I'm off to Timonium, barely leaving myself enough time to get there for the Puerto Rico tournament. With any luck, I'll have happier news to report than I did last time I did this.
When we got our new Comcast HD/DVR box, we opted to keep the old digital cable box (yes, we like tithing more money to our cable provider :/). The main reason - we wanted the Replay TV to continue recording the (large volume of) non-HD content that comes through the old digital box, while having the (really lame) Comcast DVR record the HD stuff.
That was a fine plan, except that the IR blaster cable broke - that's the cable you hook into the Replay so that IR signals sent to it can be routed through to the cable box. Turns out, a replacement was a mere $6.95 plus shipping away. It just arrived, and it works great! Back to too much TV to ever be able to watch nirvana :)
Joel hits paydirt on the rationale for variable pricing of music - it allows the industry to maintain control:
Theoretically, when a super-duper-blockbuster comes out, like, say, Lord of the Rings, there's so much demand that the movie theaters just end up turning people away. Econ 101 says that they should raise the price on these ultra-popular movies. As long as the movie is sold out, why not jack up the price and make more money?
And why don't they do that? Joel explains that the price sends a signal - if a movie came out with a lower price on first run, it's a massive, public "Thumbs down" on the movie - the likely result would be fewer viewers, not more based on lower price. How does that relate to music?
Now, the reason the music recording industry wants different prices has nothing to do with making a premium on the best songs. What they really want is a system they can manipulate to send signals about what songs are worth, and thus what songs you should buy. I assure you that when really bad songs come out, as long as they're new and the recording industry wants to promote those songs, they'll charge the full $2.49 or whatever it is to send a fake signal that the songs are better than they really are. It's the same reason we've had to put up with crappy radio for the last few decades: the music industry promotes what they want to promote, whether it's good or bad, and the main reason they want to promote something is because that's a bargaining chip they can use in their negotiations with artists.
The upshot - they can hold a gun to the head of artists, threatening them with the lower price. Instead of what happens at the box office - and on the iTunes interface - the industry can continue to promote the artists they want that way, and ditch the ones they don't want. The iTunes system gives end customers much more power over the system - and enables the artists to more reliably gauge their actual worth. As Joel says, that's the last thing the industry wants.
Unless something comes up, I'm going to release 4.1 on Monday. The development build on the site is what I'm running, and it looks pretty good - I've not had trouble since I've been using it.
The New York City STUG is meeting December 7th - this is from Charles:
Hi members, I'm a bit late with sending this off and since I'm taking off for the weekend I thought it best to at least provide a heads up on our next presentation. Here it is:
Date: Wed., December 7th, 2005
Time: 7pm , open house at 6:30pm
Place: same as always, check out the wiki for directions
Topic: VisualWorks and Algorithm design
Speaker: David Siegal
David has been working on some algorithms involving measuring distances between strings and which can also be applied to issues such as DNA analysis. The implementations are in VisualWorks Smalltalk.
I'll update our wiki on Monday with David's abstract and bio. Here is the link for the wiki.
In the MS world, they have you creating a list of tests you think you'll need, then using VisualStudio to generate your code, then using VisualStudio to generate tests. Then you compare the tests to the list, and add any that are missing.
Michael Feathers has a few issues with that:
The key advantage that TDD gives you is feedback. You write a failing test case, make it pass, and then you formulate the next test case. The wonderful thing is that when you get to that next test case, you have the feedback from getting the first one to pass to draw upon. Often that feedback will lead you to formulate the next test case in a different way. It could even lead you to produce a different interface for the class you were writing.
The style of TDD described in the guidelines would have us jump ahead and write five, ten, maybe twenty test cases before getting the first one to pass. You can do that, but it's like putting on a set of blinders. When you don't have to formulate the next test case right after passing the last one, there isn't much chance to think about improvements. Worse, there is a disincentive to thinking about them: if you find any, you have to delete all of the speculation you've hardcoded in the tests and interfaces you created in advance.
What it sounds like to me is this: The VS team tried to warp TDD so that it hit the strengths (as they see them) of their tools. I wouldn't call what they came up with TDD though.
Rod Serling, through the magic of old footage and computer work, will introduce the Nov 21 episode of "Medium". They are having an actor provide his voice though. I think we'll see the ability to have the original actor - via sampling of audio of them speaking - provide their own voice in the not too distant future.
Makes you wonder whether we'll eventually see "new" Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire dance scenes...
Smalltalk work, looks like it's in Miami - help upgrade an application from VW 2.5.1 to VW 7.
Scoble and Shel Israel make a good point about blogging - you can't force it:
He and I met the other day and he told me that he is hearing lots of companies thinking about integrating blogging into their marketing plans. You know, treating it as yet another marketing “chore” that teams need to do to be able to ship. He thought that idea is lame and will end in failure for those who approach blogs that way. I agree.
Blogging is writing, when you get right down to it, and you can't really force that. When your organization produces white papers, you probably have specific people who produce them. Sure, they get feedback from a variety of people in the organization, but those people don't each write a paragraph.
The same thing applies here. If you want effective blogging, it needs to come out as a natural voice. Forcing it on a team as part of their day to day job isn't going to result in a natural voice, and - if they are irritated by the mandate - then that irritation will shine through.
Bruce Schneier has a good summary of the mess - and he looks places that a lot of us missed. He points out that the anti-virus manufacturers were (and are) in the tank on this one - even MS, hailed for announcing that their tool would remove the malware, was very, very late to the party:
The story to pay attention to here is the collusion between big media companies who try to control what we do on our computers and computer-security companies who are supposed to be protecting us.
Initial estimates are that more than half a million computers worldwide are infected with this Sony rootkit. Those are amazing infection numbers, making this one of the most serious internet epidemics of all time -- on a par with worms like Blaster, Slammer, Code Red and Nimda.
What do you think of your antivirus company, the one that didn't notice Sony's rootkit as it infected half a million computers? And this isn't one of those lightning-fast internet worms; this one has been spreading since mid-2004. Because it spread through infected CDs, not through internet connections, they didn't notice? This is exactly the kind of thing we're paying those companies to detect -- especially because the rootkit was phoning home.
But much worse than not detecting it before Russinovich's discovery was the deafening silence that followed. When a new piece of malware is found, security companies fall over themselves to clean our computers and inoculate our networks. Not in this case.
That is an amazing thing, and Bruce is the first (that I've seen) to bring it up. Read his whole post - some of the companies have really, really lame excuses. It does end up sounding a lot like collusion.
Tomorrow evening and Saturday I'll be north of Baltimore at EuroQuest 2005, a board gaming tournament. I'll be getting there in the late afternoon, in time for the Puerto Rico tournament. I sure hope I do better than last time, when I completely washed out in round one. Should be fun!
InformationWeek has a roundup on the storm that engulfed Sony over their DRM rootkit over the last few weeks. I've been writing on this one extensively - InformationWeek provides a nice summary of the event. The upshot for companies is here:
"It seems crystal clear that but for the citizen journalists, Sony never would have done anything about this," says Fred von Lohmann, senior intellectual property attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a cyber liberties advocacy group that has been vocal in its condemnation of Sony and may eventually file a a lawsuit against Sony, in addition to three that have already been filed. "It's plain to me that it was Sony's intent to brush the story under the rug and forget about it."
Alan Scott, chief marketing office at business information service Factiva, said, "I think that we're in an entirely new world from a marketing perspective. The rules of the game have changed dramatically. The old way of doing things by ignoring issues, or with giving the canned PR spin response within the blogosphere, it just doesn't work."
Thomas Hesse, Sony BMG's Global Digital Business President, attempted to do just that by dismissing the online protests. "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?" he said in a November 4 interview on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. He added, "The software is designed to protect our CDs from unauthorized copying and ripping."
That last paragraph might well have worked a decade ago. All Hesse would have had to do is convince a few journalists from Time, Newsweek (et. al.) that their intentions were good, and it would have been the end of the story. It's not as if most business reporters understand technology - they would have played it as Sony vs. a bunch of black hat hackers (various bad examples like the Morris Worm would have come up), and poof - end of story.
Now, there are plenty of knowledgeable people - like Mark Russinovich - have a platform on which to explain the problem. Others can then echo the original report, linking back to it as a source of authority. Over time, the MSM picks it up, and the story catches fire - leaving the original (third paragraph, above) response from the company in question looking stupid.
Sony learned this the hard way - they spent a couple of weeks taking damage, and - in the process - convincing a lot of people like me that Sony products just aren't trustworthy. A rapid response - would have made the whole thing go away. There are a lot of PR/marketing people out there who simply haven't adjusted to the new reality. If you do something lame, you can't just spin and watch the problem go away as the media gets distracted by something shinier. I rather suspect that no one in a position of influence at Sony was watching the rising BlogStorm, so management just chugged along, confident in their outdated view of how messaging works.
There's a lesson in that for other companies - but I'm willing to predict that an awful lot of them haven't paid any attention to this mess, and will make the same mistake when it happens to them.
Here's another breathless story on the $100 (actually, looks like it will be $200) notebook. There's some cool things about this, including the fact that it can be powered by a hand crank. However, there are a number of simple problems too -
- For the truly poor, access to laptops isn't a solution. Access to clean water is way, way higher on the scale
- Tech support. Ok - you hand out a few hundred in some remote village. What the heck do the new users do when there are problems?
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. I understand that the people behind this are well intentioned - but laptops are only useful when there's a hell of a lot of other infrastructure supporting them. The well intentioned folks behind this plan need to aim a lot lower.
PR Opinions is really, really unhappy that the general public has the ability to pierce the PR veil and make their opinions known:
I, like many others, have grown tired and weary of the self-satisfied, holier than thou, "A-list bloggers" who believe they hold disproportionate sway on the matters of the day. This isn't everyone of course but the sooner we call time on this endless circle of self-gratification the better.
Yes, it was much better back in the day when PR pros held all that power, wasn't it? A phrase comes to mind:
"If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen"
There are a lot of PR folks out there who can't tell that there's no return to "the good old days", when they were the only ones you could hear. Bah.
There might yet be a chance that Civ 4 will actually work on my machine. Apparently, there have been a large number of complaints, and a patch is coming. I'll report the results when I see them
I took a look at the game console business yesterday - and then I ran across this "future history" piece. It's a decent piece of analysis, including a set of caveats at the end, where the author (Aaron Stanton) notes various things that could muck with his predictions.
I found it to be well written, and very insightful. We'll see how it plays out - but I think Microsoft is the big winner here. Nintendo is profitable in the console space, and I agree with Stanton that they'll stay that way. Between Sony's DRM nightmare, the PR screw up surrounding it, and their continuing business problems, I think they drop to number three.
This is the kind of thing you would rather see in the pre-demo tests:
In the programme, Mercedes drives 3 S-classes behind each other. The first car hits the brakes, and the two following cars brake down automatically, to avoid a crash. In theory. In practice, the first car braked, and the two others continued right into the back of each other, resulting in a 3-car pile-up at the test site.
According to a German news site, the blushing Mercedes security engineers soon discovered the problem: The test had been done in a hall which was made of steel. This confuses the radar, and the system doesn't work properly, causing more than £150,000 worth of cars to crumple into each other.
The system "works perfectly in all other circumstances", according to Mercedes. For now, though, it may be worth keeping your foot near the brake pedal.
Reminds me of the "Windows Live" demo. If you plan to give a demo with cameras rolling, it's always a good idea to try a dry run in the same place first.
Ok, this is kind of funny. Troy is complaining about the slow response times at Technorati:
Updating at Technorati seems to be more unreliable than usual the past couple of weeks. Jim says "I hear they're having troubles (again)." I did file a problem report with them, but other than an automated reply a few days back, I've heard nothing. Some tags that seem stalled are updating for other blogs, but not mine (nor Jim's the last time I checked).
I saw that post right after I saw this one from Scoble:
I’m sitting here with David Sifry, founder, and Niall Kennedy, community manager, of Technorati. They just pushed out a major update. Much faster. Much much faster.
Seems faster to me too. I guess Troy's frustration is something the Technorati folks have been aware of.
I loved this CNet article on the security risks of things like USB drives, iPods (etc, etc) - the security people are worrying about the risks of having them in the office:
Connecting the gadgets to work PCs could lead to a number of unwanted scenarios, Laudermilch said. For example, malicious code that crept onto the device at home could enter the corporate network unseen by the firewall or intrusion detection software, he said.
Also, a disgruntled employee could copy confidential information to the device and walk out with it. Classified information on a mobile device could be a business risk even when used by loyal workers, when their gadget is lost or stolen, for example.
As opposed to, say, connecting remotely via VPN and doing the same thing at home. If you have any staff working from home offices (or any staff that ever travels), you already have this problem. Banning devices from the office isn't going to solve the problem - but it will irritate the staff.
The official statement is here - the relevant portion:
We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers and we are committed to making this situation right. It is important to note that the issues regarding these discs exist only when they are played on computers, not on conventional, non-computer-based CD and/or DVD players.
Our new initiatives follow the measures we have already taken, including last week’s voluntary suspension of the manufacture of CDs with the XCP software. In addition, to address security concerns, we provided to major software and anti-virus companies a software update, which also may be downloaded at http://cp.sonybmg.com/xcp/english/updates.html. We will shortly provide a simplified and secure procedure to uninstall the XCP software if it resides on your computer.
However, there's a section at the end that leaves me deeply ambivalent:
Ultimately, the experience of consumers is our primary concern, and our goal is to help bring our artists’ music to as broad an audience as possible. Going forward, we will continue to identify new ways to meet demands for flexibility in how you and other consumers listen to music.
Based on their attempts thus far, I'd say that the "consumer experience" is the furthest thing from their minds. I still read this whole thing as "darn, we got caught!". Yes, the recall is the right thing to do. The next step is to see how they follow it up.
Wow - from 90's media darling to utter collapse - AOL is losing customers at a rate of 300 per hour!
As of September 30, the AOL service totaled 20.1 million U.S. members, a decline of 678,000 from the prior quarter and 2.6 million from the year-ago quarter. In Europe, the AOL service had 6.1 million members, a decrease of 98,000 from the previous quarter and a decline of 170,000 from last year's quarter.
I have a slight quibble with the author of the linked piece though. It's not so much that they are doing anything wrong, it's that they are selling buggy whips as the automobile era is hitting its stride.
About the MVP award, that is. Contrary to what he seems to think, a guy (Ortiz) who is solely a DH simply can't be compared to a guy who plays an actual position. Rodriguez not only hit a lot of homers and drove in a lot of runs - he stole a lot of bases and played a great third base. Ortiz almost never plays the field (and has hands of lead when he does), and is a worse base runner than most catchers. Face it Sox fans - he's a one dimensional player.
Now, had the push been for Ramirez - you might have an argument. He's a weaker fielder than Rodriguez, but he is a complete player.
Wow - according to a Merrill Lynch analysis, the PS3 is going to be very expensive - possibly double the cost of the XBox 360 (which is going for $299 or $399):
According to Merrill Lynch, a financial management and advisory company, because of the cost of hardware componets, the PS3 may cost twice as much as the Xbox 360 by the end of 2006. The report includes an estimated breakdown of hardware costs by component and shipping predictions. Manufacturing costs has been the main factor. Here are some quotes from the report.
"…The PS3 will not only be significantly more costly than Xbox 360 at launch, but will continue to operate at a cost disadvantage for several years. … We think that the Xbox 360 could be selling at half the price of PS3 in the latter half of 2006."
So - not only are they giving Microsoft a year to itself in this space - they are going to have a serious price disadvantage as well. That's going to be a rather large problem, I think.
Looking at the current game systems, the GameCube retails at $99. For a large segment of the target audience, that qualifies as an impulse purchase (psychologically, getting under $100 does that, I think). The PS2 and the XBox are both at $150, which is up - but not that far up. Sony has had the advantage over MS for awhile, having hit the space before them, and having a larger batch of games.
The new XBox 360 price is too high to be a pure impulse play, but it's within the "we'll just get one big present" area for Christmas. Double that price though, and you are past the price of entry level PC's, for gosh sakes - and into serious "can we afford it" discussions between spouses. If Merrill Lynch is right, Sony is going to have to sell at a huge loss just to get in the game.
Via Digg, I found this map of spread of vulnerabilities from Sony's rootkit DRM. Now, consider the civil (and possibly criminal) liability they have - across multiple jurisdictions. Sony's going to be paying for a lot of legal help.
Sci Fi Wire reports that Brando's movie career hasn't been stopped by his death - he's playing Jor-El in the upcoming Superman movie:
Bryan Singer, producer-director of the upcoming Superman Returns, told SCI FI Wire that he used every trick in the book to resurrect the late Marlon Brando and include him in the film as Jor-El. Brando played the role of Superman's father in director Richard Donner's original 1978 Superman movie. He died in July 2004 at the age of 80.
To recreate Brando's version of the character in his new Superman movie, Singer said in an interview that he used "a combination of unused footage, [used] footage and recreated footage. You won't necessarily see Marlon Brando walking around or reanimated in a conventional sense, but you will hear [dialogue] that you have heard before [and] takes that you haven't heard before and a rendering that is completely new."
A few more years of software work, and I fully expect to see brand new flicks starring classic stars.
There have been a bunch of posts about base.google.com - so I figured I'd take a look, now that it's up. What is it? It's a simple online database with basic tag support. It's a bit like an extended version of flickr and del.icio.us - you can tag anything (not just photos), and you can upload the things you tag to Google's servers. It's an online, outsourced database without SQL or RDF, to be really brief about it. The real question is whether people start building applications with it.
Aha! I just stumbled on Google's take, and there's this:
Right now, there are two ways to submit data items to Google Base. Individuals and small website owners can use an interactive user interface; larger organizations and sites can use the bulk uploads option to send us content using standard XML formats. Rather than impose specific schemas and structures on the world, Google Base suggests attributes and item types based on popularity, which you can use to define and attach your own labels and attributes to each data item. Then searchers can find information more quickly and effectively by using these labels and attributes to refine their queries on the experimental version of Google Base search.
If you point your browser here, you'll find instructions on the bulk upload procedures. Looks like they support tab delimited, RSS, and Atom formats.
Update: Well, as it happens, there's no supported driver for my system (A Thinkpad R51) with a Radeon 7500. So, it seems that Civ 4 is just not going to work until a new driver comes out - if it comes out.
If you visit this page, you'll find a rather complex set of instructions for getting Civ 4 installed and running. I found a far simpler way. Right click on the screen, go to properties, advanced, then to the driver tab. See that "Update Driver" button? Try that. Worked for me, without all the back and forth described on the linked page.
Update: Well, maybe not. The game runs, but with hosed up graphics. Sigh.
Well, I'm suffering through take two on the Civ 4 install. In the meantime, I figured I'd run Bf over here on the Mac mini - which is where the post is coming from. The biggest issue? I'm so used to the laptop keyboard that a full size one throws me.
Here's some good news from Sony - they say that there will be no DRM on the PS2 or PS3 disks that would prevent you from playing a game on arbitrary Sony consoles:
However, in order to give an official answer to an already increasing wave of unrest among the gamers, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has stated, through one of its' spokespersons, that "this is false speculation and that PlayStation 3 software will not be copy protected to a single machine but will be playable on any PlayStation 3 console".
Seems that someone learned a thing or two from the savage beating they've taken over the last few weeks.
Oh, and just to make sure that yesterday was extra glorious - we set up a splitter for the new HD capable cable box and the old one, so that the ReplayTV could stay hooked up the old Cable Box (it can't deal with HD content anyway, and the new box is a basic DVR anyway). That was all fine, except that - somehow - in the process of unhooking and hooking everything, I broke the IR blaster (a cable that sends the IR signal from the replay to the cable box).
Fortunately, Google knows all. A quick search located this page, and I now have a new cable on order. With luck, we'll be back in business in a few days.
I've been hearing good things about Civ 4, so I bought it at Best Buy last night. On top of the server problem I had last night, this purchase made for a huge headache. Installation went smoothly enough. Then I tried to start the game.
Time passed. And passed. And passed some more. Finally, a screen with a globe arrived. Keyboard and mouse input was completely ignored for a long while, but finally I got a spinning cursor - and the program just poofed. No error messages, nothing - just poof.
Joy. I hunted around, and found this page - which tells me that I need to uninstall my display drivers and then update them before I can play the game. Now, call me crazy, but that seems a little extreme just to play a game. Do I really need to jump through those hoops?
Apparently, one of the survivors in marketing at Sony managed to find management and drop a clue on them - they are pulling the bum CD's off the market:
Sony BMG Music Entertainment said Monday it will pull some of its most popular CDs from stores in response to backlash over copy-protection software on the discs. (Related item: Firestorm rages over lockdown on digital music)
Sony also said it will offer exchanges for consumers who purchased the discs, which contain hidden files that leave them vulnerable to computer viruses when played on a PC.
"Sony BMG deeply regrets any inconvenience to our customers and remains committed to providing an enjoyable and safe music experience," the company said. Sony says more than 20 titles have been released with the XCP copy-protection software, and of those CDs, over 4 million have been manufactured, and 2.1 million sold.
Some of the management meetings at Sony must have been utterly fascinating over the last few days, as they slowly worked their way around to doing the right thing.
The outage we had last night left a few artifacts lying around that gave the server trouble last night and this morning. I'm pretty sure I've got those sorted out now, but we'll see how things go.
If you grabbed the BottomFeeder dev build, you have probably seen a problem - images don't always display on the first selection of an item. This is a problem with the latest releases of the SwS component I use, so I've stepped back to a known working version, and I'm doing a new build. I'll let that simmer for a few days, and - if there are no issues - release 4.1. Fingers crossed :)
Sony's response to the DRM scandal continues to be counter-productive at the PR level, and inept at the technical level. Have a look at this report from Freedom to Tinker:
Alex Halderman and I have confirmed that Sony’s Web-based XCP uninstallation utility exposes users to serious security risk. Under at least some circumstances, running Sony’s Web-based uninstaller opens a huge security hole on your computer. We have a working demonstration exploit.
We are working furiously to nail down the details and will report our results here as soon as we can.
I thought at first that they had replaced all the PR and marketing staff with lawful evil lawyers (D&D reference there :) ). It looks like they replaced their technical staff with zombies at the same time.
Why, they get cancelled. Sci Fi Wire reports that Kolchak still gets no respect:
ABC has canceled Night Stalker, the second time the network has given the axe to a series about reporter Carl Kolchak and his pursuit of supernatural phenomena, Variety reported
We had a brief outage, due to a server problem. It's been addressed, and (as you can see), we are back online
I've got another new dev build for 4.1 up, but there's going to be at least one more - I patched a small bug in the blog poster while the files were still uploading. The latest changes? I mapped the delete key to delete for folders, feeds, and items. I also moved a few menu options out of pull rights to make them easier to get to.
Looks like the iTanium has no place on the client, and a shrinking place in the supercomputer space. What's left? Davy Jones locker:
Over the years, Intel began to circumscribe Itanium's potential market. The company planned to sell the chip for a wide variety of servers and workstations. Then Dell and HP dropped Itanium workstations, so Intel stopped plugging it for those tasks. At the same time, Itanium went from being a server chip to only a high-end server chip. Sales remained low.
"With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, there would not be an Itanium today," Haff said.
Time to start taking bets on when intel pulls the plug completely
Sony insists that they've done nothing wrong, and that they are only "temporarily" pulling the rootkit DRM (note that any CD's already out in stores still have it). Dan Goodin at Wired explains:
Add to these failures the utter lack of contrition shown by the label and its executives and you get what's effectively an unforgivable combination. "We stand by content protection technology as an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists," Sony said in Friday's statement announcing the temporary suspension
These people are unbelievably clueless. They're in a deep hole, and they just keep digging. Dan Goodin is calling for a boycott:
If it was a mistake for Sony to foist a rootkit on its users -- as Sony's retreat on Friday would suggest -- then halting production of the offending CDs is only the first step in rebuilding our trust. Sony now must recall all remaining disks, make it easier for people to remove the rootkits and provide free support for anyone who still has difficulty.
It's time to draw a line in the silicon. Until Sony acknowledges the mistakes it has made, recalls the CDs and publishes guidelines for copy-protection programs it intends to use in the future, we should boycott its CDs containing the software. It pains me to say this because artists with no control over Sony's software are caught in the crossfire.
I had been seriously considering a PS2, since there are so many nice games for that system. Not anymore though; I'm waiting for the cluemeter at Sony to rise back into positive territory. I don't buy many CD's as it is, but I'm staying well clear of any Sony/BMG labels until they have a serious response.
We bought an HD capable TV a few years ago, and we only just got around to having Comcast deliver their HD cable box. Things look very nice, but there's a small problem - our ReplayTV normally looks at the cable box output to record, and - obviously - so does the DVR feature of the new cable box. Which means that as soon as we start using the new box, it will go to war with the Replay :/
Time to buy yet another splitter...
I'm inclined to take Mitch, Doc, and Om more seriously. Why? Simple - all three of them can make an argument without cursing, and without gratuitous personal attacks. Read Winer's post - he's incapable of civil discourse, and - even when he has a point - that completely torches his argument.
It's something I see a lot of in the blogosphere - every time I see someone cursing in the process of making a point, I remember what a good friend of mine used to ask me back in high school:
"Are you yelling to convince me, or yourself?"
Jim Menard turns away from the static language zone after pondering the hack job that Sun did on generics. Here's a Smalltalk version of the code he posted in Ruby and Java:
initialize: aList list := aList. add: aThing list add: aThing. handle list do: [:eachItem | "code to do stuff here"].
The Smalltalk code here, and the Ruby code over there look pretty much the same, while the Java code takes up more space and is more opaque. It's an amusing thing to watch - the Java and C# communities are trying to add the power of languages like Ruby and Smalltalk, but - given the constraints of what they are starting with, it just ends up being so much more baroque complexity.
Avi explains the history of Seaside, and its relationship to similar work he started (and other have carried on) in Ruby.
The Los Angeles STUG is meeting tonight:
We will work on Smalltalk exercises and have an open meeting to plan for future Smalltalk activities (Re-scheduled from last month due to power outage at HTHLA).
Starts at 7:30 PM Monday, November 14th, 2005
at HighTech High LA
17111 Victory Blvd
Lake Balboa, CA 91406
It gets even stupider for Sony - in their quest to protect their copyrights, they apparently violated LGPL license terms:
The spyware that Sony installs on the computers of music fans does not even seem to be correct in terms of copyright law.
It turns out that the rootkit contains pieces of code that are identical to LAME, an open source mp3-encoder, and thereby breach the license.
This software is licensed under the so called Lesser Gnu Public License (LGPL). According to this license Sony must comply with a couple of demands. Amongst others, they have to indicate in a copyright notice that they make use of the software. The company must also deliver the source code to the open-source libraries or otherwise make these available. And finally, they must deliver or otherwise make available the in between form between source code and executable code, the so called objectfiles, with which others can make comparable software.
Sony complied with non of these demands, but delivered just an executable program. A computerexpert, whose name is known by the redaction, discovered that the cd "Get Right With The Man" by "Van Zant" contains strings from the library version.c of Lame. This can be conluded from the string: "http://www.mp3dev.org/", "0.90", "LAME3.95", "3.95", "3.95 ".
I guess when the question came up - "should we be stupid, or just incompetent?" - their management said: "Let's do both!".
Update: More evidence of the hole digging at Sony here.
The bigger limitation to keep in mind, though, is that Tate's conclusions may not apply to you. This is from page 43: "I'd guess that as many as half of all commercial applications involve a web frontend that baby-sits a plain old relational database." I don't necessarily disagree with his guess, but here's the key thing to understand: Tate makes his living building those sorts of applications. So when he describes the pain that Java forces him to endure in order to build systems for his clients, you have to ask yourself: "Does this apply to me?"
It appears that in Tate's view, most Java developers are like him: building web front ends that do create/read/update/delete operations on a relational database, with perhaps some additional business logic. And while I don't dispute that a large proportion of Java developers are building those sorts of applications, not everyone makes their living that way.
His central point is that Java has drifted away from serving the needs of developers such as himself. The addition of enterprise features and frameworks has added complexity that is not needed by the majority of applications and therefore just ends up making developers less productive. It is important to note that he disdains the use of Java for rich client applications. Also of note is that development of mobile applications gets very little mention in the book.
I think the bigger issue is that Java - and the MS offerings - and a lot of what IBM is selling, for that matter - are outside the bounds of what most developers are doing. I don't think most people are heads down on huge, enterprise class, "scale to the heavens" projects. And yet, the mainstream tools are mostly catering to that audience. A lot of the interest in things like Ruby on Rails and Seaside is driven by that mis-direction - the big vendors are busy handing out complex machinery for building an interstate system, while most of the developers need to put in a sidewalk.
Yesterday's coverage of the Audible announcement exposed a conversation that was coming, and it boils down to the question in the title of this piece. The answer -- if you're not using MP3, you're probably trying to make podcasting into a replay of previous media.
I breathlessly await the Winer approved format for video - it won't be video-casting unless Dave approves either.
I wonder how much storage space he has to rent for his ego?
I have no idea what happened, but just before noon, the power flickered a few times, and then went out. Fortunately, I have a UPS on my Linux server, so I was able to shut that down in an orderly fashion - and the Laptop has a battery, so that's ok. The Mac mini went down hard though - hopefully, no problems there.
In the meantime, the BGE power trucks have stopped in front of the power boxes that sit in our side yard twice. I have no idea what they've been doing there - they haven't opened the box either time. The power is out in the whole neighborhood, so it's likely not a problem there (unless they were checking for something like surge damage? Who knows?). In the meantime, the automated service tells me that I should expect power to be back by 3. It's a beautiful day out with no wind, so it's got to be an accident of some sort - car crash, line cut while digging, etc. We'll see.
Meanwhile, no chance of watching the NFL. Figures - the Giants have finally figured out that it works better if you don't hand the ball to the other team.
Software patents (one click, anyone?) have been bad enough, but now the PTO has allowed a perpetual motion machine to be patented:
A perpetual-motion machine may defy the laws of physics, but an Indiana inventor recently succeeded in having one patented.
On November 1 Boris Volfson of Huntington, Indiana, received U.S. Patent 6,960,975 for his design of an antigravity space vehicle.
Next for the patent office - Love Potion Number 9.
But I was not defeated, no sirree. I switched back to Emacs and dropped into XHTML mode and pulled together a simple, minimal table; with a bit of judicious CSS margin and border wrangling I had a darn fine-looking resumé. It looked way better on the screen than either the Word or the OO.o version, and both Safari and Camino (which is now wrapped around the Firefox 1.5 code, BTW) produced excellent-looking print versions, Camino’s a little better.
So, I understand why we still need spreadsheets and presentation packages, but assuming you had a Web editor with a good change tracker, why would anyone want a word processor any more?
As bad as Word and Open Office (and WordPerfect) are, Emacs in XHTML mode is not the answer for most people. Oddly enough, Word didn't always suck. Word for Windows 2.0 was fairly decent - it went downhill from there, as MS started adding "help" and "smarts" to it.
We use a set of objective criteria for both Windows Defender and the Malicious Software Removal Tool to determine what software will be classified for detection and removal by our anti-malware technology. We have analyzed this software, and have determined that in order to help protect our customers we will add a detection and removal signature for the rootkit component of the XCP software to the Windows AntiSpyware beta, which is currently used by millions of users.
I suspect that other vendors that haven't already done so will follow suit. I wonder when Sony will figure out that they have a PR problem of epic proportions on their hands?
I made some comments about MS' position in my last post, based on the continued strength of Mac tools in the RSS/Atom subscription space - I figured it qualified for a post of its own. What I said:
Still a lot of diversity there (in RSS/Atom tools), but the thing that pops at me is the high number of Mac accesses - the "thought leaders" in the RSS/Atom sphere are skewed that way. Which is why there are rumbles of Apple talking a serious stab at increasing their OS share, I think. Given the problems MS is having with Vista, they might have a chance. MS is rapidly approaching the state IBM was in circa 1985. The main difference is in their leadership - IBM had empty suits back then, and MS still has Gates (and Ozzie). In the long run, it might not matter much.
I think Microsoft has reached a size - and complexity (in terms of their processes and their products) that the leadership is having huge problems turning the ship. There's only so much that Gates and Ozzie can do, when the premier product - Windows - has become a huge ball of mud with too much crap stuffed into the kernel. Ditto their tool suite, where they've managed to hang themselves via multiple dependencies between their tools (like VS and SQL Server, for instance).
The only saving grace for MS at this point is the raw stupidity of their competition. Sun thinks that their revenues will rise, if only they give more stuff away for free. All the alternatives to MS Office suck eggs, and they have all tried to copy all the worst things about the MS tools. I have news for the ODF fans - an open document format doesn't mean anything if the base tool is horrid - and Open Office is, quite simply, horrid.
The upshot of all this? I think Apple has an opening. Not for dominance, but certainly for growth.
Looks like the download rate for BottomFeeder has settled into the mid-300's per day (364 per day last week) after spiking briefly. That's a decent rate, no complaints here :) The details:
On to the HTML blog page accesses - it looks to me like my readership has expanded into the broader (IE dominated) ranks - at least amongst those who read via their browser:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
Finally, a look at the RSS accesses by tool. Still a lot of diversity there, but the thing that pops at me is the high number of Mac accesses - the "thought leaders" in the RSS/Atom sphere are skewed that way. Which is why there are rumbles of Apple talking a serious stab at increasing their OS share, I think. Given the problems MS is having with Vista, they might have a chance. MS is rapidly approaching the state IBM was in circa 1985. The main difference is in their leadership - IBM had empty suits back then, and MS still has Gates (and Ozzie). In the long run, it might not matter much.
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||9.4%|
Scoble links to a funny comment about spending options (vis-a-vis the XBox 360, which starts at $300). There's a serious thing going on with Sony's recent step into an ever growing manure pile of DRM - combined with the fact that the PS3 won't ship until next year.
MS has a real shot to eat up a large piece of the market share that Sony currently owns in this space. I wonder how big an impact it would make if they could increase the number of available systems for Christmas, and offer a discount - say $50 or so - to anyone who can prove that they own a PS2? It's a potential clock cleaning moment for MS, and I'm not sure that they fully grasp that.
What do you think? Do any of the blog search engines meet your needs? I find I am very unsatisfied with all of the blog search engines.
When I spoke to the EUFA the other day I wanted to show them the top soccer bloggers, but I couldn’t figure that out. How do you find the top blogs in a field that you aren’t yet following?
The trouble is, I don't know how motivated Google is to fix the problem. Most people don't use blog search specifically; they just search Google, either via the toolbar in their browser, or via the home page of the engine. Blog search is like RSS/Atom itself - mostly invisible to the end user, but of great interest to the "thought leaders" in the field.
With RSS/Atom, browser integration will make most people into silent users. I have no idea what event (if any) will kick blog search.
Sony still doesn't get it. They seem to think that the rootkit code they use in their DRM is fine, it's the fact that anyone noticed that's the problem:
Music publisher Sony BMG said on Friday it would stop making CDs that use a controversial technology to protect its music against illegal copying.
"As a precautionary measure, Sony BMG is temporarily suspending the manufacture of CDs containing XCP technology," it said in a statement.
The decision follows the discovery on Thursday of the first virus that uses Sony BMG's CD copy-protection software to hide on PCs and wreak havoc.
Not "we were wrong", not "Sorry" - no, Sony is temporarily suspending the use of the rootkit software. Temporarily suspending! In fact, they say this:
Sony BMG said it stands by content protection technology "as an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists."
It's a sad thing, watching a once great company flush itself down the toilet.
Across the English-speaking world, except for the US, today is Remembrance day
Here in the US, today is Veteran's Day (a Federal Holiday) - it was Armistice Day prior to WWII, and it later became a general day of honor for all veterans of the US military.
Just pointing out that we remember as well.
Smalltalk has supported comments for classes for a long while, and various source code tools - Store, Envy (et. al.) have had ways to store comments at the sccs artifact level. There's also an old component in VisualWorks, the Class Reporter - but it works at the level of classes and categories (not packages/bundles) - and it produces text with widget (i.e., Smalltalk text field) markup, not HTML/XHTML.
So all that leads me to a question - we all know about JavaDoc, and what it does for Java. Do we simply need the same thing for Cincom Smalltalk? Do we need something more? Do we need something different?
What would the developer community like to see in this area? Send me mail, or leave a comment.
Our release (Winter 2005) is coming up, so it must be time for a lot of conference calls. Today's schedule:
- 9 am - 10 am
- 10 am - 11 am
- 12:30 pm - 2 pm
- 2 pm - 3 pm
I think my headset is attaching itself to my ear...
Avi Bryant had created a continuations-based server in the Ruby programming language, but left for the Squeak dialect of Smalltalk -- a pure, object-oriented language invented in the early 1970s, when Ruby continuations proved to be a little too unstable. (They've since been fixed.) He then built the Seaside framework on the Squeak dialect of Smalltalk and has never looked back. He now uses Seaside to quickly build Web applications for his customers. They're willing to put up with a niche language like Squeak because the framework is so productive, lowering the total cost of development dramatically, and improving time to market.
I'm not suggesting that we'll all be programming in Smalltalk in the next 10 years. That train rusted at the station. But I will say that language issues go away when there's compelling economic justification. Give me an application written in an obscure language that's five times as fast as an application written in a popular language, make it easy to maintain, and charge me one-third of what I'm spending today, and I likely won't care what language you pick.
Read that second paragraph, and then note that Continuation based web apps can't really be done in Java - you don't have the capability. You can use Seaside in Cincom Smalltalk as well - it's on the CD. There's extra irony as well - IBM's finally noticed the power of Smalltalk, and the one they had (VAST) can't support Seaside anyway - there's no Continuation capability in that product. So if this stuff interests you, pick up Squeak or Cincom Smalltalk.
Awhile back, I did a brief introduction of servlets in Cincom Smalltalk. I thought I'd take a brief look at the other side of that - the SSP pages themselves. SSP pages can be written with jsp tags, which is nice for developers who are already familiar with that - you just create Smalltalk code on the back end that matches the tags.
That's not what I wanted to talk about though - when I create SSP pages (like the ones for this blog), I just embed Smalltalk code in the page. Now, you can quickly go down the road to hell that way - what I've done over the last year is to make the Smalltalk code on the pages be API calls into the server - on the main page, for instance, the code that grabs whatever posts that should show up looks like this:
<div id="posts"> <div class="watermark"></div> <%= saver fetchBlogCSSBasedOn: pageArgs andBlogEntry: specificBlog. %> </div>
The "saver" there is a reference to the blog object itself (there's one per blog). The method being invoked determines what items to fetch, and formats them accordingly - all the logic is back in the server rather than on the page. What that means is that I've defined an API that I need to maintain, but I haven't created a huge set of code that lives in an HTML page.
Here's the cool part though - say that I make modifications, and - for whatever reason - it's not working quite right in my test environment. Well - I can slap a breakpoint into the API method, and run into the debugger:
That lets me walk into the debugger at the point of the API call and see what's happening. It looks like this (click the image for a bigger image):
If you get the bigger image, notice that second line, which reads "unbound method"? That's the web page itself - in Cincom Smalltalk, that comes across as code akin to workspace code - i.e., fully debuggable. This is part of what makes Smalltalk such a nice choice for web applications - you don't need a whole peripheral set of tools in order to debug them - you just do what you normally do, using the same tools that you use when creating any other kind of Smalltalk code.
That's the power of Smalltalk - consistency and simplicity.
The most amazing part of the whole DRM nightmare thing with Sony is the company's public reaction - there hasn't been much of one. What little we've seen has been straight denial. I linked to this story in a previous post, but I didn't quote the part that clearly shows a PR disconnect:
Fast-forward to Nov. 4, 2005, when Thomas Hesse, president of Sony's Global Digital Business was interviewed on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, and said of complaints that Sony's anti-piracy software behaved exactly like a rootkit:
"Most people, I think, don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"
Somewhere at Sony, one of their defense lawyers spewed his coffee when he heard that. Thus far, Sony not only doesn't recognize that they did anything wrong - they don't recognize the swirling PR nightmare that has wrapped around them. Dell took some heat for the "Dell Hell" series of posts from Jeff Jarvis, but that was small potatoes compared to this. Even so, the example should have reminded Sony of the first rule of holes - when you're in one, stop digging.
They still haven't connected the dots - what started out as a few bloggers having a "wtf?" kind of reaction has morphed into a full scale PR failure. It's worse than Dell's mistake; they were simply silent. Sony is insouciantly using the Alfred E. Neumann strategy (What, me Worry?). Thus far, they've been acting like a child - when caught by their parents with their hand in the cookie jar - they simply deny, deny, deny. It doesn't work for 4 year olds, and I'm not sure why the Sony execs think it will work for them. A bunch of class action lawsuits are a fairly blunt cluestick, but it looks like that's what will be required.
Turns out that the Sony DRM crapware can be turned against itself:
Okay so I was so pissed about Sony using rootkit methods for hiding it's presence and limiting how many cd's you can burn. Then I had a really funny idea. Sony's masked process hides anything with "$sys$" in front of it. It also does some funking things with your cd drivers. So I re-installed the infestation of DRM hell and re-named my favorite burning software with $sys$ in front of the executable. Guess who can burn as many CD's as he wants?
Serves those bozos right :)
Update: It looks like the class action suits lining up against Sony will have plenty of incriminating fodder to pick from. That sound the Sony execs hear right about now is the rectal probes being chilled.
While Sony languishes in DRM hell (and console date slippage), Microsoft and Nintendo are getting into position. Only Microsoft will hit the 2005 Christmas season - and it looks like anyone who wants an XBox 360 will have to fight off the holiday crowd:
Wall Street has been expecting Microsoft to deliver more than 2 million of its next generation consoles to retailers worldwide this year. On Monday, though, P. J. McNealy of American Technology Research lowered his expectations to the 1.8 million 2 million range. Friday, Banc of America's Gary Cooper said he believes the company will ship just 1.4 million 1.6 million.
Complicating matters is Microsoft's plan for a worldwide launch of the 360. That means those initial shipments, whatever they turn out to be, will be split between North America, Europe and Japan. McNealy said he expects Microsoft to send roughly 900,000 to 1 million units to North American retailers, 600,000-800,000 to Europe and another 100,000-200,000 to Japan.
Go read the whole thing, and notice what's happening on eBay already. By getting to the release post first, MS is going to reap a lot of excitement. Nintendo isn't sitting still though, and it looks like they intend to stay at the low price end:
Microsoft's Xbox 360 has adopted a two-tier price strategy ($299 for a bare bones version and $399 for a souped-up machine). Sony, meanwhile, has shouted from the rooftops the PS3 would be a pricey piece of equipment. Nintendo, though, seems ready to lowball its competitors on the retail front.
"Value has been a key card for us this generation and we'll continue to play it," Fils-Aime told me. "Do I expect us to be at a lower price point than our competition? Yes I do. Have we determined a price yet? No we haven't."
Sounds good to me - I'll have my eyes on both the XBox and Nintendo this year. Sony can sod off until the show evidence that they've found a clue.