Friday, March 31, 2006

Caveat Geek

Or, "Novel Uses for Network Diagnostic Tools". According to the Register, a column-writing programmer became suspicious that his partner was cheating on him, and used the Ethereal packet sniffer to monitor her online activities. The article is somewhat vague on exactly how, but presumably the tool found evidence of guilt.

The man offered this sage advice to would-be cheaters:
"If you plan to use technology when cheating it's probably best to understand the technology involved better than the person that you're cheating on,"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

When Patriotism Isn't Fast Enough

Apparently the French have ditched their native car makers and decided to use Subaru for their high-speed pursuit cars. Apparently they needed a car capable of hitting 149mph, and the locals couldn't make the cut, which is particularly embarassing since both Peugeot and Citroen compete with Subaru in the WRC.

Also noticed that 150mph is a pretty high top speed, something tells me these aren't stock WRXes, since the stock STi has a top speed of 155mph with 70 more horsepower...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Creative Anti-Trust Tactics

Apple has gotten itself out of joint as a result of a proposed French law to legalize circumvention of DRM technology to allow music to be played on competing music players. Apple claims that the French government is encouring piracy just when legalized downloads were starting to take hold, but what they're really upset about is that the gov't is going after Apple's cozy little monopoly on downloaded music and the pricy iPods that are the only devices that can play it.

Microsoft has been relatively quiet on this issue. On one hand, I'm sure they're happy to see their competitor taken down a notch, but at the end of the day, they don't really disagree with Apple's business strategy, only with who gets to control the music revenue.

It's unclear if this will have any significant effect. So far the most likely result is that Apple will shut down the French iTunes music store, rather than comply with demands. Tying cool software and services to overpriced (but stylish) hardware has been Apple's business model for the last decade, and I don't think the French will convince them to give it up.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

To Live and Die In Silicon Valley

So, Katie is getting closer and closer to her delivery date, so Keith did what any proud, expecting parent here would do: He set up a blog. Danger Randall hasn't been born yet, and he already has his first blog posting.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Office 2007

A post on Groklaw gave a link to a blog of Office 2007 screenshots, and a lot of interesting discussion followed. A surprising number of Groklaw readers liked the interface, given the reader bias, and the amount of (and extent of) retraining required for the new interface was a hotly debated.

I tend to side with the reports of experienced sysadmins and IT heads here -- users hate change, and frankly, there's nothing new under the sun in the wordprocessing and spreadsheet worlds. Most of what I see in the new Office is change for change's sake. MS is already facing an uphill battle convincing IT departments to upgrade all their machines to a new version of Office when users aren't complaining that current versions can't do what they want, and that would be even harder if the new version looked and felt just like the old version.

Sometimes, conformity is a good thing, and user interface is definately one of those areas. There are 11 applications running on my Mac, ranging from Mozilla to Skype, and all of them save one have "File" and "Edit" menus.

There was a split on Groklaw between "power users" that thought that it was new and interesting, and wouldn't have any problems picking up a new interface, and "normal users" (or those who support and deal with normal users) who just saw it was different, and therefore a pain in the ass. Having had to coax Katie through the process of learning OpenOffice, which is far more similar to Office 2003 than the new version is, I predict hearing from lots of normal users repeating the old mantra:

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Monday, March 20, 2006

ODF Becomes Big-Time Politics

Apparently one of the gubernatorial candidates for the governor of Massachusetts has made ODF (OpenDocument Format) one of the central issues of his campaign. Governor Mitt Romney has announced that he will not run for re-election, making it a wide-open race, and John Bonifaz is the one making ODF campaign statements.

I'm not surprised that ODF has made it to politics -- Office is big money, and big money and politics go hand in hand -- but I am surprised that a politician was willing to make a fairly nuanced, technical issue part of his campaign.

Morning Ritual

Woke up this morning to a nice, steady drizzle outside. Experience suggests this is the type of rain that just keeps on going all day, so I dressed accordingly in a windbreaker and waterproof boots and walked out to the garage for my new morning ritual.

I discovered last week that my car has been pulling left under acceleration, and when I checked the tire pressure, it was really low -- about 10 lbs. I filled it back up to spec (36 lbs), then checked it the next day, and it had dropped down to about 32. Meaning I have a slow leak.

The tires have a fair amount of wear on them, so it's probably a good time to just replace the tires, but that costs money, so instead I have a new morning ritual -- I open the garage, start the car, turn on the air compressor, put on some work gloves (the wheels are covered in brake dust), check the pressure and pump the tire back up. It's nice having tools.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Living In the Media Age

Or, alternately, "How Not to do a High-Risk Car Stop". I was reading this article on CNN, and was interested in watching the video of the shooting. In their infinite wisdom, however, CNN has provided a site where only Windows machines can watch video, even though my Mac is capable of playing Windows Media files.

So, I zipped over to Google Video and found the video on my first search.

The audio portion is tough to make out, because they bleeped almost the entire thing. Personally, I think if you get shot three times, you should be allowed to swear on national TV. I think you're having a sufficiently bad day that it's justified.

Even though most of the audio is missing, you can clearly tell that it's either a case of prejudice or enormously bad judgement. Early in the video the airman is talking to the cop, probably trying to calm him down, and he gets shot as he's slowly standing up (following orders to do so). The CNN article references his physical therapy, but frankly, the man is lucky to be alive after getting shot at point-blank range.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

All Marketers are Liars

A good talk by Seth Godin about Google and what they've done right so far (on purpose or by accident) marketing-wise, and how they (and others) can keep doing so. Has some good examples about launching early vs. launching good, and marketing efforts spent to launch an average product vs. a good product.

Reasonably long (about an hour long talk) but worth watching.

Friday, March 03, 2006

All Hail Silicon Valley

So it's a typical winter day outside in Silicon Valley. Temperature in 50s, bright and sunny... Except that it's hailing.


It hailed for about ten minutes and then stopped, and the view from our office door showed clear, sunny skies the whole time.