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News and opinion on technology, culture, business, politics, and the hidden meaning of it all.

Last Build Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2017 07:29:40 +0000


IBM Watson: Overprovisioned "Big Iron"?

Thu, 17 Feb 2011 21:25:00 +0000

At Memesteading: IBM Watson: Overprovisioned "Big Iron"?
IBM is known, and rightly admired, for many things… but hardware thrift isn’t one of them. Could a leaner, younger, hungrier team have matched Watson’s performance with a tiny fraction of Watson’s 2880 cores and 15TB RAM?

The Rise of the Web √ Tick

Mon, 18 Oct 2010 04:31:00 +0000

At Memesteading: The Rise of the Web √ Tick

A tick is thus the smallest, easiest gesture that can contribute to larger attention cascades. An interface that uses a tick properly is like a lever with a well-placed fulcrum, turning a tiny initial force — an almost effortless twitch, even — into a larger effect on a wider audience.

Ticktrails are as meaningful on the Likernet as outlinks and clicktrails are on the Internet — an essential part of digital stigmergy. Facebook and Twitter may soon make most of their money from pay-per-tick offerings.

Welcome to the Likernet… like ‘er or not

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 04:27:00 +0000

At Memesteading: Welcome to the Likernet… like ‘er or not
Facebook’s Likernet is a bright, safe, sanitary metropolis. It’s like Singapore, but in cyberspace with 100 times more citizens. Most current Internet residents will prefer to move to the Likernet. And even if you don’t want to move, you may find the Likernet rising all around you, leaving older Internet districts as blighted slums.

Dialectical Inclusionism

Tue, 16 Mar 2010 04:21:00 +0000

At Memesteading: Dialectical Inclusionism
The current generation of deletionists are but a transition phase, still hung up on Britannica-like definitions of ‘notability’ and ‘encyclopedic’.

The “sum of all human knowledge” will not contain deletionism, it will transcend deletionism. We will not bother to denounce it, we’ll dismiss it as a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.

Deletionists, we will bury you.

Output Elsewhere

Mon, 15 Mar 2010 08:32:00 +0000

While I may yet post things here, I now intend any 'big thoughts' to go to Memesteading, and little thoughts to Twitter @gojomo.

Seven Score Characters: The Gettysburg Tweet

Thu, 25 Jun 2009 04:18:00 +0000

At Memesteading: Seven Score Characters: The Gettysburg Tweet
By future stds: Gettysburg Address, short? Give me a break! (Why! won’t! he! get! to! the! point!?) #lincolnfail

These are the days

Mon, 29 Sep 2008 20:40:00 +0000

Well I was watching my TV
with a quart of old Milwaukee
catching up on all the murderers
when the telephone starts to ring
It turns out that it's the President
telling me if he gets my vote
I will soon be wearing a mink coat
coz he'll make all of us Americans rich as kings

Well he had me hook line and sinker
even though it was just a recording
till the news showed guys on Wall Street
trying to fly without their jets
So I fed my german shepherd
checked the canned goods in the basement
and hoped the president's replacement
hasn't tried to get my telephone number yet.

These are the days I wish I'd been an eskimo instead
These are the days I wish I'd stayed in bed
- 'These are the days', Human Radio (Ross Rice), 1990

"Build Your Own Web Archive" at OSCON

Thu, 24 Jul 2008 22:16:00 +0000

Tomorrow, at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention in Portland, I'll be presenting a session about the Internet Archive's open source web archiving tools. Full details:
Build Your Own Web Archive:'s Open Source Tools to Crawl, Access & Search Web Captures
Gordon Mohr (Internet Archive, Web Group)
11:35am Friday, 07/25/2008
Web Applications
Location: E145

The Internet Archive, with support from other libraries around the world, has helped develop a collection of open source tools in Java to support web archiving. These include the Heritrix archival web crawler, “Wayback” for replaying historic web content, and extensions to Nutch for web archive full-text search. This session will explain the design and capabilities these tools, and quickly demo their use for the creation of a small personal web archive.

Heritrix has been designed for faithful and complete content archiving but has also found use in other web search contexts. Wayback allows URL-based lookup and follow-up browsing of archived web content. Nutch, as applied to archival web crawls, allows Google-style full-text search of web content, including the same content as it changes over time. Together, they provide everything necessary to archive and access accurate historical records of web-published content.

Also: last month James Turner of O'Reilly Media spoke to me in advance of OSCON. You can read or hear the interview at: Gordon Mohr Takes Us Inside the Internet Archives.

The Presidio, a land of beauty and danger, "rendered safe"

Wed, 02 Jul 2008 04:32:00 +0000

We heard a loud "boom" at the office this afternoon...

SJMN: World War I mortar shell found in San Francisco Presidio

A San Francisco police bomb squad determined that a suspicious device found in the city's Presidio this morning was a World War I mortar shell, Sgt. Wilfred Williams said.

At about 10:20 a.m., a person walking a dog reported seeing the device in the Presidio area at Inspiration Point off of Arguello Boulevard.

U.S. Park Police responded, deemed the device it to be suspicious and notified San Francisco police.

According to Williams, authorities cleared out the surrounding area as they investigated the device. The bomb squad determined the device was a World War I mortar shell and it was rendered safe at about 2:45 p.m.

Animated regular-expression prime test in faster Regex Powertoy

Sat, 28 Jun 2008 16:19:00 +0000

This thread at News.YC motivated me to deploy some recent improvements to Regex Powertoy. It's now noticeably faster, especially for animating regex matching, and 'matchmarks' more reliably capture the entire syntax/display/animate settings.

Considering the prime-testing regex mentioned in the thread:

We can watch this match number 49 -- essentially discovering a factor and confirming that 49 is not prime -- by visiting this matchmark:
We can watch the regex fail to match 47 -- confirming its primality -- with this matchmark:
We can further fancy things up by including a substitution string to replace not-prime numbers, and use the 'show edits' highlight mode:
s/^1?$|^(11+?)\1+$/not prime/
Note that clicking on the matched range brings up a detail view showing subgroup matches -- in this case the group's length is the factor found.

Note that Regex Powertoy requires Java -- a hidden applet makes use of Java's better-than-Javascript regex engine. (The recent changes have included replacing an old version of Prototype with the latest jQuery, and minimizing the slow JS-to-Java callouts by returning results in batches.)

AppleTV that's really TV and really Apple?

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 07:00:00 +0000

BusinessWeek strings together some 2008 predictions that are plausible without being mundane: Ten Likely Events in 2008.

One in particular rings true:

While Apple TV has been a dud, Steve Jobs & Co. will make an aggressive play this year for the most important screen in the house. Perhaps Apple will even make a gorgeous TV itself, with all the necessary Net capabilities inside. And if Apple can't do it, someone else will.
A real television is such an obvious fit for Apple's entertainment strategy that a 'surprise' announcement at MacWorld wouldn't surprise me. The existing AppleTV is a weak, confusing offering: a set-top box, really, that just mirrors things from a nearby computer's ITunes to a TV -- without even offering top-of-the-line 1080 HD output.

A real internet-capable TV makes more sense. So what might it look like? Big-screen LCD, full 1080 resolution, and an independent capability to connect to ITunes, for sure -- so it can be the sleek hub of home entertainment, rather than a peripheral.

One or more IPod docks on top -- so it can be used to charge, load or playback from the whole family's personal media devices. A camera and so-simple-grandma-can-use-it interface for video calls.

And the remote? An IPod Touch -- or just use any existing IPhone/Touch, which discovers the TV via wifi, or the possibly-embedded AirPort access point.

Now THAT would fit the name and brand promise of 'AppleTV'.

And since this is all just wild speculation, maybe it'll also have some funky new gestural interface, driven from the camera, infrared sensors, and/or inertial sensors. Then controlling your TV could be as fun as flicking through the IPhone interface, or playing a Wii game. Hell, make it so you can play Wii-like motion games DURING your video call with grandma.

I wouldn't bet on it but I'd love to see it!

Regex Powertoy fixes

Sat, 26 May 2007 03:33:00 +0000

Some combination of Firefox updates in the 1.5.x range or perhaps Java updates had left Regex Powertoy in a state where it usually wouldn't initialize properly, leaving it non-functional.

It's been updated with a new way to delay initialization until the necessary background applet is surely available. Also, a couple bugs with replace backreferences and replace matchmarks have been fixed. If it's seemed flaky the last time you tried it, give it another whirl.

(For more background on Regex Powertoy, see this post.)

Gaming for hearts and minds

Tue, 20 Mar 2007 05:19:00 +0000

Video games can now involve a serious physical workout...

Economist (March 8): Let's get physical - Video games: “Exergaming”, which combines on-screen action with physical exercise, shows that gamers need not be couch potatoes

Or, no physical exertion whatsoever...

Economist (March 15): Mind games - Brain-controlled games and other devices should soon be on sale

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Eureka! Free Lotto!

Thu, 08 Mar 2007 16:35:00 +0000

A judge in northern California has ruled that you don't have to pay gambling debts in California:
A Daly City couple who allegedly wrote $43,000 in bad checks to casinos in California and Nevada got bailed out today by a judge, who said gambling debts are unenforceable in California courts.

Despite the state's increased acceptance and legalization of various forms of gambling, its courts will not recognize lawsuits by casinos that extend credit to gamblers, said Superior Court Judge Quentin Kopp, a retired jurist who heard the case in San Mateo County.

"Enforcement of such claims is prohibited as against California's public policy," Kopp wrote. He cited a 1993 ruling by a state appeals court in San Francisco that found what the court described as a "critical distinction between public acceptance of gambling itself and California's deep-rooted policy against enforcement of gambling debts -- that is, gambling on credit."

I'm planning to celebrate my state's principled stand against gambling by buying $43,000 worth of California Lottery Scratchers with bad checks and credit cards I'll never have pay down. Thanks Judge Kopp!

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Crossing Over, with John Edwards

Tue, 06 Mar 2007 05:13:00 +0000

Maybe Presidential candidate John Edwards and ghost-whisperer John Edward aren't so different after all. Encouraged by the opening question in an interview at BeliefNet, Edwards is now channelling Jesus:
[interviewer] What parts of American life do you think would most outrage Jesus?

[John Edwards] Our selfishness. Our resort to war when it's not necessary. I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs. I think he would be appalled, actually.

And just last week a Pastor in Florida helpfully answered the age-old question, WWJF? ("Who Would Jesus Fire?") Namely, Jesus would not employ a City Manager planning a sex-change operation:
"If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he'd want him terminated," said Pastor Ron Saunders of Largo's Lighthouse Baptist Church. "Make no mistake about it."
Edwards' Jesus and Saunders' Jesus might have some stern words for each other if they were to be jointly-booked on Hardball with Chris Matthews. Asked for comment, James Cameron's Jesus responded by pointedly not spinning in his ossuary.

Make no bones about it: if Jesus were here today, he'd thank everyone for speaking on his behalf while he was away.

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I, for one, welcome our Wii-trained sword-wielding... *swish* *slash* 'Ayyyyye!'

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 02:19:00 +0000

YouTube: WiiBot
We took an industrial robot, strapped a tennis racket and a sword to it, and put it under the control of a WiiMote. We ran very light pattern recognition on the WiiMote, so it would copy our sword swings.
(object) (embed)
Previously: I, for one, welcome our new... *rat-tat-tat-tat-tat*

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Flickr 'machine tags'... just don't call it RDF

Fri, 26 Jan 2007 09:00:00 +0000

O'Reilly Radar: Flickr Launches Machine Tags

Great idea from Flickr: extending server-side 'tagging' support to understand a wee bit more fielded structure. Plus, avoiding highfalutin' RDFishness, in name or format, by calling the feature 'machine tags' and reusing an ad hoc intuitive syntax already employed by many taggers.

You can surely guess what these tags mean:

address:street=Via Guglielmo Reiss Romoli 164

Bitzi has been considering a similar semi-structured tagging feature; looks like I can tear up my syntax notes and get with a now-established program.

Not sure 'machine tags' is the best name, though -- they're not only going to be entered or interpreted mechanistically by software. Perhaps 'fielded tags' or even just 'named tags'?

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Adob2p: can Adobe do for web p2p what it did for web video?

Thu, 25 Jan 2007 08:33:00 +0000

GigaOM considers Adobe and its P2P Ambitions.

By adding just-good-enough video playback to its ubiquitous Flash plug-in, Adobe solved web video in a way that years of clunky software from Real, Apple, and Microsoft did not, making YouTube and its ilk possible.

Now Adobe is dropping hints a p2p engine, perhaps the Kontiki system now owned by Verisign, could be bundled with its Flash player. As the first commenter at GigaOM notes, Adobe's internet distribution power, via its installed base, is second only to Microsoft.

I've wanted a p2p distribution mesh well-integrated with the web for years. I thought it'd arrive via some open source server-side extensions ("ap2pache"?) and an enhanced browser (Firefox extension?) capable of seamlessly peerloading resources via location-agnostic identifiers. But I'll take ubiquitous p2p as part of a proprietary plug-in, if that's what it takes.

The interesting question is: would the resulting p2p distribution capability be open to anyone with popular content, regardless of license or commercial status? Or will Adobe/Kontiki charge a toll to participate? The barriers for anyone to use Flash video seem negligible -- a good precedent. However, I don't know the full details, and if by chance Adobe thinks it deserved more of a payback from Flash video's runaway success, it might try harder to charge for using its next new Flash-bundled functionality.

One plug-in to rule them all?

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Summarizing scaling MySpace

Wed, 24 Jan 2007 07:49:00 +0000

Baseline Magazine: Inside

Nice article about how MySpace has scaled its website during its continuing hyper-growth. My summary in 256 characters (the limit for 'notes'):

2*web,1*db>N*web>master-slave dbs>db-per-feature>SAN>partition tables (but 1 login srvr)>ditch coldfusion for c#/>upgrade SAN>add distrib. caching, finally>go to 64bit DB/OS>fight MS limits>face cascading power outage>now: adding geo redund. to SAN
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"Post-Watergate Leader Calmed U.S."

Thu, 04 Jan 2007 06:17:00 +0000

That was the SF Chronicle headline last week announcing Gerald Ford had died. Not much of a epitaph, to be defined by what you came after, and as a sort of valium for the body politic.

Ford became President a few weeks after I turned four years old, and was the first person I can remember holding the office. (I only recall Nixon ever being referred to in the past tense.)

In our mock 1st grade election, where we walked to the back of the classroom one by one behind a blackboard to place a stick-on star under our chosen candidate's name, Ford was also "my" first presidential vote. Of course at that age any child's vote is just some weakly modulated form of their parents' and community's sentiments. I recall my parents saying something to the effect of Ford doing a fair job under difficult circumstances and deserving a longer term, while being unimpressed with Carter and his drawl, as might be expected of New Jersey suburbanites of the era.

Ford won New Jersey, but lost my classroom and, of course, the national election. So I got used to the idea of my candidate losing right away, excellent practice for many elections to follow.

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NASA's d366 bug

Fri, 01 Dec 2006 03:28:00 +0000

Perhaps you've heard of the 'y2k bug', where software wasn't ready for dates rolling from 1999 to 2000. Turns out NASA's space shuttle software has a d366 bug every new year's eve:
NASA wants Discovery back from its 12-day mission by New Year's Eve because shuttle computers are not designed to make the change from the 365th day of the old year to the first day of the new year while in flight.

The space agency has figured out a solution for the New Year's Day problem, but managers are reluctant to try it since it has not been thoroughly tested.

I'm surprised NASA's space systems care about calendar years at all. I would have expected them to use some other reference frame, like say seconds since the moon landing.

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