Saturday, December 30, 2006
Meet your shiny new 2007 HTCs - Engadget


I can only hope that the clamshell Star phone comes to T-Mobile. I have my doubts about Cingular, the current provider for Star Trek (which many people in my building at work recently picked up). I've been wanting to get a new smartphone to replace my aged Nokia 3650, but it has to have GPS and Wi-Fi. 

Finally, a new clamshell Smartphone will pick up where the Star Trek left off, rocking a GPS receiver and more wireless radios than its predecessor. If you can't find yourself an '07 HTC to your liking now, well... that's just crazy talk, but we know a Finnish outfit that might like your business.

Source: Meet your shiny new 2007 HTCs - Engadget

Friday, December 29, 2006
Look at that #1! The Top Ten Astronomy Images of 2006


Wow, #1 looks like some kind of airbrushed head art from the 70s: Bad Astronomy Blog » The Top Ten Astronomy Images of 2006.

I also like #9 very much.

Thursday, December 28, 2006
The Biased Echo-Chamber: Microsoft vs. Apple


So, when Microsoft announced video content download for the Xbox 360, the echo-chamber, as tracked by Tech-Meme, was all over the reports of slow-downloads and the overwhelmed service.

Apple suffers its own iTunes post-Christmas meltdown... and narry a peep: Music denied -- shoppers overwhelm iTunes -

What's the rage right now? Something about outrage over Microsoft sending out nice laptops with Vista pre-installed.


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Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Guessing about Scoble's Secret This Week


Dave Winer says that Scoble has something to write about this week that's currently secret and that will end up being somewhat political. Scoble touches on it here: Back from Christmas « Scobleizer - Tech Geek Blogger.

FYI: Scoble is a former Microsoftie video-blogger who interviewed me and a posse of InfoPathers for a Microsoft MSDN Channel9 feature on InfoPath and recently interviewed Elisa's friend Kimberly Sacha on Kimberly's Zuma skills.

My guess? Well, given that John Edwards said that he'll make an announcement on his presidential run decision and that Senator Edwards showed up at the Gnomedex 6, my guess is that Scoble is going there to video blog the announcement as part of Senator Edwards reaching out to the blog-space.

Nothing like a little post-Christmas mystery.

Update: yup: Full disclosure… « Scobleizer - Tech Geek Blogger. I guess it wasn't that hard to figure out. I look forward to watching the results.

Oh, and geez, someone sick a talented web designer on Edward's web site and dial the visual noise level down to the "usable." Seven plus or minus two, right? Tufte weeps.

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Blake Ross on Google - Trust is hard to gain, easy to lose.

Blake Ross takes some time to look at what Google is doing around decorating the HTML you get back when you do certain queries. HTML decorating to throw in pointers to Google properites.
[...] in many ways, Google’s new age “bundling” is far worse than anything Microsoft did or even could do. Microsoft threw spaghetti at the wall and hoped it stuck, and likewise there’s nothing wrong with Google’s arbitrary front-page ads. The difference here is that Google knows what users want and can discreetly recommend its products at the right time.

Source: Blake Ross on Firefox » Tip: Trust is hard to gain, easy to lose.

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Monday, December 25, 2006
Top 10: Steps to a better brain


The latest Wired magazine has an article about improving your brain in four weeks. One thing it suggests is an improved diet. Highly recommended for breakfast: the English standard of beans on toast. What the? I did some quick digging around and came across: Top 10: Steps to a better brain - brain - 04 September 2006 - New Scientist.

Sure enough:

Beans on toast is a far better combination, as Barbara Stewart from the University of Ulster, UK, discovered. Toast alone boosted children's scores on a variety of cognitive tests, but when the tests got tougher, the breakfast with the high-protein beans worked best. Beans are also a good source of fibre, and other research has shown a link between a high-fibre diet and improved cognition.

Well I'll bean - I mean - be!

Saturday, December 23, 2006
50 Greatest Cartoons


Wow, this will fill your weekend with cartoon shorts: cityrag: 50 Greatest Cartoons - includes many of my favorits, including one of my most favorite contemporary cartoons:

32. The Cat Came Back (1988)

Oh no, now that tune is back in head!

Friday, December 22, 2006
Best (and Worst) High-Def Discs of 2006


Okay, so now I'm not so jealous of The Fifth Element being released on Blu-Ray: Best (and Worst) High-Def Discs of 2006 | High-Def Digest - it sounds like it was a stinker of a transfer.

Good list to see what the worst transfers are. Mostly Blu-Ray. Encoding a movie, scene by scene, is an art. What I'd like to know is the graph for the VC-1 encoding adoption rate over time for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. So far, I think it's the superior choice. I'll have to dig in and see what the "Best" disks use for their encoding.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Moving Through Matter with Buckaroo Banzai


Even if you only have a passing interest in physics, this is a fun read: Moving Through Matter with Buckaroo Banzai.

And of course, if you're a Banzai fan (you know you are'ah, monkey boyee!): BANZAI INSTITUTE Main Menu.

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Google Deprecates Their SOAP Search API, Tim Gets a Dig in at Microsoft. What?


Software as a service is great... until the service goes away. One small example is Google turning off future use of their search API in preference to an opaque set of JavaScript routines that shoot out whatever HTML Google wants as part of the query.

The O'Reilly Google Hacks book? Time to go to that big recycler in the sky. What's interesting to me is that Tim manages to get a dig in at Microsoft within the O'Reilly Radar post on Google turning off this API:

Update #2: Tim writes: On the other hand, SOAP has always been a political football shaped by big companies who were seeking to use it to turn web services back into a controllable software stack. (I remember the first web services summit we did, where a Microsoft developer who I won't name admitted that SOAP was made so complex partly because "we want our tools to read it, not people.")

Source: O'Reilly Radar > Google Deprecates Their SOAP Search API.

What The Fudge does that have to do with Google turning off an Alpha-Geek service? Microsoft certainly didn't twist Google's - or Amazon's - arm to adopt SOAP. It was their choice. No football game involved. It was the XML-hotness at the time. I'm leaning more towards XML RPC and Plain Old XML, myself. SOAP is nice for when you want to do some heavy object lifting and need something more standard to connect pieces together. But if you can URL paramter encode your request and throw on something like "?response=text\xml" and get XML back, all the better.

Use the big SOAP hammer for the big SOAP nail.

Anyway. Google Search SOAP API is dead. Or at least checked in to the bit-bucket hospice. And I'd say everyone who relies on Google (or any third party) remote service had a nice little, "Hmm..." to roll around in their head today: "What would happen if they went and shut off their service I'm using tomorrow?"


Might be mighty nice to think about having some rich client content.

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New Backwards Compatibility! Original Xbox Games on Xbox 360


Yeah! Lots more games have shown up on the 360 backwards compatibility list: | Xbox 360 - Original Xbox Games on Xbox 360.

Including something that surprised and delighted me to no end:

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer New
  • Yes, I wear my Buffy geekdom on my sleeve quite proudly. I recently had started playing "Chaos Bleeds" again. I'm really looking forward to playing the orignal Buffy again... except for that whole "no save points" thing... and that hard ass level of fighting the evil Buffy. Well, it was still loads of fun!

    "Fade to black..."

    Also: Psychonauts is supported now, which I think I'll need to try and track down a used copy of.

    Thursday, December 14, 2006
    I can surf quickly again thanks to the "Ad unfriendly hosts file"


    My IE has been freezing when bringing up various web pages. Why? It's frozen while initializing a Flash-based ad. Maybe it's a recent update to Flash that's caused this lack of responsiveness, but I finally had enough and downloaded the ad unfriendly host file to two of my home computers: Eric'o'theque!: Ad unfriendly hosts file .

    Everything is so much better now. Sure, I have embedded frames with 404 messages cluttering my web pages here and there, but I'll take that over an embedded ad or, worse, a dorky Flash ad that was gumming up my browser's responsiveness.

    In the past, I've disabled Flash entirely, but you know how long that lasts until you really need to reenable Flash to view some content.

    So: the ad unfriendly hosts file is highly recommended.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006
    Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO » IE7 promo page


    Holy Chutzpah! How does Google deal getting caught copying a rather complex Yahoo! ad for a customized IE7 download? They go and re-nail Yahoo! for copying Google's ad stylings: Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO » IE7 promo page .

    The ego has landed.

    So, are the fanboys cheering Google or are they a bit surprised... read more at TechMeme.

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    Monday, December 11, 2006
    Google Blatantly Copies Yahoo!? (by Jeremy Zawodny)


    Unquestioned Google-love is the new Linux-love: Google Blatantly Copies Yahoo!? (by Jeremy Zawodny).

    The comments and reactions and total non-reading immediate reactions splurted out into the post represent thoughtless fandom. Geek love. Open Source Code love? Too hard. Perl or Python script? Even that's too hard. How about just adoring a concept, like the GOOG?

    For Jeremy to even besmirch GOOG results in negative comments and people explaining away that surely Microsoft must have provided a template (even though over and over again that was debunked) that both Yahoo! and Google used. Whew.

    I guess the surprising part is that anyone, let alone a technological darling, would do something so obviously dumb and mishandle the underlying code to boot. The discussion around all of this is waaaay more interesting, though, than the actual act.

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    Windows Vista™ Tips & Tricks


    I was going to wait until next year, but I decided last week to jump in and install Vista on my Toshiba Portege M200 laptop. Now it's time to know how best to use Vista: Windows Vistaâ„¢ Tips & Tricks. I'm going to have some off-time soon. Right now, after the system is stabilized, I need to go and install the M200 drivers to get the optimum experience.

    I don't plan on upgrading any of my home machines to Vista: way too much old software and services that I don't expect to be upgraded to Vista. So those guys will happily chug along with XP. What will be interesting is seeing if I get so used to Vista on my work laptop that I really start missing it while using XP.

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    Sunday, December 10, 2006
    HD-DVD Is Winning on DVD Wars


    From the O'Reilly Radar: O'Reilly Radar > HD-DVD Is Winning on DVD Wars.

    If this is true (and I hope that it is mostly to knock Sony for its unrelenting hubris) it certainly is not due to the magazine advertising for HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray. Whew. The Blu-Ray ads are masterful and compelling, and the only HD-DVD ads I've seen is some grinning special effects guy PhotoShopped-up to look like he's blowing a bunch of stuff up with some poor distraught robot in the middle of it all. Aroo? What the hell does that mean to the consumer? And that official web site ( I didn't think anyone could make the Flash experience suck more than it already does.

    If HD-DVD really wants to win, it has to get out there with the movies people want to pay to see in super-high-def and get the price down to something reasonable. $20 is a good target.

    In the meantime, I've watched the following via Netflix and the 360 HD-DVD drive:

    V for Vendetta looked great. King Kong looked alright, too, but since at its heart it's more of an artful snuff film, I'm not up to watching anymore of Kong. We Were Soldiers and Superman II looked like plain DVD-quality to me, and Unforgiven was such a dark movie most of the time it didn't really matter. This is on a 720p projector with a rocking video-processor to begin with. So for me, right now, HD-DVD (and Blu-Ray) are a bit of a wash. I do appreciate, though, that special features can fit on the HD-DVD disk along with the movie, meaning that I'm not missing out near as much when I NetFlix movies that would typically be of a two-disk set when on classic DVD.

    In reality, I'd be happy if Xbox Live and my NetFlix account could be tied together and I could have a download queue via NetFlix that let me always have two movies on my 360 and after I cleared one off, the next would start downloading. For now, though, physical media seems just fine.

    And DVD prices are plummeting, meaning that I can stock up on a lot of sick-day movies.

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    Friday, December 08, 2006
    Yellowstone Digital Slide File Home Page


    Woof! This has so much good, free, public-domain content of beauty from Yellowstone that I'm overwhelmed just looking through it: Yellowstone Digital Slide File Home Page . Do other National Parks have such digital slide collections? Animals, geology, weather, it has it all.

    Hmm, no luck for Mt. Rainier.

    Olympic National Park: Olympic National Park - Photo Gallery (U.S. National Park Service).

    San Juan Islands: San Juan Island National Historical Park - Photo Gallery (U.S. National Park Service).

    Copyright and terms vary from park to park.

    Excellent Images for Presentations: Imagebase, free photos, images, pictures


    I'm beginning to collect stock images that people allow re-use of. I bounced around various sites and this one, off of David Niblack's domain, is excellent. They are excellently framed subjects with wonderful focus and saturation.

    Recommended: Imagebase, free photos, images, pictures

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    See Edward Tufte If You Can - It's Worth It!


    When I worked for Intel Supercomputers in Beaverton, OR, I was the user-interface guy. Thus, I was able to finagle a day-trip downtown to see Edward Tufte present in downtown Portland. It was great. Presentations like that make me realize how poor a presenter I am. Of course, he had a pretty much adoring audience, so it wasn't too much of a challenge.

    I still get flyers about Tufte coming through town and I consider putting them up outside my office. Today, I noticed "Coding Horror" had a quick summary of going to a Tufte presentation:

    His writing is fantastic, but it can be dry at times. I was surprised to find that Edward Tufte is a funny, animated speaker. We spent all morning reading through about a half-dozen sections in his last three books. Although I've read them all before, it was illuminating to have Tufte guide us through the reading selections and provide running commentary. It complemented the text nicely. He brought out a lot of nuances in the text that I completely glossed over in my initial read. The latter half of the day was split between sparklines and avoiding the pitfalls of PowerPoint. As usual, everything was presented directly from the books.

    Source: Coding Horror: Reading with Edward Tufte.

    If you can finagle like I can finagle, go. One big takeaway I got was how so much work on information visualization has been done since illuminated texts, and some of the quite old solutions are far better than what we come up with today, typically limiting ourselves to the progression of computer graphics vs. thinking outside of the graphical toolbox.

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    Thursday, December 07, 2006
    Winner! 360! Xbox 360 Versus PlayStation 3 Graphics Comparison


    What really matters in the quality and story telling of the games. But, for games that are on both the 360 and the PS3, GameSpot did a comparison and, in just about every case, the 360 won over the PS3:

    The Xbox 360 had better graphics in almost all the games we examined. The 360's biggest victories were in Madden 07 and Fight Night Round 3, where the differences in texture detail and lighting stood out in our comparison shots. We couldn't capture this in the screenshots, but the Xbox 360 games generally offered better framerates too.

    Source: Xbox 360 Versus PlayStation 3 Graphics Comparison - Features at GameSpot

    Gnash. Gnash. Gnash. That's the sound of the PlayStation fanboys.

    Looks like folks can get a better, readily available system for $200 cheaper right now. $200 can buy three games and a controller or a wireless headset or a guide book or... it goes on and on. Oh! And 360 controllers? Rumble. Sweet, sweet, rumble.

    And don't go preaching Blu-Ray. That's a no-op except for the ability of a game to load lots and lots of content (perhaps uncompressed for quick loading). Though of the above games, some actually load slower in the PS3. Hmm.

    Come together comment: so I think both systems are really good and you should get the one that makes you happy that has the games that make you happy. I'm sure it will all come down to the exclusive titles. But the PS3 does not have a graphical advantage over the 360. It also does not seem to have a performance edge, either.

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    I'm Buying It: Raymond Chen's "The Old New Thing," The Book

    It's a blog that I read everyday and a tremendous resource to the Old-School world of C++ / Win32 development. And now it comes in hardcopy. Yes, it's going on my wish list and I'll get a copy as soon as it hits Redmond.

    More: The Old New Thing : Okay, I changed my mind, I wrote a book after all

    A snippet from the Amazon summary:

    Chen shows you


    Sunday, December 03, 2006
    Old NCSA Mosaic Web Presentation I Did While at Intel


    I'm going through a bunch of old paperwork, finally recycling presentations and paperwork from my days working at Intel Supercomputers.

    Something I stumbled across that's going on, hmm, thirteen years old come February: a flyer for my presentation on the Mosaic web browser:

    I had spent the last part of 1993 playing around with Viola and then Mosaic, excited about the web and the information it opened up. Unfortunately, I was still of the old-guard that believed the Internet should be devoid of commercial interests (advertising then was unofficially disallowed and usually had its bits chased off by the bearded Unix gurus). So I was more focused on the research potential and the potential for our customers (Oooo! Online documentation) than making money.

    Looks like the term "HyperMedia" was fashionable back then.

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    Friday, December 01, 2006
    Wired News: MPAA Kills Anti-Pretexting Bill


    Wow. Okay, my NetFlix queue is always about a couple-dozen movies deep, so I have barely enough time to watch movies, let alone download pirated copies off the internet. RIAA and MPAA are doing their best to make life miserable for the downloaders, and non-downloaders, of the world. Worst invention ever: brown security code dots that flash on the screen while you're watching a movie in the theater. One of the reasons I just wait for the DVD nowadays. Why should I pay so much cash for a slightly-corrupted experience that presumes there's a thief in the ever dwindling audience?

    Anyway, this is revealing: the MPAA wants to be able to drift into the legal greyzone of pre-texting in order to get access to records of people (most likely, get their internet access records):

    The bill won approval in three committees and sailed through the state Senate with a 30-0 vote. Then, according to Lenny Goldberg, a lobbyist for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the measure encountered unexpected, last-minute resistance from the Motion Picture Association of America.

    "The MPAA has a tremendous amount of clout and they told legislators, 'We need to pose as someone other than who we are to stop illegal downloading,'" Goldberg said.

    Source: Wired News: MPAA Kills Anti-Pretexting Bill .

    Wrong wrong wrong. Let economics work this out. Stop supplying the product if the price-point demand is for $0.00. Let the community self-correct. Or come up with a new model.

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    Weather on your GPS. Nice! Bushnell ONIX400CR GPS/XM Handheld -


    Being able to overlay Doppler weather on your GPS is fantastic: Bushnell ONIX400CR GPS/XM Handheld - . I'm sure, though, it requires a subscription and I wouldn't use GPS out in the wild enough to justify it. But it's a great feature move in the world of GPS. Well, the GPS units and the hand-helds (like my Dell Axim 51v PocketPc) are beginning to merge.

    If images can be served up with EXIF meta-data regarding the lat/long rectangle associated with the image, more live layering can be accomplished. E.g., if you could go to and be able to download to your device a meta-data'd Doppler image, it would be no problem for your current GPS app to overlay that on its current map.

    Or whatever kind of map. Contour. Traffic. Fun-zones.

    In the meantime, I'm certainly putting off buying a new Garmin GPS unit while innovations like this are happening. And if the Bushnell happens to have free Doppler radar images and image overlaying (and at least a SiRF III chipset), then it's mighty tempting to consider picking on up.

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    Eric Richards' place of techno (as in technology) happiness, rants, and corporate love. I work in Microsoft Office as a development lead.

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