Last night, Michael and I were playing a network civ 4 game. He crushed me the time before, nuking most of my cities. This time, we were playing on an island board, and I got set up right next to two AI players. No more mister nice guy; I built an army and killed them. Just as I took the second one out, bam - crash.
Michael's crashed as well, so we went to the latest backup and started in - and boom, immediate crash. Clearly, the gods of Civ 4 were not going to be with me :/
Jon Fine has come up with a really stupid idea - he thinks that making content invisible will somehow make it more relevant:
What if 2006 is the year big media players take aim at Google's kneecaps? No, not with more lawsuits; the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers -- on behalf, in part, of BusinessWeek's parent company, The McGraw-Hill Companies -- and Agence France-Presse have already sued the search behemoth. Rather, picture this: Walt Disney, News Corp., NBC Universal, and The New York Times, in an odd tableau of unity, join together and say: "We are the founding members of the Content Consortium. Next month we launch our free, searchable Web site, which no outside search engines can access." (A simple bit of code is all it takes to bar all or some major search engines from accessing a site.) "From now on we'll make our stuff available and sell ads around it and the searches for it, but only on our terms. Who else wants to join us? Membership's free."
Yeah, that's worked so well for the Times. Hey Jon - noticed a distinct decline in links over to TimesSelect recently? How do you suppose that happened? You think that making their opinion pieces invisible might have had something to do with it?
Yes, I know that this proposal doesn't involve a pay-wall. It does something just as stupid though - server side directives to stop bots from Google (and Yahoo, and MSN, etc., etc.) from slurping up the links. That's every bit as stupid. I'm using Firefox, and what do you think is right up in the top right corner? Why, it's a Google search box. How do you think I typically search? What do you think MS will ship with the next rev of IE - same kind of thing, only the default will likely be an MSN search. Which is how most IE users will search as well.
Jeff Jarvis nailed this in his riposte:
Well, that would be hugely stupid. And though huge companies can be stupid, I don’t think they’d be that self-destructive. For the truth of life today — like it or not, lump it or not — is that Google is everyone’s front page. And, yes, that can make life difficult. Google kills brands; Google commodifies everything. But that’s not Google’s fault. That comes part-and-parcel with this new, distributed world where we control the entry to the content we want and where there is no longer a scarcity of content that lets a few big players control it and us. Wishing this weren’t so won’t make it not so.
So let me think - Fine thinks that a bunch of content companies should team up, gather their content, hide it from search engines, and then get people to visit. Exactly how would users find the content, since the plan would be to hide it from search engines? I've seen a lot of stupid plans before, but this one ranks up there with the *cough* plot *cough* of "Surface".
This came in from the ESUG mailing list:
We have a (research) position to fill that relates closely with a Smalltalk framework for synthesis and modeling for system-on-chips and reconfigurable circuits.
I see Sun's decided that they don't have enough problems - now they plan to offer an open source DRM solution. I think this quote from their lead on the project, Glenn Edens, says it all:
But Edens isn’t so pessimistic about DReaM. He maintains that while DRM isn’t perfectly secure, it can still work, as long as it doesn’t force users to circumvent it in order to use the product normally. “We’ve started a very fruitful dialog with the EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation]. We have been working on a white paper to describe a possible solution to the fair-use issues. The hard question is: ‘How can you have an access and authentication system that also respects fair use?’”
The problem is right there in the premise - that DRM can work so long as users can use a product normally. For a music CD, that means making as many copies for personal use as I want, and playing the music in any format I want. In other words, so long as I don't start giving (or worse, selling) the product to others, how I make use of it shouldn't matter. That runs smack into the DRM wall, as it's highly concerned with those exact issues - how many copies (and what sorts of copies) I make.
At the end of the day, the pig is still a pig, regardless of how nice the dress is.
Finally, there is the issue of WinFX. Initially, this was called the Longhorn API (LAPI) and it was intended to be the foundation of all the applications in Longhorn. Microsoft have retreated significantly from this position. WinFX was not provided as part of any of the builds of Vista, so the clear implication is that Microsoft intends to develop Vista with native code (and possibly with a little bit of .NET through the framework library) and not to use WinFX at all. I cannot stress how significant this retreat is. Microsoft have so little confidence in their own application framework that they will not use it even in their own managed applications.
This is starting to look like a PR issue for Microsoft. I emphasize PR, because I don't think it's really a technical one (beyond the fact that no one thought to synchronize the development cycles for .NET and Vista - and that falls into management).
As Dan Fernandez has posted, there's plenty of .NET usage by Microsoft - the problem is that earlier statements by them on the subject don't make it seem that way. This is why you have to be very, very careful in what you say about upcoming releases and what will be in them. I've made that mistake myself, and I keep it in mind as we promote each of our Cincom Smalltalk releases.
Via Rob Fahrni, I see that Carson Palmer's injury is much worse than what was initially reported:
"Carson Palmer's knee injury was 'devastating and potentially career-ending,' involving numerous ligament tears, a shredded ligament, damaged cartilage and a dislocated kneecap, his surgeon said Thursday."
That sounds like a life impacting injury - never mind football. It didn't look like that big a hit at the time, but it goes to show - anything can happen when bodies collide. I think the Bengals need to look at whether or not Kitna is who they want to go with next year.
Dana VanDen Heuvel reports that CMO Magazine is going dark:
The extraordinary feedback and support from the CMO community has not been enough to sustain and grow our advertising-supported business in what has become a severely challenged publishing environment.
More to the point, they have blogs and are not just old-school publishing folk. These guys really made a run at this.
Is there just not enough of a market for marketing to marketers???
I've been getting CMO for awhile now, and liked it well enough. I think the key issue is that their model assumed that they could get enough advertising support - I was never asked to pay for a subscription. Would I have? I don't know, but they never even asked. Perhaps they should have tried asking for revenue from their readers?
Even the high and mighty get whacked by this stuff:
Now it seems that Steven Spielberg's latest movie, Munich, might miss the opportunity to be nominated for the BAFTA Awards because of some splendidly stupid actions from the publisher. The movies where sent, to the BAFTA members for viewing, as encrypted DVD:s. Not only did the DVD:s get held-up in UK Customs, but when they finally arrived they only worked on a specific brand of DVD Player, Cinea, and where mastered as Region 1 (which is North America) which is pretty useless under normal circumstances in Europe.
The comments from one of the reviewers says it all:
Regarding the special encrypted Cinea player that we were all sent, I never hooked it up and I wonder how many people did. About half of the screeners I received are encrypted for Cinea and the other half weren't. I don't have time to watch ALL the screeners I get anyway so naturally I just end up watching the ones that are easy to watch, that I can watch on my laptop or at a friend's house. I have to believe that those movies that were sent out in the encrypted format were viewed FAR less than those that won't.
When you make the content a pain in the butt to get at, fewer people will look at - even if it's free.
Now that Smalltalk Solutions is co-located with LinuxWorld/NetworkWorld, you'll need to register earlier than you're used to - it's a big show in its own right, and the Blue Jays are in town when the show is being held. Make sure you book early - there are a lot of people attending this show. If the baseball schedule interests you, here's who Toronto is playing at that time:
April 18 and 19 … New York (before the conference)
April 21-23 … Boston
April 25-27 … Baltimore
So register now, and make sure to arrange your hotel!
Update: Apparently, registration isn't actually online yet - I was told it would be today. I'll update this post, and possibly push a new post, when that changes.
Sun Microsystems Chief Executive Scott McNealy consistently credits Apple Computer for good marketing--to the point where he listed what he believes will be his own company's glorious iPod moments. But McNealy said Wednesday believes the iPod itself will be replaced in coming years by music stored in the network.
Yeah, I'm sure that Apple will go into hibernation and pay no attention to ongoing trends. Meanwhile, how's that "everything is free" working out for the profit margins?
I was on my way out to add more memory to my Mini when disaster struck - car made a weird noise and then died. One tow from AAA later, and my mechanic informed me that the car's engine was a goner. Not so bad, all things considered - we got over 130,000 miles out of it.
Here's the thing though - I'm probably just going to have a rebuilt engine dropped in. Why? Because that's going to be about $1000, parts and labor. A new car would run me $300 - $500 a month in payments, so I figure, given my driving habits (around 3000 a year), it's wort it to drop a replacement engine.
Certainly better than the debt.
Ted Leung reports on what he's using to teach his girls about programming:
The new regimen involved another Windows shortcut to pop up Notepad. The girls then had to learn to save a file, switch windows (on purpose, not by accident) to the Python interpreter window, reload the module, and look at the Tk output window. I found myself barraged by questions that had nothing to do with turtle geometry or programming. All the questions were about the environment -- forgetting to save a file, getting windows out of focus or behind each other, forgetting to reload the module, etc. I suppose they were learning computer "literacy", but it really reminded me as to how much stuff you need to know in order to do some simple programming. In a way, it was easier when I was doing AppleSoft Basic on the Apple II -- no separate editor, no windows to lose or have out of focus.
At Mind Camp, Todd Blanchard brought by a copy of "Squeak: Learn Programming with Robots", and the girls got excited by paging through it. It looked pretty good, and Squeak/Smalltalk certainly has the programming constructs that I want my kids to be exposed to straight off (at least if they are going to be programmers). Also, one of the original motivations for Smalltalk was for allowing kids to do programming and simulations, and that heritage seems to have carried through into the Squeak community. For a great/depressing look at some of the learning applications, you can check out this video from ETech 2003.
For teaching software neophytes, nothing stays out of the way and lets you learn like Smalltalk. Which makes you consider the impediments that most people have just gotten used to :)
The main website at Cincom is undergoing an overhaul, and - as happens with all such overhauls - links to various things have gone missing at some points in the overhaul. Yesterday, it was the success stories, which all reside on the main server. The web team was very responsive though, and it's all fixed now. So if you tried to look at these and got an error, just head back and have a look now.
Add PubSub to the list of search builders that are getting washed and waxed by Splogs. I noted a few days ago that Feedster was getting overrun - most of the results I get from it fall into one of two buckets: ancient, or spam. Troy has had persistent, ongoing issues with Technorati, and he's not the only one.
I think it's clear that we have a major problem, and it's getting to be as bad as the email situation. Search providers are going to have to get serious about building spam filters into their engines - otherwise, we'll see all of the aggregator developers doing it themselves - which will make aggregators more expensive (in terms of system resource usage, not money). It would be simpler if the various providers did the job, because then everyone would benefit, whether they use an aggregator or a browser to view results.
A "Dynamic Language Day" is being held in Brussels (Belgium) next month - February 13th:
The VUB (Programming Technology Lab, System and Software Engineering Lab), ULB (deComp) and the Belgian Association for Dynamic Languages (BADL) are very pleased to invite you to a whole day of presentations about the programming languages Self, Smalltalk and Common Lisp by experts in these languages. Besides some introductory material for each language, the reflective facilities in the respective programming environments will be highlighted. The presentations will be especially interesting for people with good knowledge about current mainstream object-oriented languages like Java, C# and C++ who want to get a deeper understanding about the expressive power of Self, Smalltalk and Common Lisp. In order to prepare the ground for these presentations, Professor Viviane Jonckers will introduce the day by an overview of the benefits of teaching dynamic languages to undergraduate students in computer science. She will especially discuss the specific advantages of using Scheme as an introductory language instead of the more widely employed Java language.
This post has been updated to imply this is a developing story. It's unclear what this hack exactly does - unlock the read function, the editing function - as commenters on the post have noted
If true - for any kind of password protected Word doc - then it does demonstrate a problem with the ability to export out to straight textual formats. Perhaps protected documents should not allow themselves to be saved into those kinds of easily "hacked" formats?
Via Sam Ruby, I see that Apple has added yet another RSS Module into the mix - Dave Winer has a critique on it here. I added support for it in BottomFeeder this morning; grab the update and the example feeds should give you the extra information. I tried, but I can't get past the irony of Winer criticizing a spec. This is, after all, the guy who inflicted OPML and MetaWebLog *cough* APIs *cough* on us...
BitWorking explains it all. Too bad he didn't have time to sneak a bad word for NTLM-Auth in there.
"On the heels of the big Apple love-in that is Macworld comes some interesting but alarming news. Recently a few blogs have started to indicate that iTunes is tracking your music preferences and using that data to recommend other songs from iTMS. The article provides a good overview, with some recommendations of its own. Basically, iTunes is tracking your music and sending the data back to Apple servers. This info is then used to advertise songs that may be to your tastes. A convenient feature, perhaps, but it raises concerns over privacy."
I wonder if Amazon's book recommendations fill them with fear too.
I think Michael Gartenberg has jumped the shark. This week in ComputerWorld, he's comparing the upcoming launch of Vista to the launch of Windows 95:
This is the year of Longhorn -- I mean Windows Vista. Yep, it's real, and it's coming to a desktop near you in 2006. Expect a quiet period in Q1 and then a major ramp-up in the spring. IT won't have seen anything like this since the arrival of Windows 95. While some folks are advising IT to ignore Vista until sometime in 2008, you do so at your own peril. Between Microsoft and its partners, there's likely to be close to a billion dollars spent on marketing this thing. By the time some IT folks get around to looking at Vista, they may discover that users have already taken matters into their own hands.
Yeah, sure. I think he misses a number of things. First off, when Win 95 came out, there was a really, really compelling reason to upgrade: Windows 3.1 sucked, stability wise, and 95 looked like it was going to be a whole lot better (and it was). Now? Windows 2000 and XP are pretty stable releases. Sure, there have been plenty of security holes (WMF, anyone?), but that's true of any Windows product (or OS product, period), and I don't think anyone really believes that Vista will be dramatically better.
So why would I, as an end user of XP, press my IT department to get me Vista? What does it offer me that I don't get now? Nothing terribly compelling, that's what. If Gartenberg thinks that users will rush out and force IT to deal with Vista, he's smoking something. I fully expect Vista to flow in via new PC's, same as any other Windows release. I don't expect to see anyone really jumping for it. Contra Gartenberg, there's no buzz surrounding this. It's too late, and too many features have been jettisoned.
If Microsoft believed in managed code, we would build applications using the .NET Framework. We do.
I find it surprising that people continue to think that we don't use managed code at Microsoft.
That isn't really the problem. It's not that MS doesn't use managed code - it's exactly like the example of the instant-legacy code browser that I brought up in my post - DVDMaker makes it look like they don't use managed code. As Charles said:
Four years after .NET 1.0 was released why has a fairly small scale app aimed at end-users been written in unmanaged code? This app has UI and Vista has a new set of APIs for UI, Windows Presentation Foundation. Maybe its unfair to pick on DVD Maker but this would have been an opportunity, one of possibly many, to demonstrate not only what you can do with WPF but more fundamentally that good end-user applications can be written in .NET. Many people believe that .NET is not suitable for this type of application and a new unmanaged app like this gives them more ammunition.
Exactly. This app being done in C++ is going to raise this kind of question, whether it's fair or not. This is one of those "perception is reality" issues.
I reported a few issues with the NC installer last week - it turned out to be a simple build problem in the installer itself. That was fixed, and an updated set of executables is on the site now.
Another piece of news that should go out - we now have Solaris on x86 VMs available - as part of the NC and commercial releases.
We had a good meeting in Cincinnati today - but boy, when the day starts with a rise from bed at 4:15 am, and you're still sitting in an airport at 10:15 pm, it's been a heck of a long day. Someone invent teleportation already :)
Apple has announced their intel based Macs at MacWorld. Let the drooling begin :)
The ESUG feed has a long list of online Smalltalk videos - check them out.
4: Is DVD Maker written in managed code?
A: No. Yes, it is ironic that I spent so much time on C# and then spent a ton of time writing something in C++ code. Everybody on the team is a believer in managed code, and we hope we'll be able to use it for future projects.
I'm with Charles Cook on this one - more dogfooding would be a lot more impressive than the hype machine surrounding Vista. Reminds me of a ParcPlace engineer, way back in the VW 2.0 timeframe - he announced (internal mailing list) of his pride and joy - a brand new (code) browser (written in the legacy UI framework). I recall slagging him for it, for the same reasons that Charles posted this: it lets slip the idea that if even the experts still use the old stuff, there must be a reason for it.
Ugh. I decided to take the 5:50 AM flightto Cincinnati this morning so as to avoid an overnight stay. That doesn't seem like such a bright idea now that I'm waiting for the cab :/
Via Steve Rubel, I see that Verizon has decided to take the "oops it was a mistake (damn, they noticed being whispered) about the disabling of MP3 music on their new phones:
Verizon Wireless spoke out Monday after criticisms began appearing on Web logs including PCS Intel and Techdirt regarding the new service, which the company launched last week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Customers wanting V Cast Music who already own one of the two compatible handsets need to visit one of the company's retail locations for a software upgrade.
"Upgrade" my foot :) - it's a restoration of the previous firmware. Meanwhile, verizon claims that it couldn't possibly be to force people to re-purchase stuff they already own:
Verizon dismissed accusations on certain Web logs that this decision was made for any ulterior profit motive such as forcing users to repurchase music through the V Cast store.
Instead, the company said, the MP3 capability was temporarily disabled so that it can be integrated into the V Cast application, rather than appearing as a separate application that might confuse customers.
Yeah, right. And I'm the Queen of Romania.
A mouse got its revenge against a homeowner who tried to dispose of it in a pile of burning leaves. The blazing creature ran back to the man's house and set it on fire.
I'm getting flashbacks to those margarine ads from the 70's - the ones where the woman (playing Mother Nature) would taste the margarine, and then say (ominously) "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature" when she was informed that it wasn't butter...
David Buck is offering a two day introductory course:
I keep hearing people say that they'd like to learn Smalltalk but don't want to sign up for a full 5-day Introduction to Smalltalk course. I decided that it would be a good idea to have a quick 2 day course showing what Smalltalk is all about. This course is aimed at people who don't necessarily expect to work professionally in Smalltalk after the course but who want to learn more about object oriented programming and how it's done in other languages. I'll be holding the first run of the course in Ottawa on February 16th and 17th, 2006.
Via Glenn Vandenburg, I came across this post from Reginald Braithwaite-Lee. It's all good, but there's a really, really good summary in there, where he explains why Rails is hot and Seaside isn't (yet):
Speaking of Rails, I'm going to conclude with my take on one reason why Rails is taking off and Seaside is not. Rails allows programmers to express the idioms they already know (relational databases, web-backed MVC, stateless event handling plus a global session store) in fewer bits.
Seaside provides a whole new idiom, continuations, that IMO is more powerful. I think you end up with an even higher signal-to-noise ratio with a Seaside app than with a Rails app. Why? Because continuations afford you a much higher degree of controller reuse.
Now, here's the catch: if you try to imagine your current application running on both Rails and on Seaside, you probably won't see much difference between the two (although they'll both be an order of magnitude better than ASP.NET). They will look the same because you designed your application with idioms that both Rails and Seaside support.
I think that captures it perfectly. What we (in the Smalltalk community) need to do is show Seaside (or something else in Smalltalk) solving a common problem in a dramatically easier fashion - as Rails has.
The Security libraries in VW 7.4 have been cleaned up a lot - but some of that might affect backward compatibility. This server is still running on VW 7.1, for instance - I had to do a small bit of work (with Martin's help) to get things to interoperate between the two.
Back in 7.3 and prior versions, here's how I encrypted a string using DES:
des := DES new. cypher := des encrypt: plain with: key.
Now, in 7.4, there's been an API change. The #encrypt:with: method no longer exists. So it looked like all I had to do was this:
des := DES newBP_ECB. des setKey: key asBigEndianByteArray. cypher := des encrypt: plain asByteArray.
However, there was another change that this didn't account for. When the Security libraries first came in, they were rushed out the door - the code was hard to follow, and there were other issues. That's cleaned up in 7.4, but it was smacking me in the head for backwards compatibility. After a conversation with Martin, it turned out that the padding scheme used in 7.4 was correct, and that older versions had used something else. To get it to work, I juist had to wrap the DES encryption with the same kind of padding:
des := SSLBlockPadding on: DES new. des setKey: key asBigEndianByteArray. cypher := des encrypt: plain asByteArray.
And it all worked. Which means, I can now put together a dev build of BottomFeeder using 7.4. I'll get to that later today, or possibly Wednesday (I'm heading to corporate for meetings tomorrow).
Blaine reports that the Omaha Smalltalk and Ruby groups have decided that they have a lot in common - so they are combining:
Vorlath should look at Seaside, and the concept of Continuations. Bottom line - been there, done that.
Something else I just can't understand is why source code doesn't have rollbacks. Let's say I allocate an object, then I open a file, but then some kind of error happens on the third statement. How many times do we have code in C (or any other language) to check for allocation, then check for NULL on the file and delete the previously allocated object if the open file command did return NULL and so on getting bigger and bigger. We need a rollback command. Some kind of code attached to all sorts of commands so that it can go back to a previous state. Rollback code for allocation should be deallocation. Rollback code for opening a file should be to close it. Most of this should be default and supplied by the library. So if an error happens, we can rollback to a more stable state. And all this should be hidden away from normal view. If you want to change the way it works, then fine. But it shouldn't clutter the main code. It boggles the mind how backwards we are when it comes to programming. Databases have it. Why not code?
Watching the Bengals game, the best I could figure about the second half was that the studied film from the second half of the Giants game. Boy, did they fall apart.
The game isn't over as I write this, but it may as well be. A botched punt return at the end of the first half allows a field goal. A stupid pass at 6:30 left in the third yields an interception and a touchdown. The offense has been asleep at the hike when they haven't been trying to give the ball away. I guess the only consolation is that Carolina won't get far if they play this way again; they should be up by 4 or more touchdowns with how they've dominated time of possession.
Update, end of game: Here's how I imagine the half time speech in the Giants locker room: "Guys, we mostly sucked in the first half. If we work at it, we can completely suck in the second half!"
Troy is pretty darn torqued at Technorati (read the post to see why) - and his post is an example of something I've spoken about a lot. Word of mouth carries a lot further than the break room these days. When you ignore problems long enough, they don't just go away - they start generating negative PR. For those without a cluestick, take a look at Dell Hell for instruction.
It's time to find out whether the 11-5 Giants are for real, or a fluke. Two weeks ago, they fell apart against Washington - a team that looked completely ineffective against the Bucs yesterday. What you have to realize about that Skins game is that their offense only managed 3 points by itself - the defense scored one touchdown, and laid the other one at the offense's feet. Which is why I wonder about the Giants - they let Washington walk all over them.
I guess I'll find out this afternoon. At least there's a playoff game I have some interest in to watch.
It's time to look at the logs again - last week, BottomFeeder downloads held steady at a rate of 352 per day. The details:
I'm not sure why the source downloads jumped up - I haven't released a new build recently. Anyway, off to the HTML page accesses over the week:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
Back to Mozilla being on top, which is more like my normal distribution - that likely means nothing more than a return to work after the holiday season. On to the RSS accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||9.1%|
Now, that looks like a sudden jump in BottomFeeder usage, but it's not. I looked at the "other" category, and I had forgotten that a few revs of Bf have gone out with an agent string that differs from what I've been looking for in my script. So, the numbers for Bf access should be increased by around 10% (and "other" marked down) for the last 6-9 months or so. Ahh, statistics :)
In my opinion, people dislike Notes because their expectations don't jive with the original intent of the product. At its core, Notes is a runtime environment for collaborative applications, but when people complain about Notes, they are usually not talking about core Notes at all. They are talking about the Notes Mail and Calendar applications. Why does this distinction matter? It matters because the Notes core is what a lot of people really love.
Bob goes on to explain the issue, and it's something that resonates with me. I love Smalltalk, and have for years. I get the same kind of "huh?" reactions that Bob brings up on a regular basis, and it has to do with expectations.
Smalltalk, for good or ill, has a culture surrounding it. That's not really true of C, or C#, or Java (or most other languages, including newish ones like Ruby or Python). Smalltalkers don't work in their favorite code editor, followed by a compile cycle. We work in an image, crafting code one method at a time in a browser. We don't look at long listings of class definitions and methods; we look at little snippets of our system through the browser, and rely on inspectors and ad-hoc workspace testing (not to mention more formal testing) to "see" the code. Which is to say, our development culture is different than what the mainstream developer expects.
When a developer who's heard a lot about Smalltalk - perhaps after having seen Ruby or Python - can be somewhat taken aback by this culture. All their familiar tools are gone; the version control systems are unique to the product, and the development tools are embedded in the environment. We, as Smalltalkers revel in that - we understand the power this brings, and want no part in leaving it. The newbie, on the other hand, sees a learning curve and an inability to apply previous skills to the task at hand.
Which is why there's a disconnect between the Smalltalk community and the development community at large. Now, many would say that we should just "get with the program" and make our stuff look like everything else. The trouble is, that would jettison a goodly proportion of the power we have - the cost is simply too high. We could do a better job of introducing people to the environment, that's for sure. But I don't think we can walk off the mountain and be like everyone else.
There are some rumors circulating that Steve Ballmer is about to step aside at Microsoft as its day to day operations head to make room for another president.
Here's what I know. Sources near Microsoft headquarters report that over the past few months the ex cigar smoking prexy has made trips to Microsoft headquarters and has been interviewing for the top slot as the company looks at ways to transform themselves for the future. Given the global implications of technology, having a leader that is an ex country president would be massive.
Is April 1st early this year, and I just didn't get the memo?
News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group has worked a deal with its sister company DirecTV to offer shows on demand, but this arrangement is something different from what you've come to expect. The deal involves the FOX network as well as its cable/satellite FX channel, and will see the company offering on demand content not only following regular broadcasts, but users can pay a premium price to see content before it is aired. "Hit" Fox content such as 24 will be available after airing for 99 cents, but $2.99 pre-air episodes of FX shows The Shield, Rescue Me, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and others will be available also, typically 24-48 hours in advance.
I can definitely see the $2.99 being worthwhile for shows you really don't want to miss, and would rather not wait to see. If Sci-Fi channel were in on this, I'd definitely pop the surcharge to get an episode or two of BattleStar Galactica or Stargate before a vacation.
When downloading the non-commercial, I've seen a few reports of trouble, mostly with the network installer. For one, older revs of Opera seem to have a problem with the FTP operation - I was just told that the latest release works fine. The reported issue doesn't come up with IE or Firefox, so either use those, or grab the latest Opera.
Another issue reported has been particular to Unix/Linux - instead of downloading to a file, the installer starts downloading to the screen. I've changed the form we were using to a list of links - so if you see the "downloading to the screen" problem, go back, and just right-click on the link in question - that will let you save the corresponding file to disk.
One more thing - the Net Installer links are all FTP, and the installer itself uses FTP to download components. So if you are sitting behind a firewall that blocks FTP - you'll need to either open that port, or grab the download via the ISO file or the individual component files.
James Governor thinks that the Vista launch will be huge, due to web/RSS integration:
I have a post in mind about why Vista is going to be major launch, like Win 95, which not even the Microsoft Vista team seems to believe. But its not the OS that will sell the OS, its the integrated handling of standard specifications that will sell the OS. I am not the biggest fan of integrated aggravation but its a model that works for hundreds of millions of people. RSS, rather than XML per se, may be the killer spec for Office 12.
I have my doubts. For one thing, I'm not completely convinced that Vista will actually get out the door anytime soon. Microsoft has coded themselves into a corner with the the various integrations they've done already - this release has been delayed how long already? From the Vista Office blog:
The story of Windows Vista has been a scrappy one to date. Three years late, with countless stops and starts, plus a rewrite-from-scratch, has left public confidence more than a little shaken. However, its public release towards the end of 2006 should see the operating system back on track. Here’s a short rundown on what has happened so far:
I can't see businesses taking the new Office as a serious reason to move up from XP - the ridiculous Ribbon is certainly not a reason to move from Office 2003. What actual new functionality are you getting? As to the OS, what actual new stuff is left, beyond the UI shell upgrade? Not a whole heck of lot. The "rewrite from scratch" aspect of things also bodes ill for this - partly because I don't buy it. What I would guess is that they threw the (then current build) away, tossed a few of the more ill behaved new components, and started rewriting other stuff in light of their absence. Not a confidence builder, IMHO.
Windows has reached an impasse of complexity. It's largely C++, which is a hard language to deal with - especially for large projects. Making C++ code move from point A to point B is hard, and gets harder with large codebases. Heck, once the size is as large as the Windows codebase, even a dynamic language (Smalltalk, Ruby, et. al.) would be harder to push around. You wouldn't have memory handling as a problem, but there would still be problems.
All through the late 90's, I watched people whine about how MS "had to be stopped", because they were integrating "everything" into the OS. Heck, there are entities out there who still want Media Player removed. What none of those people saw was the expanding pool of molasses that MS was sinking Windows into. The more stuff they larded in, the harder it got to move. That's why Vista is so late, and why I think many, many corporate users will hold back. It's conventional wisdom to let a new Windows release bake for a bit before upgrading now. With all the delays that Vista has had, that notion is just reinforced.
IT managers won't even consider RSS as a reason to upgrade. I rather suspect that they'll consider XP to be "good enough" for a long while yet. On the consumer end, new machines will ship with it, sure. However - I'm going to return to one of my hobby horses here, DRM. Sony and EMI have caught a lot of hell for their stupid (and hostile) DRM implementations. Well, how long do you think it will be before the first person with a legal copy of a DVD slaps it into his upgraded machine and gets told to sod off before the same kind of hue and cry arises? Not long, I'll bet.
Here's the thing - RSS is big amongst the tech-literati now, and will eventually be big for the general public. However, any positive noise based on that will be overwhelmed by the DRM nightmare that MS is lining itself up for. The "cool, I can track 100 websites" buzz won't quite match the "why the heck does my DVD look so fuzzy?" Or worse: "Your monitor isn't compliant? WTF is up with that?"
We know that hostile DRM gets buzz. Unless MS gets a clue and decides against the PVP-OVM crapware they plan to include, they'll get hammered with the same cluestick that Sony and EMI are feeling. I'm guessing that they won't like it any better.
I passed on this story early yesterday - it sounded way, way too much like an April 1st thing for me to take seriously. In the meantime, everyone else has linked to it, so here goes:
The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a report in today's New Scientist magazine.
The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.
I still think this needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt. It comes off sounding "too good to be true" to me. I'd love to be wrong about it though.
Lair of the Gecko contrasts Smalltalk and Ruby with Lisp:
I think that potential confusion actually highlights one of the flaws the Reddit guys found with Lisp. If you want to get started with Ruby, your only choice is the one and only Ruby. If you want to get started with Smalltalk , then Squeak and VisualWorks are the most obvious and easily accessible choices. If you want to get started with Lisp, is it CLisp? Scheme? Something else? Which version?
With Ruby and Smalltalk , it's relatively easy for someone who's an outsider to the language to figure out what to use, and to get up and running quickly. Choice is good after you understand what you're choosing between, but having too many entry points is confusing to beginners. Would Rails be as accessible if new users had to find the correct combination of OS/Ruby/Rails for their platform?
I haven't followed the Lisp vendors with any kind of regularity, so I can't really speak to the problem on that end. In the Smalltalk space, Squeak and Cincom Smalltalk (VW in particular) have become the best known and most easily available products - and the "cool" application server Seaside works in both - so either way, you can try out what people are buzzing about.
Even nicer at the moment is that the latest non-commercial version - VW 7.4 and OST 7.1 - are available for download now. A side note on that - the Network Installer can grab any version of vwnc from 7.1 forward - so if you need a back version for some reason, you can use that.