Archive for April, 2009

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Pamela Samuelson on the Google Book Settlement

I found this explanation the most readable I’ve seen yet. She has slides too.  The settlement itself has been recently delayed, which seems like a good idea for something of this magnitude. -m

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Five ways to stay informed about swine flu

  1. Don’t panic. Panic == not thinking clearly.
  2. Avoid Twitter until symptoms subside. Probably HuffPost and Drudge too.
  3. Think ahead. If you don’t already have an Emergency Preparedness Kit assembled, well, that was kind of dumb. Over your next few trips to the grocery store, gradually get stuff for one.
  4. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. If in doubt, ask a doctor.
  5. The article is pretty even-handed, worth a read.


Sunday, April 26th, 2009

XForms validator: disabling Google ads, no more blank pages

Thanks to those who wrote in with bug reports about the XForms Validator: something changed recently and made the inserted Google Ads script confuse browsers, resulting in a blank page where you’d expect results. I’ve turned off the response-page ads, which were only getting in the way, and the problem seems to have vanished. Carry on. :-) -m

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

How much is Geocities worth today?

Lots of news reports about Geocities claim it was purchaed for “4 billion” dollars. But not really–that’s a pretty hefty rounding from 3.57 B. Also, that wasn’t cash, but magic boom time inflated stock. Yahoo was at $335.875 on announcement, so the deal amounted to about 10.6 million shares. Or at today’s values, a little over $150 million. Your call on whether they got their money’s worth. -m

Friday, April 24th, 2009

I’ve always thought that the EXSLT model of developing community specifications worked well. Now a critical mass of folks has come together on a similar effort, aimed at providing extensions usable in XPath 2.0, XSLT 2.0, XQuery, and other XPath-based languages like XProc. Maybe even XForms.

Check it out, subscribe to the mailing list, and help out if you can. -m

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

TextWrangler and special characters

Hey readers, all seven of you, can you help me out?

I’m perhaps finally switching to a Mac-native text editor, TextWrangler, or if I really like it, BBEdit. Within that app, what’s the easiest way to enter unusual characters not found on a keyboard, say š (Latin s with háček) or ḫ (h-breve below)? In jEdit, one can set up longer strings that get automatically converted into harder-to-type ones. What’s the equivalent in TextWrangler or BBEdit? -m

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Geek Thoughts: entrance fail

The following is from an actual Midwestern newspaper clipping (you know, the things printed on flattened trees) from circa 1992.

Monday, July 19, 7 p.m. — Overeaters Anonymous at the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, use south door (kitchen).

On a serious note, researchers at Cornell University found that people who pass through an entryway near the kitchen tend to eat 15 percent more than those who use the front door.

More collected Geek Thoughts at

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

You know cold fusion must be hot when…

60 Minutes covers it. Disclaminer: haven’t seen it, the video doesn’t even play in my browser. Let me know if you have better success in viewing. -m

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Subversive Google?

Google for RIAA, get this first result:

RIAARecording Industry Association of America – April 12, 2009

Trade group that claims to represent the US recording industry. Details on services, members, executives profiles, statistics, and contact information.

“Claims to” represent the US recording industry? The word “claims”, accurate as it may be, appears nowhere on their front page. :-)


Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Strunk and White considered harmful?

Whoa. Check out this brutal takedown of the beloved The Elements of Style. Even though I generally have little patience for grammar nazis, I couldn’t stop reading things like

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense.

and on the popularity of the book

This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian.

The article goes on to cite numerous examples at various levels of pedantry.

Many people including myself appreciate straightforward guidelines, a framework in which to think about good and bad ways to put prose together. Strunk and White does this better than anything else I’ve seen. Effective writing leaps off the page–picky rules can go leap elsewhere. As for me, I’ll stick with Strunk, though not as a religion. Sin and Syntax is another great roadmap to the wonderful wacky English language. -m

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

GPL’s Cloudy Future

I enjoyed this post, from Jeremy Allison as it turns out. It talks about how GPL software is “the new BSD” when it comes to cloud computing, since redistribuion of the software doesn’t happen, and thus doesn’t trigger the relevant clauses of the GPL. Any old company can use, re-use, and modify the software without sharing the code in the original spirit of the license. The community’s response–something I need to keep a closer eye on–is the AGPL, or Affero license. It works similarly to the GPL, but is triggered by remote use of the software, not just distribution, preserving the work’s copylefedness even in cloud computing situations. -m

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

On YouTube’s bandwidth and Technologizer’s problem with basic estimation

This article states:

The analysts determined YouTube’s bandwidth costs by assuming that 375 million unique visitors would visit the site in 2009, with 20 percent of those users consuming 400 kilobits per second of video at any given time. That works out to 30 million megabits being served up per second. That’s a heck of a lot of bandwidth to devote to videos of sneezing pandas.

Do you honestly believe that YouTube is sending out 30 petabits per second (to put it another way, fully saturating over 200,000 OC3 connections)? That on average, every single user who counts as a unique visitor in 2009 spends 20% of 24hrs = 4.8 hours actually downloading video, every day of every week?

Gesundheit. -m

Update: the quoted article indeed gets it wrong, though it appears the original Credit Suisse analyst report was estimating peak usage, not a running average. Still doesn’t smell right. Updating the article and title to point the finger at the right people.