl;dr: Java, C#, C++, C are really good skills to have right about now. And if you think a recruiter at a large company will get excited with Erlang skills on your resume, you've been in startups too long. [Note, not a rip on Erlang]

    Friday, August 21, 2009

    What language will be "the next COBOL"?

    I've been thinking about this for maybe 15 years, when my friend from college Ed Burns (also check out his book) handed me a copy of The Unix Hater's Handbook (this link is the complete book). In that book, there's a chapter called "C++: COBOL of the 90's"

    That prediction hasn't come true. We continue to use C++ for almost every useful desktop app (as I pointed out in this post). Games are virtually 90%+ C++ for all platforms.

    I've started wondering, "What makes COBOL 'COBOL'?" The last time I used it was in a high school programming class in 1987, so I don't have the knowledge to examine the language at that level. I don't think it's just the fact that the language is verbose and kinda sucky and there's lots and lots of code. I've come up with two things that make might make COBOL what it is besides there being lots of code:
    • Domain specificity. It was a language almost entirely used on mainframes for business and data processing. It had no real other use besides that. No real embedded uses, no system-level code. This really led to a situation where the language had nowhere to go -- its userbase was only concerned about one area and the language and community did not ever need to respond to changing needs. This is a significant difference between C++ and COBOL.
    • No migration path. The main paths for migrating out of COBOL are a newer version of COBOL, which are in very little use, or a rewrite. Contrast this to C++, where, if you wanted to migrate to Python or Ruby, you could simply SWIG your C++ code and start writing Ruby around it, then migrate the C++ as you see fit.
    So let's take a look at the contenders:

    C++: I think I've already shown that C++ will not be "the next COBOL." It's far easier to port yourself away from C++ than it ever was for COBOL, and the language is still so general that it's used very widely for various applications.

    C: Definitely not. C is the most general, most useful language ever invented. Doesn't fit into either category above.

    Ruby, Python: I don't think they fit the bill of being too domain specific. Python has been embedded into 3D applications like Maya and is used to back websites like Reddit and Slide. Also, there is just not enough code. If a Y2K problem came up with either of these languages, it would be drop in the bucket compared to what it was for COBOL.

    Java, C#: I'm putting these together because they're similar in that they both run on a VM. I think that will remove the problem of there being no migration path for them. Already on the JVM, there's a large interest in Scala. There's a clear path for integrating Java code with Scala and then porting that code to it. They're also used too generally.

    So what is it, what's the next COBOL? I have some ideas:

    XML: This isn't a "language" per se but I did want to include it in this list out of loving spite.
    . However, because of frameworks like Spring, or anything Sun or Microsoft ever does, there is a ton of data-driving-application information being encoded in this format. It is very wordy, and very, very pervasive. It isn't domain specific, and it should be easy to make a migration to another data storage format.

    Perl: Like anyone else who has used it, I hate it. I think it has a shot at being "the next COBOL", but for different reasons. It's certainly not domain specific. Doesn't have a clear migration path though. Mainly, it's just so hard to support and there's so much of it out there. I kind of doubt that super-mission-critical stuff has been done with it for most companies. I always envision Bank of America's IT department when I think of the COBOL case. Companies like Amazon might have a hard time with this, I'm not sure if it will be a general problem.

    Javascript/DHTML: I am very curious if this will be it. It is domain specific, has a ton of code and zero migration path. ALL companies on the web are using it extensively (including Bank of America). As far as domain specificity, I know that people really want to break Javascript out of the web browser, but for now that is mostly just experimentation. No one in their right mind would back a website or write a desktop application in Javascript at this juncture.

    Additionally, JSON is making Javascript even more rooted in its place in the web browser (as opposed to allowing for Python to run there and using a generic data exchange format). It seems hard to believe, but someday maybe there will be a better mechanism for communicating these online applications than, oh I don't know, plaintext HTML and Javascript?

    I don't hate Javascript. However, Javascript is domain specific, there is no migration path, and it's mission critical to virtually all websites. I think we've got a contender.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    RROD #3

    Stop wasting your time with your underwater mortgage

    Here's something I don't understand: why people with underwater mortgages have any qualms about deed-in-lieu. Say you bought a $900K property in 2007 with $800K on the mortgage. Now that property is worth $600K and you still owe $750K. You should hand the keys to your lender and find a new place to live. Trust me, there are kick-ass rentals that are less than your mortgage payments and there will be for several years to come.

    The thing I don't understand is why people have a moral dilemma about doing this. Morals aren't an issue because that's the agreement with the bank. They agreed to give you the money, and in the case where you don't pay the money, they agreed to take the house. End of story.

    What's really weird is that people don't seem to have a problem with this when the loan is a corporate loan and that corporation goes belly up. Hey, no problem, right? That's capitalism. The lender took a risk with that corporation and lost. But when it comes to personal loans, somehow the banks have convinced people there's a moral obligation as well. Maybe there is a bit of fraud if you charge up a credit card with expensive wines, drink them all, then never pay off the credit card. But there's no moral obligation with a mortgage -- they agreed to buy that house. Just give them the keys and call it a day.

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Anyone know of good Indian food in the Glen Park/Noe Valley area?

    Besides Bombay?

    Bombay has really good food, but they are completely unable to get our order right. I double, triple check on the phone that they have the order. The receipt has the correct order. And yet they fuck up the order!

    Anyway, any recommendations?

    Sunday, July 19, 2009

    Update your address books: finally ditching, going with gmail is a great service. I've used their service for 14 years. I believe the last time I paid for their service, I bought 5 years in advance.

    However, this year I got an invoice to renew and I decided to ditch it. The last 5 years has been the longest stretch I've had with any email service.... ever. Which is gmail. After gmail's extended beta period came to a close, I thought it might be time to stop using the address. I confuse myself sometimes by switching up which email I use between services I sign up for.

    So there you have it. Those of you who email me, please delete and start using I renewed for one more year, just in case, but after July 2010, that address is gone!

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Culinary Creations: Grilled wasabi pork chops

    Today I was trying to think of dinner ideas and had an idea: Wasabi Pork Chops!  I had no idea what that meant and no recipes were returned by google.  So I made one up, and here it is.

    Preparation time:  5 minutes.

    Cooking time: 10-15 minutes.

    You need:

    • 4-6 boneless thin cut pork chops
    • green onions
    • Olive Oil
    • Chunky sea salt and fresh cracked pepper


    • 2 TB wasabi paste
    • Maybe 1/4 cup soy sauce  (err on the low side at first)
    • 2 big squirts of Sriracha (aka '”Rooster Sauce”™)
    • A tiny pinch of ginger powder
    • Dash rice wine vinegar
    • 2 dashes hickory smoke flavoring
    • 1/4 of a lime (squeezed)

    In a small bowl, mix the soy, wasabi, hickory smoke, sriracha, ginger, rice wine vinegar, and lime juice.  Mix that bad boy up with a wisk.  Taste it.  It should be somewhat smoky but spicy, with a bit of the patented wasabi sinus hotness and some on-the-tongue hotness of sriracha.  Change the ingredients up according to your tastes, but I would err on the side of having less soy.  Do not overdo the ginger.

    Heat grill to 500.

    On a plate, lay out your pork chops, coat with olive oil.  Generously apply sea salt and cracked pepper.

    In a separate dish, prepare some green onions.  Slight coating of olive oil and normal table salt.  Do not cut them.

    Grill up your pork chops and onions.   Lower to medium heat after placing on grill.  Apply sauce with brush, then flip chops.   After cooking flipped,  apply sauce to other side, then flip one last time and let sauce burn on for a minute.   Let the onion tops burn up and generally get good grill marks on the bottoms.

    Serve with grilled green onions laid across top of pork chop.  Sauce can be drizzled lightly over the entire creation.  I added a side pasta to make this a dish.

    Tuesday, July 07, 2009

    Man v. Machine: The stock market

    A few things have come to light since the accusation that one of Goldman Sachs’ programmers stole some of their quant platform’s code. One of the more interesting quotes from that Bloomberg article:

    “The bank has raised the possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways,”

    This is what the Assistant U.S. Attorney had to say about the alleged theft.

    Now, this sentence has raised a lot of eyebrows. I first read about the story on Zero Hedge. Most recently, ZH had a guest post about the topic reiterating how bizarre it is for Goldman to point out that this program allows for market manipulation, and what that means exactly. Mainly, it’s you, the retail investor, who is being scammed by programs like this:

    Markets are a zero sum game - somebody wins and somebody loses. Where do you think these “many millions of dollars” are coming from? They are coming from you - the average retail investor and the large institutional investor. These programs are taking advantage of real order flow and are siphoning off small profits throughout the day that belong in the pockets of the retail investor and the traditional money manager.

    I thought I’d bring up some of my personal experience as a retail investor in that light.

    I’ve long known I’ve been trading against computers, especially when trading lower volume stocks and options. Options bid/ask pricing is done way too quickly and “accurately” (in quotes because accuracy is according to Black-Scholes, the equation responsible for putting Long Term Capital Management out of business) to be a human. Or, if it is a human, they’re aided by a computer that’s constantly changing bid/ask prices for them. Here’s what I have to say about it:

    If you are making a real investment, you shouldn’t care whether you’re trading against a computer or a human.

    Notice lately how everyone (CNBC, e.g.) says that “buy and hold is dead”? The people who believe this (I am one of them – I’ll get to that in a minute) and still believe in the stock market are playing straight into the hands of quants. Why do you think they have everyone and their cousin on CNBC spouting this mantra (“buy and hold is dead”)? The more you trade, the more you’re trading with computers who can reprice faster than you.

    But if you do find a real investment you believe in – a precious metal, a stock, a bond, whatever – then you shouldn’t care if you’re trading against a computer. The computer is looking at past performance and current pricing only – a computer can’t judge whether a product coming out in a year is going to be a monster hit. So the only people who really lose against the computer are speculators, or people who are not doing enough research and are getting swept up in bubbles. And while it’s true that most of us are speculators in the true sense of the word (without issuing more stock, a company isn’t gaining anything from my purchase of their stock from another stockholder), a belief, long term, that a company is improving their product, service, process and purchasing their stock can be considered “investment” in spirit.

    Hard to believe I just defended quants given all of the damage they’ve done to our economy and investors, but there you go.

    Oh, and about "buy and hold." I do believe it's dead right now because most stocks still seem priced too high. The only thing I am newly holding long at the moment is cash, because it seems like the best hedge against deflation.

    Monday, July 06, 2009

    The only Pitchfork review I've ever agreed with

    Giving R.E.M.'s Reckoning re-release a perfect 10.

    I've said for years that Reckoning is R.E.M.'s best album. 'bout time the mainstream music media finally wrote something I agreed with.

    Saturday, July 04, 2009

    This guy just makes Chicago look bad

    Six degrees of Youtube at work... this was a "related video" on the last one. What's up with that?

    Happy 4th

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Does anyone believe Michael Jackson was not a Pederast?

    Do people forget about the whole trial thing a few years ago? Because I’m just wondering if all of the “celebrities” on TMZ (Lou Ferrigno? WTF?) sending their condolences to the Jackson family have forgotten about this. Jackson’s death seems more like an opportunity to pump up your own career than to actually care about this guy. Case in point:

    That said, yes, Jackson was a spectacular musician. It’s too bad he spent the last 20 years of his life being a freakshow and (probably, though not provably) molesting children.

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Computer industry ~= fashion industry

    I’m sure that has been pointed out before but it seems that recent trends back this up:  the computer business has become the fashion business, all the way from computers and products sold to the development level.

    It used to be that fashion in computer science was a kick ass piece of machinery.  Take this little number for example:


    I think most of us agree that that computer was awesome when it came out in 1988? 

    Yes, it had an atypical look and was not to be confused with a PDP-11, but it’s not the physical design that made it awesome, it was the sheer power.  Vector units!  Gigabytes of RAM!   They use it to compute weather simulations!  The NSA uses it to crack encryption!   This is what one of my friends told me when she was working at SGI long past its usefulness -- “I just have to keep working on the big iron”.  Yes, big iron is addictive.

    Point is, I don’t think people would have thought a Cray Y-MP was awesome if it was a 486 PC inside the box. 

    Contrast that to today, where many people think a Mac is awesome even though that’s exactly what’s in the box: a PC.

    That’s at the consumer level, so what does it mean when the super geeks are going ga-ga over the Mac when all that’s in the box is a PC?  What’s happening is that the attitude of depeche mode is trickling down into everything we do with computers.  The best example would be programming languages.

    Like fashion, programming languages seem to go in and out of style.  In the 1990s, you probably couldn’t find a programmer other than Paul Graham who would advocate using lisp for a serious production project.  Today we’re seeing new dialects of languages thought dead for a long time.  Lisp has now become mainstream again with Clojure and arc.  ML is getting a resurgence with backing from Microsoft via F#.  Erlang is suddenly everyone’s best friend because it can do some nice stuff with concurrency (but itself is pretty slow on a single thread).    Ruby came back from the dead when a Web 2.0 framework was developed on it.  Then there are the “new” languages, like Scala (IMO a similar language to ocaml).

    What’s funny is that all of these languages were around when I was in college, years ago, and I thought they were mostly as pointless then as I do today.  They’re fashionable.  They’ll come in style, be screwed around with for a while, programmers with write mission critical code with it, and abandon them (and usually your company) as fast as they came to them. 

    Look at Twitter.  They must have a bunch of people working there who are pathological language adopters.  First, they chose Ruby on Rails to develop their website – a framework and language with known scaling problems.  They ran into scaling problems.  Then instead of just taking their Ruby on Rails problems and fixing it with C, or C++, or just plain old Java, they begin using Scala.  So now they are still using the JVM, but can’t hire in people who know the primary language that runs in it.

    I am not saying I don’t get caught up in this too.  I’m always interested in and reading up on languages… but that doesn’t mean I’m going to use them in production.   Writing production code in these languages is like writing a collective book in Esperanto.  Someone who is a linguist can work with you, and maybe the 3 or 5 of you who start the project are linguists.  Good for you.  But then some of your linguists quit, and the next person who has add to it is not a linguist, they’re just a writer (or in our case, a programmer).  You must be able to work with these people if you have any intention of long term success and collaboration.   At some point, you’re just going to need someone who is a language domain expert, not a general programming expert who can pick up anything.  And if you think you can always hire generalist expert programmers, it is very, very difficult to find (unless you cruise by the Google campus) and hire these people (unless you have Google money).

    The additional problem you have is that these languages never interface well with others – or at least easily.  Just about every general library written in the world is exposed to C or C++.   It’s rare to see one that is not, and those that are not are generally not successful (WPF anyone?).  Java has a lot of libraries, and so does C#.  But I am just not sure I’m ready to say that these are completely workable without C/C++ (for example, you still have to use Microsoft.Win32 if you want a lot of functionality in C#, or SWT for a decent UI toolkit in Java). 

    One of the things that’s immensely annoying about using a language like Python and C# on a daily basis is this need for C libraries.  Python tries to make this easier, but it still requires matching up Python API versions, compiling plugins on Windows that were designed for Linux, etc.  Like one of the guys on my team was trying to figure out how to do a full-screen eyedropper tool using PyQT.  It took him days to figure this out, and he’s a smart guy. 

    This kind of incompatibility between the language and the platform is just painful, and if our code was in C instead of Python, we’d spend a lot less time dealing with compatibility issues and more time dealing with problem area issues.

    That said, I’m announcing here that I will be porting Dylan to the JVM and CLR.  Then I’m going to write some books on it and make lots of money.  Since languages from the 70s and 80s have come back into style lately, we need some languages from the 90s next.

    Monday, June 08, 2009

    Ask a stupid question…

    Yesterday I strolled through an open house and the realtor asked me how much I’d like to pay for a house like that.  I said “zero.”

    Only Apple

    Can take away a removable battery from a “pro” laptop and try to have people think that’s a good thing.

    If you thought the iPhone’s lack of a removable battery wasn’t profitable, I have thus presented exhibit A.

    Saturday, May 30, 2009

    Why is the PEAK website so slow?

    Check it out here.

    Now, you would think that the most basic program you’d want to install with Python (easy_install) would be hosted on a fast website.  Furthermore, it’s not a really good reflection on Python’s ability to create websites to have such a critical piece of code hosted on such a slow website.

    Someone may want to look into that.  I’m just sayin’.

    I’m getting a murderer’s junk mail

    I just moved yesterday, check out whose mail I’m getting at the new location:

    IMG_3969 - Copy

    Swell. Should I send it back with “Forward to: San Quentin State Penitentiary?”

    (FWIW, as far as I know Hans Reiser never lived at this address – at least not in the last 10-12 years).

    Thursday, May 28, 2009

    This might be one of the best Java utils I’ve tried

    Pretty cool!  I’ve looked into some of these continuous integration servers before but have been daunted by the amount of setup these things generally require.  I got Hudson set up via Java Web Start and building my local repositories with MSBuild in about 15 minutes.  The key feature is the ease with which I can download the plugins I need (Perforce, Git, MSBuild). 

    Very nice work, guys.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    "Carbon tax" is just doublespeak for "more taxes"

    A few months ago, I took my daughter to the petting zoo here in San Francisco. Near an old tractor, they have an image like this:


    The point of the image is that since the beginning of the industrial age, the number of people that a single farmer can feed has grown nearly exponentially. (Note: the diagram here has a shorter timeline than the one at the zoo)

    When you look around at efficiency charts like this for many topics in the last 100, 150 years, there is almost always a common element: the efficiency is directly connected to use of carbon based fuels like coal and (especially) oil.

    This is why it amuses me when we talk about a “carbon tax.” If we want our airlines to produce a product and fly people around, they have no alternative but to emit carbon. If we want a farmer to farm his land, he has no alternative but to emit carbon. Basically, no one has any choice but to emit carbon if they want to accomplish anything with any kind of efficiency. If you do not agree with me, please, point me to the electric airplane or electric combine that can do the job. Even for cars, it’s a loss. If you bought an electric car today, what percentage of your power would be supplied by nukes, wind or solar? 10-20%? Tops.

    In short: “carbon" taxes just another way of saying “raising taxes”. Why do you think so many people who believe in large socialist governments are for this idea? Now there’s a correlation I’d be interested to research more.

    I love Python, but it's a mess

    I'm just getting into Python 2.6 for the first time. Coming from 2.4, one of the things I've been really looking forward to is the relative module import added in Python 2.5

    I banged out my first submodule. Great. Then I wrote a unit test module in that submodule and tried to do some relative imports with it. Got an error: "attempted relative import in non-package".

    Huh, that's funny. I could have sworn I had files all the way up that chain. Yup, they're all there.

    Well it turns out that if you use relative imports, you cannot run that module as main. You must import the module with relative imports within the context of the larger package. So much for writing your unit tests right there in the file.

    Oh, but it turns out they have a fix for this! You can set the __package__ variable. If you're running your code as __main__, just catch it before your import and set your __package__ var. I have yet to see an example of this that works, but that's the concept in PEP 366. But wait, now I have to import my top level module to make this work as well! And it has to be in my sys.path. So, what, I end up with only 10 lines of custom code before the import just so I can run a unit test. Sounds good. (/Sarcasm off)

    Importing in Python has been nothing short of a disaster for about 10 years, since the days of "ni" (new import). The very first thing I ever wanted to do with "ni" was import a directory of modules so I didn't have to do double-duty on maintenance. It still doesn't do that. and if you read the documentation on package importing, it actually says -- still -- that the reason they can't offer "from import *" is because of Windows 95. I'm not joking.

    Python has a number of disaster areas like this. Len() is a good one. Another is requiring "self" for methods of a class. Python is a very, very useful language, but I'd argue that for Python 3.0 they focused on fixing a lot of inane nitpicks (print with no parens, anyone, or dict.has_key(), or removing my precious reduce() function) instead of fixing the real problems and inconsitencies.

    If you're going to break the language, make it count and make it way better and more consistent, not just better in ways that suit personal pet peeves.

    It's all bad until your guy does it.

    Check out "The Silence of MoveOn" over at The Nation.

    Monday, May 25, 2009

    The world’s most idiotic bumper sticker

    I just saw another one of these on the way back to the house:


    Hey you Palestinians and Israelis!  Co-exist!  Chechen rebels, co-exist!  Hey, Mohammed Atta, co-exist!

    “Na├»ve” is too tame a word to describe people who would put this on their car.  I’m glad San Francisco is surrounded by water on 3 sides and the idiocy can only spread so far.

    Sunday, May 24, 2009

    Yay! Tax dodger wins Indy 500!

    Of course, those of us without a team of lawyers and shell corporations will just keep paying our taxes like suckers.

    Saturday, May 23, 2009

    God is an Astronaut

    I found this band via a random Reddit link earlier, bought their first album and have been completely blown away by it.  I’ve had it on loop now for hours.

    Highly recommended.  The album is “The End of the Beginning” and is available on Last FM or their website for $8.  I chose to buy it, since I like to buy directly from the artist when possible.

    Here are a couple videos from the album:

    Coda from God is an Astronaut on Vimeo.

    The End of the Beginning from God is an Astronaut on Vimeo.

    “Don’t Stop Believin’” jumped the shark for me


    This was the greatest rock song of all time. Now… I’m sorry, I can’t type anymore.

    Nothing’s Made Here

    I’m looking to buy a new drill.  You would think that a $300 drill from a company called “Milwaukee Tools” would be made in America.  Nope.

    Milwaukee, Craftsman, DeWalt, Makita… all made in China now.

    It’s no wonder this country is completely screwed.  If we can’t employ people making the basic tooling we need, how do we expect to employ them in a “service based economy” of using that tooling?

    Thursday, May 21, 2009


    What the hell is Cursive doing on Letterman?


    They’re a ridiculously talented band – therefore WHAT ARE THEY DOING ON TV? 

    The new album seems really good.  I had not heard it before I found this video a little while ago.  But if you want to have your mind blown, check Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes. I first discovered Cursive about 6 years ago when I bought that album and put it on repeat while working 100 hour weeks during a death march project.

    Oh, and these guys are from Omaha – home of Warren Buffett.  Somehow that makes sense in bizarro world.

    BTW, will music reviewers please stop labeling them as “emo”?  What an abused genre label that’s turned out to be.

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Lifecycle of custom tooling for aircraft manufacturing

    I remember reading in a Skunk Works book that they had a custom toolset for working on the SR-71. I imagine needing custom tools ends up being pretty common for cutting-edge military aircraft.

    Here's my question: at what point do aircraft designers realize that they're going to have to mold and cast custom toolsets to fabricate an airplane? Does it happen at the design stage, while the aircraft is still on paper? Or do they start with off-the-shelf parts and ultimately the tools go through several iterations?

    I'm asking because I am curious if a similar approach to the requirements/design lifecycle of can be taken for development of custom tools in support of a larger software project.

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    No more auto-detune!

    I decided to listen to the "Top 100 songs on iTunes" list on Zune (they mirror the top 100, so subscribers can listen -- yes I resubscribed, I'm weak).

    In any case, I've listened to 5 of the top 100 so far and 3 of them had that stupid auto-tune effect used by T-Pain, originally made popular by Cher. Of the Black Eyed Peas, Flo Rida, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Jamie Foxx (with T-Pain), I think the only ones that didn't use the effect were Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus.

    For those who don't know what I'm talking about, check out this spoof of auto-tuning.

    I'm going to start calling this effect "auto detune", because it sounds so awful (except is very funny in the above).

    Saturday, May 09, 2009

    I is more stronger than Darth Vapor!

    For those who haven’t seen it before.

    BTW, this week’s internet meme is Play him off, Keyboard Cat,

    Test Driven Development

    A lot of people are ripping this video on the internets but I found it to be really, really good.



    One of the criticisms of the speech I read here is that talking about TDD is outdated, because everyone should be doing it now.   I’m not sure what world that guy works in, because millions of lines of code shipped with no unit tests.  None.  I’m not even saying TDD here.. I’m saying unit tests in any form. 

    TDD should be a mandate on any project running things with “agile”.   The ideas of agile cannot be reflected without code written in the TDD way.  For example, how is it supposed to be that any engineer can pick up any task on the board?   The only way to make something like that work is to use TDD.  They cannot verify that their addition has not broken the rest of the system without it.

    Furthermore, what’s the point of having an acceptance test at a management level—a sticky on a board given to a product owner to verify—if we don’t do the same thing for our code?   How do you know something works, just because a it was verified at a user level?  It’s brittle, and foolish.  If one is to work on code in the agile framework, they should be writing acceptance tests—unit tests—ahead of their code. 

    Anyway, fabulous presentation, no matter what you think of the Ruby/Rails community (they do seem to have quite a bit of entertaining infighting).

    Friday, May 08, 2009

    I wouldn’t hire these morons either

    Wow, they have a college degree. So what. Most people who go to college shouldn’t be in college. They should know what they need to know by the 12th grade in order to function in society. That, or our K-12 schools have completely failed us. Because you know a communications degree from Siena college doesn’t mean shit, right? What the hell do you learn in that major, how to party in Loudonville?

    Doctors, engineers, mathematicians, lawyers, physicists, chemists, biologists, vets, even agriculture or forestry majors… these are the people who can learn something more useful to society in college than in K-12. The exception is being a college professor – but that’s kind of recursive. You go to college and major in English to become a college professor in English. Because what the hell else would you do with that degree?

    College, however, is a business. As such, they’ve conned millions of people into thinking that you need a college degree to do anything in life – and they’ve convinced employers that worthwhile candidates must have a college degree. Furthermore, colleges have convinced everyone that you have to specialize in very expensive ways. If you don’t believe me, check out Academy of Art in San Francisco. This “college” has to be one of the biggest scams around. I’ll get into that someday in a future post.

    Also, I just want to point out that this girl is trying to find a job on Craigslist on her overpriced MacBook. If she was that desperate, go to the frickin library and use a computer there. I bet daddy bought this for her.

    I additionally want to point out that she was serving drinks at Jake’s Dilemma, a bar I used to frequent on the Upper West Side. The great thing about this bar is they have dozens of beers on tap. It’s actually a great place to have a quality beer on draft, if it weren’t overrun by idiotic fratboys like the ones this girl caters to.

    Wednesday, May 06, 2009

    How many DVD+Rs and CD-Rs to buy?

    I'm running low on DVD+Rs and CD-Rs. I think the last time I bought any was at least 2-3 years ago.

    How many should I buy, do you think? I'm wondering if 25 for each will be all I'll ever use in the rest of my life. Mostly for Windows installs on the DVD+R side, but even for that I've started using USB keys.

    Not sure why I would need CD-Rs but they're so cheap I might as well buy a few more.

    Please send your feedback to this dilemma in the comments.

    Saturday, May 02, 2009

    Cisco VPN under Windows XP mode on Windows 7

    For those of you who are looking for a solution to Cisco VPN on 64-bit versions of Windows 7:  it works in XP mode, at least in a non-tunneling way (so far).

    1. Install XP Mode for Windows 7 editions that support it (Pro, Ultimate)
    2. Launch into XP mode and install Cisco VPN
    3. Close down XP mode shell and you’ll see Cisco VPN added to your Windows 7 Start menu:

    4. Now you’ll be able to launch Cisco VPN from your Windows 7 session.

    The next trick is to make a tunneling program between Windows 7 and the Cisco VPN that’s running on XP mode.  Depending on how ambitious I feel later, I may take this on.  If someone else does, let me know.  Anything to screw Cisco on this stupid x64 VPN ruse of theirs.  I got a quote that it would cost our company nearly $100K to support x64 clients (i.e. AnyConnect) because of Cisco’s refusal to make an x64 client.  That’s unacceptable--especially considering most companies have VPN concentrators that are still under support!

    Friday, May 01, 2009

    Jenny McCarthy should be in jail

    You know how people think the government is oppressive for even talk that people be mandated to immunize their children? Well, this is on area where I'm willing to give up my libertarian views and say yes, the government should require vaccination or go to jail. And I am traditionally very skeptical of anything that is for "the greater good." But by not vaccinating, a person is needlessly putting children at risk before they can be vaccinated, and those people should be punished for that.

    Furthermore, certifiable nutjobs like Jenny McCarthy who spread fear about vaccination, or those who allow them time on public airwaves should be fined by the FCC. I do not care about the first amendment on this. Children are needlessly dying because assholes like McCarthy use the Today show to spread fear. The media should be held liable for putting people like this on TV. If a producer at NBC would take the time to read McCarthy's website, it becomes obvious it reads like nutjob pseudoscience:

    • "Consider giving high doses of Vitamin C (3,000-5,000 mg per day) on the day before, of, and after vaccination."
    • "Consider no more than one vaccine per doctor’s visit."
    Yet they still allow them on TV. Unbelievable.

    Finally if this video about morons in Australia who refused to vaccinate doesn't rip your heart out and sway your opinion on this, you have no soul

    Have I made myself clear?

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Orthopedic Surgeons

    A couple weeks ago, I had an MRI because I’ve had some knee pain.  I had asked for a CD of the MRI to look at on my own and something strange showed up:


    I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time because I actually thought it was some kind of artifact from MRI itself.

    Today I went to the orthopedic surgeon for a follow-up.  His diagnosis:

    1. It’s not cancer (uhhhh… that’s good, because I hadn’t even thought of that)
    2. It’s a bone bruise.

    He said something like:  “How’d you get a bone bruise?  We usually see that in football players.”  Answer:  I have no clue.  I assume it was in a basketball game when I collided with someone else’s knee, which happens every so often.

    Anyway, I had never heard of a bone bruise, so I asked him a bunch of questions about it.  For example:  can I play basketball; should I ice it every day; should I do more physical therapy… etc.

    The whole time I was asking these questions, he basically wanted to get out of there like a he was on a blind date with Ted Kaczynski.  He offered me no advice other than “just let the pain tell you when to stop” and “take some motrin before you play.”  After all that running around, physical therapy, MRI, etc., it was essentially a useless consult.

    I told my wife about this and she’s like “Yeah, a lot of orthopedic surgeons are like that.”  I started thinking about this more and it actually makes a lot of sense.  There are pretty much two options for an orthopedic surgeon:

    1. Standard stuff like painkillers, ice, physical therapy.
    2. Surgery.

    And that’s it!  It’s not like a regular doctor where there are all kinds of additional tests they might run, or different drugs they can prescribe to help.  The only drug they can prescribe that makes any sense is a painkiller.  Other than that, it’s the knife.  So if they already know it’s not the knife, they might as well try to get out of there as fast as possible so they can make their tee time.


    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    Windows 7 RC

    I installed Windows 7 RC x64 on my second drive and it's pretty solid.  Really solid.   See my last post on the subject for thoughts on running the beta.  The RC is something I might consider running full time.

    For one thing, it's faster and installed even less painfully than the beta. The Windows install process has improved a lot since XP (the Vista install was pretty good, albeit slow). Win 7 installs somewhat faster.  The built-in driver support is also spectacular.  My machine was up and running perfectly with no additional drivers (in fact, an Intel driver bug I know of made it into this release).

    The OS itself is faster than Vista on the same machine.  Granted, this is a fresh install, though I’ve put a bunch of apps on already and it continues to perform great.  I’m a huge fan of the Windows-key-to-search shortcut in Vista.  I use it for everything. It’s much, much faster than Vista’s, even on a bare install.

    I've been very skeptical of the new taskbar, but, I've come around to it because the right-clicking features are really nice.  The addition to right-click features for the control panel is very welcome. They've changed the highlighting so apps that need attention now actually get my attention (this was a problem in the beta). Also there's a little bit better delineation between apps that are open with multiple windows and apps that are closed.

    They changed some icons, for the better, I think. Remote Desktop Connection doesn't look like "My Computer" as it did in earlier versions.  The new sound themes are nice.  I’m using the “cityscape” theme.  Maybe I can get used to one of these so the Bank of American ATMs that use old default Windows sounds won’t annoy the crap out of me thinking there are constant errors while I’m getting cash out.

    The new Media Center is great. For one thing, you can finally drag the current position on the timeline. This was probably the #1 thing I felt was missing from media center previously. They also made it so you can add your ripped DVDs without having to do some registry hacking to get it to show up. The performance in a window seems better as well. I'm typing this with "Cloverfield" playing (ripped DVD), a few apps open and the machine is having no problems keeping up the playback.

    I’m still unclear where Media Center is going though.  It’s pretty much the best software that comes with Windows that no one will use.

    HomeGroup seems like a great feature, and you can share media with your homegroup over Windows Live now in the RC.   I’d love to try this feature out more, but I’m not willing to install Windows 7 on multiple machines as of yet.

    UAC is less invasive for daily installs and usage. 

    Apparently Microsoft is adding a built-in XP virtual machine for Enterprise, Business and Ultimate versions of Windows 7.   This was a secret feature until Paul Thurott revealed it yesterday, and it sounds like a really good move on Microsoft’s part.  Obviously it won’t work for the business that I’m in, which requires DirectX and OpenGL, but I’m sure it will help the business adoption of Windows 7 overall.  It’s a bit like the move that Apple made with Mac OS Classic for MacOS X.  It might be so slow performance wise that it’s unusable, but hey, it will get a lot of people to upgrade who otherwise wouldn’t.

    Anyway – Windows 7, I’m running it to type this.  We’ll see if I continue to run it in the days and weeks to come, but I think it’s a given now that I’ll upgrade on day one of the RTM[1]


    [1] – For those who know my tendency to early adopt, I did not run the RTM of Vista on my main machine at home for at least 6 months (it was a new machine), and at work for 2 years.  I expect that timeframe to be much, much shorter for both locations for Windows 7.

    The lighter side of swine flu

    Swine flu seems like a nice ploy to get a Chrysler bankruptcy off the front page. Again, this proves that the news is anything that sells or creates panic, and is not an indication of noteworthiness.

    Seriously, 20 infected in the US? 60 dead in Mexico? This is a pandemic? Give me a break. More people die in car crashes every day. More people die of regular flu every day. Hernia killed over a thousand people in 2005.

    Get back to me when one of these "pandemics" kills hundreds of thousands, not dozens. Survivors of the black death and spanish flu viruses would be laughing at our media and hysteria.

    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Resolving billing disputes

    Just in case anyone doubts that Verizon Wireless' customer service is about a million times better than AT&T's:

    Verizon Wireless: 5 minutes, 1 call
    AT&T: 1 hour and counting, 2 calls

    These stats don't include time to get someone on the phone in the first place. The AT&T guy "didn't submit it right" the first time -- he took about 45 minutes to get it entered. I've been on the phone 15 minutes so far to try to resolve this again.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Unsubscribed from Zune Pass

    Of course, my subscription just renewed 2 days ago so that means it goes off in a month.

    It's really too bad, because I loved the service. However, I vote with my dollars, and Microsoft's removing all indie labels from Zune Pass is totally unacceptable. I think the third album I hit today that has been "removed from the marketplace" was my tipping point. I might as well be buying these off of iTunes if it's going to be this way.

    See Zune Pass content disappearing at a geometric rate for more.


    Short list of albums removed:

    • Guitar Wolf -- Jet Generation
    • High Contrast -- Tough Guys Don't Dance
    • Daniel Portman -- Twisted Memories
    • Atari Teenage Riot -- 60 Second Wipeout
    • Band of Horses -- Both albums
    • Swayzak -- Dirty Dancing
    • Gus Gus -- Forever
    Like I said, Indie stuff is basically dead on Zune.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    It's over for aggregators

    You know.. aggregators? Like FriendFeed? It's over for them. Windows Live is added Web Activities. They'll probably get more people using it in the first day than FriendFeed has in their entire life.

    Now if anyone had a clue what Windows Live actually was, that might be meaningful. But there are a variety of things Windows Live seems to be:
    • Some kind of web portal.
    • A search engine.
    • A bunch of stuff you install on your computer, like an instant messaging app.
    • Some kind of syncing thing ("Mesh"?)
    • A photo album viewer
    • A gaming thing like Xbox Live
    • A blogging thing (WindowsLive Spaces)

    Windows Live is essentially so non-branded it just means anything that Microsoft decides to do online at the time. And this week, it's a FriendFeed ripoff.

    Apple constantly accuses Microsoft of stealing stuff, but here's one thing they haven't stolen: any kind of decent branding strategy. At least when Apple comes up with some dumb service they give it a slick name, even if it's worse than free alternatives. Microsoft comes up with actually pretty decent services -- often stolen from others' ideas -- then doesn't brand them at all and they end up fading into oblivion.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Zune Pass content disappearing at a geometric rate

    You know how Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate, then decides to destroy all humans? Zune Pass is kind of like that, but in the form of a black hole sucking my subscription money.

    I'd approximate that no less than 40% of the stuff I've downloaded from Zune Pass is "no longer available on Marketplace for download." So most of my music collection has been invalidated with the flip of a switch over at Microsoft. Hey, thanks guys!

    Every day that goes by seems like another opportunity to ditch Zune Pass. I have really enjoyed downloading music to my Zune and the Zune pass, but what's the point if it's going to be like this? I'd rather not find the music in the first place than to have it go away on me and have to buy it on iTunes anyway.

    Plus, the new Zune HD is going to be a touchscreen-only device.

    Hey, I have one of those--it's called my iPhone--and hate it for playing music. It's too hard to use in the car. Without Zune Pass being worthwhile, and with a new device that seems just like my annoying-to-use-in-the-car iPhone, I wonder how much longer having a Zune is going to be any fun.

    Battling a Velociraptor

    I could survive for 1 minute, 13 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Don’t let GM go bankrupt!!!111

    Because, look, think of all of the people with related businesses.  Auto parts.  Mechanics, dealers. 

    Personally, I’ve got about 5,000 of these stickers I have to unload FAST. 


    What am I going to do if GM goes bankrupt?!  And what about all of my Calvin-Pissing-On-Ford stickers that I need to unload to Chevy customers?

    Hey, while I was looking for this image to put in this post, I found this hilarious suggestion from Google:


    You know what I really want?  A Calvin pissing on an Audi logo, or maybe Bentley.  That would be pretty frickin funny.

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    I missed the news to-day...

    I'm giving up on the news[1]. For now.

    [1] - Except selected blogs, as you'll see.

    Last week, after that little girl went missing in Dublin, CA and was subsequently found in a suitcase, I had had it with the news. I just don't need to hear it anymore. I don't want to hear about cops being shot because they're afraid to draw their guns in a traffic stop. I don't want to hear about the EPA's positioning to tax CO2. I don't want to hear about Obama's raising our taxes (see: CO2) and spending us into oblivion at the same time. I don't want to hear about Rachel Maddow versus so-and-so. If you mention these things in your Blog, Twitter or Facebook feed, I will de-friend you or unsubscribe. Don't take it personally.

    Not only does the news itself suck, but every news story has bias these days. I'm sick of it. This clip demonstrates why I'm completely giving up on the news:

    So here are the blogs I'll continue to read, which I'm pretty sure are unbiased:
    • Paul Thurott's Windows Supersite
    • Long Zheng's istartedsomething
    • Miguel de Icaza's blog (sorry, I'll have to unsub from your twitter though, since you talk politics there)
    • Zero Hedge
    • Coding Horror
    • Scott Gu's blog.
    • Valleywag

    That said, I have a WSJ subscription going to waste. :(

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    For all of you who worried about Phil Gramm advising McCain...

    ... because he pushed through the legislation in 2000 that significantly deregulated derivatives (check out Mother Jones article "Foreclosure Phil"). Guess what?! You've got your new guy in the White House who appoints the people who came up with the idea -- Larry Summers (also a Mother Jones article... how's that for even handed linking on my part?)

    I used to think Code Pink were nuts. I still think they're nuts, but I find myself agreeing with them more and more. It seems that what they do does not make any difference, but it's still entertaining.

    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    Voice is dead; long live voice

    I just made my first call using the Skype app for my iPhone (to a 1-800 number). The quality was noticeably better than I get using GSM at home. After I was done with the call, I turned to my wife and said “Voice, as a business model, is dead.”

    The only question is, how to replace it? How can you find a person with the maze of messaging apps that do voice calling? You’ve got Skype, MSN, AOL, Gmail, Google Voice, and so on. With any of these, the easiest thing to do is set up a phone number for people to reach you.

    But let’s say you have the Skype phone number for people to call into. How do you handle things like PBX? I called AT&T’s 1-800 number using Skype. That 1-800 number routes calls to hundreds of people sitting in cubes somewhere based on their availability. Can Skype do that? I doubt it. (BTW, this is a good business idea if one was so inclined).

    And then there’s the mobile aspect. Someone needs to release a device that uses one of these services, like Skype, on a mobile network. Ok. Assuming that any mobile provider would go along with this, once again you’ll have to buy a phone number if you want most people to reach you. In that case, what was the point? Unless you and receive so many calls that a cell phone is cost-prohibitive, you might as well just get a regular cell phone.

    So even though the price of voice calling is dropping to zero—fast—I’m still not sure how to get rid of the telephone system in its current state and migrate to VoIP entirely. Telephone numbers are easy. You have a country code, an area code and a phone number. They’re easy to remember. They work between all of these online services like Skype and MSN. Will we end up in a situation where telephone numbers become the method by which people call over the internet and the regular telephone system?

    Thursday, April 09, 2009

    Dear Java and C++ Coders,

    You don't need getters and setters in C#. Check out properties. Or just type "prop" into Visual Studio and it will autocomplete the C# property structure for you.


    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Programming languages are popularized to sell books

    Latest case-in-point is Scala.  OMG, Twitter’s using it!  Therefore, it must be awesome!epic_fail_whale

    Guess what,  I still notice a lot of fail whales there on that thar Twitter (see image nearby).

    Need I remind anyone that Twitter got into this situation by using the last language-of-the-week, namely Ruby.   Only this time, the guy using Scala at Twitter is also writing a book about Scala.  Surprised?  I’m not.

    Ruby on Rails was, and is, mostly a vehicle for people to write books and sell classes.  It’s not a vehicle for making serious, high traffic websites.  Those already existed.  They were called Java and PHP.  For serious, serious, high traffic websites, there’s still C++ (see: Google).

    And now we have Scala.  This is nothing more than yet another language put on top of the JVM like Groovy or Jython.  Why is that important?  It’s a semantic issue.  Literally.   It’s like taking Boo over C#.  You’ve got the exact same functionality and speed at the VM level, but about 1/10,000th of the potential hiring base as you would with Java or C#.

    I’m picking on Ruby on Rails and Scala a bit in this post, but you know where we should have learned our lesson about this?  Java and C++.  Creating languages is a business.  It’s a business to sell development environments, sell server technology, sell books, sell methodologies, to lock you into SDKs and platforms.  The C++ transition was pushed hardest by Microsoft.  That should have told you something, but now we’re all doing it again with Microsoft by picking up C# (kudos again to the Mono team, btw for keeping C# real).

    Anyway, people say the most important thing about choosing these languages is speed of iteration.  That’s swell, until you get so many users that the technology you chose to iterate on fails miserably.  I’d rather spend more time on development and get it to work well in deployment than believe in a myth that more servers solve every scaling problem.  Only issues is you can’t sell books that way.  Right guys?

    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    Correction to “U2 Albums Ranked”

    Astute readers may remember my post “U2 Albums Ranked”.  I’d like to make a correction.

    So I was just messing around in iTunes and ranked the songs of Achtung Baby and Joshua Tree individually using the 1-5 star system in there.  When you do this, iTunes will calculate the average and rank the album for you. 

    As it turns out, the average number of stars for Joshua Tree was 4.72 versus Achtung Baby’s 4.25.  Reason:  I don’t particularly like Acrobat and Love is Blindness from Achtung Baby, and gave those 2 stars.  The surprising thing though is that even without those tracks, Joshua Tree still would have won by 0.02. 

    Therefore, I have to conclude that Joshua Tree is, in fact, U2’s best album.  I will now leave you with an appropriate picture of Bono.


    Obama, Geithner and Bair are committing a crime

    Read the law they're breaking here. It mandates that insolvent banks must be taken over by the FDIC unless they can come up with a private plan to restore adequate capitalization.

    The best thing about Apple

    You know what the best thing about Apple is?  The Apple Store. 

    • The Genius Bar is a really straightforward place to get tech support.  People like being able to see someone in person, not just talk to some guy in India who is following a flowchart for tech support.  This is good for tech people like me, since I want the person to be able to recognize that I know what hell I’m talking about.  And it’s good for novices, because they can take their broken computer there and show it to someone, rather than trying to describe it on the phone.
    • The classes.  What a stroke of genius this was.  Buy a Mac or iPhone, we’ll show you how to use it for free.  My mom’s cousin has been doing these classes for the iPhone at the Burlingame Apple Store and loves it.  What’s great about this is that it appeals to the demographic that doesn’t want to read the manual or try to figure something out for themselves, but would rather have someone show it to them.  Usually this is anyone over the age of 40 who just wants something that works and that they can use and isn’t a gadget freak. 

    Pretty cool.   I guess paying more for a Mac subsidizes these services they give to you as a customer.   And this is probably why the Gateway and Dell stores just haven’t done well.   Who cares about going to the store to buy things?  I want the store there for when I have a problem after I’ve bought something.  Otherwise I’d just order it from mail order and be happy with phone support.

    It would be wise of Microsoft to follow through on their plans to open Microsoft stores and help people use Windows with free classes like Apple supplies.  But I’m not clear on how they’d have a genius bar.  Would the Windows geniuses simply blame the hardware vendor or the hardware vendor’s drivers?