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

share v.1.40b released

In the end the new version of share took a couple of days more than I anticipated, but it was worth it. Here's the announcement in the forums. Probably the most visible change is the improved queue manager, which maintains local and remote queues synchronized transparently (but allows asynchronous queue management, that is, it is irrelevant whether the contact that is sharing the files is online or not).

This has kept me quite busy the last few days--now for a short break (and maybe some more blogging :)).

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on June 30, 2004 at 6:10 PM

tracking a hoax

Wired has an article Copy This Article & Win Quick Cash! that tracks down the (by now almost ancient) "forward this email and get paid by Microsoft" hoax. The author manages to track down the originator of the hoax, who says it started out as a joke and quickly "got a little out of hand." So why hadn't he claimed 'authorship' before? He replied: "It's just a hoax. And if I admitted to it, why would anyone believe me?" --to which I can only add: Indeed.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 29, 2004 at 7:15 PM

are you pondering what I'm pondering?

pnb3.jpgThe Slashdot poll today is asking who is Most Likely to Take Over the World. The Brain is third so far, which can only mean that tonight's plan has something to do with pretending to be third in the Slashdot poll but take over the discussion board (as he clearly has) since most people there are discussing his brilliant if oft-foiled (oft-by Pinky) plans.

Pinky: TROZ!

Brain: What is 'Troz'?

Pinky: Well, that's 'Zort' in a mirror! He-he. TROOZ!


Posted by diego on June 29, 2004 at 5:37 PM


No, no that Tiger. I'm talking about OS X v10.4. Reading the feature list makes me want to install it right now, but there's no information on the page of a release date ( has it for "early next year"). Maybe by the next WWDC?

Update: Russ and Erik have some good comments on Apple's inclusion of a concept originally developed for OS X by a small developer, Konfabulator. Am I wrong, or this also happened with another tool for the release of Jaguar or something? A Watson add-in? Funnily enough, Dave notes this New York Times article in which Jobs is quoted as saying "They're copying our concepts, [...] I'd kind of like to get credit sometime." Hm.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 29, 2004 at 8:57 AM

on open source java

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to write on the Weblogs section of the O'Reilly Network -- and here's my first post: Open Source Java: No magic pixie dust.

Posted by diego on June 29, 2004 at 7:27 AM

eclipse 3.0

I am now downloading Eclipse 3.0 final (released yesterday, apparently) for both Windows and Mac OS X. I had the luck of finding a mirror that is giving speeds of 100 KB/sec, which is excellent (the main download sites all maxed out at around 5 KB/sec, at least for me). I also found a BitTorrent tracker list, but it didn't include 3.0 -- only up to RC3, and then again it was only for Linux and Windows.

Anyway, this comes in handy as I am finishing the setup in a new machine--I had installed RC3 but now I'll just move over immediately and finish making the changes to the configuration (one of the main problems I have with Eclipse is how difficult it is to move over from one version to the next--settings have to be changed, reset, exported and imported in multiple places--maybe I just don't know what to do exactly, I don't know). Aside from that, and various quirks notwhistanding, I've been quite happy with Eclipse as an environment, its integration with CVS and Ant, etc. The release of 3.0 final is a major step forward.

Good stuff.

Update: Don has a number of interesting comments on the 3.0 release, including wondering why they released ahead of schedule, and mentioning version migration problems (which is sort of a relief to read -- now I know I'm not the only one!)

Posted by diego on June 26, 2004 at 1:31 PM

belated thanks

One thing I keep forgetting to do (or rather, not finding time for, since I clearly keep remembering I should do it!) is to thank some of the brave souls :) that helped in the initial beta testing phase of share (that is, before mid-June) and posted about their experience, in most cases with ideas and recommendations. Yes, I've said this to them privately but linkback never hurts :). Probably one reason I hesitate to do this is that I'm sure that I'm going to miss some of the links--so this list is not meant to be exhaustive. Anyway, here it goes (more or less in the order in which they appeared).

Erik, here (and more recently here) who also has given us great ideas and comments. Russ, noting some of the initial performance and L&F issues among other things (and who hung in there even when strange things seemed to be happening with his installation). Cristian, Frank , and Jim, all of them with nice comments. Don, who quickly came up with a wonderful idea for wishlists (which, sadly, I haven't added yet, but it's never been off my mind), and then followed up later with more detail (and some excellent questions and comments as usual). Dylan, who posted a long review, with many ideas and good criticism. Anne, with a great analysis of some of the sociable ideas in share. Also, Justin, and James.

Once again, thanks to them and to the many others that I can't link to (either because they don't have a weblog, or because they made comments privately through email) -- share is better today because of their help and feedback.

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on June 26, 2004 at 12:30 PM

the fog of war

And last night, aside from looking at DNA databases, I watched The Fog of War, a documentary-interview-mix with Robert S. McNamara, former US Secretary of Defense, in which he speaks candidly about tactics, strategy, logistics, World War Two, and, of course, Vietnam. Quite good, if sometimes a little lost in aesthetics rather than substance. There are many good quotes and interesting moments (I'll watch it again soon, I'm sure). One of the things that I found striking was that he quite plainly confirms that Kennedy wanted to "get out" of Vietnam (also mentioned in Oliver Stone's JFK), a notion that, as I understand it, was disputed for a long time after the war ended. He also talks about the Cuban Missile crisis, and the fire-bombing campaign over mainland Japan in early 1945, a campaign that wiped out large areas of Japan's major cities and killed thousands of civilians --the fire-bombing of Tokyo alone caused 100,000 civilian casualties (and that was before Hiroshima and Nagasaki), discussing the "mindset of warfare" and tactical and strategic considerations. And the section of Vietnam inevitably made me think of some recent events.

Something that I didn't know was that McNamara met, during the 90s, with both Fidel Castro and Leaders of the Vietnamese army that was fighting the US, and how that helped him re-examine the situation in hindsight, knowing the facts as seen from the other side. McNamara says that he basically asked Castro whether he would have recommended that the Soviet Union get into a nuclear war with the US over Cuba, to which Castro answered, more or less, "yes, in fact I did recommend that" clearly disregarding the fact that such a conflict would have also destroyed Cuba itself. (McNamara himself says, and it isn't hard to believe, that nuclear holocaust was avoided because of "luck"). With Vietnam, McNamara talks about the basic misunderstanding between the US and the Vietnamese as to each other's motives--the US was fighting a local war in the context of the larger cold war conflict, while the Vietnamese were fighting (in their view) a civil war for independence, and how this lack of understanding ("empathizing with the enemy"), which had proven in his mind crucial to solving the 1962 crisis, quite probably prolonged the war unnecessarily.

Sometimes he refuses to go into more detail, fearing, as he calls it, "controversy." I'd say that what's there already is controversial enough, but it makes me wonder what he isn't saying.

Anyway, not self-contained by any means, but a good addition to history books and other documentaries. Recommended.

Posted by diego on June 25, 2004 at 12:37 PM


I spent a bit of time last night going through the our DNA information as mapped by the Human Genome Project. Aside from learning some things, there were two things that caught my eye. First is that the genome has "builds", and as of today they stand as "build 34 version 3" which sounded like a meld of technology and our humanity in interesting if subtle ways (did they every have a beta? Will we have genomic procedures only compatible with certain builds? Okay, that's in jest, but you know what I mean).

The other was that they've got XML dialects for the genetic information: witness this sequence which is part of our first chromosome. For some reason I can't quite explain, I also find this fascinating. They have different XML dialects which show more information too, with names like TinySeq XML, GBSeq XML, and just "XML" (is this one the standard?), all with DTDs. I imagine they had similar fights as in other fields (such as syndication) over which tags to use, formats, and such--I wonder if there's a mailing list where we can find geneticists and molecular biologists arguing over which tag is best...

Categories: science
Posted by diego on June 25, 2004 at 12:09 PM

StAX (aka JSR 173) @ codehaus

One more, Don alerts me (ok, maybe not just "me" but no one was next to me staring at the monitor when I saw his entry! Lame excuse for egocentrism, I know, what what are you gonna do...) to something that I wasn't aware of: the open-sourcing of BEA's StAX (JSR 173) at codehaus. (rather, I knew this was supposed to happen, but last time I checked I couldn't find signs of it, and I ended up getting the 1.0 StAX RI from JavaSoft). Here's the link to the main StAX site there. Nice. I've been using StAX for a while now and it's become an indispensable component in our toolkit.

ps: to anyone that might be thinking that I enjoy writing subjects full of acronyms that are understood only by a small band of geeks on Earth, as in the case of this entry, I'll confess: yes, yes I do. Very much so. :))

Posted by diego on June 21, 2004 at 10:28 AM

stone hackers

Sean McGrath: The ancient art of hacking in Ireland. Heh.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 20, 2004 at 6:32 PM

share: how and why

I've just posted a (slightly lengthy) description of how share works over at the cactus log. It probably doesn't answer all questions (does anything ever?) but it's a start.

More later. :)

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on June 20, 2004 at 6:27 PM

Berkeley DB -- in Java

[via Don] The new version of Berkeley DB in pure Java is out. I'm definitely behind the curve on this--I didn't know there was an old version, much less a new one! Will have to check it out.

Unrelated, Don also notes a disturbing new development with phising techniques that uses yet another of IE's "features" (why would anyone want to place an overlay anywhere on the screen is beyond me-- yes, I'm sure there are applications but I'm also sure that there are other solutions for whatever problem the applications are solving). Hopefully other browsers don't allow this sort of thing!

Posted by diego on June 17, 2004 at 9:39 AM

win32 and the web

Joel: How Microsoft lost the API War. Must read (Comments later).

Posted by diego on June 17, 2004 at 8:59 AM

on bloomsday

From The Economist: an unforgettable odyssey. And the NY Times has a great editorial today on Bloomsday and Ulysses. Quote:

[...] the real sound of this novel is the sound of the street a century ago: the noise of centuries of streets echoing over the stones.

Too bad I won't have time to participate in some of the events of Rejoyce 2004.

Posted by diego on June 16, 2004 at 3:42 PM

best laid plans

While the idea of the bloomsday release was to come out sometime in the afternoon (as my twisted reference to 5 pm in that post shows), the plan became meaningless after Danny found the not-yet-public login page to the new version and outed it on a MeFi thread. Luckily enough, this happened not long before the day started (not that it had ended that long ago) and so most of what we had planned to do during the day had to be done incrementally making sure the system stayed up.

So, without further ado, here's entry on the cactus log that discusses the release.

Now, most of the changes are in place and we have been fixing certain problems, such as linux install issues (noted in the newly-released clevercactus forums). But there's still a lot to do: documentation (particularly in what relates to firewalls, connectivity, etc), config options, and improving portions of the app and features.

Anyway. Back to work.

ps: Happy Bloomsday!

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on June 16, 2004 at 1:37 PM

((no single == many) && (no single != no)) point(s) of failure

So today an outage of some sort at Akamai's distributed DNS service brought down access to some major sites from various parts of the world, including Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Pretty quickly, as evidenced by this slashdot thread the questions over how the days of "no single point of failure" are over started to pop up.

The myth of the Internet being so resilient that it would never fail is an interesting one. More accurately, its a set of layers of myths, that go back to the often-repeated idea that "the Internet was designed to survive a nuclear attack".

One of the crucial ideas of ARPAnet was that it would be packet-switched, rather than circuit switched. With packet-based communications, clearly the packets will attempt to reach their destination regardless of the circuit used, and there is no question that packet-based networks are much more resilient to failures than circuit-switched networks.

Let me be clear: part of my argument is semantic. That is, the fact that packet-switching means "no single point of failure" doesn't mean that there are no points of failure at all. The problem, however, is that we end up ignoring the word "point" and reading "no failure". The idea of "no single point of failure" eventually ends up implying "failure proof". Which is why we are so surprised when a systemic failure does occur.

ARPAnet, however, never qualified as a failure-proof network, and the points of failure were few enough that "no single point of failure" had little meaning. In the early days you could literally take out most of the Internet by cutting a bunch of cables in certain areas of Boston and California. With time, yes, more lines of communications where available, reducing the probability of failure even further, but even today the amount of trans-continental and intercontinental bandwidth is certainly not infinite.

But, ok. Let's concede the point that a systemic failure at the packet-switching level is of very low probability in today's Internet. What about the services?

Because it is the services that create today's Internet. And many of the services that the Internet depends on are centralized.

Take DNS. Originally, name resolution ocurred by matching names against the contents of the local hosts table (stored in /etc/hosts) and when a new host was added a new hosts table was propagated across the participating hosts. Eventually, this process became impossible, since hosts were being added too fast. This led, in the 80s, to the development of DNS, which eventually became the standard.

DNS, however, is a highly centralized system, and it was designed for a network a couple of orders of magnitude smaller than what we have today. The fact that it does work today is more a credit to sheer engineering prowess in implementation, rather than design, although the design was clearly excellent for its time.

Even today, if the root Internet clusters (those that serve the root domains) where to be seriously compromised), the Internet would last about a week until most of the cached DNS mappings expired. And then we'd all be back to typing IP numbers.

And it doesn't stop with DNS. What if Yahoo! was to go offline? What if Google vanished for a week? What if someone devised a worm that flooded, say, 70% of the world's email servers?

For users, the Internet has now become its applications and services rather than its protocols. And the applications and services leave a lot to be desired.

What's missing is a shift at the service and application level in all fields, routing, security, and so on (Spam is just the tip of the iceberg). Something that brings the higher levels of networking in line with the ideas of packet switching.

So, today, Akamai sneezes and the rest of the world gets a cold. Tomorrow, it will be someone else. This will keep happening until the high-level infrastructure we use everyday becomes decentralized itself. Only then the probability of systemic failure will be low enough. Low enough, mind you, not non-existent: Biomimetism and self-organization, after all, don't guarantee eternity. :)

Categories:, technology
Posted by diego on June 15, 2004 at 7:41 PM

coming up: clevercactus share, the public release

A bit ago we switched over the DNS records for the clevercactus site to its new location. Most people should have the updated version by Wednesday, when we'll come out with the so-called (by me :)) Bloomsday release.

Almost there!

ps: the link should go to the cactus log, but it might not work if the new DNS information hasn't reached you yet. Shouldn't take long though. :)

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on June 14, 2004 at 9:15 PM

a couple of java links

On a (less than regular) visit to, I notice that a couple of weeks ago they released Beta 2 of JDK 1.5 a.k.a Tiger (I completely missed this--you can tell I've been busy no? :)). I assume that their plan is to announce the final version at JavaOne (which starts on June 28 this year). Then reading through the Tiger docs I notice this link which leads to a "New To Java Center" that was (probably recently) introduced directly into the documentation. Interesting. Another place to point people to.

Continuing with my random-Java-related navigation, I found this link on the history of Java, and this page which partially documents the evolution of the site. Both pages have pointers to yet other interesting "historical" destinations, including this Java Technology: The Early Years" article.

Ah, the good old days... :)

Posted by diego on June 12, 2004 at 3:51 PM

cringely on weblogs

[via Dave] The most recent Cringely article is on the topic of weblogs, and he makes a number of interesting points. The first is that

It takes society 30 years, more or less, to absorb a new information technology into daily life. It took about that long to turn movable type into books in the 15th century. Telephones were invented in the 1870s, but did not change our lives until the 1900s. Motion pictures were born in the 1890s, but became an important industry in the 1920s. Television, invented in the mid-1920s, took until the mid-1950s to bind us to our sofas. The PC and the Internet are both today about 30 years old, which means we are finally figuring what they are about.
While his numbers match, I have to say that I find the logic faulty. I don't think that it takes 30 years for people to "figure out" what something is good for (although the lag between early adopters and the public-at-large is definitely there), I think that the 30 years he points to is more a measure of the economic and cultural evolution of a particular technology and its acceptance rather than whether people "figure out" what something is good for or not. Also, Cringely is measuring using a US-centric view, when you go outside it becomes easier to see that sometimes a technology (or technology/science mix) evolves through different timescales. Take, for example, Norman Borlaug's work on "distilling" and then "exporting" dwarf wheat, which provided one of the keys to allow densely populated countries such as India to (quite literally) feed themselves. If you start counting with Mendel's work in the late 19th century to Watson & Crick's work on DNA, it becomes difficult to find 30 years that fit neatly in that timeline. Even for more "technological" achievements, such as air travel, it's difficult to find the 30 years anywhere. Generation and use of electricity is the same thing. And even for Cringely's examples, like TV, we could say that even though they became more used in the 50s in the US, it wasn't until the 60s, and Kennedy's assasination, that television's power was really apparent. On the other hand, it didn't take anyone 30 years to figure out that digital music had quite a number of advantages, as anyone within reach of a computer can attest.

While I do argue against his calendar-based absolutism and my contention that it's economic and curltural forces, rather than "figuring out" what something is or does, I think he has a point: technologies, or anything that affects our cultural behavior for that matter, do have an adoption curve measured in years and sometimes decades.

However, in using the "figuring out" imagery, he also implies that the technology necessarily is creating something new, and that, I think, is wrong. In many cases a technology is simply facilitating a process that already existed, and it's only after a while (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly) that the facilitation of previous behavior leads to entirely new processes.

And, once in a while, in facilitating something that previously existed, a technology will simply bring that to the fore, help us rediscover something that might have been lost or pushed aside in the evolution of things.

That, I believe, is the case with weblogs.

For "proof" I refer you to another segment of Cringely's article:

Some people think this column is a web log, but it isn't. For one thing, it predates web logs and I'm hoping will post-date them, too. Google News classifies what I am doing here as a web log even though I predate Google, itself, by more than a decade and don't see my work that way at all. I use too darned many words to be a web log, for one thing, and too darned few links. If I write anything really newsworthy, which I like to think that I do from time to time, the only way Google News will show it is if one of their 4500 REAL news sites mentions me. Otherwise, I don't exist, or more properly I exist only in a blogosphere that I, in turn, refuse to acknowledge. I'm odd that way.
His oddity notwhistanding, the fact that he has been doing whatever he was doing before weblogs came along doesn't mean he's not weblogging, or doing something that shares qualities with weblogging. As I said in my intro to weblogs, some people are "natural-born bloggers". Cringely's style of writing always had a foot on the world of weblogging: personal, opinionated, timely but not necessarily timeless. Even his book, Accidental Empires, which is excellent and I've read more than once, tilts towards qualities we generally associate with weblogging--not that weblogs "invented them", it's just that weblogs share some qualities with certain styles of (dare I say it?) journalism, or, more generally, writing.

But most of all, I'd point to the fact that his column includes a picture of his newborn baby.

Now, where have we seen that before? :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 11, 2004 at 8:41 PM


Dylan has released comPost, a bookmarklet to post to a variety of weblogging tools that integrates with Internet Explorer. He used it to post the announcement, so you know it works. Rockin'!

Now, if I could only get it to work with FireFox, that would rock tenfold! :)

ps: the name is... less than appealing. I get the pun, but I think a cool tool as this one is would spread faster with a cool name: "coolPost" sounds too obvious and probably too cheesy, "anyPost"... maybe. allPost? blogPost? lightPost? Anyway, you get the idea.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 10, 2004 at 7:11 PM

Riemann proved?

[via Slashdot] Purdue University has put out a press release noting that one of its mathematicians, Louis de Branges de Bourcia, has proven the Riemann Hypothesis. Here's the proof, and its defense (Note the word "Apology" in the title, which leads to a formal use of the word, as defined by the dictionary: "A formal justification or defense"). Hopefully I'll make time to read it all after the next release (more "Sunday entertainment"), in the meantime I've skimmed it and while of course I have no idea if he has proven the hypothesis or not, it certainly looks good. The Apology is excellent (as far as writing is concerned), with a brief history as intro. I guess we'll have to wait for a more formal peer review...

Categories: science
Posted by diego on June 10, 2004 at 9:06 AM


Sound over WiFi, simple, and useful, as well as other things. Read more here.

First reaction when I heard about this: oh yeah. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 8, 2004 at 6:32 PM

quote of the day

"If any person can edit a webpage, so can any robot." [source].

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 8, 2004 at 12:39 PM

JDIC: JDesktop Integration Components

Sun has released the first version of JDIC (here's a link to the documentation). These APIs provide desktop-environment integration for Java apps, such as registration of components for certain filetypes or hyperlinks, a simple component that embeds a native web browser, and a few other things.

Sun is very late to this party, particularly considering that the Eclipse framework has had similar functionality for months. But, "as they say" :), better late than never. Let's hope that Sun isn't just paying lip-service to desktop integration with this and that they are starting to put some full-time resources behind it (ie., that they use the LGPL license as a good way to spread technology rather than as a way to off-load development to others). Sun still has a lot to do in this area.

Posted by diego on June 8, 2004 at 11:43 AM

reshooting a movie--in the editing room

An article on how movies that are in trouble try to redeem themselves in the editing room. As an interesting tidbit, there's a mention of Woody Allen's Annie Hall having been originally a murder mystery. I definitely didn't know that!

Posted by diego on June 8, 2004 at 11:29 AM

the PDA field shrinks

Sony is exiting the PDA market in both the US and Europe, it seems. There original vision wasn't bad, it was simply too proprietary and couldn't keep up with non-proprietary solutions. On the handheld side, PDAs are not going to vanish anyway, they'll just be morph with Smartphones and devices of the sort (although I think there will always be a market, however small, for "pure" PDAs). Maybe Sony is planning on reviving some of the Clie stuff through its cellphone venture with Ericsson...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 7, 2004 at 11:24 AM


I spent a bit of time on Saturday reading Abrupt Climate Change: Paleo Perspective from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration paleoclimatology branch of the NCDC. A good summary on paleoclimatology and the climate change record.

Categories: science
Posted by diego on June 7, 2004 at 11:02 AM

bill joy: on technology, markets, and other things

An excellent article on Bill Joy from the New York Times magazine. Sadly a couple of comments I've seen on this piece seem to focus on how Joy considered whether to join Google or not, which is literally a sentence, and discount the rest. And it's the rest which is really interesting of course. Too bad he's not going to publish those books anytime soon...

ps: tangentially related: this, and this.

Categories: science
Posted by diego on June 7, 2004 at 10:58 AM

and clevercactus share...

clever_log.gif... will see its next release becoming public within the next few days. All the work we've done since we launched it is coming to fruition.

Tired but happy is an accurate description of how I feel. Stay tuned!

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on June 6, 2004 at 3:46 PM

solar! wind! power!

If only solar power was more commonplace, and less of a luxury. Another problem is that solar cells today still take too much energy to be manufactured and they don't produce much over their lifetimes making the situation, energy-conservation-wise, something of a wash (or worse). Yes, they aren't practical in many situations. But they are still useful--and cool.

Here in Ireland it's much easier to use wind. Here's a map of some current wind farms, and a new wind farm is being built south of Dublin. When completed, it will be the largest in the world (200 turbines, three times the generating capacity of all current offshore wind farms worldwide).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 6, 2004 at 3:36 PM

operation overlord, 60 years on

Through the weekend I've been reading articles on the 60th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Overlord. NYTimes, On Omaha Beach Today, Where's the Comradeship?, Economist: 60 Years on, or in the Washington Post, a theme persists: the comparisons, then and now, WW2 and Iraq, the alliance between the US and Europe, and so on. How anyone can compare World War Two with Iraq, or Hitler to Hussein, (or come up with similar analogies), is beyond me. This editorial makes some good points along those lines.

Less concerned about the current geopolitical situation, there's this In Depth Report from the BBC which includes a lot of good historical material, including news on that day in 1944. The Long Shadow (a book review), and this interesting tidbit BBC article on arguments between Eisenhower and Churchill as D-Day, H-Hour approached, and a page from the Eisenhower Library with his messages to the troops, including the draft of the D-Day message as well as the final version.

"The eyes of the world are upon you." And it was true.

Categories: geopolitics
Posted by diego on June 6, 2004 at 1:45 PM


Listening to All That You Can't Leave Behind which seems to be a (-n entirely unintended) mini-tradition of sorts by now. It's a beautiful day, too!

And still within the 5-bit boundary... :)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on June 6, 2004 at 1:43 PM

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