25 July 2007

Finally...A Use For Twitter

Until recently, I've found Twitter to be the single most annoying and useless fad since NeoPets and Tamagotchi toys. I still have absolutely no interest in, nor do I understand the fascination with virtual pets. I may be coming around to Twitter however.

The Lifehacker folks are atwitter for Twitter and using it as a productivity-boosting tool as opposed to a sort of micro-blogging platform:
Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing. For some friends you might want instant mobile updates—for others, you can just check the web. Invite your friends to Twitter and decide how connected you want you to be.

I personally don't have much interest in what my friends or family are doing every second of the day or where they are at any arbitrary time when I am not in direct contact with them. Maybe I'm just stubborn and still prefer email, a telephone call, maybe some Blackberry love, or - heaven forbid - face-to-face interactions.

However, following two previous posts concerning access to interesting data sets and an interesting data visualization tool, I noticed My Mile Marker.

Being a bit of a data wonk, I immediately jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon so I could send SMS messages to M3 from the gas pump and fulfill my need for immediate gratification (which may seem like a strange thing when you're generating and collecting data for future analysis). M3 account creation was easier than easy.

M3 has a nice interface and provides some tracking and reporting tools.

I like this idea because I usually compute my fuel consumption when I fill my gas tank but it's nothing I track beyond each fill. I notice trends such as getting 50 fewer miles range per tank or averaging 2 MPG more than usual. I like the idea of viewing fuel consumption trends and identifying when, for example, I added air to the car's tires, changed the engine oil or the gas station began adding more ETOH as it gets colder in New England.

We'll see how this goes.

24 July 2007

On Virtualization

Now, I don't know how far it has been considered in academia or industry but, excuse me if I am naive or simply unaware, virtualization, specifically paravirtualization, could be immensely useful to systems requiring a 1) minimal OS footprint with the ability to swap images in near-real-time, 2) an "online OS" or 3) an OS running on a virtual machine.

  1. Set-top boxes such as (my favorite) the Moxi box or a TiVo could run multiple virtualized guest images, for the sake of a manufacturer upgrading feature sets or remediating flaws, over a consistent, hardened host image that only provides a bootstrapping facility the guest images. Through paravirtualization, presumably, hardware sharing and optimization functions, such as video capture and display/replay, could also be virtualized and provide for a transparent user experience as the various operating images are propagated to customers (presumably over multicast...I mean cable pay-per-view). Additionally, it could also offer rapid roll-back in the event of an image push and a call center flooded with complaints about set-top boxes that no longer work.

  2. Ah, the "online OS." Everything Google does has an entire industry wondering if they are preparing for a browser-based, online OS. Browser-based with bootstrapping through a browser's existing JVM (or something similar)? Others are obviously thinking about this more topically than myself:

    "a bunch of startups like YouOS , Goowy, DesktopTwo, Xin and open source eyeOS are already tackling this exact problem"

    Maybe In a way, Sun is already doing it with their Sun Secure Global Desktop Software (wicked demo, BTW). Sun licensed Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) technology in order to do some of this and the result is as smooth as a MS Terminal Services/RDP session but with dedicated, thin client hardware and a java-based smart card that allows a user to disconnect and later reconnect, at an arbitrary location, and have their last session in-place.

  3. In a way, an arbitrary OS running on a virtual machine is sort of cool but mostly, "this is what virtualization is all about, slow to the table commentator." The Sun solution mentioned above can be considered in this light. Microsoft Terminal Services can use a thick client or browser-based end-user environment and still provide seamless connectivity.
So, I'm probably well behind the curve on this one as far as experimenting with the technologies but at least, to the uninitiated, there seem to be some useful implementation possibilities.

18 July 2007

So You Say It's Your Birthday?

Today I am at the age where I:

  • may not experience another birthday defined by the product of twin primes
  • will not experience another birthday defined by the product of twin Mersenne primes
  • will hopefully experience another birthday defined by the product of cousin primes
  • probably will not experience the first three digit palindromic prime
  • may not experience another birthday defined by the sum of nth and nth+1 primes

I'm not sure this trivia makes me any happier :(

Remember OpenDoc?

I stumbled on this hysterical spoof of the "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" ads a while ago and nearly wet myself laughing. Almost everyone has an obligatory Newton reference when recalling great Apple ideas that were a bit too far ahead of their times. I'll skip the Newton reference and just start in with OpenDoc.

First off, Apple even seems a wee bit bitter when referencing their ideas and tech that never went anywhere. This is the best you can get from them on OpenDoc:

Reference Library

Legacy Technologies

Legacy documents consist of guides, references, sample code, and other resources that have become irrelevant for current product development. Some of these documents describe features, functions, classes, or methods that are no longer supported. Other legacy documents describe currently supported technologies, but the approaches and development techniques described in these documents are no longer recommended.

. . .

OpenDoc is a cross-platform technology that replaces conventional applications with user-assembled groups of software components. OpenDoc allows users to create virtually any kind of custom software solution. OpenDoc is not supported in Carbon.

OpenDoc met its end in a stand-off with Java that never really was a stand-off; they were complementary in the sense that you could develop OpenDoc objects in Java or what every language you preferred (Think C/C++ anyone?). Apple was having a bad day (OK, a series of years) financially, Java was the sweetheart of the internet du jour (second only to Helen) and Microsoft was first to market with OLE (object linking and embedding).

The true beauty of OpenDoc, IMO, was the ability to embed arbitrary objects into arbitrary "containers" as well as extending the container objects. Abstraction, encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism; traditional object-oriented topics, implemented well ahead of their time, as far as data formats are concerned.

The Palm Pilot (and its derivatives) was to the Newton as XML (and its extenstions) was to OpenDoc.

17 July 2007

Microsoft Goes All Wishy-Washy?

Microsoft has historically been considered a rough-and-tumble company who chews up and spits out others firms like a lumberjack with a mouth full of tobacco. Three fairly recent instances however have me a bit confused about their image.

  1. Microsoft claims Linux infringes on hundreds of its patents. The FOSS community goes bonkers. Microsoft refuses to state which patents have been infringed upon. Still no group hug to make up.

    So...Microsoft is emulating SCO but with a substantially larger legal war chest?

  2. Via BetaNews, "In a policy document specifically timed for release this afternoon, Microsoft's general managers for interoperability, Tom Robertson and Jean Paoli, make a play for ownership of the standards issue facing users of competing document formats, by saying the company would support ratification of its own Open XML format along with OpenDocument Format (ODF) as ISO standards, if and only if doing so would promote choice among the world's consumers."

  3. No comment here. I'm still miffed over Massachusetts gutting its CIO's power and appointing Brian Burke, a MS anti-ODF lobbyist to the Governor's Technology Advisory Group.

  4. "Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of media experiences and rich interactive applications (RIAs) for the Web. The Silverlight 1.0 Beta has a go-live license that implies it can be used for commercial purposes."

    It implies it can be used for commercial purposes??? I was happy, however, to see the following on the installation page:

    "For Mozilla Firefox users:
    Save Silverlight.1.0beta.exe to your hard disk. Once the download is finished, click Open. The installation starts."

13 July 2007

Fun With Data Visualization

My last post noted Data360.org and the impressive number of data sets they have available. I just stumbled on a new data visualization tool from IBM called many eyes so....

I grabbed an oil reserve data set from the US Energy Information Administration, by way of Data360.org, massaged it a bit in OpenOffice and fed it into many eyes. Click, click, click and you're provided with a pretty slick visualization.

Go. Go and play.

12 July 2007

Fun Site for Data Wonks

Loads of fun. It's like Wikipedia for data and analysis.