Friday, July 25, 2008

kindle reset

I was transferring files to Kindle's SD card via USB when it locked up. Neither power cycle nor hard reboot fixed it. Instead it would start the power-on cycle, put up the happy Amazon Kindle logo but then hang forever. Was about to call Amazon when I tried powering it down, popping out the SD card, and then booting it. Voila! Kindle came up fine. Turned it back off, re-inserted the SD card, and everything is working fine again.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

more reasons to <3 kindle has opened. Baen's approach of releasing free books to reach a broader audience continues to generate ripples. Kudos to Tor, and thank you for the introduction to a bunch of new authors.

Separately, I just used Amazon's PDF->Kindle email service to move some reference materials on to Kindle. It didn't handle the code snippets perfectly, but it worked fairly well. Getting PDFs to work perfectly on Kindle will make an already useful device even more important to me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

colbert report now officially the most awesomest show evar

Much improved audio for the Colbert Report introduction:

The interview and performance:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Coming as a shock to almost no one, the 800-pound Googlerilla released their virtual world-ish product today, Lively.

Lots of good stuff here that pretty much all of us have predicted. It runs in a browser, rooms rather than a whole world to more easily balance resource requirements, integration with Google chat so you can talk to the rest of the world, and a wonderful aesthetic to appeal to Club Penguin graduates.

Lots of the web reports are positioning it as a direct Second Life competitor, with Michael Arrington of TechCrunch declaring "Well, this sucks for Second Life." Really? First, Lively has a host of unknowns. Will Google quickly get it running on OS X, or will Google's love-hate relationship with Apple slow things down? How flexible will the user-generated content become (and will you buy it with Google Checkout)? Sketchup and Google Earth integration? Also, what are you going to do in Lively? Club Penguin runs everywhere and isn't just a chat environment. Instead, there are tons of games and activities on top of the social bits.

Of course, if Lively is a typical Google product, we'll see a lot of iteration and improvement. More importantly, Google moving into virtual worlds adds interest and excitement to the space, which is great. It builds on recent technical milestones like Second Life to Open Sim teleportation, the regulatory opportunities opened up by Vermont's virtual corporation law, Whirled's flash-based approach, and Mitch Kapor's 3D interface experiments. Lively is step forward, potentially an important one if it is approachable enough and gives you something to do. But the idea that it is going to achieve Google web search levels of dominance is probably a little silly.

some tech bits that are making me happy

At Linden, we had a white board which contained all the technologies that had not yet screwed us. At one point, it had a lot of different technologies, applications, and programs, but over time they were erased until we were down to grep and less. Such is the way of software development. I've been using a few bits of technology that are new to me, both during my teaching/consulting/speaking time and now as I spin up on new technology at EMI, and four have been added to my wall.

The first is TextMate, a coding text editor for OS X. Although it has a couple of quirks -- hitting tab with a block of code selected replaces the block of code with a tab?! -- it is lightweight, handles lots of languages and scripts well, and plays nicely with the command line. I suspect that I could get XCode to do everything I currently use TextMate for, but somehow XCode seems too heavy weight for Ruby, Haskel, JavaScript, and other small, light coding tasks. Yes, I realize that if I was a Real Geek (tm) I would just use Emacs or Vim, but I am secure in my geek cred.

The second is Git. We used CVS and Subversion at Linden and Subversion was my default source code manager, but after mucking around with Git, I have a bit of a crush. I've listened to the Siren Song of distributed source code control before, but after [name redacted] failed to play nicely with the Second Life code tree, I had myself tied to the mast. However, two years later, progress has been made. Git seems to Just Do What I Want, including properly handing file deletion. I haven't yet thrown a large project at it or shifted directories all over the place, but so far Git has been fast, stable, and perfect for my needs going forward. Even better, it integrates nicely into TextMate! Been playing with GitHub -- an online service that makes you glad to be living in a world governed by Moore's Law -- but don't have enough data yet, other than the interface being very clean and easy to use.

Third, I have high hopes for Basecamp. Two days of data entry later, nearly all my thoughts on how to tackle EMI technical challenges are crystalized, partitioned, and shared. Basecamp is very fast, has just enough features, and is cheap enough to provisionally move onto the wall. Lots of other project planning and tracking software leads me to assume that Basecamp will eventually dash my hopes, but so far it has done a good job of delivering on what it promises. More reports to come.

Finally, I've switched to using Fluid for various Google app domains, Basecamp, Github, Facebook, Blogger, and Google Calendar. Fluid is a "site specific browser", one of those web terms you probably haven't heard of yet. You might hear about it in the future, but more likely by the time it gets to the mainstream, OS X will have just integrated it into the OS. Fluid makes web sites act a lot more like desktop applications and other than not playing well with gmail + gchat has been working very well. It has a couple of really nicely thought out features. For example, when using Basecamp, I've found it useful to have two browsers open -- rather than on tabs -- because you can't always get all the info you need to refer to on a single page. When you reopen the Fluid basecamp app, it remembers how many pages were open, their screen positions, and where you were. Slick!

So there you go. Four technologies that have yet to screw me, which is pretty high praise. We'll see how long they remain.

a good read

As I've mentioned before, I read a lot of Baen books.  Partially this is due to my tastes in travel reading aligning nicely with their catalog, but mostly it's because I spend a lot of time reading on the road, and Jim Baen, Eric Flint and others at Baen were ahead of their time in pushing to release books as non-drm digital downloads.  They've also released tons of books as free downloads, so it's easy to sample new authors.  Now that I am Kindle-enabled, I'm reading even more books this way, and last night plowed through Eric Flint's The Rivers of War, an alternate history that begins during the war of 1812.  Good, fun read.  Doesn't eclipse my current high water mark for historical speculative fiction -- Dan Simmon's The Terror is in a class by itself -- but, like the Belisarius series Flint cowrote with David Drake, Rivers has a wonderful attention to detail, makes one glad to not be on a battlefield, has several laugh-out-loud moments, and was the perfect way to spend a few hours in a hotel far from home.