Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Toys

Well Christmas (and more specifically, my wife) brought another wonderful toy for me this year. A new Canon Digital Rebel XT digital SLR camera. Suffice it to say that there will likely be more photo related info posted to the blog in the coming months. However I also got 8 rolls of 35mm film in my stocking from my mother in law so the film SLR (also a Canon naturally) will not be shelved for a while yet either!

Magnatune has it right...

Dave Winer writes that he likes everything about Magnatune in response to this Techcrunch article about their business model. Sure they might not have any big artists in their stable, but I'm not sure they will have to. I found out about Magnatune months ago and have browsed it several times mostly looking for soundtrack music for my home video projects. There are quite a few really good artists there and their whole licensing structure is modern. Check out the music of Rob Costlow or Heavy Mellow for an indication of how good music doesn't always have to be big name music.

They have non-commercial licenses that allow you to either download 128kbps mp3 files or email in for higher quality audio files for no charge. As long as you are not charging any money with your project they don't expect you to pay them fees for the music. They use the Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike Creative Commons license for this.

Incidentally, I picked up on Rob Costlow's music via P.W. Fenton's wonderful Digital Flotsam podcast (interestingly, P.W. is now working with Adam Curry at Podshow - likely a competitor to Magnatune in terms of new music artists). Recently PW switched to only playing podsafe music on his podcast. I'm not sure if this means only music from the Podsafe Music Network or 'podsafe' music in general.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Python Creator Guido van Rossum now working at Google

Well here I was thinking that the inventor of Python wouldn't necessarily need any extra income... of course was he really the inventor...maybe I should be checking the edit history of his wikipedia page.. ;)


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Humility - Look it up on Wikipedia!

This whole wikipedia self-auto-bio-egotistical editing thing is really getting annoying. People are editing their own bio pages (gasp!). People are blogging about how they would never edit their own bio pages (double-gasp!) My gawd, how the hell is 12yr old Johnny supposed to use Wikipedia to complete his science project on dinosaurs if it's so tainted by scandal??!! Improper credit given to the inventor of podcasting?...whats next...Einstein's entire contribution to science edited out of existence??

Get a grip! You're taking the piss out of something genuinely useful to the vast majority of people. I don't think you, you, or you realize that no one really cares if Wikipedia's creator edited his own bio or if Adam Curry edited his own bio page or if Dave Winer would never do such a thing. I think you're really missing the point of the whole thing: the open and free access to, and sharing of, knowledge. Whether or not Jimmy Wales created it all by himself or was too busy running a porn site I really don't care. The site is useful to me. Shallow as it is to say, I really don't care who invented it. Sure it's nice piece of information to know, but it doesn't affect whether or not I find the site useful.

This posting by Rogers Cadenhead is a piece of tripe and reads like something out of the National Enquirer, only with much less relevance to society as a whole... Get your faces out from in front of your vanity mirrors and get on with something more important.

Oh's a word that fewer and fewer people seem to know: humility

Friday, December 16, 2005

Is this cool or what...

This ascii movie is

NewsGator Online - Please tell me there's a better way...

I'm experimenting with NewsGator Online right now. Currently I use Bloglines for the bulk of my blog reading. However I am not averse to switching. I've imported my Bloglines OPML file no problem, however NewsGator shows all the posts for each feed as being unread - which is correct. However, I can't seem to find a way to mark all of them as 'read' in one fell swoop. I can mark them page by page however with 980 unread blogposts and 779 unread podcast posts it seems that it might take a while to clear them page by page. There must be a better way....right??

Firefox woes Resolved (well almost..)

So I've got my bookmarks back. I've got my bookmarks toolbar folder back in working condition (there was an empty dummy copy of this folder somehow created which screwed things up.) However I'm still puzzled as to why the changes I make to my toolbar buttons do not take. So if I add the 'Add New Tab' button to the toolbar it plunks it up there, but if I shut down and relaunch firefox it disappears?? It seems that themes will take hold and stay but the toolbar modifications still won't. I've re-installed a fresh v1.5 to no avail. Oh well, maybe better to learn the keyboard shortcuts than keep dicking around with it.

Blogger Web Comments for Firefox

Evan Williams points out the new Firefox extension from Google that uses blogsearch to show you the latest things other people are writing about what it is you're currently reading. I'm giving it a try (even as I type this in fact!) and it seems pretty useful in letting me dig deeper into a given subject if I want to. Although the slide-up comment window might get a bit annoying after some time. We'll see...


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Firefox woes - Part Two

Okay, I've managed to import a bookmarks folder that I saved a month or so ago. But what seems weird is that I can't seem to add anything to my bookmarks toolbar folder. When I open up the bookmark manager there is a duplicate entry for 'Bookmark Toolbar Folder' that I can't seem to delete. I've attached a screenshot above. I'm not sure what's going on here...

All My Firefox Customizations Have Vanished

What a wonderful morning. I come in to work and fire up Firefox and lo and behold all my customizations are gone!! No bookmarks, no live bookmarks, no bookmark toolbar visible and when I make the toolbar visible it is, of course, empty. All my bookmark keyword customizations are gone! The funny thing is that my history is still intact and the droplist that appears when I am about to enter my login ID for a site still contains my ID. What is going on here?

Also, since it's been so long since I set up all these customizations, I'm having trouble re-creating them. I had set up a keyword for which was 'gg'. So that when I typed 'gg' plus some terms into the address bar, it would run a google search on these terms and show me the results. This doesn't seem to work anymore. Sure the 'gg' will take me to but if I add terms in the address bar I get taken to various different pages which are definitely not Google!

I've ran a couple of spyware scans to no avail. It's like someone came in an uninstalled Firefox and then reinstalled it. Only I thought that this practice would usually leave all the customizations intact. No one's been on the PC since I left yesterday, and besides, no one here would be able to erase all those customizations in one fell swoop (would they?). I've also noticed that all the themes are gone (I only had a few since upgrading to 1.5) other than the base theme, and the couple of buttons I added (for creating a new tab etc.) are gone from the toolbar.

I guess I could look at it positively as a 'fresh start' but for now I'm pissed off.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Is this really what Wikipedia is for?

So it seems Adam Curry has found himself in trouble for some half-finished Wikipedia editing. And no sooner had this all come to the fore than Dave Winer weighed in on the concept of Wikipedia itself,
-- the bigger problem is that Wikipedia is so often considered authoritative. That must stop now, surely. Every fact in there must be considered partisan, written by someone with a confict of interest.
It's a difficult thing to settle on a single agreeable view of something so recent and so publicly debated. Does this mean it shouldn't be documented at all? Maybe. Would having some third party historian necessarily make things right? Surely the final interpretation of events would not sit equally well with everybody. Be glad you have a way of documenting history yourself and be glad you don't have to wait and hope that some third party organization sees things the way you do.

Anyway, isn't Wikipedia really about sharing knowledge? Isn't it about society educating itself? Collecting mankind's knowledge for all to share is probably one of the most noble things we could do with the internet (infinitely more noble than podcasting). Is it imperfect? Of course it is. The textbooks (history or otherwise) that I read throughout my education were not all accurate either. Were they still useful to me? Of course.

It is not just interesting but absolutely vital that this warehouse of knowledge be flexible. That's it's power. Hindsight is 20/20. So lets have a system that lets us use this fact to our advantage.
Let's not think of Wikipedia as a chronicler of recent history (that's what bloggers do effectively already), but as a tool for people to educate themselves collectively.

To devalue 1.5 million articles in one fell swoop because of a debate about personal recognition is not only shallow, it's just plain dumb.

Oh, and a note to Adam Curry in his suggestion of a definitive history of podcasting. Do you really think that a two year old technology really deserves a definitive history already?

An Amateur Web (or How I Don't Read Ads)

There are certain words or phrases, spoken or written so frequently and over such a short period of time, that they transcend mere annoyance and quickly become grating. "Monetization" is one of those words. More specifically, "Monetization of the Web". This phrase is in a dead heat with "what's the business model in that" and "web two-point-oh" for top honours in the grating category.

My writing this is a direct result of listening to Steve Gillmor's AttentionTech three part podcast with guests Dan Farber and Dave Winer. The specific point that sent me away thinking about all of this was Dave saying something to the effect of 'maybe the days of writers getting paid for writing is over'. If you want to hear some passionate discussion about the web and where it might go, this is really required listening.

A large part of the discussion focused on Google, advertising, and how businesses will make, and are making money on the web. Surely Google is making large amounts of money from their Adsense program. Of course people are making money from website ads and ads in RSS feeds. They wouldn't be doing it if they weren't. But how long can it last? Google is definitely NOT making money from me. Let's look at my situation specifically.

I'm a 30-something male. I have a decent career. I have a reasonable amount of disposable income. I am not rich by any -and I mean ANY- stretch of the imagination. I'm relatively savvy when it comes to technical things like utilizing the web. I would think I am smack dab in the middle of Google's demographic. One small problem however. I don't pay attention to Google ads. Or any web ads for that matter. I never have and likely never will. (I have been tainted by years of penis enlargement and erectile dysfunction solutions I guess) If I want to buy something like a new printer (which I just bought) or a new monitor (which I just bought) or a book, or a pair of pants, I don't go clicking on text ads. I try to find valuable information on what to buy. That might come from my co-workers, or it might come from the blogosphere or some other personal means. But in the vast majority of cases - no scratch that - in all cases, it doesn't come from web ads no matter how well targeted they are. I want personal recommendations from people who've built influence with me.

So let's take stock of my situation. I use Blogger (Google owned) to voice my opinion to whoever wants to read it. I use Google Maps almost every day to find places I need to go. I use GMail for most of my non-work email activities. And of course I use the Google search engine to find information I need many times every day. And what am I paying for these extremely useful services? Nothing out of my pocket, but I am giving them information about my search habits, my interests, my attention and where it's focused. This lets them create ads better targeted at me. I'm paying them with my personal information. They make money from companies who want to be able to target those ads at me. But they don't realize that the thing I'm NOT throwing my attention at is those very same ads! Am I the only one NOT paying attention to them? I would love to think I'm extremely unique. But I don't think I am.

Are they getting returns on all this targeted advertising? They're not getting any returns on ads placed in front of me, but just due to the fact that there are seemingly successful businesses built on it, I'd have to say some companies must find it useful. But how far can this go? Won't there come a time when either companies will say to Google 'this isn't effective enough' or Google will say 'we need to start charging for all this stuff people are using'. It doesn't matter how many people use Gmail if only a tiny percentage of them are giving the ads even one bit of attention.

I personally can't see Google extending the Adsense model much further. Are they just going to keep trying to focus those ads more sharply at me as they build up their data store? Or will they do something else with this data? Reading their privacy policy a few times makes good sense. They say that when requested to remove a person's data they will honour this, however they also state the following:
"we may decline to process requests that are unreasonably repetitive or systematic, require disproportionate technical effort, jeopardize the privacy of others, or would be extremely impractical (for instance, requests concerning information residing on backup tapes)"

So who decides whether it's unreasonable? Not a very definitive policy. Watch these guys! But I digress..

Will it be very long before companies find out that their ads can't compete with the sway of people who've built their own influence through blogs and podcasting? It's the influence that people have that becomes the valuable thing, not the ads they show on their pages or their feeds. Doc Searls had it right (and Dave Winer pulled it up painfully in front of everyone to see, or hear, in the podcast) when he said that the key is to be successful because of your blog, not with your blog. Dave stated quite frankly - as Dave inevitably does - that his blog is what let him make the big deals that made him the bulk of his money, it wasn't 'nickel and dime' ads on his website.

So how do you build influence then? Well in my mind, running ads on your website will neither hurt nor help it (remember? I don't read 'em). Running ads on your RSS feed however will definitely not help build it. You're throwing things up in front of me that I don't want to read. That will not build influence, if anything it will diminish it. And remember, you may not care about me personally, but I'm Joe Average. I'm not unique. There are many others like me. You want to influence me, but ads won't do it.

This is the conundrum. If you want to make money with - as in, directly from - your blog (or podcast or whatever) then you will have to put ads in there. You have no choice but to do it (unless you're unusually lucky in being employed to blog or podcast or whatever). But you don't build influence by doing it. You actually degrade your influence (on me) by doing it. So maybe Dave is right in saying that the old model of writers getting paid to write will wither.

So who will be left writing, or podcasting? A bunch of amateurs. People who are doing these things because they love doing them. Then my buying habits will be influenced and swayed by a group of people writing and podcasting about these things solely because of their passion for them. What a shame. ;)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sharing My Pain With Microsoft

Recently I was sent a link to this video which touts a new way of sharing your pain with Microsoft developers. Quite funny and well produced. Perhaps Robert Scoble could interview some of these people for Channel9 ;)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Remember the Milk, My Pimp....

A quick note about some online personal information management sites. RememberTheMilk, MyPimp, and Ta-da Lists. You know, to-do lists, calendars, reminders and the like. All three sites are Web 2.0-ish (whatever that means), cleanly designed and sport nifty names and logos - seemingly a prerequisite for entry into the web 2.0-ish club these days. And I think all three support the use of RSS to keep abreast of all the things you're supposed to have done and haven't. Anyways, I can't speak from experience since I've only just found them, but they are potentially useful services. And of course all three are free so all the more reason to give one a shot. I registered for RememberTheMilk not because it has the best feature set, but because I like their logo the best ;)

I'm not sure how useful they'll be. Currently, my Palm Zire72 is now really only serving as an MP3 player for my commute and a short note-taking device. I've relegated my task lists to a Hipster PDA, probably the antithesis of the aforementioned online PIMs. But no matter. You don't know if you don't try. The hipster method is working fine for now, but it won't stop me from experimenting.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Is a Name Change In Order?

Dave Winer says:
"The "Long Tail" makes me want to barf. I'm not in anyone's tail. I'm a head, a heart, if I must choose an organ, kidneys or lungs. Anyone who calls bloggers a tail of anything has his head up his ass."
Huh? Maybe I'm missing some sort of sarcasm or quick-witted reference on this one Dave. Seriously, I just don't get it. Give me some indication of what set you off. Put it in context.

Aren't we talking about the long slender portion of a curve on a graph? In terms of weblogs (and it could be in terms of just about anything with a market or audience), there are a relatively small number of blogs read by a relatively high number of people. This is a fact, not an insult. The long tail of weblogs is made up of people like me (of which there are millions), that are read by very few.

And besides, there are many who find the 'long tail' the most valuable part. And being that it's a statistical fact, is there really any point in getting pissed about it? Let's just change the name. Maybe 'the Creamy Nougat'.

Anyways Dave, in terms of blogs, compared to me, you are nowhere close to the tail.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Inkscape - Draw Freely

One of the many things I've been fooling around with lately is Inkscape. This is an open source vector-based illustration application (phew..that was a mouthful!). So instead of creating raster based images like you would with Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, or the Gimp, you work with lines, shapes and fills to create Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) files. The advantage is that everything you create and work with is resolution independent and scalable. There are so many things you can do with a program like Inkscape that you can't with a raster based application (the reverse of course, is also true).

One of the most interesting things I like about the program is it's implementation of tutorials. There are several tutorials accessible from the help menu. Each one is actually an SVG file itself. So the informative text is interspersed with examples that you can play with right then and there. For instance it might describe how to scale, skew or rotate an object and it has several shapes right there for you to practice on. I've not met a tutorial yet that is as simple and effective for any application I've used.

In addition, if you need to, anything you create can be exported to a bitmap image the size of which is determined by you. So you could create a drawing and then save it out to be 80 pixels or 8000 pixels wide.

The new logo at the top of this blog is an example of my current doodling with it. Actually I used Inkscape to create the round logo and text and then used the Gimp to create the reflection. Don't worry, if you don't like the new header for the site it will likely change anyway...such is the nature of fiddling with a new program ;) I'll likely come up with something I like more anyway.

An additional side benefit is that it is available for both Windows and Linux. So I can use it in either environment with no discernible difference (that I'm aware of anyway).

So onwards and upwards. It seems I keep finding things to explore at the expense of the things that I really should be doing - I'm not quite sure how learning to use Inkscape will help complete my half-finished basement...ah well, all in the name of progress!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

All Gussied Up For What?

A quick update on Microsoft Max. I realize this is a pre-release product. Probably it is meant to show what is possible with the WinFX runtime. It has an elegant and pretty interface. But I'm still trying to figure out what the heck to use it for!

So I can create slideshows (with apparently no choice of transitions) and then share them with people. But only on the condition that they have installed MS-Max as well. Is this not a very very closed system in the midst of what is becoming a very very open internet? I thought Microsoft was grasping this concept with their embrace of RSS, blogging and company transparency.

I know there are lots of programs and systems that can achieve the same thing. I myself currently use flickr to show off my photos. Anybody running Flash can view a fairly elegant online slide show with a few clicks. But even well before this, I used a freeware program called IrfanView. This little gem was a Swiss Army Knife when it came to image manipulation especially when dealing with batches of images. One thing it also did was create slideshows in either .exe form or .scr form for use as a screensaver. Nevermind Microsoft's own PhotoStory 3. Now there's a program that should get the WinFX treatment and enhanced online sharing capabilities. It is a vastly more compelling product (although granted it only generates .wmv files I think..)

The one thing it does do that I can appreciate is the "mantle" view of a collection of photos. This is where it takes your photos and arranges them with white borders and stands them up on a nice reflective surface (see the image at the top of this blog post). However, there are at least four major things wrong with even this feature: 1. You can't pick which photos or how many photos it will use in the 'mantle' shot. 2. The program sometimes crops off the top or sides of photos without warning when creating the 'mantle' versions, 3. There are visible gaps between the white borders and the photos themselves, and 4. There is no direct way to capture these 'mantle' shots to create a wallpaper or single image. The way I did it was to create a slideshow and hit the PrtScn key to create a screenshot, then crop and resize it for use as wallpaper. Why even bother releasing a product that's missing these kinds of key features for the only compelling component of the entire package! Grrrr.

A month ago I thought it strange that I hadn't heard much about Microsoft Max. Now it doesn't surprise me a bit. I can even understand (although not agree with) Microsoft trying to keep everyone locked into their platform, but you won't do it without a compelling product. This, in my opinion is one of the least compelling I've seen in a while.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Another Kick at the Can and What Is a LugRadio?

I've taken another kick at the Linux can... About 9 months ago I installed Suse Linux (9.2) on my machine and dual-booted it with XP. While I found it interesting, I didn't have the time to really get it up and running smoothly enough to really evaluate it. In the past couple of weeks, I took on the personal challenge of checking out how the other half lives again and removed Suse and installed Ubuntu.

I ran into several problems trying to get the dual-booting to work properly and figuring out how to get the sound up (it was working but the mixer volume was off!) so I'd have to still say that from my experience (albeit a sample size of 1), it still appears to be more of a OS for 'tinkerers'. Although to be fair, the problem was getting the XP dual-booting going under Linux, something which XP doesn't even allow (I don't believe MS even gives you the option of dual-booting anything other than Microsoft OS's).

Mind you, I'm running Ubuntu 5.10 ("Breezy Badger" for those in the know) which has not been officially released - that happens in two days I think, so things might have been a bit smoother had I waited for the stable release.

I'm pressed for time, so I'll save my comments for when I've got more Linux miles under my belt and can put a few coherent thoughts together.

One other thing though. In the course of investigating Linux and Ubuntu, I found a great podcast dealing with Linux. It's called LugRadio and I enjoy it immensely. Even if Linux is not your thing, these guys are truly great to listen to. I've heard lots of podcasts now, from the highly polished to those that are completely rough around the edges. In my opinion, these boys have got a great balance. They cover interesting stuff like open source software, programming, technology and even some politics with intelligence, passion and great humour. Probably not for everyone, but they've held my attention for hours of listening. Give them a try.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

MAX'ing out with Microsoft

It's a good thing that I listen to podcasts in my drive-time. The latest This Week In Tech mentioned Microsoft's new MAX beta software. I hadn't heard hide nor hair of this. It appears like it's a competitor to Google's Picasa. I'll give it a spin to see exactly how it compares. One thing MAX isn't is light on system requirements. The recommended system is:
* Microsoft Windows® XP
o Home or Professional Edition
o Service Pack 2
o English only
* WinFX September CTP
* 2.4 GHz processor.
* 512 MB of RAM.
* 200 MB of available hard disk space.
* Windows Presentation Foundation capable 3D Video Card.
* Broadband internet connection.
* Microsoft Update enabled.
* Beverage and snack. The installation may take a while.
The 3D video card, broadband and MS-Update are not part of the minimum system requirements. And the system can be as lowly as a 1GHz processor and 256MB of RAM. So with all that layed out, hopefully it does something neat and does it well. Picasa is a nice piece of software and because it is completely useable even on my Win98 (!) machine at work, I find it extremely useful and it will likely be difficult to beat. Many have said that Google can't really develop any good software without acquiring it. Let's see if Microsoft can.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Speeding Up Firefox

There's a small 4 step speedup for Firefox users on broadband on Tom Raftery's site. I gave it a try and it does seem to speed things up. Of course I haven't benchmarked it or anything but it does seem to make the initial load up of a page significantly shorter.

Opera Joins the Free Browser Wars

It was only a few weeks ago that Opera gave away free registration codes for their browser for a single day to celebrate their 10yr anniversary. Now it seems that was all for nought. They announced today that they are providing their browser product for free and removing the ad banners. I use both Opera and Firefox and find them both pleasing to use. Opera seems a bit faster to me, but it's a little more complex in it's operation than Firefox in my opinion. And don't forget about Chris Pirillo's browser of choice Maxthon which is based on the IE engine. Either way, it's good news that there will be more competition in the browser market. I'm not so sure IE7 will have anything on these products when it ships with Windows Vista. The days of a browser monopoly seem to be dead.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Good Non-Political Link to Katrina Flooding Info

Dave Winer points to a very good article here on the science and modelling of the flooding and behaviour of the levees. Good reading for those interested in the scientific/engineering aspects of the problem.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Levee Info from Army Corps of Engineers - Designed to Category 3?

Checking out the Army Corps of Engineers-New Orleans District site and found this interesting fact sheet for the levee project in the affected area. From what I gather, this is a description of the ongoing project to improve the levee system. Interesting to note that their SPH (Standard Project Hurricane) - what they designed everything to withstand - was a Category 3. Does that mean that they were upgrading things to bring it up to withstand a Category 3? They don't go into any detailed design info or describe their methodology so it's hard to say what 'designing to a category 3' might mean. There is quite a bit of budget info and maps provided as well. This protection (however inadequate in hindsight) does not come cheap.

U.S. not accepting outside help??

As a followup to my earlier post, it seems that the US is denying help from various other nations, at least in the short term. Lots of conjecture about why, make sure you check out the comments to the post as well. You've really got to wonder about the decision-making. Sure there are a lot of considerations that you or I might miss, but c'mon, people are dying there minute by minute.

This whole thing is getting very very messy politically for Bush, and it ain't going to get any better.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More Thoughts..

Reading Dave Winer's emotional posts and reading and watching coverage from various sources, I have to admit that I come away feeling dejected about the chances of many people stuck in the worst hit areas. Looking at the news reports it appears that there is just too many areas and too many people to help. You can only go so long without food and clean water. I realize people die everyday in the world while we merrily go about our business. This whole situation will unfortunately be a rude awakening for most North Americans (like me) in the coming weeks. Will we be able to ignore the dying in our back yard? It's amazing what unfortunate things we people are able to put out of our minds.

And you look at the television news coverage (and yeah, they may slant their coverage for whatever motives they might have) but those are not white middle-class people crowding the streets, and filling the alleys. These people already had enough problems in their situation in life before all of this.

In many ways the coverage of this situation almost seems like the very antithesis of the 9/11 situation. Poor black people instead of rich white people, very little hope rather than the optimism of survival and retribution, massive disorganization, and absolutely nothing for America to rally around. Let's hope they don't need an enemy to pull together.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina - Who's Going to Help?

As a break from the normal subject matter I write about: I was in a project meeting today and during a break we were discussing the Katrina situation. One comment that came up immediately by someone was this:
"just watch as no one offers help to the Americans in their time of need...everyone [as in other nations] expects them to pony up tons of relief cash when they are in trouble, but they [the Americans] will be expected to solve this one all by themselves."

I am assuming that they are contrasting the current situation with the Tsunami last year. Is this a fair comparison? The US is a relatively wealthy nation. Should they be expected to be more self-reliant than say Malaysia? Does it sound a little bitter?

I am Canadian. I am of the opinion that we as a country should offer assistance (monetary or otherwise) if there is a need. But will it be asked for? Should it just be offered? Do they really need the same kind (not necessarily amount) of emergency relief that the world provided during the Tsunami? Do they want it? I have always figured Americans to be people who pride themselves on self-sufficiency and resiliency (and that is not a shot - but a compliment). There might very well be many Americans who don't want outside help to solve their problem. (and of course I might very well be wrong in that assumption!)

It's a little different this time around. You have a million people in serious trouble and it looks like the problems will last months and not weeks. You WILL NOT be able to turn a blind eye after a week of news coverage. It's in everyone's back yard, and not halfway around the world. I feel so sorry for those affected, truly sorry.

MSN Searches RSS Deeper?

Sounds like the MSN Search Engine now searches fully within RSS and Atom feeds. I will give it a try. I still hop around between Technorati, Feedster and Bloglines to do this stuff. Adding one more will not hurt (even if it is from Microsoft..). Where is Google in this space? I'm surprised they are not providing the standards to which others are judged. Do they not care? Or are they working on something vastly better?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Free Culture on the Cheap

My local grocery store sometimes has a bargoon table with assorted childrens books and trinkets for sale. Yesterday I decided to browse the table for any deals on story books for my 3 year old daughter. Digging around a little, this softcover book with a zebra-like stripey patterned cover caught my eye. It turned out to be Larry Lessig's Free Culture in new condition. Needless to say, I forked over my $3.99 and picked it up. Now you know for sure that Internet culture has hit the mainstream when it makes the bargoon table at the local IGA store in the boonies of Southern Ontario. I'm sure I will enjoy the read.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

OS X running on 3 Year Old Cell Phone!

Not to be outdone by the prospect of running OS X on a PC, I managed to get Apple's OS running on my 3 year old Audiovox CDM8300 cell phone. The install was pretty easy, but the screen is very hard to read and that joystick control is not very good for point and click. Sorry for the fuzzy photo, it was taken with my Palm Zire72 camera. I plan to outfit the PDA with the image sensor from a Canon EOS-1Ds-MarkII that I've got lying around here somewhere, so hopefully sharper pics will be available soon. Somebody get Steve Jobs a set of Depends...I think he just made a burger. ;)

Friday, August 12, 2005

EVDO, Earballs and Bob Newhart

I just finished listening to one of the most entertaining podcasts I've come across in some time. Steve Gillmor's one to one conversation with Doc Searls regarding EVDO and the 'incumbents' reaffirmed the true value in podcasting to me. It felt at times like Ralph Kramden having an argument with Bob Newhart. Both sides of the conversation were smart and perhaps more importantly passionate. You will not find this kind of stuff on mainstream broadcast. And besides, where else would you hear the term 'earballs'? Another one to add to the ever-growing list of adapted metaphors and catchphrases.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Last Bastion of News..was it really?

Dave Winer laments the loss of the 'one last bastion of news' at CNN. Truth be told, I never much liked Aaron Brown myself anyway. My opinion is however, solely based on his coverage during the invasion of Iraq. I always felt that he was on the verge of breaking into an all-out smirk - even when he was dealing with serious subject matter. Just a peeve of mine I guess. Nonetheless, I wonder if Dave had a chance to check out Canadian television news during his recent trip through the country. Undoubtedly he would have seen the stark contrast of CBC or CTV network news coverage as compared to their American counterparts. Even more stark is if you take many of our local newscasts and compare them with, say, a local Buffalo newscast. The difference is shocking. I always feel as if I'm put in a state of crisis or panic when watching many American newscasts. Everything has to be shocking, tragic and many times over the top. Canadian news might seem a bit boring at first glance, but it is nice to get the information without all (or at least with significantly less of) the hysteria and hype. CNN has built a strong reputation on being the place most people (even Canadians) turn to for late-breaking news coverage, but they've never appealed to me for anything but crisis coverage.

On a mostly unrelated note, I just saw that Peter Jennings was named to the Order of Canada prior to his death.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Top 100 Lists - Ho Hum

Jason Calacanis has an post about Technorati's Top 100 and it's pro's and con's. In fact, he's offering 50 grand in advertising for a "better" top 100 list. Pfft. And I can say Pfft because I have nothing to advertise at this point -unless anybody is interested in buying half-finished amateur attempts at python programming ;). Personally I'm not a huge fan of top-whatever lists when it comes to blogs or podcasts. I am finding more and more that new and interesting online content arrives in my brain in two different ways. By chance and by search.

When I say chance I mean that if something is interesting to me, or something is really important, chances are that it will find it's way to me through the people I read or listen to. Or, someone I regularly read will point to the source of the info - and this may become a new source of content for me in the future. I'm not one of those people who feels scared that they might miss something. The beauty of blogs and linking is that 99% of the time that important information will get to me.

By search I mean that if there is something that has sparked my interest that is not necessarily part of any of the blogs or podcasts in my aggregator then I will search it out. And many times I find great sources of information and many times new blogs or podcasts that merit my subscription.

I don't need someone telling me what the 100 most influential blogs are, or what the top 50 podcasts are. Where is the excitement in that? This is a new medium, shouldn't we be exploring it freely instead of expecting someone to package it up the way they think is best and hand it to us.

Of course I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't subscribe to 'A-List' bloggers. Of course I do. But I personally find that the five or six in my aggregator do a pretty good job of pointing me to enough interesting content to fill my spare time (and then some). The really nice part is when one of them points to some obscure blog that turns out to be my cup of tea.

Dave Winer has summarized his thoughts on the subject in his usual efficient way:
Jason Calacanis wants to shake up the Top 100. Why bother. Just blog what you find interesting, what you believe in, and everything is fine.
Well said.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

OPML Editor Released

I downloaded and installed Dave Winer's OPML application last night. It's going to take a bit of getting used to, and to be honest I likely won't use it much for blogging (although that might change), but I am interested in the outliner part of it. Anyhoo, I was able to quickly create a blog with it which you can see here.

It appears that it will be difficult for blogging with it from two different locations (someone correct me if I'm wrong) which I do quite often. I like Blogger because it's no fuss and I can access it from home or work easily. I think Dave's app depends on having the www directory for syncronization. Again, please someone tell me if I'm wrong here.

No time really to fiddle with it as of yet, but it's something else to put on the list of things to experiment with (along with python, xml,, feedster etc.. etc..)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

He Likes It...I'm Quietly Proud

In typically Canadian fashion, I was immediately blushing at Dave Winer's comments about Canadian cities and Ottawa (I went to University for 7 years in our nation's capital). Something about a Yank of any prominence commenting on something Canadian seems to garner attention from a lot of us up here. It's just how most (I dare not say 'all') of us are..kind of sad I guess. I wouldn't call it a severe inferiority complex, but more a nation in need of some back-patting once in a while to ensure that we're on the right track as a country.

As you might expect, I took Dave's comments with a little more internal pride ( Canadians would never dare show it to anyone else...) than usual. Normally we hear quotes from celebrities at the Toronto Film Festival. Things like 'Geez the streets are really clean up here..' by people like Topher Grace or Sandra Bullock. Or we're spoon-fed examples of American ignorance towards Canada via shows like Talking to Americans to somehow boost our own egos.

It is relatively rare that I get candid, honest, intelligent and unfiltered opinions of our country from a visitor that has built respect with me. I don't agree with everything he does or says, but I respect him. I value his opinion. I think it's much easier to build that respect with blogging than with conventional mass media like TV, Film or radio.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Finding an Outlet

Initially I was going to leave a comment on Kent Newsome's post "More on Getting Heard". However, one particular paragraph demanded a proper post. He writes,

So while I obviously enjoy writing, I want this site to be more than an online journal or a living Christmas letter for my extended family. I want it to be my side of a discussion on whatever topics come up. If my extended family was more interested in the internet as a way to stay connected, I could community build around that. If our friends had web sites (fat chance, it took all I had just to get them to sign up on flickr), I could build around that. I don't have that luxury, so I look to build connections with other people who write about the things I'm interested in.
This mirrors my own situation (and likely lots of other bloggers) to a spooky degree. For this reason I started a separate, more family-oriented blog some time after this one. I've had the same issue of not being surrounded by any like-minded (in a tech-interest way) people in my social circle. I needed somewhere to communicate my own varied interests. I laughed out loud at the part about flickr. As a matter of fact, I was most proud to see my brother-in-law start his own blog shortly thereafter. Mine has so far been a mostly family event oriented blog, but - and hopefully this doesn't sound too snarky - I hope it will be a source of education and not just a family newsletter. I am trying to be careful not to scare them away. Lure them in with family photos and expose them to some interesting things in the process hopefully. Sounds kind of deceitful when put like that, but accurate I suppose.

Of course I'm not expecting many (or in fact any) of them to start blogging, but it would be nice to expose them to things other than e-mail, and Amazon. Heck, I even coached my brother-in-law via email on how to edit the HTML in his blogger template to modify his link list and add a flickr zeitgeist. Amazingly, he didn't fall asleep reading the email, was successful at it, and found it quite easy!

With respect to Randy's A-List post that started all of this discussion and Brad Kellett's thoughts on the subject , it's interesting that my family-oriented blog will likely never see even 10 regular readers, but it may become just as important to me as this one.

Problems with Pubsub Search Feeds in Bloglines?

I've been fiddling with Pubsub searches and created a few search feeds there. When I add a search feed to Bloglines it shows the entry but the feed hardly ever updates. The one I've still got in there has updated twice in two weeks even though it's updating much more frequently when I check at the pubsub site. I found a blog post citing a similar problem. Anybody have any idea what the problem is? Anybody doing this same thing without any problems?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A-List Linking - The RSS Blog

Randy Charles Morin writes about A-list linking. Reading the comments there, it seems as if 'writing interesting stuff' is the key. Although I hasten to add that patience is another one. In my case I write because I enjoy it. Sure it's doubly wonderful if more people read it, but I am satisfied if even one person does. It's the writing that's satisifying to me not so much who's reading. That may change, but my current career doesn't entail a lot of creativity (with respect to writing anyway) so this is an outlet for me. For others of course that may not be true. If you're trying to make money with your blog (or maybe because of it..right Doc?) incoming links are crucial, and the seemingly incestuous A-list linking behaviour might be a right piss-off.

In any case, Randy writes that he'll return the favour if he's linked to, well for someone like me down here at the first step of the ladder, why would I pass it up.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Digital rights? Hey have none...

Dave Winer's post about the EFF's love-in with bloggers cites this podcast. For some strange reason I missed this one when it first came out. I listened to it on the way in to work this morning and the first thing that came to mind about Cory Doctorow's demeanour was - what a rude immature prick! A discussion involves listening and consideration , not just foisting your views on top of everybody else. Being an influential member of the technology community and a published and celebrated author makes it even more astonishing how inconsiderate he was to Robert Scoble. Just totally unaccepting that someone else might have a point worth considering.

A few points for you to consider Cory (which you likely won't anyway):

1. I know you can't stand the term 'content producer' (you mentioned that fact ad nauseum during the podcast). Whether you call them 'people who write stuff' or 'content producers', I think people are smart enough to know you mean the same thing. 'Content producer' is just easier to say and to write than the other term. Are you trying to say that Joe Public can't understand the term? If so, you are treating the public like a bunch of idiots. They are smarter than you think. Besides, do we now have to devise names like 'people who record audio things' or 'people who video record things'. C'mon, they're all producing or providing content. Get over it.

2. The way I see it, these days more and more, the users ARE the 'people who write stuff'. They are becoming one in the same. Who are you protecting them from? You might be surprised to find that once people find the power in personal publishing (those people being users AND ..ick..content producers), they will in fact care about what they write. So much in fact that they will not want things added to that content nor will they want it changed.

3. Take my content, do something with it by all means. But do it somewhere else, use it to enhance your own, excerpt it, quote it, link to it, but don't change the meaning of what I wrote in my space. If I wanted a link to Amazon I'd have put one there. If I didn't then people can choose by themselves where they want to find the information. If you're pissed that I don't link ISBN numbers to a bookstore then too fucking bad. Go somewhere else.

4. It is ridiculous in this industry NOT to consider what might happen in the future. You are having a conversation about technology that is changing day by day. To squelch criticism by saying 'well they haven't done anything evil so we can't criticize them' is a bunch of hooey. Let them prove everybody wrong by doing the right thing, but don't take away my absolute right to complain or worry.

5. Although you're high up the chain, you'd better be careful, because from way down here you really sounded like a boorish, loudmouthed brat. And I wasn't the only one listening... far from it.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Structured Procrastination

Just came across an article while procrastinating this morning: Structured Procrastination. The 10 year old article is by Stanford Professor John Perry. What wonderful karma. It's about how most procrastinators actually do things to avoid doing other things and how to make that work for you. It's not that I sit here and do nothing instead of what needs to be done. I do other, seemingly more appealing things. Perry's article talks about how to choose those 'other' things that will make me more effective...(like reading an article about how to do it - Okay...I am now officially dizzy..). Anyways, it's a simple idea, but one I might actually be able to put to good use. Blogging about it of course is my way of justifying to myself the 10 minutes of typing spent on it instead of actually getting on with something. I am coming to the conclusion that putting more stuff on my plate is an effective way of avoiding the things that are already on my plate. What a vicious circle.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sick of Innovation?

Fresh on the heels of the Steve Ballmer interview on Channel 9 and the resulting flurry of opinion, check out Comic:The Innovidiot for an interesting rant on whether all this hubbub about innovation is missing the point when it comes to software development.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Inkjet Print Life

During the July 12, 2005 Geek News Central podcast Todd Cochrane spoke about the concern regarding inkjet print longevity as noted in a recent Engadget post. There is no mention of it in the Engadget article, but whether your printer uses dye-based or pigment-based ink makes a huge difference in print longevity. Two very useful links if you want to know more are at Wilheim research. They have free articles as well as a free complete book on photo longevity. Look here and here for more information.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I'm Tired Of Squinting at the Back of Your Camera

Thank you to Scoble for his link. Being an avid amateur photographer (I am avid about a lot of things and undoubtedly amateur at all of them) it has frustrated me to no end to see family members get the latest whiz-bang digital cameras and start snapping images and do absolutely nothing with them. No, showing me the pics on the back of the camera does NOT count.

I have been politely pushing PhotoStory on these people (all of them happen to be Windows users). Not that I want to see endless slideshows of my dad's photos, but it's one way to do SOMETHING with them. It's rare that anyone I know actually gets any printed (or prints any themselves).Do everyone a favour and download the program (it's free, here are the system requirements). I found it extremely easy to use. It can't burn to DVD but it can create high quality wmv files which can then be burnt to DVD by the software that undoubtedly came with your DVD burner. And if you don't have a DVD burner, then burn it to VCD. It can also create lower resolution video files more appropriate for web or email transfer.

Of course PhotoStory is not the only program that will do this sort of thing, but it's free and does a good job in my opinion. There are lots of other choices. If your a Mac user you've already probably got iPhoto which I am assuming does a fine job as well. (I don't own a Mac but I do appreciate them).

One thing that I'd like to point out is that the right choice of music alongside your pictures can be a very very powerful thing. Don't underestimate it until you've tried it. This past Mother's Day I created a slide show for my wife kind of chronicling my daughter's first three years. I had seen those pictures dozens of times before, but they became very emotionally powerful when set to music.

As an aside, after all this rant, I have to admit that I own a 3year old HP 1.3MP camera but never use it. I use a 35mm SLR film camera and scan the photos myself. When digital SLRs get down in my price range I may get one. The upshot is that I don't have a myriad of photos I don't like, clogging up my hard drive, but rather I scan only the ones I do like. And I've got negatives and prints with arguable greater longevity than most CDs (if that's how you back up your images) do back up all those digital photos don't you... ;)

UBU and UI

Rick Segal's post about the recent volley between Scoble and Pirillo (sounds like some kind of western New York personal injury law firm..heh) regarding Pirillo's contention that windows apps are boring and uninspiring. Segal's post(The Post Money Value: Chris Pirillo = Deep Impact 2) provides an email address to send your rants and nominations for Ugly Bored and Uninspired software award winners. Segal's post states the following:

The rules are simple.

From now until August 31st, you can nominate any WINDOWS software package in any or all of the three categories. They must be Windows applications and they must be available to the general public, either beta/preview/free trial/sharware/etc. Yeah, windows apps, whoda thunk it.
To nominate your favorite applications simply send an email with the subject line: NOMINATION to

Chris Pirillo's article is here. Scoble's response is here. And Pirillo's resulting comment is here. It's that last post by Pirillo that ultimately let me down. A few words for Chris:

Picasa is a different type of application than PhotoStory. They are not competitiors. The sole purpose of PhotoStory is to make compelling animations from digital images and music. Picasa is a swiss-army knife. It does many things, none of which that well. Does Picasa have the amazingly neat music generator that PhotoStory does? Does Picasa do the 'Ken Burns' effect? Does PhotoStory scan your drive for images? Apples and oranges. I look at what I've done with PhotoStory and Picasa, and I have to say that to me, PhotoStory is very inspiring.

Using arial font in a Window's application? Yikes! Does it look good? Yes. Does everybody in your app's intended market have it? Yes. Is it a problem? No. Did I even notice that it was being used (do I even notice now?) No.

Are desktop widgets really that wonderful? They sure look nice. But from what I can tell, an always visible item like Longhorn's sidebar (see DesktopSideBar if you want a similar feature now) will be more functional for people who want dynamic information at their fingertips. And it's free.

I think Evangelist Scoble again came off a bit defensive in his post (he seems to be doing that quite a bit lately), but I think he's right. There are a ton of inspiring windows applications. More today than ever before. Some of them even come from Microsoft!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A New Kind Of Conversation

Robert Scoble's post "A new kind of conversation is needed with Microsoft" asks us to tell them what we want in Windows Media Player, what kind of podcasting support we want and what we feel about the longevity of podcasting. Like it or not, Microsoft is going to the masses to find out what they want. Is this 'design by committee' a good thing? In many cases it's not (look at the Pontiac Aztek), but in the case of blogging and podcasting I think it is. We're talking about taking publishing out of the hands of the few and plunking it in the hands of the great unwashed. So they'd better have *some* idea of what the great unwashed wants.

But that leads me to another point. Are they really talking to the great unwashed? Let's call them the GUW for now to ease my typing. The GUW in this case are not the people reading Scoble's blog or Scripting News, the GUW are not checking Technorati or finding out what Doc Searls latest thoughts are. The GUW are like the guys in my office. I have approximately 12 co-workers, all male, most in their late twenties - early thirties, in what I would call a moderately technical workplace. We design buildings. We are a structural engineering firm. We are not idiots (save a few). But not one.. I repeat not one of them would be able to tell you what a blog is. This is not an insult, this is a fact. They are absolutely amazed by Google maps and it's satellite photos and would likely not have seen it for another year had I not pointed it out to them. Many of them have direct high-speed internet access but have no idea about things like blogging, podcasting or videoblogging. You mention MP3's and they think of Napster and PhUNny cHatRoOm signatures. The fact that MP3's can contain something else other than pirated Blink182 songs is an utterly foreign concept to most people. Wikipedia sounds like some kind of mental affliction to the GUW.

With their adoption of RSS and their huge installed base of GUW, Microsoft still have a chance to bring the potential of producing and consuming weblog content (the latter more likely than the former for many) and podcast content to the real masses. Microsoft should keep working in an open way, listen and look at what is being done by the influential people (like the ones attending Gnomedex) and talk to them. Their products have to play well with other products being developed in other waters (as they seem to be doing with RSS) and along with this and perhaps more importantly, they have to make it simple. Dead nuts simple. They've had a good crack at this in their IE7 demo and it looked pretty good to me.

Now they've got to open people's eyes, the eyes of the GUW, to the possibilities of things like weblogs, podcasts, videoblogs, screencasts.. the list is growing. Stick it in their faces and make them know that this is not some IT-only environment, give them real-world examples, push them to do more exploring. If there's one thing that 99% of the people I know with internet access do NOT do on the internet is explore. Not only make it easy for them to explore, impel them to do it.

As far as Windows Media Player goes, make sure it handles *all* kinds of file enclosures, make it open in where it can go to find directories and search tools. Give the option of working with what is already out there like existing open podcasting directories etc. For cripes sake, get Dave Winer to give some insight into giving it the required OPML abilities. Do it while you're on such good terms with him.

On the issue of the longevity of podcasting, my opinion is that there is an absolutely huge opportunity for education in podcasts - and I don't necessarily mean formal course lectures. I'm talking about special interest podcasts that actually inform and educate people. I don't think that the entertainment end of podcasting is necessarily going to sink every mass market radio station. The mainstream broadcasters may move into the podcasting realm (they are already), but the niche markets and educational opportunities are a huge untapped area just waiting for development. Sure we have a wide variety of I.T. and other 'early adopter' aimed podcasts, but there are lots of other passions that people have. A couple of weeks ago I thought 'hey, I'll go to and see what podcasts there are on the subject of photography', a passionate hobby of mine. I found one. Only ONE. And it was regarding how to build a wedding photography business - not what I was looking for.

There is scads of empty space in the podcasting realm for things OTHER than 'My Wife and I discussing the latest entertainment news' or 'Listen to me bitch for 20 minutes about the people I work with'. There is room for everything. Let's start filling it up.

I drive 50 minutes each way to work 5 days a week. My car radio has been off for probably 5 months now. But supply is running short. I have listened to almost every podcast available on IT Conversations and I'm not even in the IT business! That really means something. It has caught my interest and opened my mind. But you have to be able to keep feeding people for them to stay. The trick is to find out what most of them *really* want to eat. And it likely isn't mass-market drive-time radio.

If there were server problems due to Apple's Itunes 4.9 launch, then just wait until they make a Honda Civic or Chevy Cobalt with standard MP3 and wireless synching to the home PC. You will then see people get on board. Will Microsoft be a major player in enabling them when that time comes?

Virtual Earths (yes that's plural)

I just downloaded Google's new Google Earth courtesy of a link from (of all people) Robert Scoble. I've installed and played around with it and it looks a hell of a lot like MSN's Virtual Earth demo that I watched back in May (courtesy of, btw, Robert Scoble). They've got a free version (the one I was playing with) and seems to do quite a bit of neat stuff. There are buttons to show lodging, streets overlayed on the satellite images etc. MSN's product was supposed to ship in July, looks like it might be a month too late.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Mr. Mosley - pull your head out of your ass

It will be quite a while until I forget about the stunned feeling I had watching a tape of the 2005 USGP (couldn't see it live...watched it on Sunday night). Six cars on the start line and hundreds of thousands of American fans saying "What the fu..?". Nevermind the millions watching slackjawed as the F1 circus effectively erased much of the progress (albeit mediocre) they had made it the last five years racing in the States. I *was* impressed with the fact that Bob Varsha et al. at Speedvision were actually able to carry out their coverage without just giving up entirely. I had heard that there were several European carriers that stopped broadcasting entirely after only a portion of the 'farce' was run.

I read an interview with Max Mosley today and he just sounds so completely out of touch. Nine of ten teams had agreed to run with a chicane installed (yes I'm sure Ferrari felt bad having to run that race all alone...Points?...yeah sure we'll take'em..). The FIA declared that such a course of action was unacceptable. Mosley states:
A chicane would completely change the nature of the circuit. It would involve an extra session of very heavy braking on each lap, for which the cars had not been prepared. The circuit would also not have been inspected and homologated with all the simulations and calculations which modern procedures require. Suppose there had been a fatal accident - how could we have justified such a breach of our fundamental safety procedures to an American court?

Brake wear is a problem at several circuits on the calendar. It usually involves a progressive failure not a sudden one. So I guess the Michelin teams should have raced even though they would have been going through turn 13 150kph slower than the Bridgestone runners...yeah that would have been a "safe" thing to do.

Nine out of ten teams agreed to take the risk for adding a chicane. That is completely different than having the supplier for the most important part of the car (with respect to safety AND performance) tell you that they cannot guarantee safe performance of their product. There was even talk that an offer to forfeit points and/or grid positions to the Bridgestone runners in order to have a race take place.

So the next time we talk about why F1 never took off in the States, there will be no more searching for esoteric, cultural reasons. At least we will take heart in the fact that it was the FIA and more specifically Max Mosley who kicked it in the family jewels. Amazing how he was able to do that while his head was so far up his ass.

One last note.. Three cheers for Tiago Monteiro. He told the truth in the post race interview that despite the fact that there was only 6 cars, he managed to get a podium for his team. Something that he (and his current team) will likely never see again. He wasn't going to waste it and it showed when he sprayed champagne on his teammates and smiled and waved in spite of the boos and jeers from the bulk of the crowd. That took balls. Big ones. Good on him.

Clean-up in Aisle 3 Mr. Frankenstein

It's hard to believe that I have actually learned enough to create the GUI for my project database application using wxPython. So I now have a library of functions I created while I was in the process of learning Python that are the real guts of it, and just this week I was able to create a pretty face for it.'s alive! Well almost. It really shouldn't be too hard to hook the two things together. What I find tough is finding enough time to do it at all. Up to this point this project has really been done during some weekday evenings before bed and sometimes during my lunch at work.

One neat thing about Python is how important a role source code documentation plays. Someone on the mailing list pointed me to an open source program that generates documentation for *my* library of functions based on my documentation in the source files and the source files themselves. This is a really useful thing to me, because working so infrequently at a project sometimes leaves me forgetting what I had done the week before or month before. This way I have good quality documentation of the function libraries I've generated. Wonderful. I may actually be able to do something useful with this language yet!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Instant Outlining

Dave Winer is developing an instant outliner. Sounds like a very useful concept although I'm not sure I can understand how it is supposed to work in depth. My suggestion would be to do a screencast of it. to Jon Udell...this would expand the discussion greatly I feel.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Putting the Brakes On

Zipping from site to site as I usually do when trying to avoid doing real work, I found myself at Sand in the Gears and had arrived there by way of Evan Erwin's post about his top and bottom five blogs. I had arrived at Evan's blog via a Doc Searls post. Amazing how these things work on the web. Well, in utter contrast to my normally short attention span, I spent the next 10 or so minutes reading some of the most warm, funny and well-written posts I've ever read. This is just a recommendation for anyone else looking for a great read. Tony Woodlief's writing definitely gives me a higher standard to strive for in my blog posting. Needless to say I am now subscribed.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Clearing the Podcasting Air

Dave Winer has posted what sounds to me like a very honest account of the falling out between himself and Adam Curry. A very interesting listen. It sounds like he felt he was shafted and he may be right. He may get accused of whining, but where is the rule that says you can't say or write what you feel. Whether you agree with him or not, I don't doubt his honesty about how he feels. It will be left to Adam to refute the claims.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Python Newbie Task 1 - checked off

Well, I am impressed with Python (and wxPython). I managed to create the timesheet processor program complete with GUI (albeit a dead simple one) in about 1/8th the time it took me to get to the same point with C++. Implementing wxPython for the GUI was much more simple than using the same library in C++ (wxWindows). For the simple type of applications that I write this solution seems miles better than anything else I've tried.

One benefit of having such a relatively easy language with a shallow learning curve like this is that it encourages me to try new things with it. I feel like I could attempt projects that I would probably dread doing in C++. We will see how it pans out with the project storage app that I've been humming and hawing over for the past year. It actually might get done! But let's not jump the gun here... let's just say it might actually get started...done is usually an entirely different matter with me ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Young and the Podcasting..

Dave Winer gives some more of his thoughts on the saga again today:
Scripting News: 5/19/2005

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Podcasting, Respect and BoingBoing

Well, the saga continues yet again. Adam Curry responded to Dave's earlier rant and name calling rather firmly but thoughtfully in his DailySourceCode podcast. Boingboing published an update as I suspected that the interview was edited and that Adam did spread the respect around to others, not just himself. Now, maybe you would be expecting a subdued retraction?...Haha.. instead Dave wrote of the BoingBoing update:

Anyway, Adam does take credit for work he didn't do. You might want to check on that Xeni, it might be more interesting than the cookie-cutter bullshit puff piece you just wrote.
OK Dave, I like most of your podcasts and many of your ideas, but cut the suspense and just provide the information on when Adam has taken credit for work he didn't do and get it over with. Who are you trying to protect? You've already called him a liar, what have you got to lose. Produce the info or watch your image and respect suffer. If you don't have the info then stop bullshitting, be the bigger man and apologize.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Plan of Attack - Part Deux

Well in bits and bobs over the past couple of days, I managed to re-write the guts of the timesheet summary program I was developing for work using Python. The original go at it was written in C++ and was rife with problems. I was able to write the mechanics of it (no GUI yet, but this is coming) in Python much much quicker than in C++. The code itself is probably 15% of the size of the C++ version and the surprising thing is that I did it much quicker even though this was my first experience with Python programming.

I now have to put a pretty face on it using wxPython and call it a day. I want to get into developing a project database app for work as well and I think Python will be perfectly suited for this task. It's so much more enjoyable learning this language compared with the years of off-and-on toiling with C and C++. I will try to keep blogging about my progress as if someone actually was interested.. :)

The Podcasting Saga Continues...

A couple of big moments in podcasting recently... Adam Curry's Sirius Satellite radio broadcast about podcasting aired yesterday for the first time, Dave Winer is providing a podcast for broadcast on KYOU radio, Adam does an interview for Wired magazine and Dave is pissed.

Lots to follow here. It seems that the mudslinging is well underway although Adam hasn't responded yet, and may never respond (this type of mudslinging will do nothing to help Adam's image - Dave may be building it for him anyway by doing this IMHO). Some interesting thoughts here. I like Dave's podcasts, more so than the Daily Source Code many times. I think this is because they are very personal. And Dave is very passionate about his views (whether you agree with him or not). He seems very intelligent and perhaps more importantly, idealistic. There is nothing wrong with that. Without the idealists you have the mundane. Keep churning out the passion Dave, people are listening.

Of course, with that passion and emotion come regrettable statements. But that's exactly what Dave's about. That is passion. You don't tone it down and edit it for mass consumption, you write what you feel. You podcast what you feel. That's his point. If he spouted off about wanting the 'naturalness' to come through in podcasting and blogging and then polished his product, I'd be disappointed and he'd lose all credibility with me. Maybe he'll think it over and realize later that he shouldn't have said what he said, maybe not. But I don't want to read about sober second thoughts all the time. Sometimes it's much more interesting and honest to get the first cut.

And what is so wrong with being pissed about not getting credit. It happens all the time in a normal business environment, you just don't read about it on a blog. Of course, you don't know if the Wired piece was a full transcript or edited all to hell. As Dave has noted many times, the press rarely ever gets it right. Maybe Adam got it right and Wired got it wrong.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Podcasting news coming fast and furious it seems..

Interesting article
about an AM radio station in San Francisco that will be broadcasting listener generated content. A few things strike me as disappointing (although pragmatic) limitations: FCC licensing and the lack of downloadable archives.

Why is it that the big cheese's willingness to pay licensing fees for podcasters to play music is such a big deal in all these schemes? If I wanted to hear music that is licensed for broadcast play I'd listen to the damned radio!

One other thing that is forgotten or maybe not realized yet, is that I value the ability to pick what I want, any mix of what I want. What they're proposing sounds like it will be public access radio. Sure it's grass roots, but *I* have no control over what I get to hear, someone else does. I know it's a local broadcast solution...but it really seems like a last gasp shot in the dark to me. Just put the stuff in a place I can get to it. I don't want you to decide what I get, in what order, of what quality, that's the frickin beauty of it right now!

One of the best podcasts I've heard on this topic, in fact one of the best podcasts I've heard to date is one by PBCliberal. A recommended listen for sure.

So the list of what I like about podcasting is growing as I realize it..kinda like you don't know what you've got till it's gone... intimacy, freedom of speech, download on demand, sheer freedom of distribution and archiving...let's see what else the big boys miss in all of this.

A side note that made me chuckle is that the article had a web ad for the Senseo coffee maker, an ad which always featured prominently on Adam Curry's site! ;)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

An Interesting Use of

Just glancing at Dave Winer's latest post about the state of RSS and advertising and had to laugh at his creative use of as a reference source. Nice :)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Podcasting at a Crossroads?

There is a heck of a lot of discussion going on with the recent announcement that Adam Curry has cut a deal with Sirius satellite radio. I haven't looked into it enough to comment, but as expected, not everyone is necessarily happy about it. More and more I get the feeling that the intimacy of podcasts - the part I like and treasure so much - is not going to be a part of the monetization of it this time around anyway. Hopefully the more personal podcasts will continue to be produced and enjoyed. I'm not sure how well broadcasted podcasts will work.

Speaking of my preference for more personal podcasts, Dave Winer's thunderstorm podcast was a truly enjoyable one. It was exactly what I love about his solo Morning Coffee Notes podcasts, they are personal, insightful and horribly honest and simple. Something broadcast radio is definitely not. Happy Belated Birthday Dave!

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Just Like Everyone Else?

It seems like only yesterday when I found Google. So simple, honest and fast.

"...You may recall that in its early years, it was a point of honor with Google that it accepted no advertising at all. When it finally introduced advertising, it was in discrete ads set off to the side of search results to avoid any chance of intrusion or confusion. Now, Google plans to enter the bazaar, offering graphics, animation and other elements that will let advertisers more aggressively clamor for your attention. In short, Google plans to become just like everyone else..." InfoCommerce

Dragging Podcasting into the Mainstream (kicking and screaming?)

I've just finished listening to a podcast of Adam Curry and Ron Bloom describing their plans for growing the medium and bringing it in from the fringe. A lot of neat ideas and concepts. I'm just a little worried that it will lose its single biggest advantage over mainstream radio (in my mind anyway) and that is it's personal nature. Likely this specific strategy or someone else's will indeed bring it out into the mainstream. But at what cost. Will the concept of personal blogging by voice disappear in the long run? Will the market support both mass appeal and the quirky nature that sets the current podcasts so far apart from mainstream radio? Does the inevitability of profit seekers effectively cause podcasting to Jump The Shark? Check it out for yourself. It's definitely an interesting listen.

Perhaps even more interesting will be Dave Winer's thoughts on the podcast.

(Postscript: ...and here they are.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Plan of Attack

After skimming some of the Python programming tutorials in the last week or two, I've decided that I will start slowly but definitely start! I found the tutorial written by the inventor of Python Guido van Rossum. Best to go straight to the source. I'm going to set up a simple flat file database and build the functions to read, write, search, insert and edit entries into that database. The stuff relating to file I/O seems fairly simple. I thought it would be better to get the mechanics of it down while learning the language and then use those tools to put a pretty GUI onto it later. We'll have to see how this baby competes against the other 50 million things I have on my list ;)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

To Blur or Not To Blur....

I was just doing a quick tour of Washington DC when I noticed something. They've blurred out the US Capitol (pictured above) but interestingly not the White House or the Pentagon.. Hmmm. Make of it what you will... that's a Dam!

Google's new satellite map feature is a blast! Nevermind road directions, use it to tour famous landmarks! I have checked out my hometown (of course), Niagara Falls, Las Vegas, The Hoover Dam (shown above) and various other famous landmarks. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Janet Tokerud seems to have the same idea in her tech ronin blog which I frequent from time to time.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Some Old Habits Die Easily

For the first time in a week or so, I spent the commute listening to (or trying to listen to) regular broadcast radio. For the past couple of weeks I've spent most of my commute time listening to podcasts from various sources. Switching back recently, the big thing that struck me was impersonal nature of broadcast radio. No control about what I was listening to, bland polished commentary, did I mention impersonal?.. Provided the means were there (easy access to podcasted material and easy playback in the car or wherever) the personal nature of it alone could really hook a lot of people.

Dave Winer's Morning Coffee Notes has a very personal, one-to-one nature to it. And even the more polished Daily Source Code by Adam Curry is directed at, and receives a mass audience (relatively speaking of course) and yet it feels infinitely more intimate than any of the 8 stations I skipped through on my car stereo this morning. The lack of spontaneity and the smothering weight of production teams aiming at mass appeal must be the major reasons. The progress and development of podcasting will be interesting to watch. Even if parts of it go really mainstream, it will be impossible to get rid of the small fish or really really small fish. After all, they don't need any stinking transmitters ;).

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Stumbling Around

I recently came across something called StumbleUpon which is kind of a neat tool which tries to figure out what websites you might like by putting a toolbar in your browser that lets you rate any site you visit by either clicking "I Like It" or "Not for Me". Then there's the "Stumble!" button which takes you to a random site that may or may not interest you. When you register (it's free) it asks you to check off things that interest you. So clicking the stumble button does give you plenty of interesting sites. This is a real cool feature if you're just surfing around at lunchtime or something. You just click the stumble button and it will take you to some neat site. If it doesn't interest you click 'not for me' and hit stumble to go to the next. I've found some really neat sites in the past couple of days using this system. These are sites I never would have found any other way.
StumbleUpon also lets you communicate with others that build the same kind of interest tree that you have, but I haven't taken advantage of this social networking aspect of the tool yet. Not that I ever will. But the basic idea of taking you to sites that somewhat match your interest and letting you fine tune that interest list by rating the site is a really interesting one. Definitely something that should be checked out.

Yet Another Thing to Add to the List

I've been toying with the idea for a program for the last year or so. It's a simple database of project attributes for work. At work it seems like twice a day that one of us asks the other, "hey, what was the last project where you did xyz?" where xyz might be formed concrete foundations, or load bearing masonry, or window washer supports, or metal siding, or...well you get the idea.

We deal with a great number of projects, but we have no way of tracking what those projects involved. So we are constantly racking our brains trying to remember when we did something so that we can use the details again. So I think a simple database would be of use. Of course, I like programming, so I intend to write something to achieve this, rather than just try and find some other software to do it for me. What fun is that?? So I was brainstorming about how to do the interface and had a general question that I posted to Usenet. On person emailed me a response suggesting that using Python (I intended on using C++) might be much more productive.

So now I've started on the road to learning Python. It seems the place to start is and I quickly downloaded ActivePython to get my feet wet. We will see how it goes. I will likely intermittently post some progress reports on how I am finding it. I have always dealt with C, or C++ and I have quickly looked at Perl as well. So we'll see how python goes. Nice to find something new to learn, although my plate is overflowing as it is...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Discovering What?

I've been listening to quite a few podcasts lately during my commute and I've found the BloggerCon-III podcasts very engaging and interesting. You get to hear from a lot of 'regular Joes' about why they are blogging, what they are blogging about, the problems and triumphs they are experiencing and the state of blogging in general. Definitely an interesting read for someone like me just starting out.

I have a lot on my plate right now (probably too much) in terms of things I want to do, but for the last several years I've been struggling with trying to find my real passion. I want to find that special thing that I could be doing and feel completely fulfilled. Maybe that's everyone's goal, I don't know. But I'm a very introspective person. I have no problems with self-examination to see what it is I enjoy, what I have passion about, what my strengths and weaknesses are.

I have a tendency to really get into things for a little while, pursue them with real vigor, but only for a limited time. I seem to load up on the things that interest me and then grow bored. No actually it's not bored. I always seem to find something else that replaces or supercedes the current thing I'm pursuing. Lately I've come to realize more and more that I am pursuing knowledge in general. I am a real sponge when it comes to certain things.

Over the past 4 years I have pursued certain things with a passion: C++ programming, HTML, Photography (film mostly), digital image work, creative writing, planning and organization, video editing, time management, life management, critical thinking, teaching and now blogging. Do you find it odd that engineering related issues are NOT in that list?!!

And all the time, I have been searching for that one thing that will make me happy in the long term and I haven't found it in any of the things I've listed. I think sometimes that my passion, strengths and future lies not in the actual *things* listed above but more in the acquisition, use and dissemination of that knowledge. I love getting the information. I love using these things to surprise, move or make people happy, and I love to tell or teach them how easy or fun they are to do. I love to explain the things that I'm pursuing almost as much as actually doing them! Maybe there is something here. Maybe I'll find it in the giving and telling, and not so much in the things themselves.

I teach two continuing education college courses (a basic Structures course, and a Methods & Materials in Construction course) in alternate semesters at Humber College. I'm bored or at least not that passionate about much of the material I teach, but I love the actual teaching. I love communicating what I know to them. And I love to see them when they actually get interested - (which, at times can be few and far between).

I think I have two problems (two that is, in this realm of my life - I have loads of problems in other parts of my life): The first is that I have too many things I'd like to pursue, and the second is that I don't know if any of those things is getting me anywhere closer to a goal, any goal. In fact I don't really know what the goal is. It's frustrating me not to have one right now.