September 30, 2004

Gnomedex Attendee blogs and My Yahoo

If you're looking to watch the blogs of Gnomedex 4 attendees via My Yahoo, we have a handy page on-line where you can find the links all in one place.

Mark, Ray, and I made it to Tahoe in about 4 hours. The rooms starting to fill up here--food, drinking, the "debate" was just on TV.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:02 PM

September 29, 2004

Shifting From Yesterday's Platforms to Tomorrow's Communities

Go read Adam Bosworth's What is the Platform? for his take on the application platform of the future. It's not Longhorn, it's the Web and web infrastructure technologies.

Today, I wonder if this set of syllogisms about the platform is still true (if it ever was). Open Source has shown us that well understood software can and will be commoditized. The operating system has been. The Web server has been. The Applications Server (to the extent folks need it) has been and more message buses are being written in open source. The entire XML processing stack is open source. So the value in "well understood" software today is in the support, not the code. The community that forms around open source software seems quite up to the job of educating itself. The real value in my opinion has moved from the software to the information and the community.

(Emphasis mine.)

He does a good job of saying this in an uncomplicated way from the perspective of an ex-Microsoft employee. Now does his move to Google make more sense?

I think so.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:34 AM

Going to Gnomedex 4 this Week

With the famous geek gathering just a half-day drive away (south Lake Tahoe), how could I resist?

I've never been to a Gnomedex show before, but with the current roster of attendees and speakers, I can't imagine it not being a great time. I mean, Woz is even speaking there!

Anyway, if you're going and happen to read this, it'd be great to meet in person. If not, have a good weekend.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:38 AM

September 28, 2004

Target bans bell-ringing Santas

I was just listening to KQED's kick ass audio stream when a report came on about Target banning those annoying bell-rining Santas from hanging out at the store entrance/exit during the holiday shopping season.

It's been a few years since I actually set foot into an actual brick and mortar store during the holiday over-consumption season, but I still can't be a little proud of Target for this. That was one of the many, many things that drove me to use the Web for as much of my gift finding as possible.

Amusingly, the reporter said something at the end of the story like this: "if you want to see the Santas, you'll have visiit Wal-Mart, K-Mart, ..." and named a few others stores.

Why is that amusing? Because I think it had the opposite effect on me. If I thought I was going to be joining the herds later this Fall, I'd have written those names down on my "don't shop here" list.

Too bad I can't find the story on the NPR web site. But here's a report from Oregon on the story.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:03 AM

September 27, 2004

New My Yahoo Beta, Featuring RSS and Atom

Back in January, I wrote about the My Yahoo RSS module that went into public beta testing. But what I didn't write about, for obvious reasons, was the thinking about the future of My Yahoo that was going on after that launch.

This is clearly a different world than when My Yahoo was a New Thing. Personalization on the Web is Old News. Aggregation and Syndication are some of the hottest topics around these days. But the difference between old school My Yahoo aggregation and today's RSS and Atom driven aggregation is that it's a decentralized model.


Well, we just launched a beta of the next generation of My Yahoo that fits into that reality. Instead of "you can add anything you want, as long as it's on the list of My Yahoo content" you can now add pretty much any public RSS or Atom feed. In other words, the content model is open.

Let me say that again, just for dramatic effect: the content model is open now.

Taking it to the People

This not only makes My Yahoo relevant in the modern wave of syndication, it does something else--something that Yahoo is in a unique position to do: bring RSS to the masses.

There are A LOT of My Yahoo users out there. I'm sure that I can't say exactly how many, but it's a big number. Most of those folks have no idea what RSS and Atom are. They really shouldn't need to. Many of them want their favorite content all in one place, which is why they starting using My Yahoo in the first place, and they happen to want it on the web.

Some folks might argue that the world just needs to learn about RSS, download and use a desktop aggregator, and so on. That's true for some people, but probably not the majority. My parents, for example, don't care about the various technologies that make their e-mail work. They just want e-mail. They don't know about HTML either. They just want to use the web.

So this new version of My Yahoo tries to get us closer to the point that it Just Works. To make content discovery easier, there are multiple ways to find feeds: search, a small directory, a list of popular feeds, and even some editor's picks.

You can read about this on the Yahoo Search blog in a post from Scott Gatz, one of the main forces behind the new My Yahoo.

Is it perfect? No. Of course not. But it's a big improvement over the module we launched at the beginning of the year. Customization is more flexible, there are a ton of UI improvements, the searchable database of feeds is much larger.

Not for Everyone

If you're already using a desktop aggregator and like all the features it provides, I don't expect you'll switch. You're an advanced user. You probably don't realize it, but you are. There's part of the population that does all of their e-mail using web-based mail services only. To others, that seems insane. The same will likely be true of web-based vs. desktop-based aggregators.

I fully expect folks to compare Yahoo to Bloglines. It seems a logical comparison, since Bloglines is an on-line RSS aggregator (and a damned fine one at that). But My Yahoo isn't simply an RSS aggregator. It's still about pulling together lots of information into a single place. And not all of that information is available via RSS.

So instead of thinking that My Yahoo has morphed into a low-end RSS aggregator, think of it this way: My Yahoo has adapted to handle RSS/Atom feeds in addition to all the other content that was previously available.

More to Come

Is this the end? Nope. There's more coming on this front. I won't say what, but I will say that we want to make this as easy as possible for new users--those unaccustomed to having hundreds of thousands of sources from which to choose.

(Err, I've already said more than I intended to. I was going to do a walk-thru with all the screenshots I took this afternoon, but that didn't quite happen. So give it a try for yourself.)

See Also:

Posted by jzawodn at 09:10 PM

September 24, 2004

Off to Nevada Again

This weekend looks like it might produce some decent fall soaring conditions in and near the eastern Sierra (as I hoped). So I'm off to give it a shot.

Have a good weekend...

Posted by jzawodn at 04:22 PM

September 23, 2004

Spin Training in the DG-1000

Today I flew with Brett in the DG-1000. In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, I put him in the front seat so that my flights could finally earn me a back seat checkout (which I'd been meaning to do for about six months now).

We took a 5,800 foot tow the first time to practice spins. First, he asked me to do a few stalls just to see which wing drops. Each time we came fairly close to spinning. Then, after I was comfortable with that, we did the real thing. First a spin to the left for two full rotations. Then a spin to the right with two rotations. My recovery was a little sloppy on the first one. I was going 100 knots when I pulled out. I managed to recover the second one at a much more respectable 80 knots.

From there I tried slipping the glider a bit to see how it behaves. And, to my surprise, you really can't slip it with full rudder. The DG's massive rudder overpowers your efforts and the glider will start to pivot in the rudder direction until the tail stalls. Then the nose drops until the tail begins to fly again. It's quite odd but not a big deal once you know about it.

I wanted to do a slip to landing, but the fire tankers were using runway 31 heavily, so I did a normal landing on runway 24. It'd been a while since I landed the 1000 from the back seat so I was a little bit off on my flare height, but not too much.

Our second flight was just a 1,400 foot tow so that I could fly a full slip to landing on runway 31. I thought it'd be harder than it was, but the DG-1000 behaves pretty well once you've got a moderate forward slip going. Plus, all the practice in the Grob seemed to carry right over to this ship.

Our final flight was just going to be another pattern, but I had felt some bumps earlier, so we headed into the hills to look for lift. We got off tow near Santa Ana peak at 4,200 feet and found some lift. From there we spent the next 45 minutes wandering about the hills and finding enough lift to stay aloft and even climb a few hundred feet at times. The lift was strong but the lift areas were quite small. The high clouds prevented the ground from really heating up, I guess.

When it was time to landed, we decided to use 24 so that it'd be easier to park the glider where it belongs. Brett wanted me to practice a steep approach--no spoilers until we're on final. However, on base he opened the spoilers and said "your spoilers are stuck open this much." So I adjusted the pattern and landed just fine.

All in all, it was a fun day. Spin training always made me a bit apprehensive, but it was just fun this time. I look forward to trying it again someday when there's a bit too much altitude to burn off slowly and the CG is just right.

From here, there really isn't much more flying practice I need. I do need to spend some time studying for the written test. And I'll probably fly a couple of simulated check rides with a different instructor (probably Drew--he grades toughest) before doing the Real Thing.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:59 PM

KQED's Streaming Radio Rocks

I've always known that KQED (the Bay Area's public TV and Radio) had archive and live audio streams of their radio programs. But until the other day, I'd never paid much attention to them.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find that KQED Radio offers audio streams for Real Player, Windows Media, and QuickTime. Just follow that link and click on the "listen live" button.


The Quicktime feed is very bandwidth friendly and still very good quality too. Derek found that the URL to use if you'd like to use iTunes directly is

BTW, KQED FM is the largest NPR station in the country. I know that because their pledge drive just ended and they make a point of saying that a lot. I just wish there was a way to opt out of the pledge drive. As someone who's been giving them money for a few years now, I don't need convincing!

Posted by jzawodn at 05:59 PM

No Terror Here

I was just listening to a sound byte from George Bush on NPR and realized something. I never once felt terrorized by Iraq. On the other hand, George Bush being in charge... that scares me a little.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:21 PM

September 21, 2004

Web Services You Wish Yahoo Offered?

Okay, let me be completely upfront here. I'm not asking this in any official capacity at all. Really. Nobody asked me to and the people who could make something happen may or may not care what I have to say on the issue.

Are we clear on that?


I am curious anyway--because its a topic that comes up now and then. More now than then, it seems. People ask about Yahoo offering web services, but I'm not sure what services a user or developer would want. In other words, if I was going to make a big stink about it, I'm not sure what I'd choose to target first.

Search? Bookmarks? Finance? Messenger? Sports?

There's a lot of potential and a lot to choose from.

So that's the point of this post. For the sake of my curiosity, what web services would you like to see Yahoo offer? Not things that'd be cool but you'd never use, but the ones that'd actually be useful. Bonus points for ideas of what you'd do with 'em if they were available.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:41 PM

September 20, 2004

A Quick My Jeeves Test Drive

With all the chatter around My Jeeves, I figured I'd give it a quick test drive.

The first thing I did was go thru the short on-line tour to learn that the model is simple:

  • Search and Save
  • Organize and Edit
  • Share and Print

I don't know about the "print" part, really. I think they just like to pair action words together.

Anyway, I signed up for an account, which means I supplied my e-mail address and waited for the confirmation e-mail. Bonus points for not asking me for a bunch of demographic bullshit that I'd just lie about anyway.

Then I found that it works with Firefox and IE but not Safari. Luckily I have Firefox 1.0 on my Powerbook. So I proceeded to run a few searches in the hopes of finding results that I could save and then annotate (sound familiar?). The second search I tried confirmed what the first search hinted at: The relevancy is horrible!

When I search for "jeremy zawodny blog", my blog home page isn't even on the first page of results. What the hell is with that? My linkblog is the #2 result, which is close, but not quite what I expected.

Hmm. Numerous other searches yielded less than stellar results, but I saved a few results anyway and played with the My Jeeves interface a bit--creating a folder, annotating results, and so on. I can't say quite why, but the interface sort of reminds me of Yahoo! Mail's inbox view.

One odd thing is that the search box on My Jeeves defaults to "Search MyJeeves" insead of "Search the Web." Maybe I'm unusual, but I still expect to be searching the web most of the time and my collection of links and notes far less often.

Anyway, I'd give the My Jeeves folks a B for the design and usability. I'd give the Ask Jeeves folks a D for search relevancy. Of the 10 searches I ran, only 4 produced good results. Like I said earlier, they've got some similar ideas to the A9 folks (saved search history with annotations, all on a central server) but are going about it in very different way.

But don't trust my opinion, give it a try. You might not find it all that useful, mostly due to the horrid relevancy, but it's worth seeing how they've built a search workspace.

Hey, I kinda like that term: search workspace. That really is what it's starting to feel like.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:40 PM

A9's Search Diary

So the big search noise last week was A9's launch of their new search interface. I got a quick glimpse of some of the thinking behind it at Foo Camp when talking with Udi (A9's founder and CEO) and some other folks.

What I didn't notice until now (and haven't read much about) is this "diary" feature they offer. According to the on-line help:

What is the A9 Diary?

The A9 Diary is a feature that allows you to easily take notes on any web page, and see them whenever you visit that page, on any computer that you use, as well as find them through search or through a list of all your diary entries maintained at

How do I use the Diary?

To use the Diary, you need the A9 Toolbar. Once you have the A9 Toolbar, just click the Diary button on the toolbar. The Diary bar will open and will be ready for your entries. You will notice that there isn’t a save button anywhere. You don’t need one! Your entries are automatically saved whenever you stop typing or when you go to another page. Another click on the diary button closes the text area.

How do I see my diary entries?

To see you entry, just go back to the page with your entry. The diary bar will automatically open, and the diary entry you left for that page will be shown. If you don’t remember the specific page you made a note on, you can search them on (use regular search and open the diary column). A list of all your diary entries is available at, as well as the diary columns on the A9 home page and on search results.

So the A9 Diary let's you leave a note to yourself about a particular web site that you might have run across while searching. And since the data is stored in A9, it follows you to whatever computer you might be using.

It's a really interesting idea and I'd like to play with it a bit. We've long needed a browser-neutral way to annotate web sites (bookmarks could have solved this if done right), but sadly it requires the A9 Toolbar, which is IE/Windows only (for now). Oh, well.

Beyond that, I'm thinking more and more about a point I made the other day--that A9 is a departure for the "lean and mean" interface for searching. They're really trying to build a "search environment" of sorts. And they're not alone. It sounds like Ask Jeeves is on a similar but different path. More on that later.

I wonder if any of the Yahoo Search Bloggers are going to comment on this stuff? It's pretty big news (both A9's environment and the Ask Jeeves PersonalWeb stuff).

These are interesting times indeed.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:58 PM

SATA Hard Disk Controller Recommendation Needed

I'm in the process of consolidating a lot of computer hardware (selling off another notebook soon) and want to add a lot more disk space to my home "server" so I'll have space to dump all the files. The machine has lots of room in the case, but it's a couple years old so there's no on-board SATA.

My plan is to drop in 3 250GB SATA disks and use Linux software RAID-5 to give me close to 500GB of space. Can anyone recommend a good SATA PCI card I can use for this? It's gotta have drivers in the standard Linux 2.4 or 2.6 kernel. Life's too short to track down weird drivers.

And I don't need one with so-called hardware RAID.

Update: After a bit of looking harder and discussion with someone, it seems that the Promise Sata150 TX4 is just what the doctor ordered. It's got 4 ports and good Linux support (2.4 and 2.6).

Posted by jzawodn at 08:27 PM

September 19, 2004

Post-Frontal Fun in the DG-1000

I headed down to Hollister around 12:30 today with a 3-5pm reservation in the Grob. I drove through a lot of rain to get there and was convinced the airport was going to be rained out. But while I was still 10 minutes out, Lance called to tell me the DG-1000 was now free (he had just finished) for the rest of the day. Did I want it?

Hell yes!

I convinced Darren to ride in the back seat and we got ready to fly. The rain was getting closer and did get the airport wet for a few minutes. We took off when it stopped at 2pm and I asked to tow plane to take us toward Fremont Peak (as Darren and I had discussed on the ground). By crossing back over the airport at about 2,500 feet we hit a good thermal. The vario was above 8 knots for at least 5 seconds, so I pulled the release.

It had been quite a while since I released that low in lift at Hollister, but given the abundant clouds I figured we stood a good chance of staying up for a while.

As luck would have it, we spent the next hour hopping among several of the nearby clouds but never got terribly high--maybe 3,200 feet or so. And then at one point we found ourselves at 1,700 feet near the intersection. I was just about to move my hand to the gear handle when the vario got all excited. We climbed out of that hole and flew for another hour before landing.

The highest we got was about 4,200 over downtown Hollister. From there we tried to run over to Fremont Peak but chickened out after not finding much lift and ended up playing around west of the airport--then south and east. We had some fun drifting into the east hills while getting to the cloud base again.

All in all it was a fun day considering how crappy it looked at home. I expected I'd be up for an hour if I got lucky. A two hour flight was more than either of us expected. But it was what I was hoping for. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 07:33 PM

September 18, 2004

The Perfect Search? Ask Apple.

A bit over a week ago, John Battelle asked his readers to describe the Perfect Search. I didn't have a chance to respond when I first read his request, but knew what I wanted to say. It just took me a little time to find what I was looking for (yeah, I see the irony in that).

Back in college I took a class called "Computers and Society." It was offered as Sociology 320 and taught by one of my favorite professors: Dr. Jerry Wicks. He was one of those guys who was several years ahead of nearly every other instructor on campus when it came to technology. But that's a topic for another post, really.

In class one day, he showed us a video that was produced by Apple Computer. The idea was to depict a possible future of computing 10 or 20 years in the future. I eventually found the video of Apple's Knowledge Navigator (14MB Quicktime), thanks to a post nearly a year ago from Jon Udell. The video quality is poor, but it's the only complete copy I could locate. Others were better but contained only fragments of the original.

It's interesting to note that Jon first saw that in 1998 1988 and I first saw it in 1994.

Anyway, the video illustrates things quite well.

To me, asking for the perfect search is a little like asking what the perfect job would be. I'd rather not need a job in the first place! And I'd rather have a high bandwidth link right to my brain, so I can just "remember" things.

But if we must search, I believe it should be a very natural and conversational thing--much like what you see in the video. Notice how the query refinement in the video is like talking to a friend that also happens to be a kick ass librarian or a research assitant? That "search engine" talks back and it works quite well.

Of course, that's all a made up fantasy from the mid 90s. But I think it's one worth going after.

So to answer John's original question: Just ask Apple about the Perfect Search. Someone there had it figured out at least 10 years ago.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:54 PM

Fall Has Arrived

A cold front came in from the North today, bringing with it a full day (Saturday) of clouds and cool weather. I doubt that it was above 67 degrees all day.

It's nice to see a bit of the next season in the Bay Area. Given how similar our seasons tend to be, this is a good change of pace.

It shouldn't be too long before the first snow falls in the mountains.

A couple days ago I was trying decide if I should head up to Air Sailing to fly this weekend or next. On Friday decided on next weekend. There probably would have been good wave lift, but any thermal activity would have been capped for sure. Winds aloft were in the neighborhood of 30-40 knots at the ridge tops along the Sierra.

Now I'm hoping that we'll have a bit of decent post-frontal soaring in Hollister tomorrow. And, if luck is with me, we'll see a warming trend late next week and into the weekend. I'd like one last weekend of Nevada thermals before I take my glider for an annual inspection and transponder installation.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:00 PM

September 17, 2004

Search Engines that Talk Back

In Search as a Dialogue, Greg says:

For example, let's say I'm trying to find discussions some of the topics covered at Foo Camp. I might start by searching for "foo camp". Not satisfied with those results, I might change it to "foo camp blogs". That doesn't get me what I want. I try "foo camp web feeds". And so on. I'm repeatedly refining my search query, trying to find the information I need.
But current search engines ignore this stream of related queries, this dialogue, instead treating each search as independent. There is an opportunity for techniques that focus explicitly on this kind of refinement process, using all the information to help you find what you need more efficiently and reliably. Personalized search is one of these techniques.

No kidding.

I'm sure we've all had that experience of haphazardly refining a query. It can be frustrating. But what was even more frustrating for me back when I worked on building related search a year and a half ago.

Part of that involved reading search query logs. What I quickly noticed is that you can clearly see when that's happening. While the data was interesting in an academic sense, it was more frustrating than anything else!


Because as a human I usually could tell exactly what someone was looking for by the second or third query. But there were times when it took them far longer than that to find the result they wanted (or they gave up).

Heck, I even see this in the logs for the little search box on the front page of my blog. And I've seen less experienced users fumbling to find something in Google or whatnot, often running half a dozen queries before realizing they might be doing something incorrectly. But at no point does the software really help them.

What this all tells me is that search is a skill but it really shouldn't be. The Microsoft research is shining a light on this fact. Our software needs to work harder to pay attention to and react to what we're doing--especially when we're failing!

If only the search engine could stop after a few tries and say, "hey, I'm guessing that you're looking for something like..." You know, just like any reasonably bright librarian might. (You do remember libraries, don't you?) Yeah, it'd probably freak some people out, but what if it actually was helpful?

Amazon's A9 is an interesting step in evolving search, but it really seems to be going in a different direction. Rather than making search a "lean and mean" operation the way that Google had, A9 is trying to make searching the web a different kind of experience. They're encouraging exploration while also trying to tie in your previous behavior (past queries).

Posted by jzawodn at 12:44 PM

September 16, 2004

Landing on Tow

Most of the fun in today's flying was learning to land on tow. The idea is to simulate a double release failure where neither the glider nor the tow plane can disconnect from the rope.

Alan was our tow pilot, which is good, because he's probably the only tow pilot at Hollister who has done this before. The three of us discussed what we were going to do on the ground before going up to give it a go. The plan was this:

Upon reaching pattern altitude, the glider would give the "can't release" signal. Then the tow plane would do the same. The glider would then go to the low tow position and the tow plane would take us into the landing pattern and begin a gradual descent. The glider pilot would have to use spoilers to keep slack out of the line, just like when we'd practiced descent on tow before. Over the runway, the glider would fly just off the ground until the tow plane touches down. Then the glider lands and the two aircraft slow to a stop.

Brett flew the first one since he hadn't done this in a while. I got to observe. The approach to the runway was very similar to a no spoiler landing--and I've seen a lot of that recently. After touch down, Alan hit the gas and we traded control of the glider. Then it was my turn.

The second flight was mostly uneventful. At 1,400 feet, I gave Alan the signal and he returned the favor. As I was moving to low tow he began his descent which caused some slack in the rope and surprised me. But I pooped the spoilers and took care of that easily enough. Then all I had to do was follow him all the way to the ground. It was weird not really having to think about the pattern other than "can I make it if the rope breaks here?"

After we both landed, Alan hit the gas and we went up again. The third flight was just like the second except that we stopped on the runway this before flying again. We got off at 2,500 feet so I could work on cross controlled stalls a bit before heading back in. I tried a precision landing on 24 and was close to landing on the threshold.

We took a short break and flew two more times. Both were pattern tows to work on landings. The first was a slip to landing on runway 31 (with a right pattern) while the second was a precision landing on 24. However, on the last flight we hadn't really planned anything. I got off tow at 1,200 feet and asked Brett what he wanted me to do. He thought for a few seconds and then popped the spoilers open about 1/3 of the way, saying "your spoilers are jammed like this. Do what you need to do to land." So I did. He gave me spoiler control not too far from the runway.

All in all it was a fun session. I'm finally starting to feel comfortable in my forward slips. Flying that right pattern helped, since it's easier to slip the Grob that way.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:22 PM

September 15, 2004

An Evening with Kevin Smith

I just finished watching the first DVD of the two DVD set An Evening with Kevin Smith (get it via Netflix). If you're a fan of Kevin Smith movies, I can't recommend it enough.

It's mostly composed of clips from Q&A sessions from his visits to various college campuses. Not only is it very entertaining, but you also get some real insight into what shaped bits of his movies.

That reminds me, I need to buy several of his movies...

Posted by jzawodn at 09:04 PM

Test Camera Phone Shot

Just for kicks, I used the camera on my Morotola V710 to take a shot looking down the hall on the way out of work today. I then e-mailed it to myself (typing e-mail addresses on a cell phone sucks, btw).

As you can see, the image quality isn't great (click it to see the whole thing). But I didn't exactly buy it for the image quality. The upload was surprisingly quick. This mobile stuff is all high-tech these days.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:48 PM

Yahoo Finance Weekend Edition

One of the unusual things (compared to the rest of Yahoo) I found in working on Yahoo Finance for several years is that the weekends were pretty quiet. With the markets closed, why would you visit the site unless you're doing research for the upcoming week or maybe debating stocks in the message boards?

There's finally going to be a reason, according to this press release.

... today announced the launch of "Weekend Edition" on Yahoo! Finance, a weekly edition that adds lifestyle and leisure content about personal finance to the site's core weekday focus on business and investing news. The launch coincides with results from new Yahoo! polls that highlight the importance of lifestyle choices on consumers' finances. The launch is scheduled for Friday evening, September 17, 2004, at Yahoo! Finance (

Interesting. I'll have to see what the content's like this weekend.

Now for a question. I'm looking at the Yahoo Finance home page and don't see this mentioned anywhere. Not above or below "the fold." Why is that? If it's not promoted during the week, how am I supposed to learn about it? (Assuming I'm a normal person who doesn't read press releases.)

I notice the press release uses the term "syndication." That reminds me. Will there be an RSS feed of the weekend edition content? Or am I supposed to remember to go there every weekend?

Posted by jzawodn at 09:34 AM

September 14, 2004

Electric Company Pays Me

Well color me a bit surprised. I just got a letter in the mail from PG&E to let me know they're giving me some money to compensate for my recent outage.

Here's 80% of the text from the letter:

Pacific Gas and Electric Company now has a service guarantee program which provides compensation for not meeting specific criteria (i.e., untimely restoration) when responding to service requests. This compensation is in the form of billing credits place on customer accounts.
Because we did not meet the agreed-to service restoration window, a credit in the amount of $30.00 will be placed on your account within two months.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and will continually strive to provide you with the best service possible. Our service guarantee program reinforces that commitment.

I wonder how George Orwell would have written it.

Maybe something like this.

PG&E will be crediting your account $30.00 to compensate for your recent electrical outage. We're sorry that it took so long to fix and will try harder next time.

But, hey, at least I got the cash, right? :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 02:50 PM

Apple Shipping and FedEx Lameness

For the second day in a row now, I'm "stuck" working from home because of stupidity on the part of both Apple and FedEx.

You see, last week I ordered a second power adaptor for my Powerbook. Despite the fact that Apple really rapes you on the price ($80 for a power adaptor?! Is it gold plated?), I could really use a second one.

However, the Apple Store seems to send even the most trivial purchases via FedEx with a mandatory "signature required for delivery" option. But they don't tell you this up front, so if you do something like send it to your house instead of work, you end up getting screwed.


Because FedEx, unlike UPS, doesn't allow you to redirect a package to a second location after one or two missed deliveries. Sure, they leave you a little note with a phone number to call, but there's no way to get a human on the line using that number. And their web site is less than helpful in such matters.

I have some afternoon meetings today, so like yesterday I'll probably head in around 1:30 and miss FedEx again--not that they showed up at all yesterday.

Why can't other on-line retailers be more like I've spent thousands of dollars there over the years and have rarely had a shipping problem. And when I did, I was able to quickly get a human on the phone to solve the problem.

UPS, on the other hand, has let me do this several times. I just key in the number from the slip they left at the door, click a button, and then provide my alternate (work) shipping address.

Problem solved.

From now on, I'm sending all Apple Store purchases to work. Or I'll just visit the nearest Apple Store in person. In retrospect, that'd have been more convenient than this.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:14 PM

September 13, 2004

Steve Rubel on Danny Sullivan on the Yahoo Search Blog

In Key Analyst Guest Blogs on Yahoo!'s Weblog, PR blogger Steve Rubel asks the questions I've been expecting someone to ask about Danny Sullivan's recent appearance on the Search Blog:

Will people now begin to question Danny's objectivity? Danny is a former client. From my brief experience working with him, I can assure you that he has the utmost integrity and a sterling reputation. He's a professional. But I am wondering if this move might change how he's perceived. Will people think he's in bed with Yahoo!?

Had it been someone else, I might have been worried. But Danny Sullivan is putting his reputation on the line. If he says great things about Yahoo, it's because he believes those things. To do so for any other reason would be putting his credibility at risk.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:48 PM

On-Line Writing Advice from George Orwell

When it comes to writing on-line (personal or corporate), I'm very much on the opposite end of the spectrum of the traditional PR and Marketing approaches. They generally involve hype, big words, and lots of flowery language that doesn't actually say anything.

When it comes to providing someone a list of simple rules to avoid doing that, I look to the famous George Orwell's excellent essay Politics and the English Language, written in 1946. Much of it is still very, very relevant today.

His six rules are a nice summary of the advice given earlier in the essay:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Of those, I think #2 through #5 are the most important. But with technical writing, it's often necessary to "break" rule #5 simple because you know your audience has the necessary knowledge.

If you're bored, take a random press release and try running it thru the filter of rules #2, #3, and #4. I suspect you'll end up with something far shorter, more clear, and just as informative.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:37 PM

September 09, 2004

The Inevitability of Search Results as RSS

Tim Bray, in reporting on a visit to an Intelligence Technology gathering said:

They’ve also done something way cool with their Google appliance; one of the bright geeks there has set up a thing where you can subscribe to a search and get an RSS feed. Well, duh. Anyone could fix up one of those using the Google API, I wonder why Google isn’t supporting this already?

I can't help but to laugh because at this point we all know that "way cool" means "shockingly obvious". Hell, we've all seen it coming a mile away, but... when?! In fact, I'd go so far as to say we've been waiting far too long now. Years.

What's it gonna take for some visionary search company to pop this out? You'd think that in a company where engineers spend 20% of their time doing whatever they want, this would have been conceived, designed, built, and shipped a long, long time ago.

I want the future now, damnit!

Oh, wait. That's right. Technorati and Feedster have basically been doing this since day one. You wouldn't think this is one of those Feed Search vs. Web Search issues, but the line seems quite clear.

Sure, a few "verticals" have this stuff--notably news. But that's only a small piece of the web. It's a toe dipped into the RSS pool. That "search, find, subscribe" notion doesn't exempt web searches.

Remind me to come back to this topic when it's time for my 2005 predictions in a few months.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:04 PM

Do you, uh, FOO?

Has it really been a year already?


Friday afternoon, Radwin and I are headed up to Foo Camp 2.0 (or 2004, I guess, but 2.0 just seems more appropriate). Last year was a blast. I only hope that this year's is even half as enjoyable.

If you're FOOing, I'll see you there.

Hopefully I'll have the energy to write up the experience again. I wonder if John Battelle will write about it again? :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 10:02 PM

More Training Fun

This morning, after re-taping the wings on the Grob, we had five flights. Two "high" tows (~3000), two pattern tows, and a simulated rope break. I practiced:

  • Slips to landing (no spoilers)
  • Stalls with brakes open
  • Precision landing
  • Turns to a point
  • Steering turns to a point (tow pilot didn't get it though)
  • Boxing the wake

The slips are getting better but not quite there yet. Ground track control is harder than I thought it'd be in a full forward slip in the Grob 103.

More of this to come. It sounds like we'll do some spin training in the DG-100 at some point too. That'll be fun. Maybe I can sneak a loop in too. ;-)

In related news, I had to buy a new log book. The old one is now full. I have 275 flights and about 175 hours total. Not bad for about two years, I guess.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:57 PM

September 08, 2004

Back to School

Flight school that is--one day a week for two hours in the morning.

I've begun working on the training and study necessary to pass the flight and written tests to get my Commercial Pilot rating.

Fun stuff. :-)

If nothing else, it finally inspired me to get back into the habit of updating my flying blog. Let's hope I stick with it this time.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:44 PM

First 5.5 Hour Flight out of Air Sailing

On Monday (Labor Day), I had my longest duration flight to date. Thisi is my condensed flight report.

Flying out of Air Sailing in Nevada, I launched fourth and released at 6,800 feet MSL (or 2,500 AGL). I thought I had a good thermal at the south end of the Dog Skins. Instead I spent the next hour or so struggling to get above 7,000 feet. At one point I was down to 6,200 feet and ready to head in for a possible re-light when I found a bit of lift over the Moon Rocks.

I eventually got above 7,000 feet which enabled me to climb the low end of the Dog Skins and find my next thermal. It took me to 8,000 so I headed a bit more north and found another that took me above 9,000. I did this once more and found myself close to 14,000 feet. Figuring that going north was working well for me, I headed to 7990.

I arrived with lots of altitude, found a little thermal, and then headed toward the cloud street forming just east of Frenchman's Lake (a bit north of Adam's peak). However, there was a lot of sink near the ridge and I got a bit low for comfort and retreated back to 7990.

Arriving there, I noticed the abundance of excellent cloud streets to to the south and decided to head over to Stead by way of the Dog Skins. I climbed on the way to Stead, breaking 15,000 feet.

From Stead I continued to Peevine (?), Vedri, and eventually made it to Mt. Rose where I found a nice thermal to play in. From there I decided to follow the clouds over to Pond Peak. There I hit cloud base (again) and decided to tag Silver Springs. So I flew past Tiger, hit Silver Springs, and headed back toward Pond.

Back over Pond Peak, I got to over 16,000 feet and decided to burn off some altitude by flying 80+ knots across Pyramid Lake and Anahoe (?) Island. Sadly, I couldn't reach my camera to capture the beautiful views. But I did get to chat with a nice woman working the Reno Approach frequency.

Finally, I realized how long I'd been up in the air and how late it was, so I pulled the spoilers and headed in to land. For the first time I landed on runway 35 and even had a bit of a crosswind.

I'd post a flight trace, but my Windows notebook's hard disk died the evening before my flight, so the data is still trapped in my GPS. :-(

Posted by jzawodn at 10:36 PM

Training for My Commercial Glider Rating

Okay, I've neglected this flying site for far too long, so it's time to get back on the ball.

I've been toying with the idea of working on my Commercial Glider rating for a while now. Last Thursday I began the process. I hadn't intended to, but the soaring forecast took a turn for the worse. So instead of flying the Duo Discus with Brett, I suggested that we start working on my commercial stuff.

I flew the Grob 103 from the rear seat since I've been doing that a lot lately anyway. We worked on several things:

  • Steep turns on tow
  • Turns around a point
  • Descent on tow
  • Slips to landing (no spoilers)
  • Boxing the wake

I had fun working on the slips and the tow stuff. Descending on tow was really interesting. It took a close eye on the tow plane and minor spoiler adjustments to keep the rope tight. That's really a warm up act for ultimately landing on tow. We'll try that sometime in the not too distant future I suspect.

My plan is to continue the lessons and practice every Thursday before work (9-11am) until I'm ready. That's partly how I did my original training two years ago.

It's either that or a BFR. But to me a BFR just says "I can still fly and remember some of the stuff I learned getting my private" while getting a new rating say "I'm still learning new things and trying to challenge myself."

Posted by jzawodn at 10:15 PM

Shafting the Non-Windows Users Again

Nat spends a few minutes beating the same drum that I've beat repeatedly:

Today I found out about Picasa, which Google acquired. It's an image archive/management package. And I found out about Farechase, which Yahoo acquired. It's like for airfares, or something. I don't really know what they do, because I can't use them--they both require Windows. I know there are smart people at Google and Yahoo, but they obviously had no say in this. How will you get influencers to praise your product if they can't run it?

I wish I knew the answer to that question. I've been asking it for a while now in various forms. So far, the only conclusion I can draw is that maybe influences really matter only when you have a very small market share and want to capture a lot of in a hurry?

I'd dispute that claim, but the available evidence seems to support it.

Interestingly, he doesn't recommend porting all this stuff to the Mac. Instead, he points at Flickr (which I just praised yesterday) as an example of what to do:

Take a lesson from Flickr. This is web gallery done right: HTML and Flash interfaces, web service as much as web server, aggressively multi-platform.
Flickr gets that the future of interaction lies further and further away from Microsoft Windows, whether in other desktop operating systems or handhelds or TVs or ... Should you only be able to find good fares when you're sitting at your home computer? Look at the popularity of webmail--people want their mail regardless of which computer they're sitting at. Digital photos are just as integral a part of people's lives. Flickr agggressively embraces this decentralized world, and that's why people are talking about it.

Preach on, brother.

A nice byproduct of that is that Linux users would also be in the game with little extra effort.

In related news, my only Windows box (that I typically use only to run flight analysis software) died over the weekend. So I'm not being difficult. I really can't check this stuff out. I ended up stealing a few minutes of Radwin's time to see something on his Windows box yesterday.

This makes me sad.

See Also

Posted by jzawodn at 08:35 AM

September 07, 2004

Anil on Personal Blog vs. The Company

Somehow this seems timely...

Anil Dash says:

There's probably a whole post I should write about the "my blog doesn't reflect the opinions of my employers" disclaimer that lots of people have to do, but suffice to say that I post about the work our company does because I'm genuinely enthusiastic about it. Sometimes my opinions don't agree with the company's and sometimes they do, and hey that's cool.

Personally, I would like to read that post. How about it, Anil?

I've toyed with the idea of writing one myself, but sometimes it's best not to poke the big dog with your stick.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:53 PM

Battelle and The First Rule of AdSense

John Battelle is blogging his experience with advertising on his weblog. He's started with Google AdSense (which I also use) but seems to have violated the First Rule of Google AdSense rather quickly.

There's some amusing (or sad, depending on your point of view) stuff in his post as well as some good comments from Cory Doctorow in the comments, like:

anything the scale of Google is way, way too big to be involved in editorial decision

I think John's response(s) to Google are quite appropriate. I'm curious to see how this evolves.

I remember being rejected by the AdSense program in the early days. I mentioned it to a few Google folks at Foo Camp 2003 who encouraged me to re-apply. Obviously that all worked out, but the initial blow off was rather puzzling.

I guess things haven't changed much.

Posted by jzawodn at 06:08 PM

Next Generation Web Services: Flickr

Is it just me, or is Flickr (currently in beta) one of the best examples of next generation web services?

Note that in this context, I mean "web services" in both senses of the term:

  • A web site that provides some useful service that I can interact with using a web browser.
  • An application with an API that has been exposed over HTTP using REST, XML-RPC, or SOAP.

Flickr has been on my radar for a while now, but I only recently began to start playing with it. I'm impressed as hell. After my first 10 minutes of playing with it, I found myself thinking "why don't we build stuff like this at Yahoo?" In other words, I realized that we could probably learn a lot from this when it comes to building next generation applications at Yahoo. (Whether or not we do is a whole separate topic of discussion.)

If you want the short version of why I think this, consider the following points. Flickr has the potential to set the new standard for on-line photo sharing, management, etc. Why? Because Flickr...

  • does one thing and does it well
  • provides a clean and simple UI
  • has clear and helpful documentation
  • exposes core functionality with a documented API
  • account sign up is brain-dead simple
  • makes extensive and intuitive use of RSS
  • like, uses tags to help organize
  • doens't spam me with graphical/animated/flash ads or try to unexpectedly pop up any sort of window

In other words, it's developer friendly, user friendly, and is a web site as well as a "service" or "platform" (in the Web 2.0 sense) all at the same time.

Flickr isn't perfect, of course, but the few things I've run into with it are very minor.

Flickr Links

Here are some places to poke around to get a flavor of what Flickr is about:

RSS and Tags

I especially like their use of RSS for "photo streams". For example, this an RSS feed of all my photos (not many yet). And this is an RSS feed of photos tagged with "beach". Note that the URLs are nice friendly RESTish and hackable. Oh, and those are all available as Atom feeds too.

Expect to hear more about Flickr...

Posted by jzawodn at 11:11 AM

How Cheap is MySQL?

Speaking of MySQL, if these new results are to believed, MySQL is about 60% the cost of Oracle.

MySQL  ... $ 82.74/op
Oracle ... $139.84/op

That's measuring "total operations per second", which isn't the "normal" database comparison metric. But let's assume it's a fair way to compare databases anyway. (We could argue all day week the time about the "right" way to do it.)

That's surprising, given the vast difference in size between the two companies, isn't it? Back when I said:

MySQL is to Oracle as Linux is to Windows. It will slowly but steadily creep up the food chain, just like Linux has.

I didn't expect it to climb the price ladder quite this quickly.


Makes you wonder what things will look like when Oracle cuts prices to match, doesn't it?

Posted by jzawodn at 10:49 AM

Who kidnapped Monty?

Is it just me, or is MySQL getting a little too corporate these days?

They recently posted an "interview" with Monty titled Catching up with Monty that seems a lot more like a marketing piece than something Monty would actually say or write:

But then again, what do I know? I've only spoken with him a few times a year for the last few years (in person and via e-mail). This is the first time he ever sounded like he was speaking through a heavy PR/Marketing filter.

I went on a Linux GeekCruise earlier and it was a very rewarding event for me. To be able to mingle and discuss (for days) your Linux problems and ideas with some of the important people behind Linux was both fun and very educational.
We wanted to give MySQL users the same opportunity that the Linux people have on the Linux GeekCruise. People can come discuss and learn about MySQL and also get practical tips and solutions to problems that they face when using MySQL. There is plenty of free time during the MySQL Cruise, and I am sure we will spend a notable part of that time to discuss solving practical problems given to us by users on the trip.
Another reason that I like events like the MySQL GeekCruise is that it gives me the chance to meet MySQL users and through them get a better understanding of what they really want from the MySQL products in the future.

It's customary when documenting an interview to mention who conducted the interview. But "we caught up with him" does nothing to reveal the identity of this person. Was it via e-mail or in person?

So, who kidnapped Monty and replaced him with this evil clone? :-)

It's not Zak, since he resigned. And I doubt it's Jim, since he just doesn't seem like that kind of guy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing Monty. I have tons of respect for him. I'm criticizing his clone or whoever crafted that "interview" on his behalf.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:37 AM

September 03, 2004

In Nevada for the Weekend...

I'm heading out shortly to go fly in Nevada for the long weekend. The Reno Soaring Forecast is good today, but weekend conditions aren't so great. We'll see how it works out. If it's as good as when I was there in late May, I'll be happy.

I flew there in early August too, but it was a tough flight.

If you're in the U.S., enjoy the long weekend!

Posted by jzawodn at 01:20 PM

Firefox on Mac OS X Annoyances

I still find myself using two browsers in my daily browsing. My default is Safari but I occasionally need to pull out Firefox to handle things that Apple's WebKit doesn't yet grok.

As the kids on South Park would say: this sucks ass, dude!

I really wish I could make Firefox my default browser and never have to deal with Safari. There are so many kick ass plug-ins available, but Firefox seem to want to make my browsing painful in very small-but-important-to-me ways:

  • Apple-M doesn't minimize the browser. WTF?! How the heck does one minimize the browser using the keyboard? It's in the "Window" menu, but the option is always greyed out. Apple-H works, but not Apple-M. Safari works as expected with both.
  • Firefox doesn't use Emacs key bindings. This one mystifies me because nearly every Mosaic/Netscape descendant product I've used (at least on Unix) had Emacs key bindings--you know, things like Ctrl-A for "go to beginning of line" and so on. What the hell is up with Firefox here? Safari has excellent key bindings. This is my biggest annoyance.
  • The "close tab" button is in the wrong place. Seriously. Try Safari for a few days and then go back to Firefox. Tell me that it doesn't make more sense to have a "close tab" button on each tab. Heck, even Galeon had this years ago. Come to think of it, I think Galeon also had Emacs key bindings.

Now, Firefox is extensible enough that all this stuff should be fixable, right? Has anyone produced a "make Firefox act like a real Mac OS X application" plug-in?

I sure haven't found one.

If you know of fixes for this stuff, please drop in a comment. If you have similar annoyances, please list those too. I'd love to know what else I haven't yet discovered.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:48 AM