Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Social Tool Plumbing

Forget my social graph, I'm still trying to figure out my social tool graph!

By tool graph I mean how the various tools like Twitter, Facebook, Buzz, you know, are all connected together.  For now, my goal seems to be to keep my tool graph a sort of DAG, a directed acyclic graph.  All of the connections are one-way and, hopefully, there are no loops!  (I'm not sure exactly what would happen if there were.  I (and you) probably hope that we don't find out.)

I generally don't want any of the arrows to be two-directional.  That means I don't want people communicating back along the channels I publish on.  I want a different kind of control, and a lot of control, over the return channels.  So far I haven't found a general arrangement that fits that need, though the various things I've cobbled together (e.g., using Facebook) work pretty well.

Buzz seems to break my plan in a grand way, at least initially, so I'm not quite sure what to do with Buzz yet.  I've set up a gmail account just for Buzz while I try to figure it out.

For now, I'm sticking to Twitter and Blogs for publishing.  For the replies, I have lots of channels out there and availble that one can use.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

View of the Future?

This is a fascinating visualization of what a future with augmented reality could look like.  I'm not sure what I think about it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Trying Out Feedburner

I'm trying out Feed Burner.  If it's working, this should appear on my twitter account @stargate149.

Web IDE Part 3: Ephemeral Shells and Immutable Files

Thinking about this continues and there are some on-going conversations.  My recently former boss is quite interested in these ideas, too.  Here are some thoughts about replacing the UNIX shell.

Some shell operations are ephemeral.  You run some command, look at output on the screen, sometimes maybe cut and paste it, then you're done.  A trivial example is the date(1) command.  You look at or grab the date string and that whole shell instance could go away.  It's essentially stateless.

Other shell operations create or modify files.  These are cases where you want to save the state for some later use, or just as some kind of permanent record.  My first thought here is to give such a shell access to your files but to treat them as immutable.  That means you couldn't modify an existing file but could create an entirely new one.  Then, when you close that shell-like browser tab (or something), it will ask you if you want to save any of the files that were created.  Only then would they be saved into the file storage system with some type of versioning, either with a modfied name like browsers do for downloads (Myfile, Myfile(1), Myfile(2)), or built-in versioning as in Google Documents.  Documents' built-in versioning allows you to access the previous versions of the files, see the dates and times when they were modified, revert changes, etc.

Finally, for file storage, I think the Google Documents approach works pretty well.  It has a sufficient level of organization, search, folders and organization, metadata, ACLs, etc.

See also Part 1 and Part 2.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ignorance of Typesetting on the Web

I'm rapidly becoming more than simply frustrated and annoyed.   Apparently web pages are now being designed by people that know nothing about typsetting and reading.

  • Columns of text are better narrow than wide.  Hasn't anyone ever read a newspaper!  There's a maximum width beyond which text should never go!  Check a typical novel in original book form, or nearly any book,  if this is confusing.
  • Serif fonts are better than sans serif.
  • Fonts shouldn't be too small.

I've been worried about the effects of stupid wide screens.  Wide screens are only good for two things.  (1)   Watching movies and (2)  if the screen is really, really big, you can work on things side by side.

Okay, I could compromise if web designers did the reasonable and correct thing:   Allow the web page to reformat if it's made narrower!!!!   Web pages have worked this way for ages but some people seem to want to force some minimum width.

The monitor I'm using right now is a 17-in CRT at 1024x768 resolution.  Everything is the perfect size for reading but more and more I encounter pages that won't narrow properly.  There's a scroll bar at the bottom and I have to scroll right and left to see all of it.

Honestly, I don't see how people that stretch a window of text out to the limits of their monitor with tiny text can find the beginning of the next line.  How do they do it?

Some sites with half a clue do format their text into columns within the page.  Some even supply a wonderful, refreshing bit of white space, which is like finding water in the desert.  But there still may be that annoying scroll bar at the bottom.

I do offer a huge Thanks!  to the page designers that do get all of this right.  To the rest, please fix your pages!


Yes, if you are reading this on my blog page, you've already probably pointed out that the fonts *are* sans serif.  It's a good point.  It's a default theme that I othewise like.  Maybe I'll take my own advice and change the face.

Post Postscript

I did.

The New Facebook Interface

Poll Question:  How do you like the new Facebook interface?   (Love, hate, etc…)

The truth is, I'm fairly neutral.  I've never liked using Facebook, though I'm completely at a loss to explain why.  Trying to look at it objectively, it seems like a reasonable design and I can't think of a single suggestion to improve it*.  Maybe I haven't really given any though to the latter, but just try to log off as soon as possible.

Finding things in the old interface was like going on a hunting expedition and that's true in the new one, so not much has changed for me.

But, interface and usage aside, there are some things where I think Facebook (or something similar) is perfect!

  • People can only talk to you if you let them and you, presumably, know who they are.

Okay, I could only think of the one, but it's critical.   This is how Facebook is better than email.

*  Okay, I just thought of two suggestions.  I'll put them in the next blog post.

Why Don't You Ever Respond on Facebook?

Why am I so slow and neglectful in replying to Facebook comments and such?  Because I rarely log on.  I really only use two things for outgoing information:  Twitter and blogger.

I do get email for Facebook comments and messages from folks.  My biggest problem is that I often see them on my phone at at time when I can't easily reply.  Then I forget about them.  I have the same problem with email, too.

Maybe I'll try to log on more often and catch up.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Digital Photography

I have to say, I'm not convinced that unloading, editing, cropping, fooling around with color corrections, uploading, organizing, adding captions, publishing on-line, putting them in the blog, etc., is less time-consuming than mixing D-76, stop bath, fixer, loading the tank, printing contact sheets, etc., etc.

Or at least dropping rolls of Kodachrome in the mailers and sending them to the Kodachrome lab was pretty easy.

But, yeah, the finished product is different.  I guess it's apples and oranges.  Still, there's no push button convenience to be found here.  Where are the Jetsons when you need them!

Truth be told, there's something I really miss about the equipment, chemicals, working with light of an enlarger, etc., though I don't think I could ever go back.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Web IDE Part 2: Where's my UNIX?

The other thing I'd miss is the UNIX (Linux) command line.  If everything is on the web, where can I type

| sort | uniq -c | sort -nr


I bet you could run a virtual shell environment in a browser tab.

Finally (or at least what I can think of so far):  I'd want to be able to write little tools, in Python or something, to do useful things.  Actually, I think that could be done.  The Bespin editor has a command line interface to the editor.  You could just as easily put a shell-like command line interface there.

I think it can be done.  It just requires some tools and carefully removing our work space from the desk top and re-gluing it onto the cloud.  I will admit, though, I've seen clouds.  They aren't hard and solid, but they're white and fluffy.  Truth be told, they're actually quite damp and foggy, not something easy to glue to…

See also  Part 1 and Part 3.

Bespin: Web IDE

I'm interested in the concept of web-based integrated development environments, IDEs.  Basically, that means writing and testing code via a web browser, without a computer in the traditional sense.  That's because I'm thinking more and more about a browser-only, workstation-less world.  The only thing I still need a traditional computer for is programming.  If that can be moved into the cloud, then I'm free!

Bespin looks like an excellent attempt to this end.  The video is quite compelling.  The main thing I would care about in such environment is the performance of typing and editing.  The demonstrated zipping around, effortlessly, in a 33-k line file is impressive in the Bespin video.

I think I can't write and edit code without Emacs, but the truth is I spend a lot of my time typing into browser windows and text fields just like I am right now.  A lot.

Google Documents' word processor is also a pretty good model for browser text editing.  The text entry is interactive and fast.  Document saves are automatic and there's version control.  With line-number recognition, a monospaced font, keyword highlighting (which I've now sadly come to depend on), and even typing help such as auto-complete may not be too bad.

With a button to run tests, etc., the edit and test cycle could be pretty nice.

See also Part 2 and Part 3.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trendistic Apple and Google

It's interesting to look at Apple and Google trends on Twitter via on Trendistic.  You can clearly see China, the iPad and Buzz.

It looks like Apple's announcement on 18 Jan of their upcoming press conference completely killed the China buzz.  You can also see the little blip from Google's superbowl add before the Buzz announcement yesterday.

Seesmic on Android Now Supports Multiple Accounts

RT @stargate149 Hooray! @Seesmic 's new upgrade on Android lets me RT to multiple accounts.

Quantum Mechanics Double-Slit Experiment

Bobby sends along this excellent animated explanation of the quantum mechanics double-slit experiment.  (Except I find the talking head to be extremely irritating…)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Google Buzz

@stargate149 RT official @google Introducing Google Buzz: a new way to start conversations about the things... http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/introducing-google-buzz.html

Monday, February 08, 2010

Pharo Smalltalk

This weekend I discovered Pharo Open Source Smalltalk.  It's a fork off of Squeak Smalltalk.

They claim that they'll service the bug queue faster and fix more bugs, the claim being that the Squeak queue is pretty large with slow turn around.  It also has slicker graphics (they look like the Mac) meaning a “more modern” look and feel.  They also claim to have pared down the bundled software and that part I'm not sure about yet.

I haven't used Squeak enough yet to bump into any of it's bugs.  Since it has elements of Smalltalk dating back to Smalltalk-80, I thought it was quite well debugged but there is newer code in it, so the references must be to that.  Probably network and, I bet, newer Internet- and Web- related stuff.  That's only a speculation.

The graphics do have a visual appeal.  I am actually partial to serif fonts, they are easier to read and I don't really understand why sans-serif fonts are in vogue.

A full virtual machine doesn't seem to be that big in any event, so I'm not sensitive to the smaller size either.

I'm giving Pharo a try and adding to a little exercise that I wrote some time ago.  I still sort of prefer Squeak, though.

Smalltalk is the original object-oriented language (or at least nearly so) and it's the most wonderful and pure environment one can code in, in my opinion.  I take it off the shelf every now and then to play with, but I've yet to find a practical application to do in Smalltalk.  That's it's curse, I think.  However, as it turns out, I've never found a practical use for Java either, always finding Perl or now Python to be at least sufficient and sometimes necessary.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Banjo Music

Wow, I just stumbled onto this by accident.  Steve Martin, Tony Trischka and Bela Fleck playing together.