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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Tech Predictions, Five Years Later

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Five years ago, inspired by a Yahoo! Answers question (their top answers), I put on my tech futurist hat and wrote up some quick prognostications about
Which products, used by few today, will be essential in five years? This was published, incidentally, on Vox (now defunct). Are you getting that mid-2006 vibe yet? Well, it’s been five years (that was quick), so maybe we should take a look.

I won’t reproduce my original article (linked above), but I’ll go through each of the predictions and make some comments:

  • Software as service is standard – My prediction was that social networking, media sharing, and all kinds of apps would be increasingly integrated/prepackaged OOTB. I think that this has been born out, certainly on the mobile and device front, although this year may be the inflection point for the desktop (iCloud, ChromeOS, etc). Even without that, probably the majority of consumer computing is now service/browser based. I find myself totally dependent on many cloud-based services (Evernote, Checkvist, DropBox, Google Docs, GMail/GApps, Twitter, FB, etc). Also, the majority of my small business’s software is also cloud-based.
  • Global digital identity / reputation / relationship system – my prediction was that online/offline personas, relationships, and physical presence would be tied together, potentially controlled by a single company. I think in mid-2006 I would have guessed Google would end up taking it all, but FB was a strong contender, and they’re on top at the moment. Still, as of mid-2011, this ball is still in play, and there are certain components (location, reputation) that are still almost complete tossups. Note: while FB has been enormously successful and will almost certainly be the first Internet company to hit 1B actives, there are some signs that it may have peaked in its developed markets, so it’s not invincible. There’s also a lot of potential left in terms of social utility that’s still completely unexplored (and only in the most superficial ways in many other cases).
  • Digital media – I predicted streaming/wireless syncing of media from anywhere. While iCloud was only just announced (to compete against Amazon Cloud Drive, and Google Music) and music has been lagging a bit (although celestial jukebox services like Spotify and Rdio have been hitting it out of the park, so maybe unfair to dismiss music completely), we’ve seen this come true much more for video. Maybe this is due to the competition traditional TV/Film has faced from the YouTube/Internet video juggernaut (my first YouTube video, uploaded just over 5 years ago). Netflix in particular, which not only has overtaken web traffic, but also BitTorrent. Expect the cord-cutting to accelerate. One last observation. Amazon’s current homepage menu now completely highlights digital goods:
    Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more
  • Smart phone – I think I hit this one 100% percent. Not much to say about it. Well, one caveat is that while there were rumors of an iPhone floating around for years, it wouldn’t be announced for another 6 months. Apple gets huge props for single-handedly helping to drag the lagging handset/telecom industry into this future, as well as totally shaking things up with its App Store. I’m sure there are some charts somewhere that show recent numbers on mobile vs fixed Internet use, but if that number hasn’t been crossed, I’m sure it will be soon.
  • RFID – I was totally wrong. At Lensley, we’ve been doing some neat RFID integrations with clients, and RFIDs have had huge adoption in thing that touch people’s daily life, like in supply-chain and public transit (as well as less well thought out ways, like US Passports). On the whole, though, they’ve remained too expensive and too niche to get much consumer love (kits from Sparkfun notwithstanding). While NFC in Android (an RFID-compatible superset) has gotten lots of hubaloo, there’s pretty much zilch in terms of real world use, much less anything remotely spimey. We’ll have to see how mobile payments pan out over the next couple years. (2012?)
  • Self Monitoring – While the Quantified Self has been getting some traction (a conference! breathless writeups!) and there are a proliferation of services and devices (Runkeeper, FitBit, Gowear Fit, Zeo, Withings, etc), this is still a pretty niche/nascent movement. I have no doubt it’ll keep growing, and there are some pointers (the proliferation of Feltron-like reports for social activity, checkins) that there’s a tipping point approaching. We’ll see
  • Personal Aggregators – I saw the other day that Flipboard’s at 400M flips/month, and one might argue that Facebook’s news feed algorithms, modern blogs (Gawker, HuffPo, Engadget, etc), or even Twitter have stepped in to fill big roles in terms of filtering the bombardment of crap, but it seems like treading water. I would have expected some smarter/more robust attention management tools to have been developed, but maybe I’m completely wrong on how most people handle infoglut.
  • Shared everything – obviously wrong about fine-grained privacy. Facebook has given us a “mostly private enough sort of for now” model that’s been pretty sucessful. Certainly at moving everyone torwards the social-everything model (you win some, you lose some).

Of my long-shots (things that I thought would be awesome), we actually got one of them in a huge way. At the time I had written this, I just received my iRex Iliad ($700) after waiting for years for an honest to goodness E-Ink device. Sadly, it was a pretty useless white elephant of a device. However, the display was phenomenal, so I threw it on the list. In late 2007 Amazon released the first Kindle, and a few weeks ago, Amazon announced that it is now selling more Kindle books than print books. The Kindle 3, BTW, was the best-selling product in Amazon’s history.

3D printing/fabrication has gotten a lot more traction (even a recent Stephen Colbert interview), as has the maker movement in general. Although it’s still niche, the pricing is right. At $1300, the Thing-O-Matic is cheaper than most people’s first laser printer.

AR HUDs, are as ever, another 5 years away. (The OVF on my X100 is pretty sweet though.)

OK, that’s all well and good. But how about the things that I missed completely. Here’s a short list:

  • Location – while I tangentially mentioned location, I never listed LBS, mapping and other location services explicitly. Looking back, this is a 100% obvious thing, considering how much usage has exploded since. My only excuse is that being hip-deep/working for so long on local/map/mobile stuff at the time probably blinded me to how ubiquitous it wasn’t for the rest of the world while writing this. (I was working on geocoding/map/checkins at Upcoming, and from ZoneTag to Checkmates, to Yahoo! Maps, I was surrounded by all kinds of crazy LBS/geo/mobile stuff).
  • Twitter – I probably first saw Twitter about a month after I wrote my original post. At the time it was “twttr” was a completely different beast – very SMS focused, like group chat. I passed, and didn’t even bother signing up until a few months later when visiting with friends in the UK (it got a lot of early traction because it was cheaper than texting). It took a while (early 2007?) for me to really get to grips with Twitter (writeup here). Kudos to Jack, Noah, Ev, et al for trying out something new, and then working at it for years to refine it. It’s gone through a lot of transformations (mostly for better)…
  • iPad – I was a close follower of the Mobile+UMPC+Tablet industry at the time, and if you had told me that in a few years Apple would have released a friggin Dynabook with 10 finger multitouch, 10 hour battery life, amazing responsiveness, and an a complete App Ecosystem (backed by 10s of millions of sister devices), selling for $500 I would have smacked you. After which, I’d have gone out and bought a lot more Apple stock. Like the iPhone when it launched in 2007, the iPad came from a few years in the future and dragged everyone else, kicking and screaming.
  • Wikileaks – Even during the year of the iPad launch, however, probably the biggest and most unexpected story of 2010 was Wikileaks (some of my favorite writeups). It has literally changed the world, and the most amazing thing is that it’s been a story that’s been in the making for years, if not decades. Wikileaks and many other stories happening right now (the Arab Spring, Anonymous, LulzSec) in many ways epitomize Clay Shirky‘s postulate that “Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring… It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen.”

OK, in hope of publishing soon, I’ll be wrapping up now. No 2016 predictions from me, but maybe it’ll be worth catching regardless up in a few years. For those that are really interested in the things catching my attention these days, here’s a spring graph I made early last year:

On My Mind

Update: An editor from the International Business Times dropped a line yesterday with a few questions. Here’s the writeup they did today in the Luxury and Brands section today: Blogger Correctly Predicted the Future in 2006 (Mostly)

Fujifilm X100 First Impression

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

I’ve been looking forward to the X100 for months, and have been in and out of a couple X100 forums, so it’s been interesting to finally have one in my hands now. (Actually, due to the way preorders overlapped with shipping, I’ll have two, but obviously one is going back, unless someone in LA wants to pick one up).

It’s still early days – I’ve only gone out shooting once (I’ll be heading out shooting tonight as well) and I’m still getting used to how it handles. I know it’s capable of capturing fantastic images, but coming from shooting tens of thousands of frames on Canon DSLRs over the past decade, adapting to the X100 has been a bit of a challenge so far.

The lack of rangefinder patch, focus screen or some other equivalent is killing me right now (the EVF is not my idea of a good time), but maybe that’ll pass. That being said, I’m actually looking forward to shooting the heck out of this thing. I’m sure it’ll make me a better photographer in terms of thinking about what I’m shooting, estimating distances, and thinking about DOF. It’s certainly not a P&S, and I’ll no doubt miss a lot of shots, but I plan on trying to carry it everywhere, so we’ll see how it goes. (I’ve ordered a Luma LoopIt strap.)

For those considering the X100, I’d probably have to say that this isn’t the camera you want to take with you to evening social events, not unless you really want to work for your photos. While the bright lens (F2.0) and amazing High ISO performance (totally usable at 3200) and quiet leaf shutter would seem to make it great for low-light candids, the AF seems more finicky than average, and sadly, the fly-by-wire focus ring is pretty much useless right now.

That being said, I plan on working primarily in MF mode and zoning, so we’ll see how that works.

Happy Accident

Also, there are a lot of niggles in the firmware. On the bright side, these could all be fixed and there seems to be some noises from Fuji that they will work on the firmware. On the negative, that historically hasn’t been the case. I’ll be keeping a running list of things I’d liked fixed here:

General

  • Startup Times: I’ve managed to get it starting up fairly quickly (about 1s?) but out of the box it took so long that I kept thinking it was broken.
  • File writing: file writes seem to block operations? Is this 2011?
  • ISO settings don’t persist across modes
  • Even in full manual mode, the aperture doesn’t seem to be physically set, so there’s shutter lag. More of an annoyance than a dealbreaker
  • Yep, the battery goes from “low” to shutdown in < 5min; in general power usage/management seems to be rather poor. There must be a better compromise for responsiveness/power usage. Canon DSLR powerpacks are about the same capacity and last forever.

AF

  • My current #1 focusing issue, at the cause of most of my misfocused shots is the OVF AF parallax. The FW fix that would help this greatly would be to recompose the AF point with the focal plane (just move it along with the framelines). More discussion here.
  • Low light AF; is this the best it gets?
  • The focus-frame size can only be adjusted in AF-S; I’ve find it enormously useful if it could be adjusted in MF

Focusing

  • The biggest problem is the focus ring doesn’t work at all for covering distances; it’s not helped by it being incredibly laggy as well. This should be an easy fix with a better acceleration curve, and allowing that to be user adjustable/distance-dependent
  • In MF, since the command lever is used to enter EVF zoom mode, wouldn’t it make sense to allow the lever to be used for focusing as well? Actually would be a lot less finicky than the ring; you could also use one or the other for rough/fine focusing

Buttons

  • It’d be nice to reassign the RAW button (I’m always shooting JPG+RAW, I’d much rather be able to assign that to movie mode or the ND filter)
  • Macro should just be a toggle instead of popping up a menu – it’s either on or off! Same w/ ND – these are probably my biggest usability quibbles after the first week.
  • Auto ISO should be a toggle in ISO menu (so you can easily flip it on/off in the OVF fn mode); actually, for night shooting, being able to toggle Auto ISO off even easier (long-press?) is even more important; it really screws with you when the metering if off by more than the exposure compensation…

Video

  • Manual focusing while shooting. The AF is especially clueless when shooting video
  • It’d be nice to be able to set the fn button (or the RAW button) to go directly into recording

OVF

  • The histogram doesn’t seem to be right? It doesn’t reflect aperture or shutter speed changes?
  • The range scale is good, but would be nice to show the hyperfocal distance as a marking (or as others have suggested, a mode/way to jump to the hyperfocal distance like the GRD)
  • In the post-capture EVF review, it’d be nice to have an option to show brights/histogram; being able to have a 1s or even 0.5s preview would be nice as well

I’ll be trying to post more regularly to my flickr account.

After a couple weeks with the X100, I posted an updated list on Engadget.

SXSW 2011 Post-Mortem

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

(This is gonna be a long one, so if you’re sticking around, enjoy some tracks from some acts I caught; the Civil War/Revival Folk was big this year)

I was meaning to post something up sooner, but alas, crazy work deadlines and SxSARS have conspired against me this week. Miraculously, I managed to stave off sickness for all 10 days in Austin, but I ended up picking something up (I think) on my plane flight home (I’m looking at you coughy mccougherson in the next seat over). In any case, some less than organized thoughts while they’re somewhat fresh.

First, on SXSWi (Interactive), I think Gruber nailed it pretty spot on:

Used to be that SXSW[i] was an interesting conference and a great weekend experience. Now it’s a terrible conference and a good-but-crowded weekend experience.

As someone that actually lays down my own cash for SXSW, I was pretty offended by how horrible the conference setup was this year. I think Matt might have had more success with my Lanyrd than I did. This was by far my worst panel year ever (this was SXSWi #12 for me, and the past few years were fine, thank you very much), not because of the panel quality, which has continued to improve, but because the logistics have gotten precipitously worse. The panel/room scheduling was a mess (with some of the most popular sessions in the smallest rooms), and the half-assed shuttles (unmarked, not on any schedule, never there before or after sessions, taking you on a loop around town; some unlucky people apparently got shaken down by similar unmarked pay shuttles) and across-town campuses was an unmitigated disaster (the word clusterfuck is the term that comes to mind). I met some friends who had much better experiences – they did the sensible thing and just didn’t bother attending anything not in ACC/Hilton. Lesson learned.

Anyway, if I went to SXSW for the panels still, I’d be kicking and screaming for a refund. I’ll let others argue about the ethics of taking money from attendees that the conference clearly doesn’t have the capacity to support. My simple suggestions for fixing things (as there were sessions I would have love to have caught):

  • If you’re going to be selling Interactive Badges, where people are paying for panels, they need to be within the ACC block. Move Film panels if you need to, find some creative locations nearby (lots of boarded up stuff), or (god forbid) stop fucking selling badges if you’re over capacity, but having to choose between a 1hr roundtrip or a $12 cab ride to see a panel at the Hyatt is pretty much the definition of bullshit. (even worse were those that made a hike to find the panel they were going to was full or canceled)
  • Millions of dollars in badge receipts and you’re telling me you can’t UStream all the sessions and make them available in simulcast and archive form for attendees? This seems like a completely reasonable and rather simple solution. If a speaker doesn’t agree, fine, mark it on the schedule (or tell them tough noogies), but this seems like a no-brainer for most of these.
  • Stop being fucking babies and open up your schedule API to Lanyrd, SCHED, etc. These tools are way better than anything your team has done, and if there was less time wasted writing their own scrapers to your (not well formed) data, they would be more accurate and could coordinate better – especially for tracking attendance, demand, etc. This year, SCHED provided Foursquare with its SXSW event data. Why? Because there was an API and they had their shit together.
  • In an interesting regression, conference staff seems less willing to swap rooms, even when there’s an obvious mismatch (and an obvious swap candidate right next door) a half hour before the session…

OK, that’s all the indignation I can really muster up. Etsy threw a better conf down the block. That’s pretty sad yo.

Anyway, I’ve never been a fan of the “SXSW is too big” meme… but, I found that this year, much more than the past couple years even, that I had some issues for the first couple days getting into the SXSWi groove. Primarily, SXSWi is a time for me to meet up with “200 of my closest friends” – the people of my tribe that I might only see once every year or two. In the past, it was much easier to depend on serendipity (and over the past couple years, some dependable end-of-night hangouts), but I found this to be a bit harder this year. Part of it I think had to do with the aforementioned shitshow with panels – I didn’t realize how much of my dinner plans depended on the group of 5 people that I’d run into after the last panel session (of course, this was also my first year over a decade without a Break Bread w/for Brad to kick things off…).

All that being said, I ended up having a pretty good time, especially once I realized I’d have to work a bit harder at social planning, and rallied.

  • The Old Timers Ball was a great idea. During SXSWi, I have two rules of thumb that have served me well: 1) no waiting in line and 2) I don’t mind paying for my own drinks. (Especially during Interactive, many people seem to break #1 for #2).
  • I don’t believe I had a sit-down meal until my 3rd day in Austin. I did however have the pleasure of sharing and introducing fried oreos to more than a few friends. The East Side Drive-In was one of the best surprises this year. If you didn’t make it out there, you have something for your TODO list now.
  • Speaking of pleasant surprises, two words: CNN Grill. So good that I’m not even going to make the obvious snarky observations in relation to the quality of their reporting.
  • The following hashtags (on 4SQ! barely used Twitter @ SXSW) were useful: #noshitshow, #noline, #oldtimers
  • I mentioned this in a tweet, but despite the hype (and my own personal expectations) that GroupMe or Beluga would be useful, it turned out that 4SQ was much more useful for coordination. I ended up in 5 SXSW GroupMe groups, but it turns out that while GroupMe might be well-suited for small groups of strong-ties, it’s absolutely useless as a serendipity enabler. 4SQ wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good (more in-depth thoughts below).
  • Cell networks stood up much better this time around, both during Interactive and Music it seemed like. I was using Sprint, which dropped down to 1x much too often, but also had 3-4Mbps 4G available (at the cost of destroying battery life).
  • Interestingly, because of the huge new venues that had opened up (the Power Plant, the new ACL, the Pepsi Max Warehouse), I ended up swinging into some mega-parties during interactive that were relatively uncrowded. The night we agglomerated a gaggle of Brits into a big nerd pack, we rolled into the RedLaser Chromeo sans-line (there were maybe 500 people at a probably 2000 capacity venue?). Rolling in at the end of the 4SQ Big Boi concert, and into the Microsoft Yeasayer party were similarly pleasant experiences. Maybe all those hundreds-thousands of people standing in line at Mohawks and Stubbs is a good thing? It seems like there was definitely a big gap in terms of good real-time crowd reporting…

Which is as good a segue as any to talk about 4SQ. First of all: holy crap are these guys hitting it out of the park. Between the great 3.0 features and the crazy biz dev (AMEX, etc), it’s just great seeing 4SQ really starting to fulfill some of that LBS potential. (it’s only been a decade or so in the making, right?) Comments in particular, super useful this year. It’s with that in mind (and the fact that I actually lived up to my Super User status this year) that some constructive criticism is offered:

  • Two 4SQ apps, 4squareand7yearsago and flicksquare were especially nice, especially since then former had an “early adopter” edition during SXSWi that sent you a history of your checkins from 2 years ago. A nice reminder of how your checkins could be personally valuable
  • While I had mentioned that 4SQ was more useful than the group chats for coordination, it was still not ideal. A few thoughts in that regard:
    • While the checkin is useful, two verbs that I was most missing were “heading to” and “leaving.” Being able to signal intent would be killer, especially if you were trying to catch up with someone or vice versa. This could be a picoformat in shouts (like “>” or “/l” with @names), but would be nice if it were parsed in the system
    • Along those lines, it seems like something like Ditto where you could propose a meetup/location would be super useful as a 4SQ feature rather than a separate app, especially if it integrated with some realtime status
    • I didn’t end up rolling this out due to some complications, but one of the things that I worked on for the SCHED map was a way of reporting realtime status (lines, crowds, lateness) to a venue. There’s no reason this couldn’t be implemented in 4SQ
    • The map view was pretty useless with a lot of friends checked in. More interesting views would be heatmaps that showed say a time+density based visualization (venue trends) as well as say, relative crowdedness to people you knew. The ideal venue at SXSW is actually the least crowded venue with the highest percentage of people you know checked in!
  • That being said, while 4SQ was OK during Interactive, for whatever reason, it worked way better during Music. Ended up catching a bunch of bands and having a bunch people roll in to meet up based on checkins/shouts. Also super great way to ask friends what the line/crowd/lateness status was.
  • A heavy concentration of 4SQ users meant that you rarely had to search to find your checkin location. Which is good, because SRPs continued to be astoundingly bad. Searching for the Hilton or ACC or Convention Center would rarely turn it up in the first several screens (which would seem impossible if even the most basic popularity/activity ranking was being used). Also, this may be Android specific, or maybe based on service timeouts, but my Favorites rarely showed up at the top. Lastly, as a SU I saw things that I constantly would want to merge, but just couldn’t (unless I’m missing something in the Mobile UI)
  • Related to “riding” on checkins, I hope (but doubt) that 4SQ are tracking this? I (and I suspect most people) tend to pick friends checked in when hopping on their checkin locations – there’s some crazy future data-mining+awesomeness generation potential there (even beyond the current co-presence data being used).
  • There’s no way to unsubscribe or block a user from the app! Or the mobile site?! Or, watching kathrynyu unsuccessfully try, even via iPad. WTF?! That’s bad!
  • Sadly, iOS Notifications has actually caused a big regression with 4SQ this – while I didn’t notice it on my Android phone because notifications queue into the notification bar, using my iPad even for a few minutes made me realize how it sucked big time for iOS users. Basically, like the bad old days w/ Dodgeball SMS’s (the social app that punished you as your friends used it more as I liked to put it), except iOS Notifications are even worse, popping up in a constant stream in the middle of your screen. The only solution I can think of really of (besides waiting for iOS 5?) is for there to be an easier way to turn Pings Off for users or to institute internal digesting/summarizing/rate limiting against iOS notifications.
  • Annoying niggle only notice through mega-usage: when you successfully checkin on Android, it doesn’t update your location in your listing. This is especially annoying when you’re on a slow network since it has to poll to update. In general, having a “last updated” status would be useful. Overall 4SQ still has a ways to go to be more useful when you’re offline, even updating the time rendering at least would be a good first step.

SXSW has been “on notice” for me for the past few years (I had originally decided that 10 years running was really longer than I needed to do anything, but it’s just been too fun to stop), but this year, at the end of SXSWi, when I realized I still had 5 more days, I was pretty sure it’d be time to take a break (surely I have better things to do with $4K and 10 days). However, Music was actually a total 180: completely re-energizing in all the ways that Interactive was enervating. I had a great time.

Instead of taking video, I ended up using a combination of 4SQ and a new app called Whoa to track the bands I caught (66 rated, yeah!). This year, SCHED tracked just under 7300 events (almost 50% of the parties and music events were unofficial), with over 4500 users (tracking on average over 60 events each)… As I side-note, while I know SXSW has a sometimes rocky relationship with “unofficial” events, and heck, even with SCHED, but, it’s a big part of the reason they’ll be getting my Platinum badge money if I’m back next year, not to mention why its worthwhile for most of the bands that come. It’s the fact that bands will play multiple shows (building buzz and letting fans catch them in an otherwise impossibly packed schedule) that really distinguishes SXSW from everything else.

Interactive peeps, if I catch you in Austin next year, sadly, it’ll probably be in-spite of SXSW rather than because of it.

SCHED Mobile Maps for SXSWm

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

(cross-posted from the SCHED blog)

Hey SCHEDxSWers. SXSWm is in full swing, so it’s a bit of a crazy time to push out new features, but what the hell, right? In that spirit, here’s a new feature I’ve been working on that has been super-useful for helping me navigate around.

Simply put it’s a map layer that includes your SCHED as well as every other event that’s happening over the next few hours. But wait, there’s more! Since we have a few thousand people making SCHED’s this year (yeah!), we actually have some decent data on how relatively busy any specific show is going to be. When you click in, that’s represented by the length of the red bars (with longest being most busy).

I’ll be trying to add a couple more features, over the next couple days, but I think it’s pretty useful as is and we’d love to hear your feedback as we whip this into shape.

Map Overview Map Detail

Here are directions on how to get this working on iPhone and Android (we haven’t tested anything else yet, so let us know how it works elsewhere. It’s just a KML map, so it should work anywhere that supports it).

This is the map URL, replace ‘lhl’ with your username:

http://atx.sched.org/lhl/map

On Android, all you have to do is type this in the Google Maps Search Bar. Make sure you type the whole URL with http and it’ll give you what you see in the screenshots.

On iPhone, unfortunately, you lose all the detail information with the default map, but if you go to http://maps.google.com/ in Mobile Safari and type in the Google Maps Search Bar it should work.

On iPhone, there’s a free app called My Maps Editor that you can use (it’s great, but you need to click in preferences to make it refresh), and on both, loading your map URL in Google Earth also works.

Let us know how it works for you (though it’s fresh untested code with sharp edges, so it might not!) and feel free to send bug reports to lhl@sched. If none of the directions make sense, don’t worry, we’ll push it into the main mobile site as it gets more baked soon.

SXSW Music 2011 Playlist

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I haven’t been very diligent listening to the SXSW torrents this year, but my schedule is already plenty packed: my current SCHED. (My SXSWi is much less structured; primarily planning on catching up with old friends).

Anyway, before things get officially crazy this week (I head into Austin on Thursday), I made a little share a quick and dirty playlist of some of the bands I’m most excited about catching live:

Bonus Track: Not playing at SXSW, but I just stumbled on a great track that Quantic spun at his set last year:
Nicolas Jaar – Mi Mujer (Wolf + Lamb 2010) by Clown and Sunset

New Code: autotunnel

Friday, March 4th, 2011

It’s been years since I wrote my original post on using SSH tunnels for SOCKS proxying, but since I’ve been meaning to dig into launchd more, I figured it was time for an upgrade.

Way too many hours later, I present autotunnel. It’s a couple configs/scripts that work together to automatically (re)create your SSH tunnels when you’re set to a Network Location that requests a SOCKS proxy. It’s now a one step process (change your Network Location in the Apple menu) to get secure.

(I also found an app that’s quite similar, sheepsafe. It’s a Ruby-based daemon that does automatic location switching based on “trusted” networks. It switches post-network connection (WatchPaths on SystemConfiguration) but I don’t know if that’s a practical concern or not.)

Old Code: pystatsd-flickr

Friday, March 4th, 2011

I was digging out some old code and realized that it might be useful for some, so threw it on github. Nothing special, just a lightweight python port of some of the old Flickr statsd that I wrote… almost two years ago. (time flies!)

If you’re looking to run something fancier in production, it looks like Etsy has some great stuff going on (see also).

Anyway, if you just want a quick graph and/or don’t want to setup Graphite, the code I’ve put up should get you generating an RRD pretty quickly.

SXSW 2011!

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

It’s getting close to SXSW time. I spent some time today starting to fill out my SCHED in earnest (and to make my @SXSWPartyList reservations.

Probably my best discovery so far is SPIN’s 35 Must-Hear Acts at SXSW. Found a bunch of bands great bands that I’ve missed while being way too busy:

Personal Data Storage 2011

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The last time I spent much time on personal data storage was over 2 years ago. Since then, all my NASes and most of my disks have actually been themselves in storage.

While I’ve been nomadic, I’ve mostly been haphazardly filling up 2TB 3.5″ external disks and various 2.5″ portable disks. Lots of these are dupes however, so now that I’m a bit more settled, I’ll be trying to bring these in line.

To that end, I’m building a new storage filer, and potentially will build a second as a backup if it works well. I’ve decided to take the ZFS plunge so I’ll probably be running FreeNAS which has ZFS support and is USB stick friendly. Here’s what I picked up last night:

  • Patroit Xporter XT Boost 16GB Flash Drive – the 8GB is potentially faster, but price/MB is better on the 16GB. (the XT Rage is a bit faster than the Boost, but the casing can block other USB ports). There may be a 5th SATA port I can use with the included HD, but I’ll probably pull that and boot off of USB anyway, save some power.
  • HP ProLiant N36L MicroServer – this seems to be the best solution right now for a build-your-own NAS. It’s <$400, it's much faster than an Atom solution with about the same power consumption; supports 4 drives, sadly no hotswap. It’s actually about $50 cheaper at Newegg, but if you’re in CA, tax and shipping make it a wash w/ Amazon
  • 4 x WD 2TB Caviar Green WD20EARS drives – these drives are cool, quiet, and fast enough. I’ve been using them for years and haven’t had any problems. There was just a crazy $20/drive rebate that apparently I just missed, but jeez, $85 for 2TB? Just remind yourself how much that would have cost even 5 years ago.
  • 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL9 DIMM (Kit of 2) – HP thoughtfully includes 1GB of RAM with their MicroServer. Like the 160/250GB hard drive… it’s marginally useful. The server maxes out at 8GB, but 4GB for $44 is a pretty reasonable price. ZFS apparently really likes memory for cache, but lets get real. We’re not doing much mission critical work here.

I’ll post an update once everything’s up and running, including final kill-a-watt numbers.

Checkvist is my Task List

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Like most geeks, over the years I’ve gone through a lot of a lot of task management tools (most successfully, OmniOutliner and TVO), only to go back to using text files (which unfortunately, tended to accumulate on multiple computers at multiple locations, I still have a few megs of files tucked all over the place). Lately I’ve been using a lot of Evernote, and as one of the few things that synced flawlessly (although Dropbox has really changed the game there), I used that for about a year or so as my main task “manager”, and used FogBugz for development-related stuff.

After the latest round being really unhappy w/ my setup, I took another look around what kind of online/shared options were available and stumbled onto Checkvist early last year. Although there are others that do more (Toodledo, and of course, Remember the Milk), Checkvist was the one that stuck the best, mostly because of its simplicity and speed. Also, probably the biggest factor (and a big contributing factor to the speed aspect) is that it can be almost entirely keyboard driven. It’s a moded editor with tons of chained shortcut keys. You can see the appeal to a longtime vim user. It also has decent multi-user sharing baked in from the start, which is nice for small teams (although there are a few things missing that have been stumbling blocks for adoption by my co-workers).

That being said, despite a few things that originally seemed like dealbreakers (lack of mobile app, for one), over the past few months, Checkvist has managed to take over as my primarily task manager. I attribute it primarily to the parts that it gets right: keyboard driven UI, search, list switching, expansion among them, that are just unmatched in anything else I’ve tried.

Here, BTW is my ongoing Checkvist Evaluation/Improvement List:

Checkvist’s closest peers are probably Todoist, which has a few nice touches, but seems to be inferior to Checkvist in just about every way, and Workflowy, which is conceptually very interesting (dynamic scoping/zooming, keyboard everything, and while slicker, is too limited to be really useful for me (even less metadata, no sharing). Also, I suspect that the lack of modalness actually makes the keyboard nav a lot more complex than it otherwise would need to be…