Let's Call it Bob Launches PC World Killer

One of my pet peeves is new product X is announced in a category where product Y is predominant, and the headline reads "Y killer X announced". (PC World is especially bad for this.) Thing is, X rarely ever kills Y - no matter how much endless hype it gets. Sometimes X isn't even meant to kill Y - they're designed to solve different problems, and fill different niches (The columnists hyping X are always disappointed later when it doesn't kill Y like they said it would - obviously they know better than X's makers what it was supposed to become). To anyone who disagrees with me here, please announce Let's Call it Bob as a Z killer in whatever medium you have access to, where Z is your favourite website - obviously, because its on the Internet, and has content, it can replace any news or opinion site, and the availability of comments makes it capable of killing any social networking site.

Thank you very much for reading tonight - we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


Apparently I'm blogging again ...

One more thing - a couple excerpts from a CBC news bulletin about a family who lost their house because their barbecue blew up:

The family had been cooking steaks on an outdoor barbecue and they were inside when it exploded.

Doug Hamer, the Riverview Fire Rescue chief, said the family members escaped, but didn't even have time to get their shoes on.

"The whole second floor is burned off it. There's fire damage on every floor of the house," Hamer said.


The Riverview firefighter said it was a good thing the family was inside when the explosion happened.

Later in the article:

"And any items like that shouldn't be left unattended. It's not a good habit to put your cookables on and walk away."

I see the general case there, but wouldn't someone be dead if they'd been standing beside that barbecue when it blew up? (Ok, Ok, the reports from the neighbours said there was a fog (I'd assume propane) that formed around the BBQ beforehand, but if that hadn't been noticed, or just mistaken for more smoke?)

Ham Radio Will Never Die

I am not a ham radio operator. I have never seen one outside of movies. I would not know what to do with one if it was handed to me. But ham radio will never die. If I remember rightly, it played a big role in Katrina cleanup, and just today I saw this story, about the recent cable cuts and subsequent Internet outage in LA:
Even worse, the vandalism affected the local police, fire, and ambulance services, as well as making it virtually impossible for tens of thousands of people to call these services in case of an emergency. (Local ham-radio operators jumped into action, fortunately, becoming a key communications medium between first-responder services and setting up way stations at strategic locations for people who might be experiencing an emergency.)
Computer tech is too complicated - it depends on too many things - even I, a half-trained computer scientist, would be basically useless if forced to try and get something working on 40-year-old computer systems - I just don't know how things work at the low level (that to be rectified somewhat in this summer's classes). Internet, take this as your warning.

How to solve AI: Hire 10,000 spammers to do it for you

I laughed out loud when I saw this article - its a brilliant idea. CAPTCHAs (the funky distorted text that proves you're human to various websites) have made spammers highly motivated to solve optical character recognition (OCR) problems - there's apparently a $500,000 prize to break the latest state of the art. And, if that Artificial Intelligence problem is broken, well, there are plenty of other ones to solve - anything that a human can do that a computer can't is both a good basis for next-gen CAPTCHAs (using images, maybe), and an unsolved AI problem.


That line in the sand

Chris Walley, over at News from Farholme (check out his Lamb Among the Stars series as well - its pretty awesome) just put up a post about how, in many areas of life, we draw a line in the sand, and keep thinking everything is ok, as long as that line isn't crossed, and we live with our heads in the sand sometimes (yes, I know, that's one sand metaphor too many - Dr. Walley is a professional author, I am not). Here's an excerpt:
In a complex world it is easy over issues of concern to mark a line in the sand at some particular point. You turn your attention elsewhere, constantly glancing back at your line in the sand and, as long as it remains untouched, you conclude that all is well. So, for example, I consider that everything is all right as long as I can walk down to the city centre in daylight without being mugged. There are many such benchmarks in society and in our lives. Indeed I suspect almost all our public and private morality is composed of a series of such benchmarks.


Linux Foundation Attempts to Displace FAT

An interesting idea - that won't work. The Linux Foundation wants the industry to move to an open format for storage devices, rather than Microsoft's proprietary (and outdated) FAT. Which would work great - if Windows didn't run on ~95% of consumer desktops. You need Microsoft on board to switch USB drives, etc., off FAT. Microsoft earns royalty money off of FAT, and can use it as a lever to get smaller companies to pay them. Microsoft thus has no incentive to support anything but their own proprietary file systems in the Windows client. It'd be nice, but it won't happen - you give an 800lb gorilla whatever it wants, and Microsoft is definitely an 800lb gorilla.