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

watching jobs' macworld keynote

And on the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Mac no less...

First, It is amazing that an audience can clap, hoot and make lots of noise over someone saying "We've added a G5 to our XServe line" and things of that nature. It is kind of surreal.

Aside from XServe upgrades and such and the new versions of iLife apps (iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD), Jobs announced GarageBand, software for making music, and what I can say is: WOW. Great synthethized instruments. Loops. Effects. Amps (!). Great Quality. Jobs' demo of this product was really, really impressive. It's not as if I can compare this to more professional tools that are out there, since I'm not aware of what the market is like (I just remember playing with CakeWalk on the PC a while ago, but it was crap compared to this), but since this is included in a $49 package, or free with new Macs, it seems to me that it's a big deal. Or at a minimum, another reason to lust after a Mac. :)

BTW, the "iLife ad" they showed after the demo was terrible, especially compared to the live demo, even more considering that many of the lines that the people in the video say had been used verbatim by Jobs before, which takes away a lot of the enjoyment of the keynote (What? You mean that the keynote was scripted?!? -- you're reminded of what you already knew but Jobs had made you forget). Ditch the pathetic ads apple, Jobs on a stage is enough. :)

Finally, the "iPod mini" (and it comes in colors!). 4 GB of memory (!!!). This is clearly not using Flash, but a microdrive, although Jobs didn't mention it, I'm sure that is the case. Very cool and not that expensive ($249) compared to flash players, after which they are going. However, the high-end flash players now are about one quarter of the size of the mini and no doubt 1/4 of weight too, and you can get around 512 MB for reasonable prices. So, I still prefer flash players but the iPod mini will probably be a good choice for many people.

Cool stuff.

Update: Matt's link roundup and comments on the announcements.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 6, 2004 at 6:57 PM

spambots get smarter

Since today started as a "spam kind of day"...

Something I noticed over the last few weeks is that I've started to receive spam that is way more targeted than before. In what sense?

Well, let's say this: I'm getting spam that not only knows my full name, but also my address. Okay, not my current address, but I've already gotten spam that explictly mentions both my New York address (from 5+ years ago) and my SF Bay address (from 2+ years ago). This is bad, not only they know my email address, but they also know where I live(d)! Yes, we know that with time and money you can get a lot of information on anyone, but this has to be done automatically and massively, or otherwise it wouldn't be a practical option for spammers.

Clearly, one way this could happen is if someone (say, buy.com) has been selling their customer information. Since I usually take care of buying online only when my privacy is more or less protected, this is unlikely, though certainly possible.

There's a more likely way in which this connection was made: Google.

Google not only knows the web, it also knows other information... like phone numbers (at least in the US). Jon mentioned this some time ago.

A spambot to get "connected information" would work like this. Say you write an automated script to go through phone numbers on Google. Then the script takes the address data and the person's name, and then googles the person's name. It takes the first few results (or maybe only the first one) and scans the resulting pages to match an email's name to the person's name. Sure, this won't be 100% correct, but spammers don't care about that. And Google's reach makes it reasonable to think that you'd have a reasonably high hit rate. You could even write a program that uses the GoogleAPI for it.

Sure, we could say, as Scott McNealy does, that "you're privacy is gone, get over it". Even if you agree with that statement (and I don't, at least I want to resist it!), this is nevertheless disturbing. And the question that follows is: does Google have any responsibility for this? They'd probably say that they're providing a service by integrating yellow pages information, which would be true.

I'm not picking on Google, rather Google is the example here because of its reach and pervasiveness, but I'm sure that similar things can be done with other search engines and if not it won't be long before you can. Can we fix this at all? If so, how?

Since this is the tip of the iceberg, my main thought at the moment is that I'm a character from Lost in Space and all I hear is "Danger Will Robinson! Danger!".

Categories: personal, soft.dev, technology
Posted by diego on January 6, 2004 at 5:10 PM

connection problems

While I finished deleting the spam comments a few hours ago, the Internet connection problems remain. I can't reach several sites, including news sites and weblogs, and neither IM or IRC can connect. Other sites, both in Ireland and abroad, work fine. Definitely weird.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on January 6, 2004 at 4:15 PM

yahoo goes after google (finally)

Well, well. Finally, a year after purchasing Inktomi, and six months after buying Overture it seems that Yahoo has finally digested both acquisitions and is ready to move on from using Google for its searches and begin growing on its own in the area. The Wall Street Journal reports today (subscription required) that Yahoo is now widely expected to dump Google "within a few months". Quote:

Some marketing firms, which help advertisers manage their online campaigns for search-related ads, say they have been told Yahoo will switch from Google to its own technology as early as the first quarter.
Now, I suppose we all expected that to happen at some point (I for one am surprised it didn't happen sooner) but there's more meat to it, including mentions of Yahoo preparing to leverage its various web properties in making search a more personalized affair. Quote:
Yahoo isn't discussing many of its search plans in detail. But some steps toward independence can already be seen on the shopping section of Yahoo's site, which is now using Inktomi's technology. Type in "digital camera," for example, and the site shows pictures of specific cameras along with their prices, flanked by "shopping tools" that allow users to quickly call up price comparisons, fuller specifications and user reviews. By contrast, the same search on Yahoo's front page, which still uses Google's technology, returns a familiar text-based list of links, starting with those sponsored by retailers and followed by other camera-related sites ranked by popularity.

In the future, Yahoo officials say, searches could become much more personalized. They could be tailored to return results that reflect users' past Web-surfing behavior, for example, or preferences or interests they list in a profile.

With Google now expected to go public sometime before mid-year, things are surely going to get interesting in the search space. AOL might have to do something too to keep up with the other portals (ie., MSN and Yahoo), especially as dial-up erodes as a market advantage over time. AOL-Google anyone?

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 6, 2004 at 1:50 PM

swt and swing, cont'd.

Yesterday Russ was ranting (his term :)) on how Sun was botching it by not getting behind SWT, because SWT is, in his view, better than Swing. I have written about both a few times before, more recently in this short review of my initial impressions of developing with SWT, and earlier here, here and here among others. Specifically on what Russ is saying I had a couple of things to add. One is that, although I'm obviously partial on this :), I think that clevercactus shows that Swing interfaces need not feel out of place, or be slow, or whatever. And I think it looks better than LimeWire too :). IDEA is also a fine example IMO. However, it's true that all of that is subjective and that for hard-core Windows users there are small differences. For power users in particular the differences might indeed be difficult to accept. The situation is much better in other platforms though.

That aside, there is the other matter that Russ mentions, that of Sun not joining the Eclipse consortium. The main reason given for this is that, for all its platform appeal Eclipse is still, at heart, an IDE toolkit. If you doubt that's true, spend some time perusing the Eclipse APIs, and you'll notice how many times you have to use components from within the IDE package rather than "platform" packages (e.g., "org.eclipse.swt"). Restated, what I mean is that the boundaries between platform and IDE APIs are not clear at all, and I guess that some people would say that's precisely the point, Eclipse is both an IDE and a platform, and that's fine. Fine indeed, but what does that matter? Well, keep in mind that Sun has NetBeans to take care of. With its own community, and plugins, and additional tools, and so on. Were Sun to ditch NetBeans in favor of Eclipse as a platform, they would have to a) port all sorts of plugins and code to the new platform, not to mention "convert" their community, both of open source developers and third party developers, to Eclipse. This is by no means impossible, but it's not easy either.

Then there is the small matter of SWT. If Sun joined Eclipse, SWT would have to be included in the JDK would it not? Sun would have to maintain and release simultaneously three different windowing toolkits for each release: AWT, Swing, and SWT. That doesn't sound good either. And while I like some things of SWT, ditching Swing completely is to me not an option.

Why?

First, Swing does run on every single platform that the full JDK runs on. For example, some users today are running clevercactus on OS/2. That would be impossible if cc was written in SWT.

Second, Swing is, for all its complexity (or perhaps because of it) and incredibly rich and flexible toolkit. Much more so than SWT. Surely this will change as SWT evolves, but that's the reality at the moment. With SWT you are forced to write custom components more often than with Swing, as I discovered when I worked for about a week replicating the clevercactus UI using SWT.

And, finally (although this is a small matter compared to the two above), SWT still requires release of resources "by hand". I find this a horrible step back. Moreover, debugging becomes more difficult. Something might fail not just on your java code, not just on the SWT-to-Native code (say, if you're running it on Windows), but something might also fail at the Native component level. Suddenly bugs have to be tracked on three levels. SWT will be buggy for a while, particularly on non-Win32 platforms (Win32 support is pretty good). And Native errors are very difficult to pin down.

Please note, these are not reasons why "Swing is better than SWT" but reasons why I think Swing can't be discarded at the moment and for some time to come. And that puts Sun in a difficult position.

Ideally, yes, Sun would join Eclipse, ditch AWT in favor of SWT keeping the latter as an alternative to Swing, plus using something like the SWTSwing project to bridge between both worlds. But for the moment, staying out of Eclipse might have been a good choice by Sun to avoid creating even more confusion.

Update: more news today on Sun's efforts regarding standarization on the non-Eclipse side of development tools.

Categories: soft.dev
Posted by diego on January 6, 2004 at 12:40 PM

a spam kind of day

Feeling better today. For some reason I'm having trouble at the moment reaching several sites on the Internet. Unclear if this is a widespread problem, or just one of my provider. Plus, as if mail spam was not enough, this morning I woke up to a barrage of spam comments posted on this weblog, more than sixty in total. I've been deleting them for the last hour (halfway through now) since movable type doesn't have (that I know of) a "master" comment list where I can delete all at once and rebuild all the entries in a single clikc. Plus, it's slow to rebuild on this machine (which means that posting all those comments must have taken a good time). Nothing wrecks workflow like having to deal with enormous amounts of spam. As I'm deleting comments I'm also closing comment threads to prevent more spam postings. Sigh.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on January 6, 2004 at 11:51 AM

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