Thursday, December 06, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Hmm, they used to say "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you." I have not done any searches related to Barcelona in days. So About.com picks up an Orbitz tracking cookie days later and offers me great fares.
For weeks I was quoted fares of $1000 or more. Then suddenly a fare of about $750 was offered. I do wonder if the NWA and Orbitz computers take note of how many times you've looked up fares, and, like a mule trader of old, from time to time offer a special deal.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Don't get me wrong; I think the iPhone is an absolutely amazing piece of engineering. In 2007 it is 100 times more than the Newton, and it makes my beat-up Treo 650 a dinosaur. But listen to two iPhone lovers whose love has altered when it alteration found:
I'm Dumping the iPhone
I must admit that things between us had a great and beautiful start. I
was in love with your bag before I even saw you. And when I logged onto iTunes
for easy activation, I was enthralled with your sleek beauty. Remember our first
night together? We stayed up all night getting to know each other and then you
went to sleep in my arms. God, you were gorgeous.
Yet, a few weeks later, it seems that none of the promises that we
planted in those fields of hope has flourished. In fact, after a brief and
torrid first few days together, things have gone steadily downhill, making me
realize that it's best to sever ties now while we still both have our dignity
and I have not smashed you on the sidewalk in frustration.
Unfortunately, simply put, it just didn't happen for us. Nothing
remains of what looked like a growing love, besides some memories
and a few dozen photos that are now safely tucked away in my iPhoto, images
of a love that once burned white hot, but now are just a flicker of sadness.
How did everything lose its enchantment so quickly? All that remains is a
bitter taste of what once tasted like such sweet candy.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
It's fun to watch the two processors vie for work to do when a single-threaded task is at hand. I do a lot of work crunching search logs, and when you exceed about 32,000 rows in an Excel spreadsheet, things begin to bog down. Even gathering the data in a large Internet Explorer window can take a lot of CPU and a lot of real time. If you are running one single-threaded program, Windows reports your CPU as 50% or so until the task completes. The Windows Task Manager shows this in action. The "extra" core of the processor is available to handle other tasks, and the work appears to be divided equally between the two:
Click to see full-size image
If you're running more than one app, or if the app you're running is multi-threaded, then both halves of the CPU can do useful work. For instance, when I copy 200,000 rows of data from IE to Excel, the CPU runs at close to 100%.
My friends Chuck Severance, who literally wrote the book on high performance computing, and Bill Punch, who heads the High Performance Computing Center at Michigan State, understand all this full well. For me, an amateur observer of the end of Moore's Law and our multi-processor future, it's fun to watch.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Every year in June I join my wife at her professional association meeting, the Special Libraries Association, or SLA. Attendees include some smart folks: science librarians, law librarians, medical librarians, and more.
Like many conferences, SLA offers presentations and a trade show. At this year's trade show in Denver I was delighted to see this:
This is way, way, cool, even astonishing. The device has two digital SLRs aimed across each other at 45 degree angles, so as to shoot the even and odd pages at once. After the pages have been shot digitally, a robotic arm moves over, and a gentle vacuum pulls the right-hand page up and folds it over. Here's a short movie I took showing how this gizmo inhales a digital copy of a book
The company selling this device, Kirtas, is not the one serving the Google Book digitization effort. But the concept is the same, and Kirtas has a number of library customers who are scanning precious collections for preservation.
While I marveled at this device last week, Al Gore was about 400 feet away signing 500 copies of his latest book. I implored an SLA official to bring the former Vice President to see this, gizmo, as Gore once told an allegory of a schoolgirl in Carthage, Tennessee benefitting from a digital Library of Congress. Alas, his path that Sunday evening was scripted by Secret Service and event obligations. I'm sure Al Gore would've loved to see in action a device that can scan an entire book in minutes.
Mark Grebner has used consumer-grade digital cameras to digitize voter records for over 7 years now. The Kirtas device uses high-end D-SLRs to do the same, at much higher resolution, but the concept is the same.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
It could be he has a pre-existing condition, but my guess is this fellow feared risk of TB. That, of course, would be innumeracy: the odds that someone as selfish and stupid as Andrew Speaker are next to you on the plane are infinitesimally small.
Back during SARS you saw a fair number of people in airports wearing masks. That wasn't innumeracy; the disease was highly communicable and did reach North America. If or when Avian Flu hits, it will be strange to see everyone walking the streets wearing masks. But strange sights will be the least of our worries.
Friday, May 25, 2007
In October 1995 my friend John Liskey arranged for Chuck Severance and me to interview some impressive folks at the Midwest Cable Show in Indianapolis. We interviewed the famed author of Megatrends, John Naisbitt. We had a cable modem set up at the show so we could demonstrate the future world of residential broadband. Naisbitt had been out of the country, in Asia, researching a book. It's my impression that he saw the Web for the first time via that cable modem.
Besides Naisbitt, I interviewed an engineer explaining a radical new device that provided Internet access to the home at 10 megabits per second. Dr. David Walker of the late, lamented Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) described the cable modem they offered at the time. Just a few months earlier,Liskey had a cable modem installed at my house; thus since summer 1995, making me, I claim, one of the first few hundred people in the country with residential broadband. (I have no way to verify this claim.) Dr. Walker gave the example of finding Beatles outtakes and bloopers on the Net, and how broadband could bring multimedia to the home. Looking back, he accidentally predicted both YouTube and RIAA lawsuits.
David Coles spoke optimistically to Chuck about @Home, TCI's venture at the time to deliver content over broadband to homes and small businesses.
Lo how the world has changed.
TCI is now long gone, devoured in the many mergers of the dot com era. @Home is a footnote in the history of broadband. And my Comcast cable modem in the basement offers service at a fraction of the speed serving our house in 1995.
Hmmm.... What is John Naisbitt thinking about today?
Check out the video, a wistful window into the excitement and anticipation we all felt in the 90s about the future of the Internet.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Right now a fire in Griffith Park has the zookeepers worried. It's not immediately threatening to zoo, but yesterday they evacuated the humans. They said they considered evacuating the animals but decided not to.
I don't understand the logistics. How the hell do you evacuate the animals in a zoo? Build a land ark?
Does a large zoo have enough trailers and cages to hold all, or even a substantial fraction, of its animals?
Where would you take them? How would you care for them?
Sunday, May 06, 2007
It's not just a polemic; it's a conspiracy theory involving the CIA, BBN, and DARPA.
I'm not sure I buy the conspiracy theory but I think the format is compelling. It's longer than an issues ad but it's shorter than a documentary. The production values are better than, say, a spot on local television, and much better than much of what you see on YouTube.
We'll see much more of this new form, I think.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
A number of people asked for a link to my slides, which Lou Rosenfeld and I prepared for a talk we presented a month ago for the Information Architecture Summit (IA Summit) in Las Vegas. Lou and I are writing a book on Web search analytics.
Lou introduced me, literally and figuratively, to a site called Slideshare.net, organized by a friend of his, Rashmi Sinha.
I predict that Slideshare.net is going to be a Big Deal. I've already looked at a number of slide shows they host, and learned quite a bit from some presentations. Edward Tufte will spin in his grave -- and he is not even dead yet -- but a lot of important ideas are imparted in PowerPoint (et al) presentations.
Slideshare will have its own Zipf curve, more popularly understood as the Billboard Top 100 chart. A small number of important, useful, or clever presentations will command the attention of the masses. So it is, and so shall it always be. And we'll learn from these presentations -- style as well as content.
My slides from Computers in Libraries are at http://www.slideshare.net/richwig/search-analytics-conversations-with-your-customers.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
It's not just domain names. Corporate America also makes up stupid URLs, obviously drawn by committee. Consider:
So let's parse this. NBC of course is the famous TV network. It could've been worse; they could've created a meaningless domain under the corporate parent, e.g. nbc.ge.com.
Anyhow, they're advertising something that they want to place under their TV show "Heroes" (which I've never seen, and do not expect to see).
So we go to nbc.com, fair enough, makes sense. And we go to a folder named "heroes" which seems to make sense, if millions of people know that show.
And now we go to a subfolder named "cisco"? All of us rely on Cisco routers, but what does Cisco have to do with Heroes, or NBC, or GE, or anything else a consumer might care about?
Saturday, April 14, 2007
This has spoiled me horribly. Now I find that when I'm listening to radio in car or office, I want to be able to hit Rewind and listen again.
When I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago during March Madness, I wanted the TV in my hotel room to rewind so I could see a play I wasn't paying attention to. Of course, the Sahara hotel had TV technology not much advanced since the Rat Pack. (OK, OK, I exaggerate.)
In the Hard Rock Cafe in Vegas, while watching NCAA hoops, I mentioned this impulse to some young guys also watching the game, and they said they'd also had the same feeling.
It's got to be only a matter of time before every device that streams content also caches it for replay. I expect even the lowliest devices -- your cell phone, the clock radio in your hotel room, whatever -- will have a Rewind button.
Do you also feel the need?
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Click for full-size image
Yup, "Currently there is no news." I assume that this really means that WDET hasn't done any interviews lately (or today) but I had to laugh seeing that message from a major news organization for a major city.
Friday, April 06, 2007
This morning CNN leads with video of a tearful five year old lad racing to hug his dad, back from war in the Middle East:
This is very compelling video. Whether you are a parent or not, if you watch this footage, it will tear at your heart strings. Now observe how CNN fails to promote its own content:
Amazingly you can't find CNN's own compelling footage on cnn.com. Search for it under "tearful reunion" -- CNN's own on-screen label -- and you get a lot of irrelevant fluff totally unrelated to the story.
CNN should implement a Best Bets regime. Period. Full stop. If someone at CNN sees this post, contact me. CNN doesn't "get" the notion of "Best Bets". Guest what, CNN -- the BBC, and the Financial Times, do get it. Is it CNN's plan to cede territory to them as you have to Fox News?
If a site visitor searches for a phrase that CNN shows on the TV screen, then it should match the user to that story on the Web.
Circa 1994 I visited CNN headquarters in Atlanta and showed producers and reporters this new thing called the World-Wide Web. It was pretty clear that only one guy, the producer giving me the tour, "got it" at the time. I sincerely doubt that in 2007 anyone at CNN understands that they can link search keywords and phrases to CNN content with incredible impact.
Here is a screen shot of CNN's home page at the time they featured the reunion:
Click for full-size screen shot
Memo to CNN: what your TV techs type into the Chyron also belongs in your Best Bets database. If it's worth telling a story to millions of people on cable TV, it's worth helping your Web site visitors follow the same story online.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
The main problem is that it is circa 1997, and it thinks it is a Web browser. I am not making this up. The controls include Back, Home, and Favorites buttons, and a rotating knob that serves the mouse function.
It was designed by Whirlpool in the heyday of Netscape Navigator. I met two young designers from Whirlpool at World Usability Day at MSU and they swear they are not responsible; they joined the company after that horrible mistake. Even the model name says 90s Web; it is Navigator. It's damn confusing to operate.
So my wife hates it. She curses whenever she warms milk for the cat.
The cosmetic flaw is a crack in the plastic fascia. You could probably order the part, but parts for this thing are expensive. The light bulbs to illuminate the range are like $50 each, but I bought two spares and they come with the package.
I told the Whirlpool engineers that my favorite microwave is the small Sharp cube I have at work. When you close the door all it exposes is Start and Stop. The Start button starts it. Hit it again and it adds a minute. Hit Stop and it stops. When I visit a foreign microwave and want to warm my hot tea, I always hit the Popcorn button. I think my comments upset the Whirlpool usability experts. I'm sticking to my words -- the best designs make it trivially easy to do the most common tasks.
If you could use this unit, or if you know of a charity that could, it's yours for free.
I thought: How strange to use the dishonored Break tag in an online missive.
Then I got it: it's a pun. Ohio U must be on spring break, and they must do a Web conference each year at that time.
A couple of modest proposals for the conference organizers at Ohio U: 1) Find a better title/tagline. 2) Spamming university Webmasters at 12:55 a.m. on the Saturday before a conference that takes place the following Thursday may not be the most effective marketing plan.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
I skimmed their purple prose describing the great gated community they purport to be. I chuckled when I learned that they've been in business since 19XX:
Click for full size screen shot
Yup, you read it right:
When Promises opened in 19XX, we realized that a facility is only as good as its staff.
And a Web site visited by millions is only as good as its Webmaster.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
It's not a totally new idea to sell content on portable media. Way back when Verbatim might have included a trial version of software on a floppy. But that was a case where you're buying the media and, by the way here's some content to sample. Here we have a magazine selling you the content and, by the way here's a hard drive to use for other purposes.
I wonder what happens when the head crashes? Do you have to buy the content again?
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Ever since I predicted the creation of Google News I've watched carefully to see how it performs.
One of the serious shortcomings of Google News is that it showcases foreign news sources in favor of local sources covering local stories. A train wreck in India gets prominent coverage by the Chinese news agency, highlighted by Google News. A campaign event involving Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is covered by The Guardian, highlighted by Google News. The robot takes local news global, and it cares not who covers it.
Click for full size sceen shot
And so today we see Google News give the headline to Canada's Globe and Mail a very important story that the Washington Post broke in a series of investigative reports. Sad that the robot relegates the publication that spent many days and dollars investigating the issue to an also-ran, leading with a Canadian publication that had nothing to do with the reporting.
Nonetheless, in today's crazy Old Media / New Media world, the story got out, and, we hope, things will be fixed.
Friday, March 02, 2007
NASA even offers a movie showing the rings and a moon in orbit.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
The Lansing, Michigan area bus provider is the Capital Area Transportation Authority, or CATA. My friend Mark Grebner worked for years to integrate the Lansing and Michigan State University bus systems. He succeeded beyond his dreams. CATA buses ramble through the campus at an amazing rate. They carry students from all corners.
The end result is an integrated town/gown bus system that enjoys huge ridership. Sometimes it seems more like a well-run streetcar service.
CATA, being a progressive organization, has invested in hybrid buses. They cost more to buy, but they use far less fuel. A few months ago, walking on campus, I noticed that they also emit far less noise.
I called Mark and mentioned that people rely on the noise that buses emit -- you hear the bus coming and you don't step off the curb. Even when driving the noise helps you stay away from these behemoths. So I proposed we should put a horn or a bell on the hybrids. Mark replied, well why not install sound emitters and pick your sound? The bus could sound like a bus, or, as Mark observed, it could pretend to be the Staten Island Ferry.
Lo and behold it turns out this is a serious issue for the blind. All Things Considered reported Thursday that the National Federation for the Blind wants hybrid cars to emit sound. The reporter waited with a blind man on a street in Washington D.C. as cars passed by. His interviewee could hear internal combustion engine cars easily. A hybrid (a Prius) went by; he did not hear it.
The advocate for the blind suggested that hybrids should emit sound at all times to make up for the missing noise. That was Mark's idea for the buses. There is technology for sending focused beams of sound, but I bet the passengers in the car could hear it, and it would drive them nuts.
I think a better answer is low-power radio. The car emits a radio signal. At busy intersections, receivers pick up the signal as hybrids go by, and in turn emit an audio warning of some sort. It could be a bell, a beep, or a vocal warning. Heck, it could take advertising. "Warning: a Prius is approaching and saving the earth." (Already at busy intersections on MSU's campus, recorded voices announce the status of Walk / Don't Walk.)
Blind people also could carry special receivers that pick up the signal anywhere. If a Prius drives by, the radio catches the signal and interrupts whatever program you're listening to. Also imagine a low-power FM network throughout a city or a campus, broadcasting location information so you know where you are.
I am betting that my friend Ron Choura, who knows more about telecom in his little finger than I will ever know, can come up with a low-power radio scheme within minutes after reading this post. And my friend Mike Hudson will probably tell me this has all been thought through.
Mark Grebner weighs in, proposing that the hybrid should emit noise but not upset the passengers. Quote:
My thought is the sound should be "plausible", not "artificial"sounding.
That is, sort of like a slightly amplified hybrid would really sound..
So if the system failed, you'd still hear (faintly) the same sound as a
car approached you.
The analogy would be power-steering or power-brakes - they both continue to
work even if not as well. Or lightly amplified opera, which is a major issue for
Mounting a small speaker in the outer shell of the vehicle (where the
lights are) and directing the sound outward, should result in unobtrusive levels
inside the passenger compartment. And - in any event - it would just sound
like your hybrid was slightly louder than its natural level.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Imagine what this can do for old audio of all kinds -- old 78s, old master tapes, old movies. Wow. Listen here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7489316.
Using Digital Tools to Repair Analog Audio
All Things Considered, February 19, 2007 · Robert Siegel talks to Jamie Howarth about the next step in audio restoration: ridding analog-era sound of its inevitable speed variations by writing software that virtually recreates the original device on which a recording was made from the existing tape.
The sound is then digitally fed back through that machine to correct the errors due to azimuth, capstan bumps, tension in reels, etc. To say the least, it's a complex algorithm.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Jakob Nielsen says that every Web site needs an explanatory tagline so first-time visitors will quickly understand what the site is all about. You've got to wonder if the marketing folks at Kimberly-Clark appreciated the irony of the tagline they chose....
Click image for full-size screen shot
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I'm pretty sure this scene is after Marquis Gray made a dunk and then gestured that he had slit Iowa's throat. This resulted in a minor controversy about taunting another team. In any event Coach Izzo was upset, and literally in his player's face:
After this moment Marquis grabbed Izzo around the neck as they dealt with whatever the issue was. It's clear Tom Izzo has an up close and personal relationship with each of his players, him the dad to young men a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier.
Here's an album with 150 or so photos from the Iowa game. Dammit, Trevor, you and Muldster both have better lenses, but you can zoom in on these photos for some good closeups.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
I never expected Northwest Airlines to go bankrupt and its stock to fall to 50 cents a share. I thought they might offer me a couple thousand dollars or some frequent flier miles so they could take over the domain. Think about it; you can buy a round trip coach ticket, or you can own a few hundred shares of an airline.
At some point I expected NWA to send me a cease and desist letter, or maybe offer to buy northwestsucks.com and park on it. I never did much with the site, and NWA never called. (Memo to NWA: phone number upon request; please call on your dime.)
Other investments included firejohnlsmith.com, Michigan State's football coach who was fired (but who never called me) and granholmamendment.com, homage to Michigan's Canadian-born governor who, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, can't run for president unless we amend the US Constitution.
A few months ago someone offered me some sort of virtual credits if I'd donate zerofootprint.com to his cause -- as in zero carbon footprint, reducing global warming. I registered that domain years ago when I learned of the idea of a personal computer suitable for a call center cubicle -- you hang the PC on the wall and all that's on the desk is a flat panel LCD, a keyboard, and a mouse. Zero footprint, right? I give Mr. Zero Carbon Footprint credit but I don't accept virtual credits.
Now I have an offer from another person interested in the same cause of reducing greenhouse gasses, and he's actually offered me some money for the domain. He's not proposing to spend a lot, but it would pay for one night at a nice hotel.
So finally, after all these years, I will perhaps enjoy a minor windfall for my domain adventures. My net investment remains seriously negative.
So does anyone need granholmamendment.com or northwestsucks.com?
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Thank you for your electronic message. I appreciate you contacting my office.
This mailbox is for outgoing mail only and is unattended. If you have comments, questions, or concerns, please email me through my website at http://www.mikerogers.house.gov/Contact.aspx or call my toll-free number at 877-333-MIKE.
If you wish to remove your name from my Legislative Email Update list, please click on this link: http://www.mikerogers.house.gov/unsubscribe.aspx
Again, thank you for your message. I look forward to hearing from you.
Member of Congress
I grumbled about the temerity of the Congressman sending constituents e-mail from a mailbox that wouldn't accept replies, and I pasted my message into the Web form. Wouldn't you know that the Web form also isn't open for business:
Sender: "%FROM_NAME" <%FROM_EMAIL>
Mime-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/html
This is pretty funny; they forgot to insert the actual spam into the template. You'd hope that anti-spam detectors would catch on to this pretty easily.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
This thing looks way cool. Without understanding the details fully, I think I want one, and I think several million others will too.
But Jobs didn't announce that he'd reached an agreement with Cisco Systems to license the brand name for "iPhone" or "Iphone" or however you spell it. He didn't announce that for a simple reason -- because he had not reached an agreement in negotiations with Cisco to let Apple use the name they trademarked.
So Jobs just went ahead with his black turtleneck announcement -- and then Cisco proceeded to sue.
Here's the funny part: Apple doesn't own the name iPhone, despite Jobs' announcement. But Cisco Systens, just up the road, registered that mark years ago. Perhaps more importantly, none of the players -- Apple, Cisco, Cisco's subsidiary Linksys -- none own the Internet domain name iphone.com.
Thus years before this dust-up, a ways up the Silicon Valley, another company, albeit a small one -- but we all know that small companies in that valley make big things happen -- registered iphone.com.
The Internet Phone Company, LLC
3856 Willowview Court
Santa Rosa, California 95403
Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: IPHONE.COM
Created on: 24-Aug-95
Expires on: 22-Aug-08
Last Updated on: 16-Jul-06
Kovatch, Michael mike@NET-READY.COM
3856 Willowview Court
Santa Rosa, California 95403
7075260852 Fax -- 7075690880
It was interesting to see the U.S. Apple and the Beatles' U.K. Apple Corps fight each other. It will be interesting to see who owns the Iphone trademark. It will be equally interesting to see to whom the courts award the domain name. No matter what happens, many millions of dollars are at stake.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
So while sitting there at anAnn Arbor coffee shop with dueling laptops (his a Mac, mine a Thinkpad, natch) I went to Amazon to check the sales rank. To my surprise I saw the book twice:
Click to see full-size screen shot
Now the funny thing is, Amazon lists the second editon first, ahead of the current third edition.
This is just fundamentally goofy. You would think that Amazon, of all companies, would "get" the importance of getting search right. As an author, you'd want to see only the current edition of a book. As a buyer, arguably there might be times when you explicitly want to buy the previous edition of a book -- but odds are you want the most recent, and that's the item that should show at the top of the hit list. Any previous editions should be labeled as such with links to the most recent version.Also note that the most recent edition costs more -- 4 whole cents more -- yet the Amazon discount is slightly greater for the newest edition. Curiouser and curiouser...