Friday, August 1, 2014

I hate computers (bad computer day)

Monday, June 5, 2006

This is the second post in an as-yet-untitled series. I’m thinking of titling the series either “Tales of Petty Angst” or “Letting the Little Things Win”. (The first post in this series was “Who steals an Umbrella?“)

Today’s woeful tale is of my semi-beloved PowerBook, which fully let me down tonight when its hard disk went south. It now sounds like a coffee grinder. I’m in the process of wasting the next few hours of my life installing Mac OS X Tiger on my portable FireWire drive so I can boot the PowerBook and then (hopefully) grab my data off the soon-to-permanently-expire disk.

After all this I’ll have the privilege of blowing a couple hundred dollars on a new startup disk. Some additional dough will be required to have it installed, of course, because I checked into the installation process and I’m not going near it.

All of which reminds me how hot the thing has been running lately. Has it always run this hot? I don’t remember. Apparently, though, we’re all supposed to accept that laptop computers run hot. (Actually, we’re supposed to call them notebook computers now–we don’t call them laptops precisely because we don’t want to encourage people to scorch their laps). We might even consider being happy about this; it’s a small price to pay for faster and faster processors, right?

When I got my first Mac in 1993 I was firmly in love with computers. (Or Macs, at least.) This unconditional love evolved into a love-hate relationship following my foray into Windows use in the latter part of the ’90’s. (I gave up on the Mac for several years when it seemed like the old Mac OS would never be replaced. OS X brought me back a few years ago.)

As I experienced continual frustration with my computers I found myself more and more wanting to offload the processing complexity and software to the network. For a while this seemed imminent, but then the tech crash happened. Nirvana didn’t seem so near any more and I got tired of stressing about computers. The relative stability of Windows 2000 and XP also lulled me.

I got plain sick of Windows after a while and then started having feelings for Macs again when OS X matured a bit. I like Macs more than Windows again, but ultimately both of them disappoint me in the same ways.

I just don’t have the patience for all the overhead any more. Years ago I would have known my Mac inside out; tonight I had to reference a book to figure out how to boot my PowerBook from the install DVD. It used to be I would have spent an afternoon searching out software updates; now I get annoyed when the computer automatically prompts me to install them. At this point I have better things to do with my life than spend a bunch of time on the care and feeding of my computer. It should just work when I need it.

A lot of the time I don’t need even half the power of my computer. I expect most folks don’t. I love the promise of my computer, but I hate the reality of living with it.  

Will hosted applications that “outsource” the complexity to Web companies like Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft fix all this? They’ve been doing this for a while on things like email and calendaring, of course. The next generation services are getting nearer and nearer. Will these services make our software and hardware-heavy Macs and PCs unnecessary? I don’t know, but I do know I’m ready for something simpler.

My Mom is really smart

Friday, May 26, 2006

So I’m talking to my Mom the other day and she mentions we’re going to buy a camcorder for Kelly and John since my niece or nephew is on the way. “Great idea,” I tell her.

Out of nowhere she impresses the heck out of me by asking, “So, are digital cameras going to upend camcorders?” She’s noticed how digital cameras can do video and she’s wondering if it makes more sense to buy a digital camera. She’s also astutely noticed the typical digital camera memory card doesn’t seem to be able to store enough space to make using one as a camcorder practical.

I told her it was a great question but she should plan to buy a camcorder.

Does this mean the “average” person is getting smarter about technology, am I being condescending, or is she just really sharp? I don’t know, but regardless of the answer I’m still impressed.

I need this right away

Friday, May 26, 2006

I hate voicemail. I mean, I really, really detest it. Really.

I desperately hope the Spinvox service (or something like it) is available soon for Cingular.

Yahoo! in Bryant Park

Monday, May 15, 2006

I stumbled upon the Yahoo! Tech Monkey Challenge on my morning walk through Bryant Park.

I took some pics (I’ll post them later).

They had a monkey on stage who looked like he (or she) was still gearing up for the day.

The rain is probably not going to help this event.

It’s goofy stuff like this that makes me love living in New York.

NY Tech Meetup

Saturday, April 8, 2006

I attended the New York Tech Meetup for the first time Tuesday night 4/4. This meetup is “show and tell” of new technology for “geeks, investors, entrepreneurs, hackers, anyone that wants to see or show something interesting”. In a nutshell it’s a get together and networking event for tech folks.

I was one of many first-timers there. Given the meetup is limited to 200 people (apparently due to space considerations) the organizer said a lot of regulars were ticked to have been squeezed out.

Anyway, early in the organizer described the presentation format as “Gong Show”. That characterization might be a little strong, but there’s a five minute limit for each presentation (followed by five minutes for questions) and the crowd is definitely critical. I like the format.

There were seven presenters this time. The technologies and products shown were diverse and the presentation approaches varied from from professional and polished to rough and technical.

Here’s my take on each. I’m going totally from memory; next time I will try to take notes so I can provide more (and more accurate) detail. Presentations are listed in the order presented on the meetup agenda, which is not the order in which the presentations actually happened (again, my lack of notes is hampering me).

***

Andrew Rasiej, FON

FON is a really interesting service. FON provides a technical framework and business model for connecting folks’ individual Wi-Fi hotspots.

The basic idea is everyone opens their Wi-Fi router to everyone else and in exchange for doing that we all get free, ubiquitous Wi-Fi. Those who cannot or will not share their Wi-Fi can connect to the FON network for $2.00 per day (paid by the day, I think), which is a steal, assuming the network has coverage where you are. Even the broadband providers get a cut, which Andrew said has made them FON supporters.

I think this is a really neat concept, but there are a lot of practical, technical, and business hurdles. (Where’s the coverage? Personally, I’m on the fourth floor of an Upper West Side building and I’m within range of 10 access points as I write this–no one here needs my access point. What about EVDO and HSDPA?)

I’m nowhere near an expert on wireless technologies, but I’m a bit skeptical about this approach. Still, it’s pretty interesting, and I’ll look into it more closely before I commit to EVDO or HSDPA.

Jim Coffman, BlogAmp

This service was not presented particularly well. Based on the bread crumbs in the presentation and a later review of the BlogAmp site it appears to be a Flash-based MP3 player that can play files hosted anywhere, including BlogAmp’s hosting service. One value-add is playback statistics, which is useful but of course can be gleaned using standard Web logs.

Given the weakness of the presentation and the fact any reasonably technical person can download and integrate into their site a free Flash-based MP3 player from SourceForge (like I did about six months ago for a project) I don’t find this service particularly compelling. Maybe I’m missing something.

Tom Kane, Commontales

I’m going to cop out and just link to the Commontales FAQ page to describe it. I sorta got it from the presentation and sorta get it now. Apparently it’s a place to post stories and pictures and build upon them. Supposedly the stuff posted will remain there forever.

I like the concept, but I’m not sure yet on the execution, and given it’s a startup I’m skeptical stuff will be there forever. Maybe I’m missing something on this one, too.

At the very least it needs a better sales pitch. I don’t think I was the only skeptical one in the audience.

Patrick Fitzsimmons, ZipApp

The meetup agenda described this as “building a browser based Excel/Access, allows users to turn their spreadsheets or Access DBs into an online web app” and that overview works for me.

The presenter was talking really quickly as he tried to demonstrate every cool feature of the app in five minutes. There were a bunch of features that were definitely cool, though the coolness was largely due to the fact they were implemented in a browser (using AJAX, of course).

The service is interesting, but there were a lot of valid questions about the target market and eventual competitive threats from Microsoft (via Live services and products such as SharePoint) and the like.

The audience applauded and then lightened up a bit when Patrick confessed he’s a college student who wants to turn this into a business when he graduates.

I’m not sure about the service as it currently stands, but Patrick will be a guy to watch.

Breck, Alias-i

LingPipe is a natural language processing component implemented in Java. I don’t know much about natural language processing, but my sense from the crowd’s response was this software was not particularly unique. It’s open source and free for non-commercial uses. I didn’t get a clear picture of who the customers were.

Mark Hurst, GooTodo

This is one case where I was much more impressed with the presenter and his presentation than I was with the product.

As presented the product is a simple online to-do list that distinguishes itself by being able to convert email forwarded to it into to-do list items. In my book this is a neat feature, but it’s one that could be easily copied by any of the other to-do list services such as Ta-da Lists. Outlook already does what is effectively the same thing–to convert an email message to a task you just drag it to the tasks folder or shortcut.

He emphasized the popular “less is more” approach to feature implementation in selling the benefits of GoTodo. I agree in principle with minimalism, but I personally consider things such as RSS feeds to be a basic requirement for a lot of services nowadays, including to-do lists. RSS feeds are one of things I like about Ta-da Lists–I keep a copy of my personal to-do list on my personalized Google home page. In general I think the “no features is a feature” argument is being stretched a bit thin at this point and this is a good example.

Definitely an impressive individual and a good salesperson, but I’m not sold on the service.

Some other guy, an apparently interesting virus analysis service with a seemingly solid business case

This presenter and presentation were not listed on the agenda, which is a shame because the service presented seemed very interesting. Maybe the omission was intentional; he may want to stay off the radar for now.

In a nutshell the service supposedly will allow analysts to digitally photograph microscope samples and send them to an Internet service that will analyze them. In my mind this is an automated, Internet-based first-level lab analysis.

My description isn’t doing the service justice. I will try to find out more about this and will post a follow up if I do.

***

I plan to attend the NY Tech Meetup regularly, at least for the next few months. Though the presentations were mixed the people impressed me and I want to connect with other tech folks in the city, which is something I haven’t done as much as I wished I had in the other cities where I’ve lived. Hopefully there will be room for more than 200 people in the near future, because there’s a lot of interest.

My event calendar

Monday, February 27, 2006

I discovered Upcoming.org yesterday and immediately set about looking for events and entering my own.

Like any good social networking site Upcoming.org provides code snippets (they call them “Upcoming Badges”) that allow you to list your stuff on your own site. Like my other favorites (del.icio.us, Flickr) this one started independently and was purchased by Yahoo! (I use Flickr for all the photos on this site; I haven’t integrated my del.icio.us link list yet.)

So, my event calendar is now listed on the right. The first 10 events are listed; clicking the More link will transport you to Upcoming.org to see the full list in all its glory.

I was pretty psyched about the first event (2/27) on today’s list, but I was feeling sick after work, so I ended up at home on the couch adding the event calendar to my sidebar and writing this post. Not a complete waste of time, but it would have been nice to get out. At least there’s other stuff on the calendar this week.

UI updates

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I made some UI updates. These updates are inspired by this Publishing 2.0 post.

The suggestions Scott Karp outlines make a lot of sense to me. In retrospect I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t handle this better previously.

To summarize:

  • The Syndication section in the right sidebar is now labeled Subscribe.
  • There’s a new About Subscribing link directly under the Subscribe section. This link describes readers and provides links to readers on the RSS Compendium site.
  • The RSS 2.0 URL has been moved to the bottom of the Subscribe section and relabeled to make it clear this link is for techies.

PowerShot SD550 review

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My camera got a good review in PC Magazine.

The camera’s nice, but I’d be happier if it was smaller and if the shot-to-shot times were faster. The shot-to-shot times are better than my old PowerShot S110, but I still miss shots. If I turn off the flash and use manual exposure mode the shot-to-shot times are near-instantaneous, but the pics are often blurry.

I may be able to do more with this camera once I learn more about how to use the ISO settings.

Do-it-yourself filmmakers unite

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

To anyone with nothing more than a digicam and a dream, here’s proof you might just have a chance. Inspiring stuff.

It will be interesting to see how the film fares.

Laptops get their props

Monday, January 16, 2006

Apparently laptops are now more popular than desktops.

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