The recent announcement that Apple has revamped the iPod line and made the 10 gig model $300 means that I can spend $50 and get a sweet ass new iPod with the cool little controls, lighter weight, and smoother edges. I can hardly wait until Friday to go buy one (and get a free tshirt, hehehe).
In somewhat related news, Apple is "[attempting] to patent [an] iPod-like 'scroll-disk' mouse" for use on the desktop. TheRegister notes...
Another benefit the applications cites is that the user doesn't need to take his or her finger off the disk to continue scrolling - "ie. the disc can be rotated through 360 degrees of rotation without stopping" - unlike a scroll-wheel, which forces you to continually pull your finger off the wheel if you want to go beyond whatever arc of the wheel is exposed.This isn't really a big deal to me at all, based on the fact that computers are pretty smart and can be programmed to see how fast I am scrolling the scrollwheel and match that on screen. I don't see the benefit in racing thru a doc, but I do the benefit when slowly scrolling thru a doc, or attempting to finely control the movement thru a menu. The scrollwheel doesn't click into place, but allows for that analog style of input that makes modern video game controllers so awesome.
Consider the methods of use of this iPod like mouse wheel thing. Would you have to hold it in your hand, or can you cup it like a normal mouse. I tend to race back and forth between the mouse and keyboard a lot, and adding in an extra step of 'picking up' and 'putting down' would be pretty crappy HCI. The physical implementation is inherently different on a mouse than on an iPod and I'll be interested to see what they come up with. In the meantime, I'm buying myPod.
I'll be the judge.
April 29, 2003 9:53 AM
Declan McCullagh of C|net mentions the following about Lawrence Lessig...
Lessig made an unusual wager: If Congress enacts an antispam law that offers bounties for the reporting of spammers, and the law fails to "substantially reduce the level of spam," he will resign from his dream job at a top law school.Too bad congress has yet to do that, but we should note that the state of Virginia is signing into law today an anti-spam bill that AOL email to employees describes thusly...
Please join Jon Miller from 1:15 - 2:15 p.m., as AOL hosts this historic event, and hear remarks from Governor Warner, Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, Ted Leonsis, and others. Together, we will witness the signing of a new spam-fighting law for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and celebrate this significant step forward in the battle against spam on behalf of our members and the entire Internet community.To support this event, my group has supplied a feed showing how many spams AOL has killed since midnight eastern time (and it's up on a jumbotron). The number climbs upwards very quickly (via DHTML); on the order of thousands per second, and I've been watching the number for weeks now, and have noticed the peak number has been accelerating upwards from over one billion a day to over 1.5 billion a day. That half billion increase has happened over the past month (but the number does ebb and flow, so YMMV).
I watch this data every day, all day (to be sure the spams killed feed is still running for use in other places), so when I see the aforementioned Declan McCullagh say...
He [Lessig] has asked me to be the judge of whether such a law proves effective in reducing the deluge of unsolicited e-mail that's clogging our in-boxes, snarling mail servers and driving Internet service providers to distraction. I've accepted.I have to say that, I'll be the judge. Anyone else who wants to make up their own mind can go to AOL Keyword: Safety, or watch their own mail box, and make their own judgement.
The other folks I've met fall into two general groups, O'Reilly insiders who seem to be party geeks, and then everyone else. It kind of reminds me of college for some reason. It's no wonder that social software, or social computing is a big deal here this week. Oddly though, I have only seen one technology segment actually show social software in action, and that would be Flash based apps coming out of Macromedia, Laszlo Systems and GNE. The only compiled social app I've seen in use, or show a compelling use is Hydra.
Due to the high percentage of Macintoshes and OSX users, and the ubiquity of wireless around here, the Rendezvous technology has been showcased in practical ways. I've mentioned Hydra before, and I should also mention iChat. Sometimes when you take a look at the amount of people available thru iChat over the Rendezvous bridge, you will see 20 or so people, sometimes none. I've only seen one iChat chat take place since I arrived on Tuesday.
Today's sessions look to be pretty promising with more talks about social software and web services. After that, it's plane trains and automobiles for me.
ETCON session notes.
April 25, 2003 8:19 AM
I've mentioned several times that Hydra was being used during the conference sessions to take notes, and now you can find them here. There's lots of great stuff in there, and Trevor deserves a ton of credit for taking copious notes.
April 25, 2003 5:44 AM
The presentation from the BBC crew was pretty shocking because it shows me how much I am missing in my day to day work when it comes to real users and the emerging applications that (will) serve them (in one way or another).
What I really can't believe is that some people have enough time to actually do research, consider it, plan on working systems around that considered research and execute those plans in an open fashion to deal with inevitable change. Relative to the world I've been living in, it's revolutionary. Being on that end of the relative scale is sad and disappointing. Perhaps I am in the wrong career, or simply on the backside of the curve.
Essentially, their presentation was a powerpoint'd requirements and use cases document built in such a way as to be spoken to in a presentation. Besides the totally simple (but not simplistic) Google presentation, the BBC presentation is the best (visually) of the conference, and the most tangible.
Interestingly, when they mentioned part of their new product/app/social-software would include a Creative commons mechanism, there was applause, and it downed on me... the O'Reilly Emerging Tech conference, and more fundamentally, the O'Reilly social network is a libertarian movement that I haven't been exposed to in my normal life back on the East Coast. when I mentioned in a recent post that their are two groups at this conference, the 'party geeks' and 'everyone else,' I am part of the 'everyone else' group.
It wasn't until lunch today when I met 'the spring Guy' did I hear about Emergent Man (a party last night) which is a seedling idea and event related to Burning Man, but centered around this conference and those who aren't staying at the hotel and are sleeping in someone's back yard. Very California.
I always knew it, but it's more obvious to me now that I'm very east coast.
Confab to Hydra.
April 24, 2003 8:27 AM
It's not too surprising that Hydra has taken over as the groupware app for the conference. Confab takes so damn long to come up, if it does at all, and can be pretty flaky. Hydra has been more reliable and able to track the conversations in a context that is more centered on the presenter (instead of peanut gallery-like BS'ing). The draw back is that no one outside of the local loop can listen in on the conversation, but I imagine the notes will begin leaking out soon.
Shirky on social software.
April 24, 2003 4:12 AM
Clay Shirky's keynote covered the social software landscape by exploring the problem with groups, moderation, integrity and representation in software. One major theme is that the tech and social aspect cannot be uncoupled. One reason I'd suggest is that a reputation system is required for a successful group dynamic (so that trust and assumptions can be leveraged).
Social software is being used at the conference in the form of a Flash based app called confab and more virally thru the use of Hydra. The assumption that the members of the social interactions within the scope of attendance at the conference allows these apps to be used with a strong signal to noise ratio.
Some further reading:
Anyway, Alan Kay's presentation was a smalltalk application that was pretty visceral in terms of building things and getting them to interact. So far, this presentation got the most applause of any session I've attended. The take away is that the immediacy of editing and changing things affords the user more control. That's not a new lesson, but the app they were showing was a good example of an implementation that takes that concept to heart. It's all alpha ware though, and is way more "R" than "D".
Kevin Lynch from Macromedia is next, and is pushing the rich Internet Application (RIA) again, and this time demo'd "Central" which is a new Macromedia product due 'later this year' that will be sort of an application clearing house (and is based on Flash Player 6). You'll be able to develop your RIA and be able to distribute it thru Central and get paid. That's a good thing, and certainly should be a business model for other technologies.
Laszlo wants to help out with that problem, but of course they add in their own problem into the mix, licensing. As far as I can tell, Laszlo's business plan is to make Flash application building easier by letting you avoid the Flash dev environment and use Laszlo's. But of course they have a server you have to run in order to run the client side application. That server will of course cost you some money.
The good/bad news is: grassroots Flash application development and deployment is getting some attention, but they are mutually exclusive. The focus is 'applications' in either case though.
[Here's a list of blogs covering the conference]
Before the keynote.
April 23, 2003 11:22 AM
I took a little walking tour of Santa Clara yesterday after I had settled in to the hotel room. As near as I can tell, this entire area is one big ass tech park, and probably the nicest tech park I've ever seen. The tech parks in NoVa seem like they were built for the explicit purpose of tearing them down when the land becomes valuable enough to sell to a housing developer.
I walked by 3com, Abbot Labs, WebMD (which had only 8 cars in the entire parking lot, at 2pm on a Tuesday) and several other tech companies I recognized. The utter lack of foot traffic and quality of personal transportation (ie, BMW's everywhere) was kind of weird, but to be expected in a big ass tech park.
Meanwhile, I'm here in the main 'sit around and drink coffee and bath in 802.11b radiation' with about 100 other people. In some cases the folks sitting at tables of 10 are talking, at others is silence only broken by keyboard clacking. Time to go to the first keynote by Howard Rheingold.
Rich Internet Applications.
April 23, 2003 8:53 AM
The Macromedia session was pretty interesting for a few reasons. First, they took the term "Rich Internet Application" and hijacked its meaning to strictly mean a Flash based internet applications. Most of the folks in the session have likely worked on web applications they would consider to be rich internet applications, but contained no Flash code whatsoever. But that's not the point. They were showing off their technology and it was at least interesting.
The second interesting point I posed directly I to one of the Macromedia guys. Does deployment of these apps in production environments suffer from any single points of failure? The reason I care is that the environment I work in is based on production systems where stuff can't break. the architecture they described is essentially a three tiered web app with data modeling, business/application logic and presentation layers, all done with Macromedia products (Any DB you want to use, ColdfusionMX, Flash; respectively). The answer to my question... it's all load balanceable.
Now, back up to the presentation layer. The current web page interaction architecture is based on a request then a response. Compiled applications on your computer aren't and interact in real time. Macromedia, along with Laszlo Systems is working on a putch where these Flash based web applications will bring more usable, dynamic and immediate experiences to the folks who need/want to get something done on the web. It's a good vision, if building Flash wasn't such a hassle.
[Meeting note: I met Danny Goodman at this session. That was cool.]
Some of my Keynote "Take Aways"
April 23, 2003 2:35 AM
Here's a few thoughts from the opening keynote...
[I'm sitting on the floor plugged into a wall socket using the free Airport connectivity available in the lobby area. I'd sit on broken glass if I had to.]
On my way to Cali, more AOL shenanigans.
April 22, 2003 7:18 AM
While sitting in the airport, on my way to the O'Reilly conference, all paid for by my employer, I hear new news that the company has some more bad advert deals. When I say bad, I mean 'under investigation' and with their recent history, I'd guess that there is at least something to the allegations. It comes as no surprise that the WashingtonPost was the paper to break the story (and this time along with the New York Times).
If you add up all of the deals that have been admittedly fraudulent, and are currently under investigation you come to a big number...
Grand total: $800 million US dollars. That translates to over 100% of one year's "free cash flow" of the AOL unit (which is often quested in the $750 million range). In those terms, if everything the WashingtonPost says is true, then you can pretty much say that the advert market killed one entire year of AOL cash flow, and no revenue growth happened. This isn't going to help the stock price in spite of the strides the operations groups inside of AOL who have been working hard to saving real dollars (as far as I can tell, millions of them).
This is bad news to get when you are about to board a plane and spend a week in California on the company's dime at a technology conference. It's a good use of their money (imho) though and I was able to do it all pretty cheaply. I got the registration to the conference for free, and I'm flying jetBlue, and staying at the hotel for three nights instead of four and doing so at a discounted rate. I'll be taking the redeye back, and that means that leg of the trip is less than $100. Total cost for the week: less than a grand.
Making my life easier is the ticket-less systems that jetBlue is using. I hate checking my pocket ever 2 minutes to be sure I have my tix (which I have to do due to my somewhat flighty mind and short buffer that over runs easily).
On board the plane, everyone gets their own TV screen and complimentary headphones (which are the ones that squish your ears and cause headaches) but I brought my own Sennheisers with me this week. So, I got to listen in stereo to reports that AOL is selling off the Comedy Central channel to Viacom for $1.2 billion. CNBC has yet to mention the story I saw on CNN earlier in the airport about the potential funny money deals mentioned above.
It's also pretty disconcerting to be on a plane while suspicious powders are being found in Washington State and Florida. Since the incident in Florida is at an airport, that's kind of scary for my short week of two flights.
The incident in Washington seems to be another postal mail thing, and will likely be handled much more effectively than what happened in the District two years ago (two years already?). That same is probably true for the incident in Florida, but who knows, it may all be bullshit. I hate to fly though, and have chosen to take my anti-anxiety meds after having a little bit of a light headed spell. Good thing I got some orange juice at the Dulles airport Starbucks.
There are four monospace and sans faces (normal, oblique, bold, bold oblique) and two serif faces (normal and bold).It's a pretty good looking font that is well proportioned and is meant to replace Verdana, and I'd guess that it could if people were inclined to download it in droves. Which they won't, which means Verdana, Helvetica and Arial will be our sans-serif choice for years to come.
[ via the webdesign list ]
TiVo passes the usability test, with cost savings.
April 17, 2003 12:26 PM
I have had my TiVo in use for about a week now, and just last night I picked up the manual to figure out what features I might have been missing. I can happily report that I have missed only a few, and pretty much useless, features. The basics are all there when you get the thing working after a somewhat annoying registration process (the annoying part being the wallet opening).
In terms of interaction design, they pretty much have gotten it right, which really means something to me, because I know the TiVo folks have had some issues to work around. Most significantly, they have had to deal with Gemstar patents, and the desire to avoid them due to the cost of licensing.
The TiVo is already too expensive at $400 for the "80" hour model (which is actually 37 hours at an acceptable quality level due to the lossy mpeg compression). So, avoiding more cost due to Gemstar's patently evil business plan (which is to have patents, and then litigate value out of them) is a good thing. Sure, there's a $50 rebate, but I have to mail that in, and fill stuff out, and lowers the VALUE of the $50 and increases my annoyance at the TiVo product. It dirties the product, and TiVo should knock of this mail-in rebate bullshit.
This is ok though, but keeping the cost of the box down. This is one of those decisions that we usability dorks need to make from time to time...
Is this compromise on ultimate usability worth it in terms of cost saving?Those cost savings may be realized in MANY ways. You may be able to avoid a patent infringement, or avoid more work (which may be billable against your budgets), or reduce the amount of processing a system may need to do by making the user do a little more work. However, these desicisions are extremely difficulty to make as you get further away from obvious liscense costs to the more ambiguous realities of what your hardware can handle. So far, TiVo seems to be making the smart decisions.
I remember the feeling right before I lost consciousness and the absolutely horrible feeling of coming out of it. In both cases, I had no clue at all about where I was or what was going on or if I was awake or dreaming. The extreme confusion, dizziness and a weird mentholated feeling in my head were extremely disturbing. I though this would be an isolated incident due to being exposed to something I hadn't expected (and sort of made the squeamish part of me come out).
In a twist of somewhat comical reoccurrence, I almost went down again in a staff meeting yesterday. It's not actually funny, but it kind of is at the same time. Nothing disturbing was going on, but again, I was in a room full of people and felt the terror of my mind slipping away.
I know my Dad reads my blog from time to time, and may be learning about this for the first time right here. The whole situation is extremely embarrassing, and disturbing, and caused me to go see my doctor, who is sending me to another doctor (in a process that I would call 'an escalation' if this was a project at work).
It's been difficult to talk about, but writing has always been a cathartic process for me. I can't say if I will be doing much in the way of blogging in the coming weeks, but I will be trying to crank out the quality prose if time allows. The changes in my life are becoming increasingly significant.
Best Spam Ever.
April 11, 2003 3:12 AM
I got a spam today with this subject...
Satisfy your wom@n you pindickThe ridiculousness of this works on so many levels, just the same way most of the humor in The Simpsons does. And for that, it gets my Best Spam Ever award.
/Users/your_user_name/Library/Safari/Bookmarks.plist...but I'd like to have a mechanism in the broswer to export this to (X)HTML or RDF or even RSS.
Apple's PLIST format is XML, and parseable, and transformable. So ultimately, what I really want is for someone (even Apple) to write something that can transform my Safari bookmarks into the format Mac IE5 reads and into the format that Camino reads (and vide versa).
Some sort of cronable job would be optimal where all of my bookmarks would be sync'd between my browsers, which would require transformations from and to each format. This avoids exporting, and then importing, which is time consuming. I can't even imagine writing the diff code.
Not even the Camino authors have Safari bookmark imports working yet, so maybe I'm asking for a bit much...
Note that, although it initially shows you Internet Explorer's bookmarks, you can import bookmarks from OmniWeb, iCab, Mozilla, Netscape, and Camino itself. Safari bookmarks cannot yet be imported.One can wish, can't he?
I think it's interesting though that Autechre attempted to be listenable again. Their skill and musical talent has been hidden and (imho!) wasted on attempts to make noise into music. Their willingness to experiment and not kowtow to commercialism makes them worthy of repeated attempts to find enjoyment in this new batch of tunes, but I imagine I will quickly go back to Esem, BoC and Ochre for my melodic fix.
[ The Milk Factory has a more favorable review here. ]
I missed a few things.
April 7, 2003 9:42 AM
In the past several weeks I've worked on one high profile project (the orange thing in the top right at AOL keyword: Safety), broken bad news to my wife, watched too much war coverage, played two thirds of the way thru Zelda and purchased a TiVo. Because of that I've missed these important items...
OK, seriously, I'll be arriving on Tuesday, I won't be attending the tutorials that day, and plan on making my Cupertino pilgrimage. Starting Wednesday, I'll be attending sessions and will attempt to blog everything I can, and photograph all the nerds with my Nikon 4300. I'd like a chance to meet up with any other webloggers who may be at the conference (which will likely be most of the attendees, so this shouldn't be hard).
I'm going to try to do everything I can to get the most out of the conference.
5 series redesign.
April 3, 2003 9:21 AM
I'm placing this image of the new BMW 5 series design in the "When Bad Things happen to Good BMWs" category. The whole eagle-ish design of the car turns me right off, and reminds me of an american made car (and I regret to say that I think that american car designs are horrible right now). I bought a 3 series last November, and I love the car from exterior to interior, top to bottom, bumper to bumper. If all BMWs start to look like this 5 series (which is a derivative of the new 7 series) then I'm guessing my 3 will look old. Bleh.
[pic of bimmer is originally from bmwnation.com]
osOpinion declares Dvorak is an idiot.
April 3, 2003 3:58 AM
For nearly as long as I can remember, people have been predicting that Apple would switch to Intel processors. John Dvorak's prediction that Apple would switch within the next 12 to 18 months is unusual only in that he sees Apple going to Itanium rather than x86 chips.I've never read anything Dvorak has written (which admittedly is not much) that I thought was on the mark, well thought out, and not intended to incite me somehow. I swear he must only be digging for click-thrus, whereas the osOpinion people attempt to provide reasoned analytics in their articles.
But just like all the forecasters that came before him, Dvorak has it wrong. It would be a boldly stupid move for Apple to try to switch to Itanium, for a number of reasons.
In the osOpinion article, they make this extremely important remark...
Assuming that the Mac faithful are willing to undergo another migration -- and there are plenty of Mac fans who would probably stick with Apple through anything -- what about the third-party software vendors? Vendors are going to be less tolerant of yet another radical shift so soon after the switch to OS X.And you can point to Quark for a good example. Even now, years after I started using OSX, Quark has yet to release an OSX native XPress. Never mind the service companies who have investments in PowerPC based hardware. Getting them to migrate their software is a challenge, hardware migration is another one, and we don't need any more Mac challenges right now. The slow processor problem can be mitigated by IBM, but has to be done RIGHT NOW and CHEAPLY. An Itanium switch addresses neither of those needs.
But who cares about any of that when you can get involved with another Mac/PC holy war.
Oh shucks, no more feed for me.
April 3, 2003 2:49 AM
Today, I opened NetNewsWire for the first time in several days (due to the Spamomoter firedrill) and got this one-and-only news item from the slashdot feed...
Why Do I Not Get the Latest Stories in RSS?Isn't it a bit ironic and perhaps hypocritical for slashdot to put this in their feed. Sure, slashdot itself doesn't abuse other sites, but a mere link from that will cause something, that in slashdot's terms in quote above, constitutes abuse. They know that happens, and implies complicity (I know, I'm getting a little smarmy here).
Your RSS reader is abusing the Slashdot server. You are requesting pages more often than our terms of service allow. Please see the FAQ for more information, or email email@example.com.
Now, "my" RSS reader is abusing the server? No, it isn't, it's fetching a file once, and then I read thru it with my reader, and then move on to other things (ie, I quit the app and thus it doesn't fetch the feed anymore). That's not abuse, but who really cares? There are plenty of other sources of dorky info that aren't so redundantly published (ie, same article posted multiple times within days). Cya slashdot.
Radio coverage of blogging.
April 1, 2003 2:10 AM
NPR (thru affiliate WAMU) covered blogs, warblogging, and the democratization of journalism today on the Kojo Nnamdi show. It was a good segment and you can listen to it here.