Hack the Planet Archives: January 1999

Sunday, January 31, 1999

ChalTech has finally put their StrongARM Beowulf-on-a-card into production. (Scroll down for the pictures.)

Saturday, January 30, 1999

W3C: Reformulating HTML in XML. I'm inclined to say that it should have a new name (XHTML?) or at least a new version number (HTML 5.0?) so that we can distinguish between "classic" HTML and HTML-in-XML.

Semisonic is in Austin doing a radio interview. One of their guys plays piano and drums at the same time! Their previous album was OK, but Feeling Strangely Fine blows it away. It's the kind of album that I want to listen to from start to finish.

Friday, January 29, 1999

Red Hat was down today. I don't think that's acceptable.

Millicent 1.0 nears completion. Microsoft-centric? Oops!

I'm wondering why no one has built the Metaverse yet. Active Worlds tried, but they were too early and ended up stuck with some outdated and low-res technology. People have plenty of excess 3D horsepower and more and more of them are getting fat pipes. Or is there a different, non-technical bottleneck? I've always had trouble navigating 3D worlds, and I'm useless with a 3D modeler. Maybe what's needed is some user interface innovation.

Is there any particular reason why 1394 cables cost almost $100?

Thursday, January 28, 1999

I feel even worse today than yesterday. Blah.

Uh oh, Sony is suing Connectix over their PlayStation emulator. Note that it isn't about Sony's intellectual property, but about people playing pirated games under the emulator.

Considering that every other news story these days is about some form of piracy, you'd think the world was a bunch of criminals. Isn't there any real news to report?

Wednesday, January 27, 1999

Today has been a long day. Gotta get more sleep.

I just ripped out the internals of the Casbah integrated development environment and made it work the right way, in preparation for the upcoming developer release.

BeMachines: Because some people still believe that one processor per person is not enough.

Ooh, SimCity 3000 is shipping. I think I'll wait for the BeOS version.

To make up for today's lack of content, how about a mini-book-review... If you're interested in Apple's new case design strategy, you can see the history of it in AppleDesign: The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group. It just jumped out at me the last time I was at Borders...

Tuesday, January 26, 1999

Welcome CamWorld and Scripting News readers! I've gotten a report that this server is maxing out its capacity, so if you're having any trouble getting through, keep trying and my apologies.

Scott McNealy: "You have zero privacy anyway". EFF chairman Lori Fena responds: "Sun and Intel ... are creating public policy every time they make a product decision". You heard it here first: Washington is irrelevant; Silicon Valley is the real goverment. I don't remember voting for Scott McNealy.

Newsflash: Linux 2.2.0 has finally been released.

Hey, cool: Phil Greenspun will host polls for your Web site. Now you don't have to mess with any of that icky Linux or Perl or Slash stuff to have meaningless, hit-inflating content! So what should I have a poll about? :-)

Another great CD that I got over the holidays is KCRW Rare On Air, Vol. 4. Soul Coughing, Radiohead, Sarah McLachlan, Ani DiFranco, Ozomatli; what more could you want on one CD?

Does anybody out there have the new Ben Folds Fear of Pop album? Is it any good?

Jeff Osterman sent me a possible explanation for the current music watermarking hoopla:

Say you're a music label. You distribute a digital audio file with a watermark and want to make sure it's not pirated. You then set loose a spider that crawls the web and looks for digital audio files containing your watermark. If you find the file available someplace it shouldn't be, you take action. Voila, focused enforcement without hiring teams of people to scour MP3 web sites. Since it's easy to change a file's name, just searching for the name doesn't do you much good.

The next logical step is for a company to create a watermark search engine that crawls the web and allows you to search for watermarks anywhere on the web. The record labels can then periodically search for their watermarks and see where they turn up.

Over time, they seem to be trying to drive out bad (i.e., non-watermarked) content by making good (i.e., watermarked) content available. The ultimate goal is to cut down on the number of people you have to pay to sift through web sites and listen to sound files. It's after-the-fact enforcement, not copy protection that they're trying to achieve. Whether it will be successful or not is another story.

Digimarc has a system just like that, except for images. They'll probably be in the music-tracking business soon.

David Futrelle: Buggin' Out. I'm tired of bugs. I'm tired of software companies that don't care about their bugs. For some reason, whenever I try to drag-and-drop anything my NT system freezes for about 30 seconds. How am I supposed to concentrate with that kind of stuff going on?

I'm so tired of bugs that I'm ready to write my own operating system just so I won't have to deal with them. What does that say about the computer industry? I'm ashamed to be associated with it.

Maybe I should make this site shareware; if you've visited more than five times you will now have a guilt trip unless you send me some feedback.

Monday, January 25, 1999

"RSA kills hackers DEAD" Thanks; it's nice to know whose side they're really on.

In continuing coverage of the MP3 copy-protection debacle, Liquid Audio today announced the Genuine Music Coalition. So when you download MP3s, you can at least know they're genuinely pirated.

Sony's latest super-notebook lust-machine is the VAIO 505TX.

You can get dual 450MHz Celerons for less than the price of a single 450MHz Pentium II. Looks like Intel is too good at making chips. Or you could build a system with a single Celeron, Abit motherboard, and a RIVA TNT video card for under $1000.

I started learning Scheme today. It was strange to hear my professor talk about Emacs as if it was the only text editor on earth....

Sunday, January 24, 1999

Electrical Fire, a turbocharged JIT-powered Java VM from Netscape, has finally been released.

Chip creatures.

Saturday, January 23, 1999

Wired News: Liquefying MP3. They're all missing the point. Can anyone explain to me how watermarks prevent illegal copying? When you duplicate a watermarked file, you duplicate the watermark; so what?

The Pentium III doesn't stop piracy either. Do you notice a theme here?

A benchmark for high-tech skill that would be perfect for people like my brother, who is computer-saavy but too smart to go into a dead field like computer science.

I've been immersing myself in The Slow-Motion World of Snowpony lately; it's a great way to relax after seeing the bill for this semester's textbooks...

Thursday, January 21, 1999

LWN: "It is indeed an interesting world when you can't hire the best people because they want to do the work for free." For artists, art is its own reward.

Jakob Nielsen is pointing to an article about the increasing vertical integration of Internet companies. This problem is even worse in Internet appliances. Take WebTV as an example: a WebTV is not just a box that can browse the Web; it's also an ISP. Supposedly they let you use your own ISP, but there is another, technical problem: I don't have a dial-up account; I have Ethernet. You can't connect a WebTV to Ethernet. If you think this is an unusual complaint, consider that most cable and ADSL "modems" are really routers that use Ethernet. The problem is compounded with multiple appliances fighting for one phone line; if they used 1394 or Ethernet (especially phone-line Ethernet) this would not be a problem.

Dan Farmer: "There is no method right now that proves the age of anyone on the Net." I've had a credit card since I was 15. Maybe the DMV should start issuing certificates?

I just realized that I never resubscribed to the mailing lists that I unsubscribed from before the holidays. Somehow I don't really feel like resubscribing.

Wednesday, January 20, 1999

Intel is bringing us the "trusted PC", but trusted by whom? I'd rather have a PC that I can trust than a PC that software companies trust.

FireSite 2.5 includes HTTP compression. Let's see how long it takes everyone else to catch up. :-)

They've been playing Baz Luhrmann's "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" constantly on the radio. Give it a listen in RealAudio or read the lyrics.

Tuesday, January 19, 1999

I went by UT's on-campus computer store today and what did I find but a tangerine iMac. Seeing it in person, it looks like Apple's "tangerine" flavor is almost exactly the same as the color of UT's logo. Think about it: 10,000 computer-buying freshman every fall; a computer that comes in the school colors...

DES-III is over, but apparently all the distributed.net servers have melted down. :-(

I fired up my Apple IIGS after about five years of disuse; it even still has the correct time and date! Watching those old FTA demos is a trip down memory lane; where are the new demos today? We have 500 MHz computers and hardware 3D, but I rarely see anything today as exciting as the old-style demos.

Monday, January 18, 1999

I've got both of my computers cracking on DES III, but we're going to need a lot of help to find the key in the next 16 hours.

This site has some really weird stuff.

Sunday, January 17, 1999

SimCity 3000 is the most beautiful computer game I've ever seen, and now it runs on BeOS.

Apache JMeter looks like a good lightweight server load-testing tool. I used to use Maxum's NetSplat on Mac, but I never found a good replacement for other platforms until now.

Saturday, January 16, 1999

As the RSA '99 conference gears up, I'm hearing more and more about Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which is supposedly necessary for reliable authentication on the Net. But I don't see anyone focusing on the cost of certificates, which looks like a major problem to me.

Let's compare some different forms of identification:
My driver's license cost about $10 and legally certifies my name, age, and various other information and it has to be renewed every four or five years. A VeriSign Class 1 Digital ID, which only certifies my email address (and thus isn't very interesting) costs $10 per year. Thawte will give me an equivalent certificate for free (which is what I'd estimate it's worth), but I haven't found any company that will issue an individual certificate (for email or Web browsing) that is even as secure as a driver's license. What's the use of a certificate if it doesn't even contain someone's real name?

Jim Bidzos: "You're going to find that [RSA royalties are] not a measurable part of the cost of any product." But what about the products that don't have crypto because they can't afford it? Do they not deserve it? It's amazing how much he can say without actually answering the question.

All right! I found the UT iMac!

FlikFX is a new film-to-video transfer system that can correct "directorial errors in the original film". I'd sure hate these guys to get ahold of any of my work. Sheesh.

Friday, January 15, 1999

Now that Apple, SGI, Sony, and Compaq are shipping 1394 built in, it's time for some applications that are more creative than video editing. How about HAVi? Or IP over 1394?

Mozilla.org: SilentDownload is a background transfer method that allows files to be downloaded to the user's machine without interfering with their network performance.

The OpenH323 project is building Open Source™ audioconferencing software.

Over the holidays I saw a great Cronenberg movie called Videodrome. If you're into mass media manipulation, rent this one.

Thursday, January 14, 1999

I'm baaack!

Danny Hillis has a new book out: The Pattern on the Stone.

Woohoo, they fixed Grendel! Although that kinda makes the work I did on it pretty pointless...

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