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

tech for the poor

An article by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:

We need to think of ways to bring wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) applications to the developing world, so as to make use of unlicensed radio spectrum to deliver cheap and fast Internet access. We also need to explore the possibility of creating an open international university. Surely, experts can think of many more ideas along these lines.

It's an old article (from Nov. 5 this year) but a good read nevertheless.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 31, 2002 at 8:07 PM

lord of the geeks

A cool article tracing the history of computer games and programming applied to bringing Middle Earth into computers.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 31, 2002 at 12:34 AM

association for information management

Bob emailed me with info on ARMA, something I'll have to look more into. And hey, the Canadian chapter of ARMA has a conference planned for next year. Canada... mmmm....

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 30, 2002 at 11:33 PM

back blogging

Been out of blogging for a couple of days as I did a final correction on the novel and worked on a DB version converter for spaces so the migration to alpha-1.6 will be smooth. The latter in particular was a pain. I realized that even though CS degrees teach many things about data structures there is nothing taught about migration of data strucutres. More gripe on that later :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 30, 2002 at 11:29 PM

the cult of the gym

A good article from the Economist.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 29, 2002 at 3:42 AM

tech cash hoards

A Wall Street Journal article (requires login) about the cash hoards of some tech companies:

Despite the high-tech industry's worst downturn ever, a number of companies in the sector have been quietly accumulating enormous cash hoards.

Just five tech giants -- Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and Oracle Corp. -- now hold a staggering $87 billion in cash and liquid investments. That is up from $77 billion a year ago, and suggests that these companies, whose revenue declined as much as 35%, aren't as sick as conventional wisdom dictates.

77 billion dollars is a lot of money indeed. Is it a coincidence that the cash reserves of these companies is directly proportional to the lack of competition in their markets? I don't think so. In fact, the biggest the monopoly, the biggest the cash reserve. Microsoft tops the list, followed by Cisco, then Intel, then Oracle and Dell. Monopoly pays!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 28, 2002 at 8:59 PM

selling environmentalism

Was reading today this article on the Wall Street Journal. Quite interesting:

Last year, Americans spent $2.6 billion on birdseed. That's more than twice as much as they spent on prepared baby food, and two and a half times as much as they spent on food for needy nations. They shelled out a further $733 million on feeders, houses and baths for birds.

Most people think all that largess helps the birds. But many ornithologists and wildlife biologists say it does very little good -- and even does some harm. Attracting wild birds to feeders spreads disease, aids predators such as house cats, and lures the birds close to houses and roads where tens of millions of them fly into windows and cars. House cats and hawks treat feeders as fast-food outlets, snatching birds from perches or the ground below.

2.6 billion dollars spent on bird seeds. Wow. Talk about waste. Maybe after the people in poor countries have starved to death the birds can take over there... they'll have a lot of space.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 28, 2002 at 8:54 PM

another movie to see

Review: The Hours:

Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore bring dignity and Oscar-worthy performances to "The Hours," a lovingly crafted meditation on death, loss and literature.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 28, 2002 at 3:09 AM

all in the name of freedom...

From the Washington Post: Torture is not an option.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 27, 2002 at 10:09 PM

the first human clone?

From CNN:

The controversial group Clonaid on Friday said a newborn girl called Eve is a clone.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 27, 2002 at 3:44 PM

big brother up and running?

According to this new york times article, it is. There's a big difference between a system that runs and one that actually works...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 26, 2002 at 8:07 PM

why blogging is good for you (and TV is not)

An excellent essay Adam Curry wrote at the beginning of the year, with a pointer inside to The Zen TV experiment from Adbusters, something I've been doing for a while but had never "formalized". Always a sobering experience.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 26, 2002 at 5:10 PM

tv in the US

A Salon article looking back at TV in 2002:

Sure, TV in 2001 got all serious and stuff. This year we reconnected with what's really important: Hard bodies in hot tubs, public humiliation and more "Law & Order" spinoffs.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 26, 2002 at 1:09 PM

is hotbot back?

Before google my favorite search engine was hotbot. Over time, as Google became better at delivering targeted results, I switched over (as most of us did, I guess!). Today I thought about checking it out again (as I was mulling about the changes to come in the search space with Yahoo's purchase of Inktomi) . And a nice surprise: Hotbot has become a sort of uber-search engine done right, unifying FAST, Google, Inktomi and Teoma. Radio buttons at the top let you select which engine to choose for the search, and after you get the results, switching over to the result set of a different search engine is just a one-click affair. A really, really cool way of providing multiple results without mixing everything up (like some meta-search engines do). And it has another feature called "web filters" which give you more control over the search. Who knows... I might start to use Hotbot again...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 26, 2002 at 1:37 AM

the knife under the tree

A New York Times op-ed:

As The Washington Post reported yesterday, people are trading up on cosmetic presents. Instead of a massage, manicure, facial or spa weekend, Santa's sleigh is brimming with gift certificates for the knife, the needle, the laser and the vacuum pump.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 26, 2002 at 1:19 AM

more on the java injunction

Kevin Werbach wonders what is so important about the Java injuction, wondering: "Who cares about Java on the desktop, anyway?". Well, Java on the desktop is important because it provides an alternate platform with good (not perfect) portability and excellent development tools. It's important because it's a push for another way to get out of the Microsoft monopoly (Linux native apps are another...), since it gets the Java Runtime redistribution issue out of the way That said, my own personal feeling is that the Java Runtime only needs a better installation system and a good way to manage JRE versioning (as I've argued before). Java Web Start almost gets us there. A few more changes and the injunction will not really be necessary anymore (after all, the typical Microsoft app is tens of megabytes of size, while the typical Java app is a few megabytes at most. Even if the JRE was included with every app, there would still be an advantage).

That said, my own personal feeling is that the Java Runtime only needs a better installation system (as I've argued before).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 25, 2002 at 10:36 PM

sun's java jigsaw

A News.com special report from the beginning of this year. Interesting how many of these things turned out... or didn't. Looking back, it seems that not a lot of really things happened this year, not just on Java's side, rather things seem to have consolidated slowly: incremental improvements in Sun's toolkit on one side, more definitions on the strategy and dev tools of .Net and such, the growth of wireless and weblogs, web services... it was more like the world awakening slowly to a lot of technology that was already in place before... maybe 2003 will be more decisive.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 25, 2002 at 6:00 PM

religion

From this article in the Economist:

Do you believe in God? If you are European, you probably shuffle your feet, look mildly embarrassed, and mutter, “Well, it depends on what you mean by God.” Or something of the sort. In Western Europe, a mere 20% of people go regularly to a service; in Eastern Europe, only 14%. But if you are American, the answer is almost certainly an unabashed “Yes”. Only about 2% of Americans are atheists, and a startling 47% tell pollsters that they go to a religious service at least once a week. Even if that is an over-statement, the broad difference between continents is clear.

To most Europeans, it has seemed obvious for the past century and more that modernism is the foe of religion, and of Christianity in particular. But religion is flourishing in both the developing world and America. The reason is largely the powerful evangelism of new denominations that sprang up in America in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 25, 2002 at 1:09 PM

of festivities and timezones

After I posted the previous entry I realized what I'd done: included the time zone in it. Automatically! For me (for some time now, being as I am one of the modern-day nomads) this has been important for a while now, and I realize now that I have internalized it. At last count I talk to people in at least four timezones through these festivities (xmas, new years, etc). Experiencing this repeatedly changes the way you experience these events, since most of the people you talk to on the phone are either already past midnight or still aren't there yet. The nature of the event changes (for me at least), from being a gathering to a looser connection with people that is, maybe paradoxically, made more important because of the distance. This regardless of whether you find these dates important in the religious sense or not.

One of the unexpected side effects of globalization... maybe the idea of Internet Time wasn't so crazy after all, even if it failed as a marketing ploy.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 25, 2002 at 2:19 AM

happy christmas!

... from Dublin, Zulu Time. :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 24, 2002 at 11:51 PM

new WTC plans

Finally remembered to look for this site: the New World Trade Center Site Design Concepts.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 24, 2002 at 7:30 PM

innovation?

John Dvorak: Microsoft, Innovation and Linux.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 24, 2002 at 7:26 PM

the state of music

Yesterday I was talking to my brother on the phone and we were saying how amazing it is that Kurt Cobain's music remains so powerful and current after 8-10 years. Then I realized that it's not much of a question of Cobain's music remaining current but a question of the rest of the music world never having innovated much past Nirvana's Grunge aesthetics and soft/loud dynamics. Older bands (U2, Depeche Mode, etc) went along their own evolutionary (and sometimes slightly revolutionary) paths, but nothing really new/refreshing appeared after Nirvana. Think about it: what did we get? Soft (crap) pop (The Spice Girls, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Britney Spears...) and a few bands that were reasonably good (Limp Bizkit) but not really revolutionary. Too bad. On the other hand, revolutions (even ones limited to something like music) can't happen all the time, can they? :-)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 24, 2002 at 4:08 PM

more MS v Sun

The Register:

Microsoft Corp is believed to have trained its acquisition crosshairs on Macromedia Inc, lining up a deal that would throw enterprise Java into a spin.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 24, 2002 at 2:04 AM

a messy desk is good for you

In praise of clutter (this article possibly requires registration...)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 23, 2002 at 11:41 PM

MS ordered to distribute Java

Woha! A federal judge on Monday ordered Microsoft to distribute the rival Java programming language in its Windows operating system. The injunction will remain in effect while the trial continues. Whether you agree with the measure or not, it's undeniable that this has the potential to open up (at least for a while) the Windows platform for Java applications, so that they won't require downloading the JVM, and so maybe level the playing field a bit for the next few months.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 23, 2002 at 10:52 PM

MS goes after Adobe

Microsoft's attempts to destroy Postscript are legendary (remember Windows At Work), and after that failed, they're at it again, only now the battleground is portable digital formats. The other difference is that Microsoft's monopoly gives them, at this point, much more leverage than in 1993...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 23, 2002 at 6:15 PM

kala azar outbreak

An outbreak in Sudan of the Kala Azar virus is threatening thousands of people, specially children.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 23, 2002 at 6:11 PM

type a password, go to jail

Theoretically at least, we're all a few keys away from breaking the brain-dead DMCA.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 23, 2002 at 5:17 PM

yahoo buys inktomi

From a News.com article. Apparently the consequences of this on Google's deal with Yahoo are unknown... probably nothing good anyway.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 23, 2002 at 4:09 PM

Hoaxers vs. Rocket Scientists

From CNN: NASA unsure how to counter claims of faked moon landings.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 23, 2002 at 2:08 AM

rsd

So finally I had time to take a look at RSD, and it's a nice, clean design as far as I can tell. Daniel did a great job with this. It will certainly come in handy for the XML-RPC Weblog Post feature in spaces.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 22, 2002 at 4:26 PM

winter!

The 22nd, here it is! Past the shortest day of the year now... was going to see Lord of The Rings Pt. 2 yesterday but then realized I didn't have the schedule... and didn't really want to go. It was raining quite a lot.

In any case, I want to see it but for completeness more than anything else. Although I haven't read LOTR in about 3-4 years now, before that I read the the Trilogy many, many times (more than 10) along with a few readings of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lost Tales series, The books of the 'History of Middle Earth' series (edited after Tolkien's death by his son Christopher), the Atlas of Middle Earth (no... not by JRRT)... even role-played "in middle earth" for a few years, and yes, I can still write my name in ancient Elvish... so the movies don't really provide anything new. For example, I had already "seen" the Balrog many, many times before last year's movie. That's a good point about it though: it matches what you expect if you know the story and you have internalized it, not a small feat for such a complex work of literature. So I'll probably go one of these days to see the Two Towers, maybe even tomorrow, and spend a good couple of hours with those fictional friends from the past.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 22, 2002 at 2:48 AM

is HTML code software?

Jon Udell says it is.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 22, 2002 at 2:36 AM

on creative commons

Two good posts from Burningbird and Henry.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 21, 2002 at 10:54 AM

falcone

Just saw Falcone, an HBO movie starring Chazz Palminteri and F. Murray Abraham about the Italian judge that took on the mafia. Pretty good (except for the accents, which were at times terrible). I knew that the judge had been killed in the end, years after he had resigned (after they took away his power in all but name) and I thought it had been with a car bomb. Boy, was I wrong. The mafia blew up an entire 50-foot section of the highway as his car was passing through it. Unbelievable. And this, after he hadn't been involved in the case against them for a while (although he was returning to Palermo to start again, presumably). 'The mob never forgets'... indeed. In the end though, his death and that of his friend and fellow judge Paolo two months later (killed with his 5 bodyguards) ended up creating a massive government crisis that was called 'Mano pulite' (clean hand, if I remember correctly) and ended up with many government officials charged (including the prime minister) and some of the biggest mafia bosses in jail. So it wasn't for nothing. He did did pay the highest price though...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 21, 2002 at 2:04 AM

eclipse does swing (sort of)

Danno, who a few days ago posted an interesting review of netbeans today has a screenshot of Eclipse running under something that looks like Swing, but it's really just the GTK set to the Metal L&F. Pretty good nonetheless.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 21, 2002 at 1:54 AM

scorcese interview

An interview of Martin Scorcese, coming on the heels of the release of Gangs of New York.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 8:06 PM

sun's product strategy

An interesting article on Sun's strategy for the desktop and for competing with Microsoft.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 8:04 PM

a year ago on this day...

...Argentina's president resigned after massive riots (that had started a on Dec. 19) that ended up with 19 dead and eventually pushed the country over the economic abyss, from the edge where it had been hanging for such a long time. The Wall Street Journal has an article today on how the people have been coping with the situation.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 5:58 PM

looking back

Salon Technology: a year to forget.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 5:53 PM

apple's sync strategy

An article from News.com.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 10:04 AM

the java API wars...

...would seem to be ready to begin. Swing vs. SWT are first in line. For some reason IDEs are the battleground, although what's really at stake is the underlying target platform used by developers to deploy their applications.

Sun/IBM/et. al. should simply provide a two-way converter too from Swing to SWT (I know it's impossible to do a perfect one, but one that gets you close at least... something along the lines of a refactoring like IDEA or Eclipse provide) and so make transition between the systems easier, and let the best one win in the marketplace.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 12:26 AM

looking back

The Economist has a couple of articles that look back at 2002. Their conclusion: it was better than expected for the West (and in general regarding the risk of terrorism, war, etc...), although pretty bad in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 12:19 AM

MS licensing

An explanation of Microsoft's new licensing model (from a person that likes Microsoft software... but not their licensing). Read it and weep. Specially interesting is the situation they got in which they had to pay a license for the new Office (XP) simply to be able to run Office 2000.... which they had already purchased!!

Truly insane. Forcing people to pay for a product they don't use, but rather simply to continue using the one they have already purchased from you.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 12:13 AM

oh, and...

... the other thing I've been having trouble with is the separation between this weblog and abort, retry, fail?. For some reason the past few weeks it became hard to know what to say where. Just as strangely, I've been able to write here again. Maybe it has to do with the focus of what I'm doing at the moment... in any case, strange. I've toyed a few times with the idea of simply merging both blogs... but I am reluctant to do it without knowing why. I need a blog-therapist I think. :-)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 12:08 AM

picking up speed

Picking up speed on other things (apart from my research) after I finished the new book last week. Of course, 'finished' here is a difficult term to apply: I've been revising it since then. It's hard to do, but I have to do it now when most of the book is fresh in my mind and details can be checked... it's mostly a problem of getting the 'little things' right... back-references in the story of who said what when, and such.

Funny thing: these past days as I was writing I kept wanting to insert hyperlinks referencing back as I've been doing in Plan B... it happenned a few times, I'd be selecting the text to set as link and then I'd realize that this would end up as paper... but that will certainly be possible one day... maybe even common.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 20, 2002 at 12:03 AM

a new way to publish scientific papers

This is interesting: a project to provide a free, peer-reviewed journal for many disciplines. And here is a New York Times article about it.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 19, 2002 at 5:14 PM

IM patent prior art

Ok, on the AOL IM patent: talking about combinations of who and talk was fun, but I decided that I should actually find some prior art that I consider meaningful against this patent.

First I looked up the actual patent from USPTO; read the abstract and try not to choke on it:

The present invention discloses a communication system including a communications network, a multiplicity of communications terminals which are connectable to the communications network and which can be employed by users to communicate via the communications network, the user not necessarily being identified with a given communications terminal, apparatus for monitoring whether or not a user is connected to the communications network irrespective of which of the multiplicity of communications terminals that user is employing, and apparatus for annunciating to a seeking user, currently connected to the communications network via any of the multiplicity of communications terminals, network connection status information relating to other users who are in a set of sought users, which set is definable by the seeking user, and for providing the seeking user connection address information relating to those sought users who are currently connected to the communications network.
Ok, so it seems that the main claim is related to the concept of "user" being separated from that of "terminal". The background in the patent supports this interpretation:
Some commercial and non-commercial services maintain network servers connected to a network. Users who connect to the network provide their current network address and other identifying information to one or more of these network servers. This information is made available to other users connected to the network for purposes including point-to-point communications. Such services include Internet Relay Chat (IRC), for which software is commercially available from Surfing Squirrel Productions, Inc., Microsoft User Location Service (ULS), commercially available from Microsoft Corporation, and the Automatic Call Distribution System (ACD), commercially available from Executone Information Systems, Inc.

A user wishing to locate another user may connect to a network server that records user information in order to determine the other user's network address. A user usually locates another user by looking for the other user's electronic mail address, one or more nicknames that the other user often uses, or other identifying information. The effective use of such identifying information is limited inasmuch as a single user might have multiple electronic mail addresses, multiple users might use the same nickname, or a user might be connected via another user's network connection.

Unfortunately, services like those mentioned above do not generally provide for the unique identification of each user, thereby facilitating accurate location a specific user. Furthermore, such services require that users actively seek out other users, often from among several hundreds or thousands of users known to a server to be connected to a network at any given time. Such services also do not enable a user to limit who may access that user's identification information.

So here we see clearly that the main different between ICQ and IRC is that the username has been "virtualized" through the user of the unique ID, therefore allowing the server to resolve the pointer to the actual machine. Note that they already mention, for example, IRC, which is a real example of my "joke example" yesterday of who/talk, since when you're on IRC and someone joins a channel, you're notified.

Okay, so the central "innovative" claim of the patent seems to be that the unique User ID, separate from any machine, resident on a server, is what makes this different. So I looked for the most direct example of it that I could think of, just off the top of my head, and SIP came to mind. Here is what the SIP page says:

SIP, the Session Initiation Protocol, is a signaling protocol for Internet conferencing, telephony, presence, events notification and instant messaging. SIP was developed within the IETF MMUSIC (Multiparty Multimedia Session Control) working group, with work proceeding since September 1999 in the IETF SIP working group.
Note that the IETF has had a SIP group since 1999! That must mean that the core of the SIP idea predates 1999 by some time, no? How much time, though? The patent was filed in 1997...

And sure here is the first SIP draft, when it was called SCIP. It's from 1996. This means that the concepts involved in SCIP are obviously prior to 1996, by at least one or two years. No ICQ back then...

Case closed.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 19, 2002 at 11:23 AM

more on AOL's IM patent

Charles comments on the AOL IM patent. Among other things, he says:

Before you scoff about patenting the obvious, try to remember back to just how revolutionary ICQ was, and how quickly everyone flocked to it. ICQ introduced the idea that presence would work over the Internet, not just on closed-gate BBSs and online services. People flocked to ICQ in their millions, almost from the moment it was released, because at the time there was nothing like it, and nobody was attempting anything like it.
I disagree. While it is true that before ICQ no one had used the concept of network presence in quite that way before, the patent is more broad, refering to the idea of "monitoring a network and establishing a connection to a certain user". Distributed computing and P2P research have a long history and, while they did fail to create widely deployed applications, the idea of monitoring the network to connect to a peer has been around for a while. For example, any distributed database with failover must have monitoring and automatic connection built-in to detect when peers come back online. Going to something simpler (and maybe a bit too simple, but I can't resist), the combination of who and talk in UNIX essentially gives you ICQ. Sure, you have to write a script to "connect" both applications into one. But are a couple of lines of bash2 worth a patent? I don't think so.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 19, 2002 at 1:46 AM

biotech in china

An interesting article from the Economist.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 19, 2002 at 1:29 AM

the new HP...

... how's it doing? An article from Business Week. Mergers usually fail, specially big ones like HP/Compaq. It will be interesting to see if they are the exception that confirms the rule... they still have a long way to go though.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 18, 2002 at 6:08 PM

software radio

A Salon article on GNU Software Radio. If it's really allowed to grow (regulators and such might still stop it at some point), software radio is definitely the "wave" of the future.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 18, 2002 at 5:30 PM

hype the hype

From News.com: The 10 Biggest Hype jobs of 2002.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 18, 2002 at 2:51 PM

in the beginning...

I keep forgetting to post this link... Something good to read every now and then, from the master of SF: Neal Stephenson's In the beginning there was the command line..., the best history of computers you can read in forty pages or so.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 18, 2002 at 12:24 PM

tech's answer to big brother

An article describing some of the technologies that might enable us to avoid those pesky central databases.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 18, 2002 at 12:21 PM

should we patent air too?

[via Scripting News] An article from News.com:

America Online has quietly secured a patent that could shake up the competitive landscape for instant messaging software.

"The claim is it's a system where you have a network; you have a way to monitor who's on the network; and if you want to talk to them you hook them up," said Gregory Aharonian, publisher of Internet Patent News Service, a newsletter that's critical of technology patents. "If you're doing something like that, you're potentially infringing."

Talk about a broad patent... and the patent office apparently asleep at the switch as usual.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 18, 2002 at 1:43 AM

two good articles

(unrelated though) From Salon today: America's apostrophe catastrophe and Tolkien, enemy of progress (written by science fiction writer David Brin).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 18, 2002 at 1:35 AM

stop wifi! (says the DoD)

An article by John Markoff, writing in the New York Times:

The Defense Department, arguing that an increasingly popular form of wireless Internet access could interfere with military radar, is seeking new limits on the technology.
How unsurprising. What is surprising is that the article doesn't mention that maybe, just maybe, what the DoD and the intelligence agencies are more likely to be worried aboutis a whole new communications system that is developing outside of their control, bypassing servers, eventually with strong encryption they can't easily crack, and so making it difficult to monitor.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 17, 2002 at 3:58 PM

news aggregator features

From Matt Mower (via PYCS noteblog): A wishlist for my news aggregator. Cool ideas.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 16, 2002 at 7:28 PM

more viruses

From News.com: Email viruses doubled in 2002. And this, with MS's supposed new focus on "security". Oh well. Good thing that other virus-free solutions are coming along :-).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 16, 2002 at 6:33 PM

a new type of license

Wired reports on a new license to be released today by Creative Commons:

Offering your work under a Creative Commons license does not mean giving up your copyright. It means offering some of your rights to any taker, and only on certain conditions.
Very, very interesting. (btw, isn't it slightly weird that licenses have become "evolvable" like software? With versions, updates, agreements... the licenses have become like software itself. Good thing we don't yet have licenses for licenses...)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 16, 2002 at 12:30 PM

food fights are good

Chales Cooper: In Praise of Feed Fights.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 14, 2002 at 1:28 AM

edge technologies

Scott Rosenberg on the rise of 'edge technologies' such as Wi-Fi, weblogs and web services.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 13, 2002 at 10:23 AM

little time

Slow days for blogging... time consumed endlessly it seems by two new papers, the new book (at night) and the new alpha of spaces. We need to make the day a few hours longer, say, 30 or so... but then it wouldn't be enough still, wouldn't it... sigh...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 10, 2002 at 3:42 PM

replay it again, sam

[From Salon]:

Personal video recorders already have Hollywood running scared. Now Microsoft is pushing a new computer that will make trading TV shows as easy as using ... Napster.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 9, 2002 at 11:52 PM

more on product battles and the courts

Fred commented on my previous entry "product battles can't be won in court". He said:

Let me ask a question..

If you signed an agreement with sun to distriubte JVMs knowing full well that the contract prevented you from later distrbuting non qualified jvms not by sun and then did that said action prohibitied under that agreement.. would you not expect to be dragged into court for non compliance?

Read the orginal contract betwen SUN and MS..Sun is just asking a judge to enforce a contract that MS agreed to abide by..

The only way your arguement or Dave Winer's conjecture makes any sense at all is if MS did not sign the contract with Sun in the first place!

If MS did not want ot at any time distribute Sun's JVMs so it could do its own versions..than its obvious that they needed to not sign the agreement, right?

This is indeed a good point. However I am a bit confused at this point because I thought that the contractual lawsuit regarding the 1997 MS-Sun agreement had been settled for some $20 million and what was going on now was an antitrust suit using the definition of the recent DoJ suit that defined MS as a monopolist. If it's a contractual dispute it might be more reasonable (I say might because I Microsoft is an expert at drafting contracts that are amiguous enough to do anything they want, as the original 1994 consent decree with the US government shows, regarding which Bill Gates famously said that if they wanted to bundle a ham sandwich with Windows, they could). I will have to check a bit more on this... but certainly if its a contract violation then it's a different question altogether.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 9, 2002 at 4:57 PM

product battles can't be won in court

Last week the judge in the Sun vs. Microsoft private antitrust case was considering whether to force MS to put the JVM as a standard bundle into Windows. Dave's comment was right on the mark on this:

[...] Sheez, I'd love to bundle Radio with Windows. How about it? Why aren't they clubbing me in the knees? What makes Java so special? [...]
. While I don't think that Radio is better than Java as Dave says, <wink> I do think he is absolutely right when he questions why one thing should be forcibly included and not the other. Forcing these things through the courts is not the way to go, since it would tilt the field in favor of the big guys as usual (who can afford to pay for armies of lawyers) and it only creates infighting between the smaller players, which is never beneficial (Note, for example, how this article talks --near the end-- about how Sun will have to drive Corel out of the Office Software market before making any headway). In fact, I'm not even sure that I would like Java to win its position in this way: it would be like attaching itself to the Windows monopoly, forcing its way just like MS forces its way with its own products by leveraging Windows, doing exactly what we have accussed Microsoft of doing. We should teach by example. We should win this by creating better software, easier to use, simpler, secure, inherently multiplatform, inexpensive, and more interoperable. I think we're on our way.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 7, 2002 at 2:51 PM

digital robber barons

An excellent op-ed piece by Paul Krugman in the New York Times. This is exactly what is happening. To see where the US is going, look, of all places, to Dublin, Ireland, the "tech capital of Europe". Here phone access is charged by the minute, and the typical modem connect speed is 33.6 Kbps. An ISDN line (also charged by the minute, except that the speed is "guaranteed" to be 64 Kbps) is Euro 40 a month ($40) on top of the regular phone line "rental". I live 20 blocks from the center of the city and I called Eircom (the stupid monopoly) the other day to see how to get DSL (Installation cost: Euro 400, plus Euro 110 per month, not surprisingly, in the Dublin and greater Dublin, where one million people live, there are only two thousand DSL installation, mostly businesses). They said that I can never, ever get DSL in my apartment (which by the way, was new when I moved in last year). They cited "unknown technical problems". I think they looked at my internet charges and decided it was a better deal to keep me using the phone. Meanwhile, there are no other options, no cable modem, no wireless (except for a Satellite ISP that charges Euro 1500 for the equipment and then Euro 130 per month), nothing. Mobile phones (and mobile phone service) is much more expensive than in the rest of Europe.

This is the result of the utter stupidity (if not corruption) of politicians and the combined greed of companies too cozy with their insanely high profits to care about their customers.

The US should take note, before it's too late...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 7, 2002 at 1:05 PM

adaptation

A cool new movie by the makers of Being John Malkovich. I can't wait!

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 6, 2002 at 9:22 PM

java and staroffice

News a bit old... but still interesting. Sun to built a Java toolkit for StarOffice.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 6, 2002 at 5:46 PM

aspectj

(Again) considering using Aspect-oriented programming... went to download AspectJ (again...) and saw that a new AspectJ 1.1 beta is out, with some interesting improvements. Maybe this time around I'll actually start using it, particularly since I found this plug-in for Eclipse that should simplify using AspectJ for development.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 6, 2002 at 12:56 PM

The day kissinger cried

Another excellent Salon article this one on the inimitable Dr Strang... I mean, Henry Kissinger.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 5, 2002 at 11:52 PM

it's all in the brand

A Wired article on why Macintosh is one of the best brands ever created:

The "1984" ad began a branding campaign that portrayed Apple as a symbol of counterculture -- rebellious, free-thinking and creative. According to Charles Pillar, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, this image is a calculated marketing ploy to sell expensive computers.

"Expressions of almost spiritual faithfulness to the Mac, although heartfelt, weren't a purely spontaneous response to a sublime creation," he wrote. "They were a response to a calculated marketing ploy to sell computers that cost much more than competing brands.

"I'm not making this up. Members of the Mac's original engineering and marketing team told me all about it. They did it by building a sense of belonging to an elite club by portraying the Mac as embodying the values of righteous outsiderism and rebellion against injustice. It started in the early '80s with the famous '1984' TV commercial that launched the Mac, and continued with 'The computer for the rest of us' slogan and several ad campaigns playing on a revolutionary theme."

.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 5, 2002 at 4:41 PM

falling arches

A Salon article on the woes of McDonald's.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 5, 2002 at 4:38 PM

JSE 1.5

James has an interesting entry with good links and comments (from Guy Steele, no less) on the changes proposed to the Java Language for JSE 1.5 ("Tiger" I think was the code name). Mind you, these are changes to the language not the libraries, including some long-overdue features such as Generics (i.e., templates) support.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 5, 2002 at 1:01 PM

the truth is out there!

[via Karlin] At last, conclusive, irrefutable proof: NASA Faked the moon landings. Hilarious.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 5, 2002 at 8:38 AM

Cringely on P2P and media

Robert Cringely on how Peer-to-Peer file sharing is going to change Big Media. Interesting read.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 5, 2002 at 1:16 AM

Why the 'Java Stigma' - Part 2

Glen was asking for some sample code for BoxLayout/BorderFactory, and
here it is. It's a simple frame with a set of components inside,
mostly a copy of the code I use in spaces to create the "Edit Mail Account"
dialog.

In the previous entry on this topic I mentioned Borders and Layouts as one factor that affect how a UI looks in Java. Another factor is... the details (where the devil is :-)). Things that we tend to take for granted but that are really what makes an application feel "solid" or simply well done. These are things that in general I think contribute to the stigma of Java being unable to support client applications properly.

Take colors.

For example, suppose that you have a JTable in a JScrollPane. Because the table is by default not opaque (the cells are) if you have a larger ScrollPane than the rows in the table you end up with the unpleasant side effect of seeing one background color (for the table) and another for the ScrollPane. Except that the ScrollPane isn't handling the background, it's the JViewport inside the JScrollPane. So when using tables in scrollpanes the following line always comes in handy:

scrollPane.getViewport().setBackground(table.getBackground())
Another example of details that make an application feel strange are icons. In the case of spaces, I created the icons myself (except for a few that I used from the Java Look and Feel Graphics Repository) after I noticed that the icons were making the app feel like ... er, wrong. Finally, details are not only visual, they are also behavioral. Consider right-click menus. Right or wrong, people have gotten used to right-clicking everywhere on an interface. In some cases, if the right-click popup menu isn't there, the application feels incomplete.

In sum, it's not that Java doesn't do it, but simply that what in other platforms is already taken care of (and you have to give Microsoft credit for making it easy to build "proper" Windows-looking with Visual Studio) has to be done more or less "manually" in Java, and sometimes it's not obvious how to do it.

Next topic (tomorrow? Friday?): UIs as an afterthought.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 4, 2002 at 5:45 PM

and cows fly, too

According to this News.com article, IDC says that Windows Server is cheaper than Linux. Right, right. The whole TCO thing. Apparently the administrators that IDC talks to never have any problems with Windows, and they assume that Linux has higher cost because people are not familiar with it.

These are the same "analysts" that say that Linux is only used by people who are... familiar with it. Because it's too hard for other users!

Maybe these guys would like to take a course on propositional logic one of these days...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 4, 2002 at 1:03 PM

a-nother comment

Matthew comments on spaces also referencing a really, really old (in Internet time at least, I mean, almost a month! :-)) comment from beblogging about it downloading multiple copies of the same message. That was actually fixed (and released) by the time Ugo made that comment (testing on a pre-alpha release, btw.)

I just realized, almost a month already since spaces was first released. wow.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 4, 2002 at 12:15 AM

against gravity

Here's a nice tidbit I just found out about: Formula-1 cars are so light and fast that they can defeat gravity simply by the force of the friction they can create against the ground. This means that a Formula-1 car could easily race top-down, on the roof of a tunnel, if one was built properly to let the car slide to the side first and then eventually race on the roof. I guess that those videogames that let you do that didn't have it so wrong after all.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 3, 2002 at 9:55 PM

the inner einstein

A cool article from US News.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 3, 2002 at 7:54 PM

comments on spaces

Glen likes spaces (although he has some issues with Java Web Start), as does James. Thanks!.

James also wonders if there will be a way to post to Radio from the program, and the answer is yes. A "sync to weblog" feature is in the works, and it will be released soon, probably in the next alpha, certainly by alpha-2 (which will also include functional web access -- your own personal hotmail!) :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 3, 2002 at 7:15 PM

Why the 'Java Stigma' - Part 1

Brett stands corrected (he saw Anthony's reply to his entry, which rightly pointed out that spaces is not SWT but pure-Java-Swing, something that my reply didn't do), he says:

It is a Swing app?!? Colour me dazed. Wow. I need to get out more. Well, between the look of spaces, and the obvious malleability of Swing in IntelliJ, it may be time for me to hack some Swing. (Something else for the resume, and all that.)

This made me think (again) about the 'Java Stigma', i.e., the idea that Java is not good for client apps, that even if you build a client app with Java it will not only (and despite being physically impossible, as Bart Simpson would say) suck but it would also blow, that it would require ridiculously complex installation, that its UI would look so bad it'd seem it had been built for a consortium of martian amoebas rather than for humans.

Nonsense, of course.

So, I thought I'd start to write down some of my ideas in the subject. Hopefully it will not end up being totally incoherent rambling. So here goes:

There are many good Java apps today that demonstrate that Java/Swing is powerful enough to create an application that looks and feels like a native app.

So why was this misperception created and, more importantly, perpetuated?

Well, for one, even though many Java apps have been really cool, historically not a lot of attention has been given to the UI. This was, in big part, because Java wasn't mature enough until JDK 1.2. AWT was clearly inadequate to build a full-fledged app, requiring the developers to build a lot of custom components (remember Wordperfect for Java?).

This started to change about 4 years ago with the final release of Swing included in JDK 1.2. Swing really was useful, but it had a learning curve. Now we're past the learning curve, and still Java apps don't "look native" and many times they look downright ugly, or they look like toys. Why?

One reason: in most cases the UI is designed and implemented after the application is written. This is a mistake. (I will come back to this in a later entry... this diatribe is getting long enough as it is)

Another reason: Layout.

In the "native" world absolute positioning rules. Components are set on grids, with specific locations on the window. Not bad for a native application, but not such a good solution when you need to make the application portable and widgets might end up in different locations, with different sizes, fonts, etc, etc.

Java's solution for this is the concept of LayoutManagers. But LayoutManagers were difficult to use properly until BoxLayout came along. (BoxLayout's algorithm has many similarities to that of TeX). Before BoxLayout, your only choice to do complex layouts was to use (gasp!) GridBagLayout.

BoxLayout is an good, but there are still some rough edges in the way it interacts with the components, specially the apparently strange behaviors one can get sometimes with different minimumSize, preferredSize and maximumSize settings.

Another things I learned when writing spaces: Borders are good. We really don't see it but borders are what make an application pleasant to the eye. You don't even need fancy borders, just mostly EmptyBorders and an EtchedBorder here and there will do. And BorderFactory is a really simple way to reuse all those pesky border objects.

So, conclusions for today:

  • The UI should be coded with the program, not after it.
  • BoxLayout, Border and BorderFactory are our friends.
  • Categories: technology
    Posted by diego on December 3, 2002 at 9:38 AM

not java?

Brett references an weblog entry by Anthony on spaces and comments: Going by the screen shot, I'd venture that isn't a java application....
If he still has doubts, the Java Web Start Install and the screenshots of spaces running on Mac should put his mind at rest. <wink>

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 2, 2002 at 11:04 PM

blog browsers

I'm itching to add a blog archive import to spaces. Hopefully I'll have time for that soon. I wonder though, once the import is done, what will be the best thing to do? Keep up to date using the RSS feed of the blog? Or do another import, somehow scheduling them to happen automatically and catch the updates? mmmm....

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 2, 2002 at 10:55 PM

The decline and fall of the american empire

An article from Salon:

An expert on geopolitics says forget Islamic terrorism -- the real future threat to America's supremacy will come from Europe.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 2, 2002 at 9:48 PM

patent holders on the ropes

Woha. The W3C has repealed the use of royalty-based technologies in their standards, and others are lining up. An article from News.com.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 2, 2002 at 9:43 PM

postcards from planet google

A New York Times article on how Google's search logs provide a glimpse of what's on people's minds:

[...] the most trivial events may also register on Google's sensitive cultural seismic meter.
The logs team came to work one morning to find that "carol brady maiden name" had surged to the top of the charts.
Curious, they mapped the searches by time of day and found that they were neatly grouped in five spikes: biggest, small, small, big and finally, after a long wait, another small blip. Each spike started at 48 minutes after the hour.
As the logs were passed through the office, employees were perplexed. Why would there be a surge in interest in a character from the 1970's sitcom "The Brady Bunch"? But the data could only reflect patterns, not explain them.
That is a paradox of a Google log: it does not capture social phenomena per se, but merely the shadows they cast across the Internet.
"The most interesting part is why," said Amit Patel, who has been a member of the logs team. "You can't interpret it unless you know what else is going on in the world."
So what had gone on on April 22, 2001?
That night the million-dollar question on the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" had been, "What was Carol Brady's maiden name?" Seconds after the show's host, Regis Philbin, posed the question, thousands flocked to Google to search for the answer (Tyler), producing four spikes as the show was broadcast successively in each time zone.
And that last little blip?
"Hawaii," Mr. Patel said.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 2, 2002 at 5:26 PM

wind + rain = flu

I'm feeling pretty sick today (and yesterday was no picnic either). After the trip to Spain a couple of weeks ago I came down with a cold, which peaked last tuesday. Last wednesday morning I was feeling better. But I had to go to the university early, around 7:30 am. It was raining like hell, with 30 mph winds and maybe 2-3 C (38 F) of temperature. Buses were full, so none were stopping. I had an umbrella, and said, what the hell, let's walk.

Big mistake. It's an almost 3-km walk from my apartment to the university. After only one block the lower half of my body was wet and freezing: rain was coming in horizontally. I discovered that umbrellas can be quite useless. The wind was so strong that a few times the umbrella was about to collapse on itself (that is, I was walking against the wind with the umbrella in front of me).

So now I'm sick again, except this time it's worse. Bad throat ache. Body hurts, and so on. And so much to do! And why spend time writing this? Well, I guess that griping is soothing to the mind :) (incidentally, the word "gripe" means "flu" in spanish--such a coincidence).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 2, 2002 at 12:40 PM

the arms race, continued

[From the New York Times]: Students learning to evade moves to protect media files.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 2, 2002 at 12:07 PM

new JDK 1.4.1 on Mac

Marek: Apple released Java Development Kit 1.4.1 Developer Release 6 this weekend, and I tried it on Spaces alpha-1.5, which now provides Mac OS X compatibility in the main release stream. He has a nice screenshot too. Java apps definitely look nicer on Mac than on Windows.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 2, 2002 at 8:39 AM

15th annual World AIDS Day

40 million people infected today with HIV, and 60 million more in the next ten years if we can't stop it. Bill Clinton has an excellent op-ed in today's New York Times on it.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on December 1, 2002 at 6:57 PM

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