Sunday, August 26, 2007

Moving Back In

I guess I forgot to mention that I'm in the process of moving back into Austin and doing NSC stuff, and with classes starting on Wednesday just keep your eyes peeled for my next post. I'm sure it'll be very soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Before I get started here, I have to say that I hate Sprint. I called them to activate my brother's old Treo 650 for me, and they were rude and ugly the whole time. If you can help it, don't use Sprint. Anyhow, I saw Superbad today so I felt that a brief review was in order. It was a pretty entertaining movie, but quite crude. Maybe not quite on the level of Clerks 2, but still pretty heavy on cursing and gratuitous innuendo. If you can look past all that though, it's quite funny. The last portion of the movie is definitely the funniest, but it's pretty evenly sprinkled with what-the-hell humor. I guess I laughed so much because I could see the inner perv that every, and I mean every, guy experiences for a couple of years following puberty, cut lose on the big screen in the character Seth. What makes this movie so funny is that the casting is spot-on. I just love every character in this movie; they're perfect. Keep in mind that this is a comedy, not a drama or anything, so good acting means good delivery and believable caricatures. There were a few scenes where I had to look away because the scene was so shocking or I felt embarrassed for a character; that's what good acting is in a comedy. Anyhow, I give it a B because it was rather crude, but worth seeing if you can appreciate juvenile humor. You have to basically try to not be mature about it or an adult and realize that it's all just for fun.

This is truly amazing: so Google decided to refund customers of Google Video in Google Checkout credit when they shut down their video on demand services, but people were pissed. However, they actually responded and are additionally going to refund people's credit cards of purchase as well now! That's really quite an impressive response from Google. They're even going to extend the life of the videos by 6 months! This is how customer service should be.

Oh, they're also allowing you to embed Google Maps, handy for web pages and blogs and such. Very useful, I imagine. By the way, while I'm on Google Maps, have Houstonians noticed that we have Street View now?

Remember yesterday how I reported that Paramount and Dreamworks went HD-DVD only? Well, it turns out that they were paid off to do so, according to a Viacom insider, which doesn't make them look too good. What does it say about Toshiba that they have to pay studios to want to use only their format? Ouch.

Wal-mart has jumped on the DRM-free bandwagon at higher quality than typical protected content from UMG and EMI. Again, another solid step for DRM-free music since Wal-mart is such a big player, but I just hope that this pilot doesn't fail horribly, or that they don't misread it as increasing piracy but rather see it as a way to trust their fans and hope to bring back their business after all this alienation of lawsuits and DRM.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest, torrent-sharing site, Supernova, is finally back online after quite a long hiatus. The Pirate Bay took over to get it back online, and it looks like it's here to stay. It's too late to say if it's back to its original capacity, but it's still looking good.

Lastly, this is a good read for the casual Linux user. It's just some commands that no Linux user should be without knowledge of.

In movie news, I only have a couple of trailers to talk about. The first is for Cassandra's Dream, which is a Woody Allen movie, but I have no idea what's going on in that trailer. If you've actually decoded it, please do comment and fill me in. The other trailer makes more sense: it's a rockumentary from Martin Scorcese about a Rolling Stones concert from 2006 called Shine a Light. Both are low quality because they're on YouTube, but the latter is cool to see.

Let me show you guys a cute picture before I close off of my brother's dog enjoying a jog on his tredmill:

Now for the Tuesday Twosome, on canned meat:

1. Do you check your email once a day or more? Explain:
More, because Gmail is always on for me. Now that I have a data plan on my phone though, I'll probably check even more often!
2. When you receive SPAM emails, do you just delete them or take the time to mark it as SPAM? Explain:
I mark them as spam, but it's pretty rare with the Gmail filter in full force.
3. When a friend/acquaintance emails you a “forward” email like a joke or chain letter, do you forward it to your friends or just delete it? Explain:
I never forward those things unless they're either extremely important or extremely funny. I hate forwarding stupid stuff.
4. Who are two people whose emails you look forward to receiving? Explain:
Pretty much just my girl. I don't know of anyone else who sends me any good personal e-mails.
5. Do you believe that email has completely replaced other forms of communication?
Not at all. People don't use it near enough for that. However, I think that text messaging and IMs have gained power quite quickly in recent years.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Copowi is Cool

Well there's no single important piece of news recently, so I thought I'd just use my main topic today to heap praises on Copowi, a new ISP that has promised net neutrality no matter what legislation gets pushed through. They're at the mercy of the existing telcos though as they obviously don't have fiber of their own out there. Of course, they have higher prices as well, and they're banking on the audience of users who aren't taking price into consideration. Heh, an interesting policy, right? Still, I think enough geeks may care about this cause to give them support. Are people really happy with their current broadband connections? I know I have unexpected, unpredictable outages, often at peak times because the connection is just inundated with users since Time Warner and Comcast and such are such cheap, greedy bastards. I think people would definitely pay a premium for quality service, and net neutrality would then just be an added bonus. There are certain niches where brand loyalty is important, and I think we don't have that in ISPs mainly because everyone hates them. If you change that though then you may have something to really run with.

This is interesting: Microsoft is licensing its audio watermarking technology to a small company in Seattle making its money off of similar technology. The idea? Free, ad-supported music. I'm not exactly sure how it would work, but it sounds like the watermarking would provide some targeting, and would likely bring up privacy concerns. I'm not going to cry foul until I see some solid use cases here.

In a very interesting move, Paramount and Dreamworks have decided to ditch Blu-ray for just HD-DVD, depriving the Sony-backed format of such titles as Transformers and Blades of Glory. Definitely not good news for Sony, but since HD-DVD is still playing catch-up, it isn't near bringing us to a definitive winner.

The Silicon Valley has decided to bring social networking to adult entertainment in the form of Zivity. It sounds nuts, but I'm genuinely intrigued by the concept (note that I didn't say this is the first Web 2.0 porn site, but it's quite different from Suicide Girls). They're going to give you high quality, free pictures of girls clothed, and you can pay to take the clothes off, and then you get a certain number of votes to give bonuses to the models you like best. This is strange because it's pretty racy and it involves significant investment, but it sounds like it tries to reward models and photographers appropriately, at least.

An MIT spinoff is trying to manufacture a chip with 64 processors involving the mesh architecture being researched at UT Austin by Dr. Doug Berger and Dr. Steve Keckler, both brilliant guys, in TRIPS. Can someone shed some light as to how they were able to fabricate this chip so quickly? In any case, I bet that TRIPS will come out with something even more powerful, but more useful for research than the mainstream.

There was only one piece of movie news I really wanted to bring up today, the teaser trailer for Harold and Kumar Go To Amsterdam where they're really running from the law as they're mistaken for terrorists. I'll admit that it's better than I would've thought, but it still leaves me skeptical.

Now for a bit of Monday Madness:

1. How many desktop computers in your home?
Just one, but I have on in Austin as well.
2. How many laptops?
3. What kind of internet service do you have? (i.e. phone modem, dsl, etc.)
4. Do you tend to use more than one email account regularly?
Yeah, Gmail and utexas, but both are controlled via my Gmail.
5. Do you use email as a main source for communicating to your family and friends?
Not exactly. I use IM or Facebook more frequently for family/friends my age, and the phone otherwise. I still use e-mail, just not primarily.
6. What kind of computer monitor do you own (flatscreen, or other)?
A 19" CRT in Austin, a 17" LCD in Houston.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Goodbye, Summer 2007

Alas, my summer is almost done now. Before I get to the retrospective though, I'd like to share some pictures from last week where I was pre-occupied taking in the city with a very special, beautiful girl:

The flowers in Pike's Place are really beautiful this time of year, and the sunflowers are ginormous.

The Japanese Garden at the UW Arboretum is breathtaking. I love the little island in the middle there.

There was even a Tea House!

Sunset on Elliott Bay is truly something to enjoy.

The Pacific Science Center was fun since the both of us are such huge science geeks.


Golden Gate Park is perfect for a late afternoon picnic. You can't jump in the water, but it's still a sight to behold. I love how the sky almost looks like a blue texture I just painted on there.

The Seattle Aquarium was really awesome. They had a giant circle for the jellyfish to swim in since jellyfish have to swim within currents.


The river otters are soo cute!

We had sushi at Maneki and it was awesome! Mmm...California Rolls...

I got a good picture of the skyline from a harbor cruise.

So as you can see, I've been too busy to post. Sorry about that. I wanted to talk real quick about my thoughts on how my summer went. If you don't care, then just check back tomorrow for a real post.

This summer felt like an exact opposite of last summer. It was almost creepy. Fun-wise, last summer was probably my best ever. I meshed very well with the Rapscallions, our little group of interns, and we had pool parties and pick up basketball games every week. Plus, that was where my interest in Salsa began. However, work became rather pedestrian. I felt like a real member of the workforce in that on Sunday night I always felt like the weekend flew by and I didn't want to wake up for work in the morning. This summer, it turns out that I was actually slightly sad some Saturdays that I didn't have to go to work that day! Of course, in July, I actually fulfilled my whim and went to work on Saturdays, in the interest of spending time last week with my girl seeing the city.

Anyhow, Amazon was a lot of fun. It was good and bad. It was bad in that it wasn't quite what I expected. It wasn't as glamorous as Google or anything like that, but it was still fun is what's fun. In fact, at first, I wasn't really all that excited about my team. They just seemed like all business, whereas last summer I hit it off immediately with my mentor and the other intern's mentor on our team. Over the summer though, I definitely grew to like all of them. They were actually a fun bunch, and extremely smart. I don't know if I'll ever get over how smart everyone is there and how attached they are to getting work done for the good of the company. Now that is the power of loving where you work: when you care about doing what you do. At TI, the morale didn't seem as high. The HR people hyped it up as being high, but I saw it as more of an Office Space environment. At Amazon, it was a plain environment, but very open and friendly all the same. Plus, there's a wonderful view everywhere in PacMed (and in TCC, as well, I'd imagine). Yeah, free food and chocolate milk would be nice, but free tea and hot cocoa packets are still good. Plus, two monitors! The only drawback was the big plus of Dallas: I didn't have as much fun outside of work. I didn't mesh as well with the interns this summer as last. Not to say they weren't cool or smart, they were, I just never felt as close to them. Plus, I missed home terribly, especially my girl.

As for the city, it's freaking gorgeous. As happy as I was to be back in Texas yesterday, I hated getting off that plane and looking outside to see ugly. There's nothing pretty about Houston at first glance. Yeah, it has hidden gems, but Seattle's beauty is so overt that you'd have to literally be blind to not see it. Plus, it was so humid here! A 20 degree jump really sucks. The biggest problem with living there for me was not being able to get around by car because I lived in downtown. I guess the actual big problem with going there is the high cost of living and the insane prices for real estate. Amazon would compensate appropriately, so I could probably still spend sensibly, but it still requires saving a lot of money. I'd love to settle down there though. It just seems like a wonderful place to raise a family, it really does. There's just so much to do with kids, and so much to do for a date, as well.

So would I move there? It's funny, I've said that Seattle isn't Austin, but Austin also isn't Seattle, and that's the best way to sum up my current predicament. My mom wants me to move to California, but I don't know that I can make enough out there right out of school to afford to live there. Austin is a fun, smaller city with some natural beauties of its own and its close to other places in Texas, especially my family. Plus, I have a lot of friends there, and it's a great city for a bachelor should I find myself in that predicament come next fall. However, Seattle is a wonderful big city, and it's surrounded with lots of fun stuff to do, including Vancouver and skiing. Plus, the weather is much better there. I don't know what I'm going to decide, to be honest. I loved Amazon, and I think I'd genuinely enjoy working there full time, but that's not to say that I couldn't find just as fun a job in Austin. I really am not sure what I'm going to do right now. Then there's my girl, who I love like crazy, and I want to be included in whatever I decide.

Well, I have the fall to look forward to. I get to spend it with her, most importantly, and I have to decide my future. It's scary in a lot of ways, because my first job will pretty much make or break my career. I have to go somewhere that gives me a diverse skill base, gives me a solid career track for advancement, compensates me appropriately, is in a vocationally fruitful location, and where I'd really enjoy what I do. Definitely not easy, but Amazon is definitely in the running.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Creating a Niche

I ran into a couple of interesting things today that I figure I could combine into a good topic: creating a niche. Something I never really gave much thought to until today is that the big bucks out there really come out of making a niche. It makes sense in a lot of ways since the rule of thumb is that the more specialized the field you study is the more money your liable to make since you're probably in short supply. A direct example of this is David Elsewhere, who is actually the guy from some of the iPod ads and that cool Pepsi commercial with the dancing jeans and some others. His niche is crazy dancing, like he's made of rubber. No one can do what he does, otherwise they wouldn't superimpose people's faces on his body for some of these ads. If you don't possess a natural talent like that, then you can try creating something totally different like these three Berkeley grads who have come up with a high quality video compression technology for high-end e-Commerce clients. As far as video quality goes, there's no one above YouTube that has really picked up. I really like Stage6, but it hasn't really gone anywhere, and I think DivX has gotten a lot of bad press. These guys have the opportunity to become the YouTube of car companies and medium-sized businesses and the like. I know, it's not user-generated content, but its a video platform that doesn't really exist right now. It may not sound like much, but it has Steve Wozniak and Red McCombs backing it, which is pretty big. Moral of the story: find a niche, and build your business on it.

Ars Technica put out one of their great product reviews, this one for the new iMac, and it sounds like what I thought. It's an improvement, but the keyboard doesn't feel right. Why did they make it so low and flat? Anyway, still a solid machine, and I guess the glare isn't as obtrusive as one would presume.

New ground has been broken against the RIAA: an Oklahoma attorney brought in testimony from a computer security expert claiming that the RIAA cannot use IP addresses to identify litigants because IP addresses just aren't unique. They can be masked, shared, etc. I can't believe that no one used this argument before. Anyway, I can't imagine the RIAA winning this battle, so it should be interesting.

Is the iPhone set to get games? The Download Squad has snooped around iTunes's localization strings (I'm guessing these are some internal configuration settings used by iTunes in other countries) and found some strings that appear to confirmation messages for whether you want to remove a selected game from your iPhone. It could just be garbage, but doubtful. They already have games on iPods, after all, so this would make a lot of sense.

Beware of sites bearing pricey gifts and promises of robust file-sharing. uTorrent is prepared to file suit against one such fraudulent site trying to sell uTorrent, a freeware application. That really boils me: to profit solely off of someone else's hard work, and so blatantly. This site looks really authentic, so definitely beware of these sorts of schemes.

I know it defies the theory of evolution, but ever wonder if computers preceded us? Because if so, then our creation was probably something like this.

I have a few movie items for today. First off is a trailer for Lars and the Real Girl, a dramedy from Craig Gillespie featuring Ryan Gosling about a guy named Lars who pretends that a mannequin is his girlfriend to fill the void. The trailer actually looks really cute, I think this has the makings of a really interesting character study.

Speaking of characters, someone who saw Heath Ledger on the set of The Dark Knight had only good things to say about his portrayal of The Joker. I don't think he saw any dialogue, just his demeanor, and it sounded very true to the original villain. If I keep getting pumped about this movie, I may explode before we even get a real trailer.

Usually, I say that direct to video (DTV) movies aren't very good, but a part of me wonders if Return to House on Haunted Hill is the first movie to get it right because it takes advantage of being at home. How? It lets you choose your own path through the movie (I'm pretty sure this is only for high-definition formats), almost like a video game I suppose or those books when you were little that would have you turn to different pages depending on the path you chose. The trailer is pretty creepy, so I'm definitely not prepared to write this one off.

Lastly, I'm not a big Hitman fan or anything (though I think its story is one of those that is easily lent to a movie, unlike Halo), but I like the looks of this teaser poster:

Now for the Thursday Threesome:

Onesome: Swimming-- along? Do you swim? Can you swim? Do you like to swim? Do you have a place to swim? I'm drowning in questions here!
I can swim, but I don't often enough. At school, our gym has a cool Aquatic Complex, but I have never had the time to actually use it for exercise. I was sure glad I knew how to swim when I went rafting!

Twosome: Pool--? ...or billiards? Have you played either one? ...or would you like to learn?
Yeah, I have, but I'm not very good. I'm one of those people who makes key plays purely out of luck, not skill.

Threesome: Pump--ing iron: is that in your reps? ...or does the thought of that style of working out just do you in? Inquiring minds and all that...
I try to work out 6 days a week, but I'm a guy and so obviously muscle mass is probably of inflated importance to me. Hey, having a better physique sometimes correlates to bigger salaries because you're perceived as being more dedicated. I personally do it because I was overweight when I was younger and I feel obligated to keep myself in shape as a result.

I have a very special visitor coming tomorrow, and I'm dedicated my free time over the next several days to her, so don't expect a post from me for a week. Sorry to have to do this again after just coming back from my last hiatus, but stuff happens! I'm sure you'll all understand.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Missing Mac

There's always been this gaping hole in the Mac lineup that some people like to ignore. It's called a business Mac. A blog post from the CEO of a startup got me thinking about it. I think it was Molly Wood who asked Steve Jobs yesterday about Apple's intentions, as in where they're taking their computer business, and his response was kind of a bland "we want to build the best machines." Whoopety-doo, Steve Jobs wants to build pretty machines. It's not always about that. It's like my favorite two lines in Pirates of the Silicon Valley:

"Steve: We're better than you. Our software is better.
Bill: Don't you see? That doesn't matter!"

They're not doing their best as disseminating computers by virtue of the fact that companies aren't adopting Macs in large numbers. There's no enterprise-level Mac. My supervisor loves Macs so much that he bought a MacBook Pro for work, but he still has his trusty Dell laptop in his office, though he tries not to use it. Amazon doesn't support Macs, so if you want to use one you're pretty much on your own. They need to fill this space. They need to start making deals, and they need to start marketing more to businesses. In my opinion, it's one of the biggest reasons Apple isn't doing better at grabbing market share from PCs. Until they make this move, I can't imagine them ever coming close to taking out PCs.

Interesting news from Google: they're giving Linux patent protection from their patents in exchange for use of some patents from the Open Innovation Network. While I agree this is a good move, you have to admit that it's kind of ballsy. I mean what if the Linux camp flagrantly copies Google on something? I guess there's a lot of trust involved though, as it should be.

One of the more attractive things to me about Amazon is the opportunity to work with massive amounts of data and learn about scaling and performance. So naturally I have to plug this article about the Digg architecture and how it deals with lots of data. It's kind of amazing that a site as simple (to the eye, I mean) as Digg requires 100 servers.

I heard this on Buzz Out Loud and had to report it: this NBC reporter Michelle Madigan tried to go undercover at Def Con 15 and catch hackers admitting to illegal things and then catch Feds there doing nothing about it. The idea of the convention is to share knowledge about security to serve the greater good and let your guards down so that you can talk about things you did in the grey without having to face the consequences. I don't know how she thought she'd outsmart hackers, but they found her out and there's a clip on YouTube of them playing a prank on her of sorts in inviting her to another conference where the secret point was to expose her to all the hackers.

Now for a few one-liners. This is a pretty big, awesome list of web development resources, so check it out. This is a great guide to being smarter about using torrents. I saw this site on an ad and just thought it was too funny:

I just want to touch on a few movie news items here. Michel Gondry has come out with a new movie: Be Kind Rewind. It looks pretty cool to me, and it stars Mos Def and Jack Black. They run a video store and all their tapes turn blank, so they film their own versions of movies. Gondry is definitely pretty creative, so I want to see what he does with this one.

Jessica Alba is going to do another comedy, but this one with Mike Myers called The Love Guru. I'm skeptical, but Mike Myers is really funny so you never know. I don't know why Alba wants to get into comedy now though. I guess it's because her acting could need some help so she wants to try lighter stuff.

We have a couple of Southland Tales pictures, and they're not much but they're something. I'm still stoked to check out this movie, despite early reviews from Cannes.

Now for the Wednesday Mind Hump:

List ten random things in your refrigerator.
Too easy: Turtles (like the candy, not the animals), sparkling water, an onion, milk, chocolate syrup, lunchmeat, strawberry jelly, ketchup, bread, flour tortillas, and some potatoes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Apple's Summer Event

Apple had a special summer event today at their campus for the press, and it was strictly about the Mac. I've read all that coverage and even watched the tour of iLife, so I feel pretty qualified to give some thoughts on it. They basically just gave the iMac a makeover and beefed up the hardware. The rest of it was trying to pitch the new iLife and .Mac. I don't know that the changes to .Mac were significant enough to save it since I can't use it, but I loved the changes I saw to iLife. I don't know that there aren't other products out there that wouldn't create movies as quickly and easily as the new iMovie, but it's still really awesome. I loved watching the demo for it, and I also really enjoyed the iPhoto demo, which seemed to be pretty smart about organizing photos into events and it was cool that you could hover over albums to skim through its pictures (same for clips in iMovie). These are both products that set the bar for how making movies and messing with your photos should be. They're not perfect or anything, but they still make switching to Mac really tempting. I don't know why the new iMac has a shorter, thinner keyboard. It doesn't look very comfortable, but at least Jobs is getting over his key phobia and loosening up a bit. I like how they wrapped up with a Q&A session that told us nothing other than that they've also upgraded the Mac Mini, and we'll see Apple TV news soon. All in all, not a bad little event, though nothing especially exciting came out of it.

I was temp bted to make today's main topic about hiring because of this article, but decided not to because I've already said a lot of what I want to say on this topic, and I just spoke about recruiting yesterday anyway. But I strongly agree that it's key to spend more money on expert programmers than to slack and hire average or sub-par programmers. The weak links on a development team become sore thumbs pretty quickly, and it really does become kind of a sink or swim environment. The good recruits should never sink given good management (not just an MBA who thinks he's hot shit, they need to be technical).

I'm really exhausted, so I'm going to close up here with a couple of one-liners. If you're not sure the best way to IM, then you'll waste plenty of time at this list of Instant Messaging tools. I probably didn't know about more than 20 or 30 items on that list (I personally love Pidgin and Meebo). The Guardian has a great lesson in history: technology's 10 greatest legal battles. This is the kind of stuff your kids will likely learn in social studies (or their kids, at the least).

However, I was intrigued enough by the international trailer for Beowolf that I figured I'd plug that.

Now for the Tuesday Twosome:

1. Two places you go to for relaxation (spa, beach, etc.)
The gym and the lake.
2. Two activities you do to relax:
Sleep and listen to music
3. Two people who are able to calm you when you are stressed-out:
Myself and my girl.
4. Two songs that always make you feel better:
Yellow (Coldplay) and Can't Help Falling in Love.
5. Two people/pets that you miss the most when you go on vacation/holiday:
My brother and my girl.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Out-Recruiting Google

Has anyone noticed the irony of the ads on the Forbes site about how the Fake Steve Jobs has been revealed? Anyway, what's more interesting is an article that Forbes is running about how to beat Google in recruiting the best tech talent out there. Being a student who has been through two recruiting seasons now (I don't count Freshman year), I figure that I'd offer my point of view. Google is like this magical fruit that's just out of reach, and I've begun to resent them almost as much as National Instruments. That's right, NI, your interviews are lame and your representatives are arrogant. On the other hand, Google just brags about their perks (they literally do no publicizing for their company nights and pack the room) and pays for the fancy O's food (overpriced crap, but use of the nice auditorium only allows their food), then goes nuts on the interviews. They emphasize way too much on math, and are still using brain teasers. One of my friends had to endure a month of phone screens to get an offer, and by that time he already had an offer from Amazon. This is what really pisses me off about their recruiting: they recently sent out a sneaky e-mail to Amazon interns (they just rope in one to tell his friends) behind the backs of Amazon's HR to get them to come to a recruiting event in Seattle. That is sleazy. They do this for normal employees, too, as I understand it. I wonder if they realize that they can't compete with Amazon in compensation (not speaking out of my ass here). Anyhow, it's fairly simple to undermine Google's recruiting: be fast, be inviting, and don't be so bloody selective. There are people with GPAs below 3.5s that are still brilliant, you know. Take the time to conduct thorough, balanced interviews rather than doing 8 of them (not an exaggerating comparison to Google). The best thing you can do, above all, is sell students on the company culture, environment, and management structure. That's what the good students will really care about (aside from type of work, that is).

There are a couple of U.S. Senators I feel I should applaud for actually being awesome: they're threatening SoundExchange to not try to strongarm Internet radio stations into DRM technologies in these recent negotiations. Not sure if they can follow through on these threats, but I think we all appreciate the effort and support.

The problem with taking a hiatus from blogging is that you miss out on things like Apple having a special event tomorrow, which is supposedly Mac-focused. Mac Rumors put up that fan art picture, which I kind of liked, though I can't imagine that they'd do a touchscreen iMac. Now if the touchscreen was just an extra feature that didn't affect elemental functionality then I maybe impressed. Still, the iMac needs an update, so that's a likely candidate for tomorrow's event. There's also strong speculation of updates to .Mac given that the service is to be down for the duration of the event (like how the Apple Store is usually closed during these events).

Nissan is showing off some technology akin to Volvo technology that I had reported on a few months ago regarding safety improvements. It provides collision prevention (braking when collision is imminent), lane departure prevention, and bumper sensors to assist in the sportier models from normally severe crashes. I'm skeptical on braking for suspected collisions because of false positives, but maybe it only does this if it's like 100% sure or something.

Wired usually doesn't put up ill-conceived editorials, but I have to slam this one about opening up social networks. First of all, Facebook is not totally closed. Besides the obvious API (which, I'll admit, is still limited), you can share pictures, among other things, with users outside of Facebook's realm; I have done this several times before. Another problem is the fact that I don't think people really care about opening up all these social networks. As made apparent by the clamoring we saw last year in response to the mini-feed addition, the Facebook community is pretty avid about privacy concerns, so this is a terrible idea. At the most, if you really want to open up people's data, it should be a private RSS feed or something. Lastly, they recommend mashing up your own Facebook via other social networking sites, but this defeats the purpose of Facebook, which is to unite all your social networking needs in a single convenient place. Zing.

One liner: to all you Firefox haters (*cough*my brother*cough*), go here.

Before I get to the trailers today, i thought it was interesting that Ridley Scott has decided to make a Monopoly movie. That's right, the producer who brought you Gladiator and Hannibal has decided to base a movie off of a board game. Wow.

Since I've been pimping Amazon so much I figure there's no harm in plugging their exclusive trailer for Reservation Road. I think this is their first exclusive movie trailer, and the video quality leaves something to be desired but I'm glad that they're starting to get into this business. They're clearly using their acquisition of IMDB to help beef up the page, and I hope they'll do even more with these pages in the future. The trailer isn't bad, but I'm just not interested in it. You know too much of the plot right off the bat (it's about a guy trying to hunt down a hit-and-run driver who killed his son, but the trailer reveals the killer).

MySpace is hosting the trailer for Amanda Bynes' next flick, Sydney White, a movie that makes me literally cringe with disgust. It's about this "hot" chick (Amanda Bynes is really not attractive) who doesn't get into a sorority so she leads a band of 7 geeks to shakes things up. I don't know what I hate more: this promotion of geekiness in a completely superficial (and, what I consider offensive) way or the idiotic plot itself. The comments on that video speak for the quality of MySpace users.

Lastly, IGN has the exclusive trailer, an interesting horror thriller detailing an archangel's battle against fallen angels in a fight for souls. Yeah, doesn't sound too compelling, but it still looks like it could be fun.

Now for some Monday Madness:

1. What ONE thing would you like to accomplish before the end of the day?
A full guitar practice session.
2. What one goal would you like to attain before the end of the month?
Getting the NSC site back up and running at full capacity.
3. Are you a "to-do list" writer? If so, do you stick to your list and cross things off as you complete them?
I write less-organized to do lists if I actually have a bunch of things to do, usually in my planner during the school year. Currently, I hack up Outlook calendar for this.
4. In general, how organized do you feel you are?
Reasonably organized.
5. How many piles of papers/junk mail/etc. do you have laying around your house?
I think four, but that's only because I have no bookshelves or storage space in this apartment because it's temporary.
6. Which ONE surface in your home
This desk? I don't know what that means...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

How Bad is Flash?

I saw this blog post a few days ago, but it has taken me a bit to respond to it. It largely claims that Flash sucks, and a part of me agrees but a part of me is nostalgic of first playing around with Flash 4 (or maybe it was 3, whatever was out in 1999). Way back then, it was this revolution for the web because Java applets looked gaudy and the support for Javascript wasn't nearly as widespread as it is now. That blogger hates the navigation Flash-based sites provide, but I think that's too harsh. For small sites, namely movie sites, Flash can be great. It lets you have a little fun, which is what you're there for in the first place. No serious business should have an entirely Flash-based site, mind you, but it can still have its uses for multimedia, especially when you want to make it harder to download the content in question. I know, proprietary formats are bad, all that jazz, but sometimes they really are necessary. You can't write off proprietary formats just because they get big; why does Adobe need to give away what they've worked hard on? What's in it for them to give people carte blanche access to their formats? My two biggest gripes with Flash though are really that it's lagging behind in 64-bit support, and Flash-based advertisements are ridiculously annoying, and they just feel like a breeding ground for viruses, whether or not that's true. I believe Flash already has safeguards to prevent such things, but it seems too flashy (no pun intended) to be 100% safe. I don't think it's going away anytime soon, especially since people were pissed that the iPhone wouldn't support Flash, which means their brand recognition must be amazing, but I am curious to see what advantages Silverlight will come up with (the fact that it has a toolbar for IE but not Firefox is discouraging).

I actually got an e-mail about Amazon Flexible Payments Service on Friday but I totally didn't know that it was going into public beta that same day. The message sounded like it was an internal beta, but I guess not. Anyhow, it's basically an API that Amazon Web Services (about 4 floors above my office) is providing to add an easy, affordable payments system to small businesses' websites. It sounds pretty huge and extensible, but will it be able to take over what Paypal provides? That's very hard to say, but Amazon's brand recognition likely surpasses Paypal, and is maybe even more trusted (I have nothing to back this up other than anecdotal bad press for Paypal), so it definitely has a chance. After all, remember how S3 really took off?

I neglected to report on this a while back, but AT&T had hidden away in its terms that it had a $10 DSL plan, which it was obligated to offer as a result of losing some lawsuit, and now they're covering it up by saying that there was no demand for it. Do these people take us for total nimrods? No duh there's no demand, it's hard to demand something when you don't know it exists. Are people really happy to pay them for overpriced, low-quality Internet service?

If you're stuck without a TV, like me, then you may be entertained by LikeVid. It provides totally legal television channels available online, some of which are Internet-only, and it's a fun way to kill some time when you don't want to do anything but sit back and absorb.

Lastly, if you know nothing about torrents, you may find some value in this article explaining all about it. I'd say that it's a worthwhile read if you don't know what that word means seeing as how it has become a rather important idea to understand.

In the box office this weekend it should be no surprise that the big winner was The Bourne Supremacy at over $70 million, which is nearly 3 times as much as the opening weekend for the first movie in the series. I thought it was impressive that The Simpsons Movie managed $25.6 million, which is a pretty heavy drop, but it's in 2nd place and I'm sure it cost much less than $128 million to make so I think they'll be doing just fine. It's also amazing that Transformer, despite being a month old, is still #8. Passing $300 million in a little over a month is pretty crazy.

It looks like the World of Warcraft movie got a greenlight from Legendary Pictures, which is interesting because I have no idea what they're going to come up with for a plot. It's obviously just a cash cow, but the fans will go and see it so it's really probably a brilliant move.

Now for a bit of bad news: neither of the Grind House film DVDs will include the interstitial trailers. How greedy is that? Obviously, they're pre-planning a double dip, which is a bit cruel considering that you're not just keeping special features from the fans but you're actually tearing away a vital part of the experience. For shame, Weinstein Company.

The trailers for Superbad had me interested, but this clip on YouTube has me even more determined to see this movie. It's sure to be crude, but as long as it's as funny as this clip I really don't mind.

Now to close out with a couple of trailers. The first is for Lions for Lambs, which looks like a thinly veiled critique of Bush's politics. I'm not happy about the war, but a fictional movie about it isn't going to change anything, and it sounds too preachy to be received well. The other is much better: We Own the Night. It's Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg playing two brothers, club owner and a cop, who ally together to stop some bad dudes. I can't really explain it without it sounding lame, so you're going to have to just watch the trailer to understand why I like this movie so far.

Yesterday was the Company Picnic, so here's a couple of pictures from that:

And now, it's finally time for some Unconscious Mutterings:

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

  1. Voices :: Hearing

  2. Have to :: Eat

  3. Machine :: Maniac

  4. Seventh grade :: Sucked

  5. Beach :: Ball

  6. Roommate :: Apartment

  7. Cyclone :: Twister

  8. Theater :: Movie

  9. Pregnant :: Baby

  10. Phoebe :: Buffay

Friday, August 03, 2007

Amazon Takes Over Your Den

I'm a bit tired tonight, so this will be a short one, but I wanted to put something up. Obviously, I'm fond of my bread and butter,, so I thought it was cool to see this article from about how Amazon is taking over the living room. I think it's still a bit premature, but I believe it, nonetheless. From talking to an undisclosed individual at Amazon, I think the same train of thought clicked in my head. Amazon would love to go past just your shopping stop from your study or bedroom and move into your living room. It makes sense: DRM-free music, Unbox, Tivo downloads, the rumors about Netflix, and let's not forget about IMDB, the place you turn to when you're sitting in your living room confused or forgetful. They've even already made the move into on-demand DVDs with those DVDs you can order with specific news events, and it's unfortunate that Your Media Library because that's just another example of them trying to catalogue what's in your living room to share and build on. I'll admit, Amazon isn't there yet. They still have a ways to go. However, their chances are pretty good. They really have some smart people running these teams, and trust me when I say that they have some top-notch managers and SDEs. I have no material information about any of what I've just talked about, it's just a result of what I've seen (like you guys) and what I've experienced in their working environment.

The Pirate Bay is looking to revive the long-dead, which was the de facto search engine for pirated torrents before they lost in court. The owners of the domain handed it over to The Pirate Bay, and they're looking forward to putting it back online very soon.

If you haven't seen the Dark Knight teaser then behold. It's awesome.

I have to say that this is pretty sad: a 19 year-old girl was arrested for recording 20 seconds of Transformers to show her little brother. I don't know what's more disturbing, the fact that it was only 20 seconds or the greed over a movie that's already made buttloads of money. It's not the studio, it's the movie theater, but this is still sick. The example they're setting is that they're dumbasses, not that they're strict.

I'm going to end here with some one liners: another great list of freeware applications lie here. I can personally vouch for the awesomeness of nearly all those video editing ones. If you have issues trying to track all your bills and you have room mates, you'll get a kick out of Billshare.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Demo Day and The Simpsons Movie

Guess what? I'm back! This won't be a standard post though, because it's too late for me to do one of those. I didn't think it would take 11 days for me to post again, but apparently I was wrong. Yes, I was actually working all those days, even in the evenings, and I used my spare time mostly to rest and work out. It all paid off though as today was my day to present to the organization include our VP. Check out the view from the meeting room:

The room was packed; people were even standing up. We had 10 intern presentations to get through in under 2 hours, and mine was third to last. I spent a good part of yesterday working on it, and practiced it this morning to the point of memorization. For those of you who don't know, my project was to add predictions to Amazon's logs for geographical location and then use that to visualize our traffic and revenues geographically with various dimensions and filters and such involved, including per capita and relative percentage views. So it was a huge amount of effort, and went right down to the level of state maps. I wish I could show you guys, but I'm 99% sure that I would get sued for that so I'm not going to. I had planned out the entire demo so that everything I showed has a use case on the side of marketing and advertising groups, and the crowd seemed to love it. I worked in as much humor as I could (my favorite was viewing trends in Women's Swimwear because I know nothing about women), and I got more laughs than any of the other interns did. It was scary and exciting all at once, then just a flood of relief when I was done. All the blood, sweat, and tears (literally) really paid off when I got to this point:

I won most creative solution! That's very exciting because that means that people higher than my manager were impressed with my work, which is a really humbling experience. Plus, the audience seemed really engaged with my demo, and fortunately I did not suffer demo-itis. Now that it's over I can take a breather and get back to playing guitar and such and prepare to see my girlfriend again very soon, which is even more exciting than all this.

Enough about that though, I also saw The Simpsons Movie tonight (UT intern event), and so I thought I'd go ahead and give my thoughts on that. I was quite impressed with it. I assumed it would because the show had taken a turn for the worst in recent years and making a movie seemed like they were just trying to exploit the series. The basic plot is that the pollution in Springfield has reached critical mass and Homer ends up foiling a clean-up effort, which leads the government to put a big bubble around Springfield and eventually destroy it. This is actually one of the few comedies nowadays where they don't put the best scenes in the trailer, so there's still plenty more to enjoy when you see the film. The humor is witty as in the old episodes, and almost never takes things too far, unlikely some of the more conventional comedies nowadays. The only drawback is that some of the characters are strange from how the series used to be (like Bart being sentimental all of a sudden), but that's not really a big deal. The animation is crisp and even better to look at than the series is, so no issues there. I highly recommend this film with a B+ just because I feel hesitant to give an A to a movie that had little substance an was more about jokes than anything else. There's nothing wrong with that, but an A movie it does not make. If you're a fan of the series, definitely run out and see this.