Scott's Thoughts

Clarity

Looks like Clarity is a neat tool for munging log files. At a previous job, we used Splunk to do this sort of thing. Splunk is clearly more capable, but I’ll have to check Clarity out.

Baby Owl


Saw Whet on the Moss, originally uploaded by BigBrotherBear.

I had no idea that baby owls were so damn cute. Great pic!

Cool Mountain Bike Pics


Attention, originally uploaded by keithpyt.

I don’t know the guy, but I ran across his Flickr page of mountain bike pics via the PocketWizard blog, and there are some pretty nice images in there. Worth a look!

A not-so-brief chat with Randall Stephenson of AT&T

A-fucking-men.

Video of Water Dog Lake Park

A professional video producer made a video “map” of Water Dog Lake Park on a mountain bike. Pretty cool. Be sure to make it past the rather long intro to the main menu.

(via Passion Trail Bikes.)

Men’s Health Caught Recycling Coverlines

I knew those health magazines had to be reusing old content! How many ways can they say the same stuff over and over again?

Airlock

Airlock is a wonderful utility that locks and unlocks your Mac’s screen based on your iPhone’s proximity to the computer, using Bluetooth. Very, very cool.

(Via Daring Fireball.)

The Amazon Kindle

I was lucky enough to have received an Amazon Kindle as an early Christmas present from my wife, and have been enjoying it for a few days now. Those who have seen my bookshelf know that I have a pretty large collection of technical books that I use as reference and usually carry one or two as current reading material. These kinds of books are not only expensive, but heavy, and it can be a pain carrying them around both on a daily basis and, as a library, from job-to-job. I’m here to report that the Kindle makes for an excellent solution for both of those problems (although the weight is the most immediately noticeable).

Kindle + iPhone

The Kindle 2, which is the regular $259 model, is surprisingly small and light, as illustrated by the above pic of it next to my iPhone. I knew its dimensions, but once in hand, it really is smaller than I expected, even in its (optional) cover. My bag felt like it shaved off half its weight when the book I’d been carrying around morphed into a Kindle.

The Kindle arrived in a box barely bigger than itself, as did the separate cover. The box is similar to the no-fuss packaging that’s available for many products one can order on Amazon, but they did have fun riffing on the barcode and the Kindle logo.

Kindle Cover Barcode

The Kindle comes with its e-ink screen already on and set to some basic instructions on getting up-and-running, which really consists of plugging it in to charge. The included charger is a standard micro-USB affair, which also acts as the USB cord to connect the Kindle to a computer.

Reading on the Kindle is a joy. I won’t go into detail about the nitty-gritty, since there are plenty of Kindle reviews out there. However, I was surprised at how much better reading on a Kindle is compared to reading a backlit laptop screen. It really is much more similar to reading a book than a screen.

Kindle Screen

Navigating pages is a bit weird, thanks to slightly funky control layout, but it’s easy to get used to and then the funkiness disappears.

My main concern was getting content I knew I wanted on the device. Plugging the Kindle into my MacBook Pro was simple enough, and it shows up on in the Finder as a standard drive with folders for various types of content. While the Kindle can do Audible books, I use my iPhone for that, and didn’t bother wasting space on the Kindle with the large audio files (the Kindle has 2GB of storage for media).

Two publishers that publish a lot of the books I read, O'Reilly and The Pragmatic Programmers, both offer quite a few of their current titles in e-book format. I’d already purchased e-books in PDF form from the Prags, and they offer Kindle-compatible versions in the form of .mobi files for customers who purchase an e-book from them.

I hadn’t purchased e-book versions of the O'Reilly books I own and they don’t seem to publicize their e-book upgrade offer on the website very prominently. They recently started offering Kindle-compatible .mobi versions of their books and if one has O'Reilly books registered with the company online, it’s possible to “upgrade” to an e-book for $4.99 by added the e-book to your cart on their online store and using the coupon code “499UP”. I did this for the books I want to have around all the time, as well as the newest ones I haven’t read yet. A nice bonus here is that if you have a book that’s since been updated, you can get the e-book of the newest version this way, as I did with “Linux In A Nutshell”.

The Kindle recently had an update, which added native PDF support. The PDF support was something I was really wanting, and had in fact decided to not get a Kindle until they added such support. It’s nice to be able to add PDFs directly to the Kindle, although in practice, reading a PDF isn’t nearly as nice as having a .mobi or .azw, since PDFs aren’t really optimized to this kind of reading experience. It works, but it’s a crutch. Luckily, Amazon offers a free conversion service that takes PDFs and makes Kindle-specific files of them. It’s not perfect, but I’ve converted several white papers I have on my reading backlog and it did a good-enough job.

Given these types of books, I think the larger Kindle DX would probably serve me better, but I’m not willing to part with the extra $200 or so dollars the upgrade costs. Maybe when the price comes down. A nice financial benefit to e-books is that new ones cost quite a bit less than their dead-tree cousins. A typical $45-50 technical book runs about half that in e-book format. I think the Kindle device, while expensive, will pay for itself soon enough, given how many of these books I tend to buy. And I’m looking forward to clearing a lot of room from my bookshelves at home.

When deciding that I wanted a Kindle, I had initially decided it would be wise to wait and see how the recently introduced Barnes & Noble Nook would play out. After thinking about it though, I decided that I’m a big Amazon user, and it made more sense to get a Kindle even if the Nook turned out to be a bit better from a hardware perspective. Now that they’re shipping, it appears that the Nook might not be better even from that point-of-view.

All-in-all, I like the Kindle a lot, and I’m glad I received it. Thanks, Val!

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Top Five Mountain Bike Digital Cameras

Photo-John recently posted his list of the top five cameras for mountain biking on MTBR, and given how well that hits two of my favorite hobbies, I couldn’t help but re-post it here.

I haven’t used any of these cameras, but the choices and reasons for making them seem sound. In my case, I’ve opted for the GF1 in place of P-J’s #2, the GH-1. The GF1 gives ground to the GH1 in EVF quality and it shoots video at 720p instead of the GH1s 1080p, but is smaller in size and comes in a kit with the lovely 20mm f/1.7. I can see someone going either way.

His #1, the Canon 7D is also a good choice of DSLR based on reviews I’ve read (and being a former Canon 30D user). I use the Nikon D700 as my DSLR, which has the advantages of being full-frame, better in low light and better sealing (and, IMO, handling). It gives up ground on being much more expensive and doesn’t do video at all.

In any case, it’s a good list and worth checking out if you’re in the market.

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Rudiments of Language Discovered in Monkeys

Campbell’s monkeys appear to combine the same calls in different ways, using rules of grammar that turn sound into language.

Whoa.

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Sweet VW Diesel Hybrid Gets 70 MPG

A diesel-electric hybrid? Nice.

AT&T Mark The Spot

An iPhone app that one can use to mark where AT&T service is crappy? Oh, I’m going to get some use out of this app.

Football Good and Bad

Bad first: I rarely ever watch football and I don’t really follow or call myself a fan of any given team. But today, feeling under the weather, I settled in and watched the New Orleans Saints play the Washington Redskins. It was a thoroughly entertaining game, the likes of which I haven’t seen in years. And then, as the Saints appeared to possibly make a comeback with less than two minutes remaining on the clock, FOX decided to cut from that game to the 49ers/Seahawks. Unbelievable. I found out later that the Saints did make the comeback, and it must have been something pretty incredible to watch. Sadly, I was watching a pathetic opening to another game that I couldn’t care less about. So lame.

Now the good: I’ve only been to one real college football game: a Nebraska Huskers game while visiting my wife’s home in Nebraska. It was a lot of fun. We just bought tickets to the bowl game they’re playing on the 30th and then spending New Year’s Eve down in SoCal. Should be a lot of fun.

Now There’s a Java Store!?

I guess everyone thinks having their own store is a good idea now. I don’t think I’ve ever wondered to myself where I could by software written specifically in Java, nor am I sure why I should. In fact, I generally think of desktop software, with a few notable exceptions (I’m looking at you, IDEA), as tangibly worse than otherwise equivalent software written “natively”.

As an aside, it’s funny that the post lists others who have launched stores recently, while not mentioning Apple, regardless of the fact that they started it all. Since it didn’t launch in 2009, I guess that would be a reason to omit the mention, but it still seems weird somehow.

(via Tim Bray on Twitter.)

Technorati Not Using Pings Anymore

I use Movable Type as the backend software for this blog, and when I create an entry, it notifies several blog-indexing services of the new post. One of them, Technorati, has recently stopped accepting pings at the address http://rpc.technorati.com/rpc/ping, resulting in an error on every post. I thought I’d spread the word here in case anyone else is confused by the error.

Pictory

Nice site featuring photography and photographer-written stories. It’s obviously new and getting slammed, so keep trying if you get some errors. There’s some good stuff up there.

Node.js

Node.js looks interesting. Its about page says that it’s goal is to “provide an easy way to build scalable network programs.” Build them using JavaScript, that is. Ryan Dahl’s talk at JSConf is a long-ish watch, but good.

Consumer Reports: AT&T Cellphone Service Last in Customer Satisfaction


Ouch.

Surprise, surprise. AT&T’s comment on the story, added at the bottom, indicates that they didn’t take my advice to heart. ;)

Without question the surest indication of customer satisfaction is churn, or turnover. For the last quarter, our postpaid churn was just 1.17 percent.

Way to spin it, folks. You suck. Losing the iPhone before you fix your problems could be catastrophic.

Wasp on a Mission


Wasp on a Mission, originally uploaded by Roeselien Raimond.

Great pic!

Square

Square seems like a great solution to a real-world problem that many have: how to take someone’s credit/debit card in a low-ceremony way. It was created by Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, and I think it looks like potential second home-run. Here’s Wired’s take.