Thursday, October 30, 2008

oh good, I'm not the only one

NY Times has an article on Dynolicious, for iPhone, lets you record the 1/4 mile times of cars via the iPhone's accelerometer.

Or anything else you happen to be riding in...

Airbus 320
0-60 11.82s
1/4 mi 19.11s @ 106.5 mph

Boeing 737-500
0-60 12.92s
1/4 mi 20.01s @ 95.4 mph

Airbus 319
0-60 13.18s
1/4 mi 20.4s @ 93 mph

Boeing 757
0-60 13.52s
1/4 mi 20.56s @ 97.7 mph

Boeing 747-400
0-60 14.29s
1/4 mi 21.18s @ 90.3 mph

0-50 24.11s
1/4 mi 23.58s @ 49 mph

Accelerometers are cool.  How else would you end up knowing these numbers?  What other machines -- elevators, roller coasters, ferries, etc -- would generate interesting results?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

all the way

From WWdN:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

foodie heaven, ey?

At O'Hare on the way home from Cory and Alice's lovely wedding in Toronto.  Fabulous event full of fun people.  This was our first non-work related travel in 6 years, so it made for a lovely minication.

And what a great place to be!

Cory had suggested the Gladstone Hotel.  It's a small-ish, boutique hotel at the edge of the rapidly gentrifying Queen Street.  Staff was occasionally a bit spacy -- for example, our "4am wakeup call and 5am cab to airport" was converted into "5am wakeup call and 4am cab" -- but the rooms were comfortable, the bar's lattes and apple crisps fantastic, and the road noise manageable.

What was amazing was the range and quality of food options along Queen Street.  Every 3 or 4 doors was a tiny, dark bar that also has 5-7 tables and also serves food -- especially brunch.  We ate at several.  The highlights -- in addition to Manhattan -- were:

Swan - a retrofitted bar/diner with a short menu and daily specials.  We shared a chorizo-chicken-mussel stew that was just about perfect, especially accompanied by "toasted break with tomatoes" -- huge chunks of soft, fresh bread, toasted under a broiler and accompanied by tomatoes and the amazing olives.

The Drake Hotel - we hit the Drake's coffee shop -- excellent espresso and a scary good beer-oatmeal bread/brownie -- as well as their dining room.  Monday's are tricky on Queen Street, as much is closed, so the Drake offer's a Monday nigh special.  Definitely opt for the charcuterie plate and the pork belly sliders on cheddar biscuits.

All good and ridiculously cheap -- even before conversion back to USD -- if you're used to California food prices.

About the only low spot was One of a Kind, an Italian restaurant with way too many items on the menu and a shocking habit of dumping cups full of Kraft parmesan over what might otherwise have been very well grilled calamari.

So, if you get to Toronto, head to Queen Street West and explore.  You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

trying manhattan toronto

Apparently, brunch is a Big Deal in Toronto.  Well, when in Rome...

This morning we tried Manhattan -- based on this recommendation -- and it was fabulous.  The 3-cheese macaroni was nearly perfect, especially with the accompanying greens and balsamic reduction.  Service was a bit slow because they were setting up for a poetry reading, but the seats were comfortable, atmosphere relaxing, and coffee delicious.  If you're in southwest Toronto looking for brunch, check it out!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

congrats to aws

Lots of news in Amazon Web Services country.  EC2 now has a service level agreement and is officially out of beta.  More importantly, Amazon has announced that load balancing and automagic scaling is coming.  These are both big deals, although directly competitive with products other companies have built on top of AWS.  Interesting to watch how that will play out in the community.  

Autoscaling and load balancing are both keys to the work I'm doing at EMI.  In particular, as we consider different models for viewing and accessing data, capabilities -- an approach to access control central to Second Life over the last 2 years -- are looking like a likely solution to some of challenges we face.  EC2 with load balancing and scaling lends itself nicely to supporting caps.

Thanks, Amazon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I'm noodling on schema questions, so quick little posts work well as mental palette cleansers...

Probably not new to anyone who reads my blog, but fivethirtyeight is an amazing site for a bunch of reasons.  It dives remarkably deeply into statistics, including lots of great math and discussion about the decisions Sean and Nate make.  It has some beautiful charts that convey a ton of information.  Sean got into stats -- like so many people -- from digging into baseball.

Great stuff.

for those who think high-performance 3d is easy

The new MacBook Pros ship with two graphics cards: the NVIDIA 9600M GT for games and high-performance tasks and the NVIDIA 9400M for power savings.  Seems pretty sweet, right?  Plug your laptop in and run with a great mobile GPU, unplug it and you've got long battery life.

But wait.  Switching cards isn't automagic.  It's not even just a change in preferences.

As this support page explains, you need to log out!

Think about that.  Nobody obsesses about user-experience like Apple.  Love 'em or hate 'em, every element of using an Apple product, from unboxing on, has been debated, argued, and considered.  Think Steve said "The best user-experience is to have to log out, ensuring that you often have accidentally left the laptop in high performance mode as you get on a cross-country flight.  Perfect!"

Unlikely.  So why didn't they?  Because an army of engineers at two very smart companies -- Apple and NVIDIA -- were unable to ensure switching cards wouldn't cause horrible lockups and system crashes without a full log out.  Switching on the fly would leave dynamic libraries incorrectly bound, state set incorrectly, or whatever underlying problem forced them into a suboptimal user-experience.

Hopefully as more laptops go to heterogeneous GPU setups these kinds will be worked out, but it's yet another reminder of how difficult it is to get high-performance 3d just right.

Even a decade after GPUs started going mainstream.

geek love

A graphics card that should run Second Life well plus faster RAM?  Enough storage to make dual-boot and/or run Parallels?  I so want the new MacBook Air.  Pity about Apple's decision to go glossy only on their screens, though, as they'll be glaretastic.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

oath of office

When you join the United States military, you take the oath of office. This oath states:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

Like me, John McCain took this oath upon graduation from the United States Naval Academy. Each year, McCain takes the oath again as a member of Congress.

I would like him to square that oath with a campaign that encourages this:

These people are not all crazy or stupid. Instead -- worse -- they are normal people, worried about the future for themselves, their families, and their children, being willfully mislead, distracted, scared by a campaign more focused on winning at all costs than remembering the oath Senator McCain took.

While Senator McCain is not responsible for the behavior of every one of his friends or supporters, to encourage this kind of mob mentality is reprehensible and irresponsible.

He should be ashamed of himself.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

digital music forum west

Last week I walked off a plane from London and gave my first music industry talk, an evening keynote at Digital Music Forum West in Los Angeles that ended just as the Biden-Palin debate was starting up. Fun talk to prep for, as the last 3 months at EMI have been such a "drinking from the firehouse"-experience that synthesizing all the data into a brief enough format was tricky, but the experiences of building Second Life -- particularly user-driven innovation and the tremendous explosion of music within SL -- provided the right scaffolding to build around.

Live streaming video by Ustream

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

kindle and recommendations

Yet another nice thing about Kindle is that when a friend mentions they're reading a great book you can have it in seconds. This happened to me last week and since then -- that's to a lot of time in airports -- I've read Stephenie Meyer's wonderful Twilight novels. I really enjoyed them. Equally good, although very different, is her other novel, The Host. She reminds of Elizabeth Moon at her best, with rich characters, consistent worlds, and remarkably human stories.

Yes, Twilight follows the federally mandated sequence for vampire novels

Book 1: Vampires
Book 2: Werewolves
Book 3: Vampires vs. werewolves
Book 4: Vampires vs. shadowy vampire "government"

but Meyer's disregard for many mythical conventions allows her to build the world her way, and the result is very good. Yes, it is a "young adult" novel, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying it. I look forward to book 5!

Monday, October 06, 2008

exporting from keynote 08 to powerpoint 08

I prefer to build presentations in Keynote, but most of the world uses PowerPoint so I often need to export from Keynote. With the most up-to-date versions of each, PowerPoint could no longer open Keynote exports, failing with an uninformative error message if loaded from finder or failing silently if loaded from PowerPoint's File menu.

There is a lot of discussion about this on the Mac forums with little concrete resolution. For me, removing the speaker notes from the Keynote version fixed the problem and my exports worked again.