What's That Noise?! [Ian Kallen's Weblog]

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20060830 Wednesday August 30, 2006

Eclipse Aviation

Last week I was in Albuquerque for some family time and relaxation. It was truly wonderful to see the desert in full bloom; the monsoonal flow of weather coming up from the Gulf of Mexico this time of year has brushed the whole landscape with lovely shades of green. The weather was mild, the raspberries lucious and abundant and, though the trout weren't biting, the rivers roared beautifully; it was really great. No, I didn't accept payola from the New Mexico visitors bureau, really, my gushing is legit.

Anyway, I also took the opportunity to do some geeky oogling at the Eclipse Aviation facility in Albuquerque. I'm not normally an airplane nerd but last Friday, I was. What interested me about this company is that they are producing a truly disruptive technology. Commercial aviation and metropolitan airports are high ceremony affairs; security lines, taking off your shoes and taking out your laptop, finding the right carousel to get your luggage... and praying that it shows up there in tact. The Eclipse jets will commoditize high altitude cruising in a pressurized cabin at speeds that aren't too far behind the big boys (and twice the speed of propeller planes) and do so at a price point on par with the cost of many single family homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. What will that mean for you? What would it mean to you if 2 to 3 hour rides up and down the west coast of the United States are cheap and abundant? If a two day drive or commercial jetliner and airport rigamarole can be replaced with fast, low ceremony travel, then the world gets a lot smaller again. That would mean a lot to me! Welcome to reality, the smaller world where commodization is good.

Eclipse is a newcomer, a startup (I know bit about disruptive startups) in the aviation industry. As you'd expect, they're doing things differently. Which isn't a surprise given founder Vern Raburn's pedigree. Raburn is an early Microsoft and Lotus guy, has been a pilot since he was teenager and has a passion for innovation (along with some cash to throw behind it). Eclipse's friction stir welding process for joining the aluminum shell results in a light but strong hull (without relying on composites); most planes are pieced together with rivets. Eclipse has extensive IT infrastructure that provides flight plans, collects metrics on the planes while they're in flight, detecting component failures and poised to assist from a state-of-the-art operations center. The avionics are displayed on redundant touch screens and the controls are vastly simplified over what you find in traditional aircraft. Here are some specs on the Eclipse 500:

So, do the math and this works out a lot cheaper than flying most piston engine planes (costs per hour may be lower but you're in the air twice as long with those). OK, I admit I don't have one and half mill to drop for one of these babies (however, I have aspirations to be a "qualified buyer") but still, the potential to bring this kind of travel within easy reach is at hand. Even if you don't buy one of them, using one like you'd use a cab seems like huge improvement over current modes of air travel. On your next trip, as you endure the TSA confiscating that toothpaste you forgot was in our carry-on luggage, imagine jet travel that operates more like a car service, like a cab. DayJet is going to provide exactly that using fleets of Eclipse jets. On the factory floor, I saw a few DayJet-logo'd planes getting prepped for delivery. Apparently a gaggle of "air taxi" services similar to DayJet are in the works, they'll also be powered by fleets of Eclipse 500's. We'll embark on the era of very light jets (VLJ), when the first customers start taking delivery of their aircraft within the next month. This may not be Kitty Hawk but I do think this will be rank high in the list of significant aviation events.


( Aug 30 2006, 09:09:06 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060829 Tuesday August 29, 2006

Scammed By Kleptotorial

In this corner: Doc is going to attack kleptotorial splogs by employing cleaner living through better licensing (a creative commons flavor). And in this corner: Elliott Back says he is a victim. He has been slammed by Scoble (and Scoble was gracious enough to apologize). I have no sympathy for Elliott Back. Sure, he's just the gun maker, not the shooter. But weapon makers producing wares without safeties get sued for negligence. Basically, any tool that programmatically harvests and posts other people's feeds should at least have the common decency to not ping. If you re-inject something into the update stream that you've appropriated from someone else, you're scamming the update stream. This isn't about quoting or citing, this is about fraudulent pings, "I've updated my blog (nevermind the fact it's with OPP)" -- keep your feed harvesting to yourself, please.

( Aug 29 2006, 09:51:57 AM PDT ) Permalink

20060802 Wednesday August 02, 2006

I would pay Muni 10x the fare if...

...just once when a passenger wearing too much perfume or cologne boards the metro, it would prompt the driver (who would be Samuel L. Jackson) to stand up, turn to the passengers and demand, "Get those mother effin' stinks off this mother effin' train!"

Perhaps for once I'd get my money's worth from Muni.


( Aug 02 2006, 09:46:20 AM PDT ) Permalink

The 5-year forecast

Sam Ruby's Teenagers on the go slide deck is an interesting prognosis on the future impact of the protocols, formats and form factors in our midst on publishing, sharing and participating on the web.

( Aug 02 2006, 07:13:37 AM PDT ) Permalink

20060730 Sunday July 30, 2006

Participant Created Artifacts

Since the universally understood (at least among the intelligentsia) descriptor user generated content continues to nag at people (Tim raised it again during his OSCON session) and the alternatives have been difficult to pin down (was Tim suggesting people contributed experiences?), it's my caffeinated Sunday morning aspiration to consider the alternatives.

Having a label is important, we're making a distinction between published artifacts that are developed by editors and/or paid staff and the stuff created by Normals who are contributing the artifacts of their creative process to the web. Yes, the term user is definitely sterile, generated too mechanical and content seems so... vacuous. Does participant created artifacts work as a descriptor for all of the photos we're uploading, blog posts we're posting and so forth?

( Jul 30 2006, 08:44:40 AM PDT ) Permalink

20060729 Saturday July 29, 2006

OSCON Rocked

Had a great time at OSCON! Besides the previously noted keynotes and sessions, my faves were Perrin Harkins' Low-Maintenance Perl (a good discussion of best practices in Perl as the simple practices, Perl as the sole domain of wizards is so old school), Moazam Raja's Troubleshooting the JVM and the Applications That Run Within It (a good survey of the built in runtime diagnostics available for java), Tim Bray's The Atom Publishing Protocol as Universal Web Glue (a good example of using vi and curl for bare metal wire protocol demos as well as how slow JRuby's start-up time is!) and Damian Conway's Friday keynote was suitably humorous! If there was anything that I wish I coulda rearranged it was the time slots when there were more than one session I wanted to be in. But the timeslots with nothing interesting going on were good opportunities for hallway conversations; which are often the most important activities at these events, so I won't complain vigorously.

Enjoyed hanging out Friday afternoon for "OSCON decompression" at Urban Grind ("Coffee should be black as night, hot as hell, and strong as love.") with James, David, Josh, David and Scott. Heh, I got PostGIS running on my powerbook, which gave me something to play with on the flight home!

Portland is a really nice town, the Disneyland-like lightrail system (complete with automaton announcements in english and espanol), the neighborhood ambiance, the surrounding greenery... I dig it. For next year's OSCON trip, I'll be bringing the family along!

( Jul 29 2006, 11:20:55 AM PDT ) Permalink

20060727 Thursday July 27, 2006

Google Code Project Hosting

At Greg Stein's talk, A Google Service for the Open Source Community, he outlined how Google's following up on it's Summer of Code project with a new contribution to open source. No, it's not a dating service or personal trainer service for geeks (that'll be Google's 2007 contribution). And no, it's not source code search (does Krugle have that covered?). This is project hosting on Google Code Project Hosting.

Yes, there is nothing new about project hosting; there's long been things like Source Forge, Tigris, java.net and so forth. Things like Sourceforge are doing a great job, but there are strengthes that Google has that could be brought to bear on the project hosting space. Some of the unique features of Google's project hosting that Greg cited are

simplicity, scalability, reliability
The system is built with Google's trademark minimalist approach to user interfaces as well as leveraging Google's horizontal scaling and robust the data center sauce.
Subversion on Bigtable
They've built a new backend for Subversion that, instead of using flat files or BerkeleyDB, uses Bigtable. Bigtable data is fast, highly available and replicated across data centers so that all Subversion stored resources will benefit from the Bigtable backend.
Complete re-think of issue tracking
Bugzilla, Trac, Jira and most other issue tracking systems are workflow heavy and laden with permissions and security provisions. The heavy stuff is often unnecessary, it just gets in the way of issue tracking for open source projects instead of facilitating the core use cases that people need. They've replaced all of the highly structured data model and query environment with labels (tags). Labels get attached to projects and issues to tags and provide a minimalist structure to query by using full text queries.
Next came the demo.

Creating a new hosted project is simple enough, you fill out a form with the project name, a summary description, a full description, select a license (Apache, Artistic + GPL, GPL v2, LGPL, BSD, MIT and Mozilla are choices ... dual licensing is not permitted) and apply some labels (tags). If you don't have one yet, a subversion password is created for you (it's *not* your gmail password). Your project will have a tabbed interface for the main page, issues, browsing the soruce and an administrative page. Project creators and administrators must use a GMail account. If not using GMail, bug reporters must have some Google account (Picasa, Groups, etc). The "Issues" screen provides a tabular view of bugs, the columns are ajax enabled for parameterization. The neat thing is that instead of using a big form with tons of check boxes and selectors, the issue tracking uses query expressions to refine issue search results. Status field for a bug can be free text; while a static vocabulary is defined and selectable in an ajax drop down the vocabulary is unconstrained. Status isn't the only metadata that's open-ended, instead of having "release version", "milestone", "component", etc the system uses labels. The issue list column repertoire is adaptable so that you can select labels you've defined as listing criteria. All of the open endedness may be an invitation to pandemoneum but the focus is on having the user interface make it easy for the user to do the right thing.

Some of the administratively defined aspects of a project include the issue creation template (defines the prompts that issue creators will see), project links, project discussion groups (using Google Groups), project blogs and activity notification email addresses. The system will support issue tracking feeds. Most of the metadata that will be visible on the project summary page that newcomers to the project will see.

There's currently no "tarball download" service and integration with other Google services is in the works. For the time being, any downloads made available must be done within the limit of the quotas on your subversion repository (100 MB). Plans for importing and exporting, creating APIs and so forth are underway (the issue tracking seems like a natural fit for Atom and Atom Publishing Protocol).

Congrats to Greg and the Google Code team on a great launch!

( Jul 27 2006, 03:46:06 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060726 Wednesday July 26, 2006

OSCON Keynotes (July 26, 2006)

I missed the first keynotes (I just arrived in time for Tim O'Reilly's "what technologies are hot according to these slices on the data" bit that he does) but enjoyed Greenplum's Scott Yara talk, School of Rock. He highlighted the parallels of open source development and rock and roll. I'll paraphrase his points.

Open source, like rock and roll, has flourished simply because people enjoyed it. Like rock and roll, money has jumped into open source and an industry has swelled around it. Like rock and roll, open source threatens the establishment but also mutually coopts and becomes the establishment. Yara showed a funny "twins separated at birth?" photo pairing of Rick Rubin and Richard Stallman! What will sustain open source's integrity (like rock and roll's) are the intangibles, the real emotions and inspirations the drive innovation. The popularity game isn't a measure of quality... just because it's widely downloaded doesn't mean it's good just as Britney Spears' and N'Sync's sales success aren't validations of "good" music. So, beware of the vogue of open source, people are starting to believe that open source is better but don't let that undermine what's important. For those who are building their business on open source, go for the $$$ but keep your integrity. At that point Yara ran a little excert of Metallica goofing on a radio promo production (from Some Kind of Monster?), the ironies of choosing them as illustrations of how money changes everything, given how they coopted and have become the music establishment, were high humor for me. Nonetheless, Metallica like a lot of successful open source software projects have succeeded by being a little dangerous, by being genuine and not bothering with the constraints of the legacy establishment.

Anil Dash gave a talk about Trying to Suck Less: Making Web 2.0 Mean Something basically outlining that beyond the technology stack (i.e. LAMP), there are higher level tools that developers can employ to suck less (yep, I confess, at Technorati when we can't quite kick the butt that we aspire to, we focus on sucking less). Citing the technologies that have grown out of SixApart's software plumbing, he highlighted that all successful Web 2.0 compnaies are using load balancing, messaging, caching, filesystems and other scalability and performance platform components. In SixApart's case, perlbal, memcached, mogilefs and djabberd are the core technologies that they build on ... and, so the pitch goes, should you if you want to suck less.

Those the high points of the morning (so far).

( Jul 26 2006, 10:00:31 AM PDT ) Permalink

20060725 Tuesday July 25, 2006

Technorati's Extreme Makeover

In case you hadn't heard, we've had a lot of things cooking at Technorati. Besides the engaging new look, the new features and the complete overhaul of URL search and link counts, we've been making great strides in our blog spam mitigation (you wouldn't believe the stuff we catch ... and the shear quantity of it!), our internal caching and messaging infrastructure and our data center network. Of course, there's still much to do but we've been heads down on it; if you haven't checked us out lately I think you'll find that our efforts to improve the front end, the back end and all of the cogs and pullies in between have been moving forward.

I'm really proud of the team I work with at Technorati! If you'd like to join the team, we have a lot of innovation ahead. Grab me this week at OSCON and tell me about how you'd like to materialize the real time web! I'll also be moderating a Microformats BOF, this will be a good opportunity to talk about the implementations for producing and consuming microformats. See ya in Portland!

( Jul 25 2006, 10:37:36 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060506 Saturday May 06, 2006

The Evils of Blogger's URL Recycling

Blog publishing services typically propagate updates about new posts from blogs (ergo, new blogs too) by pinging or publishing a changes.xml file. But what none of the services provide is an "un-ping" -- blog indexing services such as Technorati don't know when a blog has been deleted from a service. I noticed this today when I found http://blogtrarian.blogspot.com/ participating in a link farm infesting Blogger's service. This can happen because Google's Blogger recycles URLs; when a blog is removed from the system, the URL is freed for reuse.

That particular URL is one that dates back to 2004, it was dormant for several months but just came to life recently with spam. The historic posts (until August 2005) look like normal blogging fare but the recent posts are clearly just splog content. We'll have to work on "un-pinging" so it's easier to distinguish dormant blogs and dead ones.


( May 06 2006, 03:13:14 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060505 Friday May 05, 2006

Google Is Full?

So Google's CEO Eric Schmidt says his servers are full, hmm. Tying that to SEO'ers griping about their indexing, Andrew Orlowski speculates that it's web spam besetting big daddy. Could be but the hard data isn't out in the wild. The numbers that we can see are that Google is spending several banana republics worth of GDP on capital expenses:

Google continued to make substantial capital investments, mainly in computer servers, networking equipment and its data centers. It spent $345 million on such items in the first quarter, more than double the level of last year. Yahoo, its closest rival, spent $142 million on capital expenses in the first quarter.
Referring to the sheer volume of Web site information, video and e-mail that Google's servers hold, Schmidt said: "Those machines are full. We have a huge machine crisis." (read more)

If the problem is spam, then certainly it's Google's own doing. The elephant in the room is that the acceleration of web spam everyone's talking about is fueled by AdSense, often aided and abetted by Blogger splogs, Google Pages, Google Base, etc. The spam ecosystem is within Google's capacity to reign in but the don't-be-evil company is making too much money on click fraud with plausible deniability to do anything about it. Is Google having problems handling web spam and "filling up" their machines? Cry me a river, all the way to the bank.


( May 05 2006, 02:09:19 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060504 Thursday May 04, 2006

Thwarting Kleptotorial

When I read the words on

Microsoft yesterday reached a tentative $70 million deal to settle a California class-action antitrust lawsuit, according to a statement by the law firm representing the plaintiffs in the suit.
at http://www.satishlive.info/?p=27 I had the distinct sense of deja-vu. So I ran some queries against Technorati's index and sho-nuf, I found the exact same content had already been published by InfoWorld. Ah, there was an attribution at the bottom... but InfoWorld didn't publish under a creative commons license. Looks like blatant theft.

Then I checked the next post (http://www.satishlive.info/?p=28) on that blog and read:

I took a new blog search tool called Sphere for a little spin this morning and found it useful.
... hey, didn't I just see that somewhere else? Yep, this time it was PC World and no attribution.

It's safe to surmise that this is kleptotorial laden with AdSense and stuffed into the update stream. I've seen screenscrapes and feedscrapes on splogs before but they're usually easier to identify visually, I had to look more carefully at this to note its spamminess. Is there a market in alerting publishers to copyright infringement? Obviously this stuff should be removed from Technorati's index but is there a more valuable service to publishers that should be provided here? How much would you pay to find out about misappropriations of your content? Is there a market for Technorati to do something like Plagiarism.org to fingerprint blog content?


( May 04 2006, 09:34:17 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060502 Tuesday May 02, 2006

The Colbert Smackdown

In case you've been hiding under a rock, the blogosphere is abuzz about Stephen Colbert's weekend dressing down of George Bush and just about everything else inside the beltway. If you haven't, see the c-span vids: or read the transcript

The chatter (even art work on flickr) about it is frantic. Thank You Stephen Colbert has 700 links right now (this is a blog that came into being less than 72 hours ago), it's getting about five or ten links per hour at the moment. The videos are the most linked-to youtube reels on Technorati. How wonderful it is to have an administration that is so bad, the opportunities for high humor are so many. Why did we invade Iraq?


( May 02 2006, 09:27:30 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060430 Sunday April 30, 2006

Link Raising Won't Pay The Bills

I have developed a great deal of respect for those who do fund raising full time as a profession, it's a tough business. The Happy Valley Odyssey of the Mind teams are trying to raise money to send themselves (the kids) and their coaches to the World Finals and, so far, it's been tough moving that along. With basically three weeks left before the big trip to Ames, Iowa, the thermometer still has quite a ways to go. If you can't donate today, how about linking to their site? Sure links won't pay the bills directly but if getting the word out means that someone who can help with the bills will find out about it, maybe it can help indirectly.

Put a badge on your site with this code :

A study cited by the pros found that donors say they have more money than time. In this case, the teams are putting in all of the time (that's the point of Odyssey of the Mind, it's all of the kids' creativity and intellect applied to problem solving); now they just need to pay some bills. If you can't donate cash and donating your time won't impact their endeavor, what can you do? Donate attention! OK, admittedly badges aren't the most attractive things, but you can take this one down after the World competition. So for the month of May, if you can't send money, send 'em some links!


( Apr 30 2006, 09:42:34 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060428 Friday April 28, 2006

Search Crib Notes

There are so many weird and wonderful things on the big search services, you need cheat sheets to keep track of the specialized types of search that they provide. The Yahoo! Shortcuts page has a bunch o' tricks for searching Yahoo! The Google Cheat Sheet has coverage on the search operators and parameters that can be fed to their query systems. Well, we don't have crib notes or hacks books about us (yet) at Technorati, but we're working on being that cool, too <g>


( Apr 28 2006, 10:51:05 PM PDT ) Permalink