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Home Computer? · We’ve got this big old Mac Pro in the liv­ing room, a 2008 mod­el; I call it “the fam­i­ly mainframe”. I’m think­ing it might get re­placed with a Win­dows box ...
[16 comments]  
Mobile Counter-theses · This is in re­sponse to 16 mo­bile the­ses by Bene­dict Evans of An­dreesen Horow­itz, a firm that’s cen­tral to Bay Area VC cul­ture. The the­ses are about half wrong, which isn’t too bad ...
[6 comments]  
Nautical-maintenance Mac · There are three sil­ver Mac lap­tops in our house­hold and some­times it’s not ob­vi­ous which is which. Al­so, while at Google I got used to the no­tion that lap­tops shouldn’t be left naked. So I shopped around on­line and or­dered a cov­er from De­calGirl. This is the pic­ture I used ...
[4 comments]  
Moving the Gender Needle · I’ve been moan­ing for years, in pub­lic fo­rums and on this blog, about the hor­ri­ble gen­der im­bal­ance in the soft­ware tribe: the wom­en are miss­ing. I’m de­pressed be­cause, nu­mer­i­cal­ly, things haven’t got­ten any bet­ter. But there are grounds for op­ti­mis­m, just may­be ...
[16 comments]  
Winterlong Tab Sweep · Real­ly long, I mean. But the or­ga­ni­za­tion is be­yond crit­i­cism be­cause there isn’t any ...
 
Old-World Week · I spent most of last week in An­twerp at Devoxx 2012, prob­a­bly the biggest de­vel­op­er event in Europe. The Euro­pean con­text was front-of-mind since, for recre­ation, the week be­fore I’d been oc­ca­sion­al­ly read­ing US right-wingers in­tro­spect­ing on why they’d lost the elec­tion and where Amer­i­ca is go­ing. A re­peat­ing theme is how the US is at grave dan­ger of be­com­ing like Europe; they’re con­vinced that that’s Barack’s hid­den agen­da. And Europe, you see, is a ter­ri­ble place ...
[6 comments]  
Don’t Change Your Hair For Me · For the first time since 2003 I’m se­ri­ous­ly think­ing about switch­ing to Ubun­tu. It feels like, since Snow Leop­ard, more things have been sub­tract­ed from than added to my Mac. This syn­drome in­fects product-management groups ev­ery­where not just in Cu­per­ti­no; “We know bet­ter; the ex­pe­ri­ence for the av­er­age us­er will be bet­ter with­out that.” But there ain’t no such thing as an av­er­age user, and it’s al­most al­ways a bad idea to sub­tract a ship­ping fea­ture ...
[23 comments]  
Help Me Buy a Computer · I mean with ad­vice, not mon­ey. Dear LazyWe­b: I’m about to re­place the MacBook Pro that I’m typ­ing this on, and not sure what to get. The prob­lem is the pic­tures. I’m ac­tu­al­ly se­ri­ous­ly think­ing about buy­ing a Win­dows (!) box ...
[37 comments]  
Computer Longevity · We have a lot of com­put­ers around the house, but the main fam­i­ly living-room workhorse is a 2008 Mac Pro. Every­one knows that com­put­ers have short work­ing lives, but I’m think­ing this one could be with us for a while ...
[19 comments]  
Local Uncertainty Maximum · Wel­come to the end of the year. As I look for­ward in­to 2012, I fore­see, uh... al­most noth­ing. In fact I can’t re­call a time when the un­cer­tain­ty was so per­va­sive. Here is a small com­pendi­um of prog­nos­ti­ca­tion­al im­po­tence ...
[6 comments]  
Tab Sweep — Tech · Clear­ly the art of the Tab Sweep has de­clined in the age of Twit­ter, and is apt to de­cline still fur­ther un­der the in­flu­ence of Google+. But I think there’s still a place for it ...
[3 comments]  
Steve’s Legacy · What were the Real­ly Big Things? ...
[12 comments]  
Autumn Leaves · Rain on the roof awoke me this Septem­ber morn­ing. Out and about lat­er, I watched the leaves: green and work­ing stil­l, but start­ing to fall in waves and (we all know) not here for long. I thought of print­ed books and mag­a­zi­nes. And sil­ver disks. And cash.
[2 comments]  
Sufficiencies · I car­ry around, in var­i­ous com­bi­na­tion­s, two cam­eras, one com­put­er, and two or more An­droid de­vices. They have some im­por­tant things in com­mon ...
[15 comments]  
How To Get There · This is just a fan let­ter about the maps-and-directions soft­ware that I guess has been in GPS prod­ucts for years and is now on ev­ery Internet-capable phone ...
[9 comments]  
The Difference Engine · At the Com­put­er His­to­ry Mu­se­um they call it The Bab­bage Engine, but “Difference” was the word Bab­bage used (as in the re­sult of a sub­trac­tion) and I like it bet­ter. Dur­ing a bor­ing part of the Cloud In­terop even­t, I snuck out and took some pic­tures, be­cause I found it very beau­ti­ful ...
[5 comments]  
Multi-Inflection-Point Alert · I was up late on IM with a much-younger com­put­er pro­gram­mer and he asked “Damn, there’s a lot go­ing on. Is it al­ways like this?” Wel­l, no, it hasn’t been. But in the fu­ture, it may be ...
[24 comments]  
Adoption · I don’t of­ten de­vote a whole post here to just one link, but I think Si­mon Phipps’ The Adoption-Led Mar­ket de­serves it. If you’re in the busi­ness of tech­nol­o­gy you prob­a­bly need to read it. Espe­cial­ly the “Consequences” sec­tion.
[3 comments]  
Good Tech Writing · Two of my brows­er tabs con­tain pieces that are re­lat­ed in that they are very well-written, and about tech­nol­o­gy ...
[3 comments]  
Tech Days Talent · I’m here in Shang­hai at­tend­ing Sun Tech Days. This is a soup-to-nuts show, ev­ery­thing from the op­er­at­ing sys­tem up to Web Ti­er Orches­tra­tion. I am def­i­nite­ly play­ing the wild-eyed-crazy role in this pro­duc­tion; my mes­sages of rad­i­cal open­ness and Web 2.0 inside-out in­for­ma­tion flows and do­ing not nec­es­sar­i­ly Java-based Web de­vel­op­ment are a lit­tle out­side for this crowd, I think. But they have some­thing we don’t have at most of our New World tech shows: a tal­ent con­test! ...
[4 comments]  
Prognostication · It seems to be in the air. Sam Ru­by plants a stake in the ground, and isn’t too shy to point at his track record. My turn ...
[15 comments]  
Tab Sweep — Tech · Ouf, it’s been a while, is my brows­er ev­er fat ...
[2 comments]  
Tab Sweep—Tech · Let’s start with Python. First of al­l, Guido’s lengthy Python 3000 Sta­tus Up­date (Long!). A lit­tle bird tells me they’re go­ing to use UTF-16 in­ter­nal­ly. I’m hor­ri­fied, that seems egre­gious­ly wrong, but Guido’s no fool. Al­so from Pytho­ni­a: Djan­go sta­tus up­date: June 26. Just be­cause the world is breath­ing all heavy over Ru­by these days doesn’t mean Python’s less in­ter­est­ing. If Ru­by van­ished to­mor­row I could trans­fer my world to Python with fair­ly lit­tle pain. And my code would run faster too ...
[3 comments]  
Ordinary Technology · Our friends here in Aus­tralia are by and large not In­ter­net Vi­sion­ar­ies or Se­ri­al En­trepreneurs or Mul­ti­me­dia Wizard­s; they’re or­di­nary peo­ple with or­di­nary job­s; not on­ly are they good peo­ple and good com­pa­ny, but for me ed­u­ca­tion­al since I’m get­ting a civilian’s-eye view of the tech­no­sphere ...
[9 comments]  
Aussie Snaps · Here­with two pic­tures of CSIRAC, claimed to be the fourth dig­i­tal com­put­er ev­er built, and the old­est still in ex­is­tence ...
[2 comments]  
Hot Job Market · It seems that ev­ery­body I’ve talked to in the last lit­tle while has found a way to work it in­to the con­ver­sa­tion: “Oh, and I’m hir­ing; know any good developers?” Plus, the pace of calls from head-hunters has picked up. It’s about as hot as I can re­mem­ber it be­ing, ev­er, in­clud­ing the bub­ble.
[9 comments]  
Electricity · Two Carr-provoked posts in a row to­day; check out Avatars con­sume as much elec­tric­i­ty as Brazil­ians, and then the quan­ti­ta­tive com­ment from our own en­vi­rogu­ru Dave Dou­glas. Sup­pose you want­ed to know for sure how many watts your databox­es are suck­ing? Wel­l, our serv­er peo­ple have come up with a clever lit­tle mar­ket­ing gim­mick, the Try and Buy Pow­er Meter Pro­gram; pick up a T1000 or T2000 through T&B and they’ll send along an ac­tu­al pow­er me­ter. Kind of sym­bol­ic since they on­ly cost about $30, but stil­l, I bet this mo­ti­vates a few peo­ple to have a look who wouldn’t have, oth­er­wise; which has to be a good thing.
[1 comment]  
Kedrosky · I sus­pect that any­one who likes on­go­ing and isn’t al­ready read­ing Paul Kedrosky’s In­fec­tious Greed ought to start. He’s re­al­ly got a gift for the medi­um; it’s a rare day when he doesn’t run some­thing that makes me want to write. Here are a few sam­ples from this mon­th: The New Ven­ture Rules, Part XXIV: Get Big Cheap, Supreme Court To­day on Pa­tent Ob­vi­ous­ness, and Com­par­ing Reach Across Mo­bile and PC for Pop­u­lar Sites. [Dis­clo­sure: Paul and I are both in­vestors in Dab­ble DB.]
 
Startup Camp · I spent Thurs­day and Fri­day at Start­up Camp, at the Com­put­er His­to­ry Mu­se­um. This event was sort of orig­i­nal­ly my idea, but smart Sun peo­ple re­tained the good parts—make it an unCon­fer­ence, in­volve David Berlind—and dis­card­ed my sil­ly them­ing no­tion­s; the “Startup Camp” pitch ob­vi­ous­ly touched a nerve, be­cause the place was packed ...
[3 comments]  
Starting Up! · Yow, I just looked at the Start­up Camp sign-up sheet and if you want to go, you bet­ter get on the list PDQ. Of the names that are there, I rec­og­nize al­most none; which is ex­act­ly the idea. I asked David Ber­lind why peo­ple who are com­ing wouldn’t want their names to show, and he says two rea­son­s: stealth-mode star­tup­s, and peo­ple with jobs who are look­ing for an­oth­er one.
[1 comment]  
InfoQ · There’s this new tech-news site, In­foQ; they say they’re track­ing the “enterprise soft­ware de­vel­op­ment community”. Some­what along the same lines as TheServerSide; but along with Java, In­foQ cov­ers .NET, Ruby, SOA, and Agile. They’re cur­rent­ly run­ning an in­ter­view with me that Obie Fer­nan­dez taped way back in April at that Cana­da on Rails con­fer­ence. It’s im­mense­ly long; I took a look but my at­ten­tion wan­dered af­ter ten min­utes or so; I’m not sure even my Mom would last through the whole thing. As to In­foQ, they’re ad­dress­ing a pret­ty big space, and now that tra­di­tion­al tech­nol­o­gy jour­nal­ism has been blown up, I’m 100% in fa­vor of any­one who’s try­ing to make new mod­els work. At In­foQ to­day, I found the stuff in the cen­tral “Community” col­umn more in­ter­est­ing than the “exclusive” talk­ing heads (for ex­am­ple, me) in the right colum­n; have a look and make up your own mind.
 
Upcoming Gig: Startup Camp · This should be se­ri­ous fun; I was in on the ini­tial dis­cus­sion­s, but the peo­ple at Sun went out and got David Ber­lind to help and now there’s go­ing to be a Start­up Camp Nov. 2-3 in Moun­tain View, and I’m go­ing. Come along and pitch in!
[4 comments]  
Trash Your Computer · I was talk­ing with a wom­an to­day, a pro­fes­sion­al writ­er who works most­ly in the health-care tech­nol­o­gy space. She said “These days, I want to stuff my Dell in the near­est trash com­pactor and do ev­ery­thing on my Black­ber­ry. The com­put­er, it’s re­al work to man­age, and I can read what­ev­er any­one sends me on the Black­ber­ry, almost.” Is this the fu­ture?
 
On Innovation · I re­al­ly owe Ni­cholas Carr a vote of thanks; I be­lieve no oth­er sin­gle in­di­vid­u­al has pro­voked so many on­go­ing en­tries of the form “A is right about X” or “A is wrong about X”. To­day, Nick is wrong about in­no­va­tion. To be fair, this is some­thing that has driv­en man­age­ment prac­ti­tion­ers and the­o­rists crazy forever; the peo­ple run­ning a com­pa­ny tend to know pret­ty well where some in­no­va­tion would be use­ful; adding prod­uct val­ue to give some price lever­age; re­vamp­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions to tie up less cap­i­tal; it de­pends on the company’s pain point. And that kind of work­s, but on­ly for the lit­tle in­no­va­tion­s. Maybe the best-known ex­am­ple is Kaizen, as ap­plied in the Toy­ota Pro­duc­tion Sys­tem; which ex­plic­it­ly ac­knowl­edges that it’s chas­ing smal­l, in­cre­men­tal, steps for­ward. But for­tunes are made, and in­dus­try ti­tans are built, where man­age­ment isn’t re­al­ly look­ing, al­most al­ways. The big pieces of in­no­va­tion come out of garages and low-rent of­fices in lousy lo­ca­tion­s, and they’re pro­duced by small groups with­out much man­age­ment back­ing. It can be done at big com­pa­nies (the busi­ness per­son­al com­put­er at IBM, Ja­va at Sun) but then it’s al­ways in an off-the-mainstream skunkwork­s. Nobody—I re­peat, nobody—is smart enough to pre­dict where the next big strate­gic in­no­va­tion is go­ing to come from. So if you “narrow your in­no­va­tion focus”, you’re al­most guar­an­teed to miss it. The best ap­proach, I think, is a com­bi­na­tion of con­scious fo­cused in­cre­men­tal innovation—kaizen—combined with a struc­ture that’s loose enough that when some­one wants to hide in a cor­ner and try some­thing crazy, you don’t get in the way too much.
 
BTL · I al­ways have a big in­put queue of things I’d like to write about, but nev­er enough writ­ing time to drain it. So I try to spend that time on things where I’m in new ter­ri­to­ry or mak­ing an orig­i­nal point, rather than point­ing to some­thing out there, how­ev­er ex­cel­len­t; be­cause any­thing that’s wor­thy of link­age will have picked up some, even if it’s not from me. In re­cent month­s, I’ve no­ticed that an un­rea­son­able num­ber of things I’d like to have linked to have been from the BTL blog over at ZDNet; Far­ber and Ber­lind do a re­mark­able job of dig­ging out in­dus­try trends and events, and then adding val­ue by say­ing smart things about them. And this mat­ter­s; for a cou­ple of years there I thought the com­put­er trade press might self-destruct com­plete­ly. To be sure, it’s a pa­thet­ic shad­ow of its for­mer self, but I sure hope the re­main­ing few points of light are self-sustaining; be­cause our busi­ness needs its pro­fes­sion­al sto­ry­teller­s. Along with BTL, I re­ly most heav­i­ly on Jon Udell and, these days, ars tech­ni­ca.
 
Innovation Happens Elsewhere · Tan­tek Çelik writes, on the sub­ject of work by Scott Rey­nen: “Companies take note - on the in­ter­net, there will al­ways be smarter, more clever peo­ple build­ing on each other's work than your se­cret in­ter­nal com­mit­tees, your ar­chi­tec­ture coun­cil­s, your in­ter­nal dis­cus­sion fo­rums — no mat­ter how many su­per­ge­nius­es you think you may have hired away and locked up with gold­en shack­les in your lab­s. Either play open or ex­pect your pro­pri­etary for­mats and pro­to­cols to be ob­so­lete be­fore they've even seen the light of day.” [Up­date: It’s been point­ed out to me that some might not rec­og­nize the ti­tle, which was orig­i­nal­ly ut­tered by Bill Joy and is al­so the ti­tle of a book by Gold­man and Gabriel.]
 
Set My Data Free · This ti­tle is stolen from a won­der­ful piece by Jon Udell, to which I can on­ly say “amen”. And shake my head in awe, I mean PDF2XLS, that’s deeply sick.
 
ETech — Good Pitches · This is just a pot­pour­ri of pitch­es, specif­i­cal­ly the ones that were good and mem­o­rable. In­cludes rare com­pli­men­ta­ry re­marks about Mi­crosoft tech­nol­o­gy ...
 
ETech — San Diego Trolley · It’s a nice enough town, but it’s out of the way and, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, not that easy to get around in. The ho­tel was sold out when I tried to get in a cou­ple weeks ago (but some last-minute ar­rivals got in fine, hrumph). Any­how, I end­ed up at a Dou­ble­tree at a place called “Hazard Center” which is bit of a ways out, but when I was driv­ing the rental in I no­ticed some­thing that looked like a train sta­tion across the street. Sure enough, the San Diego Trol­ley will take you from there to the con­ven­tion ho­tel in about 20 min­utes for $1.50, which beats strug­gling through the traf­fic in the car and pay­ing at least ten times that for park­ing. Oddly, the peo­ple on the train were few in num­ber, and they all seemed well-dressed, well-fed, and well-rested; a typical-California eth­nic mashup, and most were read­ing book­s. This isn’t like pub­lic trans­port in oth­er places. On the oth­er hand, when you want to go home af­ter ten at night, the trains run less of­ten, and many of the peo­ple are nei­ther well-dressed, well-fed, nor well-rested (y­ou can tell be­cause they’re asleep­). But the trains aren’t crowd­ed then ei­ther. All in al­l, it seems to be a fine sys­tem.
 
ETech — On Attention · The con­fer­ence blurb said “It’s time to build The At­ten­tion Econ­o­my”. What’s that, I won­der? The shindig was cer­tain­ly equipped with lots of peo­ple hold­ing forth on the sub­jec­t, so this was my chance to find out. I took to ac­cost­ing to­tal strangers in the hall­ways say­ing “What do you think about this whole ‘Attention’ thing?” ...
 
ETech 2006 — Generalities · I’ve been here at ETech since sup­per­time Mon­day, and I thought I’d just let my re­port grow as I went along, which is dum­b, be­cause it flies in the face of the medi­um, and the piece grew tumer­ous­ly to a re­al­ly un­rea­son­able size. So I’ll break it up in­to a bunch of fo­cused frag­ments. This one is on the con­fer­ence it­self, and whether you’d want to come to it ...
 
The Analysts and the Elephant · In re­cent weeks there’s been a lot of talk about the role of an­a­lyst firm­s. Let’s be hon­est; the way the busi­ness work­s, pret­ty much no­body likes these or­ga­ni­za­tion­s, but many (in­clud­ing me) think they’re nec­es­sary, and since Gart­ner is clos­ing in on a bil­lion dol­lars a year of rev­enue, they’re ob­vi­ous­ly sell­ing some­thing that peo­ple will buy. Here­with a sur­vey of the dis­cus­sion, some per­son­al anec­dotes about the re­la­tion­ships be­tween ven­dors and an­a­lyst­s, and some thoughts on the fu­ture ...
 
6,000,000,000 Cycles/Second · Holy cow, IBM says they can run the Pow­er6 at 6GHz. Hey, I still think lower-clock-rate/more-cores is the way to go, maybe be­cause I’m pri­mar­i­ly a Web Guy; for ex­am­ple, see Paul Mur­phy on SPECWe­b2005. But stil­l, you got­ta be im­pressed, that’s one $@*&!# hot chip. I’m think­ing of OS X run­ning on one of the­se... Oop­s, too late.
 
On Intel · I was read­ing the big Busi­ness Week sto­ry on In­tel, and it quot­ed CEO Paul Otellini: “He lays par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on mar­ket­ing ex­per­tise be­cause he thinks the on­ly way In­tel can suc­ceed in new mar­kets is by com­mu­ni­cat­ing more clear­ly what the tech­nol­o­gy can do for cus­tomer­s. ‘To sell tech­nol­o­gy now, you have to do it in a way where it’s much more simple,’ says Otellini. ‘You can’t talk about the bits and the bytes.’” This seems deeply wrong to me on a whole bunch of lev­el­s. Peo­ple al­ready know what com­put­ers and game con­soles and tele­phones and all the oth­er things with CPUs in them can do for them, and if they don’t, it’s not Intel’s job to ex­plain, that be­longs to the peo­ple who build the box­es that the con­sumers slap down their plas­tic for. Once the buy­ers un­der­stand, they care most­ly about price, ex­cept for bleeding-edge gamers and oth­er CPU hogs, who per­force do care about bits and bytes. Intel’s re­al cus­tomers are Ap­ple and In­tel and Dell and HP and IBM, and I guar­an­tee those guys care about bits and bytes (and wattage), and even more about dol­lars per unit. So it looks to me like Intel’s charg­ing off in the wrong di­rec­tion with Vi­iv and Core and so on. Hav­ing said that, I sus­pect the In­tel en­gi­neer­ing tribe is ma­ni­a­cal­ly fo­cused on catch­ing and beat­ing AMD, and I wouldn’t want to bet against them in the long ter­m; so they’ll prob­a­bly do OK.
 
My Cut-and-Paste Tech Year · This meme’s been slosh­ing around since ear­ly De­cem­ber, which seems too ear­ly to me. Here­with my year in 12 cut-and-paste sen­tences, all about tech­nol­o­gy. (For the rest of life, see here.)
Jan­uary: What am I do­ing cat­e­gories for? What is any­body do­ing cat­e­gories for? What is ev­ery­body do­ing cat­e­gories for? Fe­bru­ary: Chat and wikis are not ex­act­ly what the collaborative-future vi­sion­ar­ies of past years had in mind. But they seem to hit an awfully-big 80/20 point. March: Ja­va is bor­ing. April: This dis­cus­sion is too im­por­tant to be left to the bat­shit li­cense loonies. May: Whether or not you re­al­ly think Har­mo­ny is worth do­ing, you have to like peo­ple who are hurl­ing them­selves at big tough prob­lem­s, and not in the in­ter­ests of get­ting rich. June: It’s a lot cheap­er and more tractable (and power-efficient) to dou­ble the num­ber of threads than to dou­ble the clock rate. Ju­ly: The kinds of peo­ple who want to put stupid, ir­rel­e­van­t, badly-written junk in the Wikipedia in my ex­pe­ri­ence are eas­i­ly dis­cour­aged. Au­gust: All the soft­ware fash­ion slaves will tell you: down on the plan­ta­tion, Massa’s new mis­sus is a far-Eastern belle named Ruby. Septem­ber: Those who know what curl is are prob­a­bly snick­er­ing now. Oc­to­ber: “We’re doin’ our best, Cap’n... Aaaaaaaaagh!Novem­ber: 8. There is no Step 8. That’s all there is to it. De­cem­ber: Soft­ware of the fu­ture will be Open Source, will have a so­phis­ti­cat­ed and smart us­er in­ter­face, will take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for mak­ing sure it’s up to date, and will meet es­sen­tial hu­man need­s.

 
Greg on Gordon · Go check out Greg Papadopoulos’ lat­est, Don’t Be­come Moore Con­fused, who cov­ers the same Moore’s-law-is-over-no-it-sn’t ter­ri­to­ry that’s been get­ting a lot of heat, but does so in lots more de­tail with ac­tu­al re­al num­ber­s; then branch­es off in­to pre­dic­tions for what this mean­s. It’ll help you to know that the plu­ral of “die” is “dice”. Oh, and of course Greg skips over the soft­ware an­gle, but maybe that’s been cov­ered enough.
 
Cars and Office Suites · Sam His­er wrote up some of the punchi­er bits from last week’s Berk­man Cen­ter ODF meet­ing, and they brought the car anal­o­gy back to mind; it had on­ly come to me on the spot there in the room. The prob­lem is that there hasn’t been a sig­nif­i­cant­ly use­ful new fea­ture in any of­fice suite that I’ve bought in the last decade. I just sat here and stared blankly, and hon­est­ly can’t think of a word-processor or spread­sheet fea­ture I use to­day that wasn’t there in 1995. So, is of­fice soft­ware es­sen­tial­ly, com­plete, done; is the era of in­no­va­tion over? I don’t think so; con­sid­er an­oth­er tech­nol­o­gy that’s over 100 years old: the au­to­mo­bile. In that same decade, we’ve bought three; the up­grade cy­cles for cars and of­fice soft­ware are about the same. Each of those cars had clev­er, use­ful, new gad­gets and fea­tures that I would nev­er have been smart enough to think of. Imag­ine that: A com­pass in the rear-view mir­ror! A vol­ume con­trol on the steer­ing wheel! A lit­tle slide-out doohick­ey for your cell­phone! A sixth gear! A spe­cial defrost-the-windshield-and-mirrors con­trol! What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween cars and of­fice soft­ware? Wel­l, ev­ery time I go shop­ping for a car I look at a bunch of dif­fer­ent ven­dors who are try­ing re­al­ly hard to get ahead of each oth­er and earn my busi­ness. And since ev­ery­thing about a car (and the roads they drive on) is standards-based, there’s ab­so­lute­ly no penal­ty what­so­ev­er for switch­ing ven­dors.
 
What People Want to Learn · I men­tioned that while I was in Tokyo I had a talk with Pi­na Hi­ra­no of In­fo­te­ri­a, and that he’d shown me a re­mark­able “skill map” graph. Here it is in English; scroll down to see his Fig. 2. I haven’t quite worked out what it mean­s, but it bears think­ing about.
 
Hey, Big Blue! · Let’s close out Fri­day in a mood of in­dus­try bon­homie, by say­ing nice things about an es­teemed com­peti­tor, IBM. First of al­l, their Jim Stallings made some eminently-sensible re­marks on the prob­lems with soft­ware patents. Se­cond­ly, Sam Ru­by not on­ly point­ed out this, he of­fered a re­al­ly in­sight­ful re­sponse to the chal­lenge. I’m go­ing to print this out and stick it up on my wal­l: “Operational def­i­ni­tion of sim­plic­i­ty: Zero Training”
 
47 Ways To Say “Broken” ·  Ballsed up. Ban­jaxed. Blown up. Bol­lixed. Borked. Bricked. Broked. Bug­gered (up). Bunged. Bust­ed. Bus­ti­cat­ed. Casters-up mod­e. Clapped out. Crapped out. Cocked up. DOA. Done in. Down. Frapped out. Fried. Fucked (up). Fubar. Garfed. Gone pear-shaped. Goobered. Gronked. Horked. Hosed. Ka­put. Knack­ered. NFG. Off the rail­s. On the blink. On the fritz. Pooched. Roached. Screwed. Shagged. Shot. Sna­fu. Stuffed. Tits up. Toast. U/S. Wedged. Wonky. Zorched. Note once again the vi­tal­i­ty of English, with con­tri­bu­tions from en­gi­neer­ing and mil­i­tary jar­gon in­ter­breed­ing or­gan­i­cal­ly, and in one case cheer­ful bor­row­ing from our Ger­man cousin­s. I’d pre­fer not to dwell on the log­i­cal in­fer­ence that en­gi­neers re­gard any sys­tem that’s ac­tu­al­ly work­ing as a tem­po­rary anoma­ly. [Up­date: This was pub­lished in Au­gust 2004, but just now I ran across a dusty, ne­glect­ed email fold­er la­beled “words for broken” with late sug­ges­tion­s. This frag­ment is now closed, fur­ther sug­ges­tions will be rude­ly ig­nored.] ...
 
Groupware · This is pro­voked by a typ­i­cal­ly fun­ny, nasty, and ex­cel­lent piece by JWZ about why Every­thing You Know About Group­ware Is Wrong. Sun is a highly-distributed com­pa­ny and thus you’d think we need all sorts of highly-advanced col­lab­o­ra­tion tool­s. Here­with the in­side sto­ry ...
 
Bye, NCD · Via the Reg, I see NCD is go­ing away. Kind of sad; I feel I have a per­son­al re­la­tion­ship with the com­pa­ny. I saw their first prod­uct at a 1989 Usenix and liked it enough to buy it and post­ed a re­view which gen­er­at­ed storms of email and Usenet traf­fic and many thank-yous from NCD and, I im­mod­est­ly think, sig­nif­i­cant­ly helped get them launched. Ob­vi­ous­ly, our Sun Ray is a di­rect de­scen­dant of the orig­i­nal NCD idea, and the peo­ple here who use ’em gen­er­al­ly love ’em. I think it’s the nifty Ja­va Card trick that makes them fly; go any­where, plug in the card, and there’s your desk­top. The no­tion, in an en­ter­prise of any size, that you should have in­de­pen­dent­ly man­aged stan­dalone com­put­er­s, one per per­son, is ob­vi­ous­ly nut­s. There are some job func­tions and per­son­al­i­ty types that call for a re­al com­put­er of one’s own, but to the ex­tent we can avoid that, busi­ness is go­ing to run smoother.
 
It’s Just Messages · I’m be­gin­ning to won­der if ev­ery­thing is turn­ing in­to a stream of mes­sages ...
 
The Colorado Software Summit · This is a thirteen-year-old con­fer­ence. At one point it was OS/2-centric and there are still a lot of IBM peo­ple here, but Ja­va is the re­al cen­ter of grav­i­ty. Here­with some notes and pic­tures ...
 
Foo Camp 2004 · Ma­jor thanks to Tim O’Reilly, Sara Winge, and the rest of the O’Reillians for do­ing this an­oth­er year. They’re do­ing the com­mu­ni­ty and the world a ma­jor fa­vor and if they weren’t so smart I’d wor­ry there won’t be enough com­ing back from the com­mu­ni­ty to make it worth their while. Last year’s notes here, here, and es­pe­cial­ly here ap­ply, but one or two more things are worth say­ing ...
 
Now Is The Time · This week my kid’s go­ing off to school for the first time and while it’s been a long time since I last went off to school, there’s some­thing that lingers about the end of sum­mer, start of fal­l, back to school sea­son, a feel­ing that it’s time to buck­le down and be a lit­tle less laid back and get some se­ri­ous work done. For­tu­nate­ly, right now is a won­der­ful time to be at work in our pro­fes­sion, and I just can’t wait for the pace to pick up again ...
 
Sellsing Out · This Oc­to­ber I’ll be at­tend­ing and speak­ing at a con­fer­ence that ev­ery­one calls “The Sells Thing” be­cause it’s run by Chris Sells. Hm­m, on the web page the big let­ters at the top say Ap­plied XML Devel­op­ers Con­fer­ence 5 but in the brows­er ti­tle bar it says Web Ser­vices DevCon; I’m fine with “Sells Thing.” The rea­son I ac­cept­ed Chris’ in­vi­ta­tion is that this con­fer­ence has his­tor­i­cal­ly been re­gard­ed as Mi­crosoft ter­ri­to­ry and is pop­u­lat­ed by a whole uni­verse of peo­ple who do markup-related stuff for a liv­ing that I know noth­ing about, so giv­ing a speech is just the ex­cuse, I’m re­al­ly go­ing there as a tourist. I’m sup­posed to talk about the usu­al blogging&syndication stuff, but I sus­pect they’ll be OK if I wan­der afield in­to some general-purpose XML rant­ing.
 
The Back Door · There are on­ly two ways in­to the tech­nol­o­gy mar­ket, the front door and the back door. Some ex­am­ples that came in through the front door: ERP, main­frames, and Lo­tus Notes. Back-door ar­rival­s: per­son­al com­put­er­s, Unix, and Dy­nam­ic Lan­guages (Per­l, Python, and so on). You can build a busi­ness both ways. And, now that I’ve been here at Sun for al­most six month­s, I won­der: Which door should we be knock­ing on? ...
 
Wild & Crazy CPU Ideas · Wel­l, no­body could call this any­thing but far-fetched, but it makes for good late-Friday re­lief: Paul Mur­phy thinks Ap­ple should switch over to SPARC pro­ces­sors. Hey, I’m down with that, think of the em­ploy­ee dis­counts.
 
The Glass is Half Empty · I was bitch­ing about bad tech­nol­o­gy to a se­nior per­son with­out a soap­box for this kind of thing, who wrote back: “That's how I feel about my life in gen­er­al. I get in a car to go to work. Dum­b, and filthy. I use hor­ri­ble cel­lu­lar tech­nolo­gies that drop 5 times on my way to work. I use air­planes that are 30 year old tech­nol­o­gy to fly, for God's sake, to do a keynote where most peo­ple can't see me, and to do 10 cus­tomer meet­ings I'd rather do with a very high qual­i­ty video con­fer­ence. And then I use a lap­top whose UI hasn't ad­vanced in, oh, 14 years.” I’m a bit more cheery than my cor­re­spon­dent about us­er in­ter­faces, but is that an ex­cel­lent wake-up call or what?
 
Supernova Notes · I’m spend­ing the day at the Su­per­no­va 2004 con­fer­ence; the main rea­son be­ing a ple­nary pan­el on syn­di­ca­tion with Dave Sifry, Kevin Mark­s, and Scott Rosen­berg. Some notes on the con­fer­ence, and on con­fer­ences ...
 
Staying On Topic · A de­cep­tive­ly sim­ple lit­tle one-pager by Ge­off Arnold; if you’re not spend­ing part of your time think­ing in the way that Ge­off sug­gest­s, you’re prob­a­bly part of the prob­lem, not part of the so­lu­tion.
 
Happy · Th­ese are good times. Ten weeks of not work­ing (three weeks in Oz) was great, ramp­ing in­to a new-job hon­ey­moon is great, plus, hap­pi­est of al­l, I’ve got a Big Idea and with luck, I’m go­ing to get the cy­cles to build it out. For those of us with en­gi­neer­ing bones, af­flict­ed by in­som­nia and the cre­ative itch, few things feel as good as the ear­ly days of a Big Idea, as the im­pli­ca­tions and ex­pla­na­tions fall in­to place. Of course, peo­ple like me shouldn’t be al­lowed to drive cars at this phase, and spous­es suf­fer un­rea­son­ably as our lis­ten­ing abil­i­ty be­comes in­ter­mit­ten­t. And of course we all know that as the Big Idea even­tu­al­ly morphs in­to ac­tu­al icky bug­gy code run­ning on ac­tu­al icky real-world in­fras­truc­ture, we’re in for a lot of pain; and not all my Big Ideas have been good ones. Stil­l, it’s some­thing to live by: What might be, but is not.
 
Whose Medium? · Re­cent­ly Jon Udell ran some video clips from Blog­gerCon in which three dif­fer­ent peo­ple, among them Amy Wohl, com­plained pow­er­ful­ly that on­line pub­lish­ing is too hard, and that worst of al­l, it re­quires pro­gram­ming, which or­di­nary peo­ple can’t be ex­pect­ed to do. Since then, Dy­lan Evans ar­gued more or less the op­po­site po­si­tion in The Guardian: that be­ing un­afraid of code is in­creas­ing­ly go­ing to be es­sen­tial to any­one who wants to be con­sid­ered part of the in­tel­li­gentsi­a. So who’s right? ...
 
Foo Camp Notes · Ran­dom notes from the Friends of O’Reilly cam­p ...
 
Standards and Applications · There was this glow­ing sto­ry in In­foworld this morn­ing about Bill Gates mak­ing nice with some IBM lu­mi­nary to talk up the glo­ri­ous fu­ture of Web Ser­vices; the lead para closed with a re­sound­ing phrase about “Key Web ser­vices stan­dards and the re­sult­ing applications.” I was go­ing to write a cyn­i­cal note here about the yawn­ing gulf be­tween stan­dards (par­tic­u­lar­ly in Web ser­vices) and ap­pli­ca­tion­s, then I got busy and lost that brows­er win­dow. But, a bit of luck, and the mag­ic of news­feed tech­nol­o­gy, al­low me to bring you the low-down, check it out ...
 
Microsoft Claims... · I quote di­rect­ly from a CNN ar­ti­cle: “Microsoft con­tends that set­ting stan­dards could sti­fle innovation”. They're talk­ing about product-liability stan­dards in this piece, and in gen­er­al I am not a mem­ber of the church of anti-Microsoft (re­al­i­ty is just more nu­anced than that), but if the po­si­tion is as stat­ed, it is shal­low, stupid, and un­truth­ful. Enough said.
 
Responsive Software Development · This is a won­der­ful time. Sa­fari and NetNewsWire, two pieces of soft­ware that I use all the time, are un­der ac­tive de­vel­op­men­t. Hy­att is blog­ging his Sa­fari progress in re­al time while Brent up­dates NNW progress reg­u­lar­ly. Hy­att re­sponds to track­backs and Brent re­sponds to email­s. If you live in the world of Mi­crosoft (or ac­tu­al­ly of pret­ty well any main­stream soft­ware de­vel­op­men­t, let's not beat up on Red­mond how­ev­er pop­u­lar that may be), this doesn't hap­pen, won't hap­pen, can't hap­pen ...
 
Half a Billion Bibles · I spent the day in meet­ings with a mak­er of stor­age tech­nol­o­gy; it seems quite pos­si­ble that Visu­al Net will find a handy ap­pli­ca­tion with these folk­s. My mind is just now un­bog­gling, be­cause these guys deal with disk sub­sys­tems mea­sured in tens of ter­abytes. One cus­tomer, they said, is man­ag­ing three petabytes up and down the East Coast. At this point in the meet­ing, I got re­al qui­et for a while while a ham­ster in the back of my head got stuck on the tread­mill of all those ze­roes. Um er 3,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. We se­ri­ous­ly need some per­spec­tive ...
 
The 3D Web? · I am spend­ing the day at an all-day meet­ing in snowy Cal­gar­y, Al­ber­ta (-19° C. and windy). At the meet­ings are rep­re­sen­ta­tives from four big Cana­di­an uni­ver­si­ties (Si­mon Fras­er, the Univer­si­ty of Al­ber­ta, the Univer­si­ty of Cal­gary, and the Univer­si­ty of Toron­to). The sub­ject is "The 3D Web", a prospec­tive re­search grant of some­thing over a mil­lion Cana­di­an dol­lars from Cana­di­an Her­itage. Years af­ter the brief arc and sog­gy thud of Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty in gen­er­al and VRML in par­tic­u­lar, the Web is still a pret­ty flat place. What do we need to do to add a di­men­sion? ...
 
Word Hell · To­day I'm in Word Hel­l; I have to write a two-thousand-word piece for a trade mag­a­zine about Busi­ness In­tel­li­gence, and I have to throw an ed­it on a big White Paper that a re­al bright sales­per­son here wrote. Which mean­s, in ef­fec­t, that I'm spend­ing the day locked in the em­brace of Mi­crosoft Word. Hell Day not be­cause it's Word, but be­cause it's mar­ket­ing ver­biage, pret­ty well all day. Word, in fac­t, is ac­tu­al­ly right up there with Emacs as a tool for heads-down grind-out-the-paragraphs in­dus­tri­al au­thor­ing ...
 
The Great Reconfiguration · This tech­nol­o­gy stuff is more work than it ought to be. Over the past week­end, we tossed out an ob­so­lete com­put­er and re­con­fig­ured ev­ery­thing, and ev­ery­thing works a lit­tle bet­ter now, but it cost us, all told two full days' work, and the ap­pli­ca­tion of a lot of ex­per­tise ...
 
Asynchronous Threaded Execution · This park­ing me­ter ex­hibits some pret­ty fan­cy soft­ware tech­nol­o­gy, but with per­haps un­in­tend­ed con­se­quences in the us­er in­ter­face de­part­men­t ...
 
Writing and Programming · on­go­ing is a project si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly in writ­ing and pro­gram­ming; I write the en­tries and in par­al­lel fid­dle with the soft­ware that pub­lish­es it. This is a pret­ty in­volv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and there aren't that many of us in the world who get to en­joy it ...
 
Electrocardiogram Phonewhistling · The doc­tor came by my place to give me a phys­i­cal in sup­port of an in­sur­ance pol­i­cy my com­pa­ny is tak­ing out on me (I'm now prob­a­bly worth more to them dead­) ...
 
Where Next for RSS? · Peo­ple who hang around with blog­gers all know what RSS is (if you don't, I'll in­tro­duce it.) RSS is head­ed for some in­ter­est­ing times as re­gards client soft­ware, traf­fic man­age­men­t, and busi­ness mod­el, and it would be rea­son­able to ex­pect some break­age along the way ...
 
RSS to NetNewsWire to World Press Review · This is a tech­nol­o­gy suc­cess sto­ry. Due to my sta­tus as an XML maven, I got sucked in­to a long-running de­bate over an XML news syn­di­ca­tion for­mat called RSS (I could pro­vide a link, but you'd do bet­ter typ­ing "RSS" in­to a search en­gine). The sub­ject was how to use names­paces, but the re­sult was that I got in­ter­est­ed enough to go look­ing for an "RSS Ag­gre­ga­tor Program" for my own use ...
 
Good Technology · I've been earn­ing my liv­ing do­ing tech­nol­o­gy since 1981. By and large it's been a good time. Like ev­ery­body else in the wealth­i­er parts of the world, I'm al­so a heavy every-day us­er of tech­nol­o­gy, and I like us­ing it as much as I do cre­at­ing it ...
 
VMS NewsGroup · (O­rig­i­nal­ly post­ed in Usenet's net.­gen­er­al. This is here on­ly be­cause it ap­pears to rep­re­sent my first set of elec­tron­ic tracks on the net­work land­scape.) ...
 
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