Friday, July 20, 2007


Hey guys,

I'm sorry to say this, but I have to take a break from this blog. Today was probably the worst day I've had since my car accident, and so naturally my heart isn't really into blogging right now. Aside from that, I'm going to be working every day for the next 11 days to get my project for work done by August 1. I'm not saying that I'm taking a break for that long, but I'm warning you guys that I'm just going to be insanely busy and I'm just not feeling very good right now. Maybe I'll feel better in a few days, maybe in a week, who knows.

This is not a cry for help. I'm not sick or dying. I will be just fine. Since I'm sure many of you will ask me what you can do I'll tell you right now: enjoy your life =P Don't worry about me. I've already talked to the people who can help me, and the only other people who can help me are obviously my teammates at Amazon. I'm just feeling stressed out of my mind right now. It's not Amazon's fault, I still love it there, and I'm convinced that I will not fail them, but that prospect scares me enough to make me work 11 days straight.

This is NOT the end. I will return. I just need a break. Oh, and in case any of you are getting the wrong idea about this: no, my girlfriend hasn't done anything bad to me. She's a phenomenal person, and I still love her very much, and I'm pretty sure that she still loves me. I'll leave you all with a few pictures.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Microsoft Screws Over Linspire

Sorry about missing last night, but there wasn't even much to talk about, and there isn't a whole lot more now. There is still the story of how Microsoft is being a jerk to Linspire. Basically, they came out swinging saying that Linspire was violating some patents, despite being covered under the GPLv3 license, then forged an agreement with them, and now they're saying that some new software from Linspire is violating said agreement. They've done the same thing to Novell in the past, but Novell was the reason for GPLv3, which restricts companies from getting involved with Microsoft in cross-patent agreement because you cannot make agreements with companies in the business of selling software under v3, which Microsoft naturally hates so they've been chopping at Linspire, who did settle with Microsoft under much litigious pressure for the name "Lindows" and now are screwed again. I really try to not rag on Microsoft like every other geek does, but I just can't help it. Microsoft, you are retarded. In my opinion, this is really really bad press. Maybe I'm being too optimistic here, but will this not get out into the mainstream? This is evil. They're using scare tactics to get Linux distros to double back on GPLv3 and come to the dark side. I'm no legal expert, but if these guys are covered under GPLv3, and didn't steal technology from Microsoft, then aren't Microsoft threats pretty empty? After all, they're not even citing the specific patent violations. Anyhow, the culture of ownership in this country is extremely annoying, and no one brings it out better than Microsoft.

NetworkWorld has a rather long article about the 12 IT skills employers can't say no to. It's annoyingly spread over several pages, but most of those skills really are pretty important, as I've found out. Networking, open-source experience, UI experience, etc. are all pretty attractive skills. If you're looking for a tech job, you should probably look that over.

If you want to be a stalker, then you should try tracking someone down geographically using the first six digits of their phone number. It's an interesting little Google mashup, but I can't imagine it's all that accurate with cell phones. However, it was almost dead-on with my parents' land line. Anyway, an interesting tool to add to your stalker toolkit.

I didn't know that Suicide Girls had male columnists, I always assumed it was just a softcore porn site for geeks or something, but Will Wheaton put up a pretty good editorial about his experience spending a weekend unplugged from the Internet. Personally, I think I'd feel kind of bothered spending a weekend without access to a computer at all. I guess I'm just that addicted, but I suppose if I was planning a romantic getaway with my girlfriend or something, I'd do it so I could give her my full attention. Otherwise, no dice.

There's this program I discovered yesterday called Jing (strangely enough, that was the name of my prom date, but prom wasn't very good) that basically allows you to take pictures and videos from you computer screen whenever you want and upload them instantly. I like that idea because I often find myself e-mailing screenshots manually, and doing videos would be even better. Unfortunately, I can't try it from my work computer, so try it out and let me know how it is!

You knew it was coming: the Apple news. If you have an iPhone and you want to use SSH from it (I know that sounds stupid, but geeks like me salivate over that ability), you should check this out. It's probably not all that secure, I'd imagine, but still awesome for your home Linux machine or maybe one at school or something. The other Apple news is that Best Buy has expanded its Apple pilot program to more stores and has fancy displays to go with it. I'm curious as to how much money Best Buy makes off of sales of Apple computers? Given that Apple controls its pricing, it can't be that much, can it?

Lastly, I just have to point and laugh at this video game about your e-mail. This may be the stupidest idea for a video game I've ever heard, and it even has a trailer to go with it. It's all about horribly drawn half naked women poolside. If gamers want that, they'll get Leisure Suit Larry, thank you very much.

M Night Shyamalan somehow got John Leguizamo and Mark Wahlberg to star in his upcoming movie The Happening. It's amazing that big name actors are still willing to work with Shyamalan even in the wake of his last couple of movies facing harsh criticism, and I just hope that this movie ends up being good, at least.

The Wolverine spinoff movie finally has a director, and it's actually acclaimed South African director Gavin Hood. That's a lot better than most of us would've expected, so this should be interesting, to say the least.

Kevin Smith's next film is called Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and it takes a detour from the View Askewniverse, but he did manage to get Rosario Dawson to play Miri, which is a part he wrote for her. Aside from the title, no idea what it's about, but Kevin Smith is pretty pleased with the script he churned out and he's pretty funny so I'm hoping for good things.

Now for some multimedia. Yahoo Movies has a couple of clips from The Simpsons Movie, only one of which is funny, but something is better than nothing I guess. The other clip is for I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (what's with all these unnecessarily long titles lately?), and it's actually good for a chuckle. My opinion of this movie is starting to turn for the better, but I probably won't end up seeing it opening weekend.

By popular demand, I'll leave you with a picture from work:

Now for the 3x Thursday meme:

1. Do you believe that we as humans were meant to have just one person we are paired with for life? Why/why not?
Yeah, I think I do. I know it sounds crazy, but I really do believe that God has a plan, and I think that plan involves one person that we each belong with. Call me a crazy romantic, I guess, but that is how I feel.

2. What do you think about famous people who have huge egos and/or are general not nice people? Do you think they have any right to behave as such? Are you able to ignore them and still enjoy their work, or does their attitude just kill the experience for you? Why/why not?
You mean like Russell Crowe? I don't really care for that. I don't know that it makes me boycott their movies, but I'm less likely to want to see their movies just subconsciously.

3. Do you believe that our happiness may be all about how we handle life's changes and curve balls? Why/why not?
Definitely. I think that being happy is predicated on how well you can handle your life when things get rough. If you dwell on the bad too much, how can you be happy? Fortunately, my girl keeps be happy, even when I'm down, and I feel blessed for that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Beautify Your Landing Page

I love talking about usability. I was talking about it today with my manager with regard to my geographical visualization tool (I'd show screenshots, but it's backed by sensitive, proprietary data, sorry) and how to best display options to mess with it, and he brought up the good point that we're dealing with an technical user (Amazon business units) rather than your average person, who would have different needs and intuitions and such. Anyway, today, I wanted to talk a little bit about this article on how to make the first page your users see of your site a lasting experience for them. When it comes down to it, the sites you get pumped to come back to or talk about are different and fresh and fast and dynamic. I recommend browsing that post, and allocate like 20 minutes for it because it has some really fun links. Basically, the core concepts are that your site is user-friendly, it's fun to navigate, it's unique, and it communicates well on a visual level. That's what that entire article boils down to. When it really comes down to it, I think all web designers should sit in the driver's seat and figure out how likely you'd be to keep visiting the site and whether you actually enjoy using it. I think sometimes people get too caught up in little things and don't realize that using technology and navigating the web should be enjoyable!

Remember how SoundExchange decided to ease up on internet radio regarding those royalty hikes? Well, there's no such thing as a free lunch, and the price internet radio has to pay is DRM. That's right, they have to actively fight against streamripping, which basically will end up limiting how users can get to the streams since they have to be clients that support DRM (like Windows Media Player). I guess it's better than losing internet radio altogether though.fees to the winner.

On the bright side, Capitol Records lost a lawsuit and had to pay like $60k in attorney fees to the winner! The is the first time someone has won money from the RIAA in one of these lawsuits, and let's hope that it starts a trend!

The Apple rumor mills are hard at work with word that we'll probably see an iPhone-like iPod as soon as next month or as late as January 2008 due to a contract for touchscreens won by a Taiwanese company. I suppose that this could be for the iPhone, but they're not having supply issues with the iPhone and so they probably wouldn't need a fresh contract for that. I think next month would be too soon for a new iPod, but I'd guess for October maybe. Speaking of the iPhone, this is probably my favorite iPhone rant. It's NSFW, but still hilarious.

Google is really pushing its Street View thing with a whole fleet of Chevy Cobalts ready to hit some big cities. Ok, that's making an assumption, but what else would they do with 30 brand new cars with vertical extensions attached to their hoods?

Speaking of cars, if you text when you drive, then you're an idiot. If you're in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I can maybe understand, but come on! If you need to see this sign to know to not text while you drive, then you don't deserve to drive:

Lastly, this thing is freaking hilarious. If you've ever been in the industry, you'll definitely appreciate it. Hell, even if you haven't, I'm sure you'll find it amusing. It's a list of ways to know your software project is doomed, and it's quite accurate.

I don't watch much anime, though I can respect it, and I like the teaser for The Five Killers, which is from the makes of Afro Samurai. The only other thing I have is the trailer for The Last Legion from The Weinstein Company and featuring Bollywood star (and the wet dream of a lot of Indian dudes, I'm sure; I only dream of my girlfriend, seriously, so I wouldn't know). The trailer isn't particularly amazing, but it's still interesting subject matter (first leader of Rome and stuff).

Now for the Tuesday Twosome:

1. Two nicknames that friends and family call me:
My girlfriend calls me tiger, and some of the guys here call me Ford/Fjord.
2. Two items of clothing I would never get rid of:
The tie I wore to my brother's wedding and the kurta I wore to his Roce.
3. Two movies that I can watch over and over again:
Donnie Darko and Pulp Fiction
4. Two people that have influenced me the most:
My father and my brother
5. Two goals/dreams I hope to fulfill in my lifetime:
Marry the girl of my dreams and create software that really changes the world

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reinventing Modern Computing?

PC Magazine is running an article on what they claim are the five ideas that will reinvent modern computing, but I always take their articles with a grain of salt. Their first one already has me suspicious: IMAX at home. It sounds cool and all, combining a bunch of $1000 computers to simulate IMAX, but who cares that isn't rich? What does this reinvent? I'll give them the quantum computer and the midair mouse though: those are both things that could be big. We wouldn't need pointers for presentations and such, just the same mouse you always use. The quantum computer could theoretically break RSA encryption, so that's a massively huge deal. I also like the idea of extreme peer-to-peer: like BitTorrent for servers or even home networks. Interesting, but complicated and hard to fit in one's head. Much easier to fit in your head is simulating the human brain, about which there's actually a course at UT, and it's a ridiculously large project. I personally don't know that I believe that a computer, even with thousands of processors, can simulate a human brain, but one of my most respected professors believes so, so I'm sure it is theoretically possible. Still, how close are we to attaining than? And when we do, what will we do with it? I don't know if these are the top ideas reinventing computing, but I'd say that four of them are valid.

Microsoft's DRM has been cracked in an interesting arms race between a hidden hacker and Microsoft. He keeps releasing new versions of FairUse4DRM, which strips DRM from .wma files, and he's done it once again to crack Microsoft's latest patch. What stuns me is that one of the richest companies in the world cannot attain the identity of one dude so they can sue him. Kudos to this guy for being great at hiding, and I hope he keeps it up. He's sending a great message: DRM will never be unbreakable.

There's no doubt that Firefox is a great browser, but could it be better by taking lessons from Safari? One blogger is pointing out several things it should take from Safari, and I think I agree with spawning windows from tabs, draggable images, highlighted text fields, and better bug reporting. I'm not convinced that page rendering is noticeably faster in Safari (please comment with benchmarks if you have them, I'm not saying it's not possible), and these are rather nit-picky things. Safari is still a second-class browser compared to Firefox. Plus, if you care so much, write an extension for it (for some of these things they already exist).

Now for the rest of the news: Apple stuff. If you're getting your first Mac then you'll probably find this site helpful, which is filled with articles to help ease the switch. What I love about this site is that it's not fanboy dribble. Just check out this article and see for yourself.

This is really a really interesting rumor: Jay-Z may be starting a label with Apple since he's reportedly been interesting in leaving Def Jam to start a "superlabel" with Beyonce. It sounds crazy, but it may be profitable for Apple, though I imagine they'd be control freaks so not sure if this will pan out. Still, could mean very interesting things for Apple to get involved with music production, though may spread them a little thin, in my opinion.

Now for some one-lines. iPhone users can also check out this site for more great iPhone apps in an iPhone friendly format, no less. If you're looking to hide your iPod or iPhone from crooks, you may want to protect it inside a brown Zune. That thing is so ugly no one would dare want to steal it. I love that they noticed the idiocy of the "squirt" term as well.

Harry Potter did predictably well in the box office with $140 million grossed since its release. It underperformed its predecessors over the weekend, but made more money in five days than they each did in a week, so that's pretty good money. I should probably go see it, huh? Transformers came in second with an impressive $36 million, and Ratatouille was close behind with exactly half that. Those movies both have some great legs on them, and are slaughtering Die Hard with its unnecessarily long title.

Yay for Dark Knight news! Despite previous intimations, it looks like Two Face will, in fact, be in The Dark Knight! I hope they don't try shoving too much in this film with so many villains. And alas, check it out, spy pics of The Joker!

I don't usually dig romance movies, but I think I'm interested in Feast of Love. I don't know why, but I really dig the trailer. It has Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear after all, so it has to be at least somewhat good.

We have an early review of Rush Hour 3, and it's just as I suspected: not as good as the first two. Disappointing, but that's what happens when a franchise becomes a cash cow, I suppose.

Last, but not least, we have rumors about the plot of Indiana Jones 4 about the Soviets wanting immortality. It's too involved for me to even summarize, so just go read it for yourself.

Now for some Unconscious Mutterings:

I say ... and you think ... ?

  1. Situation :: Room

  2. Theme song :: Human Giant

  3. Kelly :: Clarkson

  4. Club :: Music

  5. Swerve :: Cologne

  6. Couch :: Potato

  7. Bigfoot :: Chupa Cabra

  8. Arbitrary :: Random

  9. Inventor :: Device

  10. Blazer :: Blue

Friday, July 13, 2007

Musical Patents

News is kinda slow today, so I figured I'd just briefly talk about a couple of related patents, one from Microsoft and one from Apple. The Microsoft one is to pay their users for "squirting" music. Ok, first of all, that is the stupidest technical term I've heard. It's what Microsoft is calling sharing music with your friends via your Zune. Were they high off their minds? Anyway, basically you could buy the music your friend has without involving the Microsoft servers, and the "squirter" would sync later with the server to report the purchase and get credit for it. It's not a bad idea, per se, but flawed in execution. How can you tell pirated from legal? Maybe it's simple, but I don't know how PlaysForSure is implemented. More importantly though, where's the demand for this? Apple is filing a much better patent, in my opinion: they're doing something similar to Zune with regarding other wireless devices with the iPod, but you can also buy music from a server in the patent. That's a better idea, really. Why do I want to buy music from my friend when iTunes has most everything I'd want already and doesn't have to be physically in front of me?

Internet radio is saved, for now. SoundExchange will not be collecting on the new rate hikes yet and are instead going to continue negotiating with online radio. I don't know why they're so hellbent on this. Why not just budge? Everyone hates them for doing this to internet radio, which clearly has a big audience for it to elicit such a response.

If you ever need to store files online, here are some free alternatives. Very handy for getting large files to friends since most major online e-mail services have caps on attachments.

Now for some one-liners. Now you can get more smileys in Pidgin. Actually, they're the ones in Yahoo/MSN, but still cool. Also, there's a new version of uTorrent out that supports Vista and is full of other little usability fixes.

I'm too tired right now to talk more about this, but ever wonder what happens to programming languages that don't make the cut? Well, you can read all about it here. Though I disagree about Haskell, it still has great academic value.

None of the movie news is really interesting, so here's Friday's Feast:

What is your favorite fruit?

Probably bananas for their versatility. They're easy to carry, great with peanut butter, pivotal to the banana split, fun with nuts when baked in bread, and the list goes on.

Who is someone you consider as a great role model?

My father, definitely. He's the embodiment of what it means to be a man: puts family first, good work ethic, talented, confident, etc.

If you were to spend one night anywhere within an hour of your home, where would you choose?

Considering home as Austin, I plead the fifth =P Those who know me best should know, anyhow.

Main Course
Name something you do too often.

Blog? =P I guess drink tea. I drink like two cups a day.

Fill in the blank: I really like ___________ because ____________.

my girlfriend / she's sweet, kind, encouraging, beautiful, and smart =D

Yep, I'm pretty lucky! Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Life at Amazon

If you've come here for corporate secrets, then too bad, I'm not cracking! You'll just have to wait and see what Amazon is working on when they release it. Instead, I'm going to give a look at the working environment because I've been asked about it and I know I would've liked more information when I was looking for internships. Working at Amazon is almost exactly as I had pictured a place I wanted to work at. The culture really is great and welcoming. Really, Amazon isn't paying me to say this, I'm just enthused about being here. The people in my organization are extremely smart, and the team I'm on seems to have a great management structure. I'm only 3 levels away from an SVP, who reports to Jeff B. Speaking of the management structure, it's actually fairly flat. When I see superiors in the hall, I may get a little nervous because I figure I should be, but the other employees have a great opinion of them and even joke about them in a good way. Even though I technically have two bosses, my manager and my TPPM, they're really more of guides to keep me on track than anything else. It doesn't feel like red tape or bureaucracy in the least. My TPPM is more technical, more hands-on, and more of who I keep posted directly about my progress and sometimes get advice from. My manager is like the team's spokesperson to the business units, has a good idea of what our customers want, sits in meetings so we don't have to, but it a computer scientist at heart, as well, and still very much has a technical understanding of what's going on. In fact, our VP used to work on an Ada compiler back in the day, but he's still a phenomenal leader.

The thing is, if there was no management, things would easily fall apart. Let's face it, SDEs are bad at estimating, often misguided in planning, and not likely to prioritize the business necessity of projects but rather are more likely to prioritize what they think is more fun or more cool in their mind. Even then though, management manages to be fairly unobtrusive, but very much in the loop. Our scrum meetings in the morning are for everyone to answer what they did yesterday, what they're doing today, and if they're blocked on something then what is it so the TPPM (the scrum master) can help with that, and that's really cool, I think. There's always a sense of how we're doing in the sprint and it gives everyone on the team accountability. Last summer, at TI, I really didn't have that. People weren't motivated to get things done. At Amazon, people are just extremely smart and very self-motivated. It's incredible. It's like the difference between high school and college: people genuinely want to be there. People don't think it's perfect, and they're not blissful, because work is work for a reason. They're satisfied overall though, and the work environment is really laid back. No one checks on you, if you take breaks no one cares, there's free tea/coffee/hot cocoa, you can bring your dog, you can wear practically whatever you want (within reason), you can bring your nerf gun, you can request another monitor, etc. Amazon will do whatever they have to if it makes you more productive, though they still have a policy of frugality. So the prices on the site you get are seriously as low as Amazon can make them. They do not have money fights or anything, they just pay top dollar for top talent, and it shows. If you're trying to compete with Amazon then you're going to need a miracle because the people here strive to be on top, are proud of it, and are ridiculously talented. Everyone fits together like a nice little puzzle, and everyone supports each other, and it's just a very friendly community.

As for the internship program: my project is great. I love that what I'm doing really has a business impact (adding geographical data to our logs and producing a visualization for the business units with this information), and that I picked the group I would work with. It gives you a lot more control, and makes you responsible for what you do in the summer. I'm treated like another member of the team, and though I'm sure I've annoyed my co-workers with a lot of confusion for the first several weeks, they've been pretty nice about it. Plus there's the company picnic and intra-company sports, which even Jeff B sometimes plays (I hit an SVP with a dodgeball ball two weeks ago). The only intern-only events are rafting, Mariners game, a dinner, and then there's a couple of UT intern events (lunch and dinner). Rafting on the Skykomish was a ton of fun (I'll share when I get high res pictures), and our raft actually hit a rock called Fly Paper sideways and flipped over. It was scary being under the raft for like 10 seconds but our guide flipped it back over and 5 of the 6 of us got right back on (the other guy was picked up by a support kayak). It was a very well planned trip, I just wish we'd have one or two more of those. Plus, my recruiter is really cool. So overall, I'd totally recommend Amazon as an employer. The downsides are few and kind dumb to even mention (little company discount, offices not consolidated on one campus, not enough intern unity), whereas the benefits are much better (subsidized housing for interns, two computers and two monitors for work, very competitive pay, great management, smart co-workers, etc.). I seriously have sometimes woken up on Sundays and been like, "oh man, I'm not going to work today!" The biggest drawback for me though is not being with my girlfriend, and so that's the only reason I'll be glad when this summer is over. The experience has been amazing though (working with different design patterns, MySQL, BDBs, more Linux, being in a scrum, hard lessons of design/planning, etc). I'm very grateful to be here.

Should I even bother with real news today? I guess I'll go over a couple of things. AT&T has taken the route of deep packet inspection and will be aiming to throw "pirates" off their network, but we're not sure what their stupid algorithms will considerate a pirate so it's really a horrible idea.

Do you remember what the web looked like in 1994? This video is an awesome look back at the good old days of picture-less Internet. We didn't even get the Internet at home until 1997, and the Internet didn't really become popular until 1996 (maybe late 1995), so you can imagine how far back that is.

Rumors are abound that we'll see a Beatles-inspired iPhone loaded with the Beatles library in time for its release on iTunes, a full month before competitors. It's a fun rumors, and that's why I'm blogging it, but quite unlikely, in my opinion. Why would Apple Corps even give Apple, Inc temporary exclusivity? I'm more interested in the faux SDK one developer is making for the iPhone by way of a little markup language. Thumbs up to him: it looks pretty dandy. His site is getting slammed so the demos may take a while to load, but they're impressive given the simplicity of his project (make your window small and pretend you're on an iPhone viewing them).

This is almost unbelievable: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix managed to rake in nearly $50 million, more than a fifth of which were late Tuesday showings (mainly midnight). That's actually a record for a Wednesday opening, so any bets for how much it'll rake in by Sunday? I imagine it'll be between $150 and $200 million.

The only upcoming fantasy movie I want to see is The Golden Compass, so I just thought I'd share the new posters.

Lastly, we have a few trailers. The first is for December Boys featuring Mr. Potter himself (Daniel Radcliffe), and I think it could actually turn out to be a good movie, but I'm worried about it getting caught up in being a feel good movie and getting corny. The other trailer now on Yahoo Movies is for Death Sentence, and it really doesn't look good. Does Kevin Bacon no longer care about his career? Lastly, there's the trailer for The Dark is Rising which is a really kiddie fantasy movie. It's based off of actual books, but why does it feel like a hack of Harry Potter to me? (UPDATE: Whoops, The Dark is Rising actually came out long before J.K. Rowling even started writing, so she actually stole from Susan Cooper. Thanks to Charles for the info!)

Now for the 3x Thursday meme:

1. Do you treat people you're extremely close to (S.O's, ex's, best friends, family, etc) the same as you would regular friends and people off the street? How so/how not?
Well of course. I think everyone does. I don't mean I treat strangers like crap, but there are certain things I wouldn't say to certain people because they could be easily misunderstood, like when some of my friends and I make jokes that are intentionally mean to point out how mean people who say things like that are. Anyway, it's a longer story for a short answer: yes =P

2. What is it about knowing someone fairly well, or very well even, that seems to give us a license to say and do whatever we want/think/feel sometimes? Do you think it's right? Why do you think we do things like that?
I don't think it's ever whatever you want, I just think you trust those people more. I think this is natural and totally understandable. We do it because we all have our zone of comfort.

3. Do you tolerate being treated a certain way by someone (good or bad)? How so/how not? Why/why not?
All I ask for is a little respect. I don't tolerate people treating me like crap, and I'm not at all afraid to show it. My brother and I are both a bit headstrong in that respect, I guess. We get it from our father =P I guess we're just overly confident at times.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dumping on Apple

It's finally time to talk about some articles that aren't too flattering for our favorite company in Cupertino. That's right, some dirt on Apple. They gave Leopard beta builds to attendees of WWDC, and it sounds like it has some ostensible UI issues. Did some of the Vista developers defect to Apple or something? Because it sounds akin to what people hate about Vista: GUI upgrades that are really downgrades. They made the top menu bar transparent, which looks retarded when you maximize applications. More ridiculous is that little Spotlight bar. Wow. What happened to subtle elegance, Apple? I'm not even a Mac user and I liked Panther. You'll probably be more shocked by some of the iPhone fine print though. I scoffed at this article at first because it was listing known facts, and then I almost fell out of my chair when I read that there was a limit on the number of times you can use WiFi. What the Hell is that?! Oh, and you can't send attachments in e-mails? It looks there are also restrictions on calling non-AT&T subscribers, and you can't stream video content from the Internet. If you text message international users, you get charged extra, or if you send messages over 300 KB, which I assume means e-mail since you can't send picture mail is my understanding. If you own an iPhone, that little expose is a must-read. Very disappointing, Apple and AT&T.

There is a bright spot for Mr. Jobs though, Apple stock has hit a record high with a market value of $115 billion. A 55% increase in 6 months is really impressive, and I don't imagine that the Apple TV did much for their stock so it must've been speculation on the iPhone.

One of the really painful things about using Windows if you also use Linux is missing utilities like cut and grep and such. Well, now there's Windows Grep, but I can't install it on my company laptop. It looks awesome though, so let me know if you try it out and like it/hate it by commenting.

The RIAA, in true villain style, has decided that if Sirius and XM merge that they're going to have to pay higher royalties. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure they already pay high royalties than broadcast radio stations do, and now they have to pay more? Why? Do they get better music or something? The FCC is hearing out the RIAA, who also are pissed about those portable devices to record satellite radio. How does this differ from using a cassette player or several mp3 players (including mine) to record live radio?

Oh, and I don't think I mentioned this before, but the FCC has an online form to submit comments on several issues, including the XM-Sirius merger and a la carte cable channels.

How awesome is that T-Shirt? I would totally wear it, but then again, I'm pretty vocal about hating DRM, and I'm a total dork. That design is the winner of a contest TorrentFreak was running for the best anti-DRM T-Shirt, and even the runner-ups are pretty cool.

I'm not usually easily swayed by up and coming social networking sites, but I'm really impressed by what I've seen of Streamy. I've signed up for the private beta, so I'll talk about it more if I get an invite. Basically, it's a mix between Digg, Google Reader, Jaiku, and Meebo. That's kind of a loose way of saying it, but it's a smart news aggregator that aims to make sharing easy and prioritizes what you're likely to want to see. Trust me, it's cooler than it sounds.

Lastly, Time put up an article on the 5 worst websites, and I don't think those sites are really the five worst, but I felt that MySpace and Evite being on there is important because they're both popular sites that have serious issues. I also learned from it that eHarmony discriminates against gays, which means that I'm officially going to start railing on eHarmony if anyone ever talks to me about it.

The only movie news today are teases. One is for Indiana Jones 4, which is little more than a look at Indy's outfit and talking to Steven Spielberg. It's not a trailer, just, quite literally, a little tease. At least Ford can still has the look down. The teaser trailer for 10,000 BC gives us much more, but I have no desire to see it. It almost makes me think the creators were watching Apocalypto and decided to make a movie that went farther back, which doesn't sound exciting (though Apocalypto wasn't bad, just long).

Now for a Wednesday Mind Hump:

1. What makes you cheer up?
Thinking about my girl

2. Who makes you cheer up?
My girlfriend =)

3. What location makes you cheer up?
My bed

4. What food or beverage makes you cheer up?
Ice cream!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Computer Scientists DO Need Math

Among academics, it's fairly well known that UT is one of those schools that loves to push theory on its CS students. Several of the top 10 schools do the same (maybe all?). And now, there's this dude who wrote a book saying that math is unimportant to computer science, which I find outrageous. He claims that mathematicians and computer scientists pursue different goals, which originally seemed to intersect at the algorithm but that no random input programs (such as an operating system) really follow the concept of the algorithm. First of all, he's referring to non-determinism which, lo and behold, would be a mathematical idea ported to computer science. I don't see how anything a computer does isn't an algorithm because whether or not it halts has nothing to do with it following a predetermined series of steps, whether it has to respond to random inputs or whether it has to do things in parallel or what. That doesn't imply that when it starts and ends and the exact sequence of steps in its execution, but rather it provides a plan for handling a likely infinite number of possible execution paths. Oh, and you know that thing everything inside this box you're using speaks in? Binary? Yeah, that's a product of math. If you don't understand binary, I think it can make your job hard at times if you're coding. I had to deal with a binary tree at work based on bits (won't tell you why or how, sorry ;). Hell, I've used math a lot at work by the very idea of time and memory complexity. My colleagues sometimes even speak in logical terms to explain why they believe a certain design path is better. I'm in the industry at an enormous company and math surrounds me, so how the Hell can he say that it's unnecessary to computer science? The concepts that founded computers are not obsolete, they're just not quite so obvious anymore as we build higher level languages. Alright, I'm off my soapbox.

Ars Technica put up one of their ridiculously awesome reviews, but this one is for the iPhone. This is the longest review from them that I've seen, and it's ridiculously detailed. I don't imagine that you'll find a more comprehensive, unbiased iPhone review than this. I actually probably spent like 25 minutes just browsing it, and it really needs no other introduction.

It's rumor mill time! Yesterday, there were rumors that were squashed today about an iPhone Nano, and now we have analysts reporting an iPhone-like 5G iPod in January, in time for Macworld. This would make sense, but I kind of have a feeling that they'd rather get this puppy out before Christmas. That's just my feeling though, backed by nothing other than a gut feeling. Remember how they unveiled the Nano in late October at a special event in time for the holidays? I just think they'd want to do something like that.

Couple of one-liners now. If you actually own an iPhone, you'll love this list of applications that came out of iPhoneDevCamp. If you're moving anywhere anytime soon or if you're hardcore about shipping goods, did you know that USPS will give you free boxes? Crazy, huh?

Lastly, I thought it was interesting that Web 2.0 stuff is being viewed as a threat by tech company executives. It restricts their control, takes away some of their power, and thrusts them involuntarily into these new applications. These guys should've seen it coming though since no paradigm in computing lasts for more than a decade or two.

I know it's already Tuesday, but I have to talk about the box office because Transformers had the highest grossing opening six days of any non-sequel movie ever at a whopping $152.2 million. It's followed by Ratatouille at $29 million over the 3-day weekend. Oh, and if you're wondering why Sicko, despite all its press, is at 9th, it's probably because it's only is 700 theaters, a fifth of Transformers.

Fox is intending to pump out the Wolverine spinoff flick by next summer. Sound crazy? Yeah, it is, especially since Hugh Jackman also needs to film Australia before then. Good luck, Fox! Oh, and why not try finding a director first?

According to Richard Kelly, they're halfway through touching up the special effects on Southland Tales. They're planning to be done by the end of summer, and he sounds pretty proud of what they're doing so I hope it ends up better than some of the initial reactions were.

Now for some trailers. The teaser for the 60s adaptation Get Smart wasn't funny and didn't really leave me wanting more, so I hope the real trailer ends up being better. The trailer for Fred Claus honestly wasn't much better, despite having Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti. The most impressive trailer was probably for the fantasy film The Spiderwick Chronicles, but I'm not terribly excited about it quite yet because there have just been too many fantasy movies since Lord of the Rings.

Last, but not least, how cool would it be to Kill Dill?!

Now for the Ten on Tuesday meme (don't have time tonight to do pictures, sorry):

10 Favorite Things
10. Booze
9. Water (oceans, beaches, lakes, etc)
8. Blogging
7. Photography
6. Dancing
5. Guitar
4. Austin
3. My family
2. Technology
1. My girlfriend

Monday, July 09, 2007


If you're a product of the 80s, or even of the early 90s, there's little doubt that you're familiar with that logo. That's right, if you hadn't guessed from my blatantly obvious title, it's from our favorite franchise about robots in disguise. So how does it measure up?

I saw it last night, fairly interested in it after good early buzz from early screenings, and it totally lived up to my expectations. Some of the guys I went with were reluctant and presumed it would suck, and they were vastly impressed by how fun it was. This is probably Michael Bay's second best film (sorry, it was lacking Sean Connery). That's not saying much, I guess, and it's not going to get any Academy Awards obviously, but it's still a great summer blockbuster.

The premise is that on the planet Cyberton there was a war between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons that ravaged the planet over the unlimited power granted by the Allspark, a magical cube that the Decepticons wanted to use to enslave the humans, but Optimus Prime saw good in humans and brought his Autobots to Earth, where the cube ended up, to stop Megatron and the Decepticons. It actually ends up being not quite so hokey on the big screen, and it's forgivable because it's a plot based on a show that's based on a line of toys; I'd say they did pretty good given the material they had to work with. You have to suspend disbelief and understand that it's not going to make sense, and I saw things wrong left and right with it technologically (the six of us, all being computer scientists, took turns scoffing) but let it slide for the sake of the rest of the movie.

Why? Because the special effects were predictably phenomenal. I was very pleased by the CG style, and I thought it was a nice mix between crazy alien stuff in a present-day society. It sometimes didn't work quite that well, but it worked a lot of the time and the payoff was great. Not to mention that every fight scene was carefully detailed, though sometimes a bit fast, and not in short supply. Plus, I was actually surprised that Shia LaBeouf (who needs to change his hard-to-spell last name) really pulled off his starring role. He was much better than his annoying character on Even Stevens, and I believed that he was Sam Witwicky. Not sure if I bought Megan Fox being into him, but she played her role as eye candy for the teenage boys out there, so that worked out also. I did like her character, but she definitely could've been fleshed out a little more.

Anyway, my only other issue was that it was too long. It's 144 minutes long! That's not a big deal though, because it's worth sitting through for the jaw-dropping effects, well-executed action, and subtly funny jokes. I thought the jokes would all be lame since it was PG-13, but I liked more than I didn't. The dialogue obviously suffered at times, which was to be expected though less than I would've thought.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, go see this movie. I doubt that you'll regret it if you understand that you're going to go see a movie that knows how to show an advanced alien race of robots fighting. If you're looking for romance or comedy, then you're out of your mind, but the action is well worth it. I give it a B+ simply because I thoroughly enjoyed myself and felt like it was good use of $8.75.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Recapping Some Apple News

Because I've missed so many days, I'd rather just brute force the big Apple news items since that's like half of what I have today rather than big one topic to write a whole lot about. First and foremost, AT&T claims to have activated over 600,000 iPhones as of Monday night! I don't know about you guys, but I'd call than a fairly successful launch from strictly a sales standpoint. Others claim that over 1 million are sold by now, and apparently a European deal will be announced soon as well. Still, the European thing is just a rumor. The reaction to the iPhone's released has been mixed with naysayers still naysaying and fans playing up its good points. It's no secret that it's not perfect though, and Macenstein has compiled a great list of what Apple can, and should, add to the iPhone. I think that if all these things were in the 2G iPhone, it would be a killer app of its own, and it's not altogether unlikely for Apple to listen up here. Apparently, they actually are working on getting Flash on there, to be released in a free update. Meanwhile, in the world of iTunes, Apple has started to drop prices on some albums. I don't have iTunes on my work computer so I can't see which, but it seems like it's mostly indie label stuff. Still, a pretty cool move, Apple. Unfortunately for them, UMG did end up killing their long-term contract and instead will be selling Apple music 'at will' to, as I had predicted, gain more bargaining power for variable pricing and also to give exclusivity deals to other music providers (ha, who else has the kind of share for that to help? Maybe Amazon, though their service still isn't out yet).

While we're on the topic of music, check out this list of over 90 great music sites. Aside from tablature, it has everything an audiophile could need to get his or her groove on. I literally spent like an hour playing around at some of those sites. I had no idea there were karaoke sites out there and was especially impressed by that since you could just get a media center PC rather than a karaoke machine.

With iPhone abuzz the past few months it's hard to imagine that other cell phones have actually been released. More recently, T-Mobile has announced unlimited VoIP calls from special phones for only $10 more a month. It defaults to WiFi when available and only relies on T-Mobile's network when you're not near a hot spot. I picture this being huge for international travelers, but I think that this could totally be T-Mobile's savior. It's infamous for poor coverage, so having hot spots at over 8,500 Starbucks and Borders and such for T-Mobile users should help out their cause.

Meanwhile, Sprint is dealing with the iPhone release by forcibly ending contracts with users who call customer service too much. Is it just me, or does this sound stupid and ridiculously misguided? What an awesome PR stunt to deter potential customers. It's bad enough that their site is butt ugly, but now they're going around ending contracts if you have service issues. I use Sprint and I don't even like their service much to begin with.

The Consumerist has staged a stunt that will hopefully go down in Internet history as brilliant: they rigged a computer with porn and monitoring mechanisms and sent it to their local Geek Squad to install iTunes. Of course, the Best Buy boneheads took the bait and were caught stealing personal photographs as well as porn. It got insane viewership from Digg, and I hope caused a shake up within Best Buy. More importantly, I hope people will be more prudent with protecting their more sensitive files.

For those of you who fear that your computers aren't secure enough. Computer World has a great round up of some of the best free security programs the interweb has to offer. I would call it a must-read and may be a much needed eye-opener for some of you more passive users.

I only have one piece of movie news because the rest is just video content (mostly trailers): Christian Bale has revealed that The Dark Knight ends in a way that's very amiable towards a sequel. I guess it's no surprise that they would want to make more movies, but it does make one wonder what he knows that would infer something like that so clearly.

Yahoo Movies has a number of exclusive new clips from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (that title never gets any shorter), and they're taking a while to load for me but they're pretty neat, nonetheless. Harry is definitely coming off as much more mature in this one from what the clips are revealing.

Since my girlfriend is a Jane Austen fan, I thought I'd mention the trailer for The Jane Austen Book Club about women in a book club who loves the books and end up living them out. Unfortunately, my girlfriend is none too happy with me right now, so hopefully that trailer makes her more likely to forgive me?

Apple Trailers has another high-def trailer for The Bourne Ultimatum and it looks just as good as the other one did.

Yahoo has a couple of trailers. One is for Gone Baby Gone, which doesn't actually make a whole lot of sense. There's a kidnapping case and some corrupt cops and that's all I got from it. The trailer for El Cantante is more coherent, but doesn't make me want to see it all.

Lastly, there's a red-band trailer for Good Luck Chuck that doesn't seem to have any new content other than a couple of curse words, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it's Jessica Alba half-naked, so I'm sure that guys will line up in hordes to see this movie anyhow.

No meme tonight...I'm kind of hurting right now and would rather focus on that right now. Take care, everyone!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I know I ks now

I've been slacking off here! Well, yesterday was 4th of July, which started well and ended kind of rough (sorry, my parents took my camera for their cruise so no pics for a week), and today I deployed something at work. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well as I thought so in between coming home late from a long workout and dealing with that, not much time to relax and post. Tomorrow I'm gong white water rafting, so I won't have a post up til Saturday. Sorry!

Monday, July 02, 2007

iPhone Mania Continues

Even though I didn't post last night, it really doesn't matter. Every other article out there is for the iPhone anyhow! I don't have much time to post right now, so I'm going to run through them real quick here. Engadget has not only an extremely informative video walkthrough of the iPhone, but also a full-length review. The verdict? Surprisingly optimistic. They don't hold any punches, but it's definitely better than I would've expected from the boys at Engadget. Despite its many flaws, I believe it has more strong points than 99% of the smartphone market. I guess that's not saying much, but it goes against the people hating on the iPhone because it's the iPhone. Oh, and Apple was smart about supplying it: it didn't really sell out on Friday. It sold well, but stores were well-stocked. Of course, the servers were slammed with activation requests, but that was to be expected. Oh, and it looks like a 2 year contract isn't required. For those complaining about its little bugs (apparently, it crashes when listening to music and doing other stuff) will be happy to hear rumors that a host of updates, including iChat, are to be released before the advent of Leopard. I've heard that adding 3G is just a software update, too, so I don't know if 3G is a software thing in and of itself or if the iPhone just has the hardware lying dormant. We do know that it's running on an old-school ARM processor though. Probably a good call given how impressive reports have been on its battery life (including in that Engadget review), and that 8-stage pipeline sounds sexy.

Rumors broke today that UMG is not going to be renewing its digital music contract with iTunes, which would just mean that they'd probably pen a shorter-term contract. Still, that gives them more power to pressure Apple into variable pricing and such with the threat of not-renewing for good, and should prove quite interesting. I wonder if that caused the 0.78 point drop in Apple's stock today.

Lastly, the DVD CCA has decided to allow commercial digital movie distribution sites, like iTunes and CinemaNow, provide download-to-DVD functionality given that the user has a compatible burner and disc with CSS. So it's not perfect, but it's a huge step in the right direction.

I may have stopped watching The Simpsons years ago, when it started sucking, but how cool is that? A real life Squishee machine! There are Kwik-E-Marts in a few select cities as part of a big marketing stunt, and I think it's a great idea. I'm going to try to get a shot of the Seattle one for you guys on Sunday when I go to church.

Oh, and in the box office, Ratatouille took top honors at a respectable $47.2 million. It sounds like it was well-deserved, and I'm sure that it's considered a "disappointment", but I think it'll still garner a lot of money in the weeks to come. Even though Live Free or Die Hard took second at under $34 million, I'm sure it still will make a lot of money in the weeks to come (I'd guess $80 million in the next month). This weekend sees the release of Transformers though, so you can bet your money that I'm going to try clawing my way into that.

No time for meme, gotta get to bed early tonight. I'm hanging out with my parents tomorrow night (they're flying in), but I'll try to post if possible. If not, have a great 4th of July everyone!