Friday, February 27, 2009


Work from plane.  Yes, it’s my first time.  I’m having a fun time going over research and mulling over some threads that sprouted from TechFest 2009, the equivalent of a tech science fair within Microsoft.  There was a bunch of cool stuff there.  Some of it was directly relevant to what I’m doing for work, while some of it was just cool in its own right.

I haven’t decided whether to officially take a holiday day for today.  It’s left to how much work I actually do today.  I’ve done some e-mails, reviewed some research papers, and done some nice long term thinking using some analogies I’ve been developing.  I love analogies, especially stupid and ridiculous ones that happen to work.

The most recent thread that I’m thinking about is to tackle an agency problem.  There something that we would like to do, but we resist doing it because of social norms or awkwardness.  Wouldn’t it be great if someone could just step in with some fake (or real authority), act as decider, and let you out of the bind?  It’s the reason why people make fake excuses to get out of things, or use luck as a arbiter – to put the decision on some external factor so that we don’t have to take the blame.

And Vatsal, when I said I couldn’t help you move this weekend because I was out of town, I was telling the truth.  Either that, or I’m constructing an elaborate lie using facebook, twitter, and my blog.  Helping you move would be easier. (-:

Monday, February 23, 2009

flock you

Checking out the blog editor in Flock.  It has an eerie resemblance to Windows Live Writer.  Maybe it's the tabs at the bottom with nearly identical names, or the bar at the bottom for entering tags.  Hrm....  Windows Live Writer does appear to be less buggy though.  Looking at the source, this thing is generating some odd HTML.

The "WYSIWYG" editor makes me think the first paragraph is in some default font and this current paragraph is in my preferred Trebuchet font.  The HTML says the opposite.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Saturday, February 21, 2009

hands on activities

Last night I was wondering what I felt like doing, and I felt like doing some hands on activities.  Unfortunately I couldn’t think of anything that I could do at the time.

Today, I woke up, ate some crumpets (cheaper and better than English muffins), and biked down to the Hop In Grocery to see how long it would take me to get there if I started taking the Connector bus shuttle to Microsoft.  It took me about 10 minutes, so it seems like it would be comparable to what I’m getting now taking the regular connector.  Granted, it’s all downhill.  Since I timed myself going down, I figured I might as well time myself coming back up.

The last time I biked up to my place from Montlake, it sucked.  After playing 2-3 hours of ultimate frisbee, an uphill climb of 400+ feet is just not that fun.  I had a much easier time going up today – that is, until I discovered that my rear tire had gone completely flat.  I guess that was the kind of hands on activity I was looking for.

Now that I have some good daylight in my apartment, I can repair the bike, maybe tune my skis (the edges are in desperate need of some filing), and at some point perhaps replace the dome light in my car.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

measurement fail: comscore

I've been spending some quality time figuring out how to get accurate external measurements on various Web properties. ComScore was the alleged solution, given it's the standard way that everyone gets data on market penetration and everything. They've got the data, they've got the tools, and they do the classification that makes the tools fairly simple to use.

Maybe I'm a methodology nazi, but I always try to understand where the numbers come from. It didn't take too much looking to see that the "social networking" category was a complete shit show. I think Facebook, MySpace, Hi5. ComScore thinks Blogger, Wordpress, MySpace, Facebook. OK. Fine. I guess blogs are "social" in a way too. But let's look deeper.

In addition to blogs, I noticed a ton of what I consider "content" sites. Some examples are Gawker sites (Gawker, Gizmodo, FleshBot, etc.), TechCrunch, and I guess these all started as blogs, but with paid reporting staffs and advertisements I think it places sites like that closer to news or media sites. Both feature content that someone gets paid to write. It's like saying the Wall Street Journal is a social networking site because people write content and the readers can leave comments. I respectfully and vehemently disagree with this view.

Then there are the notable exceptions. Certain well known local social networking sites aren't included - sites like Mixi, which is huge in Japan. One notable exception that you've probably heard of is Twitter. That's right. ComScore doens't consider Twitter social media. To me, Twitter seems much more social than reading news articles on TechCrunch. So how is Twitter categorized by comScore? According to comScore, Twitter is a "Instant Messenger" service. IM as I know it does private one to one communication in real time. Twitter does public one to many communication not in real time. Almost polar opposites.

What are these guys on?

your mom

So as part of work I've been creating some accounts on various Web sites so that I can try them out. Considering the number of these I'll be making over time, I've created a fake e-mail address and identity for these fake accounts.

For some reason I decided to go with the name "Your Mom." Clearly fake and also amusing. This morning I checked the e-mail for that account and discovered that sends out e-mails for whenever anyone on their site searches for you. In less than 24 hours three people have already searched for "Your Mom" on I'm amused.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

i miss comcast cable

I didn't think this would happen, but a few days after getting my Comcast cable canceled, I'm beginning to realize that the Comcast DVR was a bit more important to me than I thought. The main thing I miss about it was the clock. I didn't realize it until I took the DVR out that I constantly check the time on it. Now, when I look over to check the time, I just see empty space. Maybe I should go buy a clock.

On another note, I just realized that I haven't updated my profile on blogger for a while. The only things updated were my city and the removal of some items that weren't supposed to be displayed in the first place. Note to self: don't use a blog as a real journal or scratchpad, even though being able to e-mail stuff to it is awesome.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

t1000 and the motorola dvr

These items are completely unrelated.

I just watched the ending of T2: Judgment Day, and the more I’ve had to think about this the more incompetent the T1000 is.  It could have done so much more.

I think the problem stems from the fact that the the T1000 was an evolution of the terminator series of cyborgs that were designed to infiltrate the resistance by posing as humans.  The T1000 was great at that, but I think it could have been much more effective if the creators re-thought the Terminator’s MO.  The old terminators had to masquerade as people because that was the only way they could insert a killing machine into a mass of unsuspecting humans.  Something smaller and less intrusive wouldn’t have the firepower, and anything that was big enough wouldn’t be able to get into the bases without such a trick.  The T1000, on the other hand, had a host of other options if the machines had the same creative thinking abilities as humans.

The T1000’s liquid metal alloy may have been designed for better cloaking by giving the T1000 the ability to take the form of any person.  Great.  They also found that the T1000 could hide by becoming a floor of some other object, as seen in the metal facility where the lucky guard met the T1000 at the coffee machine (so lucky he got a full house).  Why couldn’t the T1000 do this as its primary attack?  My only explanation is that then it wouldn’t be a terminator in the classic sense.  The T1000 almost seemed obligated to return to its human form.  Because of this identity crisis, the T1000 constantly went around as a human, complete with all of the strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths are the ability to gather information from people.  This was key in finding John Connor.  Weaknesses are all the limitations when trying to kill John Conner, Sarah Connor, and the Terminator.  For some reason the T1000 stuck to it’s human form.  When trying to find its targets in the factory, it walked around as a cop.  Why not just melt into the floor and seek them out, then jump out of nowhere and stab all of them at once.  Easy!  But no.  The T1000 seems to think that the only way to get credit for the kill is to do it as a human and using as little of its advantage as possible.  I blame the machines for programming it this way.

Another thing is that the didn’t program some unique escape or pursuit tactics for the T1000.  It runs after cars.  It can’t escape from tight situations like being in a molten pit or a pool of liquid nitrogen.  All the T1000 needs to do is have the equivalent of “Go go gadget arms,” reach out, grab something, and then haul itself immediately away from danger.  Jokes.

OK.  On to the crappy Comcast DVR from Motorola.  For those at Comcast reading this, recall that there was this open source DVR product called Myth TV that was available years ago (and still is).  Thanks to Greg, I was using MythTV back before I went back to school.  It was great.  It did the same recording of programs as the Motorola DVD does, but it did it so much better.

First of all, Myth TV is responsive.  The Motorola/Comcast DVR is not.  Yes, the Comcast box with its latest software is better than what it was before, but it’s still a joke.  Remember back when we had slow computers and the designers took that into account?  It seems like people these days assume that the devices we use have ample power to respond instantaneously so they don’t worry about this.  The end result is that we press buttons and it takes the device seconds to respond.  This might be acceptable for web pages (although less so), but it is completely unacceptable for hardware and client software.  Sure, it’s OK to make us wait.  We did this happily for years as we dealt with modems, floppy drives, and slow CPUs.  That’s why we have progress bars a dialog boxes – to tell the user that the system has recognized your input and will get back to you.  The Motorola DVR and the iPhone fail to do this, and it pisses me off to no end.  As the Motorola guy or the iPhone guy, you may be thinking “gee, if we put in these things, it would make the experience hell.  Who would want a DVR/phone that gives them confirmation when they press a button?”  I ask you, who would want a phone or DVR where they can’t tell if they presses a button or not.  The iPhone was great at this at the beginning with the nice transitions between screens.  I loved that since that’s a great way of letting me know that the input is accepted and making me wait without making me wait.  Nowadays I need to wait a few seconds to get that animation.  To that I ask, “WTF?”

My second gripe is that the Motorola DVR doesn’t have great playback features.  I really miss the automatic skipping of commercials offered by Myth TV.  With that I can just sit back and watch a 1 hour show in 40 minutes (literally!).  With the other great MythTV feature of watching playback at an accelerated speed, I could watch that 40 minutes of TV in 35 minutes.  60 minutes of regular TV condensed into 35 minutes.  I may actually start watching more TV!

Lastly, the Motorola DVR just sucks at managing the recordings.  After getting the complete recordings of Seinfeld, I no longer needed to have all those episodes on the DVR.  Is there an easy (or at least easy to discover) way to delete an entire series of recording?  No.  (And as I like to say at work, if a feature isn’t discoverable, it doesn’t exist)  Instead, I need to manually delete them all.  This means:

  1. Press down to an episode for Seinfeld
  2. Press OK
  3. Right press to the delete button.
  4. Press OK
  5. Press OK to confirm
  6. Wait for a second wondering if it recognized my second OK
  7. If the confirmation box is still there, press OK again and go back to the previous step
  8. Go back to step one and repeat 50 times or so

Reading that list of steps probably takes as long as it does to delete one recording.  Imagine doing that 50 times.  If you don’t have an active imagination, just read the list 50 times.

My final gripe is more about my TV or HDMI, so Comcast, don’t take this personally.  To switch HDMI inputs on my TV it takes 5-10 seconds.  This gets annoying if I want to watch a DVD and then switch back to the news or something.

My plan is to just use this new PC.  I can watch movies from it.  I can stream all the shows I watch online (except for King 5 News).  I can listen to music on it.  I can type this blog entry on it. (-:  And I can do all of this without having to deal with poor responsiveness or switching inputs on my TV – plus I don’t have to pay for cable, although it seems that Comcast is perfectly willing to give me cable TV for free.  How about just give me cable for a lower price so I don’t start actively thinking about Clearwire or FiOS?