April 2009 Archives

Reading about an audiophile who compared the crackling of vinyl to the coughing of old men at a concert, I started to imagine a virtual audience plugin. What controls would you add?
The data chef discusses translation of data from SPSS format, for those who don't have a licensed copy at hand.
A friend of mine in startup-land had a really important meeting with a prospective partner. Knowing the one-shot nature of these things, he literally moved mountains in just a few days, achieving a transformational milestone for his fledgling, early-stage company. How did he do it? Read on...
There's a Twitter "backlash" at the moment as news organizations like CNN start to react to the way people are communicating about the Swine Flu on Twitter. What is behind this reaction, and is it valid? Is Twitter a "petri dish" for hysteria and insanity? Or, is it a useful tool for the distirbution of public health information?
As with threads, a common use pattern for multiple processes is to divide a job up among several workers to run in parallel. A simple way to do that with multiprocessing is to use Queues to pass messages back and forth. Any pickle-able object can pass through a multiprocessing Queue. This is part 2 of coverage of the multiprocessing module. If you missed part one, you may want to start there.
Via the Android Blogging Network, I learned that HTC released new firmware for the Android Dev Phone 1 with the long-awaited "Cupcake" (1.5) version of the Android operating system. The installation isn't too tricky, but you should read it...
A quick update on the Twitter Awareness numbers for the Swine Flu. As of Monday @ 1:57 PM. Swine flu accounted for 2.68% of all Twitter activity, and the @CDCemergency Twitter account continued to experience rapid growth posting a 300% growth over the last two days. In addition to these trends, there have emerged unofficial Swine squatters, do these additional sources of information help or hurt the official effort to distribute public health information?
The Personal Gemone Project is evolving from a small pilot of ten to a massive collection of 100,000 public medical histories and DNA sequences. Find out how you can register to participate in an experiment that will lay the necessary foundation for a complete understanding of how one's genetic sequence affects health and disease.
This is an update to an article I first posted on O'Reilly in 2006. The information has aged substantially since then, and with the recent news about the spread of a new flu strain, I thought it made sense to...
In Foreign Policy, Evgeny Morozov writes about Twitters power to misinform in the context of the emerging Swine Flu crisis. In his article he brings up concerns about the use of Twitter to spread misinformation and makes some broad generalizations about the motivations of the average Twitter. In this article, I response to some of the things Morozov has to say about the validity of analyzing Twitter trends.
Reading Richard Hillesley's IBM, Sun and OpenOffice.org at IT PRO, I was struck at certain rather glib assertion: OpenOffice is more than adequate to the needs of the 95 per cent of users. This is the same thing we hear about Linux. But dare we ask what it if it isn't in fact true in some significant sense?
Here is the most recent version of my Timeline of Patchable and Modular Synthesizer Makers outside the Americas.
As the Swine Flu story develops, Twitter is an invaluable, open-platform for gathering data and graphing trends of awareness. As the CDC investigation into this emerging virus uncovered more cases in CA, KS, TX, @CDCemergency experienced a rapid +85% jump in followers as Twitter became a conduit for critical public health information. While the government tries to get the word out about prevention stragies and instructions for care for the sick, services like Twist and Twitterholic can be used to measure the impact and reach of these public health messages.
The Centers for Disease Control and the Red Cross are using Twitter to get the word out about Swine Flu. Can something as simple as Twitter make a difference when fighting a potential influenza pandemic?
This is a long post. I wrote it while preparing a presentation on RTMFP for Toronto's FITC Flash festival next week. After I recover from the festival I'll post the sample files for the demo applications. The Flash player is...
In the spirit of Bishop Ussher, I am prepared to announce the date the Free and Open Source Sofware revolution will be complete: it is the year 2032! Instead of SETI@home, we need a GERI@home project.
MySQL conference wrap-up: Flash, cloud computing, managing large installations, the value of community, and how to fumble your way to winning the presidency.
Mobile Safari, the iPhone's web browser, has surprisingly weak audio support. But here's a hack I discovered to embed audio playlists.
Apple crushed it (earnings in the most recent quarter). So much for the recession prompting consumers to stampede away from Apple's "high-end" products, as the prognosticators predicted (and the stock market priced into Apple's stock). So what's the moral of the story? Read on...
What does the Oracle/Sun merger mean for Java? There's been a lot of speculation and a fair amount of apocalyptic, "sky is falling" Twitter activity, but does anyone really know what Ellison has in store for Java?
This week, we have an extended conversation with Googler Andy Hertzfeld about his latest Google Labs creation, the News Timeline. And, as usual, the O'Reilly Podquiz, that can win you a free O'Reilly Book....
I sense a bigger enterprise theme at the MySQL conference this year. The pride of putting up a PHP- or Rails-backed web site lies in the past; now people are concerned with scaling into the clouds (figuratively and literally) and ensuring absolute reliability.
Well-factored code often has many small functions. If each adds value, and doesn't just pass the buck, then what do they all do? Typically, they contract their input by making it more specific. Then they delegate these specific data to a delegatee.
If your cloud provider refuses to answer any specific question about their security architecture related to your security requirements, run--don't walk--away from that vendor. Security is one of the first things businesses mention when discussing fears about cloud computing. Cloud computing represents a loss of control for customers and these fears are therefore very valid.
A look at multiprocessing basics. The multiprocessing module includes a relatively simple API for dividing work up between multiple processes based on the API for the threading module.
Consider giving a donation to your local public library this week in honor of Judith Krug, whose death at the age of 69 was announced this morning. Krug defended libraries and the Internet from censorship, and advised librarians how to protect their patrons from government spying on their reading habits.
Database field-length silliness has haunted me throughout my career as an data/information architect, and I've never liked it. "VARCHAR(255)? What? Because in the lifetime of that data, which by the way you'd better be planning to exceed the lifetime of this miserable application, you're never going to need more than 255 characters?" ... So here comes Twitter with it's damned 140 characters.
As the "death of the newspaper" gets continuing coverage (mostly on television), new apps bring the New York Times, USA Today, and now The Wall Street Journal, to your iPhone. I have to ask: why do these apps look so much alike? is there a hidden danger that they might be confused with each other? Looking for an alternative to apps provided by these long-lived journalistic institutions, I decided to download the USA Today iPhone app to see if they did things any differently. While I wouldn't want to see the Times or the Journal mimicking USA Today's look-and-feel, they could learn a thing or two from some of the advanced techniques that USA Today employed.
My computer started acting strange this week: a recent Trojan horse called the Google Redirect. Here is what I did to fix it.
Eric Mock provides today's "Chuckle of the Day". How long does it take to install iDVD? Maybe you should go get a few thousand cups of coffee.
Want a quick tip about searching for header files from the command line? Here's a how-to you can use.
This week, we have interviews from Yahoo! and MIT, both previewing talks at Where 2.0. There's also a new podquiz, this week dealing with Microsoft's poor sense of direction, literally......
As per a recent post to the EC2 forums, there's now support for reserved instances inside the EC2 EU Data Center.
A lot of fuss has been made about Apple's public and private frameworks. Did you know that there's actually a public framework that you're not allowed to use? Here are the facts.
On June 29, 2007 the Free Software Foundation released the GNU General Public License, version 3. What happened since then? Federico Biancuzzi had the opportunity to discuss many subjects with FSF's founder and president Richard Stallman. This interview explores Stallman's views on a range of topics including the relationship between GNU and Linux, U.S. laws around software patents and the major initiatives of the Free Software movement.
If you've been caught up with the controversy about the new DiggBar and its attempt to subvert traffic, here's a quick and simple way to disable it for your Digg account.
Business research usually starts with a list -- brands, competitors, people, products, whatever. This post describes a quick Python script that uses the Google Search API to automate the routine parts of the task, giving you more time to analyze and understand the results.
Few companies have a solid disaster recovery plan and fewer companies actually verify their DR plans are working. One of the often missed benefits of cloud computing is that it makes rapid disaster recovery with minimal data loss extremely cost effective and enables the automation of those processes that can be tested often using automated tools.
Much has been written over the past several years about a growing disconnect between senior business management and IT in many organizations and companies. IT organization budgets grew when the economy was growing, so finding funding for new projects was sometimes difficult but always possible by adjusting priorities. Today, without business justification, such new projects are all but impossible.
Following is an excerpt from Masterminds of Programming, by Federico Biancuzzi and Shane Warden. (Adapted for the web). The Unix philosophy of many small tools, powerful in their combination, is evident in the AWK programming language. Its inventors (Al Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian Kernighan) describe it as a language for syntax-driven pattern matching. Its straightforward syntax and clever selection of useful features make it easy to slice and dice text through one-liners without having to understand parsers and grammars and finite automata. Though its inspiration has spread to general-purpose languages such as Perl, any modern Unix box still has AWK installed and quietly, effectively, working away.
Very interesting observations at Bloomberg on the power of collaboration for education.
I'm looking at the work of a potential non-profit client now. They have a fine website: recently redesigned, it looks good and gives off the air of elegance that they want to project. The client is world-renowned, rich in history and staffed with some fantastically-creative people, yet the website feels more boring than you would think it should. With the rise of the real-time update streams being popularized by Facebook, Twitter and FriendFeed, users are becoming accustomed to a constantly-changing flow of pictures, videos and new snippets. Even actively-maintained websites seem locked in languid stupor in comparison.
This last Saturday I had an amazing experience: At around 2pm MDT I got a phone call from Ian Edgar of EclecticMethod. I'd never met Ian before. In fact, before that moment I had never spoken with Ian. We'd never...
Google's announcement of Java support in AppEngine is more than just the announcement of support for a second language. Java on AppEngine changes the dynamics of the Java ecosystem and redefines the concept of Write Once Run Anywhere.
I bought the program Coda by Panic software. It is a pretty cool app, even though it is not my preferred editor. One thing that I love about Panic software is they make beautiful interfaces. In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how to create a 'sheet' similar to those found in Coda.
This week, we hear from two of the speakers who will be talking at Where 2.0, one on alternative means of sensing our environment, one on telling stories through mobile devices. There's also the answer to last week's quiz, and...
At last after one year, Google announced the availability of the Java for AppEngine platform. When the AppEngine announced last year, the very first issue filed was - a request for Java. Since then lots of Java developers want to see their favorite language supported by the AppEngine. Finally it arrived and let's take a look at the features/limitations.
Try to imagine a world without computers.
Stephen Crocker describes how he wrote the first RFC. An old article of mine on RFC 1287, "Towards the Future Internet Architecture."
A blog on the site associated with an upcoming book, The Art of Community.
This was my second Pycon - since the last two have been in Chicago and on a weekend it has been an easy drive for me to attend coming from Michigan. Since last year was my first time at Pycon...
This is the fifth of a series of monthly columns in the blog associated with the Algorithms in a Nutshell book. Many real-world transportation networks (i.e., highways, power grids, water subsystems) can be represented as Flow Networks. The Ford-Fulkerson technique describes an approach to solve numerous cost optimization problems.
...and, I'm not talking about the language. I'm talking about the stock, Sun Microsystems is down 20% in the futures market @ 8:10 AM ET. -20% On the news of the $7 billion game of brinksmanship, it is important to...
The pipes module implements a class to create arbitrarily complex Unix command pipelines. Inputs and outputs of the commands can be chained together as with the shell | operator, even if the individual commands need to write to or read from files instead of stdin/stdout.
After reading about the latest British concerns over cyber espionage activities occurring seemingly at will across its classified and unclassified networks, I was happy to read about this April 1, 2009 effort by the European Commission which included the following...
Photography on the iPhone can be more than just snapping 2-megapixel pictures. You can also process and transfer the images from the same device that you used to record. For this to work reasonable well, you need a basic...
Following is an excerpt from Masterminds of Programming, by Federico Biancuzzi and Shane Warden. (adapted for the web). When Microsoft settled a lawsuit from Sun Microsystems over changes to the Java programming language, they turned to veteran language designer Anders Hejlsberg to design a new object-oriented language backed by a powerful virtual machine. The result was C#--and a replacement for both Visual C++ and Visual Basic within the Microsoft ecosystem.
@ http://aws.amazon.com/elasticmapreduce/ you'll find an interesting new entry into Amazon's utility-based web service offerings: Elastic MapReduce.
Furthering their effort to "Make Web Not War.", today Microsoft announced the release of the ASP.NET MVC Framework under the OSI approved MS-PL OSS license.
We've been very hush-hush about it, but someone spilled the beans about an upcoming title in the 'Mastering' series (Mastering Perl, Mastering Regular Expressions). Evidently, an unscrupulous site hacked into our content management system and nabbed the transcript of an...
This week, we talk to Eric Gunderson about opening up access to government data, and the mashups you can create once you do. Editor Andy Oram discusses what open Cloud Computing might look like. And, of course, we have last week's podquiz answer, and a new one that can win you a free O'Reilly book.
One of the biggest changes in the way we do things at my office over the last five years has been a thorough but largely unplanned adoption of XPaths as a key tool for managing XSLT projects.

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