February 28, 2007

Gmail Spam Filtering: Smart but could be Smarter

Getting this dialog box prompted me to mention something that's been bugging me for a while now.

"You have sent a message in a conversation marked as spam. The message will not appear in your Sent Mail unless you mark it as not spam."

On several occasions I've had a incoming message marked as spam that was clearly a response to a non-spam message I'd already seen. Once I marked the suspect message as "not spam" Gmail intelligently grouped it with the others to form a complete "conversation."

But I have to wonder why that isn't given higher precedence when deciding if a new message is spam? I mean, if I can tell it's part of a non-spam conversation, and Gmail can tell too, why doesn't it err on the side of including it?

Posted by jzawodn at 05:13 PM

Dear Technical Recruiters

Here's a tip for you.

I know that recruiting is tough right now. Really tough. We're trying to hire a lot of people at Yahoo, and it's slow going. Everyone I talk to is having trouble finding good engineers.

So when you decide to cold-call people to find out if they're interesting in changing jobs (especially software engineering), you just might want to avoid doing to AT 6:50am!!!

Seriously. WTF?!

How many software engineers do you know who are interested in having a discussion with a recruiter before 10am? This is particularly inexcusable when you're calling from the same time zone (based on the area code that caller id showed for you).

I'm still in shock, 15 minutes later.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:05 AM

February 27, 2007

Searching for Current Events on Google and Yahoo

One of the folks over in Yahoo! Search sent me a pointer to Showing Yahoo Some Search Results Love which says, among other things:

As we've pointed out on several occasions at the Internet Marketing Monitor, Yahoo generally has much better results for searches based on current events.

And then:

But it's hard to argue that, strictly as a search engine, Yahoo is behind. But the best way to see which you prefer is simply to test them. Do identical searches on Google and Yahoo...

And that struck a chord with me because of something that happened just yesterday.

A friend had mentioned something about a movie we had seen winning an Oscar. So hit Ctrl+K (change focus to the search box in Firefox) and typed in "2007 oscar winners" in the hopes of finding the list of winners.

Well, I could go on to describe how I didn't find what I was looking for, switched to Yahoo! Search (something I hadn't done in a long time), and found it right away with the same query.

But I decided to ask myself "What Would Jon Udell Do?" and then made a little screencast (3MB Windows Media format) to demonstrate this instead.

Disclaimer(s): It's my first "real" screencast. You'll note the lack of sound. I tried to find some suitable music but got distracted by other things. I also tried putting it on-line as an embeddable flash video, but the quality sucked. So you get the full-resolution version. Also, I know about Google News and Yahoo News, but I like to use web search when I think it should work.

Making screencasts is fun. I'm gonna do more of this. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:37 PM

February 26, 2007

Gimme Five!

Every once in a while a post comes across that reminds me of why I read Defective Yeti. Today's QuickChange is one of those.

That's why I think ATMs should have a QuickCash option. Here's how it would work. Two prosthetic hands would be attached to the top of the machine. If you want $5, you hit one and shout "Gimmie five!," while hitting both and shouting "Gimmie ten!" submits your request for ten dollars. Voice recognition software verifies your identity, and the money is dispensed immediately.
I think this idea could really catch on. And, if it's successful, the machines could be retrofit to dispense girlie magazines as well. "Gimmie some skin!"


That almost sounds like a Gallagher idea.

BTW, is it just me, or is Gallagher looking kind of old these days?

Posted by jzawodn at 09:35 PM

February 24, 2007

When Second Life Replaces First

Derek seems to be surrounded by people falling victim to Second Life these days.

This virus is spreading like wildfire... first my boss' boss found out about it, then all of our helpdesk people, now it's like spreading to other schools, and a good friend of mine it seems mentions at least once a day how she was doing this, that, or the other thing "in SL".
Yeegads, people, do all those things in the REAL WORLD. You know, The Big Blue Room. The room with the Scary Yellow Orb in the ceiling. The one those Luddites called in the ancient tongue, "Outside".
And that's where Star Trek: The Next Generation comes in. I'm stuck in an episode called "The Game". I'm Wesley Crusher, they're all the rest of the crew, and I'm really hoping Data figures out how to crash the game for good before they pin me down and force me to join in.

He doesn’t get the appeal.

Now, frankly, I don't understand the appeal. At all. I mean not a single bit. Except for those who are chat-room addicts desperately starved for human contact, or people who want to live out their Furry Fetishes, the attraction of Second Life is completely lost upon me.

Same here.

Thankfully, I've not fallen victim to this plague myself. I've avoided trying out Second Life for two reasons: (1) what I've seen of it so far hasn't been compelling enough for me to plunge in, and (2) knowing me, I could easily get addicted and find hours of my days vanishing in a hurry.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:34 AM

February 23, 2007

The Hardest Thing I Have To Do Some Days

In the tradition of The Hardest Thing I Have To Do Every Day, I present another micro-quote:

The hardest thing I have to do some days is to keep my mouth shut (or refrain from typing into the "comments" box on a variety of web sites and/or clicking "submit").

In related news, my inbox still looks like that. Let's see if I can keep this up.

Coming soon: A post on "knowing when to ditch the database" and a related one on "how I attack scaling problems on high-growth web sites."

Posted by jzawodn at 06:26 PM

February 22, 2007

Yahoo! Tiger Team is Hiring Senior Software Engineers

[Note: Most of this comes from the standard job description... More from me at the bottom.]

Do you prefer to work on a wide variety of projects in a challenging environment? Have you ever felt that your job was monotonous or repetitive? Are you a builder, not a maintainer? Do you enjoy change? If so, Yahoo's platform engineering may have the job for you. Come be a part of our Tiger team.

The Tiger team at Yahoo is dedicated to providing highly skilled, senior engineers to a variety of projects. Tigers perform as an internal "consulting" team, providing short term resourcing to dedicated product engineering teams that have critical or time sensitive problems. In the past Tigers have contributed to highly visible products such as Y! Mail and anti-spam, Y! Messenger and Y! Alerts.

The ideal Tiger is a technically strong engineer who likes a dynamic environment and assignments that change every 6-8 months. As a member of the Tiger team you will get wide exposure to a variety of Yahoo's products with an emphasis on back-end systems, performance work and platforms. Due to the rapidly changing team environment, strong communications and teamwork skills are a must.


Required Skills:

  • MS/BS in Computer Science (or equivalent experience).
  • 7+ years industry experience building scalable systems in C/C++ on a Unix platform
  • A proven track-record of technical leadership, including responsibility for design or architecture
  • Good development-process skills: structured design documentation, build processes, coding styles, testing frameworks, etc.
  • Interest and demonstrated ability to work in complex team environments, with evolving team membership

Preferred Skills

  • Knowledge of Apache internals
  • Experience w/relational databases, particularly Oracle and MySQL
  • Experience w/web-scripting languages including Perl or PHP

[End Standard Description]

To the best of my knowledge, these jobs are on-site in Sunnyvale, California. If you're at all interested, please get in touch. I'm happy to answer questions about working at Yahoo.

I know several members of the Tiger Team, and they're quite amazing and get to work on very important short-term projects. Anyone would learn a lot working on their team.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:36 AM

February 17, 2007

Spring Must Be Near

The weather was warm and clear today. There was just enough heat and instability in the atmosphere to produce some light thermals, so I had to go up for a flight in BASA's SZD-51-1 "Junior"

Outside Shot

I hadn't been in much of a thermal for a few months, and all the time spent on my single engine license managed to suppress my soaring urge. I'm afraid that's been mostly undone now. :-)

Me Shot

I'm looking forward to the days getting longer and warmer, the thermals getting stronger and more frequent, and another good year of soaring.

Pictures: Flying N106DS for the Third Time

Posted by jzawodn at 10:21 PM

February 16, 2007

Take that, inbox!

When I wrote the other day about The Hardest Thing I Have To Do Every Day, I was in the midst of a mad email purge and filing campaign. This is yet another attempt to change my ways.

The end result is quite pleasing.

empty inbox

But it'll take a serious adjustment of habits to keep things that neat and tidy.

So please don't send me any more email.

Thanks. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 05:48 PM

February 15, 2007

The Hardest Thing I Have To Do Every Day

An simple thought popped into my head yesterday as I was attempting to make some serious headway into my inbox of more than 250 unread items. For reasons I don't particularly understand, it actually came to me in the form of a quote that could easily be a soundbite:

The hardest thing I have to do every day is to decide what to ignore.

I thought about it for a few minutes and realized how true it was. My email inbox is the obvious example. Every time I look, I'm faced with a bunch of crap to filter through. Hundreds of split-second decisions (trash, file, respond, defer, etc) need to be made. My RSS aggregator is the same way. It reminds me of how many things I've yet to deal with. There's reddit and random links sent from friends via IM and email. Flickr. YouTube. Blog comments. Presentations and classes at work. Podcasts. The stack of unread books in my computer room. The list goes on and on.

In our culture of abundance, they're nearly infinite in number.

I need to invert my thinking. I should be starting most days with a strong idea in mind of what I want to spent the majority of the day focusing on. If there's time left, I'll tend to the other distractions.

But some habits are just hard to break.

The frustrating thing about all this is that as our electronic tools evolve to more efficiently find information, I'm a bit more aware every day of how much stuff I am ignoring. Life was easier when I was ignorant of how much interesting stuff the world had to offer.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:49 AM

February 14, 2007

Airbus A380 Engine Blade Destruction Test

There's a phenomenal amount of testing that's involved in bringing a new aircraft design on the market and getting certification from the aviation authorities in various governments around the world. You may remember the Boeing 777 Wing Test Video post from a few weeks back.

Well here's another one.

One of the design goals on the Airbus A380 engine is that the engine housing protect the aircraft (and its passengers) from harm if one of the fan blades breaks off. In the A380 Blade Off Test video, you get to see how it's done.

The next thing I should try to dig up is some flutter testing video. That should be fun. ;-)

Posted by jzawodn at 10:20 PM

February 13, 2007

Google as our cultural digital archive?

Marc's The Video Library of Alexandria post on O'Reilly Radar connected a set of dots for me that I can't believe I never connected on my own.

In that, it certainly seems like an appropriate purchase for Google, much like DejaNews before it.

That one sentence made me realize that Google has been buying up a lot of digital information archives and repositories of various types: DejaNews (Usenet News), Keyhole / Google Earth (Satellite data), and YouTube (Video). When you combine that with their archive(s) of the web, the growing mountain of email stored in Gmail's perpetually expanding mailboxes, and book scanning, it's quite impressive.

In casual thinking, I can only think of a few on-line information repositories that I care about that Google doesn't own.

  1. Yahoo! Groups archives (currently not indexed by any search engine, which is a tragedy in my mind)
  2. Wikipedia
  3. The Internet Archive
  4. The Library of Congress (but they may just scan the whole damn thing)
  5. The National Weather Service

Notice that #1 is owned by a competitor, #2 and #3 can't really be bought, and the last two are paid for by US taxpayers.

A few years from now I might be convinced that Flickr belongs on that list too.

What other big sources of data would you like to see outlive the organizations that currently control (or own) them?

Posted by jzawodn at 09:01 PM

February 12, 2007

JavaScript Badges and Widgets Considered Harmful

For a long time now I've been meaning to write about the seemingly ubiquitous JavaScript Badges/Widgets/Thingies that you see on blogs and web sites everywhere. Heck, I even have one on my site right now (over there--on the right).

But you'll notice that I have only one (MyBlogLog). It's one more than I'd like to have, but it's quite compelling. These JavaScript and, to a lesser degree, Flash droppings have annoyed me for a long time.


  1. They're a hack. With all the talk of how the web has "become writable" with advent of blogs and self-publishing tools, you'd think that we'd have a better way of getting third party content on to our sites. Given that an overwhelming number of sites that are likely running PHP or some other "dynamic" hosting setup, these least common denominator solutions just feel wrong. (This could easily be followed by a rant on problems with the spread of web services and RSS.)
  2. Search engines. Unlike most other forms of on-line publishing, these little gems convey little if any information to search engines. In the old days (meaning "just a few years ago"), we used to actually link to things we found interesting. Search engines were able to mine that aggregate data to help make decisions about popularity and importance. But when it comes to search, these JavaScript and/or Flash creations might as well be invisible. They benefit individual readers but really don't contribute to the web in general. They're little data islands.
  3. Site performance. Look no further than Mike Arrington's TechCrunch Down. I’m Pissed. to get a sense of what can happen. "...we have a lot of third party widgets, ads and analytics apps running on the site. They are often the cause for slow load times."
  4. Hard to skin. Seriously. The vast majority of people using them can't figure out how (or don't even realize it's possible) to modify their appearance. The result is that those who use lots of them end up with sites that look reminiscent of MySpace. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy Fred Wilson's blog (note also its loading time), but let's just say I'm glad I read it in an RSS aggregator most of the time. (No offense, Fred. I know you like to experiment a lot with these things. I get that.)
  5. They're not secure. Every time you drop a new JavaScript include on your site, you're giving a third party access to a wealth of information about your site visitors, your content, their clicks, and so on. They can modify the page, snoop on your users, re-write your links, and do all sorts of nasty stuff. Granted, this is rare in practice, but how do you really know that?
  6. Don't work everywhere. People love the simplicity of "paste this in and you're done" but the reality is that these things don't work everywhere. Larger sites, MySpace being the canonical example, recognize the security and performance problems associated with these things and have banned them outright.

If it's not obvious by now, I use them very sparingly on my site. I think long and hard about whether it's really worth it before I get yet another party involved in the performance and security of my site.

Anyway, I just waned to get that off my chest and have something I could point to when I object to these in the future. But at the same time, I also realize that these things are here to stay and they're an increasingly important part of Yahoo's business. That doesn't mean I can't object on semi-elitist technical grounds, right?

What I'd really like to see is this: For every badge/widget/gadget out there, I'd like to see a discoverable API that allows me to get the same data via a simple REST based API that emits RSS (with extensions where it makes sense). The link to get that data should be rendered on the badge. Think of it as a "View Source" for badges.

Then we could plug the data into Pipes to do all sorts of intersting things.

Now it's your turn to call me an idiot. Or a hypocrite for using a JavaScript based advertising system (or embedding YouTube videos) that could be considered a JavaScript widget (using a somewhat liberal notion of "widget"). You have my permission. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 07:54 AM

February 11, 2007

Flight of 8 Bonanzas in Formation

After the rain let up this morning the skies started to clear. Toward the later part of the afternoon I couldn't take it anymore, so I headed out to the airport. It was the first non-rainy weekend day since I passed my checkride last weekend.

My plan was to head down to the southeast and just fly around a bit. So I did m preflight checks, gassed up the plane, and headed out.

Departing Reid Hillview Toward South County
Above: Looking southeast from San Jose toward Hollister and beyond.

I leveled off around 3,500 feet because there were occasional clouds lingering and took a few minutes to just look around at the scenery.

Looking Over Morgan Hill
Above: Looking out over Morgan Hill and the Gilroy area.

And before I knew it I was passing over South County Airport.

South County Airport
Above: South County Airport.

And then the funniest thing happened. I heard a radio call that went something like this:

South County traffic... Bonanza 1234 in flight of 8 Bonanzas, 5 miles to the southeast, will be flying overhead at 1,500 in formation.


Sure enough, they called in again a minute or so later and said they were on final. So I spiraled down from above and shot a few pictures. Some even came out--sort of.

Flight of 8 Bonanzas in Formation
Above: Eight Bonanzas flying in formation over South County.

And another, with them over highway 101:

Flight of 8 Bonanzas in Formation
Above: Eight Bonanzas flying in formation over South County.

And one more, with them off the departure end of the runway:

Flight of 8 Bonanzas in Formation
Above: Eight Bonanzas flying in formation over South County.

With that unexpected surprise behind me, I continued southeast and was treated to nice clouds along the coast.

Clouds along the Coast
Above: Clouds along the coast.

And some nicely lit views of the city of Hollister and the hills to the southeast.

Hills East of Hollister
Above: The Hills southeast of Hollister

All in all, it was not a bad way to finish off the weekend. :-)

The full set of pictures is here on Flickr.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:57 PM

February 10, 2007

Breaking Into My Own House

kitchen and back door/patio Earlier this week, an odd thing happened. The main lock on my sliding patio door stopped latching. It was probably the result of the house settling or maybe the wood shifting around now that we're finally getting some seasonal rain. Either way, it was rather annoying and had been bothering me all week.

This afternoon I got out the tools and decided to fix it. I needed to move the metal receiver that the latch grabs onto so that it'd actually latch again. While I thought that would entail drilling into the metal frame, it turned out that I was able to reuse a previous set of holes (apparently this has happened before) and get by with a little bit of Dremel work.

No problem, right?

Everything was fine until about an hour ago. I had cleaned out my closet and was taking bags of clothes into the garage so that I might drop them off at Goodwill this week. On may way out the door, I gave it a bit of a push and it slid as usual before stopping in the closed position.

You can see where this is going, right?

Well, the funny thing is that just as the door was closing, I thought to myself "that'd be funny if the door locked behind me... you know, because I fixed the lock soooo well..."

Sure enough, when I came back to the door and gave it a tug it wouldn't move. At all. And, of course, it was raining outside. So there I was, locked out of my own house. It was at that moment I decided that I really ought to keep a spare key hidden in the garage.

Anyway, I wandered back into the garage, grabbed a few tools and began to take the lock apart from the outside. Much to my surprise, it was relatively easy to take apart and I was back inside in no more than three minutes.

Happy with my quick recovery, I stored a spare key in the garage, put the lock back together, and began to ponder getting better locks. If I can get in without trying very hard, there's not much to stop a determined person. (Not that I wasn't determined, but you know what I mean.)

Thinking back a bit, I realized that this hadn't happened since about 1998 when I lived in my little house in Ohio. I guess every 8-9 years isn't so bad.

Anyone know a good lock specialist? ;-)

Posted by jzawodn at 04:28 PM

February 09, 2007

LAMP Engineer Needed in Berkeley, California for MyBlogLog

MyBlogLog The MyBlogLog team is looking to grow and we could use a few good engineers. We're currently on the hunt for a good general purpose LAMP engineer: someone who knows their Apache, PHP, Perl, MySQL, and related stuff.

This job is ideal for someone who lives in San Francisco, Berkeley, or Oakland and wants to work on a small team that's continuing to build a service that's growing very quickly and has very passionate users. We have lot of new hardware to play with, a great office, and tons of ideas about where to take the service.

The Yahoo! office is located on University Ave, just a few blocks from campus and the local BART station. There's also an amazing selection of eateries just outside the front door.

Send me your resume if you're interested.

We're also looking for a Community Manager, so if that's more your style, get in touch.

Of course, these jobs are also open to existing Yahoos. So if you've been around Yahoo! a year or two and would like to try out something different (and maybe reduce your commute), please get in touch. Oh, while I'm at it... we're looking for a good operations engineer too--ideally someone who already knows Yahoo systems well. :-)

[Notes: MyBlogLog was acquired by Yahoo! back in early January and I've been working with the team closely ever since then, so I might be a bit biased. Or just well informed. :-)]

Posted by jzawodn at 07:49 AM

February 07, 2007

Yahoo! Pipes: Unlocking the Data Web

Yahoo! Pipes For far too long now RSS has been used in ways that don't really tap its true potential. Being able to syndicate my favorite headlines or blog posts is great. In fact, it helped to kick off a revolution in personal on-line publishing that is still growing and evolving. But I want so much more.

It's not for lack of vision. Back in 2005, Adam Bosworth painted a vision that eventually manifested itself as GData. I wrote about that a bit in Google's GData, MySQL, and the Future of on-line Databases.

It's not for lack of data either. You can get RSS output from lots of non-news and non-blog stuff. Everything from classifieds on eBay and craigslist to Bugzilla, Wikis, and so on.

The problem has been a lack of good tools for pulling it all together. In the Unix world, we often connect sources of data to filters and utilities using pipes. A pipe is a way of constructing ad-hoc workflows composed of any number of inputs, filters, and manipulation tools. And the beauty of the whole system is that they all use a very simple input and output method, so there's a nearly infinite set of ways you can combine and recombine them.

On the web, however, it's harder. There are data sources and feeds, but until now we've had no pipes! Pulling together and integrating data sources using JavaScript isn't on the client for the faint of heart. The browser isn't the same as a Unix command-line, so building mashups has been more frustrating and time consuming that it needs to be--especially for Unix people like me.

Yahoo! Pipes is one of a very small set of completely amazing on-line data manipulation and data mashup environments that can really change the way we work with on-line data sources. (The others are DabbleDB and Dapper.)

Yahoo! Pipes is...

Pipes is a hosted service that lets you remix feeds and create new data mashups in a visual programming environment. The name of the service pays tribute to Unix pipes, which let programmers do astonishingly clever things by making it easy to chain simple utilities together on the command line.

So if you're interested in an interactive on-line data mashup construction set, check it out and have a look at the existing pipes developers have created. I think it's one of the coolest web apps we've released in a long time, and I'm not just saying that because I know the guys who built it. Not only does it make hard things easy (like Perl has done for years), the user interface kicks ass too. It's exciting both from a technological point of view and because of the implications for the web as a whole. :-)

For another great take on this, check out what Tim O'Reilly has to say about Pipes. I don't think he's over-selling it by calling Pipes "milestone in the history of the internet." It's seriously cool stuff.

I'm hoping we can pull together some demos and interviews with the team next week. Watch the Yahoo! Developer Network blog for more...

See Also:

Update @7:20am on Feb 8th: Pipes is currently down. There's a lot of interest, so things are getting tweaked on the backend. I'll post more when we have an update.

Update @7:00am on Feb 9th: Pipes is alive and tuned! Try it out.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:06 PM

February 06, 2007

OSCON 2007 Talk Proposal: From Open Source to Open APIs

Riffing off Automattic CEO Toni Schneider's recent post Open Source vs. Open APIs, I've submitted a talk proposal for the 2007 O'Reilly Open Source Convention titled From Open Source to Open APIs. Toni and I will co-present the session which has this abstract:

When openness moves up the stack, opportunity knocks...
The advent of hosted web applications and services that communicate primarily over HTTP kicked off a revolution that has resulted in a growing ecology of Open APIs. Just as Open Source Software spawned entirely new businesses (and business models), Open APIs offer just as much potential—maybe even more in our increasingly networked world.
But at the same time, OpenAPIs are very different creatures from downloadable Open Source Software. This presentation, inspired by Toni Schneider's blog post titled "Open Source vs. Open APIs" (http://toni.schneidersf.com/2007/01/30/open-source-vs-open-apis/), looks those differences and what they mean for those producing and consuming them. We will include real-life experiences from Automattic and Yahoo!

What do you think? Is it interesting? Would you attend? Are there specific things you'd like to see us talk about?

Posted by jzawodn at 10:47 AM

February 04, 2007

How to deal with slow HTTP clients?

Every now and then a bunch of really slow HTTP clients decide to suck down pages off my web site. This is bad because when enough of them do this, it dramatically lowers the number of free Apache processes available to handle requests from the rest of the world. I don't know if it's some lame DDoS attack or just really slow clients.

In years gone by, I know that lingerd was a solution to this problem. But there doesn’t appear to be much activity around it these days. In fact, the lack of a lingerd package in Debian (there is an old unofficial packagae) suggests that there are better methods.

I've been using mod_limitipconn to partly deal with the problem, but I need to keep that number high enough that it doesn't penalize normal browsers. That makes it a sort of half-assed solution.

It occurs to me that I could put Squid in front of Apache, but that seems a little heavyweight. Or maybe my impressions of Squid are skewed.

Anyway, I'm looking for ideas or pointers to the obvious thing I've missed.


Posted by jzawodn at 07:35 AM

February 03, 2007

How To Pass Your FAA Checkride

Earlier today, after several paperwork and weather delays, I passed my FAA Practical Test (or checkride) for the Private Pilot Single Engine Land certificate with Dave Morss In N5156X.

Flying Citabria N5156X on my First Solo Cross Country Flight While I'm not going to re-write the details of the experience or claim that I did everything perfectly, I'd like to pass along a few tips to anyone planning to take the test.


Simply put, it's all about preparation. The more practice you have, the more you've been flying recently, and the more you've studied the required material, the more routine the whole experience will seem.

  1. Learn The Practical Test Standards (PTS)
    These are the rules that tell you what to expect and govern how the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) will judge your performance. If you know them well, there should be no surprises on the Big Day.
  2. Learn The Required Knowledge
    Of all the books I've tried, the most well organized and comprehensive is published by the government. The FAA publication FAA-H-8083-25, otherwise known as the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (available from Amazon.com in print form), is incredibly helpful. Not only that, but it's available for free on-line. Your tax dollars at work.
  3. Use VideosIn addition to all the reading, I'm a big fan of using DVDs to reinforce what I need to know. I wrote about this previously in FAA Private Pilot Test Prep DVDs from King Schools vs. Sporty's, but the quick version is this: get the King Schools DVDs. They're a little cheesy but very useful.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice.
    Simply put, fly a lot. And try to get to the point that you're doing all the required maneuvers well within the tolerances specified in the PTS (see point #1). Then you'll have some wiggle room when it comes to the test day and you're a bit nervous.
  5. Reconnaissance
    Find out what you can in advance about your DPE. Ask others who've had check rides with him or her recently. Are there particular areas that seem to get more attention? Brush up on those.
  6. Get Organized
    Make a list of all the materials you need for the Big Day and have them together the night before. You don't want to be scrambling around looking for paperwork on the morning of your test.

Checkride Supplies

Of course, I had help...

Thanks to the instructors at Amelia Reid Aviation who've been flying with me off an on for the last year or so, especially Jim Grant and Dave Gray. If you're looking for primary flight training or tailwheel transition in the Bay Area, I highly recommend them. Thanks also to Al, the resident mechanical genius, for keeping the plane in flying shape. :-)

Other pilots reading this, please add your comments below. What did you do that really helped in preparation for your checkride.

See Also

Others posts about my flight training:

What'd I miss?

Posted by jzawodn at 06:11 PM

February 02, 2007

Ask Don MacAskill about Amazon S3

Don MacAskill, the founder of SmugMug, is preparing a talk on Amazon's S3 storage service for O'Reilly's ETech conference. He's written about it several times in the past:

And now he's looking for ideas of questions you'd like to see answered in his talk. Drop a comment on his blog if you have one (or more).

Also, I've written about S3 for non-business use in the past:

And have some more on that coming soon if I can find the time to write it up.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:26 PM

February 01, 2007

On-line Dating and Lies

I don't remember how I stumbled upon The Truth about Online Dating in Scientific American, but it's an entertaining read.

Before I get into it, though, I must admit that I've never played the on-line dating game. I've never been comfortable with the idea or felt compelled to get past my resistance to the expectations and judgments involved.

Anyway, numerous passages caught my eye.

Apparently there are folks who never use their real photos and even take to changing them now and then, as one might in an advertising campaign:

But Chris was not the woman in the online photos. This wasn't a question of an age discrepancy or a new hairdo. She was a completely different woman. Chris was in marketing, you see, and to her it was simply a good strategy to post photographs that would draw in as many "customers" as possible. I never said a word about the photos. I just enjoyed our conversation and the refreshments. A few weeks later I noticed that Chris had replaced the photos with those of yet another woman.

And, of course, everyone is above average:

If you are a Garrison Keillor fan, you have probably heard about the fictional Lake Wobegon on National Public Radio, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." In the online dating community, similar rules apply: in one study, only 1 percent of online daters listed their appearance as "less than average."

And apparently there's a type of SEO that goes along with getting yourself to rank well in the dating search process:

There are also straightforward, practical reasons for lying. One recent study showed that men claiming incomes exceeding $250,000 got 151 percent more replies than men claiming ­incomes less than $50,000, for example. Many women are quite open about listing much younger ages, often stating in the text of their profiles that they have listed a younger age to make sure they turn up in searches. (Because men often use age cutoffs in their searches, women who list ages above that cutoff will never be seen.)


And what about those on-line tests that promise your "perfect mach"?

I have been a researcher for about 30 years and a test designer for nearly half those years. When I see extravagant ads for online tests that promise to find people a soul mate, I find myself asking, "How on earth could such a test exist?"
The truth is, it doesn't.
For a psychometric evaluation to be taken seriously by scientists, the test itself needs to clear two hurdles. It needs to be shown to be reliable--which means, roughly, that you can count on it to produce stable results. And it needs to be shown to be a valid measure of what it is supposed to be measuring. With a test that matches people up, such validity would be established by showing that the resulting romantic pairings are actually successful.

Have you tried on-line dating services? Did they work for you or someone you know?

I have absolutely no idea how common it is among people I know. It really doesn't come up much in conversation.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:27 AM