Monday, May 1, 2006

Rearranging the Type on the Times-tanic

Peter Merholz, in response to The New York Times' idiotic announcement: Microsoft Software Will Let Times Readers Download Paper, writes: Apart from a few designers, no one cares about The Times' "look". (from Let's Put the Cat Back in the Bag).

This isn't new for the Times. I recall that for quite awhile you could get the front page in Adobe Acrobat format (as if that had some sort of value).

Years ago, I was stuck in the dreadful world of literary theory and literary criticism. There was a constant ying-yang argument between proponents of authors (Author's Rights! The meaning of the text is what the author meant!) and readers (The meaning of the text is whatever the reader decides it is). I came to realize that it was a silly notion that the creator of a text, of a speech act, of a communication, could control the interpretation of the creation. Shortly after this realization I decided I wasn't much of a theorist and moved on to more fruitful endeavors.

You can't have it both ways, you can't create something and let it loose upon the world, regardless of its medium, and expect to be able to control how people use it. This isn't an Internet thing, a web 2.0 thing, it's just the way through history humans have reacted to created content: music, literature, multimedia, film, even law: all are created in one context by an author of some sort, and interpreted (read, listened to, interacted with, interpreted) by an audience in completely unpredictable contexts.

It's sad to see The New York Times continue to push for this control over content. As a longtime reader of the site (and subscriber but occasional reader of the weekend paper edition) it's disappointing and a waste of their limited resources. The DRM aspects don't even concern me: I have no interest in using such a thing as an online representation of the printed paper. It's just a waste of money, time, and resources. And it's delusional to believe this will somehow stanch the loss of readers of the paper edition.

e.p.c. posted this at 01:31 GMT on 1-May-2006 . Source,

Friday, May 5, 2006


I don't know what to make of this other than it's funny and likely over the heads of 98.9% of the public internet: Better Bad News. Take talking heads who seem to be from an alternate-PBS talkshow world, and mash up topics ranging from blog angst to the ongoing "problem" in Iraq and this is what you get. I found it funny, but I also enjoy seeing Monty Python skits for the 400,128th time.

e.p.c. posted this at 14:05 GMT on 5-May-2006 .

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Nothing much of interest to report, so I'll bore you five with the following:

  • I have never been diagnosed with allergies, however this so-called "fact" has failed to impress my immune system which is reacting to a large amount of pollen and other crap in the air (thank you New Jersey). I gave up a daily dose of Actifed two years ago on advice of my doctor (the near-immediate ten point drop in my blood pressure was a possible consequence of this). Switching to Claritin and generic knockoffs with Loratadine has helped some, but not enough, so I have spent the last several days in a sort of awake but miserable funk.
  • Frisket continues to be a dog. Not much else to report there. She has been very upset the last couple of days to discover that a squirrel has returned to harvest stuff out of the planters on the deck. Some of the "stuff" that the squirrel is harvesting might just be left over matzoh bread from Seder.
  • Lisa and I leave for Ireland in about three weeks. We are spending a couple of days in Dublin, followed by hiking around Cork. While we're away Frisket will be at Monstermutt though we are trying to line up a couple of suckers friends to dog-sit her for a few days (we'll be gone 12 days).
  • We hosted Todd over the weekend and are looking forward to seeing Alex next week. Frisket has been saving a stick to show Alex when he stays with us.
  • On the work front I've been doing a bunch of stuff, almost none of which I can report here. I made a commitment to myself this year that rather than working on a single thing at a time and getting nothing done, I'd work on multiple things at a time. Not sure I'm getting anything done still but I feel busy which I guess is a good thing.
  • If you blog or otherwise have a site which is getting nailed by comment spam, and you can block by keywords, try using this wordlist I put together for blocking comment spam. I was kind of like: duh, isn't this common sense? Of course, if it was common sense I would have done it years ago, released a tool and reaped billions of dollars in fees.

Some links I've bookmarked recently:

  • Going Bedouin and Bedouins are Everywhere, about moving to a truly mobile workforce and mobile company. Not on an individual basis, but as the basis for the organization.
  • This is ancient, and is trapped behind the NYT tollgate, but When News Breaks, Flashy Content Loses Out discussed how sites (I believe it was specifically go to barebones content when under higher than normal load. This isn't really new, and I believe it's unecessary these days. At we had some code that would watch the log files and detect when we were under intense load. If we were then the same code would switch the site to a static homepage. During the Deep Blue chess match we had a "games time" page that we put up on which gave people the option of clicking to the match web site or to the IBM home page (which itself was static). Didn't do a damn bit of help to shed load or offset the problems we were having with Domino Go Webserver. If you're managing a site which can routinely expect high traffic loads, you shouldn't need to switch to a static or barebones site, high traffic loads should be part of your normal infrastructure plan. Instead of thinking of all those users as hostile people beating up your site (which was my perspective when under the gun at IBM), think of them as eyeballs you need to capture and explore your site. If you're in bare-bones mode then you're unlikely to retain these new users, new eyeballs when so-called normalcy returns.
  • RISE IN BROADBAND CHANGES CONSUMERS™ INTERNET HABITS: another non-surprise here. As people get better access and higher bandwidth, what they do online changes. Apologies for dragging out Deep Blue again, but one difference that we sort of knew to expect but still under-planned for between the 1996 and 1997 chess matches was the effect of widespread deployment of 56k modems would have on the site. In 1996 the "normal" dialup speed for people was 28k-33kbps, even though many people had 56k or x2 modems, the ISPs didn't have 56k pops available. By May 1997 more 56k POPs were available. So people spent more time trolling around the site, more time downloading multimedia content.
  • - Pundits Discuss the Internet's Future: a dialogue between Esther Dyson and Vint Cerf about the future of the Internet.

e.p.c. posted this at 22:42 GMT on 10-May-2006 .

Monday, May 15, 2006

"product RED" -- Bono's campaign against AIDS

This is getting little or no coverage in the US, but Bono, working with Bobby Shriver of the Kennedy clan has launched a project to raise funds and awareness about AIDS in Africa called (Product)RED. I read about it on the Independent (UK) site: Independent Online Edition: A red revolution on the high street

"What we couldn't figure out was why people said they wanted to do something to help - and then didn't." So says Bobby Shriver who, as a member of the Kennedy clan, is about as near as America gets to an aristocrat. He is the man who, with the singer and activist Bono, dreamt up Product RED to harness the power of the high street in the fight against the greatest threat to health in human history - the Aids pandemic which every day claims the lives of 6,500 men, women and children in Africa alone.

Tomorrow The Independent goes RED. But what does that actually mean? First that half of the money this newspaper earns that day will be given to Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. That sounds like a good bit of corporate philanthropy, the kind of idea you might expect a latterday aristo like Shriver to dream up.

But to think in those terms is to under-estimate the potency of the enterprise. What Shriver and Bono are about is a revolution that brings together two of the most powerful forces in the contemporary world - the appetite of consumers and the marketing intelligence of the corporate sector - to open up an entirely new front in the battle against Aids in the continent worst hit by this modern plague.


e.p.c. posted this at 01:19 GMT on 15-May-2006 . Source,

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pre-vacation cleanup

I closed comments on all posts prior to this one. I don't get many valid comments, most are from spammers for phentermine, vicodin, "new york trial attorney", "new york lawyer", etc.

I'll decide whether to turn them on again when I get back mid-June.

I'm also contemplating restructuring this site, again. Perhaps archiving the blog prior to June 1st or something. Not sure how well MovableType will behave if I have two blogs with the same filesystem hierarchy.

As for the vacation, it's to Ireland for hiking in and around Cork and Kerry.

Beyond that, not much else is going on. We saw V for Vendetta a couple of weeks back, I really enjoyed that, moreso than perhaps the last Matrix movies (Vendetta is also by the Wachowski Bros.). I've had lunch with Klaus Rusch and Pete Fiorese in the past week. I've managed to acquire a number of books that I intend to read but have had a chance to, perhaps on the flight to Dublin next week.

So, enough about me, what's going on out there?

e.p.c. posted this at 22:07 GMT on 23-May-2006 . , Comments [1]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rolling Rock workers seek boycott of Bud products

Annheuser Busch has purchased the Rolling Rock brand, but not the brewery which has made Rolling Rock since the 1930s. As a result, Rolling Rock workers are calling for a boycott of various brands: Rolling Rock workers seek boycott of Bud products. I support this boycott and will continue to not drink Annheuser Busch products.

e.p.c. posted this at 05:04 GMT on 24-May-2006 . Source,

Saturday, May 27, 2006


I don't know if it's allergies or a bad reaction to attending half of Three Penny Opera on the 25th, but I have had neck and upper back cramps all day yesterday continuing to today. This does not bode well for flying to ORD and then DUB next week. Lisa claims it's because I fell asleep during the 1st half of TPO (I was resting my eyes, as everyone knows, if I'm asleep I snore louder than a small jet engine).

I built, or rebuilt, a machine yesterday. This is one of three allegedly high-end PCs I bought as part of a consulting gig a couple of years ago. It had had Windows Server 2003 on it until about January when a service update accidentally destroyed the WS2K03 image. I bought a 120GB drive to stick in it (it had had a 40Gb, all it was supposed to do in its previous life was to run WS2K03 and MS Exchange, but it never quite got that far). I also picked up an ATI Radeon 9550 graphics card as I wanted to see what I was missing with some of these games like Second Life which I can't even play on my laptop.

From start to finish it took about ten hours. There was about 30 minutes to open up the box, remove the existing drive, add the new drive, the graphics adapter, and a CD drive and about 9 hours, 30 minutes to install Windows XP Professional, download and install 59 updates, reinstall the graphics adapter drivers, install cygwin, install Firefox, etc. My goal is to keep the image relatively clean, so I'm trying to restrain myself from doing too many customizations (though I had to download the Cleartype Powertoy from Microsoft, otherwise the screen would be illegible). In theory I could use the remaining MSDN disks I have (actually I'm not sure about that, I let my MSDN subscription lapse at the end of 2005, so perhaps I was supposed to destroy all of the DVDs that I have piled up?). But I wanted a "real" copy of XP, and most of my interests are leading away from development on Windows after a brief foray last year.

As I was doing the install (which I should add, went absolutely smoothly, it just took awhile to update and reboot repeatedly) I recalled many wasted days and nights I spent at IBM's Myer's Corners Lab: downloading disk images of OS/2, "burning" them to floppy disks (well, 3.5" disks weren't so floppy were they?), and installing onto my 120Mb PS/2 Model 80. Sure, it was exciting, it was fun, I got to file a number of bug reports, but mostly I lost a lot of sleep (and I'm sure productivity: while I worked most of the time off MVS and VM systems, a dead PC is just as useless as a dumb terminal). There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of others who did the same thing on some times a weekly basis as new betas dropped of OS/2.

My interest was in networking...I was one of the first to load the TCP/IP stack for OS/2 when it became available internally and I had a notion that I would write something using networking but never got around to it (I don't count some of the simple Rexx scripts I wrote as programming).

And so I was sitting here yesterday, installing XP, and recalling OS/2 and it gnawed at me: why are we still worrying about drivers, and compatibilities? Why do I have to sit and acknowedge various dialogs, EULAs, and what not? I mean, are there people who really revel in all of the possible options and opportunities to screw up? I know there's lots of technobabble junk under the covers, but I don't care. No wonder technology turns off so many people, no wonder so many leave their systems unpatched: it's a complete pain in the ass (and with Microsoft, a weekly complete pain in the ass).

And I know part of that is simply the nature of Windows, and Microsoft's sheer terror at obsoleting anything. OS/2 was a pain to install because it was very precise about system settings and configurations. I had problems installing it on my IBM PS/2 Model 80, pity the person trying to install it on something that was not officially supported like a Compaq, Dell or Gateway. Microsoft took the opposite approach, trying to be as broadly compatible as possible. Windows won, but we're paying for that now. I'm sure OS/2 would have had countless problems by now as well, but I have an inkling of a feeling that we'd be spending far less time individually or as a group patching and repatching systems had OS/2 had more success.

e.p.c. posted this at 17:23 GMT on 27-May-2006 from Brooklyn, NY.

Slightly acerbic and eccentric dog walker who masquerades as a web developer and occasional CTO.

Spent five years running the technology side of the circus known as

More about me here.