Your iPad can also be an E-book reader! Yay!

The first thing I saw this morning when I was looking at tech news was this article:

E-book apps for the iPad

The iPad is already more or less an e-book reader and web tablet, but because of it’s proprietary bending, we see immediate development work in order to enable it to handle Kindle and Nook proprietary formats, as well as to enable instant and user-friendly sales for Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I think it’s funny that because of the lack of a true standard and due to various competing DRM practices, once you have spent gobs of cash on your new tablet reader hardware, you will need to immediately download apps that will allow it to also become an e-book reader, or an e-book reader.

Still, between the two designated devices, I still lean toward the Nook. I big reason for this is the longevity factor based on little things like having a replaceable battery and being an Android-based device.

I used a Sony PDA years ago as more or less an e-book reader, and it worked out really well. At the time, I was able to convert several of my textbooks to PDF easily, and some were even forward-thinking enough to provide a standard PDF of the text in the purchase of the textbook. I loved having a backpack’s worth of books available in the palm of my hand, being able to read my assigned chapters one-handed while on transit on the way to and from work each day, and being able to both highlight and make annotations. It made the commute productive, and after getting home, was able to streamline time on research papers and workgroup discussions because I’d already got the reading in.

When between classes, I was able to use the PDA similarly for extracurricular reading. At the time, it was the Harry Potter series, some older Asimov titles, and a load of CS journals.

If I’d had to wrestle with DRM with each of these, I don’t know how I would have had the time at all. Between getting notations synced, getting different titles moved back and forth, and keeping up with all I was working on at the time, the headaches that I hear people struggling with as a symptom of DRM would have been way too much.

The Average user has spoken

The preliminary screenshots of Windows 7 look just like KDE, so the guys at zdnet labs did their own take on the microsoft mojave project:

Thought I’d share.

Watching the Wildlife

“Keeping track of Tux…”

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the LinuxTracker! This occasion reminds me of exactly how far things have come in open source.

I remember reading about this new “Linux” in 1991 that anyone worldwide could contribute to, and thinking of how that would change things. I spent time poring over the supported hardware list and went to the site, hoping to be able to download a copy within a few days in order to try it out the following week. This was at a time when dialup was the standard, and you might have ISDN (downloads @ 128k! Blistering!) at your work if you were lucky. I was the only one supporting all of the UNIX-based clients at work at the time, and I had three minicomputers with variants like SCO and AIX and I had been working in UNIX environments for years at this point. The prospect of a UNIX environment on a desktop machine for my own use and configuration, that was free to use, and had source available for modifying and contributing sounded like a geek’s fondest -ehm- pipe dream. The other techs I was working with at the time agreed. They were doing DOS and Windows support with me, and were excited at the notion.

The rumblings of Richard Stallman‘s ideology were becoming concrete. Of course, even today, Linux is not the HURD that he often wrote about, but it’s the closest tangible thing to it.

/Fast forward/ — a few years ago, the landscape had evolved, businesses rely on Linux variants in the server room, several Linux distributions are in common use, and new ones seem to pop up on a monthly basis. F/OSS is available and more than viable on any platform. It is common practice (especially in universities) to create a mirror download point so that if the distribution’s main site is down or unavailable, you can still get it, and hopefully, can find a mirror that’s in your same region of the world.

This was after the RIAA and MPAA started cracking down on peer-to-peer file sharing. More advanced users had started using bittorrent as a better method of downloading and sharing. The torrents are very tiny files that your torrent client uses to find and update a tracker. Once you connect to the tracker and get assigned to a swarm, the downloads are much more effectively, because the shares are data packets of the file/files, rather than a whole file. This makes torrents better for large files like video and, hey, even ISO images of Linux distributions. LinuxTracker was born to take advantage of this. A distributed network of linux users and enthusiasts helping anyone who is interested to download open source software. These are all legal torrents. The writers of all of the software you will find there did the work pro bono, and want anyone interested to be able to get a copy. It’s really a beautiful thing.

The look and feel of the site have changed a bit over the last four years, but the list of available torrents is impressive, the homepage always showing the latest additions and updates. There is a burgeoning community here composed of daily linux users at levels from ‘curious’ to ‘admin’, always willing to help out.

The remainder of the month is being celebrated with almost daily giveaways to registered users from a wide assortment of tech-related sponsors. The consistent growth of the site and community is wonderful, and seeding the torrents is a very simple contribution that *anyone* can make to the FOSS community, regardless of technical ability.

Shot in the foot

The IT shortage is going to hit very hard.

Once we’ve farmed everything out and can’t seem to get it back together, and use local talent, once nobody goes into the fields of study required, what’s going to happen?

I’m starting to see a lot of IT workers getting really burned out and leaving the field. These are guys(and women) who studied computer science, worked through the trenches of field technician hell, suffered the slings and arrows of first tier support, rode the wave of the dot-com boom, and crawled through the muck of the aftermath of the bust.

We worked at so many places, getting servers to do interesting things, take over tons of manual work, solved interesting problems, developed and implemented “best practices”…

Talking with a lot of cohorts lately, I keep hearing the refrain of the same song, one that says that it’s not understood by business even after all the educating, it’s thankless, the hours and demands are endless, you are always on-call, always coming to the rescue, the money never gets better, there’s never enough help, and there isn’t much of a career path anymore.

I’m seriously hoping that these are not steady trends. I’ve seen all of this in working in many places, but it’s scary to think that it’s so widespread.

high ascii poetry

Just a little blast from the past here. Some of you were around back in the Hayes Volksmodem and BBS days, and will remember this as well as I do.

FYI – a “wahka” is the decidedly “proper” (by popular vote) name for
the characters “>” and “< ". This is in spite of INFOCUS readers of Denver who still refer to them as "Norkies". The Michigan crowd apparently has corrupted the spelling to "waka". To wit, it is - ------------------------------------------------------------ "...a poem we think is about the lowly wahka. Maybe. Well, perhaps---we're really not sure what the poem actually is about. Here it goes:" <>!*”#


Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash,
Caret at back-tick dollar dollar dash,
Bang splat tick dollar under-score,
Percent splat waka waka number four,
Ampersand right-paren dot dot slash,
Vertical-bar curly-bracket tilde tilde CRASH.

original Leitner page
Fred Bremmer and Steve Kroese

I have been thinking back on this recently and was thinking that some new possibilities are possible nowadays with widespread PC usage, the internet, and all of our new web lingo. I’ll be posting a couple of attempts soon. If any of you want to take a whack, feel free to share.

Social Network Outages, oh my!

We were talking earlier today on Pownce about a lot of the micro-blogging and social “heartbeat” networking sites having periods of downtime lately.

It’s probably just some growing pains as more people start to use them. And since they are all more of a “pulse” setup, they are using the networks differently than a page of information at a time.

I think it was Friday, Twitter was unresponsive, then yesterday, Pownce and then the early morning hours, the same thing happened with Jaiku. They all seem to working just fine now.

Does anyone remember a recent outage at Mahalo Follow? Anyone? Beuller?

There are a lot of different social networks out there, and I’m starting to see a lot of splintering. I hope that we start to see some integration tools soon to help us stay connected and also to not have a deluge of information. Everyone has their own personal limit for information dump, and these networks can certainly cause a flood. I’m supposing that with some open API’s, we would start to see a lot of cross-network functionality. updating your “status” in one place will update that status in Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc etc at once, and people who are following you or on your friend list in more than one place would only get a single alert or, optionally, none at all. I’d like to see options for some of this integration, but not necessarily a snowballing effect on social networking as a whole. It’s important that the users are able to separate and maintain “public” and “private” identity as well.

A good example would be to never automatically update linkedin from anything added at facebook or myspace. At least until companies stop cyberstalking, and hire people based on their skills and experience. This might take another few years, and two or three more Petite Anglaise stories, but I definitely hope it comes soon. Not that I have anything to hide: I link everything together. I just know a lot of people who have the need to hide their personal lives from their employers, and I find that incomprehensible.

Then there’s another whole ball of wax when you start to think of integrating dating sites.

I found an article at LLRX that gives an intro to social networking sites and tiny bit of history, just in case you are one of my “less-than-technical” readers.

WinAMP 5.5

The 5.5 version of Winamp came out today, just in time to celebrate one decade of the music software. On Windows platforms, it has often been a favorite of mine. There were times when it fell from my personal spotlight, but through operability, perseverance, and the focus of the development team on great new feature sets that were not available elsewhere, they often saw me trudging back in their direction.

Way back in the early days of MP3 technology, Winamp was the easiest and best option, and besides that, it was the only decent one out at the time that was free of charge (for the basic verion). Yes, Virginia, Windows Media Player did live in the forest during these dark times, but she would not embrace the MP3 format for a few years, opting to push her own agendas, mainly being standard wav formats, as well as her own wma and wmv. Besides, she was highly inflexible, and very few features to speak of. I can’t think of a time when Winamp wasn’t flexible and friendly. It plays tons of audio and video formats, has visualizations, and completely customizable with plugins, skins, and assortments of software development kits if you REALLY want to tweak it, or can’t find someone else’s plugin that does what you want. and that’s been from the very beginning.

Nullsoft has always distributed a single MP3 file with every install. It plays as soon as you launch the player for the first time, so that you know that it is working, and DJ Mike Llama proclaims, “WINAMP! It really whips the llama’s ass!” The company’s name is sort of a jab at Microsoft. Micro-soft being “soft” as in software, and micro- as in the greek µ, meaning small. Null is the term for “empty or missing”, it was “smaller than micro($oft)”. Nullsoft is noted for inventing awesome things as Winamp, Gnutella, Beep, and SHOUTcast, among others, and these are almost all open source.

Winamp sold out to AOL back in ’99, and really suffered for a while, then a couple of years later, lost more market share with the launch of iTunes.

If you have no idea what mp3, wma, wav, or any of this other stuff is about, or if you are just curious, links to increasingly geeky background info starts off by clicking here, by clicking here, or maybe even by clicking here, and continues until you have completely worn out your browser and search engine, of course! …but I got you started.

So it’s time to light ten candles on the Winamp cake, and then it’s ten lashes for the llama’s ass!

Some of the new features:

  • single, unified window (though old school Photochop and GIMP geeks like me never mind grouping functionality and hiding what you won’t use for a while)
  • dynamic sing recommendations(smells like Pandora?)
  • surround sound support for mp3’s
  • there’s a mass auto tagger (I’ve been using an external program for this for a while. awesome!)
  • Podcast directory and auto-downloader(w00t!)
  • even more portable devices supported(yeah. even ipods.), with seperate sync options for each(for those of us with different sizes and brands of portable players)

Stock trading is friendlier with two

Stock trading is friendlier with two people. Or two hundred. Most of the time, when we get into something that has a high learning curve, the best way to dig in is to find a group of friends who already know the ropes, and who will help you out without taking advantage of you. The social aspect is very important because it keeps us from giving up. If you don’t feel like you are lost and completely alone in something–like a lost puppy in the middle lane of the freeway–, you will be more focused on the important bits that can make it all worthwhile.

In the post about the Google stock, I explained that I have never done any trading in the stocks and bonds arena, but have known people who were very much into it, and I went into some detail there about the information available freely on websites, making some observations on how user-friendly they are/aren’t, and could be.

There is a site called where you can set up an account and meet other investors, both hobbyist and professional. You can learn the ropes of stock trading, create and track a portfolio (using pretend dollars, but you could also win real dollars), and get into the game with all of the members who are already there. This is one of the best ways of etching out a good strategy, and testing it before doing anything with real money, and even after you start investing.

You also get a profile page, like any other social network, and you can view weekly standings. Another cool thing is that you are able to view the picks of other members in the “Rookie Challenge”. So if someone is doing a spectacular job in the rankings, you can see what stocks they have chosen, which might help you to build your portfolio as well.

The fantasy trading on this site is based on the real markets, plus a short delay.

If you think you can pick stocks well enough to make money, you should get a profile at mywallst and meet others who do!