Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

E.T. Phone Home

From CNN: UK Opens up its very own X-File:

More than 20 years ago, U.S. airmen reported seeing a "strange glowing object" near a British air base.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 29, 2002 at 10:00 PM

"Stop Energy"

In his response to a proposal of HTTP over XML-RPC Dave mentioned the concept of Stop Energy. Cool abstraction of a very real-world phenomenon, which seems to me is what's behind the problems that "Design by Committee" faces. Something to keep in mind.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 29, 2002 at 8:26 PM

a continent of orphans

[From The Economist] AIDS in Africa:

Just as the bubonic plague upturned the social order in medieval Europe, AIDS will reshape Africa. But how?
[...] Among the many ways that AIDS is destabilising the continent, perhaps the most worrying is the exploding population of orphans. Those who die of AIDS often leave children behind, most of whom are not infected. Counting all those under 15 years who have lost at least one parent, Africa already had 34m orphans last year. By the end of the decade, that is predicted to rise to 42m, half because of AIDS.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 28, 2002 at 11:50 PM

face/off

Not just another hollywood action-flick idea, from CNN: Face transplants not just science fiction.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 28, 2002 at 11:23 PM

women and weblogs

An article from today's New York Times.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 28, 2002 at 5:05 PM

why the war plans are public

Scott Rosenberg speculates on why the US's administration war plans for Iraq are being distributed through the media as if it was something 'normal'. Right on the mark.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 28, 2002 at 2:24 AM

evolutionary design

[Via Gary]: An interview with Martin Fowler on Evolutionary Design. Excerpt:

With evolutionary design, you expect the design to evolve slowly over the course of the programming exercise. There's no design at the beginning. You begin by coding a small amount of functionality, adding more functionality, and letting the design shift and shape.
[...] most people have encountered evolutionary design in an unconstrained and ill-disciplined environment and it doesn't work. You end up with a crappy design. And that's one reason why people gravitate towards planned design.
But [...] extreme programming's practices of continuous integration, testing, and refactoring actually make evolutionary design work, and more effectively than planned design. Planned design's weakness is that creating a well-planned design is actually really tough.

Exactly. And speaking of evolutionary design, alpha-1.5 of spaces is now available for download. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 28, 2002 at 2:18 AM

the dark side of mobility

From an InfoWorld article:

I went to the launch of Microsoft's Tablet PC in San Francisco this month. Bob McDowell, Microsoft's vice president of business productivity, who lives on an island off Washington, was the event's emcee.
McDowell told the audience that thanks to Microsoft and the high-tech industry, the dream of office automation was coming true. What was that dream, according to McDowell? Personal productivity.
Excuse me, but I thought the dream of office automation was a shorter work week? You know, more time for the family? But of course, no one has ever left the office even five minutes early since the introduction of the PC.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 27, 2002 at 1:10 PM

changes

Congratulations to Russ, who is starting at a new job, as is his wife Ana. Many are in the move these days, Tis' the season, it seems :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 26, 2002 at 5:54 PM

the US and Canada

A Salon article:

A top Canadian official calls Bush a "moron" -- and her countrymen cheer. Why the US's northern neighbors think the president is a chimp?

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 26, 2002 at 5:50 PM

the myths of web services

From News.com: The five myths of web services.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 26, 2002 at 4:21 PM

war and the meaning of life

A Salon review on the book "What is a force that gives us meaning." A good analysis. For some time, the main organizing principle of society (implicit or explicit) was war. We thought we had gone beyond that, but it's clearly not the case. Humanity has advanced mainly because of war rather than peace, in fact every single technological advance in the past 50 years can be traced back to a wartime invention or development. We seem to be ready to continue along this path for some time...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 26, 2002 at 8:07 AM

digital makes the cut

Over the weekend I saw two movies shot entirely digitally: Pedro Medem's Sex and Lucía (Lucía y el Sexo) and Mike Figgis's Hotel. Hotel is much more experimental, using a wide variety of lenses and effects, including the "night vision" mode on some of the digital cameras. Figgis also uses sometimes two-way, three-way or even four-way split screens, which digital also facilitates because of its low cost and ease of processing. Sex and Lucía, while more "conventional" in its filming style, has nevertheless incredibly beautiful photography and uses the additional capabilities provided by digital cameras to great effect, even if sometimes the uses are subtle manipilations of color, light levels or texture. The use by Lucas of an all-digital process for Attack of the Clones might have been the most high-profile yet, but it's been used before, and to greater effect by others (and before, most notably in Figgis's own Timecode and Wayne Wang's The Center of the World). Filmmakers are finally dawning on the possibilities of digital technology just as cameras are getting good enough to replace film. The greater artistic freedom given to directors by digital cameras should mean more, cooler experiments and ways of expressing in the near future. Movies will never be the same.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 25, 2002 at 8:18 PM

more on Microsoft OneNote

Steve Gillmor comments on Microsoft OneNote. He seems to be thoroughly impressed by it. It's certainly an interesting component, but I don't know if it deserves so much hype. For one, the complexity added by yet another component will stand in the way of huge gains from the product. Another factor is the cost: if OneNote forces you to upgrade to Office 2003 or whatever it will be called, then you'll probably need Windows XP, and new hardware to boot, to run it efficiently. Microsoft doesn't need to worry about those things though, that's one of the advantages of having a monopoly.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 25, 2002 at 3:21 PM

alpha 1.4

spaces alpha-1.4 is now available for download. Most important fix/change for this version is Mac OS X compatibility. Features such as web access (using the spaces built-in HTTP/servlet server) and proper IMAP support will be ready for alpha-2.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 24, 2002 at 8:28 PM

massify!

Maureen Dowd comments on this op-ed piece in the New York Times on the massification of Eminem's "rebel attitude"--which of course spells out the end of its rebellion. It's hard to be a rebel when everyone thinks that what you are doing is so cool that you become mainstream.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 24, 2002 at 3:22 PM

the end of hardware

A BusinessWeek online article :

IBM's decision to put $1 billion into services R&D is a telling sign that the ground under info tech is shifting radically

It seems to me that Business Week has arrived at this conclusion a bit late. The "hardware era" ended a few years ago, possibly the day that Netscape released Navigator 1.0, possibly even before than when Microsoft released Windows 3.0 and showed that you could be the most powerful company in the computer world simply by creating software.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 24, 2002 at 3:20 PM

tool-induced stupidity

A hilarious Fortune article about the evils of overcommunication and how today's tools make it harder, not easier, to do what we need to do.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 24, 2002 at 11:53 AM

eco-marketing

A Salon article:

Two adventurers leave their jobs and embark upon a global journey of eco-discovery.

...And they don't seem to have any problems of getting money from Sony while doing it. A fine example of doublethink.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 23, 2002 at 8:08 PM

an interview with Ballmer

From the New York Times Magazine: Microsofter

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 23, 2002 at 2:28 PM

stopping the epidemics

From the Economist: A new way of thwarting viral epidemics on computers.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 23, 2002 at 10:27 AM

weblogs and stories

Matthew has found a fictional blog and is wondering if anyone would try creating an entire fictional world through a weblog. Plan B is similar to what he describes (but not quite the same). I have often thought of going in the 'pure blog' direction with Plan B. Maybe I'll do it once the novel proper is 'finished'...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 22, 2002 at 4:23 PM

more on the mobile phone wars

Russ comments on yesterday's Salon article about the Mobile phone wars. An excerpt:

I'm not sure if I agree with the article's take that the HTML browsers are somehow going to make or break the phones... that's thinking of cellphone's like they were PCs, and that's not a good comparision at all.
This is true, and I think it's actually part of the reason why Microsoft has had such a hard time getting into the market. Remember the first versions of WinCE? They looked just like a mini-Windows. They were not at all useful for handhelds. Not until Pocket PC (CE 3.0) did Microsoft get it right, and they had to copy a lot of Palm's approach, and they had to simplify a lot of things (The advantages and disadvantages of affordances also apply in this case, maybe more so than in others). With phones, it's going to be a similar curve, but they may never get there, since at Russ says it's not a good idea to talk about phones as if they were PCs. Except, maybe, in Japan, where so many people actually use their cellphones for browsing instead of using a PC.

Plus: The cover story in this week's Economist is "Computing's new shape: Smartphones and Handhelds."

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 22, 2002 at 1:04 PM

(yet) another MS Office component

Microsoft OneNote: "is a new program in the Microsoft Office family that enables you to capture, organize, and reuse your notes on any laptop computer."

And they needed an entire new program to do this? Why not make Outlook work better as a notetaking application? Apart from that, the functionality looks interesting, although the added complexity will probably make it too difficult to use to all but the more determined users.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 22, 2002 at 1:24 AM

more on mac

And some time later after I posted an entry about spaces on Mac, Marek confirmed that spaces is running in his OS X machine by posting a comment and a screenshot of the About dialog. Cool.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 22, 2002 at 1:20 AM

spaces on mac/OS X

A few days ago Marek posted a more detailed stack trace of the exception that was making spaces die on Mac--and I missed it. Sometimes the 'loose connections' on weblogs are not too useful. In any case, thanks to the help from the mailing list I could fix the problem and now it's running on OS 10.2 and the developer release of JDK 1.4.1. Rick Gregory, who helped with the debugging, has been kind enough to send me a couple of screenshots of spaces running on Mac OS X (Thanks Rick!). There are a few UI glitches here and there (mostly colors used in some borders that look slightly out of place) but overall it looks quite good. Write once, run anywhere! :-)

calendar-small.png
Calendar view


Messages-small.png
Messages view


(click on the images to see a larger version).

The changes will be available for public download with alpha-1.4 (probably tomorrow).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 21, 2002 at 7:28 PM

the cellphone OS wars

A Salon article: Microsoft wants your cellphone

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 21, 2002 at 5:12 PM

Why web apps don't always cut it

Russ recently started a discussion on user interfaces. There were many threads to the discussion, touching on usability, ease of development, and others. One of the main conclusions that Russ arrived at (if I understood correctly) was that web-apps are better for many reasons: homogeneity of the interface and ease of use, ease of development, and standards-based technologies that evolve more gracefully than binary code.

All those reasons are good. But there is an important point that should be remembered, and it can be summed up with one word: affordances.

The concept of affordances if well explained in Don Norman's classic The Design of Everyday Things. Essentially an affordance is something that "invites" a particular use according to our context, be that physical (e.g., a handle on a door "invites" us to grab it with our hands), cultural (e.g., in many cultures red is a sign for danger), and others.

Affordances are at the center of why software interfaces can only evolve slowly. Since they are learned (a button) as well as perceived more intuitively (the handle) anything that makes good use of common affordances would be easier to use than something that doesn't.

For example, calendars on the computer look very much like real world calendars because we know, from common experience, how the items are organized and how we should navigate the set of available information. Desktop applications are better suited to create something like that because they allow for greater flexibility. A web application could of course replicate that UI, but then it would look less like a web application and more like a local application fitted inside a web browser, and it would seem we're back to square one, plus the flexibility of web development.

Not quite. This is where the affordances of the context in which an application runs come into play.

Desktop applications can create innovative interfaces easier than web applications because the users understand that the application "lives" in its own context, and so can create its affordances, optimized for the situation at hand. Web applications, on the other hand, have to conform not only to the affordances required by the application, but also to the affordances required by the web-browsing environment. Navigating back, and forward, URL navigation, and so on. And this is confusing and limiting in many ways.

Each interface has its uses.

Eventually, desktop and web-apps will merge seamlessly, specially at the back-end. On the front-end, we will switch into web-browsing without knowing we are doing it. The point is, applications will choose the best interface for the job, be it a UI for playing media or a list of results for a query on a search engine. What's important about the web (and the Internet) are the protocols and standard data formats, not the interfaces. The SOAP interfaces exposed by Google and Amazon (among others) point the way.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 21, 2002 at 11:53 AM

of head horses and job offers

Dylan is moving on to a new job:

I received an offer from a prominent search engine company that I couldn't refuse.
Congrats Dylan! (And here's hoping that there wasn't a horse's head involved!! :-))

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 20, 2002 at 10:30 PM

Star Wars Episode IV -- as you've never seen it before!

Chris sent me this--unbelievable. Open a command prompt, and type

telnet blinkenlights.nl

Press ENTER.
And prepare yourself to be amazed!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 20, 2002 at 3:34 PM

back

Back from my short trip to Madrid, catching up on several things (work, sleep, etc). Great city though. Had a few problems with connecting to the Internet. I had to switch my modem to dial pulses instead of tones, I could hear the poor thing going rat-tat-tat-tat... painful. At least it worked most of the time.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 20, 2002 at 3:31 PM

big brother is here

An article from Salon:

A federal agency confirms that it maintains an air-travel blacklist of 1,000 people. Peace activists and civil libertarians fear they're on it.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 15, 2002 at 4:09 PM

Cobain's Journals

I just got Kurt Cobain's Journals. Having read Charles Cross's Heavier than Heaven twice my head was full of quotes from the Journals, to which Cross had access during the preparation of his book. Good reading for a rainy day. (Granted, nothing uncommon here in Dublin :-)).

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 15, 2002 at 4:07 PM

travel incompatibilities

Now that I have to travel again I'm wondering (again): how much airline stupidity will I face, and how many problems will plugs create? Plugs shouldn't be a problem, as far as I remember Madrid is compatible with RJ-11 plugs (good thing Ireland uses those, unlike the UK). But the plane trip...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 15, 2002 at 12:55 AM

Xbox Live

Microsoft is set to release XBox Live this Friday. I am not a "gamer" in any sense, but I've enjoyed using a PS2 now and then. The XBos has excellent graphics, but lacks a good variety of games. Will the XBox go the way of the MSX? Probably not... I gather that Microsoft has learned a few things in between... and has a "tiny bit" more money to handle the challenges. :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 15, 2002 at 12:49 AM

trip & new alpha

Just release: spaces alpha-1.2. I have a four-day trip to Madrid coming up, but I wanted to fix a few problems. Alpha-2 is coming up, probably end of next week...

Also the past two days I've been agonizing over the question of the sources. I read all the licenses from Real, Sun, Mozilla, FSF, Apache... in the end I realized why GPL or GPL-like licenses (such as LGPL, Apache, etc) are the most widely used: Dual licenses are a mess. When writing one you need a lawyer hovering by your side, or you're bound to make mistakes. This is why only companies or groups such as OSAF can afford them (as far as I know...) There are problems of jurisdiction, copyright assingment, commercial uses...

Open-source deserves better than a license badly written. So, over time, I will release spaces components under LGPL, which is relatively straightforward, and hopefully at some point I will have resources to deal properly with the source code in its entirety...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 14, 2002 at 11:45 PM

stopping microsoft

[via Karlin]: Robert X Cringely writes about the little trial that could.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 14, 2002 at 11:40 PM

plan b is back

After a week-long, spaces-induced hiatus, plan b is back!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 13, 2002 at 9:13 PM

the impact of chip manufacturing

A good summary-article in Salon about the environmental impact of chip manufacturing. Are we spending more energy and resources creating chips than what the chips are actually saving? Probably not over the long run... but as short-term impact goes, maybe...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 13, 2002 at 1:48 PM

three kings

Just saw Three Kings again. Such a good movie. So appropriate for the times we live in... again.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 13, 2002 at 1:12 AM

and...

...Scott Rosenberg thinks spaces looks cool, although he hasn't had time to try it yet.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 12, 2002 at 10:50 PM

on boom and bust

An excellent series from the Washington Post: BUBBLE: The Roots of the '90s Boom and Bust.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 12, 2002 at 10:46 PM

some comments on the spaces alpha

It's probably insane that I try to keep track of the comments on spaces, but here goes an attempt: First Dylan commented on the release. Then it started to spread: Anthony is eager to get at the source code (I know! :-)) , Keith is trying it out and there were some comments on it at Metafilter, and a post at Hack the Planet. Steven is having problems when running spaces on Mac, and he's not alone. I'll have to check on that.

Meanwhile Dale likes the idea of spaces and wonders if it will help him get his information overload under controy. Hopefully it will!, specially by creating context. In a previous entry, Dale says: "Thinking a lot about context. A piece of information has no value until it is linked to other information.".

Exactly.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 12, 2002 at 10:36 PM

code junkie

I was going to rest today... but there were a couple of important problems to fix in spaces. I couldn't stay away. So cleaned the apartment, then sniffed some Napalm and went on about it. These are the main changes in alpha-1.1:

  • RSS Feeds (and HTML email) now allow clicking on the URLs, loading the default browser of the system
  • send/receive mail and update feeds menus now let you select 'all' or update each account/feed selectively messages)
  • -spaces now stops transfers in progress when shutting down, preventing exceptions and problems
  • 'mark all as read' now works on the All Items and Search spaces
  • 'stop' button next to the progress bar, to stop a email/rss feed check process
  • the start delay for feeds and emails can now be configured
  • Email preview pane now has two displays, text view and HTML view. It displays the email in text by default (except for RSS feeds, where the default is HTML)
It's now available for download. Phew!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 12, 2002 at 5:39 PM

google and pagerank

[via boingboing, via Dave]:

"Feeding the query string 'http' to Google causes it to barf up all the pages in its database in order of their PageRank value.
Interesting. Almost certainly related to the fact that all pages have "http" in them. Sounds like using that someone with time and energy to spare could figure out at least partially what PageRank does.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 12, 2002 at 12:28 AM

hello, world!

spaces alpha-1 is up on the site.

This is just the beginning.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 11, 2002 at 10:35 PM

cook your modem

This made me laugh... I sorely needed that today. [via Karlin]:

Janesville police responded to a smoke complaint around 1 a.m. Tuesday and found a man barbecuing his computer modem

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 11, 2002 at 8:55 PM

and off they go

News.com: The final steps to closing down the US's lawsuit against Microsoft have been taken.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 11, 2002 at 4:43 PM

more pre-alpha comments

Damien joins a previous post by Ugo in complaining about the RSS aggregator features in the pre-alpha of spaces. Exactly what I feared would happen if the pre-alpha release was more widely available: people trying it out and then not reporting problems at all, and simply giving up on it, and it's why I took the download down on Saturday. Luckily, those RSS problems are solved now, and will be available in the public alpha download tonight. Spaces would help Damien be free of email viruses as well.

As a side note, Damien also thinks that the name 'spaces' is silly. "Who can name a product 'spaces'?" he asks. Well, I can, apparently. Naming a product is not easy. But consider for a moment: Microsoft. Windows. Lotus. Notes. Groove. Outlook. Repeat aloud several times.

My point is, almost every single name in the computer industry can look silly out of context. And in any case, it's impossible to please everyone.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 11, 2002 at 4:38 PM

JDK & Mac

Marek mentions that spaces crashes on boot-time on OS X with JDK 1.4.1 DR 5 (just released, apparently), apparently trying to get the splash screen image. Too bad I don't have a Mac to test it...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 11, 2002 at 1:42 AM

reasons

Jeff likes the idea of spaces because it will be a) virus free and b) a good way to store RSS feeds.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 10, 2002 at 12:12 AM

days of fixing

Preparing for the public alpha release of spaces , I've been fixing several problems, for example the two that Ugo found in the RSS aggregator, which was made almost useless with two bugs that appeared after I made some last-minute changes before the pre-alpha release. Most of the bugs reported by the list are fixed, along with a few others, including a rewrite of the way mails are received to make it faster and more responsive. I still have a few more hours of testing to do before the new release is up, but it's coming. After that I'll go to sleep for a few... days. :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 9, 2002 at 8:51 PM

The Economist on Microsoft

This article from this week's economist is very interesting. Quote:

What is striking is how little innovation there has been in the bits of the market that Microsoft dominates, and how much where it has little influence. Operating systems, web browsers and word-processing software all look much as they did five years ago. But not many people are using five-year-old mobile phones, handheld computers or music-sharing software.

Opponents of the case always argued that there was no evidence that Microsoft's monopoly was doing any harm. But the harm lay in the (necessarily invisible) innovation that did not occur. Conversely, much of the innovation going on in other parts of the technology industry owes a lot to Microsoft's absence.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 9, 2002 at 3:07 PM

on UIs

Russ is having a fit on user interfaces. Kill the widgets!! he says. Indeed. Three excellent postings, quite long.

The problem is, IMO, killing the widgets without obliterating the users in the process. Slowly, we have to evolve from the complex layers of multi-functional crap that UIs have become, and incrementally create something new and more usable. But we have to start with what users understand today and slowly come up with better ways fof working without disrupting them.

Hopefully in a couple of days when I can raise my head from beneath the pile of code and emails it's been buried under, I'll be able to add something more to the discussion. In the meantime, the links to Russ's entries are (in order) here, here and here.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 9, 2002 at 12:49 AM

the cure is worse than the disease

News.com: E-mail virus alert carries own worm.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 9, 2002 at 12:34 AM

the original open-source OS...

[via Karlin] ...is still not ready, and won't be for several months. I took a look at GNU/Hurd years ago... insteresting architecture, but it felt incomplete. It still is, apparently (For example, it doesn't support disks bigger than 2 GB...). But of course now the bar has been raised for them with the rise of Linux, so Hurd has to be able to hold its own in comparison. Not an easy task.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 8, 2002 at 7:41 PM

more 'halloween woes' for MS

News.com's Charles Cooper comments on this year's 'Halloween Memo'.

The latest Halloween memo portrays your company as utterly obsessed with the open-source software movement but utterly confused about how best to proceed.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 8, 2002 at 5:57 PM

TCO & complexity

Dean's comment touches on the issues of TCO and complexity of maintaining a working groupware environment.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 8, 2002 at 2:11 PM

stagnant UIs--and how to fix them


Bob Mcwhirter posted a comment on spaces :

dynamicobjects spaces is just one example of the trend of everyone wanting to make everything look like Outlook. We all complain about how crappy MS software is, how they can't design a humane interface to save their ass, yet we attempt to make every application look like Outlook.

I comment ed in his weblog entry replying to that, but I also wanted to expand a bit more on the idea.

Bob later sent me an email explaining that he wasn't specifically 'picking on' spaces specifically but just making a general comment on the sorry state of UI design. I happen to agree with him, and I'd like to expand a bit more on why this is so and nevertheless spaces looks like outlook. I spent a lot of time soul-searching, trying out different interfaces for spaces in its early development. It's a difficult problem: how to evolve a model that many people use, without making them feel uncomfortable? As I've mentioned before, the answer I came up with is: you change things subtly so people feel comfortable enough to use the interface but then slowly adapt to new ways of doing things. A 'space' might look like a folder, but it's clearly not a folder, and as new features unfold, exposing the internal connections of the data, that will be more clear.

And the data is really the most important issue. As I have mentioned before and in my weblog, once your data is in spaces, you will be able to try out new interfaces without fear of having no choice but to retrain. "Gentle evolution" as opposed to radical changes. Familiarity is very important to ensure that users are not puzzled, and one of the main goals of spaces is to start improving the user interface in computers. I find most of current software to be too overloaded and cumbersome to be useful, and I want that to change. The incumbents (of which Microsoft is of course the biggest) are in no position to clean up their interfaces since there is so much investment on the part of their users on particular features of their monolithic applications. We have to start again from scratch building in extensibility from the beginning, so users can build on top of the app without requiring the app to be overly complex and difficult to use.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 8, 2002 at 2:05 PM

NVH (No Vapor Here)

Dave:Today Russ Beattie leaked a pointer to Doval's non-vaporous beta that's bound to get Chandler hope-fors buzzing.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 8, 2002 at 2:00 PM

weblog sync

Matt wants to see Weblog Sync enabled in spaces. All I can say is... Soon! :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 8, 2002 at 2:16 AM

this connected world

It had to happen <grin> ... Russ has posted the link to the pre-alpha download of spaces. Bad, bad Russ! :-))

Seriously though, the idea with keeping the pre-alpha to the mailing list only was to weed out some inevitable installation problems and find bugs or "issues" which I might have missed (also inevitable) in a slightly more controlled environment (than a release on the site) which would help me deal with the input without drowning in it. Russ, if you're reading this, can you add a link to the mailing list from your post, particularly for people that are having problems or want to comment? Thanks!. And post the link he did. :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 8, 2002 at 12:56 AM

buzz buzz buzz

Roland: "The spaces buzz is building."

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 7, 2002 at 10:55 PM

songful

I got the new U2 CD The Best of 1990-2000 Special Edition on Monday (the release day!) and it's excellent. The new mixes of several of the songs from POP are excellent, specially Gone. There's also a new song in it, previously unreleased from the soundtrack of the upcoming Gangs of New York, The Hands that Built America:

Oh, my love,
it's a long way we've come
From the freckled hills
to the steel and glass canyons
From the stony fields
to hanging steel from sky
From digging in our pockets
for a reason
not to say goodbye

These are the hands
that built America

Last saw your face
in a watercolor sky
As sea birds argue,
a long goodbye
I took your kiss
on the spray of the new land star
You gotta live with your dreams,
don't make them so hard

And these are the hands that built America
America

Of all the promises,
is this one we could keep
Of all of the dreams,
is this one still out of reach

Halle, holy

It's early fall,
there's a cloud on the New York skyline
Innocence dragged
across a yellow line

These are the hands that built America
These are the hands that built America
America

As someone who has left his native country, right now this song feels really close to me. After a few 'emigrations', after years of jumping from country to country and city to city... suddenly you stop belonging anywhere. And the song captures that too, in a way: the reminiscence of old places, the promise of the new, the ache, the future...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 7, 2002 at 10:48 PM

banning IP packets

The government of Panama has decreed the blocking of 46 UPD ports (commonly used by VoiceIP apps) by all ISPs. How stupid can politicians get? Isn't there anyone giving them advice that can tell them that it takes a New York Second to circumvent a block (e.g., through TCP). Are they going to block all internet access to protect some dying monopoly?

This comment also explains why this ban is not only stupid, but impossible to implement without breaking what the Internet is.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 7, 2002 at 10:30 PM

the power of referers

Dave made a comment on my previous post "the slashdot of weblogs". He said:

I found out about it by reading my referers, I was being pointed to by Warmbrain. When I went there he was talking about your software. I thought it sounded like Chandler, except while they're happily in vapor, you said you didn't like being in vapor. Then somone (I think Mark Bernstein) cross-posted to the Chandler design list. So that's how word flowed. I am honored to be a hub in the network, but the only way that happens is if I discover and pass on juicy links like this one quickly.
I like that phrase "happily in vapor" :-)

Referers are a truly interesting concept, and I think the only thing missing with them (on weblogs) is a better way to categorize them and "manage them" in a sense (although I hate that term, since it implies that the user has to do more work... Nevertheless it would be a truly cool feature for Radio (and not easily done with other weblog software like MovableType, since it's server-based and the stats have to be done with a separate package): a "referrer handler" page that lets you keep track of your referers, properly recognizes several different referers as being from the same posting, lets you do sorting...

... and then (moment of madness alert!) Radio could export functions to access it through XML-RPC (or expose it as this) and allow itself and other tools to take those values and massage them.. creating a full-circle loop: posting to referer back to posting. Essentially what it does for RSS feeds, but for referers.

Phew! So many possibilities with things as simple (yet powerful) as weblog tools and XML-RPC. Who needs .Net?

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 7, 2002 at 8:37 PM

the wolf guarding the sheep

From an article in Salon by Andrew Leonard:

The system is currently broken. Corporations run amok, and instead of tightening up the rules, the powers that be are continuing, criminally, with business as usual.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 7, 2002 at 8:09 PM

this year's MS Halloween Memo

[Via BoingBoing] Eric Raymond analyzes Microsoft's 'Halloween Memo' for this year. (And here's News.com coverage of the memo).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 7, 2002 at 2:08 PM

a day of 24...

... I woke up wednesday at 7 am and now it's thursday 7 am... the sun is coming up bringing colors to the sky... and the first pre-alpha release of spaces is ready!

Soon members of the mailing list will begin to download it. The actual alpha release on the public website should be up tomorrow or so.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 7, 2002 at 7:10 AM

the slashdot of weblogs

Dave just quoted my "I don't like vaporware of any kind" from the dynamicobjects homepage and immediately the hit count on the site shot up, and comments appear (maybe coincidentally? doubtful) on other places (like Rue's blog). These network effects are just amazing (in this case, the effect of a hub in the network, such as Scripting News, similar to what slashdot does for most news in general), particularly for a "creature" as decentralized and "fading" (yet persistent) as weblogs are, where the links between entries are tenuous and quickly receding as new daily entries take their place.

And by the way, thanks for the link Dave!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 7, 2002 at 3:00 AM

reading RSS in your email client

Dylan's comment on Radio's new feature: RSS feeds in your email, and spaces, that will provide this feature fully integrated into the standard email message flow. Essentially RSS messages become messages like those received from a mail server. Then, you will be able to create messages and have them be posted to your weblog app using the weblog's XML-RPC interface.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 7, 2002 at 12:01 AM

on IMAP and sync

(As far as I know) IMAP was supposed to be a "solution" for multiple access to the same mailbox. The idea was that people would be able to leave their folders in the server and access them remotely, possibly doing some replication for offline work (i.e., not all email clients support this).

Server-side storage has the advantage of being accessible from anywhere, but it also has disadvantages. One of them is that disconnected use is often cumbersome (since the program's UI is built around the idea that the folder is actually on the server--witness Outlook's horrific solution of placing the IMAP hierarchy separate from the standard folder hierarchy in a completely different structure), and it places a heavy load on the connection. Another problem is that since the program is dealing with the data "living" on the server, it suddenly has to deal with connections between data in two formats, so certain things that would be possible with just a local database now are not. Extensive connections between objects is one example (for example, maintaining a correlation in the program's store between, for example, a Contact and all the mail Messages received from that contact. Those correlations make some operations (e.g., search) fast, and they give the application the potential to do automatic organization of information (instead of having to find correlations via "brute-force" text parsing methods, such as something like Google might do). It's a question of using the context that is there, or ignoring it.

So, with spaces, the approach I chose was not to allow IMAP "connected mode". This means that, as far as spaces is concerned, IMAP is just another data source to be synchronized with. The key word here is "synchronized."

A POP store functions basically in a store-and-retrieve fashion. It is not assumed to be the central storage. An IMAP store is meant to be a repository that has "authoritative information" about your data. However, in these days we synchronize our data with many devices, handhelds, network storage, other machines. So does it really make sense to assume that a server somewhere is the central repository? Rephrasing that: isn't it more logical to assume that we have several "devices" that contain our information and we'd like our programs to synchronize seamlessly and integrate it transparently under a single "information tree"? (so giving us the nice side effect of keeping multiple backups)

My answer for this question is: yes.

What I was wondering was, is there any use-scenario where this won't work at all? Where online sync would be required? mmm....

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 5, 2002 at 11:46 PM

zero-install platforms

Don mentions that we need zero-install platforms for net-delivery of code:

The Net needs zero-install extensible client platforms. Java WebStart and .NET meets some of the needs, but both require the user to install 6 to 20 megabytes of mostly unused code and lacks the ability to incrementally update and extend the platform
I couldn't agree more. I have previously commented on the need for Java in particular to streamline its installation process, and the same applies to other platforms (such as .Net). As long as Internet-based installation of software is a hassle, it will be difficult to break the control that Microsoft has through OEMs and such.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 5, 2002 at 12:56 AM

microsoft and 'the prince'

From News.com: Machiavelli meets Microsoft

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 4, 2002 at 11:11 PM

mozilla rising

I was looking at the stats for this month for the site today and I noticed the following use percentages:

  • MS Internet Explorer (All Versions) 37.7 %
  • Netscape (Versions) 31.2 %
  • Unknown 26.5 %
  • Opera 2.7 %
Now, I'm quite sure that Netscape means "Mozilla" since I use mozilla to access the site frequently and Mozilla is not even on the list. Or maybe mozilla is that pesky "Unknown"... in any case, it would seem to me that mozilla/netscape use has to be rising somewhat, since even accounting for differences in "demographics" the percentage use for IE would still be way below the +90% that is often quoted. Mozilla 6/Netscape 7 are definite improvements over the ill-fated Communicator (that actually pushed me to switch over to IE since it crashed so frequently), and I would not be surprised if it's actually beginning to show. Go mozilla!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 4, 2002 at 7:52 PM

EU vs. Microsoft

News.com: EU won't be swayed by US Decision on Microsoft. Now that the US case seems to be winding down, everything depends on Europe. However, since Microsoft is not a European company, I expect they can do little more than punish MS with fines and restrictions, neither of which is much of a problem for Microsoft.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 4, 2002 at 3:00 PM

strange, strange...

California Doctor's Suicide Leaves Many Troubling Mysteries Unsolved:

"[...] Police and federal investigators began to unearth evidence that Larry Ford had another life — that he was not just a brilliant, if somewhat geeky, gynecologist who hoped to develop a device to protect women from AIDS.

Buried next to his swimming pool they found canisters containing machine guns and C-4 plastic explosives. In refrigerators at his home and office, next to the salad dressing and employee lunches, were 266 bottles and vials of pathogens — among them salmonella, cholera, botulism and typhoid. The deadly poison ricin was stored, with a blowgun and darts, in a plastic bag in the family room. A compartment under the floorboards held medical files on 83 women."

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on November 3, 2002 at 1:56 PM

microsoft's weblogging software

Given the server side requirements of this thing, I don't expect it to take off anytime soon. But they are on their way...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 2, 2002 at 7:54 PM

the microsoft ruling

So MS is free of US government trial shackles... at least for now. Here is coverage from Salon's Scott Rosenberg, News.com, and the Wall Street Journal.

Also, an incredible list of all the markets Microsoft is on, from News.com, and some facts about Microsoft (from this page of the WSJ with tons of info on the trial):

How big is Microsoft? Is it bigger than, say, Belgium? Here's how the software giant measures up by the numbers:

  • Gross revenue from June 2001 to June 2002: $28.4 billion
  • Market value as of Oct. 31: $287.6 billion
  • Money spent on research and development per year: $5.2 billion
  • Number of employees: 50,500
  • Bill Gates's net worth: $43 billion
  • Share of home computer operating system market: About 93%
  • Share of Web browser market: About 96%
  • Countries whose 2001 gross domestic product in U.S. dollars is less than Microsoft's market value: More than 150, including Switzerland, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and Argentina.
  • Categories: technology
    Posted by diego on November 2, 2002 at 7:39 PM

    data formats

    [via this post from Keith]: a Universal Binary Format

    UBF is a language for transporting and describing complex data structures across a network. It has three components:
    It seems to me that at this point XML has taken precedence over anything else to transport data across heterogeneous systems. Binary, if properly implemented, should be faster, but XML parsers are getting by the day. Systems like this, while interesting and quite possibly useful for some applications, probably won't be around for much longer. Just as virtual machines are slowly replacing native code (think Java, Perl, Python, C#...) binary data formats for inter-machine exchange will also be replaced in time by XML-based formats. Witness the move on Java to serialize object into XML for long term storage and transfer...

    Categories: technology
    Posted by diego on November 1, 2002 at 11:21 PM

    "localizing" Linux

    From Salon: Flag of inconvenience:

    Fearing the Taiwanese flag would irk China, Red Hat yanked it from its version of Linux -- and started an international geek uproar.

    Categories: technology
    Posted by diego on November 1, 2002 at 9:35 PM

    here we go again, part 2

    The second part (first part link here) of the article Goliath crushes David

    Categories: technology
    Posted by diego on November 1, 2002 at 9:30 PM

    the new nirvana album

    Just got the new Nirvana album, a compilation of some of their best songs (a few newly remixed, such as the excellent Pennyroyal Tea)and the new track You know you're right, the last song recorded by Kurt Cobain. Excellent.

    Categories: personal
    Posted by diego on November 1, 2002 at 8:39 PM

    what is a space?

    I just updated the spaces FAQ, adding some answers that shed some light on the paradigm used by spaces to handle information. In particular, the question What is a space? is important.

    The concept of a "space" is meant to be a generalization behind the idea of folders. Folders definitely have their uses, not least of which that they are predictable and stable. However, folders have no "intelligence," they don't help the user to perform tasks, they just sit there waiting for the users to organize their information. A space in spaces will be more proactive, automatically filing elements according to correlations between data. There is just too much information to "manage" otherwise. Programs should be working for their users, not the other way around. After all, what else are we going to do with all the spare cycles in those nifty gigahertz microprocessors? :-)

    Categories: technology
    Posted by diego on November 1, 2002 at 8:28 PM

    more comments on spaces

    Some of the comments on spaces posted so far... from Anthony, Adina, nf0, Roland, Eric. Jay and Bill.

    Categories: technology
    Posted by diego on November 1, 2002 at 6:11 PM

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