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Dan Bricklin on the Gillmor Gang [www.itconversations.com]

It's not often I listen a whole Gillmor gang podcast through, but I always enjoy lietening to Dan Bricklin, so I downloaded this one (available via the iTunes podcast directory as well as itconversations.com).

As I remember, 1 hour is about 20 minutes too long and the conversation gets to be a bit rambling in the middle. To the point that I had to re-listen to the first 30 minutes to remember why I liked it so much!

Bricklin really adds some great conversation about universality of storage, mobility and processing power and provides some insight into his opinion that innovation in IT is pumping right now (as compared to the "Does IT Matter" question which, from memory, was popularised at around the same time (this podcast was released on February 4th). I was particularly interested to hear about some major innovators of his era who are getting back into IT.

Update: I hadn't realised how long it was since I listened to the Gillmor gang - it seems that Feb 4 was the last Gillmor Gang published/broadcast. I think the last time I listened in must have been on my honeymoon in Paris!

Update: The Gillmor gang is still making podcasts - just not on IT Conversations. Check out the podcast directory in iTunes.

11:18 PM, 30 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Michelin holds their ground [www.timesonline.co.uk]

No comment from me this time, but I have to agree with Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin’s sporting director, who said the following:

It is nice of the FIA to have good ideas. It would have been interesting if they had that many ideas before the race in Indianapolis.

07:12 PM, 30 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

iTunes 4.9 Podcast suport [www.apple.com]

I was looking forward to this, Apple have released the iTunes podcast integration that Steve Jobs demo'd in his WWDC keynote.

Finally I can do away with my cobbled together perl/Applescript solution because itunes does exactly what I want.

Being able to browse Apple's podcast directory is nice - all the podcasts I listen to are there, although the iTunes store interface is way too busy for my liking.

And since Podcasts are treated quite seperately t music tracks, I can set the preference to auto-sync them even though I have my music set to manual sync.

On the iPod (with the associated iPod software update), Podcasts appear as a sepatae entry under the Music menu. Each podcast feed gets a menu item, and behind that the actual sound files themselves are arranged. In iTunes, this is replicated by a triangle pop-down type list, keeping all your podcasts nicely organised.

I used to do this using Genre, Grouping and smart playlists allocated by my old perl/Applescript combo but this is much cleaner.

01:22 AM, 29 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Does Pi necessarily contain any sequence of numbers?

PIAt work today, concerned about whether our new product release will actually work, we discussed the above question (totally unrelated to our product).

More formally, is there any property of Pi (assuming an infinite level of precision) that means it must contain any (possibly infinite) sequence of digits. For example, does it (by it's nature) contain the sequence 123.

Pi in fact DOES contain the sequence 123 (see 10000 Digits of Pi) but that's not the point! Can we prove that a non-random number must contain it.

After much arguing about the interaction between probability theory and infinity, trancendental numbers entropy and other related concepts, we seem to have agreed (between a Maths major, a Computer Science major and an Archaeoloy major ;) that it can't be concluded from the obvious properties of Pi, but we didn't rule out that a rigerous attack of the various Pi algorithms might in fact be able to prove otherwise.

Google and Wikipedia haven't shed any further light on the subject - can anyone comment further? (Note to self: get Dad to read this blog entry).

Clarification: We are of course dealing with Pi in decimal form. And yes, it is a stupid question that is of interest purely because of our human interest in patterns and order!

Image courtesy of xkcdA webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

01:37 AM, 28 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (31)

Opensource Business & Customer Experience

I listened to two must-listen podcasts this morning.

First up is a keynote presentation by Larry Augustine at the Opensource Business conference titled "The next wave of Opensource: Applications".

It's an engaging keynote looking at the opensource implications for delivering major business apps (like CRM) to middle tier business.

Next is a discussion with Jeffrey Rayport - Harvard Business School's first e-commerce professor - talking about focussing on customer experience, how it impacts profitability and how technology might be involved in that.

The slightly amusing thing (for Australian viewers) is listening to Rayport talking to "Moira" about TV shopping :) It's a great discussion with big numbers and radical ideas, that are already happening.

Both podcasts come from IT Conversations.com (homepage currently sporting a post-affro Malcom Gladwell - I guess he got sick of it catching on fire).

06:45 PM, 27 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Mmm Kinesis

I had a bit of time on my hands, and I felt like doing a little typing tutor practise (heh - no pun was intended, but i'll take it).

It's the first time i've done that since I got my Kinesis ErgoEssential and wow what a difference. The biggest thing I have noticed is that I never have any problems because my fingers are not homed properly thanks to the shape.

Big thanks to Lars for putting me onto Kinesis contour keyboards. Funny thing is, he is now getting into Dvorak in a big way. But after shelling out the exorbitant import duty I was slugged with to have this keyboard shipped over here, I won't be switching any time soon ;)

The typing tutor of choice is TypingMaster - the Mac version works anywhere you have a Java runtime (including linux), and it's actually quite good.

07:13 AM, 27 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Mind you, being in Greater Union Gold Class may have helped ;)

The only lame part was the car chase - it was way too slow to be a believable Batmobile car chase.

Gotham City was excellent - dark, dirty and very human. The characters were great - my favourite was Liam Neeson, but I can't tell you much about his character. Christian Bale does a fantastic job as Batman, his character has a perfect mix of dark and light. Katie Holms was easily the best female actress in the film (possibly with the exception of the two "European" chicks Bruce Wayne takes to a restaurant one night ;)

I hope we see more from Christopher Nolan (also the director of Memento) and Christian Bale.

07:15 PM, 22 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (1)

Cisco AON - like database constraints for your network :)

The new Cisco technology dubbed AON or "Application Oriented Networking" sounds quite interesting. In a nutshell, it seems to be router based in-packet data analysis of xml (and possibly other) data.

A common example given is for a bank to do some validation on the customer and account ids at the router level for fraud prevention. Not that you couldn't do that know by writing code to do that on you firewall. In fact, firewall based intrusion detection has been doing in-packet protocl-aware data analysis for years.

It does seem like a useful technology however, to be able to specify in some sort of config syntax, how data should be structured, what should reference what, and have those rules executed very fast on a standard router platform.

Kind of like database constraints for your network. And everyone knows that I like database constraints!

Useful articles:

Cisco AON, "new" internet, fraud prevention, S&M, and more... [Computerworld]


Cisco's AON moves closer to apps [Australian IT]

11:52 PM, 21 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Here is the mail I just sent to the sawfish mailing list:


Since the demise of it's previous hosting, I have arranged for the source of Daniel Pfeiffer's excellent sawfish pager (sawfish.wm.ext.pager) to be hosted as a SourceForge project.

I have also set up a website and wiki for the project - please feel free to add content. Also, if anyone uses the pager and has patches, I will give basically anyone who asks cvs commit access.

For those interested, the wiki is dokuwiki and has anti-spam features. Write access is currently public, but if necessary I can change that to require registration (which in turn requires a functioning email address).

The website is:

http://sawfish-pager.sourceforge.net/

You will find cvs and download information there.

Thanks again to Daniel for his provision of all the source code so promptly.

07:32 PM, 21 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

The F1 story unfolds

The facts are starting to become clear - and while Michelin are still clearly answerable for a fundamental mistake, Max Mosely and the FIA are getting more heat.

sportsillustrated.com, in their article F1 drivers were desperate to race quote an interview with Frank Williams:

Indianapolis promoter Tony George and Formula One commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone had both agreed to the chicane in a meeting with teams on Saturday night but FIA president Max Mosley had vetoed it.

"Bernie called (FIA race director) Charlie (Whiting) on Saturday night and said get on with it," said Williams, who pointed out several precedents including the 1994 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

He said it was to be expected that the FIA would blame the teams, with all seven summoned to a World Motor Sport Council meeting on June 29 for acts prejudicial to the interest of the competition.

However, he pointed out that the teams did not make the tyres and said Michelin had informed them late in the day of the problems.

That sounds like dynamite to me - and Frank Williams isn't known for lying or mis-quoting.

Bernie must be steaming. The Guardian says Ecclestone could face £7.4m lawsuit. Normally it would be Bernie and the track owner exposed financially, but the FIA is about to feel it too with at least one lawsuit so far against the FIA (reported by indystar.com)

11:46 PM, 20 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (6)

The chicane was not the answer

I agree with Semi's comment that the chicane was not the answer - Barichello said exactly the same thing (f1racing.net) as Charlie Whiting, and Whiting is one of the few respectable people in F1 management.

Barichello also suggested the most sensible option within the rules, that the teams could run through the pits every couple of laps to avoid turn 13, although a busier pitlane has it's own safety issues.

My mate Nick and I came up with probably half a dozen ways to solve the problem this morning. My favourite is to amend the rules to allow tyre change at any pitstop, each time incurring a 10 or 20 second penalty. You would never do it unless you really had to - but if all Michelin teams pitted 5 times for tyres (Michelin said it would be safe if they changed tyres every 10 laps) then they would have been racing each other for the minor points. This would also have legitimised the points haul by the Bridgestone teams as a reward for being well prepared.

Of course the problem is not that no options were given the go-ahead : no options were seriously entertained by Max or Bernie. In the words of Neil Crompton, "The answer is no - what's the question?". And that is the real problem. The Indianapolis owners were not asked about the feasability of the chicane, the FIA did not suggest any ideas to solve the problem, even their pseudo-suggestion of "drive slower" had no meat to it about how accidents might be avoided behind heavily breaking Michelin shod cars...

Now the FIA is blaming the teams and looking for a rule to penalise them under (Michelin teams summoned by FIA[f1.com]), Race boycotts are a realistic option (grandprix.com), and I don't want to have to wait for 2008 to see another F1 race!

07:33 PM, 20 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Well How wrong I was [f1.racing-live.com]

Formula 1 is never too far from some kind of controversy - not unlike other union of mostly european groups - but today is a new level.

Maybe Paul Stoddart is in fact the only reasonable one there after all. So what does this mean?

Do we need more tyre manufacturers? Goes against all the const saving measures by the FIA.

One tyre manufacturer? Probably the most likely outcome - the tyre manufacturer would then be free to focus on safety and driveability.

Does this make the GPWC more likely? Well, it will certainly fire up the GPWC teams (all of whom a are michelin shod).

Not much to say really - I don't understand the some of the FIA's ways, I guess this is just one of them.

Not surprisingly the official f1 website is not responding.

02:02 PM, 19 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (1)

And they were right - Toyota in F1 pole position!!

This is going to be interesting.

11:48 PM, 18 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

... there are people with programs, and stories to tell ...

Well blow me down with a heatsink fan - the rumours were true!

Apple Mac's with Intel processors. Unfortunately it means I will probably never get my G5 laptop, but I'm glad I haven't bought a new G4!

Check out Steve Job's key note speech. The highlight for me was when Paul Otellini from Intel played the "Toasted Bunnies" Apple ad.

Steve also demo's an Intel powered Mac - in true Steve style (I won't give it away in case you want to watch it) - and announced that intel-based development boxes (with OS) were available immediately.

Tum, ta tum ta tum :)

The OS includes on the fly binary re-writing for legacy PowerPC code (not dissimilar to the 68k/PPC migration) in a technology called "Rosetta". Rosetta won't run AltiVec/G4/G5 optimised code which is not really a big deal because if your code was optimised specially for speed, then you are not going to want it to run on an emulated cpu anyway. What IS sad is that it won't support Classic applications :( Not only do i still own a number of little-used classic applications that I have not needed to upgrade, I draw a perverse pleasure from running the likes of Font/DA mover on my G4 tibook :)

Remarkably though, you can debug a running emulated application using gdb - almost like normal. Now that's reality distortion stuff if ever I heard it.

I wonder how long it will take Vmware to support MacOS X/intel (Macos Xi ?) as a supported guest operating system. Conversly, Aqua implementations of WINE / CrossoverOffice for MacOS Xi will be nice as well.

It will also be interesting to see what boot loader/bios arrangement Apple goes for - It's not going to be Open Firmware, and it's probably safe to bet that it won't be the legacy PC Bios - at least I hope not!

Also unanswered is the 64 bit question. The Universal Binary Programming Guidelines only refer to IA32 in various places - never IA64. Hopefully that won't be a backwards step with the first batch of hardware next year. Ironically, I was just this afternnon watching a quicktime movie of Apple's 1984 shareholders meeting - including a radiant Steve Jobs effusing over the new Mac with it's "powerful 32 bit microprocessor"!

Update: Apple Press Release : Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006

The comments about the Intel compiler are interesting - I wonder if it will be offered as an alternative to gcc in a forthcoming Xcode release?

Update: Lack of Classic support discussed at eweek.com

Update: Here is a a very interestingWall Street Journal article from 2 weeks ago with very timely question/answers like:

WSJ: Why are Intel's demo products always cooler than the actual products its customers make?
Otellini [intel]:Part of the problem is today the desktop [computer] business is a zero margin business for many of our customers [ But not for Apple :) -- Mark]
WSJ: Pressed about security by Mr. Mossberg, Mr. Otellini had a startling confession: He spends an hour a weekend removing spyware from his daughter's computer. And when further pressed about whether a mainstream computer user in search of immediate safety from security woes ought to buy Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh instead of a Wintel PC

Not only would Otellini have been very happy to be able to leave that interview with a smile on the inside, it gives an insight into why intel views Apple as such a desiarble customer - Apple actually builds cool things with chips. And that's something no PC vendor has done in the last 10 years.

Update: I couldn't for the life of me remember where I had heard of a software technology code named Rosetta before - Russell and I presumed that Apple had bought some other binary rewriting technology off someone else, or perhaps it was in fact the same technology as used in the 68k/PPC migration (the caching sounds very similar).

Semi from Tram Town reminded me that Rosetta was the code name for the second generation printed-writing recognition in the Newton - how could I have forgotten that? In memeory, I am using a Newton 2000 as my morning alarm clock!

Wikipedia mentions Rosetta in a reasonably good Newton overview: Apple Newton

10:03 PM, 06 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Amazing photo essay of the space launch fallout in Kazakhstan. Russian government launches will no longer be over the area which is good for cows (see photo 11) but apparently bad for local scrap metal merchants!

And the photos are amazing because of their composition and colour as much as for the mind-bending content.

03:16 AM, 05 Jun 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

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