diego's weblog: September 2002 Archives
engineers and cynicismOn Engineering Cynicism, comments by Dave Winer and Scott Rosenberg. I disagree: I've known many engineers who are stupid, selfish and greedy, just plain and simply bad people. These generalizations are note very accurate (Caveats from Weinberger notwhistanding). As "engineering" becomes as common as "coffee shop owner" the types of people into it grow until we get the same variety as in society in general. "You can't lie to the compiler?" no, but for some vermin, lying to your coworkers and employees is a piece of cake.
last DM single
I've just discovered that Depeche Mode released a new single this past February.
poverty in the US
A New York Times article from a few days ago on the increase in poverty in the US. One million new poor, and a wider gap between rich and poor. Not unexpected in a recession, but still something that makes you think. If Capitalism doesn't work in the US, its highest exponent, where then? Capitalism works for some things though, and anyway we don't have a better alternative yet. We have to keep looking.
electronic ink devices
Not quite. One of the devices I mentioned, the IBM Transnote, had a similar system (although the sensor was a magnetic sensor under the paper instead of above it). I worked on a sister product of the Transnote while I was at IBM Research and the main problem of the technology is the handwriting recognition or, if that doesn't exist, having a really, really, really good organizing system for the notes you load into the devices. Otherwise, you simply replicate the problem of thousands of notes, but inside your PC (which is a step forward, but not a complete solution). Add to that the problem of having to carry around yet another device (which is in part what the Transnote was trying to solve).
However, the new Seiko device is really interesting, I'm glad to see they have advanced on it and made it better-looking and more portable. I'll see if I can find it somewhere and give it a try.
the Press in China
An article on the battle of China's government to keep their press under control. Interesting read.
the consequences of monopolies
So someone from Red Herring was moderating a panel about the future of software with Microsoft Executives, ex-Microsoft executives, and Executives of companies that operate in Microsoft's orbit in Seattle, and asked them: why is the software industry so depressed? The reply was:
"To a man, they told me that CIOs were punishing the software industry for more than a decade of overpromises and underperformance."Call it "the effect of spreading FUD." And who exactly has proven to be the master at FUD? Hmmm...
So what can you sell?
Surprise! Last I checked, things like Operating Systems and Word Processors were also "must have". Is it a coincidence that they don't even mention them? Or is it because --gasp!-- people have no choice but to buy their products?
Then, what about the 'next big thing'?
No wonder Microsoft can't innovate. They don't think there's anything left to do in the computer industry but milk the proverbial cash cow: Windows, Office, etc., and sell some new "communications" software if they are lucky. That's the biggest danger of monopolies: stasis, not high prices. We need change.
the last nirvana song
The last song Nirvana composed will finally be released. About time!
On the topic, Charles Cross's Biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven is excellent. I want to read it again soon.
Looking for something else I found this page with many interesting links related to DSL and the problems/solutions that come with a permanent connection at home. A good "summary".
weblog panel links
catching up on some things... Scott Rosenberg recently was on a panel about weblogs (Radio Free Blogistan has a transcript here), and afterwards he posted a list of links to Salon articles on the subject. They are interesting not only because they go back to 1998, but also because they are only three. So little coverage from a magazine like Salon shows that, recent hype wave notwhitstanding, weblogs are a relatively unknown concept for Internet users at large.
Having been on several plane flights this past month, this article caught my attention. I traveled within Europe and to Latin America and I didn't notice any of the paranioa the article mentions (or that mentioned by other related articles recently in the US press). Although of course the issue of security featured more prominently (specially in the excuses for delays given by the airline) it was fairly relaxed in that sense, which is good: the overreaction in the US to Sept. 11 has been ridiculous adding security where it's not needed and prohibiting all sorts of things on planes.
the perfect note-taker
Back in Dublin after a sleepless, grueling 24-hour trip, jetlagged and tired, and now I have to decide what to transcribe the notes I've taken over these few weeks. I have notes on paper notebooks, on my laptop, on Post-its, on restaurant napkins and random pieces of paper... Yes, I did take my laptop with me, but many times there is simply no choice other than to write things down on paper. A Palm is useful for short notes, but not for 100-word paragraphs (at least to me -- I refuse to learn to write Graffiti in ultrafast-fashion as some Palm-owners do for the simple reason that I think our products should adapt to us and not us to them). I don't think I'm alone in wanting a product that would solve this problem. The perfect device for taking short notes would be something like the Thinkpad Transnote, but way lighter and smaller, something with instant-on and hundreds of hours of battery life... and that can handle having coffee spilled on it and still work. Most of the technology needed for this 'perfect device' is already available, and on its way, and yet the most we are getting are re-hashes of PDAs and laptops. Hardware innovation really has a ways to go.
no time for weblogs
This time what I don't have time for is to post here at all. Although I've been making notes every day of things I want to comment on I simply do not have time to sit down and write them down properly to post them. Maybe in a couple of days...
testing the standard model
A group at CERN has manufactured enough antimatter to test the standard model in physics.
art and life
An article on Trent Reznor and his "pretty hate machines." I guess it's not a coincidence that NiN's music is what it is. :-)
A couple of days ago I finished reading the Telemachus episode of Ulysses (the 1922 Text, linked is one of the references that seems to be quite complete, but in a topic with as many experts as Ulysses and Joyce, I will have to compile a list of links as well as the 'offline material' I'm reading). Stylistically what I keep thinking about is the internal dialogue and how it's done. Wondering whether to use it and trying to define exactly the limits placed by "X thought..." and their comparison to internal dialogue.
So I just tried a few simple things with Eclipse.
One word: WOW.
I take back what I said before. Design by committee seems to have worked in this case somehow. Maybe it's because it is open source?
It's an amazing environment. All the features of IDEA and many others that IDEA doesn't have and I always wished it did. Variable names support suffixes to do refactoring! (IDEA doesn't). It has JUnit and Ant support built-in (including the JUnit and Ant code preinstalled and configured), along with other excellent features such as simple JAR file packaging and many of the best ideas of Visual Age (which I forgot to mention before as what would be one of my favorite environments if IBM didn't charge IBM price for it). A Build-as-you-edit process that guarantees code is always updated, and other things such as excellent CVS integration (with the default remote shell as SSH!!) and the same level of customization, code generation and refactoring as what I've seen in IDEA.
And it's open source, and it's free.
I'll have to try it for a bit longer, but it's possible that IDEA might have lost its crown...
computers for the poor
Inexpensive. Simple. A computer that people in poor countries might be able to use. Keyword here is might. Poor people in poor countries need food before microchips, but this kind of technology could be useful for some people, and certainly better than forcing them to choose between paying for a Wintel PC or having nothing at all.
the crying of lot 49
Just as Gravity's Rainbow is always in the background of my mind the Crying of Lot 49 is another book that keeps coming
back, over and over. Structurally and conceptually simpler (a lot simpler)
than GR, tCoL49 nevertheless displays many of GR's traits in a way that V
didn't. V was more personal in terms of story and underlying symbology,
tCoL49 has the scope in symbolism and narrative that GR displays, but for
a single plotline, while GR is ... well... everything. Because it's
simpler, tCoL49 is more approachable as well, maybe even more so than V,
because of its size. I have to read V again soon, before re-reading
incredibleThe Washington Post has some astonishing news: In an Iraqi War Scenario, Oil Is a Key Issue. Wow. I am shocked! Shocked I tell you!!!
flaw in CryptoAPIMicrosoft disclosed that a major flaw in CryptoAPI could make it easy for some websites to impersonate others. It seems that the problem is related to certificate chains, and one has to wonder, where is their much-vaunted security initiative? Cert verification is one of the most basic functions in cryptography...
I thought I would have time to check out Eclipse but I could only download it. Too many people to see. :-) At least it's on my hard drive now, I'll check it out later. Two things are already making me wary: its size (50+ MB) and the consortium of companies involved in its creation. Design by committee never works well, much less when committee members are competitors.
the long arm of...
Weird: Right after 9/11 last year, Bin Laden's family members in the US where helped by a concerted effort from the Saudi Arabian and the US Government to leave the country.
I keep forgetting to check out Eclipse (First time I heard about it was around July). Well, no longer. Now I have some time, so I am downloading it and will see if it's good. I am skeptical that it can be better than IntelliJ IDEA (which I've been using for about a year now).
simonyi leaves microsoft
Microsoft has announced that Charles Simonyi (an ex-PARC scientist --from PARC's golden days-- that went on to create Word at MS among other things) will be leaving MS soon to start his own software company. The new company will apparently focus on programming tools and such.
I started using Mozilla about a month ago and I quickly got convinced that it was better than IE.
Here are some reasons. With Mozilla you can:
I was writing an entry on information overload on //no comment and I was thinking of the tech side to the problem: better tools. "Google everywhere" if you will, that would be a first step. But just a "google-like" tool is not enough, we need categorization, and an app that learns what we want based on our previous behavior. A "digital information center" that simplifies information management. Not just a better PIM, but a new kind of application.
This past week I've been reading more than writing. Part of it is the trip: visiting family and friends gives me little time to reflect much on geopolitics and whatever and makes me focus on the immediate. The other part however is that there has been a lot of opinion pieces and commentary on the press this past week. Here are some of them, with different viewpoints and ideas on what happened, what will happen, and how to make things happen:
All of these articles have common themes of course: September 11, one year on, and the coming US-Iraq conflict. This debate is good: that's how democracy is supposed to work. But.... but.... there is so much information and so many ideas and opinions... how can people keep up with them? It seems to me that the press and politicians and "policymakers" are talking to each other and they rely on polls to know what the people think. The people, meanwhile, are basically told what to think by what they read and see on TV. Unbiased and unadulterated information is rare. Such a vicious cycle of "decision making" sounds seriously broken to me. Wrong, wrong. And this is just one topic.
The question is, how to change it?
MS and P2P
Microsoft acquired XDegrees about a week ago as a further move into P2P technologies that will supposedly be integrated in various forms into .Net. I wonder, how is their agreement with Groove affected by this? Isn't this yet another case of MS purchasing something small so they can kill the competition? (If they have the P2P technology, they have the End user apps, they have the servers... Groove and Microsoft seem increasingly like competitors more than partners.)
Klein on the Earth Summit
Naomi Klein on the recently completed Earth Summit. Many good points.
Scott Rosenberg on a blog entry on PIMs mentions Ecco (which has been recently revived) as one of his favorites. He also points to two of his previous columns on PIMs (from the late 90s): Personal Information Mismanagement and From Agenda to Zoot. The second article contains an excellent summary of all the options available at the time of writing, and comments on how people like to use these programs, and how they aren't nearly flexible enough to help you track, apart from calendars and adresses, other kinds of information that may be unique to your needs). In the first article, he makes the following point:
"The real problem here may lie in the software industry's obsession with "creating standards." Each PIM producer may dream that it might someday achieve Microsoft-like dominance of its niche (as Microsoft itself plainly does), but by their nature PIMS tend toward a fragmented market: Some people like outliners, others like databases; some like structure, some like free-form approaches. So "creating a standard" is nearly impossible; a program like Ecco may develop a loyal and significant following, but it's unlikely to appeal to everyone. And in today's software business, companies run away from markets that don't offer at least the hope of some kind of standard-setting monopoly. (Limited as the PIM options are for Windows users, they're practically nonexistent for Mac users.)Companies have their priorities wrong: instead of creating a good product they try to swamp the market with "standards". Apple however has shown that you can survive by catering to a particular niche (in their case, by being the "Porsche" of PCs). We have become used to the idea that a company has to growgrowGROW all the time, always bigger, better, faster, more money, more! That's what's wrong. If the company can be small and still provide good software and a good service, and a good living for its employees, then that should be acceptable as well.
Intel and 802.11
Intel releases its first 802.11 chips.
terror and technology
From Ray Ozzie: Tyranny, Terror and Technology. Some good ideas (and links), but I think he is stretching the analogy of the US government as an "adaptive and resilient network form" a bit too far. The US has continually expanded its power, in big part, because of its large amount of natural resources and its geographical insulation from the world and in particular from "combustible" areas such as the Middle East. Analogies like these are always "slippery"... we tend to think that simply because there is an analogy between X and Y , if we understand X then we also understand Y, and that's not usually the case.
strategy or fumble?
The confusing message of the white house in the past few months 'making the case' for war on Iraq. Was it the plan all along to create a perception of unilateralism so that then mild multilateralism would seem acceptable to the international community? A summary from Salon.
p2p worm spreading in servers
News.com reports threat levels rising associated with a new kind of Linux/Apache server worm that creates a P2P network to perform flooding attacks. (Here is a Symantec security advisory). I wonder when we will hit on an appropriate software development process and architecture that will be resilient enough to provide adequate security in the highly interconnected systems we're dealing with today.
the lessons of 9/11
Dave is right. 9/11 was horrible. But everywhere in the world, 9/11 is being replayed all the time, everyday... without CNN watching.
whatever happened to...
SGI? A company's collapse that was truly painful to watch, with all the amazing technology it created... BusinessWeek has an update.
Incredible article: houses that are so badly built that they release toxins that kill or seriously injure their inhabitants through release of toxins into the internal atmosphere of the house.
a new era of software
For a while, we were seduced into thinking that we should optimize costs by reducing the PC to being a dumb terminal, or by stopping the upgrade cycle, or by reverting to a simpler, generic OS. But as we by necessity deal with more and more PCs in our lives, and as we use them in more and more locations, and as we've come to terms with the fact that we can't imagine doing our jobs without them in the course of our work with others, it has become clearer that the most critical thing to optimize is our time. And in order to do that, we need more appropriate technology, not just simpler tech.
Exactly. And anyway, what's important about the web are the protocols, not the interfaces. The interfaces (i.e., browsers) will change and merge into other applications and disappear. The protocols will live on. XML will only accelerate this.
"It's finally dawned on many of us that our software has fallen behind our infrastructure, and that we need significant upgrades to our systems and application software that bring them into an era of ubiquitous computing and communications. We need to prepare for, and to embrace a whole new generation of systems and application software that leverages our computers and networks specifically and tangibly to increase our interpersonal productivity and agility. To enable us to spin more plates; or to keep them up in the air in a more measured manner."
Right on. Mass-market software has grown stale, Microsoft's claims to "innovation" notwhistanding. There are too many things that are falling in place and will require a qualitative leap in applications to be used fully: P2P, Ad hoc, Wi-Fi, UWB. I feel we are approaching a new critical point, (as it has been the tradition in the computer industry to reach one ever ten years or so: 1960s mainframes, 1970s minis, 1980s PCs and LANs, 1990s the Internet, and 2000s... well, maybe massively distributed edge networks?)
the first smiley
CNET: apparently they've found the first reference ever to the smiley ":-)".
Charles Cooper: how much of what we use every day in PCs has been molded by chance. What will it take for us to get to better, more usable solutions?
giving up on the web
From The Economist: Bertelsmann realign its businesses, killing off a lot of their Internet-related properties. Eventually they'll have to move back in though, or someone will have them for lunch...
platforms and products
From Salon: the selling of 9/11. The article is good because it talks about something that the (US) media barely mentions, but seems to be a bit apologetic about the marketing of a tragedy, trying to explain that 'americans deal with tragedy by coopting it trough marketing.' It sounds like a bit of a stretch. I think that kind of 'co-opting' minimized reality and turns it into a product, with the consequence that nothing is more than something to be bought or sold, no matter how horrible or beautiful. The article mentions this, but I think it doesn't make it clear enough.
Microsoft unveils MP9
Media Player: The next generation. 500 million dollars in development costs. Please, please, someone tell me, how does one spend five hundred million dollars to develop a media player and server? How bloatedly inneficient is that?
Gee. For half a billion dollars I would have expected at least a free vacation to the Bahamas included in every package...
Charles Cooper on the effect on privacy and security that the terrorists attacks brought.
An interesting discussion by Chuck Shotton on the origins of the URL separator format.
war PR management
Via Scott Rosenberg: a story on the NY Times about how the whole "we're looking at all the options" thing of the Bush administration has been managing the PR side of it rather than actually 'thinking' anything:
"From a marketing point of view," said Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff who is coordinating the effort, "you don't introduce new products in August."
The "product" here, mind you, is war. How can you have people talking about "selling" something like a war, and getting away with it?
And Scott's comment is right on target. If it's so urgent, how come they can wait until "the product" can be "introduced"? And wait around for the President to have a nice vacation?
Hearing Cheney speak two weeks ago something gave me the impression they might even launch an attack or at least try to escalate the conflict before the elections in November. Yes: October. Just a thought. But think about it: they might even ride the surge of "patriotism" post Sept. 11 anniversary. It would be on the one-year anniversary of the attack of Afghanistan. They would probably get a boost in the polls, could get them the House and maybe the Senate. And in their view, they would be doing it before the difficult part of the Winter comes. Hey, they might even be thinking they could even be back home for Christmas.
new MS Works Released
Microsoft releases a new version of MS Works, part of the attempt to cunteract somehow the loss of some HP and Dell business to Corel Office. Difficult to see how it can really work: Corel Office matches the full MS Office feature for feature, but it costs 1/4th of it. Maybe competition will to make a small difference, OEMs being as they are the first "line of offence" for any kind of major entry into the PC market.
ARF on The Guardian Online
The Guardian Online tech weblogs list now has a link to ARF (a fitting acronym for Abort, Retry, Fail) under "other tech weblogs"). Cool.
hate, american style
From the New York Times op-ed page, a somber look at hate organizations in the US.
playstation 3 rumors
A game machine in your fridge? Certainly, since we will have more and more processing power around the home it makes sense to try to use it more efficiently. But architecturally it might be a nightmare... in any case, a 2005 target date for PS3 gives them enough time to develop practically anything they want.
'Survivor' -- Argentine Style
From CNN: What the current economic crisis has created in Argentina. Difficult to know how to react to this.
Back in Dublin for only a couple of days, and coming here today one of the airlines I used (Alitalia) inflicted on me part of its required stupidity quota for the month.
I'm in my seat, the captain is issuing the usual blahblah about not using cellphones at any time during flight, electronic devices during takeoff or landing. He stops for a moment. That might be it. But no. Then he says: CD Players cannot be used at any time. Then he says, laptop computers can be used after takeoff.
I ignore the implied stupidity of the "rules and regulations" and take out my Rio 800 (Mp3 player).
Now what really is funny is that some time ago Boeing made extensive tests to determine whether cellphones and other electronic devices could really interfere. They loaded a 747 with everything they could think of and used them all during flight. Nothing happened. We should also keep in mind that a lot of what we know about 9/11 came from people using cell phones in flight.
So the hoopla about electronic devices in planes is divided in two: one, any device that is new and therefore "unknown". It doesn't matter that essentially the same device with different size or components is already approved. In the flight I was in, today, the guy later told a kid he couldn't use a Gameboy. It's as if suddenly we've become superstitious regarding technology. One would think that the people in charge of the "rules and regulations" would have some common sense (don't get me started on the stupidity of some of the "security rules" they put in place), but no. Common sense in the airline industry is more difficult to find these days than a proclamations for peace in the middle east by G.W. Bush.
The second problem, cellphones, is less about superstition and more about economic interests. You see, AT&T basically has a monopoly on in-flight phone systems. And they don't like competition from cellphones, which are cheaper and more convenient (the other reason, maybe a tiny bit more coherent, is that a cellphone on a plane is moving so fast that the cells on the ground get strained from having to hand off calls from one cell to another so fast).
Anyway, the next time you get on a plane, you just might be asked to stop thinking as well. You never know what kind of waves those pesky braincells are emitting.
the state of B2B
An article from the Washington Post. As usual, the conclusion is: internet businesses works (in this case referred to B2B exchanges) but the bubble created immense distortion and too many companies that were destined to fail, for a simple reason: they were doing it for the money, not to actually create something. As Simple As That.
tv's fading influence?
Scott Rosenberg comments on a New York Times article about the slow fading of TV's influence in politics. But, I wonder, if TV stops being that useful, what will they do with the tens of millions of dollars the parties raise every year?
Dave Winer and Doc Searls five years ago, discussing the impact of Apple's attack on its clones. Interesting. And it's quite clear now that had not Apple "closed" its system again in 98, it would have lost a lot of what makes them unique. Maybe if they had opened it in the late 80s it might have been different, but in the late 90s it was the right thing to do.
Sloooow process of posting since I am through a GSM-data 9.6 Kpbs connection. Slow, but it works everywhere (it had to have some advantage no?). I keep going online once a day just to check email... still wondering how "normal" that is. I mean, if you're on vacation, and you get a letter, you read it, right? and many times you send postcards. So why are we trained to think that this is different? Maybe that's just my preconception... the hotel here has a public internet terminal and people use it quite often.
Copyright © Diego Doval 2002-2011.