One Aging Geek

Monday, January 30, 2006 - Museum visitor trips, breaks Chinese vases - Jan 30, 2006 - Museum visitor trips, breaks Chinese vases - Jan 30, 2006

Wow. This belongs on one of those Southwest Airlines "want to get away?" advertisements.

Chinese New Year: Resolutions for Google

Chinese New Year: Resolutions for Google is a very well written and thoughtful piece about what Google has done and what it can do.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

NASA workers pause for solemn tribute | - Houston Chronicle

Thousands of NASA workers paused from their duties today in a solemn tribute to fallen astronauts from three major tragedies in the nation's quest to explore space.

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since the Challenger blew up. At the time I was a much younger geek working as a software contractor at Johnson Space Center. My job didn't bring me in direct contact with any astronauts, just "back office" types. Some of the seven who died that day were friends of my co-workers and friends. I could still go stand where I was standing when I got this news. And I still remember the face of the guy who told me.

Every year when this anniversary comes around I'm struck by the proximity of the dates of all of the deaths in the American space program. Apollo 1 on January 27th, Challenger on January 28th, Columbia on February 1, across a span of decades but in the one six day period. Of course, these aren't all the deaths in the program, there were others. But so far as I recall who were in space vehicles when they died. The others were killed in plane crashes and ... more mundane ways.

Update: There is a mostly b.s. story on MSNBC. If you set your threshold for comments high enough to filter out the crap there's a pretty good deconstruction of the b.s. and debate about the fine points on slashdot.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Okay, *do* be evil: Google launches censored in China

The decision was reached after what was described as an excruciating internal debate, but the company finally decided, in the words of Andrew McLaughlin, senior policy counsel, "We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China."

Um... yeah. Spinning.

This comes on the heels of a post that I can't find at the moment allegedly from a Google employee lamenting that it's gone from a great place to work to a many-headed corporate hydra.

Evil is as evil does. Doing the Google China is all about making money.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The geekiest headphones ever?

I lost my phone headset on a recent business trip and had the bright idea to search out a combo headset that would work for the music player and cell phone simultaneously. Enter the Skullcandy SCE-3b. This may qualify as the geekiest thing I've owned. Not sure.

One set of earbuds. A thumb-sized thingie that carries the microphone, a button, and a volume control, oh and a skull logo thrown in. Two plugs, one 2.5mm for cell phones, on 3.5mm for music player. And way too much wire in between.

The things work. The button causes my Samsung A670 clamshell phone to answer an incoming call or activate voice dialing for outgoing call. The volume control only affects the music player.

Will have to see how this works out. Off on another business trip next week.

Catching up on podcasts

For the last several months I've had way too many feeds in my podcatcher (PeaPod, btw, very well done no-frills Linux podcatcher). The consequence is that I've been listening about three weeks behind real time.

For a combination of reasons I'm catching up. I'm only a week behind now. Just goes to show you that it is possible to listen to 47 podcast feeds plus a couple of audio shows scraped off the 'net without RSS plus a couple of audio books tricked into the stream using a bit of bash script.

Of course to get that much listening time, you have to have a long commute, sleep poorly, and spend a few hours a week on a treadmill.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Review: Dark City

Just finished watching Dark City.

Not everyone's cup of whatever but I liked it. It's one of the standard fantasy stories, hero with powers he doesn't know he has saves the ... um ... planet. Only this time it isn't a whole planet, just a free floating city, construct of "the Strangers".

Very cool effects. Angst-ridden hero. Couple of lovely ladies. Couple of name stars in supporting roles (Kiefer Sutherland and William Hurt). Nothing that'll tax your brain but definitely weird. Worth watching if you like dark sci-fi.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Google Unveils The Google Pack

7hunderstruck writes “Google yesterday announced the release of Google Pack, a ‘free collection of essential software’. Along with Google’s own programs, such as Google Toolbar and Google Earth, Google Pack contains Firefox, Adobe Reader, a six month subscription to Norton Antivirus, and Trillian as well as other apps. Any respectable /. user should have most of this suite installed already (excluding a few things), but it will be nice to make it all widely available to the general public.”

Google has slid well down the slippery slope towards evilness with this. Their choices are questionable at best. Norton in particular has in my experience and reading been the single worst set of products I've ever had to remove from anyone's computers.

Tried out Google Earth again just yesterday. It seems to be a wonderful way to totally lock up a computer. After having to force a power-off on my WinXP laptop twice while fiddling with Google Earth, I removed it.

Google Desktop is an amazing resource hog. After a recent re-build of my laptop I was thinking about ditching Lookout. Some co-workers recommended Google Desktop. I tried it out for about three weeks. It took literally days to index my email and documents. It never found things I searched for unless they were several days old (yes, I'm old, I use search to search for things I received yesterday. Also I get a ton of email at work). And it made the laptop amazingly sluggish. Results: I'm back to Lookout.

Trillian is another questionable and surprising choice given that one of the authors of GAIM was recently employed by Google. GAIM is cross-platform (and that does not mean "runs on multiple versions of Windows").

Update: Meant to come back and fix this. There was no mention of Trillian in the Google Pack, that was purely an invention of the posting on slashdot. Teach me to not check the primary source.

AlterSlash: Raining Extraterrestrial Microbes in Kerala?

jdfox writes “World Science is reporting on a controversial paper to be published shortly in the peer-reviewed research journal Astrophysics and Space Science, describing a strange red rain that fell in India in 2001, shortly after a meteor airburst event in the area. The authors posit that the red particles found in the raindrops may be extraterrestrial microbes. The authors’ last two papers on the subject were unpublished: this published paper is more cautious. The paper can be viewed online, and should obviously be considered in context. More info on the ‘panspermia’ hypothesis can be found at Wikipedia.”

Now this looks like a must read. Chortle. - 'Truthiness' is word of the year - Jan 7, 2006 - 'Truthiness' is word of the year - Jan 7, 2006

The group of linguists, editors and academics agreed the most useful word was 'podcast' -- a digital feed containing audio or video files for downloading to an MP3 player.
At some point back (yes, I'm too lazy to search my own blog and I'm too old to remember where the post was), I opined that podcast would "stick" as the term. Among the other words in the article, I got a particular chuckle from "muffin top".

Monday, January 02, 2006

Digital Transition Content Security Act

Digital Transition Content Security Act

On this theme of corporate consistency I'd like to continue by looking at H.R. 4569, the Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005, which proves the point I've made many times over the years, that when it comes to technology, government doesn't really know what it is doing. H.R. 4569, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 16th, is intended to protect the intellectual property rights of movie studios by MAKING ANALOG-TO-DIGITAL CONVERSION ILLEGAL.

I am not making this up.

Under the Act as proposed, manufacturers will have one year after passage to stop making devices that convert analog signals like music and video into digital forms unless those forms preserve some original Digital Rights Management technology present in presumably the pre-analog stage.