Given that I pay little attention to what often passes for "news" in the mainstream media, I find myself with little idea of how long the airline ban on liquids is going to continue.
There's an event a bit over a month from now on the other side of the country that I'd like to attend. But I'd also rather not give the airlines a dime while this stupidity continues. I refuse to bow to the fear of terrorism that the government and media seem compelled to foster. Life's too short for that.
I've spent a bit of time searching various news and government sites, but haven't come up with much concrete information on how long the stupidity is likely to continue. The propaganda on TSA.gov is especially unhelpful. (They are to be commended for having search that doesn't suck much.)
Mid-Air Collision of Glider and Jet near Reno: ASG-29 vs. Hawker XP800
There's been a lot of buzz this week about two recent accidents in the western United States, both of which occurred on Monday of this week. Amazingly, neither accident killed anyone. This is about one of them.
Akihiro Hirao, a visiting pilot from Japan, towed out from the Minden-Tahoe airport in an ASG-29 (one of the hottest new German sailplanes, a similar one is pictured at the right). A few hours later, he collided with a Hawker XP800 (a fast business jet) around 15,000 feet (different reports have published numbers between 13,000 and 16,000) that was descending to land at the Reno after a brief flight up from San Diego.
The impact was dramatic. The Hawker was traveling at roughly 300 knots (well over 300 miles per hour) and it completely destroyed one wing of the glider as well as the nose cone of the jet. I've not seen any pictures posted of the glider wreckage yet (they'd look a lot worse since it eventually hit terrain at high speed). But here are shots of the jet, which managed to make a gear-up landing at the nearby Carson City airport (I was there not long ago myself).
In the close up you can see the glider's wing spar sticking out of the jet!
As you might imagine, this has sparked a lot of discussion and debate in the soaring community--especially those of us who fly in the Reno area during the summer.
We won't really know everything that we can until the NTSB finishes their investigation. Based on the information I've read and heard this week, there's a good chance that the accident was preventable.
I'm led to believe that the ASG-29 had a working transponder on board but that it wasn't currently powered up. If that's the case, it means the glider was virtually invisible to the jet's pilot and co-pilot, not to mention Reno Air Traffic Control. Even if the jet pilots couldn't have visually detected the glider (which is pretty difficult going that fast), their TCAS would have picked up the transponder signal and suggested a safe diversion.
If the glider was not equipped with a transponder, that was a serious oversight. While they're not required (yet?), it's a very good idea to have one if you're flying in busy airspace.
There's a lot more I could say about this, but I'll hold off until the NTSB publishes their report a few months from now.
People are often surprised to find out that glider pilots routinely wear parachutes. An incident like this makes it clear. Having a parachute may be the difference between living and dying. The glider pilot parachuted to safety and was picked up a few hours later.
I was visiting my local parachute rigger (Silver Parachute Sales and Service in Hayward) today and we chatted about this. They heard the news pretty quickly, partly because this sort of news travels fast, and partly because they packed the parachute. This was, in fact, Darrin Silver's "first save."
The pilots of the jet and the glider are to be commended for getting themselves and, in the case of the jet, their passengers safely on the ground. Looking at the pictures of the damaged jet cockpit, it must have been pretty chaotic in there.
You can read more coverage here:
Update: Pictures and more links added on the morning of 8/30/2006.
Update #2: I've posted NTSB Preliminary Report on the Glider and Hawker Collision as a follow-up to this article.
While wandering my local Trader Joe's this evening to restock my supply of frozen broccoli and little peanut butter filled pretzels, I spied something new (to me) in the frozen isle.
It seems that Good Karma foods makes fake ice cream. And since I'm lactose intolerant, I'm always up for trying a new brand and/or flavor of fake ice cream.
You'd be surprised how bland some of them can be. Or maybe you wouldn’t.
Anyway... The flavor that caught my eye was, I kid you not, Carrot Cake. I was more than a little intrigued by this, since I (a) like the taste of a good carrot cake, and (b) couldn't image that they could pull that off.
Much to my surprise, I sampled the supposedly carrot cake flavored rice cream when I arrived home and found that it's pretty damned good. It doesn't have that weird texture and odd melting going on that at least one other brand has going on. But more importantly, the carrot cake flavor was very well implemented.
If you looking for a good fake ice cream and happen to like carrot cake, give it a try!
Just for the record, they also make Very Vanilla, Mudd Pie, Mint Chocolate Chip (which I must try), and Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge.
I just spent some time cleaning up my Bloglines subscriptions. I was finishing up my daily ritual of reading various blogs and new sources when I realized how sucky it felt.
Reading feeds used to be fun. And interesting. And decidedly not like "work" at all.
So I spent a few minutes reviewing my feed list. If I couldn't remember the last time I learned something from a given source or was entertained by reading it, I unsubscribed.
That included a number of "high profile" bloggers in the echo echamber who used to be interesting but have become to wrapped up in trying to tell others how they should do things, folks who merely repeat memes and "hot" stories, and so on. So often I would just look at and think "who cares about this shit?" and click on to the next feed. No more.
In looking over what was left after my slash and burn effort, I realized what was going on. I like to read what interesting people write. The less they write about their jobs (genrally speaking), the better. Most of those who are preaching and/or wannabe journalists didn't make the cut.
It's funny how you can be stuck in a rut for a long time without ever realizing it. I'm going to keep doing this pruning until reading is enjoyable again. I think I got pretty close in this one pass.
I've recently put together a very simple solar charging system for the travel trailer that I and a partner have parked in the campground at the Truckee Tahoe Airport. In doing so, I was reminded of how infrequently I have to worry about DC power output and usage.
In the airplane I have a power source: the alternator on the engine. Odds are that it'll keep running for a while, since it was recently replaced after suffering a sudden death in flight.
In the glider I have dual 12 volt 12 amp hour batteries, which will last quite a long time if I leave the transponder turned off. All the other instruments are very lower power. But even with the transponder on, I've got enough juice for any flight I decide to make.
It depends, of course. It depends how much it'll be depleted when we use it and how quickly we'd like it to be recharged.
In order to figure that out, you need to grok the relationship between volts, amps, and watts. Solar panels are typically marketed based on their peak power production, measured in watts. The 12 volt batteries are often measured in terms of "amp hours."
The magic formula is:
Watts = Volts x Amps
So if we make a bunch of simplifying assumptions, the 12 volt, 90 amp hour battery requires 1,080 watts (or watt-hours, to be correct) of solar power to fully charge. The 85 watt Shell SQ-85P panel we bought could do the job in 12 hours, assuming optimal light and various other things that are never all true in the real world.
But if you assume 3 hours of good light per day (that's very conservative in the Sierra Nevada mountains), the battery will be back to normal in 4 days. So even if we were to run it down pretty far over a 3 day weekend and then come back the next Friday night, all would be well.
This concludes your physics/electricity lesson for the day.
I'll document the charging system in more detail if anyone is actually interested.
A few weeks ago, Dion Hinchcliffe wrote Creating Web 2.0 Applications: Seven Ways to Fully Embrace the Network which contains some crazy business-speak and some good ideas about making it possible for your applications to harness network effects.
Briefly, I'll list them here along with a few of my comments.
What did he miss?
I've had a bunch of people ask why I haven't written much about flying recently. The short answer is that I haven't had a lot of time. When I wasn't up in Truckee flying my glider on the weekends (including a recently landout at Carson City), I was busy studying for the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test.
Now, I've taken these FAA written exams in the past. I took one in college, one for my Private Pilot Glider rating, and another for my Commercial Pilot Glider rating. In the past I've used a mix of book study (using the ASA books) and on-line practice tests like Kip's Exams4Pilots.
Comparing the two, there's no contest. The King Videos are far more interesting, engaging, and complete than those produced by Sporty's. The folks at Sporty's appear to have opted for "star power" by using folks like Richard Collins in the videos, while the John and Martha king focus more on the content and material you need to learn. Granted, they style and sense of humor is a bid odd at times, but it really gets the job done.
If you're shopping for flight training or test prep DVDs, I highly recommend looking at the King Schools videos.
I passed the test, of course. :-) Soon I'll be working to finish up my training and get the FAA checkride scheduled.
From the API news department...
The new API is pretty much the same, except that it's now accessible via https rather than http and it versioned as well. So my old "fetch all bookmarks" script looked like this:
curl --silent --user jzawodn:mypassword -o links.xml.$$ \ -O 'http://del.icio.us/api/posts/all'
and it now looks like this:
curl --silent --user jzawodn:mypassword -o links.xml.$$ \ -O 'https://api.del.icio.us/v1/posts/all'
And now I see that running curl with –slient and without –L was a bad idea. Lesson learned.
I also got a sneak peak at version 2.0 of the API and really like what I see. del.icio.us is really going to be a killer bookmarking/tagging platform what that stuff ships.
Yahoo! Answers also got API'd today. Using the Answers API, you can search questions based on keywords, get details, and so on. Check out the "Try It Now" interactive thingy that Kent put together on the documentation page.
I can't imagine trying to do that with SOAP. :-)
As with other stuff, you can get responses back as XML, PHP, or JSON.
The API is fairly basic and read-only for now, but there's more work going on behind the scenes. If you encounter bugs, let us know.
These are two mostly unrelated thoughts, but that's what you get some days.
I was surprised that nobody asked me about the AOL Search data release at the Search Engine Strategies Conference last week. My take on it is similar to what Nelson said:
I'm glad the leak happened; now everyone can see just how sensitive search data is. And valuable, too. Search logs are the private corporate property of companies like AOL to use (or misuse) as they want. Or for the US government to subpoena. Is that the best world for us?
The way I'd phrase it is that I'm really glad it happened, (a) because now we can talk about how important it is, and (b) because it didn't happen to Yahoo.
Just when I thought the airlines and/or TSA couldn't get anymore stupid, they went and banned virtually all liquids on commercial airline flights. Well you know what? That's going to far. Way, way too far. I can't believe that the airlines didn't push back against these new rules.
If someone asks me to fly somewhere between now and whenever they come to their senses, I'll politely decline. I refuse to be treated as a potential hijacker. If I'm that dangerous, I should have never been given a pilot's license by the FAA in the first place.
Never underestimate the power of irrational fear.
In one of those odd office conversations that takes too long to explain, after Tara posted her homeboy question on Yahoo! Answers, she said something about the Urban Dictionary and went to look up Oh Snap for someone.
Having not been there in ages myself, I spent a few minutes browsing around and encountered the entry for Oh shit... Meteors, which is now on my list of phrases to use more often.
A phenomenon which typifies Murphy's law. The absolute worst possible outside circumstance which can and will negatively affect the current situation. Greater than minor inconveniences, this is the sort of instance which all hope of success is lost.
The concrete example at the end is great:
While driving to a friend's wedding, an awkwardly positioned nail in the road hits your front tire and pops it, which causes it to fly back and blow out your back tire. The resulting blow-out causes you to spin, knocking your way across the road and into several other cars, which bounce you back into other cars, resulting in a fifty car pile-up which results in a massive explosion. In spite of all of this, you still survive, and as you are crawling out of the fiery wreckage you look up to the sky, only to see a ball of pain and doom, known among as a meteor, flying out from the sky, headed directly for you = Oh Shit...Meteors
Sometimes I wish I was more plugged into popular culture. Other times, not so much.
I know a lot of folks out there use FeedBurner to outsource the hosting and metrics of their RSS feeds. I've not done so (yet?) but am curious about one thing.
If you use FeedBurner, what percentage of your overall subscribers are using Bloglines?
You might think that this is a roundabout way of asking trying to ascertain Bloglines share of the "market" but it's not. I believe there's enough bias in the types of people who even use Bloglines that the number I'm asking for aren't terribly meaningful in getting at their share of the market.
Any, please share if you have such data. I've always assumed (meaning that I pulled this out of my ass) that Bloglines represents between 30% and 50% of my subscribers. But for all I know, I'm way, way off.
Your numbers could help to triangulate a bit. In fact, I suspect they'll help a lot of people wondering the same thing.
That's right... another job posting. :-)
The official description is roughly this:
Yahoo! Bangalore is looking for a strong senior engineer/lead engineer for its team that works for Yahoo! Developer Network (http://developer.yahoo.com/). Opportunities and challenges include designing, building and evolving products in the emerging areas of web services and web platforms. Technical requirements for the job include C++, Unix and/or web services/XML skills. Also important are: innovative mindset, ability to learn quickly and desire to work in the fast-paced Internet industry. Experience in building highly-scalable high-performance systems is a big plus.
There are some seriously talented folks in our Bangalore office. It'd be an honor to work with them. Plus you get to help expose new APIs to thousands and thousands of eager developers.
So if you're in their neighborhood and looking for a better job, drop me a line. If you're a staffing company, please keep me off your list(s).
Back in April when I wrote Rethinking the Web OS from a user's point of view, I used a lot of words in my attempt to get across a simple point. Luckily, Anil Dash came along recently and was able to summarize what I wanted to say in a single example.
Note to Microsoft: Community trumps codecs. Users see "I can't upload my Movie Maker clips to YouTube" as your bug, not theirs, and they don't want to hear about "transcoding licensing fees" just to watch funny videos.
Well said, Anil. That succinctly illustrates what's going on.
A few weeks ago, Matt McAlister wrote Thoughts about working at Yahoo! after one year in which he summarized his favorite and not so favorite things about working here.
I'd like to enumerate his 13 points and add my take, as someone who has worked in different parts of Yahoo for a bit longer. Why? Because that's what blogs are for. That and pictures of kittens.
I'd love to see what other Yahoo's think are strengths and weaknesses are (in general terms only--we don't want to get anyone in trouble).
Thanks to Simon Willison, we now have a Python Developer Center on the Yahoo! Developer Network. This not only pulls together a lot of useful stuff for python hackers that want to tinker with our APIs, it means I have more good code examples from which to continue my quest to learn Python.
I guess that means we need a Ruby Developer Center next, huh? ;-)
If you're old enough to remember printing off banners on continuous feed paper using Print Shop and a loud dot matrix printer, you may be as shocked as I am right now.
Shocked by what?
I'm glad you asked. Two things, really:
I wonder what other stuff we use frequently today will seem just as... quaint in another 15 to 20 years.
Speaking of which, why are keyboards still the primary interface? Aren't we supposed to have something far superior by now, not to mention flying cars?
The pace of technology is so... uneven!
Last weekend a Thinkpad T43p (80GB disk, 2GB RAM, 1600x1200, etc) arrived on my doorstep and patiently waited for me to finish studying for my FAA written test (passed it this morning, thank you very much).
Now, it worth noting a few things.
Given all that, I'm shocked and amazed. It works. It just works.
I booted from the Ubuntu 6.06 "live" CD and ran the installer. I then rebooted the notebook and found that it detected my wireless interface just fine. The screen was properly detected at 1600x1200, the sound worked, and the TrackPad worked fine.
Then came the real test. I decided to exercise the power management features. Suspend to disk (hibernate) and suspend to RAM (suspend) worked. In both cases, it worked as well as in Windows (better in some ways) and nearly as good as a Powerbook.
I cannot overstate how important this is: Ubuntu is the first real "desktop" Linux I've ever seen. There's a lot of polish to it, most of the "right" things have been hidden from non-Linux geeks, and it just works.
I've read so many other stories like this but had to see it for myself.
If you've been waiting years and years for desktop Linux (or laptop Linux) to finally arrive, give Ubuntu a shot. Seriously.
It's good to have a Linux laptop again. It's even better not to have to fight it. It's the freedom and power of a Debian-based Linux without all the hassle. :-)
With a title like "Why Google and Yahoo! can't be better open source citizens" one might think that our companies were squeezing as much as possible out of the open source world and giving little back.
But after reading Matt Assay's post a few times, I've begun to wonder how much open source code he's been publishing.
Putting aside the many contributions that Yahoo and Google have already made to various open source projects (Linux, FreeBSD, Perl, MySQL, PHP, etc.), I'd like to debunk his conclusion:
All of which means, as Tim pointed out, that these companies have failed to write code according to a cardinal open source principle: modularity. Yahoo! and Google can't open source more code because their code is too tightly bound together - layer upon layer upon layer requiring layer upon layer upon layer. This doesn't mean that Yahoo! and Google are bad, but it is disappointing that they are such heavy users of open source, and have architected themselves into a corner that makes giving back impossible or problematic.
Well, I've got news for you, Matt. Some of our code is tightly bound together. You know why? Because abstractions often cost performance, and performance costs money. When you're serving billions of pages per day, even the small stuff adds up quickly. But there really is a rhyme and reason behind the systems architecture and various bits of code.
But the layering or tight coupling isn't the only problem. Heck, it's not even the biggest problem.
So let's suppose that we decided to release "what we can" into the open source world. Of course, there'd be a lot of legal vetting first. Code licensing is a real mine field, but let's suppose that we cleared that hurdle. It would look as if Yahoo was doing exactly what businesses looking to get into open source are told NOT to do: throwing some half-baked code "over the wall" and slapping a license on it.
You noted this in your article too:
Jeremy eventually owned up to a reason that I found much more compelling - disappointing, but compelling. Jeremy said that Yahoo's applications are tightly bound together, making it difficult to open one piece without giving away information about how the remainder is written, or making it useless because knowing 1/10th of the application wouldn't be helpful (because of all the unknown code).
Right. There'd be places in the code where magic voodoo functions are called but we couldn't really talk about what they do or how they might work. That's called our secret sauce or "business logic" if you prefer. A good deal of that is kept under wraps for very legitimate reasons. It'd be like the FBI and CIA documents you get under a Freedom of Information request. The really juicy stuff is always hidden behind the thick black lines.
Open Source is supposed to be "open", right?
How would that look? Would it encourage outsiders to use, improve, and hack on our code? Or would it make us look like we don't really "get" open source? Like we're trying to get free labor without anything in return?
Putting aside the fact that there'd be some "we can't talk about what happens here" holes in the code, getting contributions back for the code would be... interesting. Are you willing to give us the necessary rights to use it in all the ways we'd like? Bug fixes might come in and be useful, but what about features? "Here's a patch that finally adds 'foo' to Yahoo! Mail." Then we'd be beat up for not integrating it fast enough. It's tricky to introduce new features to a product that tens of millions of people are using.
But I'm jumping the gun a bit. How would a developer test a bug fix or new feature? Aside from the most trivial examples, you'd need to replicate a sufficient chunk of our infrastructure for that to work. Does that mean we have to release the code and documentation regarding our package management and distribution tools? What about our naming conventions, network ACLs, and so on? Where does it stop?
So Matt, I guess what I'm trying to say is that this is way more complicated than "Yahoo and Google don't write modular code." And I suspect that you know that but decided to opt for the cheap headline.
I don't want to end this on a completely negative note, so here's one example of Yahoo! code that's been released on SourceForge under an open source license (BSD) with good documentation and support: YUI, our User Interface library. As I wrote on the YDN blog, a fair number of folks were interested in it. I'm even told that Valueclick is using it to revamp their site. Why not? We're using it all over Yahoo! (Google has examples too, I'm sure. Perhaps ExplorerCanvas is one?)
How about that?
Claiming that we can't be better open source citizens because of our inability to write good software is, pardon my French, just crap. Being good open source citizens means contributing where it makes sense, allowing our employees to be a part of the open source world, and helping to evangelize the benefits of open source software.
I think that if you've spent any time looking at Yahoo or Google's involvement, you'd notice that we've been increasingly doing more and more to help the open source world.
You may remember that Paul came to Yahoo! as an intern not long ago. His last day is coming up already, but he'll definitely be able to show people what he did during his summer break.
It's funny, when I read Tim Bray saying this:
Apt-get is just so unreasonably fucking great. Why aren’t we using it for Solaris updates?
My first reaction was "I've been wondering that for YEARS!" Of course, I wondered the same thing about Red Hat for nearly as long.
It's funny how open source solutions often outdo the commercial guys--even the ones who "get" open source.
Maybe Sun should offer a Debian style package repository for Solaris? I know there are some unofficial attempts at this, but I'm talking about a full-blown supported setup.