ten years later

November 7th, 2009

I would guess this clip is about ten years old :


The compute power you see here can be replaced by one or two racks today. For maybe a tenth of the price. I used to know my way around SGI hardware, Irix, OpenGL a little bit. I think it was patch number 1508 that brought me over to the US. Or was it 1805?

None of that matters in the slightest bit any longer. The 7 billion Dollars that SGI had in market cap at one point completely evaporated. The glorious campus they built is still in use today: Google picked it up.

time to let go off perl

October 21st, 2009

just wrote:

$r .= substr($str, int (rand(scalar split // , $str)), 1);

and even though it does what I want and I wrote it down the way I write this it simply feels wrong. Not out of this century.

the unread written

September 27th, 2009

Dennis Baron’s book “A Better Pencil” does not only has a nice title, but going by this Salon Interview it seems to well worth the read.

I tend to disagree with him when he proclaims:

And the funny thing is that you could put anything out there, and somebody is going to read it.

I think there is an awful lot of things that get written today and that will never be read. And not only on Twitter. We tend to apply the existing rules, concepts and understandings for way to long. Cars looked as if you were to put a horse in front of them for way to long. In the past if something got written then it indeed got read. Varying audience. But since publication cost was significant filters on many levels made sure that it was recoverable.

Now publication cost is zero. Yet, we still assume that we publish it and they will view it. This does no longer apply, since their is simply not enough readership to go around.

The corpus of unread things we cared to write is not a bad thing in itself. If we were aware then it would regulate itself.

The error of an assumed audience becomes expensive when you pour resources into something that will never find an audience that justifies the efforts that went into it. That video that you crafted so nicely for your company was not worth it when only a couple hundred people will ever watch it. Company websites cost sometimes 5 dollars or more per visitor. A visitor that most of the time will have forgotten about it after 2 seconds.

post progress

September 25th, 2009

Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre

what we do for a living

September 18th, 2009

nicely visualized

3269 days later

September 8th, 2009

September 26th 2000 I started to count how many pages google had for specific terms. I am moving some data around, so while it was going by on a terminal window it caught my eye. Here some excerpts:

was: 6,290,000 today: 258,000,000 41x

was: 16,000,000 today: 865,000,000 54x

was: 24,200,000 today: 650,000,000 26x

was: 24,900,000 today: 1,500,000,000 60x

was: 5,920,000 today: 342,000,000 57x

was: 15,000,000 today: 503,000,000 33x

was: 27,500,000 today: 301,000,000 11x

you know you’re old

August 21st, 2009

You know you are old when one of your favorite albums gets re-released in a 25th anniversary edition and it takes you three years till you get around to actually listen to it. But even in hindsight I could have made worse choices for the soundtrack of what I did when I was sixteen.

playing by the old rules in a new game

August 9th, 2009

An interesting look at actual web usage of news papers. I like how the author takes abstract numbers and puts them in a meaningful context.

Newspapers used to run things. They used to be everywhere. In Paris a couple of weeks ago I realized at some point that we had not seen anybody reading a paper. Even books were rare. It was not only a sudden but also a complete change of habits.

I think we have no actual idea what this means and will mean for the future. Technology develops in a certain pace determined by the problems to be solved and the momentum and financial interests behind it. Peoples use and application thereof is a completely different story.

In hindsight things seem to make sense. But actually only if you choose to ignore facts that don’t fit the pattern. Texting for instance, now a billion dollar revenue stream for cellphone carriers, was never intended to be used by people. It was considered a byproduct of some engineering mode for cell phones.

The invention of the Kinetoscope preceded the existence of movies as we know them by more than a decade.

Technology for pre - internet media was unable to adopt. It took great efforts to shoe-horn color into black and white TV signals. 35mm was the dominantly width in use of film strips used in movies as long as movies existed, and before they became digital.

The internet connects mostly computers with each other. This simple fact puts it into its own league as far as media technology is concerned. MySpace goes and Twitter comes at break neck speed. Limited only by peoples imagination and their willingness to adopt.

Trying to apply mechanisms and rules from ‘old media’ in the Internet space will be as successful as the applications of lessons learned from WW1 was helpful to France when they felt save behind the Maginot line.

Rupert ends the free phase of the Internet

August 7th, 2009

I often wondered what would be wrong with Rupert Murdoch. And I don’t mean that fact that the mother of his 6 year old youngest kid is ten years younger than his firstborn. I wonder why somebody who is worth billions can not think of anything better than to go to work.

Running an almost proverbial media empire is probably not a smooth way to spend a day. News Corp announced their ‘numbers’ a couple of days ago.
They had to correct a couple of billions in ‘Good Will’ that they had previously on the books.

Following suit is now the plan to charge for content. It does not take sybillic powers to see that this will fail royally. Allot of News Corps page views are based on content that is -let’s say- somewhat shallow. There is no shortage of that on the net. I doubt people ever will pay for that.

And content that might be worth paying for is already non-free. The problem with that is that I rather pick up the WSJ in paper and enjoy the resolution, large display size and fast and easy navigation than to sign up for some thing with an existing media company. Not that paying for content would be bad. The problem is that so far no media company has managed to create a system that works well enough for me to pay for.

I don’t think that Rupert Murdoch will try his pay systems himself and enter his credit into the form that his IT mignons will drum up for this.


May 30th, 2009

In 2007 GM lost $4,589 on each car they sold, in 2008 $4,670. Imagine any GM car, then remove things from it that cost four and a half grand*. This is the car you would get when would try not to loose money on making them. What do you care? Well you should, since next week you will probably own GM. And their losses will (continue to) come out of our (tax) pocket.

* OK, I got those numbers from the Internet and did the division myself, so all sorts of things could be wrong here. And you can also put back about one thousand dollar worth of parts into your imaginary Escalade: That’s what gets spend on marketing to convince you to buy the thing. How about a spare tire, seatbelts, a radio and a fan on the passenger side?


May 30th, 2009

This is a nice visualisation of how the world developed.

everybody has the tools

May 10th, 2009

Tools for people to create content of any kind are widely available since a long time. Still it feels rare when there is something like this.

culture: it’s amazing

July 8th, 2008

DVDs are cheap. They can be. I picked up the habbit to have lots of unwatched DVDs around. My very own Netflix. With the upside that I get to pick from 50 unwatched DVDs one that I feel like and watch it right away. Last night I watched ‘Lolita’. Funny how black and white can feel more real than color flicks. Maybe it’s because color in movies was always exagerated. Pleasing to look at, but hardly a truthful representation of reality. Black and white does not even try to be real.

To contrast that long Kubrick flick I watched “Something Wild” today. Actually it was much better than I remembered it. Maybe I should write a web application that picks up all 48 tracks from the soundtrack and buys them via AmazonMP3. For about 30 seconds they fade in and out to “Pili Pili” by Jasper van’t Hof in the movie. It’s 15:44. iTunes wants only to give it to you if you buy the entire album for $11. Amazon has it for 99 cents. The way it should be. Actually I will be buying mp3s now from Amazon. Having no DRM is how things should be. Collecting DVDs is nice. Specially since they are no longer hindered by DRM. Being able to get music right away, and actually have the file and not some DRM-locked-crap is really nice. I guess I like collecting things.

wrong about being wrong

May 2nd, 2008

It turns out that I was wrong then I thought I was wrong about the Next-Gen of movies on a disc: Blu-Ray sales declined. Bluray might become the first class of enteraintment: Coach has many more seats that 1st. Specially on inner american flights.

people, programmers and bosses

March 22nd, 2008

Paul Graham writes about people, programmers and bosses. I agree. He left out to mention much came from the Google 20% projects. It does support his theory.

I often wonder myself how big companies can actually stay in business. There is real work. When stuff gets done. The core. Things get made. Be it a line of code or a shoe. And then there is all the work around it: To pay the heating bills for the building that the bean counter sits in that supervises the expenses of the health care plan of the person that buys the spare parts for the forklifts that move the pakaging for the shoes from one side to the next.

Since technology can facilitate inter company communication and collaboration it might be that we will see allot of small companies that work one project. As long interfaces between these unit remain efficient they can keep the initiative of a small group and still work on a project that is of larger size. In an ideal world these groups would compete on clearly defined terms which would optimise everything very very fast.

just like Enron

March 17th, 2008

The Feds give JP Morgan 30 Billion US$ so that they can buy Bear Sterns for 240 Millon. A company that was supposed to be worth ten times more than that. I have no clue about econmics. Specially not on this scale. It seems that the people running things have no clue either. It looks like that might get worse - before it gets worse.

polaroid - the end of it

March 14th, 2008

a story in pictures about some of the last Polaroid employees

I really liked my SX 70 and the Time Zero film.

the day google had won, for good

February 2nd, 2008

Microsoft tries to buy Yahoo. For 46 billion dollars. 4 short years ago they would have had that kind of money in cash. And then some. Cursorly googling around it seems that M$ cash reserve has melted down to 29 billion. So they would need to raise money to buy Yahoo. They would get eyeballs and visitors. But then what? The technology running Yahoo is completely free of any Microsoft stuff. Yahoo has been actively supporting things like javascript libraries and other open source related items. Will Microsoft run now Unix servers? They have to, or they will kill Yahoo in the attempt to transfer it to their technology base. Yahoo had years to grow. It’s a start up with 15,000 people. Give or take a thousand that needs to get layed of. Or not.

Microsoft used to be the biggest software company in the world. By numbers as well as in the minds of the people. IBM used to be the biggest computer company. Microsoft can consider itself very lucky if it will do as well as IBM does right in a couple of years. Once Gates had left nothing really worked any longer. People will say that. Maybe Bill wants to pull off a Steve, and come back one day?

Google lost two competitors today: Yahoo and Microsoft will be absent from any innovation for a long time while they try to figure to integrate what they have. Maybe in 2009 they emerge with an ok conglomerate of what they were in 2007. Allot of time to get new things going for Google.


January 14th, 2008

Last pre macworld ‘08 apple related post. I hope. Thinking about what the future might bring I thought about the past. And, actually, in all that stellar success that Apple has amassed there are a couple of products that were actually not doing so well.

Apple TV. Who has one? And, more importantly who would need one? It took a genius like Scoble a mere couple of years to realize that a MacMini could things better.

Apple “Hifi”. Yes, they made a stereo once. I bought one. And then there were 5 other people.

Lamp iMac (gen2). Not really Apples fault. Good design, just to different for people to pick and drag home.

Starbucks: I have not seen any numbers, but i am pretty sure that sales are horrible for those ‘oh I like what I am hearing and like to buy it right now’ impulse idiocracy Pawlows impuls buys.

Aperture. But I rather not talk about Pro products. That’s a whole nother story.

pre Iphone “video” iPods. What was that resolution again? Those were proof that people really will buy anything. OK, they elected Bush the younger 1.5 times as their president, so nothing should surprise.

macworld speculations

January 14th, 2008

Hard not to predict anything right now. Here what I think that will happen tomorrow. Is it actually tomorrow that Uncle Jobs comes down from the Mountain? Anyhow.

New Laptops: Third Generation for what is called the “ProLine” now. First was Titanium, second Aluminum (that stuff that bends when you look at it, keeps AppleCare so profitable). Now there will be a third one. It’s about time. The 12″ not making into into the brave new Intel feature left a gap in the revenue potential field for a suspicously long time. Not sure if the 17″ has such a bright future. Depends what how easy it is to squeeze out a new flavor of laptop.

There will be Blu-Ray. One could speculate that the MacPro bumps last week were announced after Warners killed HD-DVD. In other words: takes Blu-Ray now more Steve time, and the Pro upgrades fell of the key-note schedule because of that?

Those new laptops might have built in high speed internet connection. I would appreciate EVDO. It’s nice. And the Amazon showed that you can built it in, and that Sprint is willing to make deals. Imagine you buy a new laptop and get free non bullshit (t-online / starbucks I am looking at you) internet whereever you are. I use EVDO since roughly a year and it’s just great. Nothing short of that. Technically you get GPS with EVDO for free, I wish that Apples puts GPS where it should be: in every freaking machine. Yes, I like to Google for something and get results that are optimised for my current whereabouts. But GPS would
put the iPhone on the spot for not having it. Something to spin. (Apple likes has a pathological history of lying around battery life).

One could dream that Apple becomes an ISP. The iPhone worked great for them. But AT&T? They get their money, but nobody started to like AT&T. They are still considered the necessary evil. Who loves his ISP? Which ISP is known for being awesome? Nobody. Interesting. There is a market. People are not paying their landline or even cable bills anymore, but they keep their cellphones going, and probably also their Internet connections. That’s money that still is out there. And Apple is known to show a strong desire for that kind of thing. Sucessfully.

Speaking of Money, AAPL trades at 176. I think it will touch 190 after the keynote.

One of the reasons will be that there will be something that let’s people imagine that profits that used be over at Blockbuster Netflix will now also flow to Cupertino. iTunes is a money making machine.

The Laptop prices will look like the current ones. But by the time you have added the things you would like to have those new machines will be pretty expensive. I think a company that managed to get 1,000 US$ for each phone (!) they sell, is looking at money differently after that.

Finally there will be some iPhone news that will keep the sales going. Probably some (3rd party) Application(s) that can be downloaded. I doubt a hardware version 2 of the device. If so, then it would need to be in stores in a very few weeks, so that there would be no gap in the sales.

While the rest of the country sobbers up from the stupid real estate bubble fueled growth delusions, Apple will go on very strongly. So will Google btw. And not many more.

format peace

January 8th, 2008

post format war

It is hard to imagine that HD DVD would come back from the blow that Warners BluRay decision delivered. The internet was busy speculating about half a billion dollars in bribes that supposedly that came down rolling Barham Blvd. I think that the sales performance of DVD makes the Studios very nervous. All too quickly they got used to the huge volume of DVD revenue and a steady increase for that matter. The average american bought DVDs for $53, rented them for $25 in 2007. And he/she paid $32 at the Cinema Box office. For both HD formats combined a single dollar left peoples purses in the last year.

In total billions these numbers look like:

16 DVD sales
7.5 DVD rentals
0.3 nextgen DVD formats (both)
9.6 Box office

The troubling point for the studios seems to be that DVD sales are declining. Already in 2005 DVD set top box sales had gone done for the first time in history. Back then it probably was the fanfare about the ‘next thing’. People don’t like to buy yesterdays gadget. The studios felt they needed to get HD via DVD going. And Sony did the better show and number exercises.

Both formats encoding technology, bandwidth and other core parameters are pretty similar. As Mike Curis eludes to, the scripting technology in HD DVD seems to be more open, developer friendly and thefor hugely favorable over the bloated Java based BluRay implementation. But what’s to expect from Sony.

Flat panel displays sales have taken off, and about a year analog TV will be turned off. With the format war being over the Bluray sales should surge. And, I think, they will. Initially. Many bluray players will be PS3s. After correcting the outrageous price Sony’s next gen box had finally some sales worth mentioning. How many people bought the black box because they could not get the cute white one is a different story.

I wouldn’t be surprised if DVD+BluRay Sales volumes would come out flat in 2008 and from there on further decline. There are three reasons for this future disappointment:

* It’s the internet stupid.
Not only the net alone. Technology progresses everywhere. Hell, my toaster wants more attention than it’s great grandfather did 20 years ago. Media is omnipresent. VHS had to compete with, well, Books and TV. Maybe radio, cinema and newspapers. That’s about it. Bluray faces a vastly different world. None of the existing media emanations will just fade away. And new ones get created with an increasing pace. There is simply not enough time to watch all those movies.

* we don’t care since you don’t care
The Studios have failed to understand their own product. There is a history to this. And others failed similarly: The music industry would be in much better shape, would they have not confused the means of peddling circular things with the end of enabling people to enjoy music. Both HD formats allow for better visible quality compared to DVD. Better bandwidth and modern codecs could make for a great experience. Despite this potential most early Discs that were available have been widely criticized for their poor transfers. Some people felt that they would be better off with a decent upscale of a good quality DVD. People love movies. A considerable slice of the population, and almost certainly the majority of early (media) tech adopters care for a good experience. The Studios should have put the utmost emphasis on quality. And that starts with the film transfer. Even though the studios are not keen to involve creative people more than absolutely necessary, they should have gotten them on board for the launch of the new media. Imagine Steven Spielberg approving a 5 movie disk set claiming “this is how I want my movies to be seen”. People would spend allot of money for this. They would get players, lay cable. The whole thing. Maybe the studios should have gotten together with the ACE and directors guild to develop a approval system. Pay directors and DPs to sign off on a DVD transfer. I would pay happily knowing that the creative vision was intact. OK, in some cases I would simply paying for the drug habit of that one hit wonder boy. But I do that anyway, one way or another.

* it’s complicated
HDMI 1.3 is really exciting, since it not only features greater than bitdepths but also could carry the extended xvYCC color space. While being true, not many people know what this means. And neither should they. DVD succeeded because it was ‘as simple as CD’. No more rewind. That made Hollywood billions. Simple is key. The HD formats are not exactly known for simplicity. And the studios are not helping. Neither do the hardware makers. I find my way around these matters. But it’s my job to understand all this. And if it wouldn’t, then I would really watch another movie than to worry about downsampled movies that were escaping DRM through the analog otherwise. Having two formats was of course a big problem. But even with BluRay remaining it’s not as easy as it should be. Different disc sizes. Flat panel resolutions. Frame rates.
Image processing. And an interface written in Java simply scares me: There are just too many ways developers mess up. Hardware makers and studios alike fall in love with features that have nothing to do with their product. Multi Angle was one of these technical possibilities that DVD had. Studios were all excited about it. Since they didn’t understand what their product is: A movie is one view. One perspective. Everything else is a cute vaudeville attraction or plain and simple porn that desperately tries to stand out (no pun intended).

DVD hardware sales

Variety on DVD sales numbers
2007 Box office

the future is clear, if you are smart

December 31st, 2007

Paleo Future is a blog that collects part predictions of the future. The usual flying cars and rocket belts. This interview with TA Edison is an execption to the rule. He got it all right. Probably because inventing much of those changes were what he did all his life.

Mr Edison contradicts the rule that knowledge dampens innovation.

airport security

December 30th, 2007

Patrick Smith writes about the TSA and how we fight an attack that happened six years ago, that is over and could not be repeated.

format wars, winner: DVD. again.

December 26th, 2007

750,000 HD DVD players and 2.7 million Bluray players have been sold in the last 18 months that the formats have been available. In those BluRay numbers are about 2 Million PS3 consoles included. 4 Million Bluray discs have been sold, 2.6 Million HD-DVD ones. Which comes down to 1.5 Bluray and 3.5 HD-DVDs per device.

The DVD of “Knocked up” alone sold more often than all HD-DVD and Bluray formats combined. I wonder how the marketing budgets would compare.

In 1998 9.8 Million DVD Discs had been sold. Almost ten discs for each player that was out there. People loved DVD. They still do. As for the two replacement formats they could care less it seems. And that’s only partly a problem of the rivaling formats. I think that DVD is good enough for people. Most simply have neither the hardware setup nor the desire to spend allot of money for the extra resolution that the new formats provide.

Here the DVD hardware sales:

315,136 1997 (April-December)
1,089,261 1998
4,019,389 1999
8,498,545 2000
12,706,584 2001
17,089,823 2002
21,994,389 2003
19,999,913 2004
16,147,823 2005
19,788,279 2006
10,252,893 2007 (January - July)

sources: current HD numbers past DVD device numbers, reversed via the linux ‘tac’ command. I had no idea it did exist. DVD disc numbers Warner DVD sales in 1998 DVD sales in 1998 and 1999

that would be nice

December 24th, 2007

cheap solar panels?

That would indeed be nice.

apple and unix

December 20th, 2007

In unix you tell the system via a file called /etc/fstab which drives should be mounted.
Simple. Works. Except for OS X. Some crazy new fancy database sheme was supposed to replace /etc/fstab. It was all so amazing. It is junk, that’s what it was. Didn’t stop Apple-Idiots to claim it would be amazing. And countless websites offered help. What was one line a file became pages and pages of instructions.

Finally with 10.5 /etc/fstab is also part of OS X. It took years. It’s good that it’s there. it’s not good that it did not become available in the updates to 10.1, 10.2, 10.3 and 10.4. Apple is idiotically stubborn sometimes.

mass media?

December 20th, 2007

Almost a year ago 0.02% of all Americans bought a specific record. And it became the number #1 of the Album charts. One in 5,000!

fourty some years ago one in 200 US Americans went to buy a specific Beatles record the day it came out.

Even six years ago the Beatles convinced one in 600 people to buy a record in the week it became available.

And now, I am worried

December 17th, 2007

Over at Independendant Arts Media Preservation I can read:

The complexity of digital media preservation is fourfold. First, data resides on a physical support–a floppy disk, CD-ROM, or hard-drive, for example–and this physical container or support naturally deteriorates. Second, the data itself may decay. Third, most software is proprietary and has no long-term technical support. Finally, hardware obsolescence makes a great deal of digital media inaccessible.

I would merge point 3 and 4 into one. 3 being able to be overcome by open source. Point #1 is also called Entropie, and it’s a real bitch. If you escape all illnesses and accidents it is will get you in the end. But the “data itself may decay” ??? Huh? How so? If bit’s are not what they used to be, than it’s the first point. Data is pure.

It is kind of scary that the people that tasked themselves with the preservation of stuff have such a bent understanding of the thing they like to protect. Somebody probably started his/her computing experience on a bug ridden system like Windows 95. I wonder what their plan against ’self inflicted data decay’ may be.

just don’t tell me it’s new

December 9th, 2007

US Airlines scramble to get internet on airplanes. Which is great. I loved it when Lufthansa had it. I wonder why they stoped offering it. It worked well, and I was more than happy to pay 25 US$ for a flight with internet. Actually, while I used to have a second battery when flying with the ‘Titanium’, I don’t open the laptop anymore these days. There is no room for starterts. And a computer without internet connection is nothing more than a grim tease for me by now.

next war get some rfid tags

December 7th, 2007

The mightiest force ever lost some stuff in the desert it seems.

the horror!

December 5th, 2007

what could go wrong if Siemens and the BBC team up? everything

I am sure there are lots of projects where people try really hard to push a rope. Instead of pulling on it. If the structures involved are big enough they will try. What a waste of everybodies time!

what Annie said

December 4th, 2007

Annie Leonard talks about stuff Whoever she is.

I am with her. To a point. The breastmilk part is a bit much, and on technology she is just plain wrong. Which discredits the whole piece somewhat. And that is a real shame. Since the whole consumerism / consumption stuff weighted against diminishing returns in respect to happyness is a very important point. And there are others in this presentation that are pretty obvious and get equally ignored. Still worth the link, and maybe even worth watching.

Ma Bell, confused.

December 2nd, 2007

So, I needed an 1-800 number. There are lots of vendors. I picked AT&T. They were not the cheapest, but in telco services there are lots of odd offers and services. And it’s not crucial that number. Just something you also need to have. Getting the number itself was alright. They sent an email that it would take a nebolous amount of time (”several weeks”) before they were able to execute my order.

Months passed. No word from Ma Bell. Diving into voice-system-hell. Finally I got somebody that was the right division etc. He simply proclaimed that the number already worked. Which is great, and it actually did ever since. But they could have let me know.

Then I got an email telling me that I had not logged in their Buisness Website for a while, and that they would disable my login should I not do so within 30 days. So I logged in. A question that is innocent enough came up. AT&T would like to know which state I am. Not that they could deduct that from my address. But hey. Of course entering the info brings me right back to the same screen. Oh, Firefox quirk. Can happen.
Safari: Same result. So, do I have to buy a PC to tell them that I am in California? Of course, there are no links where you could contact that division of AT&T and let them know that they website is simply broken.

Neither is there a way to get in touch with AT&T mentioned in that email announcing me to lock me out of the website unless I would log in in the next thirty. Sure, I could spend an hour on the phone tomorrow with AT&T. Like everywhere, once you reach a human things are not even that bad. There are often ways to fix things.

But the problem is deeper than that: AT&T used to be a technology company. They invented the transistor and a couple of other important things. But in 2007 they can not even run a simple website. It fits in the picture that they spend billions, yes, billions not millions, for rebranding. Making them look to good to the outside. While everybody knows that internally it’s just barely good enough. Since they other telco’s suck equally bad they even get away with it. Time for a company like Apple to get into the cellphone Business. No, wait. Ok, nevermind.