Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Yipes, Yahoo is down

Folks on a message board that I frequent report that Yahoo is down. While Pings and Traceroutes eventually get answered, over the Web, Yahoo is either non-responsive or it emits very strange results.

For instance:

var _phppl="";function plinks(){ this.openPlink

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Charging an arm and a leg

I am 6'4" and don't fit well in commercial airplanes. For years I've sought the exit row when flying in Coach so as to get some desperately-needed legroom. Yesterday I was telling my friend that for the first time I paid the new Northwest Airlines premium to sit in an exit row. She wanted to know how much it costs.

I said "$15 a leg."

A puzzled look crossed her face. "They charge by the leg?!"

It took me a second to disentangle our crossed communications. I explained it's $15 per leg of the journey, not per leg of the passenger.

Saper reflects on Picasso and Cubism

Saper Galleries in East Lansing is running an exhibit of works by Picasso. Roy Saper, the owner, explained to a few visitors a bit about Picasso's art, the influence of women on his life, and the market for his works. As Roy described Cubism he gave the example of one etching that depicted both the profile and the straight-ahead view of a woman's face.

I noticed that Roy's reflection in the glass echoed the point he was making:

Click on the image to see it full-size

The lithograph is entitled "Noble Dame" and Picasso made it in 1959.

Roy says the exhibit runs through July 2, but his gallery and two partner galleries will offer items not yet sold from this collection for some time to come.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Apple Web site STILL touts advantages of PowerPC chip over Intel

Sometime in the late 80s I attended a talk at Michigan State where Apple reps confidently showed graphs that "proved" that the PowerPC chip could scale in ways that Intel chips never could.

Of course, now Apple has famously switched to Intel processors, and they offer nothing but praise of Intel CPUs. Gee, isn't it odd how they used to deride the Pentium and praise the PowerPC?

As the saying goes... "Where you stand depends on where you sit."



and read:

Fastest Bus in the West

The G5 features a scalable design that enables it to run at clock speeds up to 2.7GHz. But all the megahertz in the world wouldn’t mean squat if the G5 were stuck talking to the rest of the machine at the 167MHz bus speed of the Power Mac G4. That’s why each G5 features two unidirectional 32-bit data paths: one traveling into the processor and one traveling from the processor, unlike previous designs. Its frontside bus works at speeds up to 1.35GHz for an astounding 10.8GBps of total bandwidth. That makes it over 280MHz faster than even the latest Intel 925XE chipset, which sputters out at 1066MHz.

So wow, dude, so like, the PowerPC totally rocks over Intel CPUs? Mark my words, these claims that Apple espouses are still on the Apple.com site even after Apple embraced Intel.

Now that Apple has a new religion, you'd expect that they would've purged, as the Soviets would have, any history of the old religion. Not true! Apple.com still offers pages proclaiming the superiority of ... the now-discredited PowerPC chip!

My guess is that Apple will eventually assign someone to the task of purging Apple.com of all evidence that Apple ever claimed that the PowerPC chip was ever superior to Intel's chips.

But even when they do, Apple can always live with this screen shot, from Apple.com, in June 2006, ridiculing Intel CPUs compared to their previous engine. Click to see full-size image.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Macbook as Star Wars Light Saber

My IBM Thinkpad has a sensor that measures accelleration and the attitude of the computer. The purpose is to detect a fall and retract the head on the hard drive to prevent a head crash.

Apple just added this capability to its latest line of laptops. Clever folks have discovered how to access the sensor in software. So it had to happen: turn your Macbook into a light saber.

I'm betting that someone will accidentally test that head parking function while showing this trick off. I hope the saber software shares the sensor.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

New York Times falsely claims AltaVista was the first Internet search engine

Today's New York Times carried an obituary for Alan Kotok, who, according to the obit, was a pioneer in video games. As a devoted Times reader, I was happy that the NYT would publish this kind of obit, remembering impoortant people that most of us would little note nor long remember. The article informed me about an important player in computing history. This is why I read The New York Times every day -- to learn things that otherwise I would not know.

But it was very disappointing to read this sentence:

"He was the chief architect for the PDP-10 family of computers and a senior consultant to Digital's AltaVista project, the first Internet search engine."

The second half of this statement is false. AltaVista was not the first Internet search engine.

AltaVista was an important milestone in Internet history, the Google of its day. I personally badgered DEC to market AltaVista as an enterprise search product; my employer, Michigan State University, was one of the first beta testers of AltaVista Enterprise Search. (Alas, AltaVista did not scale to handle millions of URLs, and AltaVista, like DEC, died.)

But by no measure can you say that AltaVista was "the first Internet search engine." Certainly Archie, created by Peter Deutsch and colleagues, was an important early Internet search engine, helping you find software to download, eons before AltaVista. In the Gopher era, Veronica was an important Internet search engine, circa 1992. Other important Internet search engines predate the launch of AltaVista.

Even in the Web era, AltaVista was not the first search engine. For instance, I remember WebCrawler, which dates to 1994, very early in the Web era. AltaVista came out at least a year later.

As I recall, I first learned of AltaVista when I read about it while reading my New York Times sitting in a Wendy's restaurant in East Lansing, Michigan. I hope NYT reporters appreciate that history entails more than the first time he or she happened to write about a milestone.

As The New York Times is the newspaper of record, I hope and expect The Times will correct this error.

Alan Kotok, 64, a Pioneer in Computer Video Games, Is Dead


Published: June 3, 2006

Alan Kotok, a computer designer who helped create the first video game program as a member of a small group of M.I.T. students in the early 1960's, died at his home in Cambridge, Mass., on May 26. He was 64.

The cause was a heart attack, his daughter, Leah Kotok, said.

As a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Kotok developed an interest in computers after joining the M.I.T. Model Railroad Club in the late 1950's. Its membership included several other young men who shared his interest, and the organization became a kind of incubator for the computer design field.

The students were the original computer hackers, at least as they defined the term. Today it also refers to a computer outlaw, but the term originally described a member of a subculture of passionate hardware and software designers. A "hack" was a project without constructive end, according to a dictionary compiled by the Model Railroad members.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Blogging backwards?

For my Day Job we're going to do some things to celebrate and document the 50th anniversary of digital computing at Michigan State University. One of the basic things we need to do is create a historical timeline.

I was trying to think of what software to use for this, and then it occurred to me that a blog might be the perfect tool, since you can set the date of publiction for an article. As long as the calendar logic is correct for 50 plus years, of course.

Then it occurred to me you could use it as not just a scratch pad, you could write the articles in present tense as if they had been blogged for a contemporaneous audience....

Tie it into a graphical timeline and you've got a neat way of telling the story.

Then it occurred to me that anyone -- a family, a business, a city, a public library, a society -- could use backwards blogging. As you encounter historical tidbits you just file them under the historical date.

Now for the wackiest idea: a backwards blog as a form of fiction. You write a story set in say the old West. Maybe rewrite Little House on the Prairie in the form of a blog?

Does anyone know of any examples of blogging backwards?