June 28, 2007

Balmer's Take On iPhone

Here is Steve Balmer's (CEO MSFT) take on the iPhone. Let's see if he is right...

Posted by troutm8 at 11:09 AM

June 26, 2007

Kaiser Farmer's Maket

On Saturday Timber and I hit the Farmer's Market right next to the Kaiser hospital in South San Jose (Cottle Road). It wasn't a very big farmer's market, but it had lots of good stuff including bing cherries, apicots, peaches, netcarines, plums, and pluots as well as several types of vegetables. We took the scooter over and loaded it up with all these goodies. We also got some Sevilla style olive oil and bread from a bakery that showed up to sell their stuff. I think we'll definitely be back next week. Here's a map listing that farmer's market as well as other fruit stands I've hit lately. I really like being able to get fresh local produce, it is one of the many reasons to live in California.

Posted by troutm8 at 05:50 PM

June 25, 2007

Best Value Award

Woohoo, we won the Network Computing best value award for OmniFind Yahoo! Edition! See this article. Usually the value equation goes something like this: (Value Add) divided by Cost. In our case the cost is zero. So if you take the limit of this function as cost approaches zero then you'll see that the value approaches infiniti. Woohoo, infinite value. If you haven't downloaded and tried it yet you should grab it here.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:38 AM

June 22, 2007

iPhone Predictions

It seems like the new pasttime in America is making predictions. How successful something will be, how many units will be sold, who will win the Stanley Cup, etc... It seems like there is more interest in the hype of predictions and of what possibly could be than there is in the actual event, product, or sporting event. I think the iPhone launch next week is no different. So to throw my hat in the prediction ring I will actually cite some real data. If you look on ebay, someone is already offering to wait in line for you so that you can get an iPhone. They are only charging between $1k and $2k. If you look at nowinstock.net, a site that lists hard to get items and aggregates the information on where you can find them in stock, you will see that they already list the iPhone (along with thw wii, the new harry potter book, and other somewhat less popular items and you'll see that ebay already has the iPhone in stock (yeah right). According to Yahoo Buzz, iPhone is the 16th most popular search term right now. I also like to look at Google Trends every now and then to see popular search terms are and to compare them to others. Just playing around with it, it looks like thus far this year the iPhone is more popular then the Blackjack (which has been selling for a while now). But the iPhone has also had more press releases and press coverage. But the iPhone does not seem to be as popular a search term as the Nintendo Wii. What does this tell me? Not much other than the iPhone will probably do very well but will not have the same epic shortages that we still see with the Nintendo Wii. So overall my prediction is that Apple will quickly sell out after the iPhone goes on sale roughly a week from now. But I also think they will be able to fill the demand so that in a month or two you will be able to go into an Apple or Cingular store and buy one without having to wait in line or camp out overnight. I think the first few people that get iPhones will probably make a decent profit on eBay. But then the flood of iPhones will quickly drive down profit margins. But if you can't wait to get one and have to get it a week from now you will either need to line up outside one of the stores or be willing to spend some extra money to get it on ebay. It will not be easy to get for the first month or so. It is too bad that people have to deal with AT&T to get their iPhone up and running on the network. I think that is going to be the part of the process that will frustrate people.

Posted by troutm8 at 05:05 PM

June 21, 2007

Return Of The Timber

Timber made it back from from South Dakota on Tuesday night. The overall road trip was just over 3k miles. That's 3k miles over 6 days. :-) It sounded like she had fun and she took lots of pictures. I'll see if she can rate them, add captions, and post them over the weekend.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:28 AM

iPhone Competition

Who needs an iPhone when you can get one of these?

Posted by troutm8 at 10:24 AM

June 19, 2007

DRM Free and iTunes U

I've been seriously lagging in blogging about a few things but I'll catch up soon. First there is the issue of DRM free music on iTunes. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management and up until this point all the music sold on the iTunes store could only be played on up to 5 machines where iTunes was installed and you were logged in, and only on iPods. Now they are starting to sell some DRM free music (and watching the results closely) which means that you can put it on as many computers and/or other devices as you want. They also say that the audio quality is better. In my experience the file size is roughly double and the sampling rate is also double. I'm not a trained musician so I can't describe how much better it sounds, but I can say that I do notice a difference. Is it worth the extra $0.30 a track? I don't know... If you like to use other MP3 players instead of the iPod then it may be worth the extra money. iTunes U seems like a cool but super ambitous project to bring educational content (free) to iTunes. There have been schools like Stanford and Berkeley who, for years, have made free podcasts of some classes available via iTunes. iTunes U formalizes and expands that. Say you are interested in learning about algorithms (I was) and you go to iTunes to search for a CS class that teaches algorithms. If you search for it you will find several class podcasts that match but the best match I found was an MIT class titled "Introduction to Algorithms, Fall 2005". You can then easily subscribe to the podcast and listen to your heart's content. I think this is a great tool for flattening education and making it available to more people. When you do that generally good things happen.

Posted by troutm8 at 02:19 PM

June 18, 2007

Last FM

Thanks to Luis for telling me about Last FM. It is an interesting music site that not only has lots of information about music but you can also listen to streaming music from pretty much any artist that you want and you can listen to what your friends are listening to as well. You can also tag songs and artists that you like and don't like. As you listen to more and more music and tag it accordingly it will serve up more music that you like. So if you like finding new music and you can listen to it at work from your computer give it a try. Feel free to add me (troutm8) as a friend and share music with me.

Posted by troutm8 at 02:09 PM

You Call This An Election?

This is for all the Republicans out there. The presidential election of 2008 is going to be bad for us. It is going to be ugly. We are going to lose. It doesn't matter who represents the Democrats or represents the Republicans. The Dems are going to win. I'm not going to say that it will be one of the largest margins of victory in presdential elections history but I will say that it won't even be close. And it will be that way for two reasons. Those reasons are, in order of importance, Dubya and the fact that we're only putting clowns out there to run. Mark my words...

Posted by troutm8 at 01:46 PM

On American English

About a month ago I started helping a friend from Toastmasters work on her pronunciation of American English. She is originally from China and would like to improve her English vocabulary and pronunciation because she think it will help people understand her better and it would help her at work. I agreed to help but told her that her English is already very good and that I have no problems understanding her. Besides, her English is much better than my Mandarin. 我的汉语语言技能约有好一只狗.
但至少我知道如何点菜,并说"对不起" . Anyway... :-) My recommendations in general were to try to read a newspaper or book in English every now and then and sometimes tune into the English language news or TV shows since she usually tunes into Chinese TV and reads Chinese text when she goes home. I also went over some of the weirdness of American English pronunciation. And that got me thinking about how they teach American English to call center employees in Bangalore based on what Thomas Friedman wrote in "The World is Flat". You guessed correctly if you guessed that I'm currently listening to that audio book. :-) At any rate in American English we roll the letter T when it occurs in a word in any place other than the beginning. So the world "turtle" would be pronounced turdle. And the word entity would be pronounced en-a-dee. I guess we're weird that way. But there is one great phrase from the book that has some real tongue twisters in it. Here it is:

"A bottle of bottled water held thirty little turtles. It didn't matter that each turtle had to rattle a metal ladle in order to get a bit of noodles, a total turtle delicacy...the problem was that there were too many turtle battles for less than oodles of noodles. Every time they thought about grappling with the haggler turtles their little turtle minds boggled and they only caught a bit of noodles."

I bet even native American English speakers will either have some trouble with that one or have to slow it down a bit. Overall I think the way to improve your vocabulary and pronunciation for pretty much any language is to read books in that language and watch tv shows or movies in that language. Exposure is key. But I also told her that her kids have a distinct advantage. They will be fluent in both Mandarin and English without any special effort which should help them out tremendously when they enter the workforce in 10 - 15 years. I wish I were fluent in two languages instead of only knowing a smattering of 4 or 5.

Posted by troutm8 at 12:16 AM

June 17, 2007

Blink and Freakanomics

Over the past week I listened to the audio books Blink and Freakanomics. I would recomnmend both although I think Freakanomics is more entertaining. Blink had interesting information about how people thin slice all the time and how they sometimes make mistakes. Freakanomics had lots of interesting stories and questions. My favorite question was "Why do drug dealers live with their mothers?". The answer is that they make $3.50 an hour and can't afford to live on their own unless they are high up in the organizational structure. Listening to all of these audiobooks got me thinking about another question? Do people in general absorb information from a book better if it is read to them in an audio book format or if they read it themselves? I suspect the answer is that it depends on the person and it depends on what they are doing when they listen to the audio book. If they give the same amount of attention to both it will most likely take more time to read a book than to have it read to them and they will thus have more time to absorb the information while reading it themselves. So for me I think I retain information better when I read it myself, but audio books (ripped onto an iPod) are quick and convenient and I think I still absorb the information pretty well.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:55 PM

Grizzly Attack

My brother told me about this video. Someone he knows that works up in Prudhoe Bay shot this video of a grizzly bear attacking and killing 3 musk ox calves. Grizzlies are definitely not warm and cuddly...

Posted by troutm8 at 02:48 PM

June 13, 2007

Philip, South Dakota

Timber is off to world famous Philip, South Dakota with her parents and nephew Dio. In case you yearned for a little more information about Philip, South Dakota here is the summary:
Population (2000 census): 885
Racial Makeup: 96 % white

Another question is "Why is she going?" The answer is that Philip is celebrating 100 years and her dad's side of the family has been in the area since the town was founded. So now most of her family that left is coming back for the party. I sent her on her way with an SLR and video camera. Stay tuned to see what adventures she has. I'm hoping she'll ride a buffalo or something.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:16 PM

The One Percent Doctrine

God Bless audiobooks. They are awesome because you can listen to them anywhere, anytime, and they are read generally faster than I read myself. Last week I grabbed "The One Percent Doctrine" from the library, ripped it, and listened to it off and on. It gives an interesting perspective into the Bush Administration's "War on Terror" and basically depicts the inner circle as a bunch of clowns that bend facts toward their ideology instead of acting rationally based on the facts at hand. Overall I think it changed my perspective a little bit about the struggle against terrorism and how we are going about it. I definitely think we can make some changes to what we are doing to get back on track. One thing is for sure, terrorism is not going away any time soon. And the people we consider terrorists are very smart and patient. We should be careful in how we conduct ourselves.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:58 AM

Google Gears

Not too long ago Google announced Google Gears which is actually pretty cool. It is open source and it allows for offline access to data that you would normally only have access to when you are connected to the internet. A great example of this is Google Reader which I think is the best feed reader out there. Once you download Google Gears and restart your browser (FF of course) you can then click on a little icon in the upper right section of your screen and it will download the 2000 most recent entries. I'm sure time varies depending on the size of the entries and your connection speed, but for me it took about 1 minute to get the 2000 most recent entries. Then you can disconnect from the network and go on your merry way. I think this is a big step in allowing users to access their data offline through web applications. Areas where this could be implemented by the end of the year include email, search, feed readers, etc... I'm interested in seeing how this can be implemented in search. Does it make sense to have the user download a small "master index" to their machine that they can search while offline? I think the answer is "it depends". It depends on what they are searching for, how big the overall index is, how far down they drill on results, and how many searches they do. You can't really build snippets for search results unless you know what the search is going to be for. But maybe it would be useful to have the web browser download (in the background) the results for the last 20 or so previous searches assuming that users execute the same search queries over and over again. And if they click on actual results then those full pages could be downloaded in the background too. Would this actually be useful? I'm not sure...

Posted by troutm8 at 10:52 AM

June 08, 2007

Softball Begins

I signed up for the IBM softball league this year and our first game was on Wednesday. It is a pretty small league with only 4 teams and they are technically co-ed teams but our one female did not show up at the game. It think the team we played on Wednesday may have had a woman on the team but I'm not sure. :-) But at any rate this was my first time playing a baseball like sport since I was a kid, so I wasn't expecting a whole lot from my performance. I ended up going 3 for 3, all singles and I played second base. I didn't get too much action other than one pop fly that I caught. I think the softball season is going to be fun, but I don't think I can count it as exercise, at least not to the same extent as soccer. Oh yeah, we beat Dave's team 16-9. Take that Dave! :-)

Posted by troutm8 at 03:50 PM


Thanks to Tom J for suggesting "The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk" as a good book to read. I picked it up at the library and spent some time diving into it. It is the story of an arctic voyage in the early 1900's to find land under or near the north pole. The expedition leader did a crappy job of putting the trip together (not using the right tools and not being prepared) and did a poor job of leading the group. Yes, it sounds like a typical software development project. The ship eventually got stranded in the sea ice and drifted until it finally got crushed. At that point the people on the ship (both scientists and crewmembers) had to make the long and dangerous trek over the sea ice to Wrangel Island. From there the captain and one of the eskimos made their way to the Siberian mainland and then from there they finally made it back to Alaska (civilization? not really...) and sent word to the Canadian government that there were survivors so they can start a rescue operation. Some of the people on the island died while others survived to see the rescue. The ordeal lasted for over a year. They made the guy that crashed in the Sierras and walked out seem like a mere mortal. On top of the harsh environment they found themselves in they also saw that some of the people in their group were not exactly upstanding citizens. Overall it made for a very interesting book.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:08 AM

June 06, 2007

Yosemite Trip Page Posted

I finally got around to creating a Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne trip page. You can find it here. I also posted most of the decent pictures (the rest to come tomorrow) here. I also utilized a new Google Maps feature that allows you to create your own maps and put things on top of them including embedding photos and video here. I still need to get the video from the trip onto my computer but that will have to be done over the weekend. Let me know if you find any misspellings or inaccuracies. I'd like the trip pages that I make from backpacking trips to help people in their planning for doing the same or similar trips.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:30 PM

June 03, 2007

Why I think Apple TV is Cool

If you can watch this embedded video (Better Web App Development) and imagine watching it on your TV while you do 3 other things and still find it entertaining and cool then you could definitely benefit from Apple TV. And with more and more video content becoming available all the time it makes sense to be able to watch downloaded content via iTunes or any other method available on your TV. It is just another step in the evolution of educational/entertainment/sharing data accessibility. In the long run I see Apple TV either adding more capability like streaming movies and/or buying content directly from iTunes or being bundled with a TV and/or Cable Box or both. Either way I'm going to have to get a faster internet connection. Oh and did I mention that you will soon be able to watch YouTube videos directly on your Apple TV? See this article. I'll be interested in seeing how they do the UI on that. I'm learning a lot about UI design in my work with the UI team for the next version of OYE. Cool and interesting stuff...

Posted by troutm8 at 12:32 AM