Friday, March 16, 2007
Moving along
Part of why updates have been so infrequent on this site is that I've been busy working on a new blog.

You can find that here:

I intend this to be my new primary blog, so please update your bookmarks and feed readers.
Friday, March 09, 2007
@ SxSW
I'm at South by Southwest Interactive for the next few days, hoping to glean some insights on the Internets.

If, for some reason, you'd like to get in touch with me here, use that e-mail address over on the left.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Not much
All sorts of random, yet marginally interesting things to tell you.

Let's suffice with this:

Over the last week, I've fallen in love with Python again.

Anyway, big changes for the site in the pipeline.


ideas + motivation + time = results

Guess which one is missing (hint: it starts with a 't').
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Cheap as free
From Engadget:
How to nab free T-Mobile WiFi lovin' without running Vista

If you're like me, you've been yawning your way through the release of Windows Vista.

But if there's anything that Microsoft knows, it's marketing. In school, when they would be courting us soon-to-graduate engineers at the job fair, Microsoft had the cool toys. I'd walk over there, talk friendly for a while, and leave with a spider ball. (This is also the method we used to get Halliburton gear. It was so hard to keep a straight face).

This time around, Microsoft and T-Mobile are getting together (perhaps taking advantage of synergies?) and offering this deal:

Get Windows Vista and receive complimentary T-Mobile HotSpot service until April 30, 2007

Actually, probably not that bad of a deal.

But how do you figure they authenticate you as a Vista user? Do they give you a special password? Do they run some sort of ActiveX control?

Nope. They check your user agent string. For the non-technical, the user agent string is the little bit of text your browser sends to the webserver to identify what kind of browser it is.

But in many browsers, you can set your user agent string to be whatever you'd like. So if you'd like free wireless at Starbucks for the next three months, just change your user agent (keep a copy so you can switch back too... some sites will send you an actual IE-specific page. I had Gmail problems).

Steps for Firefox:
  1. In the location bar, type about:config
  2. Add an entry under general.useragent.override with string value Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0).
  3. Enjoy free wireless at "thousands of locations nationwide in places you already go like Starbucks coffeehouses, Borders Books & Music stores, FedEx Kinko's Office and Print Centers, select Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, airports, and the airline clubs of American®, Delta, United®, and US Airways®."
Have fun.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Don't wear a Cubs hat
January 21, 2007

San Francisco, California
High temperature: 62

Madison, Wisconsin
High temperature: 26

San Francisco had gone through a few cold snaps for the last few months, but this last weekend was gorgeous. The SO and I replaced our old weekend morning routine (huddling for warmth with the space header cranked up) for a new one (urban exploration). Walking back from brunch Saturday morning, I pointed to the top of the rocks on top of Corona Heights and said we should climb it someday. The SO suggested doing it right then.

So up we climbed. At the top is the Randall Museum, a children's museum we never even knew existed. We climbed to the top of the hill, to the top of the nearby Buena Vista Park, and then down to the Haight (I'd never actually been inside Amoeba Music. I kind of had to -- I had noticed a Amoeba Music postcard on the wall when we ate breakfast at Cleveland's in Madison).

On Sunday, we took BART to the Embarcadero and hiked up to visit Coit Tower on top of Telegraph Hill (see entry for Coit Tower, O'Reilly invites Al Qaeda to bomb).

I took a few pictures. The view was nice.

We walked back towards BART through North Beach and Chinatown, two neighborhoods we get to infrequently. On my way out the door that morning, I had hastily grabbed a hat. It was a Cubs hat I had sitting around. I should have thought ahead, as I was stopped and asked about Chicago four or five times. I had to explain to people that despite my camera, a fleece jacket, and a Cubs hat, I was not a Midwestern tourist.

Anyway, I've developed a growing interest in walking in San Francisco, and potentially photography.
Monday, January 15, 2007
iRant about the iPhone and the "Apple Shackle"
Doctor Awesome: your source for up-to-the-minute commentary on last week's news.

First of all, today is a made-up-term day. Made-up terms are indicated by MUT (you know, for made-up term).

Today's topic: iPhone.
First reading: Want an iPhone? Beware the iHandcuffs, New York Times

Okay, he kind of gets it.

Look, OSX is cool, in terms of design, its UnixinessMUT, and relative openness.

And part of why Apple is able to maintain a really cool operating system as well as a nice suite of first-party software is because they control the hardware. Steve Jobs knows this, and he's known it for years. In the early eighties, Jobs and Jef Raskin fought against expandability in the original Macintosh. Why? Because, quoting Hertzfeld's story, "hardware expandability made it more difficult for third party software writers since they couldn't rely on the consistency of the underlying hardware."

The video game industry is a demonstrative example. While the personal computer was once a popular target for game development, PC gaming languished in this decade. Why? PCs' expandability meant that they're not bound to the generational console cycle — the latest and greatest graphically intensive games were found on PCs with the newest graphics cards. But expandability is also a downfall — there were uncountable hardware combinations and game releases were plagued with bugs on certain pieces of hardware. Teams were developing for a moving target (as well as hardware that didn't exist during development). Not only is this a pain for development, it's a pain for tech support once the game is out the door (think software patches — you would buy a game at the store, install it from CD, and have to download a patch from the web site before you can even play).

Developing for a console, on the other hand, is a clear, static target. Every box is identical. Even Microsoft, the company that attempted to promote the PC as a viable gaming platform with DirectX, eventually jumped into consoles with the Xbox line. If you launch a game for a system, you know that that game will always work for that system.

So this is why, during the keynote, Jobs' "iPhone runs OSX" line got me so excited: a stable, featureful, well-designed hardware target for software development. Look at the thing — it's begging for novel apps: games, VoIP, a document reader, a sketchpad, and other things that I'm sure would be invented by the thousands of creative developers that would play with this in their spare time.

But late in the keynote, the Cingular CEO Stan Sigman comes out on stage, a bumbling dolt reading with a drawl from the cue cards he pulls from his pocket.

Apple had to work with these guys. And that's the problem with the iPhone.

Note two things: we were demoed iPhone versions of some major Apple software products: an iPod app for iTunes, a photo gallery for iPhoto, and a calendar for iCal. What's missing?

iChat. Despite iPhone's massive wireless connectivity and description as a "revolutionary Internet device," you can't communicate with anyone using iChat or any other IM service. Why? Because then you wouldn't use the bundled SMS app, which, of course, requires you to use Cingular's SMS service.

But that would be easy enough to solve by writing an third-party app. And Apple knows that. And so does Cingular. And that's why they won't let you.

Slashdot: No Third-party Apps on iPhone Says Jobs

Opening the iPhone to development would be a threat to Cingular's cellular phone business. The iPhone has all of the hardware necessary to route calls through VoIP. With massive wireless Internet available — see Google's plan to offer 802.11 throughout San Francisco — a VoIP-enabled iPhone user would rarely have to even use a cell tower.

I quote Jobs: "Cingular doesn't want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up."

Bullshit. Cingular doesn't want to see third-party apps because their revenue is tied to their control of an expensive cell network. How do they make sure this doesn't happen? Force Apple to cripple the iPhone.

The iPod and iTunes had FairPlay DRM technologies so that the record companies would be willing to sign on with the iTunes store, even though the technology can be easily circumvented. Similarly, any wireless provider that would sign up with the iPhone would require Apple to take measures to protect its revenue stream.

And that's why the Apple ShackleMUT is imposed once again (side note: denizens of the blogosphere, please start using that term. I want to coin a net meme like my coworker's Google Bomb. The rest of you — you saw it here first).

Apple needs a partner to get this thing out, and, without any market share, is going to have to make concessions. But I hope that Jobs is stewing about all of this. I hope that Jobs is just making a temporary deal with the devil to gain a market foothold. I hope that Cingular's Glenn Lurie's recent statements (see story: Cingular: We Made Apple Bend) do a tremendous amount to sour the relationship, and Apple bails as soon as possible.

I mean, a geek has to dream.

Until then, you can call me on my barebones Nokia.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Your tax dollars at work
The SO and I were ambling the Castro yesterday. We stopped by the Eureka Valley Library.

I picked up Nick Hornby's Songbook. One of my work-related resolutions (I'm unsure to label it a New Year's or a fiscal year 2007 first quarter one) is to finally get my C++ to a respectable level (it is, at present, piss poor).

So I went to the card catalog terminal, looking for an good book on the topic. There was one. I clicked on it, looking for it's physical location (please, oh please be here). There wasn't one. It was one of those... e-books.

The UW had a subscription to Safari Books Online, which was nice. As long as you logged in with a campus IP, you had access to all of the Safari books.

But the San Francisco Public Library has a subscription. And you can access the books from your own computer, from home, by typing in your library card number.

Oh, San Francisco. Your government leaders might be squabbling and ineffective, your public schools sub par, and your public transportation sparse and unpunctual.

But kudos on free tech books for the citizenry. Seriously.

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