Journal: News & Comment

This is " July 2006," a page that archives an entire month's entries from my online journal. The latest material for that month is at the top. For my newest entries, visit the home page.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 - newest items first
# 4:40:00 PM:

So far

iPod, Marina, PeanutButter
Lolo napping.
Sleepy Kids

Probably won't blog much, but you never know, since I posted this with the free Wi-Fi poolside at the Red Lion Riverside in Portland:

Poolside at the Red Lion Riverside, Portland, Oregon


Friday, July 28, 2006 - newest items first
# 11:48:00 PM:

Shapes in the pan

CBC back baconOkay Tod, we know you like working at the CBC, but it's starting to get out of hand. It's starting to remind me of Richard Dreyfuss and his Devil's Tower of mashed potatoes in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Except, well, the CBC isn't run by aliens.

As far as I know.


Thursday, July 27, 2006 - newest items first
# 2:49:00 PM:

Why you will never understand your kids

Here is a rule: as soon as an article like this (via Kottke) about teenage slang appears, that slang is deprecated and the teenagers will move on to something else.

That's because it is a jargon whose only purpose is exclusivity. When adults (or other kids who aren't in the right clique) begin to understand it, then it has lost its value.

Speaking of jargon, I've always hated the phrase user-generated content, and Tim Bray does a great, short job today of explaining why.

Twenty-three skidoo, daddy-o.


# 1:33:00 PM:

New semi-favourite diet pop

Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. PepperIt's not quite on par with Jones Sugar Free Black Cherry Soda, but Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, which has recently become widely available around here, almost makes up for the complete absence of Diet Cherry Coke in Canada.



Wednesday, July 26, 2006 - newest items first
# 10:57:00 AM:

City gas guzzler

What does your car say about you? (Via GMSV.)

If you own a Hummer, in particular, you'll find a lot of this sort of thing.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - newest items first
# 3:10:00 PM:

Okay, Mac nerds, go to town

Here are 140 pages of free technical history of Apple's operating systems. It's an expanded version of a chapter from Amit Singh's massive book, since it didn't fit in its original form. For free!

And here are some Web 2.0–style redesigns of famous logos. I actually prefer a few of them to the originals. They're certainly all cheery and gummy.

Both links via John Gruber.


Monday, July 24, 2006 - newest items first
# 11:46:00 PM:

Why hidden fees won't just damn well go away

One of the idealistic assumptions of introductory market economics is that citizens are well informed and thus can make reasonable decisions. Via Brian Chin, here's why that often isn't true, and how it leads to unsavoury things like exorbitant minibar prices in hotels, hidden mobile phone fees, and "resort charges."

Sorry, market economy. Sometimes you suck.


Saturday, July 22, 2006 - newest items first
# 10:03:00 PM:


My podcast co-host Paul has central air conditioning in his house in Cloverdale, B.C. Few people in Vancouver, except in some condos, have AC, because it's not generally hot here.

Except right now. I like hot weather, but when the air is stagnant and it's still 25°C and humid in the middle of the night, I envy Paul and his ilk.


Friday, July 21, 2006 - newest items first
# 5:05:00 PM:

GarageBand improvements

Sent to Apple's GarageBand Feedback form today:

One frustrating feature problem with GarageBand is that when you move an audio region, the panning and volume automation (if any) doesn't move with it. It can be quite difficult to select a set of volume changes and match them up exactly if you've moved the region they apply it, and it's hard to imagine when their NOT moving would be all that useful, since the volume is usually keyed to the particular audio segment.

Also, you can't zoom out far enough, especially with podcasts. If you have an hour-long show, moving segments around gets tired really fast from all the scrolling.

Finally, while it's okay to have GB export podcasts as M4A files, MP3 export is also necessary for many podcasters who want a decent audience (especially for those who listen on phones or other devices that don't support AAC). I find it puzzling that, once you're in Podcast mode, you can't export as anything BUT M4A, not even AIFF, even though that's possible in Music mode.

I know these things work in Logic, but for GarageBand to work for podcasters (for whom it is much better suited than Logic), these are pretty key features. And we musicians would like them too.

P.S. Why is there no "Podcast" option in the "What do you primarily use GarageBand for?" drop-down on your feedback form?

I'm hoping Apple will improve some of those issues in GarageBand '07. I'll definitely shell out the money for iLife if they do.


# 11:31:00 AM:

Hello, I'm Ingemar

My setup has changed a lot, but I still have my four-year-old Ikea Jerker desk. And while I have done a lot with it and even been featured on a Jerker desk fan site, I've never had this kind of experience (via GMSV).


Thursday, July 20, 2006 - newest items first
# 12:53:00 PM:


Did you know that Canada and Morocco have roughly the same population, but Morocco has 15 times the population density? That Afghanistan, Nepal, and Peru are pretty close behind in populations? And that Argentina, Kazakhstan, Sudan, and Algeria are of roughly similar area—all are not that much smaller than India? Same with Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, and Uzbekistan, all of which are slightly smaller than Spain?

Oh, and the greatest population densities? Monaco, Singapore, the Gaza Strip, Vatican City, Malta, the Maldives, Bahrain, and (the monster in the list) Bangladesh. This map (via Darren Barefoot) tells you all sorts of neat things like that.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - newest items first
# 8:10:00 PM:

Flickr colour contest: clogged tubes oh my!

Flickr Colour Contest: Clogged Tubes Oh My!Flickr, the photo sharing site I use, had some significant problems today. They turned it into a neat little colouring contest, where those who saw the error screen can print it out, colour it, upload it back to Flickr now that it's working, add the flickrcolourcontest tag, and maybe win a prize.

Rock on with the Canadian spelling of "colour," too! Even though they're owned by Yahoo! and live in Silicon Valley now, Flickr's founders started it when they lived here in Vancouver. So woo-hoo! Yay for downtime!

Did I just say that?


# 2:24:00 PM:

Links of interest (2006-07-19):

  • Back in 1987, Jared Diamond of Pulitzer prize fame argued that the very concept of agriculture is the worst mistake humanity has ever made. Seventeen years later, in Harpers, Richard Manning made a similar argument. (Via Kottke.)

  • James Chung, one of our co-op students at work, found two informative videos online today: The Science and Art of User Experience at Google (28 mins) and Jared Spool on How to Design for Branding (47 mins)

  • Via Tony, a scale model mountainous landscape built as a presumably secret military installation by the Chinese government, found by people looking at Google Earth satellite photos.

  • My co-host Paul and I from Inside Home Recording were interviewed by Mike Kaye of Switching to Mac recently, and the audio is now online.

  • It was crazy hair day at my daughters' art camp last week.

  • Channel 101's Yacht Rock (not kid-safe), just ending its year-long run, ranks right up there with This Is Spinal Tap as one of the funniest musical satires I've ever seen. It imagines a world where the Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins, Steely Dan, Toto, and others were swearing, infighting denizens of a shorefront marina, battling it out in a contest for who had the smoothest sounds. (They all cup their hands over one ear when singing a high note.) My favourite episode has Van Halen (Eddie, in this universe, is entirely mute) forcing smooth-music producer Ted Templeman into recording their first album by hypnotizing him into screaming in pain at the sound of Michael McDonald's voice. Which is something I generally do without hypnotism, by the way.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006 - newest items first
# 11:02:00 AM:

Mac nerdery

Graffletopia provides a whole bunch of excellent stencil object templates for the OmniGraffle diagramming application for Mac OS X. Lots of cool stuff, though some don't seem to download at the moment. (Via John Gruber.)

Also from Mr. Gruber, a link to the absolutely massive Mac OS X Internals, a book that probably tells Mac nerds everything and way way way way more than we'd want to know about how Mac software systems work, from the ground up.

And it is a mere 1680 pages long, weighing 2.5 kg, or about the same as a small but still healthy newborn. It is also, therefore, not available for free Amazon Super Saver shipping.


Monday, July 17, 2006 - newest items first
# 3:08:00 PM:

Hot hot heat

Ars Technica makes some good arguments that Apple's upcoming pro Intel-based desktop computers, expected to replace the now-isolated Power Mac G5 line, will use the Xeon server processor family.

On another note, someone has posted instructions on how to cook breakfast on the back of your MacBook laptop. Mine does get pretty toasty warm, but I don't think I'd be willing to fry an egg on it.


Sunday, July 16, 2006 - newest items first
# 10:17:00 AM:

How to find podcasts you like

Here are some good tips on finding great podcasts, via Robert Scoble.


Saturday, July 15, 2006 - newest items first
# 11:58:00 PM:

Latest episodes of Inside Home Recording, Lip Gloss and Laptops online

I guess the title says it: IHR #19 (hosted by Paul Garay and me, posted today) and LGL #20 (featuring my wife and her co-host KA, posted last Wednesday).


Friday, July 14, 2006 - newest items first
# 10:47:00 PM:

Jack White, look out: it's my free MP3 blues guitar instrumental "Alpaca Cheese!"

I wanted to see whether my new guitar, with its single vintage-reissue hum-cancelling pickup, sounded as good as I had thought it did in the store in Seattle a couple of weeks ago.

The best test of that was to pick a single amplifier sound, plug in, and start playing. And now there is "Alpaca Cheese," a live-to-disk recording (MP3 file)—with no overdubs, edits, or other instruments—that I made a few days ago and have now published on my podcast and at the Podsafe Music Network. Thanks to Les Thorn for mastering it for me. As usual, you're free to share, podcast, remix, mash up, or do what you will with the tune, as long as you give me credit.


# 11:07:00 AM:

Big big photos

Harbour Centre and Grouse Mountain

In the tradition of the Gigapixl Project, and a couple of lovely panoramas of Vancouver and Paris (via Darren Barefoot)—plus the photo of Vancouver up above—here is a super-zoomable stitched panorama of downtown Sydney, Australia, comprising 169 images taken over 52 minutes and assembled into a single 720 megapixel shot.

Thanks to Tony for the pointer.

P.S. Want more panoramas of those cities? Flickr will oblige: Vancouver, Paris, Sydney.

P.P.S. Here's some weird synchronicity: that amazing red Harbour Centre photo from Vancouver was taken by Warne Livesey, who now lives in this part of the world but is best known for something he did in Sydney—produce Midnight Oil's two best-selling albums, Diesel and Dust and Blue Sky Mining, along with their swan song, Capricornia. I had no idea that he was the photographer when I found the picture.


Thursday, July 13, 2006 - newest items first
# 3:55:00 PM:

Avoid clipping

Sony PCM-D1 RecorderSony's new PCM-D1 digital recorder is too expensive ($2000), has some design flaws, uses Sony's proprietary memory storage, and has a bunch of other problems—primarily actually being from Sony—but it has one particularly cool feature I wish all of these devices did.

As Dan Misener notes by quoting a review:

...a brief shadow recording is continuously made 20 dB down from the normal input and stored in memory for a short time. If a transient peak clips the standard input, the lower level audio is normalized and inserted instead to prevent peak distortion.

Very clever.


# 12:28:00 PM:

Burn the pedants!

In my early days of becoming a writer and editor, when I was old enough to be skilled but too young to be wise, I delighted in correcting people's errors, reveling in my knowledge of how to use "presently" and how not to split an infinitive. But much of the time I was wrong: language is a living thing, reflecting how people use it. Many of the "errors" I corrected simply aren't.

Still, there are reasons many rules exist, and they're worth sticking with for clarity and meaning. It's a sometimes-delicate balance to strike—and why I still find wordsmithing fun.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - newest items first
# 11:58:00 PM:

Blank canvases in North Vancouver

Here's a neat "visual jam session" known as the Blank Canvas Collaboration project, at the Seymour Art Gallery in North Vancouver, where five painters will interact with musicians, poets, the public, and each other over a period of several weeks while they produce three paintings each (15 total).

Steve Horvat, one of the artists, was at one time the regular guitarist in my band, but I had no idea he had become a painter until now.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - newest items first
# 12:17:00 PM:

Guilty pleasures

I like the Georgia font (via Kottke) too, although I don't use it here.

Seven years on, Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" is still a kick-ass song, especially with that tuned-down surf guitar in it. (I do think the mix could use some more bass.)

Oh, and a hard lesson from Robert: "Link to your enemies. It takes away their karmic power."


# 11:02:00 AM:

Audio from onscreen editing workshop available

SFU Onscreen Editing WorkshopLast Thursday I ran one of my semi-regular, full day onscreen editing workshops, largely but not entirely focused on Microsoft Word, for Simon Fraser University's Writing and Publishing Program.

I've now posted selected audio files from the workshop that you can listen to for free:

  1. Part 1: A history of Word: how it looks at documents, and why it works the way it does (MP3 file, about 1 hr 15 min).
  2. Part 2: Wrestling word to the ground: preferences, Track Changes, and other nastiness (MP3 file, about 1 hr 15 min).
  3. Part 3: Editing for the web and email: what's the same, what's different, and how to make it work (MP3 file, about 30 min). Also see my previous podcasts on the topic.

My latest workshop always appears at, and you can look at the top of my Editors' Association page for links to all of them on various web and editing topics.


Monday, July 10, 2006 - newest items first
# 5:14:00 PM:

I love this quote

Doc Searls:

In a crisis like this, the flack might as well go out there and say "My client is curled into a ball right now. Please come back when you're ready to believe my happy face button."


Sunday, July 09, 2006 - newest items first
# 9:03:00 AM:

Never a better time for music

Chris Anderson (of Long Tail fame) in Wired:

Music itself hasn't gone out of favor—just the opposite. There has never been a better time to be an artist or a fan, and there has never been more music made or listened to. But the traditional model of marketing and selling music no longer works. The big players in the distribution system—major record labels, retail giants—depend on huge, platinum hits. These days, though, there are not nearly enough of those to support the industry in the style to which it has become accustomed. We are witnessing the end of an era.

I think he's right.


Saturday, July 08, 2006 - newest items first
# 2:26:00 PM:

Jammin' with the podcasters

UPDATE: MP3 audio and photos now available too.

Here is Chris Pirillo's video of Dave Dederer of the Presidents of the United States of America (geetar), Doug Kaye of IT Conversations (big lowdown bass), and me (many drums) playing "All Blues" in the Gnomedex Jam Band at the Experience Music Project last week:

Gnomedex jam

I know our playing was a bit sloppy (I'm no jazz drummer), but I don't think it really deserves the PG-13 rating at the website.


# 9:32:00 AM:

How to remove spyware, or not

Here is a dismaying tale describing how a company in New York that makes spyware and adware does business (via Brian Chin). Brian also points to a big list of instructions for how to remove various types of malware from your Windows PC.

Even looking at those instructions now, I don't think I would have had any alternative to what I had to do and the end of 2005 when my aunt and uncle's computer became infested with spyware: format and reinstall.

So far my Macs have been unaffected by any of this sort of stuff, and I hope it stays that way.


Thursday, July 06, 2006 - newest items first
# 9:12:00 PM:

Mixmaster Aprigliano and the network discrimination mashup

In the last week, a funny-yet-sad rant from U.S. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, demonstrating his remarkable ignorance about the Internet, has been making the rounds. A similarly incoherent (but intentionally so) discussion of the "net neutrality" issue appears at Ask a Ninja.

Today, John Aprigliano of diabeticfeed mixed those with the instrumental version of my Gnomedex theme into the brilliant "the Internet is a series of tubes" mashup.

One other related thing. At Gnomedex this past weekend, there was an excellent suggestion from Kathy Gill of the University of Washington, restated by Amazon's Werner Vogels, to change the way the debate is framed: stop being for "net neutrality" (which doesn't excite anyone) and start being against "network discrimination."

And, for the purely frivolous: (a) SeisMac turns your new Mac laptop into a seismograph, and (b) if you want to write, it might be better to use a 15-year-old computer, which can boot in 7 seconds, open a huge document just as fast, and keep up with your typing.


# 12:51:00 PM:

Degeneration gap

Figleaf has a good point:

...just as no one has ever lost an election for "daring" to go hatless in the 1950s, and just as no one has been denied a job for "daring" to wear a bikini in the 1960s, so I suspect that within 10 years no one's going to be called on the carpet for "daring" to post naked photos of themselves online.

In other words, once all those MySpace kids grow up and start running companies (some of them already do), they'll be no more shocked by potential employees' sordid online histories than they are by their own: not very much. The only trouble will come in the brief time when those kids are applying for jobs supervised by people who are young enough to Google them, but still old enough to be mortified by what they see.

Maybe that point is already past for most people around these parts. A good thing!


Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - newest items first
# 10:41:00 AM:

Axeman 2006

Silly me. While in Seattle I bought another damn guitar (I hope this doesn't turn into a once a year event):

Derek and Yamaha Pacifica at Emerald City Guitars

So far I haven't had time to play it much, but it's a lovely instrument—I've always been a sucker for a glossy two-tone sunburst finish on a guitar. Plus it seems that the pickup alone is worth about half the price I paid for the whole thing.

Thanks to Lincoln at Emerald City Guitars for the photo.


# 12:00:00 AM:

Lip Gloss and Laptops Episode #19: Gnomedex interviews and prize draw

This episode of my wife's podcast is unusual, in that it's almost all interviews recorded at the Gnomedex tech conference over the beginning weekend of July 2006. But Airdrie and Kerry Anne do have an H20 Plus prize to give away! Listen to the episode on the web at the podcast shownotes page, or download the MP3 file directly (33 minutes, 14 seconds).

Robert WalchThe first interview is with Robert Walch of Podcast411, and took place on the bus on the way to the Experience Music Project. You can see photos of Robert and the rest of our interviewees among all the Gnomedex photos at the photo sharing site Flickr.

Kris KrugKris Krug was the official L&L photographer a few weeks ago, and also gives us a revealing interview.

Arieanna (Foley) SchewberArieanna Schweber (she was Arieanne Foley until she recently married the fabulous Ianiv) discussed her 17 (!) blogs at, her work with Qumana, and her beauty routines. We also have a video version of the interview available.

Boris MannFinally, Boris Mann, who like KK works at Bryght in Vancouver, talks about Drupal, his groovy hair, and his concept of the Man Bench™.

All the interviews took place on Canada Day, July 1, 2006.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006 - newest items first
# 2:52:00 PM:

Come to my SFU editing course on Thursday, July 6

I'm teaching a full-day workshop about onscreen editing this Thursday, July 6, 2006, at SFU Vancouver downtown. There's still some space, so sign up now if you'd like to attend.


# 10:30:00 AM:

The Maffinizer

Now that Robert "Scobleizer" Scoble has officially left as Microsoft's most prominent blogger, Tod Maffin—also known in Canada as "the Todfather" for his early promotion of podcasting here—has taken on a similar role for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and launched a new, actually-official internal CBC blog, titled (appropriately enough) Inside the CBC.

So far it's a pretty cool look inside The Mother Corp. I'm subscribed.


Monday, July 03, 2006 - newest items first
# 10:34:00 PM:

Condolences to Adam Curry and family

Adam Curry couldn't attend Gnomedex, and now we know why: his mom just died. Adam, we're all very sorry at the Miller household.

She was one day older than my dad, who is still very well, and currently traveling in Germany.


# 10:04:00 AM:

All of Derek's Gnomedex 2006 photos

Below are all the photos I took at this year. The big one is my favourite. I've also posted a bit of an audio geek update about my EMP jam session over at Inside Home Recording. Don't forget that many of my posts from the past few days also appear at the Navarik Daily Blog.

Lots more photos from others at Flickr too, of course.

Groovy sphereSpace Needle - Google MapsBell Harbor Conference Center - Google MapsMacBook With Ubuntu 1MacBook With Ubuntu 2Stripey SailWatercolour SailProper SailKA LaughsKA and MacBookLip Goss and Laptops at the Premium OutletsLipglos HostDriver and Lipgloss HostDriver and Laptop HostArtsy FreewaySeattle Traffic 1Seattle Traffic 2Westin Room 1Westin Room 2Westin Room 3Westin Room 4Westin Room 5Seattle Skyline 1Seattle Skyline 2Seattle Skyline 3Seattle Skyline 4Seattle Skyline 5Mt. Rainier at Sunset 1Mt. Rainier at Sunset 2Air and Rainier 1Air and Rainier 2Olympics Marina 1Olympics Marina 2Air, Ianiv, and ArieannaAir, Derek, Ianiv, and ArieannaOdyssey BowDown the AisleBay from the BackPre-chatScreenfulsFlowers for PonziPirilloremarks 2102_4509.JPG102_4510.JPG102_4511.JPGDave Winer and Chris Pirillo at the proclamationAir and Der at GnomedexLaptop crazier!Laptop crazyPirillointro 2Laptops galorePirillointro 1Dave Dederer 8Dave Dederer 3Dave Dederer 6Dave Dederer 5Dave Dederer 4Lunch 3Dave Dederer 7Dave Dederer 2Dave Dederer 1Edwards 13Edwards 12Edwards 11Canter vs. EdwardsEdwards 10Edwards 9Edwards 8Edwards 7Edwards 6Edwards 14Edwards 5Edwards 4Edwards 3Edwards 2Edwards 1Lunch 2Gnomedex 2006 Lunch PanoramaLunch 1Scoblecast 2Scoblecast 3Scoblecast 1Munchie PirilloPirillolunchMany Apple laptops at Gnomedex 2006: Bay Auditorium panoramaPhil "Pud" KaplanA prize?Derek and the BayCease and Desist!Todd Cochrane and Blubrry 2Todd Cochrane and Blubrry 1Party busScoble, Winer, and BlogaholicsTed Leung and Robert Scoble on the busYes, nitrogen onlyNitrogen onlyBlackbird and friendsApollo CapsuleEdwards HandsDave Winer opens Gnomedex Day 2Dave Winer and crowdWe call this device a "laser"Gillmor Gang 5Gillmore Gang 4Gillmor Gang 3Gillmor Gang 2Gillmor Gang 1Second Life in the Xbox roomThe couch zoneThinking about thinking smallBlake from FirefoxCanada Day cupcakePodcast interview 8Podcast interview 7Podcast interview 4Podcast interview 3Podcast interview 2Podcast interview 6The Kingsmen played hereChutes up 3Chutes up 2Chutes up 1Chairpod 1Podcast interview 5Podcast interview 1Sitting among the cubesArieanna and groovy lightsDerek gets floppy haired againLouie Louie displayA winner!Chris and Ponzi dole out prizesLightwall 2Lightwall 1BartenderStripey floor 2Groovy discoFloat, O Head of Gnome! Float!Once More the Floating Head of GnomeThe Floating Head of Gnome 1Chutes and GnomeStripey Floor 1Hangin' at the EMPNight NeedleScoble Street 2Scoble Street 1Apple Store Bellevue SquareApple Store Bellevue: not open all nightTen-O-Six!Yamaha Pacifica HotrodDerek and Yamaha Pacifica at Emerald City Guitars


Sunday, July 02, 2006 - newest items first
# 6:49:00 PM:

Gnomedex photos

Laptops galoreGnomedex is such an intense, geeky experience that it was difficult to find the time or bandwidth to upload all the photos I took. I have some of them up now.

Thanks to the bandwidth provided by the AirPort network outside the Bellevue Apple Store, here is the first batch of my Gnomedex 2006 photos, featuring Senator John Edwards, guitarist Dave Dederer, a cease and desist letter, and crazy numbers of notebook computers. More to come.


# 2:41:00 AM:

Gnomedex's end

So, last night, as Canada Day ended, I jammed in a pickup band at the Experience Music Project with Dave Dederer of the Presidents of the United States of America (who played guitar while I played drums, and drums as I played guitar) and Doug Kaye (on bass).

Then I went downstairs and saw "Water Lilies" by Monet. No, not a print, but the actual original work, as well as others by Cézanne, Picasso, Brueghel, and Canaletto. They blew me away.

That's a night I don't expect to replicate in my lifetime.


Saturday, July 01, 2006 - newest items first
# 5:08:00 PM:

Final Gnomedex event notes

Gnomedex 6: Day 1For people who asked: I'm using an XT Stand for my MacBook. See my post from last month for details.

And don't forget the Gnomedex theme song I wrote and recorded a few days ago.

Also don't forget my wife's podcast at Lip Gloss and Laptops, and Tod Maffin's new official Canadian Broadcasting Corporation insider blog at My fabulous employer who sent me here is Navarik, and the podcast I co-host is Inside Home Recording.

This has been tremendous fun. Keep an eye on my photos and other Gnomedexers', especially after the big party tonight when we have time to upload the remainder of our images.


# 4:49:00 PM:

Phil Torrone from MAKE magazine on open source hardware at Gnomedex

Are we returning to another "kit era?" Let's talk about open source hardware.

  • Tries his best to make things better by hacking things that need changing.
  • Open source and open standards are good.
  • So what about open source hardware?
  • That's what Popular Mechanics and similar magazines were about.
  • There were dozens of books.
  • Soon enough, physical objects will be programmable.
  • The MP3 player is the new AM radio, and it's how PT tricks kids into playing with electronics.
  • Tons of how-tos online now.
  • Parts are getting so cheap that they're more expensive to ship than to buy.
  • And we're getting pissed off too.
  • The Maker's Bill of Rights.
  • Return of the kit.
  • Russian number display tubes are turning into a neat parts supply.
  • All sorts of bizarre devices and kits are now available, and people are buying them.
  • Roomba has created the Open Interface on their robo-vacuum.
  • Companies make kits to control your Roomba.
  • Lego MindStorms allows something similar.
  • What if you could create a SketchUp design and have the parts shipped to you?
  • What needs to be a kit? What should be open source?
  • Voting machines, water purification, medical equipment, public transport.
  • Power measurement and management.
  • Telecommunications boxes and receivers.
  • Open-source heating/cooling HVAC systems.
  • Last-mile Internet infrastructure.
  • Standardized interfaces for logging data from GPS, sensors, data logging.
  • Home automation.
  • Personal are cell phone jammer.
  • Event in a Box, Event in a Suitcase.
  • Agricultural devices, anything else for the developing world.
  • Things where there's a lot of good, but not a lot of money.
  • is built as a howto repository.
  • Traffic and transit information.
  • Musical instruments.
  • Houses, solar panels, biodiesel stills.
  • Self-contained sewage processing.
  • Monitor current rainfall via wiper activity on taxis.
  • Solar cookers, dry toilets, bike-powered grain grinders.


# 4:38:00 PM:

Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! at Gnomedex

What's annoying about social networks and tools online? What can we do to fix it?

  • Good, Dave and Steve are warmed up now and ready for this discussion.
  • Here to represent Yahoo! about social software and social media.
  • "Bloggers love to bitch about things."
  • What are the problems with social software, what can we do to fix it?
  • Think about the need, make them less complicated, connect them so they're not all data islands.
  • Eric Rice: We talk about users, we don't talk about people.
  • Forget the terminology: it's really "I watched this, I downloaded that, I did this."
  • Do user testing, you'll be amazed.
  • We really don't know what normal people do when they sit in front of their computers.
  • Challenge yourselves to think beyond the screen and create innovative, usual ways of interacting with applications.
  • Three dimensions: the geographic dimension (don't forget Europe, Asia, Africa, South America), the time dimension (Office may be dying, but it's still here now), the scale dimension (build platform-like products that people can build niches on top of).
  • Technologies that change the world must deal with all of those dimensions.
  • You can easily proclaim something dead, but what will replace it?
  • Chris's dad uses a computer about 4 hours a day, mostly in Excel and Word, little time online.
  • Kaliya: we need to make the legal regime match what the technology enables, to protect people online the way they are protected at home.
  • The real reason Scoble left is he got too old.
  • But older people are a key demographic for online services.
  • Marc: we need a clear roadmap from Yahoo!
  • There are problems to resolve the old-school and new-school systems within Yahoo!
  • You bought all these companies, so what are you going to do?
  • Hard for people in this room to solve problems we don't know exist.
  • What are Gnomedexers going to do to reach the masses, rather than belly-butting egos?
  • Buzz: you can focus on the MySpace crowd who'll buy ringtones, or you can focus on the people with the money.
  • We're focusing on tools and engineering instead of context.
  • Understand what people need to do in their lives.
  • Step away from the computer once in awhile.


# 4:38:00 PM:

Blake Ross of the Firefox project at Gnomedex

Blake is going to talk about how Firefox went from zero to 12-15% browser share.

  • Okay, if you think Firefox uses too much memory, we know that, we're not talking about that.
  • There are a couple of misconceptions about it: is it about sticking it to the man (Bill Gates), or liberating the world from proprietary software?
  • No. It's just supposed to be an easy-to-use browser that anyone can work with.
  • It was an open source project for the masses—not just scratching our personal itches.
  • Wanted to do legwork to make a good product AND to get people to use it.
  • What do mom and dad want in their browsing experience?
  • Antisocial developers can't build social software.
  • Can't do much about the fact that Firefox competes with IE.
  • How to motivate earliest users to spread the product?
  • Your persoal experience doesn't improve if your friends use Firefox.
  • Thought they only had a year before Vista and IE7 came out for the spread to happen.
  • Firefox emerged in an open-source culture that, in general, ridicules regular users ("lusers").
  • That culture also doesn't like marketing because of its perceived insincerity and dishonesty.
  • In 2004, the image of Mozilla was revolutionary socialist realism, which didn't really work for mainstream.
  • There were passionate early adopters who weren't developers, whom Firefox needed to bring into the process.
  • Spread Firefox was the result.
  • Now those users feel like part of the project: buttons, clicks, NYT ad.
  • Extensions exist because the basic product doesn't need and shouldn't have those fringe features.
  • They also motivate developers to build things.
  • The legal arrangement to have a profit-oriented subsidiary was necessary because of partnership corporate income etc.
  • How many of the downloads orginated in anti-Microsoft feeling?
  • "Take back the web" was definitely about that.
  • For the last four years, IE6 was stagnating as viruses and spyware were taking over.
  • Don't forget that.
  • How can you trust your Internet experience to a company that abandoned you four years ago?
  • Firefox Flicks had some very popular videos like "Whee!"
  • But those don't convince anyone who isn't already a fan.
  • Dave Winer: you're talking about yourself, not about your users.
  • How is Firefox going to improve to be there in the long term?
  • Could there be a Firefox OS?
  • Not looking to scale up to the size of the IE team.
  • A bit of an argument with Dave Winer, Blake Ross, and Steve Gillmor, but Chris wisely cut it off on time.


# 2:29:00 PM:

Halley Suitt on managing creativity at Gnomedex

What is a creative leader? How can we manage creativity. Halley is from She shops for shoes and companies.

  • If her board had been watching my son's development at 8 months, they would have downsized him.
  • He had no interest in crawling, he just went straight to walking.
  • Had to leave space for him to be creative.
  • There are some really weird creative companies who succeed in Web 2.0.
  • What kind of developer environment do they like? The dungeon, elsewhere?
  • Werner: keep teams small (6-8 people). Two-pizza teams.
  • If they start to whine, they've lost interest. Swearing is fine, but no whining.
  • Dan Pink: A Whole New Mind.
  • Maybe optimum team size is 4.6, i.e. the Beatles with Brian Epstein.
  • Fred Brooks: No Silver Bullet (from same author as Mythical Man-Month).
  • The fundamental conclusion: hire good people and make sure they're passionately involved in what they're doing.
  • The rest is ancillary.
  • Don't take the wrong team and try to make it do what the right team would have done. You can't.
  • If you don't train developers, they'll leave, even if they're learning things that would be useful elsewhere.
  • Werner: others said get out of the way, and that's right. Don't just train for the immediate future, train for what interests people.
  • Laugh at yourself. Know when you're full of B.S.
  • Meeting deadlines: keep telling developers what the dates are, at every chance you get.
  • People will want to leave at some point.
  • Don't be afraid to let people move on if they need to.
  • Keep channels of communications open, but avoid interruptions.


# 2:13:00 PM:

O Canada

Eric Rice linked up this fabulous techno version (MP3) of "O Canada."

(It's Canada Day today.)


# 1:44:00 PM:

Kaliya of at Gnomedex

The audience voted to get Kaliya up onstage as a Gnomedex MVP, to talk about her ideas on indentity and community.

  • A contentious discussion about identity, about local community tools for organization.
  • There are tiny slivers available today.
  • What does the world look like with lots of micro-apps?
  • What happens when citizens who participate have their own identity that they can control and move around to different services?
  • We need to use online stuff to support face-to-face communications.
  • Let's not get lost on either side.


# 12:36:00 PM:

Ethan Kaplan of Warner Brothers Records about fans at Gnomedex

How does a big record company learn how things should happen in this new world?

  • Only been in the record industry a year.
  • A music fan for the rest of his life.
  • Created in 1996, when he was 16, and it was the first R.E.M. website.
  • came later.
  • Tries to get people in the record industry enthusiastic about technology.
  • A rock concert is where boundaries are drawn, and they're broken down on the Internet—or they can be.
  • An R.E.M. concert in San Diego in 2003, things happened online that started to break down the physical spaces.
  • Took set list requests online.
  • Ethan did statistical averaging of set lists over the past two decades that fans would vote on.
  • Audience organized by SMS and algorithms asking people to meet in certain places.
  • Trying to take a monolithic beast of an industry to understand that participatory culture is here, active, and necessary.
  • Hierarchies have been implied by the media they were distributed on.
  • That's not necessarily so on the Internet.
  • Murmurs gets more than twice the traffic as R.E.M.'s official site, and makes money while theirs doesn't.
  • Fans matter ore than the bands, because the bands are fans making music.
  • How do you explain tagging to Madonna fans? Maybe you don't: just try to tag as much as you can.
  • How do you explain Technorati to a 16 year old?
  • Mailing lists are no longer all that interested in message boards.
  • It's mostly LiveJournal and MySpace, and private backchannel.
  • Message boards are a pain in the ass.
  • Warner Records isn't Warner Music and the RIAA, so Ethan doesn't get involved in those conversations.
  • How do you explain MySpace to Paul Simon, while also explaining to Head Automatica that they shouldn't post nude photos of themselves to the web?
  • Pop is a machine, not necessarily a music style, and that isolates them from their fans.
  • Newer bands need to know not to put out too much stuff.
  • The great challenges come from artists who get it, like Neil Young.
  • Money can come in all sorts of different ways, especially with all the additional material *around* the regular album release.
  • Easy, micropayment-based transactions can make that happen.
  • Compelling content, easy transactions.
  • Remove the magic of the "mystery" and build a new magic of interaction.
  • Can every artist get this sort of treatment?
  • A balance between the different divisions of the company.


# 11:14:00 AM:

Chris Messina and Tara Hunt of Citizen Agency at Gnomedex

Chris and Tara talk about being small, and working around the margins, and working together to make civilization better...

  • Thinking small.
  • Showing the presentation without talking.
  • The room is actually nearly silent.
  • Improve civilization by making independents able to do what they want and be non-zero-sum.
  • BarCamp happened in six days, and now there are dozens of derivates around the world in less than a year.
  • What are your stories of small success?
  • Boris: you mean you can do stuff without a "giant liquidity event"?
  • People seem to think that you have to go after multimillion dollar income.
  • Succeeding by doing things that people like and respect.
  • Dogster etc. focus on what the users want. Keep a focus on reasonable expectations and building a real business.
  • Darren: meet the 800-pound gorilla with 100 eight-pound orangutans.
  • Derek: don't forget the huge "dark" market of companies and customers that aren't some big hot whizzy ad-supported Web 2.0 thing. Sometimes it's about building web-based, Internet-focused software and services that customers will actually pay good money for.
  • Success means different things at different times in your life.
  • Interaction between independents and big companies, maybe in the same office space.
  • Form relationships with your customers. Forget a "community strategy," just talk to real people.


# 11:10:00 AM:

Phil "Pud" Kaplan on building buzz at Gnomedex

Pud made f***, AdBrite, Mobog, etc. How do you build buzz, how do you make money, how do you be something useful on the Internet?

  • Couldn't figure out what a blog was, but already had one in f***edcompany.
  • Yes, advertising is someone vestigial, and so is the traditional blog.
  • In the ad world, you're either a publisher or an advertiser.
  • There are a lot of ways to get traffic and make money.
  • Phil has about 12 websites, with hundreds of thousands or millions of page views a day.
  • There are a lot of crap websites that are only there to serve up ads.
  • An example of an excellent scam: create a program that scrapes the top 100,000 sites on the web, grab all their content, finds available domain names relevant to the content, and then duplicate those sites with AdSense.
  • What are better ways of building buzz?
  • The press always wants to write the exact opposite of what you tell them.
  • Present yourself as the opposite of the impression you want to make, I guess.
  • When VCs give you money and you put it in the bank, VCs say, "hey, we could have put it in the bank!"
  • "But I'm making 4% interest!"
  • Ragging on things is a great way to get buzz about it.
  • TechCrunch does the same thing.
  • Write about a group, and every person who's involved with that group will come visit you.
  • Create a personality: "contact Pud," not "contact us."
  • Create a website where there's a need for people to come back.
  • Are the old-school media all that important anymore?
  • TV and Internet use are about equal in the U.S.A., but Internet ads are only 6% of ads.
  • Coca-Cola is completely built on branding, but they're missing the kids on MySpace and now they're losing sales.
  • A full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal is $100,000, and that's because it plays on scarcity.
  • There is no such scarcity on the web, unless you set it up to do that.


# 8:39:00 AM:

Dave Winer on the future of stuff at Gnomedex

Blogging, RSS, and podcasting pioneer Dave Winer talks about the past, the future, and the state of the industry...

  • The photo of John Edwards with Chris Pirillo looming is a frightening picture of the future!
  • Let's talk about the future.
  • Two simple ideas: how to make money on the Internet, and is monoculture as an artifact of the 20th century?
  • It's easier for a user to become a manufacturer than for a manufacturer to become a user.
  • The model of manufacturers as wise developers coming down from on high has never worked in my lifetime.
  • Look at what Michael Dell did: have we learned anything about that model of coming from your garage in the past 20 years?
  • Creativity is now distributed, rather than only the best people being able to be creative.
  • Dave got a lot of pushback when he first started blogging.
  • Desktop publishing moved to blogging, and now it's free to publish for nearly anyone.
  • The travel industry used to be centralized, but it isn't anymore.
  • How much information could I get on Seattle before I came here?
  • I could find out yesterday's temperature, but that's about it.
  • We have greater expectations, and we're not disappointed.
  • It's hard to remember how much has changed in such a short time.
  • How did that happen as the newspaper industry is shrinking?
  • The end of centralization in many industries.
  • At conferences, trying to move the conversations into the room from the hallways.
  • Bill Gates didn't have the encumbrances of the behemoths of his day.
  • Today, ads on websites are vestigial of the 20th century.
  • Our websites are ads for ourselves, should represent our best thinking and share our ideas with other.
  • We can make gadgets for each other.
  • Engadget is figuring out what the products should be before the manufacturers do.
  • Current manufacturers will be fulfillment houses for users with smart ideas.
  • What would happen if a blogger who's *already* a blogger decides to turn themselves into a product and run for president?
  • Of course big companies will still be around: billion-dollar companies don't go away.
  • Getting rid of "rankism":
  • How do users get physical products made?
  • Business creation doesn't become easy, it still requires great ideas, persistence, and luck.
  • But different people can create businesses and products now.
  • "Edwards courts tech community" was also accurate.
  • We need to learn how to flex our political muscles, and decide whether we want to be effective in that context.
  • Why invest in the system we have now? There must be a big change coming.
  • Why is Dave quitting blogging? It's not a bad thing, but he doesn't want to blog forever—he needs new things to do in his personal life, and that's all.


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