You know you're getting old when the first thing that comes to mind as a great present is an earlier bedtime. Boy, am I tired this morning - dang schoolbus schedule :)
Ted Leung details how he got started with computers. Fascinating stuff - the last paragraphsreally grabbed me:
School played a very limited, and if you are ungenerous, obstructionist role in all of this. Everything that I learned about computers I learned outside of the established school system, and I actually had to work around one of my (well intentioned, I"m sure) teachers. I learned on my own, and at the feet of actual practitioners. Perhaps it's not all that surprising that Julie and I have chosen to home school our kids. Some of you know that they've done a little Python, and they're just about to get started on Squeak (more on all of that in future posts). Whether they turn out to be hackers is not for me to say, but I'm at least going to do my best to make sure they got the kinds of opportunities that I got.
I find that I'm supplementing the local school quite a bit for my daughter. Their teaching of history is especially atrocious.
Rebecca Wirfs-Brock reminds us that exceptions impact real people - they aren't just annoyances for developers to deal with when writing code.
ThinkSecret has the goods on the latest Mac Mini news - they are moving into the media hub space that the Mini belongs in:
Apple's Mac mini will be reborn as the digital hub centerpiece it was originally conceived to be, Think Secret sources have disclosed. The new Mac mini project, code-named Kaleidoscope, will feature an Intel processor and include both Front Row 2.0 and TiVo-like DVR functionality. advertisement
While the specific model and speed of the Intel processor in the new Mac mini is unknown, sources are confident the system will be ready for roll-out at Macworld Expo San Francisco, in line with other reports Think Secret has received that Intel-based Macs will be ready some six months sooner than originally expected.
I suspect that the Mac version of this will involve a whole lot less swearing than the Media Center PC has - not to mention that it will take up a whole lot less space.
Protected Video Path - Output Protection Management (PVP-OPM) makes sure that the PC's video outputs have the required protection or that they are turned off if such protection is not available.
Ok, let's stop and think about that. I have a Thinkpad notebook sitting in front of me. It was built 12-18 months ago, so it most certainly does not have the kind of "protections" that MS is talking about here built in. Let's say I still have it when Vista comes out, and I make the mistake of upgrading. I then take a DVD which I legally purchased and try to play it while I'm on a long flight. Bam - MS will tell me to sod off, since my device isn't properly protected.
Now, consider what kind of actions that incents me to take. I've got legally owned content, and a legitimate license to the OS. The OS won't let me watch the content. What to do? Well, there are two possible paths to take:
- Figure out how to crack the stupid content protection so that I can play my legal copy of the content
- Just decide that buying content from the sort of company that invests in this type of scheme is a bad idea in the first place
You know what the answer is? Stay with XP. XP is good enough, and doesn't include this kind of bozo "protection" scheme that puts a wall in front of law abiding users, and does nothing to get in the way of people out to steal content. Better yet, maybe that will be time to look at Apple, and investigate whether they plan to do something this stupid. So here's a tip for MS (listening, Scoble?) - you want to walk into the same set of razor blades that Sony is dealing with right now? Go ahead, include this OVP abomination in Vista.
Just don't tell me that you're "helping" me. Instead, slap a label on the CD that states that MS is sucking up to the RIAA and MPAA. Might as well have truth in advertising.
So MS had their huge launch for the 360, and got a lot of buzz - I've seen the systems at local stores, and yes - the graphics are very cool. However, the severely limited number of systems they've got available is a real problem. The initial batch sold out immediately, and now there's a rump marketing campaign for a system that you can't actually buy. And mind you, there are 26 shopping days left before Christmas.
I was thinking that the overheating problem with the power supplies was a sign that they rushed the release to hit the Christmas window - and this shortage is another sign of the same thing. With so few units available, it looks to me like they would have done better to just hold off until they had units available in quantity - and without that over-heating problem.
Dvorak has an interesting column up on orphan data formats and the lossage that comes in their wake:
Curiously, the apex of lost media is in our own era. The problem cannot get worse than it is. The irony is that this is an era where unprecedented technological revolutions are taking place, and yet we're losing important information. This has to be as tragic as the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria around 47 BC.
he gives some good examples, including mid 90's era digital cameras. The irony is, a 35mm camera that you bought 20 years ago is still useful.
I've finally gotten the timing bug killed off in the blog poster - an exception could get tossed at startup of the tool that made the HTML toolbar mostly disappear. That's sorted out, and the latest build is up under the dev downloads. If I don't see any issues, I'll release it tomorrow or Thursday. Whew!
This month is birthday month around here - my daughter has hers on the 14th, my wife's is on the 25th, and mine is on the 29th. So it's a pretty busy month, between all that and Thanksgiving. Victoria's birthday party hasn't even happened yet - something about getting her room cleaned up first came up :) It's finally happening Friday.
Whew! And here comes Christmas...
Security researchers at Trend Micro are warning that RSS is a lucrative target for future bot worm attacks. What's worse, they're saying the onslaught will hit once RSS becomes a feature in Internet Explorer with Windows Vista.
Users of BottomFeeder are completely immune to such problems.
I didn't know John Vlissides, but Ralph did, and he has some moving thoughts on his passing.
Dana VanDen Heuvel explains where DRM drives the public:
My dad recently bought the new Trey album, a CD "infected" with XCP. After being initially unable to get it on his MP3 player and then reading the rootkit aftermath, he said: "This is what I get for trying to buy a CD. I should have just downloaded it."
I'm guessing that his dad is not an expert on these kinds of issues - more of a middle case, really. And look where he ended up - exactly where Sony/BMG would rather he didn't. Best case: he goes for legal downloads using something like iTunes (lower profit margins). Worst case: He reads up on p2p file sharing, just to make sure that his PC doesn't get taken down again.
That's where MS is headed with PVP-OVM in Windows Vista.
"Dell, HP, Gateway, Sony, IBM and the rest of Microsoft's partners will find themselves painted with the same brush. You cannot enforce the DMCA any more than you can force people to buy American cars. Take a hint from General Motors: The word eventually gets out that you have inferior products and the price isn't right. Microsoft's OEM partners will become the buggy whip manufacturers of the 21st Century."
I've just released BottomFeeder 4.1 - the web pages are updated, the docs are online, and the new release has rolled into the download area. Here's what's new:
- Reorganized feed menu to make feed modification easier to access
- Added support for the "del" key (feeds/folders)
- Bug fixes in the Network support libraries, fixes update block bug
- Bug fixes in the item identification code. Should prevent spurious return of old items as new
- Bug fixes to the blog posting tool's startup
- Added a new Quick Start Guide to the Documentation
- Fixed bugs in the Loading of Example Feeds from the website
- Modified the startup feeds for new installations
- Numerous small bug fixes elsewhere
This is mostly a bug fix release - the network libraries in particular have been cleaned up and made stable - there were issues with the library that came with 4.0. I've been running the code for awhile now - the base BottomFeeder and NetResources libraries have been stable for quite some time now. The Software With Style guys let me know that the latest release of their stuff fixed a number of problems I was having, so I've updated that (the display area of the viewer). Enjoy!
It used to be that nasty retailers could intimidate a customer - or, at worst, limit the damage to (direct) word of mouth. Now, your obnoxious and stupid behavior can be broadcast around the world.
I made this point the other day, but this is a great example. The whole "Dell Hell" and Sony XCP things are also great examples. One dumb employee, or a set of stupid support policies, can just ruin your entire day.
For those high risk car buyers, we now have the programmable kill switch:
A new gizmo is upping the odds that even the most hard-knock customer will come up with the car payment. Hooked into the ignition system, the gadget comes in a handful of versions with one common conclusion: No pay, no start.
And it works:
Not surprisingly, default rates are high. It's not unusual for more than a third of the cars sold off such lots to wind up being repossessed. Since Patriot began using PayTeck three years ago, its repos have dropped from about 45% to less than 15%. Madden figures he has close to 500 of the $200 units on the road -- an investment that has not only cut repos but boosted business.
This is only being used for high risk sales, sounds like. Makes me wonder about systems like OnStar a bit - put that kind of remote capability together with this kind of policy...
Sony's DRM nightmare just got a little worse - a NYC law firm involved in a class action suit over the XCP software is bringing in Mark Russinovich as an expert:
Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals will be joining the legal team led by New York attorney Scott Kamber, who filed a lawsuit earlier this month against Sony BMG and First4Internet, the British company that produced the anti-piracy software. (This may be nothing, but First4Internet's Web site is looking rather Spartan at the moment.)
Meanwhile, NY's pit bull AG is irked with them:
As a fitting followup to yesterday's post on Sony's DRM shenanigans, today Eliot Spitzer announced his own interest in the case. Spitzer, the New York Attorney General, has gone on record as saying that he is not pleased with Sony. The source of Spitzer's displeasure is the fact that Sony's XCP-protected CDs are still easily available at retail.
"It is unacceptable that more than three weeks after this serious vulnerability was revealed, these same CDs are still on shelves, during the busiest shopping days of the year," Spitzer said in a written statement. "I strongly urge all retailers to heed the warnings issued about these products, pull them from distribution immediately, and ship them back to Sony."
In other news, Microsoft is whistling past the graveyard with their PVP-OVM thing in Vista. A more intelligent company would not only pull it, but make some positive PR about pulling it. Looks like they may need a savage beating with a cluestick before that happens though.
One of the things that fell out of BottomFeeder as we moved from the old network library (a hack job I created back in 2002-2003) to NetResources was error reporting at the application level. With the 4.1 release, that's back. If you pull down Help>>View Error Log, you'll see something like this:
What you see there is a list of errors that happened during the last few rounds of network updates. If you want to clear that, just hit the "Clear" button. If you want more details, hit the "Save to File" button - one of the results for the screen above look like this:
Time: December 1, 2005 10:53:25.358Description:NetResources Error: <<Net.HttpObjectNotFound (404 Feed not found error: FeedBurner cannot locate this feed URI. )>> on url: http://dwlt.net/tapestry/getfuzzy.rdf
Which tells me that when that feed was last queried, a 404 popped up. BottomFeeder treats a 404 as transient (there's a gone error - 410 - that Bf will use to mark a feed as dead). You might want to watch for repeated 404 errors though - it probably means that the site should have issued a 410.
Chris Petrilli is very impressed with Dabble. Sounds like I need to have a look at it
I think the Red Sox may be shopping for a new curse. Have a look at how overblown the custody battle for the ball that made the last out has gotten - on the last play of the 2004 Series, infielder Doug Mientkiewicz caught the flip from the pitcher, Foulke. He pocketed the ball. Now there's a suit over the thing:
In January, days after he was traded to the New York Mets, he and the team announced that the Red Sox would hold the ball temporarily and could display it across New England, along with the World Series trophy. But the agreement said he would get it back at the end of this year ''unless the ultimate issue of ownership has been otherwise resolved."
That clause led Red Sox lawyer John G. Fabiano to the Suffolk civil clerk's office yesterday. The suit asks the court to place the ball in a ''secure location" until ownership is decided.
The club's legal team said that Mientkiewicz had gained possession of the ball only because he was a Red Sox employee and that the ball remained the team's property. He played for the New York Mets last season, then was released, and is now a free agent.
Now, I have some sympathy for the team wanting the ball - certainly, Mientkiewicz holding onto it was an accidental byproduct of his playing first base. In other words, it's not as if the team actually gave him the ball. On the other hand, I have no idea what traditionally happens to the last ball used (if anything). At the end of the day, I think both Mientkiewicz and the team are going to come off looking stupid.
Of course, I'd be happy with a new curse...
Pity the poor folks at Universal, having to figure out how to filter their incoming mail.
There's a small bug in the 4.1 release if you are using LibTidy (look in Settings, under "Feeds"). This is only an issue for users on Windows and Linux x86 - we don't ship the library on other platforms. In any case, with the 4.1 release, we added a fix for the spacing issue - links were getting drawn without spaces between them and the following text. However, the fix for that unintentionally screwed up <pre> tags - a problem if you are viewing source code in a post.
If that's something you see happening, you can do one of two things: either turn LibTidy off, or use the update tool to grab the new revision of the library. It will load without needing a restart.
I mentioned the other day (in the context of RSS feeds, actually) that power is shifting toward the customer. Well - here's a great example of that. Thomas Hawk had a bad experience with a company, and posted about it. The vendor squealed like a stuck pig, but then something different happened - they apologized, and the main squealer got canned.
This is a huge lesson in this for every outfit that sells a product or service - if you under-deliver or over-price, customers now have a soapbox - complete with amplifier - with which to make an example out of you. If you didn't think that the customer was king before, it's time to start believing it.
Marthe Dansokho from Cameroon says that this cheap computer is the result of an insular American-user mind set.
"African women who do most of the work in the countryside don't have time to sit with their children and research what crops they should be planting," she pointed out. "We know our land and wisdom is passed down through the generations. What is needed is clean water and real schools."
I think I had that thought:
This is a pie in the sky solution, IMHO. It's like deciding to hand out cheap cars, and only later noticing that there are no gas stations for the recipients to use.
The problems in large parts of Africa are much more basic than needing laptops - clean water being one of them. Access to medicines for diseases we can cure being another. Not to mention the whole infrastructure issue - of what use is a low power notebook that has no network to connect to? In war torn Africa, who the heck is going to build out a network? And how the heck are they going to pay for it?
I'm sorry, but there are so many things that the money behind this project could have been better spent on.
Update: Julie Lerman wades in.
Tim Bray sees that web development doesn't have to be hard; the mainstream languages and frameworks just make it that way:
Bruce claims that the “continuation” facility, commonly found in dynamic languages, snaps neatly onto the problem of making the Web look like a linear dialogue. Clearly, continuations are kind of hard to understand and not for casual or novice programmers. No problemo, says Bruce, frameworks like Seaside (layered over Smalltalk) hide the weirdness and let you just carry on an orderly dialogue with a user via a Web browser.
In my mind I was screaming “No! No! No!” because I’ve generally felt that the pain and complexity involved in object-relational and object-XML and object-messaging mapping outweigh the benefits; that if your application is based on exchanging messages, then the message exchange has to be visible to the application programmer. I’m not alone in having this kind of reflex.
Well, it seems that both Ruby on Rails and Seaside would tend to disagree, and the evidence is building up on their side.
And today I had a date with a Vancouver startup that I’ll write up when they’re ready; they have a very damn sophisticated Web app that I wish I’d been smart enough to think of, solid useful function and a ton of graceful little flourishes; and it’s all Seaside, all continuations, all simple methods that conduct orderly dialogues with the user. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you can abstract the Web away. Hmph.
A lot of people want to cling to the complexity as some kind of validation. It's nice to see that Tim's not one of them. I wonder what would happen if someone showed Scoble what Seaside can do?
We are engaged in the last rounds of "is it ready" evaluation on the release - in fact, I have a conference call on that subject this afternoon. Things are settling down and getting close - so long as nothing mind bending comes up, we should have it out before Christmas. However, if we hit a show stopper, it could push us until after the holiday - time just compresses away at this time of year. We'll know soon.
Attitudes like this really, really irritate me. The same way that there are rich people and poor people in the United States, there are also parts of Africa that are less well off than others. It isn't all one freaking desert with bony kids surrounded by flies from South Africa to Algeria. For example, in Nigeria there are probably more cell phones per capita in the major cities than in most parts of the United States. The fact that some people get to use the latest iPods and iBooks in the U.S. doesn't mean there aren't homeless bums eating less than three square meals and sleeping on the streets in the same zip codes. Yet I don't see folks like James Robertson posting about how every homeless person has to be housed and every orphan found foster parents before we can enjoy iPods and laptop PCs.
Well, there's a huge hole in that last sentence - the people being targeted here mostly aren't supposed to be buying these - heck, if they were, this whole thing would be simpler. When people decide what to do with their own money, it's all good. Dare might want to look at the comments from Misbehaving.net - that speaks to my concern a lot more closely than Dare's bogus strawman. Not to mention that his "put your money where your mouth is" argument is nothing more than loudly shouting:
I disagree, so you should shut up now
I'll be blunt - that argument is beneath Dare, and I thought he could do better. In the parts of the world where people can get cell phones (and, where there's infrastructure for cell phones) - by all means, offer these for sale. My skepticism comes from a couple of sources:
- Lack of infrastructure - what about network access, and support in case of problems? Dare is questioning my motives instead of looking at my actual concerns. A large part of the marketing for these points to the hand crank power. I'm guessing that if there are no plugs, there's no network either.
- Heck, I'd guess that hand crank radios would be more useful for most of the people we are talking about here. Radio signals are already there, and access to timely news would be of great value - especially things like weather information. The "how do I use this" barrier is a lot lower as well.
What my concern boils down to is this - I'm guessing that a lot of these will be handed out, and will not be put to any productive use - due to infrastructure and support problems. Other things - clean water systems, hand crank radios, access to better medicines - could make a much bigger impact in short order - and wouldn't end up going unused.
You want to disagree with me? Fine - make an argument. Do better than telling me to shut up.
My daughter is having a sleepover birthday party - 10 or 11 girls, all aged 9-12 eating pizza, cake, playing GameCube, and pretending to sleep. I expect a loss of sanity some time this evening :)
I'm having trouble with what looks like a choppy translation, but it sounds like Open Source software may be facing some trouble in France. I'd be interested in hearing from someone who speaks French, and can read some of the original sources in French.
DeepCoveLabs asked me to post this:
DeepCoveLabs has an opening for a software developer. We write payment processing software used primarily by our main customer, a financial services provider with operations in Canada and Ireland. I once did a blog entry for Cincom and here is what I had to say:
DeepCoveLabs is in the business of developing payment processing solutions. We currently offer products for cheque conversion, multi currency credit card processing, international electronic funds transfers into about 30 countries, cheque printing in many currencies and languages, a currency exchange module and a CRM system for managing a payment processing operation... all written in Smalltalk.
Our team consists of a handful of developers all with strong Smalltalk skills. Current projects include:
- building a multi-currency credit card processing gateway mirroring our infrastructure across two sites with transparent fail over
- adding real time reporting of incoming payments from accounts worldwide
- extending the range of hardware our cheque scanning solution runs on
- enhancing the currency trading platform we have just deployed
- moving our file based reporting architecture to a web based one reviewing our DB design and mapping mechanism
Candidates must have several years experience with dynamic languages, ideally Smalltalk and have worked in an agile/test driven environment. Candidates with experience or skills in the following areas will have a distinct advantage:
- Payment processing and international banking
- Credit card processing
- Inter-bank communications and file transfer mechanisms
- DBA level RDBMS skills, especially MS SQLServer
- Network administrator level TCP/IP knowledge
- UNIX and/or Windows system administration
The work is located in Vancouver Canada and candidates must have a Canadian work permit. Interested candidates should send a resume and cover letter, including salary expectations to email@example.com.
4th floor 595 Howe Street
Vancouver, BC, V6C 2T5
The final build that went out for 4.1 is using the default Agent String from the NetResources library, which flags itself as Mozilla compatible. This shouldn't be a problem, but I've seen a few feeds hand me back 412 precondition errors when using that string. So - if you see that (check the Help>>View Error Log menu item), then create a file named .btfrc in the BottomFeeder directory (same one that holds the executable), and place this text in it - it will get executed at startup:
Net.Resources.HttpClientModel userAgent: 'BottomFeeder/4.1 (', ExternalInterface currentPlatform second, '; ', Locale current name, ') NetResources/1.52'.
That's worked for me.
Glenn Vanderburg likes Seaside and Rails:
But there's a funny thing about pain: when your worst pain goes away, it doesn't take long to start being annoyed by the next worst. So it won't be all that long before Seaside's particular strengths start to look really attractive to developers who've grown accustomed to Rails' niceties. And then it'll be time for Seaside (or possibly some other continuation-based web framework inspired by it) to get the buzz again.
There are things Rails can learn from Seaside, certainly, but there are also thing Seaside can learn from Rails, and that learning will probably happen in both directions. As Avi pointed out in another blog this week, Smalltalk and Ruby are much more similar than they are different, so I see the two frameworks complementing (and, as above, complimenting) each other for some time to come.
The main thing is, more and more people are seeing that the roads taken by Java and C# are the wrong ones.
Time for the weekly log analysis - the BottomFeeder downloads are a little inflated, since I just pushed a new release - some of the downloads are existing users upgrading. That's reflected in the uptick to 457 downloads per day this last week. The breakdown:
I'm always amazed at those Alpha numbers :) On to the HTML page accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
Not a whole lot of change there from the last few weeks. Finally, the RSS tool accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||8.6%|
No drop in tool diversity there yet - the field is still wide open.
I've pushed out an update to the NetResourcesHTTP package - you can grab it via the update toolbar button. All it does is change the default agent string from what it was - reporting as "Mozilla compatible" to a NetResources specific string. The rationale is this - some servers look for "stock" agent strings and block requests from them - I've seen it locally. This should address that issue.
To write an Operating System, you have to understand how the computer works. Right there, you have an advantage over everyone else. I don't know how many times I have to say it, but you cannot become a programmer unless you know how the hardware works. At the very least, how the CPU works. I find it amazing that some people graduate Computer Science with a degree and have no clue how computers work. Hardware programmers know the difference between a right shift for signed numbers and unsigned numbers. They are two different operators even though the symbol is the same in higher languages. In Java, they had to add an operator. Hardware programmers are frustrated that there's no operator that will give you both the quotient and the remainder at the same time. Hardware programmers find it annoying that you don't have access to the carry bit or other CPU flags in higher languages. Hardware programmers hate that they can't multiply two 32-bit numbers together and get the 64-bit result in higher languages. Same goes for dividing 64-bit integer with a 32-bit integer. Everything mentioned here should be standard in every programming language. This is what people who've only used high level languages don't get. That you're in shackles. You're being restrained. I don't need a safety net. I know what I'm doing. I don't have to be protected from myself. And I know many of you reading this don't need to be protected either.
Hmm - I wonder if this guy is an expert on every component in his house - including every tool he ever uses for something. Not to mention that 32 bit or 64 bit integers are simply lower level abstractions - higher level languages move you up a few levels so that you can worry about solving business problems.
Read the rest of his post - he's so buried in hardware trivia - the sort that is meaningless for most application problems - that it's amusing. As other people have said, an awful lot of software development is moving records back and forth from a database, with user interaction to make appropriate changes. Why exactly do I care about the graphics adaptor, or the way the CPU works for that?
Moving upstream to a portable language - like Java, or Smalltalk, for example - allows you to write an application that can move from one OS to another. I'd guess that any business that's evaluating a move to Linux, or to Mac OS X cares a whole lot more about that than they do about the trivia this guy frets over. Or even the ones contemplating their next OS upgrade.
I will agree that we don't need stupid shackles - but the ones I want removed have been - at least in languages like Smalltalk and Ruby.
Update: Gary Short agrees.
Alex Singleton has some thoughts for the "no html email" crowd:
In the early days of the web, there was a debate between geeks about what the web should look like. There were some people, the "ultra-geeks", who thought that websites should be about content and that it was wrong for webmasters to "force" readers to view the content in a particular way. Instead, the fonts and sizes used should be set by the visitor in their own web browser. Fortunately, everyone ignored the ultra-geeks, and the "DTP geeks" won (the geeks who thought that web pages should look like they've been desktop published).
Just as progress has been good for word processing and web pages, progress is good for e-mail. Geeks will give you a long list of charges against HTML e-mail. Ignore them, go into the Preferences window of your e-mail program, and tell it to compose HTML e-mail.
I'm sure I'll get complaints from the holdouts who use things like Pine. The rest of us have moved on.
My daughter's sleepover (or, stay up over, to be more accurate) is over. The last of the guests left, so things have gotten quiet again. We had eight girls here this morning, inhaling french toast and chatting. The stay up part was the tiring part - they didn't get to sleep until about 1, and then they were back up at 3:45, playing with the GameCube. Then some of them were up at 6, in search of breakfast. Whew!
Reports on the interwebs indicate that Sony or its ad agency has paid graffiti artists to spray paint images of little kids playing with PSPs in at least five U.S. cities: Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
You really have to wonder what passes for thought in the executive suite there.
In the 80's, it was D&D. After that, it was evil music and video games. Now, it seems to be a combination of video games and blogs. "Our kids are in trouble and it's all the fault of (insert bad influence that we don't understand here)".
I love reading a fatuous article like this one, considering how the media likes to disparage bloggers as rank amateurs.
Auto-Blog Builder is your automatic website site builder. Build a giant website with 10,000 pages instantly... all real content rather than spam pages.
This waste of oxygen is selling a product that builds splogs. And touting it as a "web innovation". What a complete loser.
Hat Tip Mike Gunderloy.
It's only a few seconds, but the first movie footage ever shot, sometime prior to October 1888, is online here. Produced by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince
Not only is the RIAA jihad against file sharing a huge PR mess, it's also technically illiterate. You have to love these folks - they really care about their customers. A lot.
The Times has yet another article about Wikipedia, and how you need to be careful about trusting it - it's not a bad article, although the title - "Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar" - certainly tells me something about the way the Times sees things. To wit - they have fact checkers, and those web folks don't. They bring up a good example of what can go wrong, with a guy who's name was smeared in a bio piece on the site.
However, it's not as if the Times' hands are clean of this sort of thing. Steven Hatfill comes to mind - the man who was publicly trashed as a "person of interest" in the Anthrax investigations from 2001. There were lots of breathless articles about him in the Times (and other media outlets) - and the damage done to Mr. Hatfill by the Times is far more extensive than anything Wikipedia has done.
In fact, the Times is now the subject of a suit brought by Hatfill. In the Wikipedia case, whoever put the bogus information on the page is unknown - but that's not true of the thing with the NYT. So before they get all high and mighty about the unreliability of Wikipedia, I have a simple question for them: why does Kristof still have a job after he went on a mission to destroy Hatfill's reputation?
More fallout from the Sony Rootkit fiasco - the person quoted here works a Saturday shift at a classical music station. Here's what the DRM publicity has done for Sony:
The prospect of taking a recent Sony release into the production studio, and using a selection from it for a pre-recorded program, or one of the staff popping it into the CD drive of their desk computer to review… and corrupting the production and library index on which the whole station depends… well, it is enough to give us all the cold shivers. I’ve been told that the station librarian is not ordering any new Sony classical releases until this whole thing is resolved. Now, there are probably series techies out there who can explain that the chances of this happening are pretty low, that Sony’s anti-piracy spyware couldn’t possibly damage our library and production set-up, and would they even bother doing this with classical releases anyway? But however small that chance would be, we still can’t take it. CD’s with potentially damaging programs hidden in them, versus the security of systems upon which the whole station’s programming depends?
My wife was commenting on this vis-a-vis "mission critical" systems last night - how happy do you suppose the IT staff at your company is going to be when they discover that security holes opened by Sony's DRM allowed malware to get into the network? Especially when all the employee in question did is pop a CD into his laptop while he was on a plane, so he could listen to some music? Never mind what the actual risk of that happening is - the fact is, this is well on its way to being perceived fact.
The upside: with any luck, the negativity will be aimed at DRM in general.
Sometimes, when I have a modification I think would be useful for BottomFeeder, I figure it would make sense to try it out in a runtime environment before I send it off as an update. I can package the thing up as a parcel and simply load it into my application, of course - I just open the System>>Execute Smalltalk Code menu item, and enter the following into the workspace:
Parcel loadParcelFrom: 'ParcelNameHere.pcl'.
I highlight that and execute, and then answer "yes" to the confirming dialog (which pops because I'm reloading a new revision of a parcel that's already loaded). Other times, I want to try a smaller modification - a few method changes (which, if they work out, I'll package as an update. In that case, I export the modified code from my development environment as a fileout, and then execute this in a workspace in the runtime:
'FilenameHere.st' asFilename fileIn.
That loads the small change. If it's something that shouldn't go into production, but that I'd like to load at startup anyway, I can save the new file into the BottomFeeder directory, and just slap the code above into the .btfrc file (which gets auto-loaded at startup, if it's there).
The cool thing about all this is that Smalltalk provides its own scripting language. I ship BottomFeeder with the compiler and workspace present so that I can experiment like this, and also so that other people with Smalltalk knowledge can dive in, if they want to. Unlike a Java application, I don't have to tell people to use a "simpler" scripting language - which, btw, should be a sure sign that there are problems in Java - if the base language is too complicated for that task, that's a problem - at least IMHO.
In any event, it's a neat thing about Smalltalk - and it's something that allows customization of a runtime application, if the developer(s) of that application want to allow that.
I was in the kitchen, getting breakfast (and lunch) prepared for my daughter, and I thought I'd have a look at the weather channel - they've been calling for snow for a few days, and the forecast tends to be pretty solid this close to the event.
Not today though. They have one of their guys in DC (they like to send them on the road, so they can get "action shots" in the bad weather), and he was talking about the forecast. My ears perked up when he mentioned how it works. They run a number of forecast models, and then, as they get closer to the event in question, their models tend to converge. At that point, they go with the convergence as the forecast. This time, that's not happening.
It happens more often than I might have thought - I can recall a fair number of times when the local weather guy was pretty shaky on which way things were going to go, or simply said he was thinking "A" (while others might be thinking "B"). The models that are in use are better than they were (say, 10 years ago), but they still have a long way to go.
If you like unpredictable things, the weather is still partly in that camp. But hey - snow in Maryland in early December? That would be fun :)
If BellSouth was trying to look Grinch-like coming into Christmas, they certainly did so - is there some kind of corporate competition for "best stupid PR stunt" going on that we don't know about? How else to explain the tantrum like outburst over New Orleans' plan to offer free WiFi:
Hours after New Orleans officials announced Tuesday that they would deploy a city-owned, wireless Internet network in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, regional phone giant BellSouth Corp. withdrew an offer to donate one of its damaged buildings that would have housed new police headquarters, city officials said yesterday.
City officials said BellSouth was upset about the plan to bring high-speed Internet access for free to homes and businesses to help stimulate resettlement and relocation to the devastated city. Around the country, large telephone companies have aggressively lobbied against localities launching their own Internet networks, arguing that they amount to taxpayer-funded competition. Some states have laws prohibiting them.
Of course, one of BellSouth's PR flacks disputed the story from the mayor's office. Not quite as stupid as Sony paying graffiti artists, but it's right up there.
So I really have to ask: what's the "scripting language mystique" all about? You don't have to run javac? Rubbish--I don't believe that's a big issue. You don't have to write declarations? Bull--writing declarations means (to me) that it's easier to debug misspelled variable names. That's a HUGE time saver. As Brett McLaughlin has often said, "whenever you can get the compiler to do the debugging, it's a win." Is it that scripting languages are better "glue" languages for calling UNIX utilities and other external programs? Well, I don't see why it's so difficult to call Runtime.exec(). The fact is--if you have some documentation, you can use Java to call into the guts of other Java programs, not just their external command-line interfaces. That's some pretty powerful glue. If you understand reflection or have been watching what's going on with lightweight containers like Spring, you've got real computation superglue.
He goes on to say that he can do various tasks easier in Java because he knows Java. That's fine - I can do things easier in Smalltalk for that reason as well. However, I've done C, C++, and some Java - so I think I have some grounds to do comparative criticism. Loukides though?
"I don't know (insert language here), so it must be harder than Java"
That's right Mike - stay in your cave. It's probably safer there.
Martin Kobetic has put up a post on security code in VW 7.4, including a beta level DLLCC wrapper for OpenSSL. Check it out.
Maybe Java development does rot the brain - have a look at this screed from Cafe au Lait against Martin Fowler. Martin says the following about Ruby's List class (and the same things could be said about Smalltalk's List class):
The obvious contrast to a minimal interface is that humane interfaces tend to be much larger, and indeed humane interface designers don't worry too much about the interface being big. This isn't to say that classes with humane interfaces need be larger in terms of implementation. The fundamental functionality of the two is often quite similar.
A good way of looking at the difference between humane and minimal interfaces is to compare the list components in Java and Ruby. Java has an interface (java.util.List) which declares 25 instance methods. Ruby has an Array class (which is a list not an array) that has 78 methods. That difference in size is something of a clue of that there's a different style here. Both components offer the basic same service, but Ruby's array includes a lot of additional functionality. This functionality is all relatively small things that can be built on Java's minimal interface.
Seems reasonable to me - one of Martin's examples is that Ruby (and Smalltalk) have #first and #last methods. So with a Ruby collections, you can do this:
Whereas in Java, you have to do this:
The response from Cafe au Lait on this is just stunning:
A 78 method List class is about three times as bad as a 25 method List class, not three times as good. A 12 method List class would be about twice as good. Simplicity is a virtue for both users and implementers. There's simply no reason for 78 methods in a basic List class. In fact, there's no reason for 78 public methods in any class. 78 public methods in one class is a code smell. 78 public methods make a class hard to learn, hard to use, hard to test, and hard to maintain. When a class has 78 public methods, it's time to refactor.
The raw number of methods tells us nothing about whether we need to refactor or not; we would have to actually look at the methods, and see if any of them don't fit. However, that's not his objection; he's very worried about all these methods - he really, really wants his classes to be sparse. For instance:
Fowler likes the first and last methods in Ruby, but list.first() is not significantly simpler than list.get(0). list.last() is perhaps a little simpler than list.get(list.size() - 1) but only because Java stupidly indexes everything from 0 rather than 1. And how often do you actually need to get the first item in the list? Needing the last item in a list is even less common. Normally the reason we have a list in the first place is so we can iterate through it using an Iterator or foreach. More often than not no single element -- first, last, or middle -- is explicitly identified in the code. Java's List class does not lack any of the functionality in Ruby's. Java just factors it out into a few more classes, especially the Collections class, and skips a couple of rarely used "convenience" methods. The result is a simpler, easier-to-understand, easier-to-use, more humane API.
Umm, yeah. It's so much simpler to write extra code every time. I suppose that showing this guy the four search methods in Smalltalk's collection classes (which I'm sure Ruby has as well) - #select: , #detect: , #reject: , #collect: would just make his head explode.
I use #first all the time, btw, and I use #last a fair bit as well. Perhaps Java developers don't simply due to their absence? It can be hard to miss what's not provided.
This isn't the first time I've seen this reaction. If I recall, Java's Object class has something like 11 methods. A base VisualWorks image? Object has 235 mthods. I've seen Java guys recoil in horror over that, ranting about the horrid OO design. Funny how Smalltalkers have gotten by for over 25 years this way.
There seems to be a general desire for sparseness in Java-ville. It's a value that neither Smalltalkers nor Rubyists seem to worry over. We are far more interested in solving application problems than we are in the production of extra code to support sparseness.
Update 2: More here.
Now here's a Forest Gump moment, podcast was chosen word of the year by the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary. "Podcast was considered for inclusion last year, but we found that not enough people were using it, or were even familiar with the concept. This year it's a completely different story. The word has finally caught up with the rest of the iPod phenomenon."
Betsy Devine is a Wikipedia editor , and exactly the kind of person who should be in that role. Now if you could quantify what makes Betsy so ideal, and then find ten thousand volunteers with the same qualifications, then you'd really have something. The current Wikipedia system, as I've observed for a long time, gives anonymous trolls way too much power, although recent incidents should help to mitigate that. And Wales has been far too dismissive of the problem in the past. It may be time to find a new leader for that community, he's been more of a hypester and a flamer than a maven for information and a realistic community leader. To be clear, the previous situation, where Wikipedia was considered authoritative, yet at the same time had such low quality, was unacceptable. Either it loses the authority, or something is done to improve the quality.
Next, I expect Dave to be utterly stunned when the pace of content addition to Wikipedia slows to a crawl. Because in Dave's world, nothing is connected, and stuff just happens.
Apple continues to make progress with the iPod - they've gotten NBC and others to jump (at least partially) on the iTMS store bandwagon:
Get out the popcorn and your 5G iPods everyone, because Apple has added a ton of new shows to the iTMS from the likes of NBC, USA, SciFi and Disney. The Office, Monk, Battlestar Galactica (including the miniseries), The Tonight Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Law & Order and Surface are among the newcomers. But wait! There's more: peep the vintage NBC shows like Knight Rider (no joke), Dragnet and even some Alfred Hitchcock.
Friends of ours got interested in Lost after picking up the season one DVD set - they are now catching up by buying season two shows from Apple. I think the current commercial model for TV is about to flip to mass customization via individual subscription. Even Nielson sees it coming.
Hat tip Steve Rubel
Wow, the Giants can actually win games now that they have a real quarterback - Kerry Collins had delusions that he was the second coming of John Elway, and continually tried to slice the ball into two and three man coverage. Game after game, he was just stunned that his passes were getting picked off. This year, with Eli Manning, that's not happening - and the Giants are 8-4.
It's December, and I actually have football games being played that I care about. Amazing.
Tim Bray talks about the new Sun Niagara chips, and the systems that will use them. It's a cool sounding technology, and I followed this link to a performance page on it, which raised a question in my mind. All things considered, the new system wasn't that much faster than the 3.6 Ghz Dell system at the bottom end. Especially when you consider that a lot of web applications can scale by throwing more hardware at them - the big question is this: What's the cost of the new SunFire systems, quantity one, versus the cost of 2-3 commodity intel boxes. Given the simple scale savings intel gets from their volume, it's going to be hard for Sun to compete there. I'll give them credit for being aggressive - this is neat stuff. It's an open question how well it will sell.
Mind you, I have a soft spot for bad movies, but I found that "The Triangle" was an ok show last night. It's a SciFi channel min-series with a decent cast, and the spin that they seem to be using is one that appeals to me - parallel universes. It's pretty clear to me that Neeno (played by Lou Diamon Phillips) is bouncing between at least two realities - he has one child in one, and two in another. The Crosstime Traffic series by Turtledove is one example of this genre (although, it's really aimed more at my daughter's age group than at adults).
In general, I really fiction in this area. I may end up disappointed in this show, but I'll be watching part two tonight.
"The new models of Google and others reverse the traditional permission-based copyright model of content trading that we have built up over the years," said Francisco Pinto Balsemao, the head of the European Publishers Council, in prepared remarks for a speech at a Brussels conference.
His stance backs French news agency AFP, which is suing Google for pulling together photos and story excerpts from thousands of news Web sites.
"It is fascinating to see how these companies 'help themselves' to copyright-protected material, build up their own business models around what they have collected, and parasitically, earn advertising revenue off the back of other people's content," he said.
Geez, these clowns must have talked to this guy. Just like librarian Gorman, Balsemao wants to make everything harder to find, and - even worse than Gorman - wants there to be a tollbooth in front of it all. I'd try explaining the concept of "Fair Use" to him, but I expect it would make his tiny little head explode.
The Wikipedia page on the Tet Offensive, which is the first hit in a Google search, is clearly partisan. "The Tet Offensive is widely, however incorrectly, seen as a turning point of the war in Vietnam," it says in the second paragraph. Now of course I want to know who said that. See the problem? Same set of facts, two different views. In the case of Dowbrigade, I know who's speaking.
I talked about this problem in October. Like the origins of WWI (the example I used in that post), the Vietnam war is still controversial - more so, actually, since many of the partisans are still alive. We won't have anything that begins to resemble a historical consensus on that war (or the part played in it by Tet) for decades - it's too raw, and the people who were of age then - on all sides - simply can't step back far enough. The (American) Civil War is far enough back to enable objective discussions; there are few people out there who still have strong partisan feelings about it. The closer in time an event is to the present, however, the worse the problem gets.
What are the correct facts on something like Tet? It's too close to the present to have a universally accepted view. Trying to declare one now would be like trying to find a consensus on the Civil War in 1900 - the partisans were too close to the event. The power of something like Wikipedia is that (before the recent changes) it allowed for ongoing editing to iterate toward a consensus. Where one is lacking, dispute pages could be created. Now? We'll have editors, and tons of submissions. Like printed encyclopedias, events this close to the present will fall one of two ways:
- The bland, "on one hand, on the other" approach that is so common on newscasts
- A dry exposition of the (few) agreed upon facts, with nothing more
Yeah, that's a whole lot better than what we have now. Especially given that "experts" suffer from the same closeness problem that the rest of us do. Great - we've now got an electronic copy of the hidebound print editions. Editing is time consuming and expensive as well - the further Wikipedia runs down this road, the more pressure there will be to make it ad/subscription supported, in order to pay for that back end editing expense. A good thing ruined, because the MSM pros don't like competition, and a few people who disliked a few things in Wikipedia pitched a fit.