Archive for October, 2006


Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Speaking of anal sex, I went to see if was taken. It is, and it leads to youTube. I thought it would be the perfect domain for an anal sex site. I like it (the name, I mean) a lot.

fainting for cash

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

If I were in the business of making horror movies, I think I’d probably pay people to faint in early showings. This article describes a series of people being overcome at the opening shows of some horror flick or other. That sort of publicity must be worth a huge amount, though you wouldn’t want to be caught.

I remember reading about people being put on oxygen in Cannes at the showing of Irreversible and its anal sex rape scene. I immediately went out and saw the movie to see if it was as bad as all that. I sat there in the Angelika with a crowd of New Yorkers and no-one got up and left, or made noises like they couldn’t stand it any more, let alone needed oxygen. Perhaps that’s just because they were all living in New York and beyond normal human emotions, but I doubt it.

undoing the YouTube deal

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

There’s yet more dirt on the Google / YouTube deal. I’ve thought several times already that I wouldn’t be surprised if the deal didn’t close. I don’t remember when it’s due to close, maybe as soon as December. It would be a major stumble for Google, but I’m not convinced that that would be worse than going ahead. It feels to me like the whole thing is built on sand, and that we’re seeing that now.

YouTube is changing so quickly, with tens of thousands of pieces of content being pulled very publically, lots of semi-negative write-ups, the threat of many lawsuits, the apparently desperate last-minute behind-the-scenes deal-making that went on the day they got it done, other video sites moving to share revenue with content providers, etc.

It all has a feeling of extreme volatility to me. It wouldn’t surprise me to see YouTube’s value plummet if this continues for long. Is it too late for Google to pull the plug?

I think there’s probably almost no brand faithfulness in the online video world. Sure, coolness is important, but coolness can change overnight. And then you’re left with what? What does someone who uploads a video actually want? Basically, they want storage space, a URL to point their friends to, and maybe somewhere for people to leave comments or a rating. A bit of revenue would be nice. Your average Joe probably doesn’t care about much more. It’s a bit like buying gas.

I don’t think it makes sense to run out and short Google over this, but I do think the potential for a major disruption is there. If it happened and people suddenly saw Google as just another company, capable of making big errors, there might be a disproportionally large adjustment in their stock price.

Pure speculation of course. I’m very interested to see how this plays out.

english cut

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

And you thought buying a shirt was just a matter of walking into a store and picking something out off the shelves? Not at English Cut.

iraq spam

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

How to tell when the public mood has changed on an issue? The subject of your spam mail might be a good indicator. Spammers are constantly testing the collective mood, twisting and turning, using any method they can dream up to get our attention and open their email. The main tool for this, having negotiated our spam filters, is the mail Subject line. When you see Viagra or penis enlargment, you know it must be working at a rate that keeps them going – if not on you then on others. Yes, it’s cheap to send spam, but they’re doing it for money. It’s in the interest of the spammers that their methods are successful because then they have happy customers who give them more business.

I write all this because I’ve noticed that i’ve started getting spam with subjects that quietly question the US presence in Iraq:

  Ellen Hammond         Oct 26 04:37 manage troop levels.
  Wiley King            Oct 26 04:49 how Iraq affects American security
  Veronica Ochoa        Oct 26 04:41 the United States
  Harris Bradshaw       Oct 26 04:39 troops home tomorrow
  Bob Jernigan          Oct 26 04:43 a reason to call for

I’m wondering if this might not be a sure sign that public mood has indeed swung.

You might claim that polls could tell you the same thing. But I’m not so sure. Large numbers of people have disagreed with the US Iraq fiasco for a long time. But it’s easy to say “oh yes, disgraceful” to a poll taker over the phone. It’s more of an acid test if the issue can induce you to open an unknown email, perhaps even to buy something.

Spammers are not dumb. A huge amount of effort and ingenuity goes into getting people to open spam mail. I think it would be fun to track spam titles as a measure of social issues. Of course I never will, I’ll just post this. On a small scale I think this example is interesting. Has public opninion really changed in a tangible way on Iraq, and is this made clear by the move to use the issue as the subject of spam a better indicator of it than other things?

This reminds me of Chomsky’s claim (paraphrased) that general opinion on political issues doesn’t affect things much. Things don’t change until the business community collectively realizes that the policy is bad for the bottom line, at which point things change rapidly.

getting away with it

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

This brief article discusses how thieves stole account details from two online brokerages using keystroke loggers. By some broad definition this falls into the category of “identity theft”, since the thieves could then pretend to be the user in question. I don’t really think that warrants being called identity theft, but whatever.

I think dreaming up crimes is pretty easy. The hard thing is to figure out a good way to take physical possession of the loot. At some point you have to go clean out that bank account, or have illegally bought goods delivered to a physical address, etc. It’s not easy to come up with ways that let you reap the benefits of crime while minimizing the risk associated with these physical problems. There are some classic approaches, like using cut outs, drops, etc. In the online world it seems just as hard, and perhaps more so. At the end of the day there’s a wire leading to your house, or similar.

That’s why I like the above scam. Instead of trying for a direct score, they set up a disconnect and used the accounts to create an effect in the stock market that they then took advantage of. That’s got to be much harder to nail down, especially if even moderate care is taken to disguise the trades. I think this disconnect is very clever. But perhaps it’s actually an old trick?

station-wagon full of tapes

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Cringley writes about Sun’s new black box portable server farms:

The beauty of a shipping container data center isn’t just that it operates stand-alone and can be plunked down in the parking lot of your existing data center or dropped by helicopter on the roof of your headquarters building. A great proportion of its beauty lies in the shipping container’s efficiency not as a server but as a network. It’s the largest sneakernet ever built. Moving a petabyte of data across the country using even the biggest optical fiber connection could take weeks, but the Blackbox can be installed in at most a few days.

which reminded me straight away of an Andrew Tanenbaum quote:

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station-wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

which I’m pretty sure I ran across in one of Jon Bentley’s Programming Pearls books in the mid-late 80s. I was surprised not to find it though. I thought either The Back of the Envelope (which poses the question) or the Bumper-Sticker Computer Science column was a sure bet.

Anyway, the station-wagon just got a whole lot bigger.

code, launch, sell

Friday, October 20th, 2006

I guess this guy really didn’t want to get into management. He spends 2.5 years working on a product, launches it, and simultaneously offers it for sale. Or he just figured the time was right. That’s the ultimate in minimalist business plans.


Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Here’s a nice-looking box. Pricey though.

They just got acquired by Logitech.

Memo to self: Make something people want.

real tax, virtual payment

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Here’s more on politicians thinking about imposing real-world tax on purely in-game profits.

I love the comment from the person who says they’ll be happy to pay real dollars for tax on in-game profits the day they can use virtual gold to pay real world tax.

reuters second life

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Reuters sets up shop inside an online game.


Friday, October 13th, 2006

From here:

So, while you think enviously about the $1.65 billion YouTube snagged from Google (or, as someone pointed out, approximately $3 million per day of their existence), you can feel some sympathy for Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corp — owners of the site Turns out, plenty of people have been hearing the name YouTube and assuming it was UTube. So, those people have been checking out the wrong site… and knocking it completely offline (which is why we won’t bother even linking to it now). Of course, the head of Universal Tube knows an opportunity when his web server stats show it to him. He’s already turned down a million dollar offer on the domain, and is holding out for at least $2.5 million.

business plan haiku

Friday, October 13th, 2006

From this article:

I had the pleasure of moderating the presenters at the Stirr mixer last
night (see also ValleyWag coverage). I like these gatherings, mostly
because the pitches are very brief: Entrepreneurs get 60 seconds to make
their case. Also, Stirr events are at bars. Can’t beat that. (By the way,
the 60-second pitch is not briefest pitch format. At the upcoming SF Beta
event, the presenters will have to cram their pitches into haiku.)

I love it, and I’d love to try it. It levels the playing field beautifully – with grass cutting blades set to Super Low. There isn’t much room for marketing fluff in a haiku.

plug & play II

Friday, October 13th, 2006



Thursday, October 12th, 2006

I’ve had Peter Carey’s Illywhacker high on my to-read list for a couple of years, following a glowing recommendation from Bambi. I started it two days ago and…… it’s great.

To the two faithful readers of this blog I say “thanks” and “what about you Russell?”

get your 50% productivity gain here

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Apple-funded study reveals that $1999 Apple 30″ displays result in up to 50% productivity gains*.

Hurry while stocks last.

* On certain tasks, such as mouse move and click.

delicious to focus on people

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Delicious/Yahoo are apparently planning to focus on people. Good for them.

another night down the tubes

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

I’ve managed to somehow pass another night here not writing code. Ana told me once that unless I’m coding I always complain that I’m not working, not getting enough done. And added that I should change my idea of what work was. But I can’t shake it, nothing else feels like work, or at least doesn’t feel very productive.

I was hoping to do a bit of a Xapian versus PyLucene comparison tonight and perhaps begin to integrate one of them into my project. But that will have to wait. It was too important to set up a new blog.

more of the same

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

I decided I should blog more. I have another blog, which I update infrequently. It has various things about my kids and other random bits and pieces. I don’t really feel like polluting it with geeky or technical thoughts.

I spend time reading other people’s blogs, some of whom are my friends. It’s not a bad way to stay in touch – very minimal, you just read along if you want. There’s no need to address anyone in particular, to reply, to do anything. I enjoy it and so I figured others would probably be happy to read along as I do my thing.

I spend a great deal of time these days sitting up in the middle of the night hacking on obscure things. It’s fun, though I am too easily distracted (as you can see). Occasionally I wish I didn’t feel like I was laboring in obscurity, so I’m going to post random thoughts here and see what comes back, if anything. I’ll probably enjoy doing it no matter what.

More soon.