Saturday, September 25, 2010

Time Machine?

Check out this link, but only if you have some time on your hands. I don't even know what YTTM stands for in this context (in web slang it usually stands for, "you talkin' to me"). Regardless, this is a fun way to take a peek back in time.

This will let you view video and audio footage (in many different forms) going back to 1860. Flip the toggle switches on the right to get different types of content. And be sure to click on a year more than once to see multiple videos from that year.

I have only had time to catch a few. Two of the standouts were a 1960 JFK political ad and a 1972 Godfather movie trailer. But I'm sure that I've only scratched the surface.

Here is an interesting site:

Just type in your zip code (or other location information) and see where the crime hotspots are. Great use of Google Maps.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gotta love hockey

I love hockey. Playing it, watching it, talking about it--I love it. As with any sport it has its highs and lows.

One of the recent highs was a game late on Wednesday, September 1st. 10p at The Ice, the new rink in Cumming, Georgia. That's a long haul from the west side of Atlanta!

It's always interesting to see what kind of turnout we will get for late weeknight games. We play for the love of the game and we all have day jobs. The game itself will take about an hour and a half (three 25-minute running time periods, if you're curious). I might not leave the rink until 11:45p or midnight. Get back home at 12:30a. Then I won't be able to fall asleep until 1:30a or 2a--it's hard to fall asleep when you're still revved up from playing the game.

So it wasn't surprising that we had a light turnout, but we were pretty depressed when we saw that we only had 6 skaters and a goalie. Remember, a hockey team has 5 skaters and a goalie on the ice at a time. We would have to play almost the whole game, all of us. The other team would surely skate circles around us.

The other team (Eagles) had 9 skaters plus their goalie, so they were a little light themselves but they still had a big advantage. And we did pick up a 7th skater when one of our guys arrived halfway through the first period.

So it was a long night ... but WE WON! Score was 4-2 (really 3-2 + ENG). We were EXHAUSTED but it was a very satisfying feeling to win in that situation.

In addition to James (goalie) we had: Steve, Ville, Stevie, Andy, Rick, Ian, and me.

Steve was amazing, as usual. His legs were bothering him (charley horse) but he picked his spots and kicked ass. We played solid defense. One of the most satisfying wins I've ever been a part of, because it was so bleak to start.

James was very good in net. Rick, Ian, and I mostly played defense. Sometimes Rick stepped up to forward and at times Andy was back. Steve and Ville really played great. Both really possess the puck well; people can take chances when they have the puck because they're not going to cough it up.

It is a tough sport, though. Here are two bruises which continue to bother me. These pictures were taken on September 7th.

One was from the game mentioned above, when I blocked a slapshot that hit me on the inside of me left knee. It was just above my shin pad and just to the side of my thigh pad. This will bruise go through all the colors of the rainbow before it's gone.

The other bruise is more serious. It occurred when I was "helped" to the ice by an opposing player in a game on August 29th. For what it's worth, the other player picked up a penalty on the play. I was skating backwards and pivoting away from him, and he unexpectedly caught me completely off balance with an illegal hit (the puck was nowhere near us at the time). The hit wasn't hard but I fell awkwardly on the ice with all my weight squarely on my left hip.

Weeks later, the muscles in my hip still bother me. This is a DEEP bruise. Once I warm up the pain goes away a little. But it is still difficult to walk. And it probably slowed me down (not much, but maybe a little) at the recent U.S. 10k (If it's Labor Day ... I'm at the U.S. 10k, September 10, 2010).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Google versus Bing

This post will be a collection of links discussing web search. Why? Because that's what I do. I'm very linky. ;)

As you know, Google released Instant Search not long ago. I discussed this on this blog at that time: What's up with lately?, September 8, 2010.

So, what does that mean for the web search business?

First up is a story from
"Google Instant Search Could Kill Microsoft Bing: 10 Reasons Why"
Reason #1 is "Google Instant works well." That's what really matters. Speed matters, and Google has it. Not only that, but having the infrastructure to roll this out on such a wide scale is a big deal.

Bear in mind that Microsoft is spending a fortune, millions of dollars per month, to advertise Bing. From ClickZ, earlier this year:
"Microsoft Upped Display Ad Spend for Bing in December"

Microsoft is also trying to integrate Bing into various forms of entertainment, a form of product placement. From the NY Times:
"Searching for Bing? It’ll Be Baked Into TV and Online Fare"

In my personal experience, I have noticed Bing ads MANY times on this very blog. And on my Google-issued phones, running the Google Android operating system (in apps with embedded advertising). Yes, that's right, Microsoft is paying Google to advertise Bing using Google AdWords on Google websites (Blogger, in my case) and using Google AdMob on Google Android phones. I apologize for saying "Google" so much, but I'm trying to make a point. Microsoft is so serious about advertising Bing that they have turned to the experts to get it done. Kind of ironic, isn't it?

Not only that, Microsoft is flat-out trying to buy market share. From TechFlash (again, from earlier this year):
"Microsoft pays the price, literally, for Bing's bigger market share"

There are a couple noteworthy items in the above article. These are clearly spelled out in the two figures. First of all, Microsoft is spending literally billions of dollars to push Bing. Secondly, Google's market share keeps rising. Bing's share is also rising, but it appears to be coming out of Yahoo--which is not good for Microsoft given their partnership with Yahoo.

All is not bleak for Microsoft, however. Microsoft is clearly playing to win. They are investing heavily and developing new ways to present search results--and forcing Google to adopt some of those methods (showing images in search results, for instance).

Furthermore, Microsoft would argue in response to Google Instant that 1) speed is no substitute for the quality of search results; and 2) they already did the same functionality years ago. From USA Today:
"Bing exec: Google Instant may be fast, but Bing results are smarter"

Here is the Bing live search page produced by Long Zheng of Microsoft back in 2009:
"The Real Live Search - your browser and Bing's AJAX APIs make sweet love"

Try it for yourself and see what you think. Although it may sound as though I'm saying that sarcastically, I'm really not. Microsoft has not gotten where they are by chance. They know what they're doing, too.

I think Stefan Weitz of Microsoft lays it on a little thick in the USA Today interview. For example, "Bing is a decision engine." What exactly does that mean? Nonetheless, he makes some good points. Chief among those is this statement: "The benefit of having this choice [Google or Microsoft] is that people can keep us honest by using both of us."

Tough competition like this means that the customer is the real winner, and that's a good thing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Well it's about time, AP!

"Too little, too late." "Better late than never." All the standard lines seem to apply. That's my reaction to the news that the AP will recognize blogs as legitimate news sources and credit blogs in their articles.

I should also clarify that I am not affected by this news. While I believe that blogs can be legitimate news sources, I do not take that position because my blog is such a news source. I don't break news on this blog, I merely comment on items that others have already reported on.

From the Social Times:
"AP Recognizes Bloggers as News Sources – Finally"

And yet, after reading this story my opinion of the AP (and traditional news sources in general) has dropped even lower. They are implicitly admitting that they didn't give proper credit in the past. Now, when they do give credit, they believe it's okay to bury that credit further down in the story ("the attribution doesn’t always have to be at the start of a story or script; it can sometimes be two or three graphs down.").

They were also extremely slow to react to a new, legitimate source of news--basically they were slow to react to what is, in itself a news story! Sure, not every blog is a solid news source--but it can be easily argued that the same is true of traditional media!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is Android open? Really?

Is Android's openness an advantage or a disadvantage? Increasingly it is a disadvantage. Android's openness leaves it ripe for the carriers (the bad guys in our little story) to ruin what should be a great user experience. Ironically, you get a more "open" phone by buying Apple's rigidly controlled (by Steve Jobs) iPhone.

To understand why I say this, take a look at this article from TechCrunch, with which I completely agree:
"Android Is As Open As The Clenched Fist I’d Like To Punch The Carriers With"

As TechCrunch pointed out, carriers load up their phones with useless bloatware. Furthermore, carriers won't even provide the latest version of Android, months after it has been released. I happen to have an HTC Nexus One (which gets the latest updates as soon as they're available, uncluttered by the carriers' crap) and a Motorola Droid X. The Droid X is a great phone. But the Nexus One is better. Purely because it is free from the bloatware that Verizon insists on loading onto it.

Here is a chart showing the percentage of users on each version of the Android operating system. At the time I started writing this post (early September), only 4.5% were on Froyo (v2.2). The most recent version of this page (up to September 1, 2010) shows 28.7% of Android phones have Froyo. Still not as many as I would hope. And notice the 29% on Cupcake (v1.5) and Donut (v1.6) that might never get upgraded.
Android Developers, "Platforms Versions"
I don't remember exactly when, but I believe I got Froyo pushed to my Nexus One in late May or early June.

Those poor people who bought crap like Motorola phones with early versions of Motoblur are even more screwed. Here's a report from AndroidGuys:
"Motorola Tweaks Android Update Timeline… For the Worse"
While I am impatiently waiting for Froyo on my Droid X, these guys might never even get Eclair (v2.1).

All of this reinforces why the Nexus One was so important. See my blog post about the Nexus One: "Adios Nexus One, we hardly knew ya.", July 26, 2010.

Monday, September 20, 2010

There's a hole in my sidewalk

Happy Birthday to me! So today I'm going to post a poem that is meaningful to me. This is a piece written by Portia Nelson taken from her book "There's a hole in my sidewalk."

Autobiograpy in Five Short Chapters

Chapter 1:
I walk down the street.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in, again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall's a habit...but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5:
I walk down another street.

Here's an image with a similar theme:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The road to socialism, and where it leads

This is the kind of story that really makes me sad. It's one thing to see communist countries like Cuba, where it's too late to help. But it's quite another to watch the descent of a country into socialism, and all the evils associated with it. Venezeula's Hugo Chavez is following the classical playbook and we, as a country, don't have the moral clarity to speak out against it.

From the Cato Institute:
"Ch├ívez Introduces ‘Good Life Card’, Better Known as Rationing Card in Cuba"

Meanwhile, check out Jeffrey Goldberg's recent article from the Atlantic:
"Fidel: 'Cuban Model Doesn't Even Work For Us Anymore'"

"...I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

"'The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore,' he said."

"I asked Julia to interpret this stunning statement for me. She said, 'He wasn't rejecting the ideas of the Revolution. I took it to be an acknowledgment that under 'the Cuban model' the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country.'"

"Raul Castro is already loosening the state's hold on the economy. He recently announced, in fact, that small businesses can now operate and that foreign investors could now buy Cuban real estate. (The joke of this new announcement, of course, is that Americans are not allowed to invest in Cuba, not because of Cuban policy, but because of American policy."

I love Goldberg's description of this photo: "For now, I leave you with this image from our day at the aquarium (I'm in the low chair; Che's daughter is behind me, with the short, blondish hair; Fidel is the guy who looks like Fidel if Fidel shopped at L.L. Bean):"

Be sure to also check out Part 1 of Goldberg's interview with Castro:
"Fidel to Ahmadinejad: 'Stop Slandering the Jews'"

"I asked him, 'At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?' He answered: 'After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all.'"

"I was surprised to hear Castro express such doubts about his own behavior in the missile crisis - and I was, I admit, also surprised to hear him express such sympathy for Jews, and for Israel's right to exist (which he endorsed unequivocally)."

Amazing stuff. Time changes us all.

Or does it? Shortly after this story came out Castro attempted to take back his comments. From CNBC (you can find this on many news sources, of course):
"Castro: I Meant That 'Capitalist System' Doesn't Work"

"Castro confirmed that he said those words 'without bitterness or concern.' But, he said, 'the reality is that my response means exactly the opposite.'"

Okay, Fidel. Sounds to me like you know the truth and you let it slip, and now your're backpedaling as fast as you can. Maybe I should have made this part of my "Occasionally they tell the truth" series.

And here's still more news from Cuba, from Dan Mitchell:
"Cuba Announces Plan to Eliminate 500,000 Bureaucrats"

"What’s ironic, though, is that Cuba is trying to reverse its mistakes while politicians in the United States keep adding more bureaucrats. In other words, Obama wants more people in the wagon and fewer people pulling the wagon. That’s not a good trend line."