Blast from the Past

I’m in Silicon Valley this week getting acquainted with the rest of my team at the VMware offices in Palo Alto.I went out for dinner tonight with two old friends from Mountain View and ran into Dave Johnson – a former colleague from Be ! Dave and I were evangelists together 10 years ago at Be. Dave gave up the tech lifestyle a few years ago and is now involved in various pieces of political activism at the Commonweal Institute,  mostly working on campaigns and the like, most recently for Bill Richardson’s presidential bid. Dave also has his own blog Seeing The Forest.

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on January 31, 2008

Learning to Ski Again

The family has been taking a ski vacation up at Smugglers Notch Vermont this week. The kids have been in ski school pretty much the entire week (a day off one day for a ‘break’) and have improved immensely !

I decided though that it wasn’t fair that the children were the only ones enjoying something so new and fun (and painful, and cold 8-) so I took a telemark lesson this afternoon.

Telemark uses a ski that’s generally very similar to a regular Alpine/Downhill ski, where it’s different however is that the binding is more like a cross country ski in that the heel is not fixed down but free to lift off the ski (sometimes Telemark is also called Free Heel Skiing).

I was a little apprehensive, I’ve not had a lesson for about 20 years (I’ve been alpine skiing for about 27 years). I wasn’t really that excited about lots of faceplants into cold snow. But it was a small investment (with a discount badge I have here at Smuggs it was 20 dollars for the lesson and 20 dollars for the rental skis and boots).

However I was pleasantly surprised, it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. It’s certainly not the same as Alpine downhill skiing, but almost all of the skills I’ve acquired over the years in balancing and understanding (feeling) where my weight is on the ski paid off. I took a few tumbles (3 or 4 I think), but only one decent faceplant. I’m also not too sore – if you’ve ever watched someone telemark skiing it’s an amazingly fluid but surprisingly active motion of rising and lowering and bending your knees as you turn. If they’re good it’s quite beautiful – I’m pleased with my progress but I think it’ll be some time before I’m that good ! I’m a little stiff, but my knees are actually fine, most of the soreness (and it’s mild) is in my quads, nothing worse than a very strenuous day of skiing with a lot of holding a tuck position.

Tomorrow I’ll telemark again (so as to try and capitalize on my lesson), and also so that I’m skiing with the children about as well as they ski !

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on January 24, 2008

Gruber on the Keynote

John Gruber writes :

But, on the other hand, if Apple is charging for the iPod Touch upgrade to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, why is the Apple TV upgrade free? As far as I know, they’re not accounting for Apple TV sales on a subscription basis. I’m left with the feeling that they’re charging $20 for the iPod Touch upgrade simply because they can.

Actually I think Apple did say that they would account for AppleTV revenue on a subscription model – it was one of things that made me realize there would be new features for it, and one of the reasons I was happy to purchase. Unfortunately I cannot now find a reference for that statement.

Also if you’ve not watched Randy Newman’s post keynote performance, you really should – he may be getting old, but he’s still great.

Posted under Apple

This post was written by awk on January 16, 2008

Steve Jobs on Android

In a post Macworld interview with John Markoff of the New York Times Jobs is quoted :

 “Having created a phone, it’s a lot harder than it looks,” he said. “We’ll see how good their software is and we’ll see how consumers like it and how quickly it is adopted.” In seeking not to get locked out of the mobile phone world, “I actually think Google has achieved their goal without Android, and I now think Android hurts them more than it helps them. It’s just going to divide them and people who want to be their partners.”

This seems to repeat the assumption of many people that Google will make money from the applications on the platform itself, or from the simple increase in the number of web users (or hours of web use) and the associated likelihood of eyeballs seeing Google provided advertising on the new platform.

I disagree…

I think Google’s most likely stream of revenue from the phone is from delivery contracts with the mobile operators. Today mobile web browsing is a ‘OK’ but problems of poor wireless speeds are compounded by what is a somewhat inefficient approach to the movement of modern web pages, their graphics and the associated elements of the web experience. Google has a widely deployed (Internationally now as well as domestically) topology of data centers and the exceedingly fat pipes that link them. If Google is in a position to ‘own’ the software on the handset and is confident of localized connectivity between the handset and a nearby Google datacenter they can do many things to improve the handheld browsing experience :

  • Localized caching of information
  • Compression of certain elements above and beyond what’s already done
  • Wholesale replacement of the HTTP protocol between the handset and the datacenter to further accelerate browsing.

These sort of things are services that a wireless operator would like to see to differentiate themselves from the competition, it’s also the sort of thing the operator would pay for directly with Google – a single large source of revenue. It can also be easily made part of any opensource project, indeed even done on the iPhone ! Since the real ‘magic’ is the datacenters, their performance and the smart software therein.

Don’t forget that the lead developers of the Android project are the folks from Android Inc. (an acquisition Google made a few years ago). This is the same team behind Danger and the T-Mobile Sidekick – a platform that has a significant service component for which Danger receives revenue from T-Mobile for operating, providing and upgrading.

This sort of thing is a great way for Google to leverage their widely deployed high bandwidth network and datacenters and start getting revenue to cover the cost of all the ‘dark fiber’ they apparently snapped up many years ago.

Posted under Apple

This post was written by awk on January 16, 2008

VMware at Macworld – Part II

What’s VMware showing at Macworld ?

Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) Server in a virtual environment.

This is an ‘out of the box’ install of Leopard running in an early (preview) version of a future VMware product for Mac OS X – yes it’s based on Fusion.

I’m really excited to be able to contribute to this (though I’ve done nothing yet, I’ve only been there a week 8-) – and I think that lots of people out there are looking forward to being able to use it too !

Posted under Apple, Leopard, VMware

This post was written by awk on January 15, 2008

Sylvie lost her first tooth !

Sylvie’s been complaining of a ‘wobbly front tooth’ for a few months but it’s really not been that loose. However in the past 4-5 days it’s gotten visibly looser. I had expected that yesterdays sledding in the snow would have had enough trauma to knock it out. Which if it had happened would have been very traumatic for every one since we would have need to hunt through the snow to find it for the Tooth Fairy.

However it actually came out very calmly in school today – and of course she was very excited to tell me and show me when I got home. Right now she’s concerned that the Tooth Fairy won’t find it in the gold jewelry box beside her bed – so she wrote a note (to make sure the fairy didn’t need to wake me up and ask me where it was) and attached it to the box.

Posted under Sylvie

This post was written by awk on January 15, 2008

Thoughts on the MacWorld Keynote

I’m writing this ‘live’ whilst I watch the stream of details from MacRumorsLive – I’ve not posted it until the end of the keynote though.

  • Airport Extreme with Hard Drive (aka TimeCapsule) – reasonable product idea and the price seems OK. I really hope this means those of us with ‘original’ Airport Extremes can now use Time Machine to an attached drive (otherwise I’m going to be upset).
  • iPhone update – looks nice, not a lot to say. Maps with location detection sounds good – depending on accuracy.
  • Movie rentals – seems reasonably restricted, price is good too, less than my local movie store and on a par with On Demand pricing from FIOS. Hopefully the catalogue is fully featured.
  • Apple TV Take 2 – this sounds like a new box ? Can I upgrade my current Apple TV in any way ? It’s physically capable of much of the listed features, like HD and Dolby 5.1 (though HD playback beyond 720p24 is not currently specified).  If the box is upgradable to the newer software this makes the iOnTV project even better since it can transcode to the HD formats now – just needs AppleTV to support the playback. Aha – apparently it’s a free update in a couple of weeks, and the price for the base AppleTV is cheaper now too, only $229.
  • New MacBook Air – certainly thin and lightweight, as a programmer though I don’t think I’m in the sweetspot for this device (though I am looking for a new notebook). 13.3″ screen – larger than some, but probably still too small for me. Does have the multi-touch trackpad – could make for some interesting interaction behaviours – but as a developer would I want to develop and app just for this device (can you reasonably mix two control metaphors – multi-touch vs. mouse ?) Does have a hard drive though, that’s a little surprising since I know Apple has some serious brains looking at Flash based storage right now, aahhh but it has a 64GB Solid State Drive – that makes sense. Core 2 Duo processor, but a little slower than current MacBook Pros. Single USB 2.0 port, but no Firewire so you can add external optical drives (and hard drives), but you’re not going to be capturing video with this. $1799 for a machine with 80GB harddrive and 2GB memory, not bad – but I think the MacBook Pro fits my needs better even if it’s more expensive. I do see Michele looking longingly at this when she does her next notebook upgrade.
  • Randy Newman is starting to look a little old – I wonder what song he’s performing (the MacRumorsLive feed doesn’t say) ?

Posted under Apple

This post was written by awk on January 15, 2008

Commuting Options

I’m still trying various options for getting to my new job – recently I’ve been driving (which frankly sucks) but once I get back from vacation in a couple of weeks I’ll switch to taking the train (VMware covers the cost of the train or a monthly parking pass).

Of course if I do feel like driving I could perhaps consider something like this :

Remember Jeremy Clarkson is 6 feet 5 inches tall – he’s unable to sit in his favourite car (the original 60′s Ford GT40) with the doors closed because his head sticks out the top of the roof and the gullwing doors won’t close over the top !

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on January 15, 2008


Via Boing Boing I found R Todd Kings wonderful photos from the various snow and ice festivals that occur in Harbin each winter.

Harbin is a city in the far north east of China (Heilongjiang province), it’s actually further north than Vladivostok. I visited Harbin twice in 1996 when working in Hong Kong. My first visit was in April just as the city came out of deep freeze, but my second was in December (just a couple of days before Christmas) when the mercury was really dropping. If I recall correctly it was 10 to 15 degrees below zero farenheit (-23 to -26 degrees celsius), actually not too bad for Harbin winter temperatures and luckily not windy (it’s so flat around there that 30 – 40 mph winds are not uncommon and they really drop the effective temperature).

Unfortunately I wasn’t there at the right time for the Ice Lantern Party (probably a good thing – even 11 years ago it was popular enough to sell out all the tourist/business hotels in the city), and the snow and ice world didn’t start until more recently.

I’d like to try and go back sometime – I’m sure the city has seen some remarkable changes over the last decade (horse drawn carts were still very common when I was there, even though I was installing a multi-million dollar computer system for the local phone company). Harbin also has some fascinating architecture thanks to it’s Russian influences (most people in the street would try and speak Russian to me – it was more common to see a white Russian than a white European).

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on January 14, 2008

Another Snow Storm

For some reason the poor weather this year seems to like to happen on Mondays ! I think this is the third or fourth Monday that we’ve had either snow or really bad icing !

Today’s Nor’easter is dumping several inches of snow in the Boston area – you can see some of my pictures here. It’s also of course a snow day for the children ! Even better Michele left last night for a trip to Europe (she ran out early to get ahead of the storm – she was supposed to leave tonight), so I get to clear the drive on my own whilst making sure the children don’t get too hurt sledding down the front garden.

The snow from the past storms had mostly melted – but there definitely still a few piles both on the edge of our drive and the rest of the neighbourhood. It’s supposed to stay coldish this week, and there’s another storm forecast for the end of the week – whether it’s rain or snow remains to be seen 8-).

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on January 14, 2008