Bookmarks for January 30th through February 4th

These are my links for January 30th through February 4th:

  • Op-Ed Contributor – Microsoft’s Creative Destruction – NYTimes.com – Unlike other companies, Microsoft never developed a true system for innovation. Some of my former colleagues argue that it actually developed a system to thwart innovation. Despite having one of the largest and best corporate laboratories in the world, and the luxury of not one but three chief technology officers, the company routinely manages to frustrate the efforts of its visionary thinkers.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s Resume Explains Why He’s The Renaissance Man For the Job – Davinci – Gizmodo – At one time in history, even da Vinci himself had to pen a resume to explain why he was a qualified applicant. Here's a translation of his letter to the Duke of Milan, delineating his many talents and abilities. "Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below..The document, written when da Vinci was 30, is actually more of a cover letter than a resume; he leaves out many of his artistic achievements and instead focuses on what he can provide for the Duke in technologies of war.
  • jsMath: jsMath Home Page – The jsMath package provides a method of including mathematics in HTML pages that works across multiple browsers under Windows, Macintosh OS X, Linux and other flavors of unix. It overcomes a number of the shortcomings of the traditional method of using images to represent mathematics: jsMath uses native fonts, so they resize when you change the size of the text in your browser, they print at the full resolution of your printer, and you don't have to wait for dozens of images to be downloaded in order to see the mathematics in a web page. There are also advantages for web-page authors, as there is no need to preprocess your web pages to generate any images, and the mathematics is entered in TeX form, so it is easy to create and maintain your web pages. Although it works best with the TeX fonts installed, jsMath will fall back on a collection of image-based fonts (which can still be scaled or printed at high resolution) or unicode fonts when the TeX fonts are not available.
  • Josh on the Web » Blog Archive » Abusing the Cache: Tracking Users without Cookies – To track a user I make use of three URLs: the container, which can be any website; a shim file, which contains a unique code; and a tracking page, which stores (and in this case displays) requests. The trick lies in making the browser cache the shim file indefinitely. When the file is requested for the first – and only – time a unique identifier is embedded in the page. The shim embeds the tracking page, passing it the unique ID every time it is loaded. See the source code.

    One neat thing about this method is that JavaScript is not strictly required. It is only used to pass the message and referrer to the tracker. It would probably be possible to replace the iframes with CSS and images to gain JS-free HTTP referrer logging but would lose the ability to store messages so easily.

  • Panopticlick – Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 342,943 tested so far.

    Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys at least 18.39 bits of identifying information.

    The measurements we used to obtain this result are listed below. You can read more about the methodology here, and about some defenses against fingerprinting here

Bookmarks for January 17th through January 20th

These are my links for January 17th through January 20th:

  • PG&E Electrical System Outage Map – This map shows the current outages in our 70,000-square-mile service area. To see more details about an outage, including the cause and estimated time of restoration, click on the color-coded icon associated with that outage.
  • Twitter.com vs The Twitter Ecosystem – Fred Wilson comments on some data from John Borthwick indicating Twitter ecosystem use = 3-5x Twitter.com directly.

    "John's chart estimates that Twitter.com is about 20mm uvs a month in the US (comScore has it at 60mm uvs worldwide) and the Twitter ecosystem at about 60mm uvs in the US.

    That says that across all web services, not just AVC, the Twitter ecosystem is about 3x Twitter.com. And on this blog, whose audience is certainly power users, that ratio is 5x."

  • Chris Walshaw :: Research :: Partition Archive – Welcome to the University of Greenwich Graph Partitioning Archive. The archive consists of the best partitions found to date for a range of graphs and its aim is to provide a benchmark, against which partitioning algorithms can be tested, and a resource for experimentation.

    The partition archive has been in operation since the year 2000 and includes results from most of the major graph partitioning software packages. Researchers developing experimental partitioning algorithms regularly submit new partitions for possible inclusion.

    Most of the test graphs arise from typical partitioning applications, although the archive also includes results computed for a graph-colouring test suite [Wal04] contained in a separate annex.

    The archive was originally set up as part of a research project into very high quality partitions and authors wishing to refer to the partitioning archive should cite the paper [SWC04].

  • Twitter’s Crawl « The Product Guy – "A list of incidents that affected the Page Load Time of the Twitter product, distinguishing between total downtime, and partial downtime and information inaccessibility, based upon the public posts on Twitters blog.

    http://status.twitter.com/archive

    I did my best to not double count any problems, but it was difficult since many of the problems occur so frequently, and it is often difficult to distinguish, from these status blog posts alone, between a persisting problem being experienced or fixed, from that of a new emergence of a similar or same problem. Furthermore, I also excluded the impact on Page Load Time arising from scheduled maintenance/downtime – periods of time over which the user expectation would be most aligned with the product’s promise of Page Load Time. "

  • Soundboard.com – Soundboard.com is the web's largest catalog of free sounds and soundboards – in over 20 categories, for mobile or PC. 252,858 free sounds on 17,171 soundboards from movies to sports, sound effects, television, celebrities, history and travel. Or build, customize, embed and manage your own

Bookmarks for May 8th through May 12th

These are my links for May 8th through May 12th:

Bookmarks for May 6th through May 7th

These are my links for May 6th through May 7th:

Bookmarks for May 3rd through May 4th

These are my links for May 3rd through May 4th:

  • Dilbert comic strip for 05/04/2009 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive. – Secretary to Pointy Haired Boss: "I live in a rented trailer and all of my money is in my checking account. Your investments are worthless and your mortgage is underwater. My net worth is higher than yours now. I guess promiscuity and a G.E.D. was a pretty good strategy after all." Reminded me of a thought I had earlier this year, that much of Western Civilization is built on valuing delayed gratification, which hasn't worked out so well recently as opposed to immediate consumption in many cases.
  • Without Warning, Twitter Kills StatTweets (Businesses Beware) – StatSheet.com ChangeLog – Owner of StatTweets post regarding his network of sports-related Twitter handles being banned. They had several hundred accounts, one for stats for each team. This makes sense for users, given the way Twitter works, but they don't like mass account creation. Interested to see how this sorts out, there seem to be at least a few similar Twitter networks with team/region/topic-specific handles.
  • Dooley Online: What URL Shortener Should I Use? – Comparison of features and some usage data for URL shorteners such as tinyurl and bit.ly used on twitter and other services.
  • Obesity and Overweight: Trends: U.S. Obesity Trends 1985-2007 | DNPAO | CDC – During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. This slide set illustrates this trend by mapping the increased prevalence of obesity across each of the states. In 2007, only one state (Colorado) had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%; three of these states (Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee) had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30%. The animated map below shows the United States obesity prevalence from 1985 through 2007.
  • Why text messages are limited to 160 characters | Technology | Los Angeles Times – A look back to the beginnings of SMS in 1985 – Would the 160-character maximum be enough space to prove a useful form of communication? Having zero market research, they based their initial assumptions on two "convincing arguments," Hillebrand said. For one, they found that postcards often contained fewer than 150 characters. Second, they analyzed a set of messages sent through Telex, a then-prevalent telegraphy network for business professionals. Despite not having a technical limitation, Hillebrand said, Telex transmissions were usually about the same length as postcards.

Bookmarks for February 16th through February 17th

These are my links for February 16th through February 17th:

  • Top 100 Network Security Tools – Many many security testing and hacking tools.
  • FRONTLINE: inside the meltdown: watch the full program – "On Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008, the astonished leadership of the U.S. Congress was told in a private session by the chairman of the Federal Reserve that the American economy was in grave danger of a complete meltdown within a matter of days. "There was literally a pause in that room where the oxygen left," says Sen. Christopher Dodd"
  • The Dark Matter of a Startup – "Every successful startup that I have seen has someone within their ranks that just kinda “does stuff.” No one really knows specifically what they do, but its vital to the success of the startup."
  • Why I Hate Frameworks – "A hammer?" he asks. "Nobody really buys hammers anymore. They're kind of old fashioned…we started selling schematic diagrams for hammer factories, enabling our clients to build their own hammer factories, custom engineered to manufacture only the kinds of hammers that they would actually need."
  • Mining The Thought Stream – Lots of comments around what is Twitter good for and how will it make money, revolving around real/near-time search, analytics, marketing, etc.
  • Understanding Web Operations Culture – the Graph & Data Obsession … – Comparison of traffic at Flickr, Google, Twitter, last.fm during the Obama inauguration. "One of the most interesting parts of running a large website is watching the effects of unrelated events affecting user traffic in aggregate."

Bookmarks for February 14th through February 15th

These are my links for February 14th through February 15th:

Bell Labs Holmdel to be demolished for new office parks

I’m surprised to read in Engadget that the old Bell Labs Holmdel research facility is slated to be demolished and turned into three office parks. I recently tossed out some old project papers from the days when AT&T still ran Bell Labs, and I had occasion to visit the site from time to time.

Aside from the long history of really cool projects there (radar, sonar, cosmic background radiation, cell phones, networking, etc), the building (designed by Eero Saarinen), is huge (six stories, two million square feet), and visually striking. Externally, it sits on a large parcel of land by itself, making it hard to get a sense of scale as you approach. Internally, the lobby atrium is vast, open to the ceiling, and surrounded by chrome, gray, and fluorescent-lit mezzanine floors. Stepping inside felt a bit like landing in the Death Star.

As interesting and historic as the building is, what I really miss is the broad scope and scale of activity at the pre-divestiture AT&T Bell Labs. The closest thing to it today is probably at Google, funding a lot of motivated smart people with its massive stream of ad revenues, trying out a lot of interesting but not always commercially viable ideas. I always thought Microsoft could have done more along these lines with revenues from Windows and Office. You pretty much need monopoly-level profits to fund big private research for any length of time.

Update Friday 09-01-2006 16:49PDT: Looks like the developers have come up with a plan that preserves the main building.

PREI announced that the landscape, oval, tower and two of the original Phase I Eero Saarinen-designed buildings will remain (including the 80-foot tall center lobby), in addition to developing a historic library to highlight Bell Labs’ artifacts and paraphernalia related to the facility. Also being built are five new adjacent buildings (in orange, above), though two of the original Phase II buildings (and two wings that were added later) will be demolished.

Bob Colwell on being a CPU architect

An excellent guest lecture at Stanford’s EE380 sometime around February 2004 by Bob Colwell, chief architect of Intel’s IA32 microprocessors from 1992-2000. (90 minutes, Windows Media).

On the history of CPUs, chip processes, power and heat dissipation, Itanium IA64 versus IA32, target markets and economies of scale, FDIV, CPUID, lifetimes of architectures, organizational politics, learning to deal with branded consumer market rather than pure technology customers.

Architects must take the long view
Architect’s job is to make valuable products
- not clever microarchitectures or instruction sets
- not “blue crystals” – useless differentiating features
- look for intersection between what technology will be able to do and what buyers will want, then sell that vision to rest of company

This presentation was made a couple of years ago, in the middle of Pentium 4 and the early days of Centrino, Itanium was the path forward, Opteron was under the radar, and power dissipation and mobility were rising in perceived importance compared with higher clock speeds and CPU benchmarks alone.

via The Inquirer

Update 03-08-2006 23:03 PST: Here’s the abstract and speaker bio from Stanford EE380

25 years of the HP12C

hp12c
Today’s Wall Street Journal has an ad from HP noting the 25th anniversary of the HP12C calculator.

Unlike most contemporary personal computing technology, the old HP calculators have been nearly indestructable and are utterly reliable. This may have limited the market for HP calculators, in that there aren’t any consumables and there isn’t much of a replacement cycle either, but it’s a relic of the old-school HP that also made indestructable electronic bench equipment and atomic clocks (and mostly turned into Agilent). HP still seems to sell enough new units to keep them in production.

I’m not sure exactly how old my calculator is at this point, but it dates back to some time in the early 80′s, in the days before personal computers and ubiquitous internet access on college campuses, when being able to run repeated calculations without heading to the computer lab was both a luxury and a competitive advantage. At the time I also had an HP 15C and 16C, which were well-used in various projects before going on “permanent loan” years ago.

At this point my remaining 12C has been around the world several times, and the batteries haven’t been changed since sometime around the dot-com boom.

Some very good calculator software applications (including emulations of various HP calculators) are now freely available for PCs, and nearly-disposable plastic calculators are often distributed as promotional novelties.

I suspect that calculators like the 12C may be turning into something like fine pens. There’s little intrinsic, functional rationale for them at this point, but I enjoy using it nonetheless. It turns on and off instantly without a fuss, it is dense and substantial without being too heavy, has the best keyclick feel ever, and is a much better at being a calculator than a cellphone, PDA, or notebook computer is ever likely to be (…once you learn RPN). Like everyone else, I often write with a word processor of some sort, but I like to draft on paper from time to time, because writing with a good pen can make you think differently than typing into a display. I find that working with calculator and paper can have a similar feel. Sometimes computer productivity tools are better at creating the appearance of substance than at facilitating the creation of actual substance.

Consumables and the decline of recording studios

Today’s Wall Street Journal (January 24, 2006) has a short profile of Paul Motian, an outstanding jazz drummer who was part of the Bill Evans Trio in the early 1960s. (If you haven’t heard of Bill Evans and have any interest in jazz piano, I highly recommend checking out their recordings).

What caught my attention, however, was this comment from Paul Motian on the decline of the recording studio business:

“A lot of recording studios are closing because people don’t use tape anymore, and that’s where the recording studios make their money. Everyone comes in with their hard drive, puts it on their computers.”

I still have a bunch of 1-inch 16-track master tapes somewhere out in the garage and remember spending a relative fortune on studio time and services, back in the 80s, probably the waning days of multitracking and overdubbing by hand on a mixing board. The Cars were wildly successful at the time and had opened a state-of-the-art studio at Synchro Sound, which was starting to use digital recording systems, but which far exceeded our band’s budget.

There’s still no substitute for good microphones, but these days digital mastering to hard disk is a big win over tape.

I’d never thought about the recording tape as being a critical profit driver for a recording studio, but in retrospect it makes some sense. When the only copy of your work is on a little strip of magnetic film shuttling back and forth on open reels, who’s going to buy cheap tape?