Archive of Posts from August 2003

I'm 30 + Books!

Yesterday was my birthday and I turned the big 3-0. sk and I made a trip to Powells, where I broke down and bought Christopher Alexander's latest, The Nature of Order. (The first in a series.) I thought I could live without it, but I was fascinated looking through it at the store. As I turned the pages, I thought of The Mythic Image by Joseph Campbell—not because the content is similar, but their structure. They both seem to be vast meditations making connection after connection between seemingly disparate things. I can't wait to dive into it and find out. Last night I read through half of a gift from sk, City of Glass—Douglas Coupland's book about Vancouver. She also gave me Al Franken's latest which should be a fun one. I just finished re-reading Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind. It's my 2nd or 3rd time to read it, and I did much better following the Japanese names this time. I got the uneasy feeling halfway through that she wouldn't have wanted her journal published. I have mixed feelings about the book now.

Oregon state fair pictures

I saw lots of fun stuff at the Oregon state fair in Salem today, and here are a few snapshots to prove it:

OR State Fair Pictures (click for more)
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starbucks coffee picture

starbucks coffee

Jupiter Research blogs

Several weblogs by people at Jupiter Research. (Old news, I guess. They announced these in January.)

Ernie Ball an open source shop

Way back when I played guitar, I bought Ernie Ball strings. I hadn't heard that name for a long time, and I enjoyed this interview with Ernie Ball CEO Steve Ball about his company's switch to open source software. [via biohabit] Ball tells it like it is: "It shows how ridiculous it is that I can get press because I switched to OpenOffice. And the reason why is because the myth has been built so big that you can't survive without Microsoft, so that somebody who does get by without Microsoft is a story." I've heard about these auditing raids he describes before, but I didn't realize just how terrible they could be. This alone makes a strong business case for going with open source software. Why would you want to be fined and publicly humiliated by your software vendor?

Yahoo! blogs

It looks like Yahoo! is being drug onto the blogwagon and offering their own weblog service. From what I gather from this analysis of Yahoo! blogs on a Spanish-language weblog, they're testing the service in Korea first. According to the report, the service has all of the major weblog features including blogrolling, an about page, and RSS generation. [via Blogpopuli] Here's more info (in English) with an opaque quote that sounds like it has the stamp of approval by Yahoo! marketing, "Yahoo! will continue to look into a blogging initiative along with services that can be built around it for customers."

Barn picture

barn
Somewhere in Yamhill County

Balanced and fair ruling

A judge has ruled that the Fox suit against Al Franken was neither fair nor balanced: "The judge said he thought it ironic that a media company that should be fighting to protect free speech would seek to undermine the First Amendment. He also said he thought the 'fair and balanced' trademark is weak because the phrase is used so often." I wonder how Fox will report this.

New Canon Digital

I have EF lenses just waiting to be used with one of these new canon digital rebels. now, where did I put that $900? (Maybe it's a good time to go low-tech.)

Davis vs. Schwarzenegger

If Google Smackdown is any sort of scientific predictor (and it isn't), Gray Davis should retain his governorship.
  1. Gray Davis (596,000)
  2. Arnold Schwarzenegger (525,000)
You heard it here first.

SoBig.F Virus

Like many others, I got slammed by the SoBig.F email virus. But not because my system was infected (my server filters out many potentially virus-laden attachments). I got hit because the virus forged the from address as one of my addresses. Like the Cnet article says, "The address is also spoofed and may not indicate the true identity of the sender." So I got hit with bounces from systems that think I sent the virus. I noticed that many of the bounces were coming from the same IP address, so I blocked it from my mail server. But other systems sent bounce-messages, and there's really no way to prevent this from happening. So even though I follow fairly good virus-protection practices—and my system isn't infected in any way—I still have to deal with the effects.

You can order Amazon Hacks now

Amazon has changed the status of Amazon Hacks from "pre-order" to "Usually ships within 24 hours". If you order right now you could be reading all 100 Amazon tips & tools in just a few days. (You can read a few of the hacks earlier at the hacks site.) I think this means you should be able to pick up Amazon Hacks at your local bookstore later this week. I'm anxious to see the book in its final form!

In fact, I can't wait for my copy so I just ordered one from Amazon. That's probably the fastest way to get the book right now.

Oregon Open Source

Here's a great look at the human side of an Oregon state bill (pdf) that would require state agencies to consider open source software when making software decisions: Open Source in Oregon Fight Reaches Critical Juncture. The introduction to the bill is worth reading because it makes the business case for using open source software; explaining that it's all about self-interest and saving money. The article in Linux Today is by a primary backer of the bill, and he outlines the work he's done to get the bill where it is. It's now at a critical point, and needs support from the public to get passed. [via Slashdot]

More panoramic photos

My obsession with panoramics continues. A friend recommended Realviz Stitcher to help put them together, and I've been having fun trying it out. Today I walked up to the top of Chip Ross park and carefully took a series of photos using my camera's panoramic mode. (This mode freezes the initial exposure settings so all of the shots in the "panoramic" series have the same basic look. Panoramic mode on my camera also puts up some extra guidelines on the display to help line-up the shots.) Here's the end result after putting together the shots with Stitcher: (If you're familiar with Corvallis you can see a lot of the town in that second picture. From left to right: downtown, the courthouse, OSU campus, 29th ST, and the Timber Hill area. If you're not familiar with the landmarks, it's not too exciting.)

Realviz Stitcher is a bit cumbersome to use, but if you lined up the shots carefully and then fiddle with the program properties quite a bit, it does a great job of blending the photos together. These two pictures have some points of distortion, but I think it's better than I would have been able to do in Photoshop "by hand". I'm sure there are ways I can optimize the photos as I take them to minimize the distortion—a tripod would help.

cleaning up

The little "also" box that used to be on the right side of this page was getting out of control. So I split up its contents into a couple of new pages: tools and sites. And I added a couple of buttons that link to these pages to the already-ridiculous vertical navigation menu. (I'll redesign one of these days.)

Zeldman beats Potter

I'd just like to note that a certain book about a certain boy at a certain wizard's school has had the top spot of the Weblog Bookwatch since that book was released. Today, after months (seemingly years) of reigning supreme, Zeldman's Designing with Web Standards has claimed the top spot. (And I'm linking to it just for good measure.)

Hannah Maynard montages

In learning more about Victoria, I stumbled across pioneer Hannah Maynard. She was a photographer in early Victoria (late 1800's) doing the normal work of portraits and police file photos. But she also took her photographs of children and combined them into elaborate collages she called "Gems of British Columbia". They're disturbing (though I'm sure that has to do with the passage of time more than anything). Take a look at some in the BC Archives: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And here's a surreal self-portrait she made using a similar montage technique. The artist in her home (1890).

Vancouver -- The Novel

sk and I went to a reading tonight at Grassroots Bookstore by David Cruise & Alison Griffiths. They're husband and wife, Canadian, non-fiction authors, and they've just finished their first joint work of historic fiction called Vancouver. (It's so new it's not even available in Canada yet.) Of course the reading piqued our interest since we were just there. The turnout for the reading was small, and ended up being more of a conversation than a presentation. They talked about some of their methods for writing, and their painstaking research. The novel is made up of 12 different characters, spanning from pre-history to current day, that all encounter the area that is now Vancouver. We ended up talking about present-day Vancouver—comparing and contrasting with other cities in the US and Canada. They're going to be at Annie Blooms in Portland tomorrow. And here's a review of the book in the Seattle Times.

Flash Mob Blog

Here's a blog covering flash mob activity. [via Erik Benson]

Vacation Photos

Just what you've been waiting for...more vacation photos! We had a great time in British Columbia. We brushed up on metric, learned how to drop a toonie at the car park, and walked along several harbours near town centres. We visited Seattle, Victoria, the Cowichan Valley, Salt Spring Island, and Vancouver—which took quite a bit of driving and four ferry rides. There are 35 snapshots from the trip here...

Vancouver sunset (click for more)
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And here are two more stitched panoramics. If you stand back a few feet from the monitor and squint, you can almost pretend the seams aren't there.

Stitched panoramic photos

I stitched together some panoramic photos from the trip so far:

Post stoppage

Headed to bc. I'll be back in a week or so. Watch for mophos.

Sombrero! Sombrero!

Now this is some sort of situationist street theater happening in Portland today. I guess it's a version of a flashmob where people not only gather spontaneously, but they perform choreographed actions. [via strangechord] If you had a flashmob at your disposal, what sort of situations would you invent?

Newspaper sites' demographics

After my post about OregonLive.com last week, I had to laugh when I saw this headline in OJR: Newspaper Web Sites Struggle to Attract Younger Readers. Maybe they're just getting skewed demographic data. ;)

In all fairness though, they even give OregonLive.com as a good example of attracting younger readers. Online Editor Cosgrove said part of their secret is that they've recruited community members to cover high school sports events: "'These volunteer reporters are students, parents, the lady who sells hot dogs, and even one guy who's a local councilman,' Cosgrove said. 'It's a real cross section of the community.'"

Now if they would just give all of these people their own customizable weblogs, they could cover even more aspects of their communities year round. Then the paper could highlight the best reporting.

My Amazon RSS Wish List

Some great Amazon features aren't available through their Web Services interface (AWS) yet. Because the Amazon RSS feeds rely on AWS data, you can only create feeds of available info. Granted, the data includes all of their millions of products across thousands of categories, but there's still some great info waiting to be exposed. Anil mentioned that he wanted his gold box as RSS. And here's my Wish List for additions to AWS that would make good feeds: In Amazon Hacks, I show how you can access some of this data programmatically with screen scraping. It would be much more stable through AWS, though.

When you think about AWS data as RSS, it puts a new spin on how the info can be used, and what features should be available as XML. What RSS feeds would you like to see?

How Applications Learn

I'm currently reading an excellent book called How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand. In it he considers the ways buildings evolve over time, changing in ways architects don't anticipate, and draws conclusions about how architecture must change to address this evolution. Brand argues for a more user-centered architecture that cares how a building's occupants will use the space for years to come. It sounds obvious, but studies about how people actually use a building are rarely done—and architecture awards are given based on photographs, not interviews with a building's inhabitants. It's timely reading for me because we've been looking at houses to buy in Corvallis, and this book is changing the way I think about buildings. It's also changing the way I think about Web development.

I'd like to see someone put together a similar study called How Applications Learn. Using Brand's book as a template, I bet you could take many of his theories and see if they apply to application development. Showing screenshots of the first version of Word—and each version leading up to the latest Word—would be like showing a house with floors, rooms, and inexplicable hallways added over the years. If cathedrals are "High Road" development and warehouses "Low Road" (as Brand labels them), there must be application equivalents. What are the 70's domes of coding? Are some applications considered an "investment" while not actually solving a real-world problem? How does the structure of MMORPGs limit or embrace the ways their players can add to the environment? Which programs are truly complex and which are "decorated sheds"? User-research is often done early in the design process, but what are some methods for ensuring user-centered design well into the life of the application after features are added where needed?

There wouldn't be as much history and tradition to draw on for How Applications Learn, but it's never too early to think about how time affects our virtual structures.