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All Postings, Tim Bray:  (1,152 posts)

Source blog: ongoing

Fri, 29 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Jack White Show Notes

Posted By Tim Bray

My fifteen-year-old and I attended the August 28, 2014 show at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. Its a terrific venue; a big lawn with a nicely-steep slope so you can see over the mosh pit. If youre not a Jack White fan you can stop reading, but if you are, this is a tour you should catch. My notes on the event, in no particular order, with better pictures than I can take: Its not a terribly long set  just under two hours  but wow, is there ever a lot of music jammed in. Heres the set-list; I didnt take notes so there were noteworthy moments where I cant remember the song they were in.

Thu, 28 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Jack White Recordings

Posted By Tim Bray

Im off to see Jack White play an outdoor concert tonight, so I revisited his last couple of outings, Blunderbuss (which is great) and Lazaretto (which is pretty good). But watch your media! Blunderbuss Its loaded with terrific songs: I particularly like Love Interruption, Im Shakin, and I Guess I Should Go To Sleep. On top of which, a few of them are straight-ahead rockers, and any year which has one of those from Jack White in it cant be all bad. Lazaretto The proportion of winners isnt as high, except for theres Temporary Ground, a totally beautiful sad little ballad, one of the best songs of the year by anyone.

Sun, 24 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXXI: Forest Light

Posted By Tim Bray

Our Cottage Life happens on an island mostly covered by temperate rainforest. Not old-growth (thats hard to come by these days); but logged a hundred years back, so the trees are big. Such forests have qualities of light that make me happy but are hard to photograph. This is about as close as Ive come. The undergrowth is usually pretty thick, but there is the occasional glade. Most trees are evergreen: Cedar, Fir, Hemlock. But here and there youll see a Bigleaf Maple; perhaps my favorite among all trees. Their size is remarkable and their leaves catch that forest like like no others.

Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Flamenco Snapshots

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently, several times per week Ive been spending an hour or two biking. Usually after supper, with Ingress as a motivator. My route home goes by a Flamenco bar; and its absurdly easy to counteract the biking benefits with a couple of Guinesses while I watch the last set. And take pictures. The Kino Café is, to be honest, kind of a dump, and I hope the dancers are pursuing this as a hobby not a profession; the way it works is, theres no cover, but after each set the prettiest among them goes around with a little basket, which gets pretty full of folding money when the bars full, and doesnt when its not.

Sun, 17 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

On Pancakes

Posted By Tim Bray

Sometime in 2004 I started making traditional Sunday breakfasts, featuring pancakes and bacon; and never stopped, so theres a tenth anniversary coming up. Ive learned enough about them now to offer tips both on them, and on what you put on them. Which matters, because pancakes, un-topped, are kind of boring. Mix it up. As in, try different mixes, both noveau-organic and traditional-home-style. The differences are surprising. Maple syrup! Normally everyone buys Canada #1 but health-food stores will have other options; some of the darker shades with numbers that arent 1 have deliciously smoky flavors. Most mixes and recipes have a lot of baking powder aimed at giving you big thick fluffy pancakes.

Sat, 16 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Saint Hilda

Posted By Tim Bray

Also known as Hilda of Whitby; shes the protagonist of Hild, by Nicola Griffith, which I just read and enjoyed hugely. Only I didnt know Hild was Hilda while I was reading it. What happened was, Charlie Stross had Ms Griffith on as a guest-blogger, and she posted Who Owns SF? which led me to an impulse buy. Its an odd, long, first-person book, with a different sort of rhythm. I was going to write not much happens but since its full of religion and sex and politics and war and commerce that would be crazy. What I think I mean is, you spend the whole book inside Hilds head and she doesnt change much as the years and battles and faiths and lovers pass.

Sun, 10 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

The Moon With No Mirror

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, we came home late and there was that Supermoon beaming through the trees. So I screwed the big ol 400mm Tokina onto the Fujifilm camera and got a pretty decent picture even though there was quite a bit of haze. Its so much easier when youre not using an SLR. Ive done this before, with a 2007-vintage Pentax DSLR and a zoom stretched to 210mm. But it was hard, involving guesswork; and a lot of Lightrooming. With an EVF its just no pain. Since I dont have a tripod mount for the big lens, I decided I better shoot pretty fast.

Tue, 05 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Legal Advice

Posted By Tim Bray

Hey, are you operating an app or a Web site? If so, are you among the (large number of) people (for example, Instagram) who connect via http: instead of https:? Heres some advice. Set up a meeting with someone on the Legal side, and get them to sign off. Explain to them like this: Were offering our service in whats called plain-text mode, which means that someone with a WiFi sniffer, or employees of our ISP, or overseas hackers, or the NSA, or the local cops near where our servers are, or where our customers PCs and phones are, can see what our users are sending us and what were sending them.

Tue, 05 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Got Yer Space Opera Right Here

Posted By Tim Bray

I refer to Cibola Burn, the latest from James S.A. Corey. Im going to quote myself on Space Opera from a 2013 piece that highlighted Coreys Expanse series, of which this is #4: Gleaming silver ingots of engineering poetry reaching up out of gravitys mud carrying humanitys sparks into spaces blackness... and blowing each other up! Well, yeah; this is like that; and if you like that sort of thing, youll like this. Our Story: A plucky band of hardscrabble homesteaders stake out a piece of the rugged (interstellar) frontier and then a big resource-extraction operation starts showing up to brush them aside and begin extracting.

Sun, 03 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

On Hating T-Mobile

Posted By Tim Bray

If you are a visitor to the USA, you can expect TMO to be stupid and abusive. Background Youre visiting America. You probably do this more than once per year. You need Internet. Youre willing to pay for it. In certain countries (my experience is with the UK, Spain, and Germany) you can buy a reasonably-priced SIM in or near the airport. For example, there are vending machines at Heathrow where £20 will get you one thats good for a week or two. These SIMs, of course, dont care in the slightest what kind of device you put them in. The good part For a visitor, TMO offers prepaid plans that are not-bad-at-all; a few bucks a day for enough data.

Sun, 03 Aug 2014 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXX: Lensing

Posted By Tim Bray

The great thing about interchangeable-lens cameras is well, interchanging lenses. In particular while kicking back in Cottage-life mode. Fujifilm X-T1 + 400mm I already wrote about getting a Fotodiox PK-FX adapter, and finally couldnt resist clamping on the antique Tokina SL-400 F5.6 onto my Fujifilm X-T1. The combo looks absolutely ridiculous. Its perfectly hand-wieldable without a tripod, by the way. It lets you take arty stuff like this: Those are big mountains in the background. But I think the design goal is this sort of thing, a half-grown eaglet in its nest. His or her parents visit regularly to supply food; these occasions are accompanied by much screaming and flapping.

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

OSCON Rear-view

Posted By Tim Bray

I spent three days last week at OSCON 2014 and enjoyed it. Im not actually sure what OSCON means any more, but I hope it finds a way to stay vital. There are a lot of good software conferences these days; many of the best are dedicated to a particular technology. Python/Ruby/Go folks, and the various database tribes, have a selection of annuals and regionals, while if youre a JavaScript weenie (browser or Node flavor) there are events most weeks. But somehow none of those feel important; if you want your tech meetup to have actual cultural impact you need a broader focus, a theme, something that captures imaginations.

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Privacy Economics

Posted By Tim Bray

Privacy is good. Perfect privacy is really hard, probably unachievable. Its not a binary thing, but a big dial we can turn up or down. So obviously, we should be turning it up. The economics Its like this. If theres data flowing over the Net that the intelligence community can scoop up for free, they will, and theyll store it forever. Criminals and stalkers will scoop too, looking for credit-card numbers and home addresses and so on. But the Internet volume is so high that if it processing a conversation takes any non-zero investment of effort or money, then spooks and crooks wont bother (unless youre a real target); nobody can afford X multiplied by billions/day, no matter how small X is.

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Festival Firetruck

Posted By Tim Bray

There was a party in the local park; food-stands, music, a movie. We picnicked there with family and friends. And a firetruck came! Did I say music? I mean Vancouvers Carnival Band, ubiquitous at any sort of public event; theyre fun to listen to and look at, too. It was a fine event, kids charged everywhere while grownups relaxed on lawn-chairs, and we felt OK about bailing at sunset and skipping The Lego Movie. There are a lot of things to like about Vancouver. At many public events, the Fire Department rolls up, mostly to entertain the kids. Well, and me, I just love taking pictures of the trucks.

Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Vegetation

Posted By Tim Bray

Pictures of people are better than pictures of plants, but the plants hold still and dont worry about how theyre going to come across. Actually Im trying to figure out how to use depth-of-field, but these are a decent side-effect of that study. The thing is, the X-T1 has the greatest viewfinder ever and it makes me brave about stupid things like pointing a wide-open F1.4 lens at a complex 3-D tangle of stems. Granted, it almost never works; clearly, more practice needed.

Sat, 19 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Joyful Screams

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres a photo of children screaming. Care to take a guess what its about, and is about to happen? Try a look at the full-size version. Its a self-defense lesson. The kids are being taught that when theyre scared of someone, they face them, they back up, they keep one leg back so they cant be knocked over easily, they keep their hands up, and they scream like hell. First Stop! then Youre frightening me! and finally, if everyones ignoring another loud kid: FIRE! You cant imagine how much the kids love this drill. Im not 100% sure why, but being praised for howling (louder is better) is one bit, and playing a threatening-adult game seems to go deep.

Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Discouraged Developer

Posted By Tim Bray

Im a software guy; I like writing code. Over the last decade, my niche has been a modest amount of coding and a lot of writing about it. The size of my audience suggests that this is a reasonably useful combination. But Im kind of discouraged and stuck at the moment. Ill get over it, but the storys worth sharing. I have some sympathy with Ed Finklers The Developer's Dystopian Future (read the commentary from Marco Arment) and I hope to avoid going where Matt Gemmell has gone; see Confessions of an ex-developer. Matt has decided to become a novelist; I scratch my writing itch in smaller pieces, but I have to say hes eloquent.

Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Hangouts to Slack

Posted By Tim Bray

I chat with people on all sorts of different online channels; I guess Im sort of a connoisseur. Since I dont have a work team these days, the only big group chat that consumes any time at all is my local Ingress faction community. Its been on Google+ Hangouts for over a year, but they just moved over to Slack. G+ Hangouts are great Because they keep track, globally, of what Ive seen on all my screens and devices, and are very good at only showing me whats new. No real-time channel Id ever used got that quite right before. G+ runs everything over HTTPS and your communication is pretty private.

Sun, 13 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Ingress Tips for iOS-folk

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, it looks like the client has dropped. Welcome iDevicers to our private party! OK, not so private, there are a million or so of us around the planet. Im a regular-but-not-obsessive player, and have been since 2012; if youre playing in the Vancouver area, Ill probably meet you in-game, which quite likely means F2F. The first time this happens I want a demo of the app. I expect a huge influx of people learning the ropes, so here are some intensely-experience-based tips. Im not gonna say a word about how to play the game; there are loads of places to go for tips.

Fri, 11 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup  The Last Lap

Posted By Tim Bray

I caught one semifinal in a pub and were having friends over for The Big Game. Which feels like the right way to do it. Thats the good news; then there were the semifinals. Brazil 1 Germany 7 Astonishing, but everyones already said so. The what is pretty easy: Brazils defense just wasnt there. On that very first goal, a well-taken corner: Müller ditches his mark and is standing free in front of a third of the goalmouth, right where the balls coming down. Well-run defenses dont let that happen. The Germans mightve been just a touch lucky on one or two of the next two or three, but its the kind of luck that happens when the backs arent where theyre supposed to be.

Wed, 09 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Blow up the Cert Business

Posted By Tim Bray

Check out Maintaining digital certificate security by Adam Langley over on the Google Online Security blog. Bad certs in the wild, many Windows users (but not on Firefox) vulnerable. This is very, very bad. Let me elaborate a bit and explain how Google could solve this problem. Digital certificates (everyone says certs) are a key ingredient in making the Web secure enough that you can use it for banking and buying things. You need one if you want to operate a web address starting with https:. You buy them from a certificate authority (everyone says CA). Fortunately, theyre cheap and reliable and pretty easy to use.

Tue, 08 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Color Victim

Posted By Tim Bray

Im almost ashamed to admit it, but Ive been enjoying a Twitter stream called Every Hex Color; every ten minutes or so it posts a 24-bit random number which expresses a red/green/blue color value. Ive long been fascinated by the mapping between the numeric RGB space and what our eye/mind system constructs on consciousness stage. Longtime readers may remember a small exploration I did called RGB Planes. Of course, the math and science behind color are horribly, sickeningly complex, and I dont pretend to deep understanding. For those who do, properly appreciating this feed probably requires a conscious effort to ignore all that stuff.

Mon, 07 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Marketing Gone Bad

Posted By Tim Bray

In this months Harvard Business Review, The Content Marketing Revolution smells like concentrated essence of evil; an unironic paean to the take-over of journalism, and public conversation, by marketeers. I recommend reading it, if only for shock value; here are a couple of out-takes for flavor. Brands are no longer merely peddling products; theyre producing, unearthing, and distributing information. And because they do, the corporation becomes not just economically important to society, but intellectually essential as well. Just a sec, be right back. Sorry, had to make an unexpected run for the loo there; hate it when that happens. Lets try again.

Sun, 06 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup  The Quarters

Posted By Tim Bray

All the favorites won. [Sobs.] Also, the tournament has never got back to the high-scoring fast-running energy of the Group Stage. Lets hope it ends with a bang. Me blogging the World Cup for a mostly-tech mostly-norteamericano audience has felt a bit like bringing dispatches from a foreign country. But at this point chances are that many of you actually watched the games Im writing about. Does that change anything? France 0 Germany 1 A fair result, I suppose. One thing nobody else seems to have pointed out is that this was a triumph of conditioning; in the last 20 minutes or so the French play became ragged and choppy; there were no real slashing attacks or Neuer game-savers.

Wed, 02 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Posted By Tim Bray

Mr Cave is touring at the moment; the current Bad Seeds incarnation is a six-piece notably including Warren Ellis; (No, not that Warren). I dont go to a lot of concerts; a few each year. I caught this tour Tuesday and it was the most involving, intense music Ive experienced in years. If theyre coming near, you should go see them. Assuming you dont mind really loud really dark music about serious things: fear and love and murder and sex and God. An establishing shot, taken on the concert halls balcony. Its dark, just like the music. At a Bad Seeds show, you hear wonderful songs; the set list featured two from my fave Cave, 1994s Let Love In; Red Right Hand made my blood run cold.

Tue, 01 Jul 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup  Down to 8

Posted By Tim Bray

All the teams that were supposed to advance have, and mostly without any surprises. The round of 16 hasnt been as much fun as the first phase, but things are looking up. Europe vs Africa Frances defeat of Nigeria was fair, although it didnt win them many friends. Theyre totally the kind of team that could win the World Cup without actually exciting anyone. I loved the Nigerians pace and courage, but they just didnt have the finishing quality to score against one of those deadening ironclad Eurodefenses. I suppose Germanys advance was fair-ish, too, and theyre obviously a contender to take it all.

Sun, 29 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

World Cup 2014  We Know Four

Posted By Tim Bray

Four of the sixteen are in, four more out. Lots of drama even if some of the football was a little stinky. Brazil and Colombia So the hosts got (just barely) past Chile. At this point, Ill honestly be surprised if they get past Colombia, and if they do, theyll be crushed by whichever of France or Germany emerges from that side of the bracket. Neymar and Oscar? They arent, and the defense is frankly porous. I suppose the results qualitatively fair in that neither team really dominated the other, but I felt awfully bad for Chile. And the shootout itself was sort of lacklustre, what with shots wide of the goal and straight at the keeper.

Fri, 27 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

DisplayPort vs HDMI on OS X

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently I wrote about plugging a Samsung U28D590D 4K display into my late-model 15" MacBook Pro. Decent performance, easy setup. It was reporting 30fps, which is OK for programming, but Sheldon McGee a.k.a. @tooshel said that Id get 60fps via DisplayPort, and pointed me at video evidence. So I tried, and heres the data. This is OS X 10.9.3 on a MacBookPro11,3 i.e. late-2013 15" model. There are three possible configurations: Standalone laptop, Laptop/outboard via HDMI, Laptop/outboard via DisplayPort. For the latter to work, I had to buy a DP-to-mini-DP adapter; the Mac then reported the display as running at 60 Hz.

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

World Cup Tools

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive managed to take advantage of my between-gigs status to watch just over half of the World Cup matches. To satisfy my curiosity, I regularly needed answers to two questions: What are the group standings? and Whats on today? Youd think that FIFA.com would be the place to find them, but youd be wrong. To figure out whats on, Im using this web calendar from Britains Sky Sports, which plonks the matches, timezone-corrected, right into the Google calendar I look at 20 times a day. Pleasingly, its auto-updating the playoff fixtures as the group standings settle down. To understand the group statuses, I do a Google Search for world cup standings; this puts the Group A status at the top of the results window and gives you a one-click link to see all eight groups.

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup  Round of 16

Posted By Tim Bray

Nobody would say the tournament format is perfect but, based on the first-round play, its hard to find teams that should have been in but are out, or vice versa. When the biggest injustice is Greece instead of Côte dIvoire, thats not terrible. The exits of Spain, Italy, England, and Portugal are surprises, but Id say the bigger story in 2014 is the ascendency of Latin-American football. Brazil-Chile The hosts are heavily favored, but Brazil just hasnt, to my eye, really showed the brilliance Ive seen from certain other teams. Their goal differential (+5) is tied for fourth (Netherlands & Colombia at +7, France +6, Germany +5).

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Java Security Hole

Posted By Tim Bray

Good solid cryptography is an essential foundation for sound business usage of the Internet, and essential to provide a sane privacy level. But the tools for Java programmers are in horrible shape. OpenPGP The crypto landscape is wide and disorderly, but in the area I most care about, private messaging, OpenPGP is central. RFC 4880 gives pretty crisp and clean coverage of how it works. So what we need are nice clean OpenPGP tools for Java-heads. OpenPGP describes public/private key formats and what signed/encrypted messages look like. So there are four or less inputs to any PGP process: The key, the plaintext (to be encrypted and/or signed), the encrypted text (to be decrypted), and the signature (to be checked).

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Constructs

Posted By Tim Bray

Photographic subjects can be sorted into any number of mental baskets. Mine are, more or less: People, Nature, and Human Constructs. The objects in the first two baskets are curved, mostly; but those Constructs are mostly about line segments, the angles they meet at, and the surfaces between them. Here are three examples. Two are Vancouver, one Keats Island. Okay, some Nature snuck into a couple.

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

ART and Dalvik

Posted By Tim Bray

The Android avalanche today at IO included an announcement that Android L will use a new default runtime called ART. This is really a pretty big deal, that is if youre an application-runtime geek. Since Androids launch in 2008, the app runtime has been Dalvik, which is a story that never got the attention it deserved. Its a novel register-based VM, not like Javas at all, but whose bytecodes could be generated from Javas with reasonable efficiency. A fully garbage-collected and (starting in 2011 or so) JITted VM, pretty power-efficient, and pretty fast. But never quite as power-efficient or fast as iOS apps, compiled from ObjC to ARM-native code; perhaps no classic VM ever could be.

Tue, 24 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup  The Horror

Posted By Tim Bray

I refer to the events of today, June 24th. The Beautiful Game, they say; only sometimes not. Italy 0 Uruguay 1 Yeah, Italy deserved to lose. But yeah, Suarez bit that guy. Id have been cheering for Colombia next round, whoever won. Heres the thing: Italy hasnt quite got over 2006, when they won the World Cup with their ironclad defense anchored by the incomparable Cannavaro, who Im convinced single-handedly beat Germany and went through the tournament without a red or yellow card. This years team was not quite as good, a whole lot nastier, and that defensive-lockdown mode was truly ugly.

Mon, 23 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXIX: Biryani

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, my family signed me up for an Indian-cooking class. On Thursday Nasreen taught us Chicken Biryani and so I thought I might try to enrich early-2014 Cottage Life with it. Biryani, well, its complicated. This versions payload featured chicken, peas, yogurt, potatoes, onions, and loads of spices (there are variations including excellent veggie choices). Then build up layers of rice, payload, caramelized onions, sliced peppers, and pour some magic over them. Nasreens recipe described it as a lively, multitasking dish and yeah, its not the kind of thing youre going to whip up on impulse at short notice.

Mon, 23 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

More Old Glass, with Eagle

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, it had to be tried: Can you strap an antique 400mm F5.6 Tokina telephoto on a state-of-the-art modern mirrorless, as in the Fujifilm X-T1? Why, yes! Yes, you can. And an eagle might drop by. The family cried The eagles down at the dock! Miraculously, after I ran in, got out the camera, got out the lens, put the adapter on the lens, and put the combo on the camera, he still was. Hes scruffy and wet because he wants dinner, which involves splashing into the briny Pacific. Hes standing on an old wooden arch thingie on our dock, which I guess is a nice vantage point: We saw him take a couple of tries, coming up empty.

Fri, 20 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Java Pain

Posted By Tim Bray

In 2014, its not OK if its hard for a developer to run a simple program from the command line. I wrote some code to connect Keybase and OpenKeychain, and plan to write more. Since its in an Android app the code was in Java and it occurred to me that since (so they say) other people use Java too, those people might be able to use it, so Im working on that. But it shouldnt be so hard. I had the Java code already working and in production, so I copied it out of OpenKeychain and made a new project and wanted a smoke test which I thought I ought to be able to run from the command line.

Fri, 20 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup Days 8 and 9

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, weve seen all the teams now, so Im going to back off and only write about the games that matter, where by matter I mean I watched and didnt bore me. So, is this the year of Latin America or what? Colombia 2 Côte d'Ivoire 1 It was fair, the Colombians are the real deal and the Ivoiriens just werent there yet, even though Gervinhos goal was maybe the best solo-effort score in the tournament so far. There are now like 5 Latin-American teams that you have to think are a threat to any team on any day. Among other things, in two games Colombia has a total of one goal against.

Wed, 18 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup Day 7

Posted By Tim Bray

Today marked the tournaments first exits, notably including the champs. Things are starting to take shape. Australia 2 Netherlands 3 Good on the Aussies for making a game of it! I was working with the match on an outboard computer screen, initially not giving it much attention, but saw both Robbens one-man run and Cahills one-foot one-timer. Good football! When the Australians got ahead of the Dutch, it reminded me of what they used to say back in the Joe Montana days: If youre up on the 49ers by a touchdown, its tied; if youre up by a field goal, youre behind. And so it was.

Tue, 17 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup Day 6

Posted By Tim Bray

Now weve seen all the teams. Also, it was goalkeepers day! Belgium 2 Algeria 1 Well, except for this first match. I confess to drifting away from it about halftime. The Algerians were ineffectual (even on that penalty, it was far from clear that Feghouli was going to score), the Belgians were boring, and the keepers were surplus to requirements. I eventually started watching again and was paying attention for Mertens go-ahead goal, the result of a thunderous high-velocity attacking run. So why didnt they do any of that stuff during the first 80 minutes? Often football strategies escape me. Whats a little saddening here is that Group H is really soft, so either of these yawners could end up being mincemeat for a good team in the round of 16.

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup Day 5

Posted By Tim Bray

Ouf, those Portuguese. Germany 4 Portugal 0 Readers who followed my commentary on the last two World Cups know that I have an attitude problem about Portugal, because whenever I watch them it seems like theres a whole lot of hacking and diving. Theres a word for that: Cheating. And hey, the New Yorker found someone with the numbers: Portugal tied for the cheating lead in 2010 (with Chile and Italy); Ronaldo was third overall among individuals. Which is to say, this result was OK by me. Both the initial penalty shot and the red card were fair calls. I stopped watching around halftime because really, who needed it.

Sun, 15 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup Day 4

Posted By Tim Bray

It time for tactlessness: Some of these teams shouldnt be here. Switzerland 2 Ecuador 1 Didnt catch it. One of these guys might even make it out of group phase; then theyll get mangled instantly and unemorably. So, why are they here? Im not sure what the right number of teams for the World Cup tournament is, but the quality of some of these matches is evidence that 32 is too high. France 3 Honduras 0 I watched some but then wandered off. Neither side was putting a world-class show, which is what the World Cup is supposed to be about.

Sat, 14 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup Day 3

Posted By Tim Bray

Nobody could possibly watch all the games, even people between jobs like me. This was pointed out by my 8-year-old who wanted the TV, so I told her the story of how she was born the day before the 2006 World Cup started, which is why I ended up watching lots of it even though it was coming in from Europe at weird times: Paternity leave plus a newborns sleep/wake schedule. But she persisted in her (losing) argument for a switchover to Bugs Bunny. Colombia 3 Greece 0 Really, the least engaging game of the tournament so far. Colombia had some flashes of speed and precision, but from Greece more or less nothing; you cant attack at a walking pace.

Fri, 13 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup Day 2

Posted By Tim Bray

Give the Brazilians credit, the playing surfaces held up remarkably under the heavy rain. So did the quality of play, mostly. Mexico 1 Cameroon 0 I tend to know and like Mexico because theyre often the big dog in the pool Canada plays in; and Ive thought that one of these years they should be able to win it all. On the other hand Im an unabashed fan of joyous run-and-gun African soccer. Anyhow, Mexico may do well this year, but today wasnt evidence; Cameroon was entirely lacking in cohesion and discipline. The execrable-again refereeing robbed Dos Santos of two pretty good chances; 3-0 would have been a fairer reflection of the result.

Thu, 12 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

2014 World Cup Day 1

Posted By Tim Bray

There were no broadcast breakdowns or stadium collapses or other disasters (aside from the refereeing); congrats to the Brazilians for getting this thing launched smoothly (aside from the football). Up here in Canada, it seems all the games are on CBC, who have the usual competent laid-back Brit announcers. The guys who call the Whitecaps games on the Vancouver radio station are way more fun. Not sure what CBC will do when there are parallel matches. Brazil 3 Croatia 1 There were only two clean goals. I include Croatias first, called an own-goal, but that was a lethal cross from Olic; if Marcelo hadnt touched it there was another red-checked shirt right behind him facing an open goalmouth.

Sun, 08 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Trusting Browser Code

Posted By Tim Bray

It would be useful if you could really trust code running in your browser. Its not obvious that this is possible; but its not obvious that it isnt, either. Google just announced End-to-End, OpenPGP code, destined for life as a Chrome extension that might add Strong Privacy to your Gmail life. Similarly, Keybase offers a slick in-the-browser encrypt/decrypt/sign experience. Both of these do encryption in JavaScript. If this can be made useful and safe, itll be amazingly useful in extending privacy to everyone. But maybe it cant. There are two classes of reasons people dont want to trust browser-based crypto: political problems and technical problems.

Thu, 05 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

More Funky-lens fun

Posted By Tim Bray

I previously wrote about sticking a groovy 100mm F/2.8 tele/macro Pentax lens on my Fujifilm X-T1; here are a few leftover pictures with no unifying theme, but theyre pretty. There are fancier flowers than a daisy, but few more fetching; my Mom scandalized her early-Fifties wedding planners by insisting on carrying them as a bride. Ive commented on how great the X-T1s manual-focus aids are, even with the mismatched lens. Let me walk that back a bit, because Ive been having trouble with shots at any distance; perhaps the adapter getting in the way? But for anything nearby it gets up and sings, for example like this: Focus on the ferns, then on the ferns behind the ferns.

Mon, 02 Jun 2014 19:00:00 UTC

MacBook Pro + Samsung U28D590D

Posted By Tim Bray

When I got 10.9.3, display on the ancient Dell 30" Id had plugged into various Macs went south; It would only do 1080x1920, which looked like a bad cartoon. So I ended up with a Sammy U28D590D which is advertised as UHD which I think is the official term for 4K. It works really well, albeit at 30Hz, but that doesnt seem to be a problem. Back story What happened was, I tweeted So, whats a good 4K outboard monitor to get for my MBP? Where by good I include cheap. and a couple people tweeted back about this Sammy, and local dealer NCIX had em in stock at a fair price, so I placed the order.

Fri, 30 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Camera Combo Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I got an adapter and slapped a Pentax 100mm Telephoto-Macro on my Fujifilm X-T1, leading to a ridiculous amount of fun. Herewith pictures of irises, flamenco, and a muscle car; and of course the baroque camera/lens combo. But there are things to watch out for. For those with a short attention span: Fujifilm X-cam shooters might want to run out and buy this lens (but there are cheaper alternatives) and an PK-to-FX adapter (but not the one I bought). I have lots of Pentax lenses, but without hesitation I slapped on the D-FA 100mm f2.8 because whats not to like about a prime mid-telephoto with MACRO written in big letters on the side?

Thu, 29 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Where Is Your Data Safe?

Posted By Tim Bray

You can store it on a USB stick or your mobile or your personal computer or your company servers or out there in the cloud. Where is it safe? Thats not a simple question, but heres my answer: Your own personal computer, if you take a few basic precautions, can be a pretty safe place to store things that matter, including secrets that matter. Lets assume Concerning the Personal Computer Im talking about: You bought it yourself, from its maker. You havent let anybody, in particular your employers IT group, install anything on it. The chances of an employer installing spyware, whether through policy or incompetence, are high.

Tue, 27 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

What Programmers Do

Posted By Tim Bray

I contributed a morsel of code, connective tissue linking two moderately-popular pieces of publicly-available software. The technology and culture that enable this? Theyre the water and computer programmers are the fish, we cant see it any more. By an accident of history I could this time; and want to write about it. Sidebar: For non-geeks Whenever youre sitting in front of a computer or fiddling with your mobile, youre interacting with software. How that software gets built, and the culture out of which it rises, are processes that affect your life; just like the tech and culture and people that manage airline schedules and commute-route closures and TV programming.

Mon, 26 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Privacy Levels

Posted By Tim Bray

You should be able to exchange messages privately using the Internet. My profession should be working on making this easy for everyone, including non-geek civilians who dont shouldnt need to understand cryptography. Ive been thinking about this a lot and even slinging little bits & pieces of code; before I write any more, I think itd be helpful to define terms. So lets start with a question: How private do you want to be? There are three obvious levels, which Ill call Basic, Common, and Strong. Basic Privacy We can all agree that we want privacy from random strangers sniffing WiFi signals, from crooks looking for bank account numbers, and from agents of the Chinese government looking for dirt on dissidents.

Sat, 24 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Chinese Garden, Right Side Up

Posted By Tim Bray

Earlier, in Chinese Garden Reflections I ran some pictures of greenery reflected in the ponds of Vancouvers Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Here are are more photos, unreflected. The first three of the five are in the public (free) part of the garden. Did I mention that its a really nice place to visit?

Thu, 22 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Night Food

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean at the Richmond Night Market. Richmond is a suburb of Vancouver noted for flatness, Chinese-ness, and the airport. I gather night markets are a big deal in the great Asian cities, so why not Richmond? Its in big parking lot in an empty corner near the airport, traversed by the Canada-Line elevated tracks. There are lots of retail establishments, mostly selling cheap-n-cheerful junk; the main attraction was the food: Cheap and cheerful, yes, but not junk at all. The people who cook and sell it, they work hard. I had some chicken and beef barbecue sticks, Lauren had squid-in-a-cup with loads of garlic, the little girl had cinnamon mini-bagels and a mango smoothie.

Sun, 18 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Pistils and Stamens Oh My

Posted By Tim Bray

Being four photographs of the insides of rhododendron blossoms featuring the sex organs named in the title. Some of the color is extraordinary. Those flower parts are kind of hard to photograph because theyre long and sticking out at you, so you need some depth-of-field to keep them in focus, but when youre shooting flowers you usually want as little as possible DoF so as to make the subject stand out. The Fujifilm X-T1 has all sorts of focus aids and Im slowly starting to get a feel for them.

Fri, 16 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Nautical-maintenance Mac

Posted By Tim Bray

There are three silver Mac laptops in our household and sometimes its not obvious which is which. Also, while at Google I got used to the notion that laptops shouldnt be left naked. So I shopped around online and ordered a cover from DecalGirl. This is the picture I used. Its Doug McCallums workshop; he runs Blue Ocean Yacht Services here in Vancouver and fixes up our boat once a year. I thought there were a few things about the workshop that suggested what was under the cover inside the computer. Putting the decal on requires a steady hand and cool nerves; mine is just slightly not straight, which irritates the hell out of me but is entirely invisible to the casual observer.

Wed, 14 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Chinese Garden Reflections

Posted By Tim Bray

While my Mom was visiting, she and I went to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, and boy did we ever take a lot of pictures. These three are different; Upside-down actually, reflected in the gardens many ponds. Theres a free part and a (not particularly cheap) paid-admission part; the first two shots here are in the first. For anyone visiting Vancouver, I totally recommend the Garden; its small, easy to take in, and beautiful in a unique way. Also, there are lots of funky entertaining stores in that part of Old Chinatown.

Tue, 13 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Pervasive Monitoring Is an Attack

Posted By Tim Bray

Thats the title of RFC 7258, also known as BCP 188 (where BCP stands for Best Common Practice); it represents Internet Engineering Task Force consensus on the fact that many powerful well-funded entities feel it is appropriate to monitor peoples use of the Net, without telling those people. The consensus is: This monitoring is an attack and designers of Internet protocols must work to mitigate it. Concretely, quoting from the RFC (PM stands for Pervasive Monitoring): Those developing IETF specifications need to be able to describe how they have considered PM, and, if the attack is relevant to the work to be published, be able to justify related design decisions. The back story Since the pervasive-surveillance story broke in June 2013, its reasonable to wonder why the IETF is putting this stake in the ground in May of 2014.

Tue, 13 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Teaching Glass

Posted By Tim Bray

Teaching, as in I have a Visiting-Professor gig this summer at the Centre for Digital Media. Glass as in Google Glass; Im advising a group trying to drive an interactive documentary (someone said walkumentary) with wearable tech. There are six grad students with expertise in programming, animation, photography, film, and audio, and theyve got fourteen weeks to see what they can make. Should be fun. The team Wenguang, Jessie, Cindy, Dan, Rob, and Valerie. Theyre not dummies. They have a blog already, Aperture; check out their not-rosy-at-all first impressions of walking around wearing Glass. The picture apparently illustrates the Hand shading technique.

Sat, 10 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

That Oracle-Google Appeal

Posted By Tim Bray

Im actually not that upset. The decision may or may not stand, so nobody on either side should either overcelebrate or rend their garments in anguish. And even if APIs are copyrightable, maybe thats not so terrible. But I think the OSS community just picked up a new to-do item. [Disclosure: While working at Google, I worked with the attorneys on certain aspects of this case, and was deposed by Oracle. I am not the slightest bit neutral in this dispute.] Might not stand? I read most of the Federal Circuit Appeals Court judgment and boy, the law around this is clear as mud.

Sat, 10 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Old Spring Lilies

Posted By Tim Bray

Lily-pads, to be exact. Last years, in this years May. I loved the geometry; and I think these are the only pictures in years Ive consciously taken with B&W in mind; the pads were yellow and diseased-looking.

Tue, 06 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Yellow Film Treatments

Posted By Tim Bray

One of the nifty features of the Fujifilm X cameras is a set of filters that try to capture the color flavors of their famous film products from days of yore: Astia, Provia, Velvia, and so on. But this is for JPEGs and I shoot raw, so Id pretty well ignored them. Recently, the filters got added to Adobe Lightroom, so I thought Id try them out. [Disclosure: Back in the film days I shot Kodachrome, mostly.] Heres our subject, a graceful tulip in Vancouvers Queen Elizabeth Park. This rendition is what you get by default when Lightroom sucks in Fuji raw files, called Adobe Standard.

Mon, 05 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Fat JSON

Posted By Tim Bray

Most server-side APIs these days are JSON-over-HTTP. Developers are generally comfy with this, but I notice when I look at the JSON that its often, uh, whats the tactful term these days? Lets say generously proportioned. And I see clumsy code being written to walk through it. The options for dealing with this are interesting. For example Ive been working with keybase.io recently; when you talk to their directory through their API, an entry is represented by a User Object, which is not exactly lightweight; heres part of one which may be retrieved here. { "status": { "code": 0, "name": "OK" }, "guest_id": "05a8fdd28c23a5d5dc2c2f588c3e7b08", "them": { "id": "922d9f5ffd96b34b9133483091738a00", "basics": { "username": "timbray", "ctime": 1395088335, "mtime": 1395088335, "id_version": 9, "track_version": 11, ...

Sun, 04 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Tulip Aperture

Posted By Tim Bray

Most photographers know about Bokeh. Herewith a couple of blossom renditions that I hope illuminate the subject, which is not that simple. The pictures are effectively identical, except for the first is F5.6, the second F1.4 (shutter speeds 1/250 and 1/2900 respectively). For those new to the subject Bokeh is photo jargon for when everything in the picture is out of focus, except for the subject. Things that encourage it include using a wide aperture (when the F-stop number is, say, 2.8 or below), using a longer lens (although these shots show that 35mm is good enough), and having a larger sensor.

Sat, 03 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Security Farce

Posted By Tim Bray

There were these headlines yesterday, for example in CNET, about a serious security flaw in OAuth & OpenID, with garish graphics claiming that Google and Facebook and Yahoo and, well, every other website you ever heard of was vulnerable. Ive been digging a bit and I still dont know if theres a there there; at the moment, I think not. But I was left nauseated by the amateur-hour flavor of the reporting. The Heartbleed Connection Heartbleed turned up earlier this spring, it was serious and scary and easily demonstrable and easy to understand; it had a cool name and a snazzy Web site with an eye-grabbing logo, and boy, did it get the worlds attention.

Sat, 03 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Pink and Blue

Posted By Tim Bray

I have a new camera and its spring. Which is to say, if you dislike botanical photos you should avert your eyes from this blog for the next little while. The (many) photogeeks among you can consider this sequence as in part a meditation on early-2014 issues in photography and inevitably, I suppose, an extended review of the Fujifilm X-T1. This one is remarkable in having had exactly zero postprocessing; I confess to routine fairly-heavy photomanipulation, in part just because I enjoy doing it. But these are the bits that came out of the camera, except for I cropped away some superfluous grass and sidewalk.

Fri, 02 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

iPad Photography

Posted By Tim Bray

My Mom is visiting and Ive been taking advantage of my unemployment to tour her around some of Vancouvers tourist spots. Where you find tourists, taking pictures. With everything from fancy high-end cameras to iPads. Yes, people do use tablets as cameras. But... only women. I have no explanation for the unsubtle gender bias. [Update: Over on Twitter, I got vigorous pushback on the gender bias; many report seeing lots of men do this. Vancouver thing? Also, a suggestion of age bias: Mostly older rather than younger people. [The world is complicated.]] And once you get over the shock of seeing people waving these things around, it starts to make sense: as in, What You See Is What You Get.

Thu, 01 May 2014 19:00:00 UTC

On Piketty on Capital

Posted By Tim Bray

Thomas Pikettys Capital in the Twenty-First Century may well be the most important economics book published this century; or maybe just the most important book. Its physical version is sold out. I just finished it, and while its been reviewed to death (by Nobel-Prize winners, forsooth), I havent heard any Net-head or software-geek voices. And there are angles there our tribe should pay attention to. What does it say? Oh gosh, read one of those other reviews. Better still, read the damn book already. Really. What... still want to know? Well, it addresses issues like How much wealth is there? and How is it distributed? and How has this trended over history? and Is the present like the past? Piketty introduces interesting metrics for the economy as a whole, for example r, the average rate of return on wealth (farmland, urban real-estate, financial instruments).

Mon, 28 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Advising Auth0

Posted By Tim Bray

You can find them at Auth0.com. As of now Im serving on their Advisory Board. Its not an actual job but yes, I do have a financial interest in their success, so you should take that into account when you read what I write. Why Auth0? Well, having spent a couple of years advocating back and forth between Google and the developer community around Identity issues, Ive become keenly aware of how under-served that community is. Modern identity tech is getting to the point where its irresponsible not to be deploying it; but the devil is in the details, and boy are there ever a lot of details.

Sun, 27 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

New Fujifilm

Posted By Tim Bray

I just picked up a new Fujifilm X-T1. Its about the most-reviewed camera in recent history and theres very little I can add to that tsunami of words; so this is short. The pictures here were taken at a high-school-student written/directed/performed musical that my son was mixed up in. He can be spotted if you know what he looks like (hint: Not like me at all). I used the advanced technique of slapping the 35mm F/1.4 on the camera, setting everything on automatic, and pressing the shutter button. The X-T1 is great for this kind of thing; you can turn off the back screen and shoot with the eyepiece exclusively, so no glow-in-the-dark, and the shutter noise is silky, hardly audible.

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Blossoms

Posted By Tim Bray

Its spring. I have a garden, a camera, and a blog. What more need be said? This is our second year with this baby cherry tree. It has a scattering of blossoms; will there be fruit? Stay tuned. The tulips are just a bit past their peak, but still reward contemplation, the closer-up the better. Hm, Im not actually sure what this is and its actually not a wonderful picture, but I was charmed by the web. Of all the springy things each spring, the springiest is the fern eruption.

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Popular Cryptography

Posted By Tim Bray

Its like this: Everybody ought to be able to use strong cryptography any time theyre going to send anything to anybody. Ideally it should just happen, by default, but lets take baby steps. This is a messy rambling work diary on trying to put some of the pieces together to make that a little more practical than it is today. Sorry, this isnt introductory. Maybe when a few more pieces of the solution are in place Ill be able to write a painless Heres how you can do secure messaging piece. Lets assume you know what public-key encryption is and how Web APIs and Android apps work, and go from there.

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXVIII: Bigger Glass

Posted By Tim Bray

We did an opening-up overnighter; another year of Cottage Life has begun! Attentive readers will have noticed that Ive become a Fujifilm fanboi, but at the cabin Im still a proud Pentaxian, because my longest Fuji lens only goes to 55mm and things on the island are further away. So lets see what you can do with bigger glass. First of all, you can point the mighty Pentax DA* 50-135 f/2.8 (which, objectively speaking, is still probably the best lens Ive ever owned) at sharp-looking boats. Another option is to wait for the sun to get low  I find that a bottle of good white wine helps  then prop a ridiculous antique like the Tokina SL-400 f5.6 on your knee and point it at faraway objects, large and small.

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Twenty-first Century Home Repair

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, a horrible windstorm took a big branch off the neighbors maple; it reduced one of our eavestroughs to scrap metal on the way down. Getting it fixed was (surprisingly) Net-mediated and pain-free. I say surprisingly because every homeowner knows the pain of dealing with residential construction/repair contractors. Theyre hard to reach, they tend not to show up on schedule, their interest in your job is inversely proportional to its size, and theyre relentless upsellers: Fix that gutter? Im not sure its worthwhile, why dont we put in new gutters all around and hey, itd be a good time to re-do the roof while were up there! I looked up a couple rain-mitigation businesses online and called them both on a Thursday.

Mon, 14 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Solving Fujifilms Problem

Posted By Tim Bray

I got this new camera from Fujifilm; its outstanding, but has a really irritating software problem. Fuji could fix that on the double-quick and at the same time turn the problem into a marketing weapon. How? Two words: Open source. The camera is the X-T1, which has been reviewed to death, for example here and here and here, and is in short-supply, back-ordered at Amazon and everywhere else. Photo credit: Nexus 5. The problem Ill probably write more about the camera, but today I want to focus on its wireless features, of which there are three: You can remote-control the camera from a mobile device.

Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Spring on the Main

Posted By Tim Bray

Which is to say on Vancouvers Main Street, never actually been Main as such and isnt as cool as it thinks, but its my hood and full of life, and when the sun interrupts the long grey Pacific Northwest off-season, you can feel the life in the sidewalks and the buildings that are too old and shitty to gentrify, and even the hipster beards have better curl and loft. Also I got a new camera and that makes pictures seem to just take themselves. Lets ignore the camera for now, its just a prop to help me show off my home turf a bit.

Tue, 08 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Vancouveriana

Posted By Tim Bray

Two pairs of pictures that could only have been taken right here in my hometown. City Hall Its design is, admittedly, vaguely Stalinist; an effect relieved by the disorderly tree-filled jumble around it, and especially by the pink neon clock. Ive seen a million pictures of it but never from this angle before. Since the building is sort of monochrome I decided to try a B&W treatment of another shot, and it worked OK. Disclosure: The building has a flagpole and a radio antenna,but I amputated them. The harbour Its the reason Vancouver exists, so we should respect it. What happened was, I was out with an Ingress flash-farm posse, and I have to say it was really damn pleasant strolling around Waterfront Park with the sun setting, chatting with the people.

Sun, 06 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Springies

Posted By Tim Bray

The name is a back-formation from selfie, obviously. Herewith four botanicals only conceivable in the season after winter. First, a magnolia blossom emerging from its carapace; I didnt open the shutters wide enough to blur out the background but its still kinda cute. Next, a white camellia with red spots; not a terribly common flavor unless my Internet search results mislead me. Does anyone out there know what this kind is called? Finally, Sakura; all sorts of focus problems but still, it made me happy to see them, and I hope it helps your mood too. We have just maybe survived this winter.

Sat, 05 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Ethical Privacy Choices

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres a little rant I posted to an IETF mailing list thread on whether the IETF should move its public-facing services to private-by-default mode. Someone posted a reply suggesting that the user gets to choose the degree of security that they consider appropriate. Here, I think, is a key issue. I disagree. What?! How can I possibly disagree with user choice? Because, a huge majority of people: Arent aware that there is a choice to be made, and shouldnt need to be, Do not understand the technical issues surrounding the choice, and shouldnt have to, Do not understand the legal/policy issues surrounding the choice, and shouldnt have to.

Thu, 03 Apr 2014 19:00:00 UTC

N5-Cam VII: Long Train Ride

Posted By Tim Bray

On March 1st I went from Barcelona to London by train. It was amusing and relaxing; If you can spare a day and some money, I recommend it. You get on a Spanish Renfe train at 9AM-ish from Barcelona Sants, arrive at Paris Gare de Lyon at 4-ish, get on the Eurostar from Gare du Nord at 5:20-ish, and arrive at London St. Pancras at 6:15. Buying the ticket from Renfe and Eurostar using a computer in Canada turned out to be hard; Web search totally tailed to turn up a useful vendor, but I complained on Twitter and got a pointer to Loco2, who apparently exist to do exactly that.

Sat, 29 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Choose the Right Fish

Posted By Tim Bray

We had informal Saturday brunch with families of kids in our second-graders class in Old Chinatown at The Emerald, once a dim-sum joint, now a hipster supper club. The old-Chinatowners are aging out and some of the people moving in look Chinese because hey, this is Vancouver, but theyre younger and single-er and probably dont speak much ãÞq. Whatever its becoming will probably be interesting, but not the same. Old Chinatown is still full of life and bustle and color, but to me theres something of a museum-piece feeling. I wonder how long therell still be this kind of shop? Lots of fish!

Thu, 27 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

LifeSaver Works on KitKat

Posted By Tim Bray

The 4.4 release of Android broke my LifeSaver 2 app, which migrates phone-call and SMS logs from your old phone to a new one. It was my fault not Androids, because the API for the SMS database was undocumented and thus unofficial. With KitKat, now its official. And slightly different. So I just uploaded v2.3, which seems to fix the problem. Thanks Chris! I actually didnt do the work for KitKat; a nice Googler named Chris Jones got it 80% of the way there and the last lap was pretty easy. Something had changed in the SDK in a way that screwed up my layouts, so I had to refiddle those a bit, and then Chris changes exposed a couple of other useful little refactorings.

Wed, 26 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Retina Screen Tab Sweep

Posted By Tim Bray

When youre running your 15" Retina Mac in high-rez mode and you still dont have room for all your tabs, you probably have a lifestyle problem. One solution is to publish the links, so if your dont-kill-this-tab instinct turned out to be right, you have Internet Memory on your side. Roger Angell Hes been writing beautiful stories for The New Yorker for an insanely long time; This Old Man is what its like to be 93. Speaking as a male specimen of Homo sapiens rapidly approaching 60, one of my ambitions now is to be interesting as an old man, which Angell manifestly is.

Tue, 25 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Stross (unfinished) Merchant Princes

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished reading the three volumes of The Merchant Princes Omnibus by Charlie Stross: The Bloodline Feud, The Traders War, and The Revolution Trade. Theyre huge. Theyre fun. There are more plotlines left dangling than at the Season-3½ point in Lost. Theyre good enough to have robbed me of considerable sleep. I started reading the series a decade or so ago as originally published, got bored, and left it behind. The story of how six blah books became three much better ones is long, and Id think really interesting to anyone who cares about how novels are written and sold; SciFi/Fantasy stories in particular.

Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Keybase.io

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been fooling around with this for the last couple of days; you can find me at keybase.io/timbray. I think it might be pointing a useful way forward on private-by-default communication and, for what it does, it gets a lot of things right. The problem Wed like to be confident that the messages we send across the net  email, chat, SMS, whatever  are secure. When we say secure we mean some combination of nobody can read them but the person whos supposed to and the person reading them can be sure who sent them. In principle, this should be easy because of Public-key cryptography, which has been around for a while, is reliable enough to power basically 100% of the financial transactions that cross the net, and for which theres excellent open-source software that anyone can use for free.

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

¨Ëal  The Wind Rises

Posted By Tim Bray

Miyazakis latest is big and messy and disturbing and sad and very beautiful. We took two seven-year-old girls to see it because, well, Miyazaki; a mistake, this is for grown-ups. Its biographical and the protagonist is a real person: Jiro Horikoshi, most famous as the designer of the Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane, which dominated the first half of the Pacific-aerial part of WWII. The movie also has an earthquake, a Great Fire, an Italian count/airplane-designer, a tribute to Thomas Mann, a romance, and a fatal disease. Its also sl-o-o-ow. (Which is one of the things Ive always loved about Miyazaki, his willingness to take a scene, even one thats peripheral to his story, and let it run and run and run.

Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

La Barceloneta

Posted By Tim Bray

Thats the official name I guess, but taxi drivers just say Barceloneta; its a little triangle of Barcelona enclosing Port Vell, the Old Harbor. Its not fancy but its nice, and its not like any neighborhood Ive stayed in before. I had a decent Airbnb on Carrer de Grau i Torras  gotta love those Catalan names. I assume Carrer means something like alley; here it is. I offer the night-time version first because thats when I arrived. When theres light, you can see the ocean at the end of the street.If you were here I could point out the place I stayed.

Sun, 16 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Hyphenation Lessons

Posted By Tim Bray

I just made a bunch of changes to the site here, which should make it run faster without visible effect. The details might be of interest to Web-tech and publishing-tech geeks. Plus, words on being sentimental about Perl code. The H&J history Back in 2011 I right-justified the text here, and for that to work you need hyphenation, which I did with Hyphenator.js on the grounds that it makes perfect sense to run this sort of publishing busywork on the Webs billions of underworked client systems, rather than on its millions of often-overworked servers. [Pop quiz: Whats wrong with that thinking?]

Thu, 13 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Retina in Practice

Posted By Tim Bray

My new 15" MacBook has a Retina screen, which I labeled a good solution to a #firstworldproblem. Now that Ive had the Retina-vs-not difference shoved in my face, I realize its more dramatic than you might think. On my desk at work is a Dell 30" monitor that Google bought for me back in 2010. Its right in front of me and most work happens there; the Mac is on a stand off to the side and I dont use it much except for telecons, hangouts, Skype, and so on. But of course when Im away from the office, Im working on the Macs screen.

Tue, 11 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

The Web is 25

Posted By Tim Bray

Were celebrating! I can remember, sometime in the early Nineties, being irritated when emails and Usenet postings started filling up with these new things called URLs, initially-awkward-looking agglomerations of slashes and colons and letters. I tried to ignore the Web till I couldnt and then it changed my life and then it changed the world. The change continues. We owe it a lot; what you get out of the Web depends on what you put into it. Disclosure Im hopelessly biased; I built one of the first Web search engines and benefited from one of the first Web IPOs and and consulted for Netscape and was appointed to the W3C TAG and became Director of Web Technologies for Sun Microsystems.

Sun, 09 Mar 2014 19:00:00 UTC

N5-cam VI: Spanish Vistas

Posted By Tim Bray

Since phonecams have focal lengths that are fixed and low, they ought to be credible pocket-cam replacements for wide-angle shots. But you have to worry whether they can handle massed details. Lets see. Last Friday I took a day off and visited Monstserrat, near Barcelona, where theres a Benedictine Abbey with a famous black Virgin. First, here are two photos looking down. The first shot is from a half hours (very steep) hike up from the Abbey; the second from the train coming back down. Im using the first shot as the wallpaper for my 15" Macs Retina display and it looks glorious.

Sat, 08 Mar 2014 20:00:00 UTC

New Mac Setup

Posted By Tim Bray

In preparation for leaving Google, I wanted a new computer in time to make sure I could get all the non-Google stuff (pictures, blogging software, music) moved off my Googlemac. I got a maxed-out MacBook Pro 15" (16G RAM, 1T SSD) thus dumping an estimated $1,000 profit into Apples cash hoard. What did I get for it and how did I set it up? Ive been using OS X for eleven years now, have learned a few things, and theres a chance that some of the tricks here could be useful to others. State of the 2014 Art I got a Pro rather than an Air because I want the big screen, big memory, and fast CPU, mostly for photo-editing with Lightroom.

Sat, 08 Mar 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Punishing Peter Jackson

Posted By Tim Bray

On a recent 10½-hour flight I watched The Desolation of Smaug. Now we have to work out how to punish Peter Jackson for this travesty. The movie extends from just after our heroes arrival at the Carrock to where Smaug decides to leave the Mountain and make trouble. Only Jackson took out a whole bunch of plot points that might have made excellent cinema, replacing them with bafflegab written by someone much less competent than J.R.R. Tolkien. OK, there are one or two good things: The palace of the Woodland Elves king, the heaped treasure under the Lonely Mountain, Smaug himself, and Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake Town.

Wed, 05 Mar 2014 20:00:00 UTC

JSON Redux AKA RFC7159

Posted By Tim Bray

The IETF has just revised its JSON spec; the new version is RFC7159  that link is to the IETFs traditional line-printer format, Ive parked an HTML version at rfc7159.net for people who want to actually read the thing not just link to it. [Disclosure: I edited RFC7159.] Highlights RFC7159 cleans up some ambiguities and inconsistencies in various JSON definitions, none of which caused any real-world pain. More important, it captures industry experience about stupid things you can do in your JSON that are allowed by the spec but will cause problems in practice. If youre interested, I recommend opening up the HTML version and searching forward for the string interop.

Sat, 01 Mar 2014 20:00:00 UTC

MWC

Posted By Tim Bray

That stands for Mobile World Congress; it happens in early spring in Barcelona, and its mammoth; something like 75,000 people show up to wheel and deal.Theyre wheeling and dealing for big bucks; the mobile industry is huge and for four days almost everyone is here. Ive got no inside information on the nature of the deals the telcos make, with handset makers and antenna engineers and backhaul builders. But heres where they make em; almost every booth has executive meeting rooms, and one of the eight huge halls is nothing but hospitality suites and meetings. What MWC is like Big.

Sat, 01 Mar 2014 20:00:00 UTC

OpenID Connect is Here

Posted By Tim Bray

Signed, sealed, and delivered as of February 26th. Better than that: In full-volume production at Google and Deutsche Telekom for a while now. Based on OAuth 2, which has been frozen since 2012. Not perfect, but Id call it one of the safer technology deployment bets you can make right now. Lets say OIDC for short, OpenID Connect is kind of klunky. The Basics OIDC specifies a handful of OAuth 2.0 flows; the most important result is an ID Token, which I wrote about last year; one of my favorite pieces of standards-ware in years. An ID Token is an assertion, signed by an IDP, that some particular person was authenticated for the purposes of some particular app.

Thu, 27 Feb 2014 20:00:00 UTC

N5-cam V: Barcelona Subway

Posted By Tim Bray

I offer further research on the hypothesis that a decent modern phonecam (in this case a Nexus 5) means you dont need a good pocket cam any more. In particular, how about street photography? Where by street I mean under the street not on it and color not B&W. Street is said to require discretion, responsiveness, and subtle tonal variations. Heres the evidence. Worth enlarging, if only for the hands. A few things need saying: First, they werent together; the younger was traveling with a young man sporting a guitar and flowing curls. And although shes smiling once, she wasnt a happy woman, clearly troubled; mind you, it was early and cold.

Sun, 23 Feb 2014 20:00:00 UTC

The Bay Area

Posted By Tim Bray

Last week I announced that I was leaving Google and said in passing that I found the Bay Area congested, racist, incestuous, and overpriced. Those four adjectives were apparently more newsworthy than my career moves; fair enough. The reaction (and there was a lot of it) ranged from giggly agreement to sincere anger. So I should follow up. I think congested and overpriced hardly seem worth elaborating on. Yes, my own hometown is overpriced too so I grant a certain unfairness in my bandying that word. Id bypass incestuous too, but I cant noting that in a private discussion someone suggested I meant the startup/VC/tech-press Human Centipede.

Wed, 19 Feb 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Leaving Google

Posted By Tim Bray

As of March 17th Ill be an ex-employee. Its an amicable separation in the face of irreconcilable differences: I wouldnt move to California and Google wouldnt open a Vancouver office. I havent decided what to do next. Lets go with Q&A format. Seriously, about remote work? Yep. Both before and after being hired, I had been asked to consider moving south. I didnt want to and politely declined. Eventually, the group Im in politely informed me that staying remote wasnt an option. I talked to a couple of other groups but my heart wasnt really in it, because I decided Googles position was correct.

Tue, 18 Feb 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Ingress in 2014

Posted By Tim Bray

It was stormy at dusk last Sunday; Shoekey and I hunched shoulder-to-shoulder in a waterfront park, 90 km/h of swirling wind driving a mix of fresh rain and salt spray at us from every direction, zip-loc-bagged Androids in hand. Because in a big Ingress op, you gotta do what you gotta do. Yeah, Im playing again. Back Story (You can get the full-length version in Ingress, Things About Ingress, Ingress, Month 3, Ingress Weekly, Ingress Tourism, Advanced Ingress, Ingress Chase Scene, Ingress Ebb and Flow, and The Ingress Social Network): I got interested in late 2012, played off and on through last May, then faded away, bored.

Sun, 16 Feb 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Hockey Publishing

Posted By Tim Bray

I just enjoyed watching the first-round Finland-Canada hockey game from Sochi; the Finnish defense is awesome, and Tuukka Rask just about beat Canada single-handed. Also, they gotta do something about the ice quality. But this isnt about that, its about Wikipedia, once again beating the world. After the game was over, CBC TV showed a helpful grid of the rest of the tournament and how the playoffs worked. It went by a little too fast so I went to pull it up on the Internet. The Sochi14 site is horribly organized, but eventually, after much thrashing around, I tracked down the hockey playoff page, but nobody had bothered to fill it in.

Tue, 11 Feb 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Why Flappy Bird is Brilliant

Posted By Tim Bray

I heard the buzz and snagged it and played for the best part of an hour on a cross-Canada flight, never managed to get past level 10. The fact that the game is so addictive despite being so pathetically lame is trying to teach everyone a great big honking lesson. Pathetically lame? Well yeah, the graphics. And the birds. And the stupid extreme difficulty; with just a little bit of tuning (thinner pipes, bigger gaps) it could be a whole lot more playable. And the lesson is? Never be boring. When your bird goes phut! and youre done swearing, it takes one tap and maybe 3 seconds before the pathetic little 8-bit avian goober is back in flight.

Mon, 10 Feb 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Good Writing, Twice

Posted By Tim Bray

I almost never use this space any more just for links but damn it this is my blog and I can if I want to. Here are two exceptional pieces of writing and you should go read them both: First, John Grubers Microsoft, Past and Future is by a huge margin the best thing Ive read on that transition, and Microsoft still matters, really a lot. Second, William Burroughs Doing Easy is unlike anything Ive read this year or last year either, will make you smile and is full of big important life lessons.

Sat, 08 Feb 2014 20:00:00 UTC

N5-cam IV: Lying Flowers

Posted By Tim Bray

Its traditional at this time of year that I run close-ups of the first few crocuses, earliest harbingers of spring. Hah! Another chance to test out the proposition that mobile-device cams mean you dont need a serious camera any more. Well, what do you think? Two points to be made here: First, these crocuses are lying bastards because Spring isnt anywhere near, its been brutally cold, with highs around 0°C and nighttime lows way below that. The forecast is for snow. Second, Ive decided that my single biggest gripe with the N5-cam is its extreme wide-angle-ness; somehow or other, it needs a zoom.

Tue, 04 Feb 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Parading

Posted By Tim Bray

The nations that matter are those that export culture; China is one of those. Particularly this time of year and around the Pacific Rim; because its Chinese New Year. On Sunday, I marched in the big Vancouver parade. There arent that many pictures of me on this blog, but heres one. Photo credit: Tom Magliery wielding his Nikkor 70-300mm Christmas present. I was there because my 7-year-old is in a Mandarin-bilingual program with a couple of wonderful super-high-energy teachers who organize this sort of thing, and I recklessly checked the will volunteer box. They told us paraders that we ought to smile for the (many) cameras and in fact that was easy; at every moment of the hour-and-a-half or so, the crowds by the street were smiling and waving and taking pics and generally having a blast, so how could you not smile back at them?

Fri, 31 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Hot Mirrorless Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

The golden age of photography continues; now the mirrorlesses have banged through the saloon doors, looking for a throwdown with the SLRs. Its fun! Today I have loads of links, some to unmissable picture galleries (not mine) and a portrait of Fujifilm buyer paralysis. Basics If you already know all about the mirrorless thing, skip on ahead to the next section (but stop to check out the pic). Traditionally, good cameras were SLRs which means that you look at the picture youre gonna take through the lens youre gonna take it with, courtesy of an elaborate steampunk prism-and-mirror arrangement that sends the light rays to the viewfinder.

Thu, 30 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

N5-cam IV: Brighter Bridges

Posted By Tim Bray

In the previous outings in this series, Ive been torturing the poor little camera in my Nexus 5 with extreme low light, and I suppose it deserves better. If you want light, point the camera at a light  in this case, the shade of the Ikea-style floor lamp in my office. Wow, lots of detail. This makes a heck of an Android wallpaper. I was at a dojo watching the judokas work out and wondered how the little guy would do with fast-moving bodies in basic interior light. I didnt actually catch any hot action, but I loved the ceiling. Anyhow, lets do some real sunshine.

Tue, 28 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Moving the Gender Needle

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been moaning for years, in public forums and on this blog, about the horrible gender imbalance in the software tribe: the women are missing. Im depressed because, numerically, things havent gotten any better. But there are grounds for optimism, just maybe. Its the numbers, stupid Theyre horrible. If Wikipedias right, less than 20% of university grads entering the profession are female, and the number is falling. So, basically, any employer that can get their female headcount noticeably over 20% is apt to feel smug. Is that pathetic or what? I dont want to be all soulless here, but the numbers really matter.

Sun, 26 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Winterlong Tab Sweep

Posted By Tim Bray

Really long, I mean. But the organization is beyond criticism because there isnt any. Category: Other Item: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot's prison letters to Slavoj }i~ek (and she plays hard-ass music too). Item: David Weinbergers Pronouns were a mistake that we can fix. David Malki: Mortality record from 1665. Category: Wrong The egregious Evgeny Morozov got a slimepiece about the Maker movement published in The New Yorker. Remarkably, he apparently did not actually visit a Maker Faire or talk to an actual practitioner. What was The New Yorker thinking? Im not linking to it. Category: Fun Ars gives us The 20 best (and three most disappointing) video games of 2013; I only played one of them, because Ingress, and it is the most utter bullshit that thats not on Ars list.

Fri, 17 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

N5-cam III: Toronto by Night

Posted By Tim Bray

I visited my brother in Toronto and we went out to drink & talk & eat on a cold evening; I didnt take an actual camera-as-such, but that didnt keep good pictures from arriving in front of me, so I snapped away with the Nexus 5. Thus, another test of the hypothesis that a mobilecam can replace a serious pocketcam. A challenging one too, since it was dark out and I keep the flash turned off. And the pictures are better than not having any; pleasant enough and a reminder of good time. On the one hand really not close to what the Sony or the Fuji could have captured; but on the other, I didnt have those with me.

Tue, 14 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

N5-cam II: Scrubbing Up

Posted By Tim Bray

In my last N5-cam outing, Low Light, I suggested contradictory things. First, that I was going to investigate using this as a serious pocket camera, and second, that since this is Just A Phone, theres no need for postprocessing. Then I ran across Craig Mods pieces Photography, hello and Goodbye, Cameras which assume, as part of the argument that cameras need to be, essentially, networked lenses, that youre going to process your mobile shots with serious tools like Lightroom as a matter of course. So I did. Metaphorical scrubbings My wife recently attended her nieces wedding; also in attendance was a nephew, something of a hobbledehoy in his late teens; but he looked remarkably presentable in wedding finery; Scrubs up well, doesnt he? she said as we reviewed the photos.

Tue, 14 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Standing In Line

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I ran down the street to the grocery store for a couple of items, a spur-of-the-moment thing. Picked them up, and then there was a big line-up for the cashiers. I stared blankly for a moment and fished in my pocket... oops! Id left my phone at home. Wow... I was going to have to interact with reality, in the form of a supermarket queue. There are all these Net contrarians lamenting everyones constant escape into their mobile devices screen, and now my escape was cut off. So... screw the contrarians, it sucked. Everywhere I looked, I was looking at overaggressive marketing or celebrity tabloids.

Sat, 11 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

N5-cam I: Low Light

Posted By Tim Bray

I hear that pocket cams are over because phonecams have eaten that space; so lets see if my Nexus 5 can convince me one way or another. Back story Google gave me a Nexus 5 for the holidays; three days later I dropped it from a fair height onto a sidewalk; sob. Hey, an opportunity to try something different! I considered the iPhone 5c, the Moto X and G, and especially that groovy little waterproof Sony Z1. But up here in Canada its really hard to get any of the above in unlocked form except for the Apple, which felt overpriced.

Sun, 05 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Wiggly Reflection Improvement

Posted By Tim Bray

Not too long ago I stayed in a random hotel in a random downtown and took a picture out the window because the windows across the street were apparently curved and there was a sort of funhouse-mirror effect. This is moderately processed, mostly to remove color from the nonreflective bits. I thought it might look good in B&W so I fiddled and fiddled, then remembered Id taken advantage of working at Google to get a free copy of Silver Efex Pro; so I fired that up and heres what I got. You might want to enlarge it. The workflow is pretty simple.

Sat, 04 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

5k: Jeff Beck Rock n Roll Party

Posted By Tim Bray

I saw the LP on the new-vinyl rack in a record store and was surprised, because Ive been a pretty big Jeff Beck fan for quite a few years now, but Id never heard of it. It turns out the Rock n Roll Party is a collection of traditional pop chestnuts with a super hot band, not like a Jeff Beck record at all, and excellent. This is happy, happy music. But maybe the YouTube version is all you need. (5k series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) The context Theres this jazz bar in New York called Iridium where Les Paul played most Monday nights for the last 13 years of his life, which ended in 2009.

Wed, 01 Jan 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Software in 2014

Posted By Tim Bray

Were at an inflection point in the practice of constructing software. Our tools are good, our server developers are happy, but when it comes to building client-side software, we really dont know where were going or how to get there. Happy times upstream The art and science of building server-side code is just fine, thank you; the technologys breadth and polish has been ramping for years and still is. More or less everything is expected to talk HTTP, and its really easy to make things talk HTTP. More or less everything is built with an MVC-or-equivalent level of abstraction, and there are good frameworks to help us work sanely and cleanly.

Fri, 27 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Good Books about Bad Places

Posted By Tim Bray

Christmas was populated as usual with family and food and happiness but this year I was stealing time from them (often sleep time) to read The Orphan Masters Son. The books an explosion of pain and craziness and love and strange, strange flavors, views from angles few could imagine at a place nobody reading it will likely  thank goodness  ever see. It dwells amid the horror of the Kim dynastys dystopic North Korea; which in my case is a little weird, because the only other book thats hit me this hard in recent years is Dogs at the Perimeter (more here), rooted in the Khmer Rouge Year Zero ravaging of Cambodias luckless people.

Mon, 23 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

More Things About TV

Posted By Tim Bray

Wow, when I asked Is 4K BS? three days before Christmas, I didnt expect much of a reaction, but is that little piece ever popular. A bunch of useful follow-ons appeared in the comments and on G+ and Twitter, so here they are. Never mind 4K, lots of 1080p screens are already being wasted because overaggressive or poorly-implemented upstream compression by the broadcasters. I really notice this on live sports. Some Sunday, when there are 3 or 4 different NFL games on, switch between them and if your sources are like mine, some will have way better pictures than others.

Sun, 22 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Is 4K BS?

Posted By Tim Bray

I hear that Sony & friends are going to start telling us that our HDTVs arent good enough and we all need to upgrade to 4K (which is twice the dimensions and 4 times the pixels of 1080p). NBC news says the experts are unconvinced, and quotes one of them, retina scientist, photographer, and blogger Bryan Jones. I thought Id do the numbers and yeah, I think its probably BS. In Jones widely-quoted piece Apple Retina Display, he argues that the literature shows the human eye has an angular resolution of about an arcminute (1/60 degree). So, sitting in front of an NFL game, it occurred to me to wonder how far apart, in arcminutes, the pixels in my TV are.

Sat, 21 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

What Are Handsets For?

Posted By Tim Bray

I got a Nexus 5 from Google for Christmas; it replaces an old Nexus S used as a dumbphone. But in some ways I was happier with the S, even though the 5 is way more capable. Im thinking (once again) that Size Matters. Once again, you say? I have a special claim to the Size-Matters tech-blog territory. Back in 2009, I fell in love with the first 7" device, the original Galaxy Tab, and wrote a mega-review, then really drilled into the device-size trade-offs with Ten Theses on Tablets , then hammered on the issue some more in my Nexus 7 review.

Sat, 21 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Midwinter Veg Sauté

Posted By Tim Bray

I invented this dish this evening and everyone liked it; a hearty and fairly-healthy comfort-food vegetable dish. Ingredients Two medium-sized leeks Two pretty-big carrots One fat parsnip Quite a bit of butter Hard Italian cheese to grate Almond meal (I went looking in the pantry for breadcrumbs and came up empty but ran across this; I think breadcrumbs would have worked just fine.) Garlic salt Method Peel the carrots and parsnip then chop them up pretty small, small enough to stir-fry. Melt some butter in a cast-iron frying pan, hot enough that the butter is bubbling but not smoking, toss in the carrots and parsnips and stir them around until theyre fairly buttery.

Thu, 19 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

T-Mobile Fired Me

Posted By Tim Bray

I like using the Internet while I visit the United States, which I do often. T-Mobile used to offer a service that worked well for people like me; I was a cheerful customer, but now theyve told me to go away. It used to work like this: Youd visit a US T-Mobile store once, get a pay-as-you-go account, and fill it up online before you visited. The pricing was irritatingly different for tablets and phones, but reasonable either way. But they changed their web site so I can no longer use my Canadian credit card: The form that you enter that on requires a US State and Zip code.

Sat, 14 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Content-free

Posted By Tim Bray

Im thinking about successful new communication channels, and how we talk about whats in them. On Twitter, we say tweets. In the blogosphere and on Facebook, posts; also rants, reviews, and flames. Facebook has likes and now everything has links. But I note the entire absence of content; the word, I mean. Yay! Ive loathed it ever since its first powerpoint-pitch appearance, meaning shit we dont actually care about but will attract eyeballs and make people click on ads. Except for they dont say people, they say users, a symptom of another attitude problem. With every year that passes, its increasingly clear that the appearance of content in any business plan is a symptom of (likely fatal) infection by cluelessness; and a good predictor of failure.

Mon, 09 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Feuerzangenbowle

Posted By Tim Bray

I looked it up: A traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. It was a tasty treat, on offer at Vancouvers Christmas Market, which was a treat for the eyes, so I took pictures. There were little kids singing carols: Cute overload! There were Croatian dancers and an old-fashioned merry-go-round, and lots of booths selling bright things. Some of the decorations were worth zooming in on. Ive been to real Christmas Markets, in Würzburg and Antwerp, and theyre good fun.

Mon, 09 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Surveillance and the Media

Posted By Tim Bray

As I write this Im angry at the CBC, Canadas national broadcaster, for their shoddy, shallow coverage of reformgovernmentsurveillance.com (lets say RGS for short). But the trap they fell into is probably attractive to many flavors of media. The 6PM news report opened with a few seconds of Zuckerberg saying he thought the government was blowing it in this space, then another few words from Zoe Lofgren talking about the NSA putting American business at a disadvantage. (Do ya think?!) Then there was a sudden 180° shift into hard polemics, with a snotty British professor opining that it was all the companies fault because they were sucking up the information, and the NSA wouldnt come after it if the companies werent collecting it, would they?

Mon, 02 Dec 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Browser Safety Details

Posted By Tim Bray

Privacy on the Net isnt a binary on/off thing, its a continuum. Anything we can do to increase it is good; which includes handling corner cases. What happened was, during the last IETF, Paul Hoffman, an IETF veteran and friend, was staying in our spare room. We were sitting up talking about privacy, looking at a WordPress blog, and this weird thing happened: We typed in its address with https: at the front, and it showed up as locked/HTTPS in some browsers but not others. It took quite a bit of poking around to figure out. Whats actually happening First, wordpress.com is perfectly happy to accept secure HTTPS connections.

Wed, 27 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Space Operas!

Posted By Tim Bray

Most geeks love em; some find the pleasure a little guilty. Gleaming silver ingots of engineering poetry reaching up out of gravitys mud carrying humanitys sparks into spaces blackness... and blowing each other up! Im here to recommend the work of James S.A. Corey, but the genre deserves a little survey. Kid stuff Yes, I grew up on E.E. Doc Smiths Lensmen books. Thats a horribly long time ago and I remember almost nothing, except for huge fleets of space battleships arranging themselves in surprising new attack formations: the Wedge, the Cone, the Cylinder. The price is down to free on Kindle for some of em; I suspect they havent aged well, but maybe Ill take one on a vacation someday.

Wed, 20 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Counter-Surveillance

Posted By Tim Bray

Surveillance on the Internet is pervasive and well-funded; it constitutes a planetary-scale attack on people who need the Net. The IETF is grappling with the problem but the right path forward isnt clear. This story is being reported, but (near as I can tell) not by anyone whos on the actual mailing lists, reading whats being said. So, heres whats up. The story is long and unsimple, and therefore so is this ongoing fragment; sorry. On a perfect Internet Everyone would be confident that their traffic is private; only they and whoever theyre connecting to could ever see it. They wouldnt have to worry about what needs to be private and what doesnt because everything would be.

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

I Sold Some Bitcoins

Posted By Tim Bray

I held the flimsy scrap of printout up to the Bitcoin ATMs scanner, tapped its screen, and ten crisp hundred-dollar bills shot into the delivery tray at the bottom. Maybe Bitcoin is real? What happened was, back in April when Bitcoin was last spiking, I bought a few, not using any of the exchanges (setup seems pretty heavyweight) but from another enthusiast, with cash. The price headed for the basement as soon as I loaded up, so I was feeling kind of stupid. But now its spiking again; nobody knows why, but I hear hints of big pools of money hovering, wanting into this asset class.

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

DevBeat

Posted By Tim Bray

This was an odd but not-bad little developers event in San Fran put on by VC-biz pub VentureBeat. Im not 100% sure what DevBeat 2013 was trying to be, but anyhow the venue was cool and I got a neat picture of RMS. The contrast between the beautifully-groomed venture reporters and the scruffy geeks was pretty stark. And the program was patchy; putting on Alex Payne is always a good idea (I recommend his Monktoberfest preso), but having an advertised big-name star appearing Skype-only was a little off. And then there was RMS. Richard Stallman. Per his request, this work is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Mon, 11 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Bike Fixers

Posted By Tim Bray

Implicit in the Maker movement is a Fixer movement, and thats what Our Community Bikes is. Theyre right round the corner from us, and my 14-year goes there to patch up his commuter vehicle. Last Saturday, he went down to replace a hopelessly-busted inner tube, and when he hadnt come back after a couple hours I strolled over and helped out a little with some brake readjustments. The space is intense. Its also colorful, as long as you dont mind your colors with grease-stains. Hammer time! If you followed the link above, you will have noticed the unsubtle inclusiveness: Gender, ethnicity, able-bodied-ness, you name it.

Sun, 10 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

IETF 88

Posted By Tim Bray

I attended because I cared about work going on in the JSON and OAuth working groups, and because it was here in Vancouver. But this meeting was focused on pervasive surveillance of the Internet, and how to make it more expensive. This is worth everyones attention and deserves more explanation than Ive seen in the mainstream media. Having said that about the mainstream, Besieged, in The Economist, is not terrible. The Flavor of the IETF If you read The Tao of IETF youll know most of the things that matter, and if you care about the Internet you likely should.

Sat, 09 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Fresh From the Graveyard

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I visited Vancouvers Mountain View Cemetery, my 7-year-old daughter in tow. It was wet and grey. She was bored so I gave her a camera. Im not gonna claim shes a budding genius photographer; just that a kid with a pretty good camera and no preconceptions can surprise you. Of course, anyone knows you can make good pictures of flowers. Seven-year olds are apparently untroubled by fakeness in flowers. Also, they dont know that the cameras supposed to be held level. And they cant see any reason not to take extreme-wide-angle shots of an evergreen theyre standing in front of.

Fri, 08 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Emmylou, Richard, Rodney

Posted By Tim Bray

This tour is currently in progress, billed as Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowella with Richard Thompson. If any of those names resonate, go see it. Vancouvers show was at The Orpheum, quite appropriate I think. Heres an architectural detail: Just like that bit in the picture, the Emmylou/Rodney set was beautifully-designed, perfectly-executed, and entirely traditional. Not a single lick or harmony or bridge was offered that hasnt been offered a thousand times before; they were mostly born in honkey-tonks and now live in fancy concert halls, and theres nothing wrong with either of those things. And there was nothing wrong with the concert.

Tue, 05 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

CSS Drop Shadows

Posted By Tim Bray

In early 2006, I added drop shadows to all the pictures here at ongoing; to do it I had to construct a 500-line Java program. At the time I remarked that CSS should just support drop shadows, and now it does. Heres how it looks: More or less exactly the same as my hand-constructed shadows, near as I can tell. So as of today, the whole sites a little lighter and faster and smarter. My thanks to the CSS designers and browser builders. Oh, hows it done?

Tue, 05 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

HTTP Encryption Live-blog

Posted By Tim Bray

The IETF HTTP Working Group is in a special place right now. It held a meeting this morning at IETF 88 on encryption and privacy; the room was packed and, just possibly, needles that matter were moved. Whats special, you ask? Well, most standards-writing committees labor in obscurity, ignored by the actual engineers who build the world. Or alternatively, ignored by the vendors that matter, while the rest try to use the standards process to claw their way into a closed market. Not HTTP; the guys from Chrome and Firefox and IE are in there with hammers and shovels, building the stuff in parallel with writing the specs for it, pointing out spec problems with refreshing reports like we tried it in release 16.2 and it broke 23% of clients. The goal What the people I respect want is for everything (yes, absolutely everything) transmitted across the Web to ...

Mon, 04 Nov 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Security in Internet Protocols

Posted By Tim Bray

IETF 88 is going to be a pretty hot meeting, what with the world learning about lots of ugly attacks against everyones privacy and security. At the end of the day this is a policy problem not a technology problem; but to the extent that anything can be done at the technology level, a lot of the people who can do it are here. So I think these discussions matter, and Im going to do some rare semi-live-blogging to relay interesting news as it develops. Im starting with a report from something called the Apps Area Working Group. Mondays meeting took a very useful, methodical walk-through of the state of the security/encryption art in each of the major application Internet protocols.

Sat, 02 Nov 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Nifty Refresh-token Trick

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, HR wanted to set up a partner to offer benefits for active Googlers only, and thus we discovered an OAuth 2-based trick that I bet will work in lots of other situations too. The scenario HR wanted to set up this financial-services company (lets call them FSCo) with a special deal for Googlers. So FSCo needed a way to test whether someones an employee. But the financial services might survive their employment, so FSCo also needs an independent relationship with the people who use them. Heres how it works Suppose some Googler, lets say Ed Xample, wants to sign up.

Thu, 31 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Tab Sweep: Halloween

Posted By Tim Bray

Well into Q3 and autumn, and my SAD is already stirring in the back corner of my brain. But any season is Harvest season on the Web. Lyrical cynicism From the Cassandra Does Tokyo blog: Winning The Battle But Losing The War?  thoughts provoked by encountering the UKs Fort Halstead. Defies summarization, but worth reading. Fujifilmery I continue my fannish obsession with this stuff, due to my continuing love affair with the X-E1. Mark Schuelers Continuing the Love Affair  A Practical Review of the Fujifilm X-E1 is one of the few considerations of the X-series from someone whos also spent considerable time with the Oly OM-D shooters.

Wed, 30 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC9: Social Sign-in

Posted By Tim Bray

This term gets bandied about quite a bit in the Federation Conversation. When it comes up, developers tend to strong emotional reactions: On the one hand We really need social sign-in to make our service work and on the other Ewww, no way; I dont want our users worried about whats being shared. Ive been digging around the subject; sometimes I think theres no there there. Facebook Connect is what started this conversation. The product name has vanished, doesnt even appear in the Facebook Platform Wikipedia article, even though you can still find the blog post announcing it and the launch notice.

Sun, 27 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Wok Lore

Posted By Tim Bray

If youre on the Pacific Rim and you cook much, you need a wok. The right kind is the cheap kind; makes it pretty hard to go wrong stir-frying. Wed had various kinds of modern woks with anti-stick coverings and Id generally had trouble getting the hang of it; they were kind of klunky and the coating always started wearing off, so cleaning them became a pain in the butt. But I like stir-fry, so I went to Vancouver institution Ming Wo for advice, and the nice lady said Well, carbon steel of course, round bottom and youll need this ring here to hold it on your burner. Price tag under $50, and I bet the total manufacturing cost was at least $5.

Mon, 21 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Why the Obamacare Website Sucks

Posted By Tim Bray

Not a great launch. Wonder how many people with serious Web street cred are surprised? Ill tell you: zero. But its amazing how many political commentators are suddenly overflowing with site-building chops. In California, driving down the highway, I put the radio to scan and it pulled in some lively talk show, the man and woman were exchanging amazement over problems at Healthcare.gov. She said Mark Zuckerberg built Facebook basically overnight! Whats wrong with these cretins! And I just about drove off the road; have been holding my breath waiting for someone who knows this biz to explain why it could never have worked, out of the gate.

Fri, 18 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

DevBeat

Posted By Tim Bray

I normally dont post here any more about events Im speaking at, but DevBeat looks unusual. I mean, follow that link and look at the list of entertainers, which includes RMS, Al3x, DHH, Rasmus, and Mojombo. Who have in common, near as I can tell, exactly nothing. Its a VentureBeat thing so I guess itll be crawling with VCs and people looking for money; Ill try to moderate my general negativity about the current state of VC. But I have to say, its one of the few events where I look at the roster and think That should be interesting.

Fri, 18 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Things About the X-E1

Posted By Tim Bray

Seven months ago I got an X-E1, a product of Fujifilm, who announced the X-E2 today; an occasion for going a little deeper on my time with the camera. With a dozen pictures. 18-55mm@34, F5, 1/250 sec, ISO 200 First, the conclusion Its the best camera Ive ever used: Light, wonderful in the hand, perfect controls, astounding lenses, pleasing pictures. So if you were thinking of buying a Serious Camera, this is totally one of the ones you should look at. Or maybe the X-E2; more on that below. Did you say perfect controls? Yep. The picture shows what you see when you look down at the camera in your hands.

Wed, 16 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Canvas is Easy and Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been fooling with a favorite-color app as an Identity-tech testbed, and I wanted to reward people just a little for taking the effort to pick and save and maybe share their own faves. Id seen some of the flashy stuff that the cool kids are doing with HTML5 and even though Im really a server-side guy it looked like fun, so I poked around. What I discovered is that the HTML5 Canvas is easy to learn and easy to program, so Im going to show you a little hack I did, not because theres anything particularly wonderful about it, but just to try help convince anyone who hasnt dived in that maybe they should.

Tue, 15 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Ads In Front of Things

Posted By Tim Bray

Theyre bad. I wait feverishly for your ad to finish loading so I can click on the X to dismiss it. The only exception is when I decide my lifes completeness does not depend on the pathetic page behind the awful ad, so I just kill the window. I promise I will never read your stupid ad thats in front of the things that I thought I wanted to see. When I see it, I suspect a broken business model; if you need to inflict this kind of abuse on your readers, a barrels bottom is being scraped. If thats whats up well Im sorry, sucks to be you and I genuinely hope quality publishing finds good business models but Im really fucking sure none of them are floating interstitials.

Sun, 13 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

At the Market

Posted By Tim Bray

Granville Island market I mean, a nice place in Vancouver, particularly on a sunny Sunday in October, Canadian-Thanksgiving weekend. In among the merchants there are buskers, mostly good; this sharp-dressing dude has been singing sentimental tunes in French for years there, not always with a backdrop this good. Inside the Childrens Market, theres a store with kites and stuffies. Here are some more photos of the market in general and the kite store in particular from 2008, taken with my short-lived and difficult Ricoh GX-100 which nonetheless took some good pictures for me. The quality of the produce at the Island is, to be frank, not up there with what you can get at a decent organic-focused supermarket, but the variety and quantity are excellent and you cant beat the visuals.

Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

The Ingress Social Network

Posted By Tim Bray

While I go days at a time without turning on the client, I do still go out on an Ingress level-8 op every week or two; and now I have a couple of purely-social reasons to pitch in now and then. Previously in this series: Ingress, Things About Ingress, Ingress, Month 3, Ingress Weekly, Ingress Tourism, Advanced Ingress, Ingress Chase Scene, and Ingress Ebb and Flow. The first is that my wife started playing. After watching me grind away between November and April, she suddenly asked for an account and quietly worked her way to Level 8 in less than four months; it helps that the portal density near our house is extreme, and also she travels to other big cities.

Sun, 06 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

History Mystery

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished After Tamerlane by John Darwin, of whom I know nothing. Its a 600-dense-page monster and my impulse-bought-but-unread queue bulges behind it. Its immensely ambitious and I can recommend it for some if not all. Tl;dr: A history of the last 600 years with a strong economics flavor, which asks: Why did Europe come to dominate the globe? Why Europe? The death of Timur (AKA Tamerlane) in the early 15th century makes an interesting jumping-off point because, as Darwin points out in the books central insight, at that point the world had three centers of commerce and civilization: Europe, the South Central Asia, and China, and (here it is) their power and wealth were, at that point, about equivalent.

Thu, 03 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Tab Sweep

Posted By Tim Bray

The tabs! They multiply like magnificently miscellaneous maggots! Literature Good Time Crime: Talking With Elmore Leonard in Contrappasso Magazine. For those like Scalzi in general or the Old Mans War series in particular, check out The Sagan Diary over at Subterranean Press. And now for something completely different: Jeremy Wilson, perhaps the leading biographer of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), observes that there have been many moving-picture takes on his life, and offers T. E. Lawrence  alternative drama treatments, which I enjoyed tremendously but then Im a Lawrence nut. Identity Thats right, stuff related to my day job. Nat Sakimura: What to read when you want to build OpenID Connect and Write an OpenID Connect server in three simple steps.

Thu, 03 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Bugg Synthesis

Posted By Tim Bray

I was sitting up late; family asleep and work over, scanning around. The New Yorker feed threw up Jake Bugg: From Nottingham to Malibu. He sounded interesting on paper and, hey, the article was full of YouTube links and what with the ChromeCast, I was listening and watching right there and then. Yeah, Jakes good, Id go see him if he came to town. You may never have heard of him but I guarantee youve heard Lightning Bolt. Synthesis? The Internet is one great big fat culture pump, dont you forget it.

Tue, 01 Oct 2013 19:00:00 UTC

2013 Nexus 7 with LTE

Posted By Tim Bray

I bought the top-of-the-line model from the Play store for $349; I was still liking last years model but this is sleeker and prettier and goes faster. The differences are less dramatic than Id expected, but theyre good things. In the hand and pocket Its lighter and thinner and smoother. The first two are good; I think I slightly prefer the textured back of last years 7, but this balances much better in the hand. Its also very slightly taller; just enough to cause problems with one of the pockets Id been parking its predecessor in. But I doubt this will bother most people.

Tue, 24 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Myst is 20

Posted By Tim Bray

Not obvious even looking back, and one of my influences. Check out the excellent Lost to the Ages write-up on Grantland. With thanks, a rock&roll metaphor, and a terribly sad story. Sad story So I played Myst and was an early Riven adopter; played it right through and solved all those pathologically-enraging puzzles with (almost) no recourse to hint sites, and just as I finally broke through and freed Catherine, the fucking CD delaminated right there in the drive and the game melted down on-screen before my horrified eyes. So I never even saw whatever triumphal-victory sequence Riven offers. Im still mad; but its a pretty minor grievance against life.

Tue, 24 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC8: On Trust

Posted By Tim Bray

All these technology and information-flow and money issues in the Federation Conversation are real, they matter. But none of them matter as much as trust. For flavor, heres commenter Dewald Reynecke: I don't trust Facebook/Google as far as I can throw them  I simply do not want to outsource my identity to an advertising company. Everybody has to trust somebody sometimes. But the Internet and the world are scary places; mistrust is a healthy component of sanity. And its complicated, because it isnt just people trusting (or not) Identity Providers (IDPs) and the apps using them. The apps and IDPs have trust decisions to make, too.

Mon, 23 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC7: Users vs Apps

Posted By Tim Bray

When a person signs into an app, thats a transaction, and value is exchanged. Who comes out ahead on the deal? This is part of the Federation Conversation; Ill excerpt from Gary Royal in a comment on my Google+ post: Federated login has a clear benefit to the service provider (access to disaggregated user data, particularly that users social contacts), but only an ostensible benefit to end users (freedom from having to remember yet another password), so on that level its purely a swindle designed to obtain detailed information about a user in return for nothing. If thats true, Federated sign-in in is a raw deal and nobody should ever want to do it.

Sun, 22 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

The Fingerprint Hack

Posted By Tim Bray

Today, Germanys Chaos Computer Club claims to have hacked the iPhone 5s Touch ID. Since I now get paid to think about Identity stuff all the time, Ill think out loud about the question: Is Touch ID a good idea? Lets assume that: The CCC isnt lying. The crack isnt trivial; youre going to need some materials, time, and expertise. Lets split our question: First, is Touch ID worthwhile? Second, is it better or worse than a four-digit PIN? [BTW, just because banks use four digits doesnt mean you have to; I use five and know people who use six.]

Sun, 22 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

The Fingerprint Hack

Posted By Tim Bray

Today, Germanys Chaos Computer Club claims to have hacked the iPhone 5s Touch ID. Since I now get paid to think about Identity stuff all the time, Ill think out loud about the question: Is Touch ID a good idea? Lets assume that: The CCC isnt lying. The crack isnt trivial; youre going to need some materials, time, and expertise. Lets split our question: First, is Touch ID worthwhile? Second, is it better or worse than a four-digit PIN? [BTW, just because banks use four digits doesnt mean you have to; I use five and know people who use six.]

Wed, 18 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Editing JSON

Posted By Tim Bray

As sort of a 2% project, Im helping out over in the IETF, working on a revision of the JSON spec. I wrote back in February about the depressing floppiness of the JSON spec, which allows things that are just bugs to people like me who use JSON always and only to represent hashes and records and suchlike in network APIs. And if the API is a crypto/authentication thing, those bugs can be nasty exploits. (Think duplicate key or naked surrogate, and shudder.) What I hadnt realized was that there actually isnt a standalone anything you can link to and say This is the JSON spec; RFC 4627 is just a mime-type registration.

Wed, 18 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Editing JSON

Posted By Tim Bray

As sort of a 2% project, Im helping out over in the IETF, working on a revision of the JSON spec. I wrote back in February about the depressing floppiness of the JSON spec, which allows things that are just bugs to people like me who use JSON always and only to represent hashes and records and suchlike in network APIs. And if the API is a crypto/authentication thing, those bugs can be nasty exploits. (Think duplicate key or naked surrogate, and shudder.) What I hadnt realized was that there actually isnt a standalone anything you can link to and say This is the JSON spec; RFC 4627 is just a mime-type registration.

Mon, 16 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Main Street Photo Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

In which I take some ordinary street shots and overprocess them for fun. Vancouver likes street culture, especially around The Main (which is central and cant be ignored but not actually anyones Main street). I took the kids down to the the Main Street Shift Autumn Festival on Sunday and came back with pix. Theyre nothing special; Im mostly just showing off what you can do with a Fujifilm X-E1 in a pinch, with extra glamor from the nifty Nik Silver Efex software that I get for free because Im at Google. Food It aint a street party without street food; my 7-year-old had a cinnamon-apple-tart, an organic popsicle, and a mango lassi.

Mon, 16 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Main Street Photo Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

In which I take some ordinary street shots and overprocess them for fun. Vancouver likes street culture, especially around The Main (which is central and cant be ignored but not actually anyones Main street). I took the kids down to the the Main Street Shift Autumn Festival on Sunday and came back with pix. Theyre nothing special; Im mostly just showing off what you can do with a Fujifilm X-E1 in a pinch, with extra glamor from the nifty Nik Silver Efex software that I get for free because Im at Google. Food It aint a street party without street food; my 7-year-old had a cinnamon-apple-tart, an organic popsicle, and a mango lassi.

Sun, 15 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC6: Who Are You?

Posted By Tim Bray

This is part of the Federation Conversation, where commenter Jashan worried, reasonably enough: Users tend to forget which of the gazillion available services they have registered at your site with. And then they're too lazy to try all the possibilities. And then they're gone. Ouch! On the other hand, they might show up at your IDP-free site and forget what username theyd logged in with. Or they remember that but forget the password. And then they worry theyre trying the wrong username. Which is to say, as with many other Identity issues, there are a lot of ways to end up completely hooped.

Sun, 15 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC6: Who Are You?

Posted By Tim Bray

This is part of the Federation Conversation, where commenter Jashan worried, reasonably enough: Users tend to forget which of the gazillion available services they have registered at your site with. And then they're too lazy to try all the possibilities. And then they're gone. Ouch! On the other hand, they might show up at your IDP-free site and forget what username theyd logged in with. Or they remember that but forget the password. And then they worry theyre trying the wrong username. Which is to say, as with many other Identity issues, its hard. But we can agree: The less cognitive load it takes to get into your site, the more people will.

Tue, 10 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

iPhone 5c and 5s

Posted By Tim Bray

Dont they look great? I might get one (no, really). Theyre interesting... Lets play Apple Pundit! You might get one?! Well, its like this: Since June, I actually havent had a smartphone; just an ancient account-free Nexus S that I use for voice, SMS, and occasional hot spots. Im not starved for mobile Internet because my 16G Nexus 7 with celullar data has been a champ, makes me very happy every day, is a terrific world traveler, excels at email and Web and The Economist and Ingress and Twitter and G+ and Kindle and MLB.tv. Ill probably replace it with one of the new ones because, well, have you held one?

Tue, 10 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

iPhone 5c and 5s

Posted By Tim Bray

Dont they look great? I might get one (no, really). Theyre interesting... Lets play Apple Pundit! You might get one?! Well, its like this: Since June, I actually havent had a smartphone; just an ancient account-free Nexus S that I use for voice, SMS, and occasional hot spots. Im not starved for mobile Internet because my 16G Nexus 7 with celullar data has been a champ, makes me very happy every day, is a terrific world traveler, excels at email and Web and The Economist and Ingress and Twitter and G+ and Kindle and MLB.tv. Ill probably replace it with one of the new ones because, well, have you held one?

Sun, 08 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC5: Manage Those Passwords!

Posted By Tim Bray

Inventing good passwords is hard and so is remembering them, thats part of the problem. So, how about we get computers to do the tedious stuff for us? Turns out you can, using something called a Password manager. Are these things going to end the Federation Conversation? [This piece is part of that conversation.] Introduction If you already use a password manager and know the basics, you can hop down to the Thought experiment section. First: To those of you who have a lot of passwords and arent using a password manager, Id say: Start now. Second: If youre wondering which to use, David Stroms Best tools for protecting passwords is pretty good, even though its enterprise-focused and spends time on management options that I dont care about.

Sun, 08 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC5: Manage Those Passwords!

Posted By Tim Bray

Inventing good passwords is hard and so is remembering them, thats part of the problem. So, how about we get computers to do the tedious stuff for us? Turns out you can, using something called a Password manager. Are these things going to end the Federation Conversation? [This piece is part of that conversation.] Introduction If you already use a password manager and know the basics, you can hop down to the Thought experiment section. First: To those of you who have a lot of passwords and arent using a password manager, Id say: Start now. Second: If youre wondering which to use, David Stroms Best tools for protecting passwords is pretty good, even though its enterprise-focused and spends time on management options that I dont care about.

Sat, 07 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Ingress Ebb and Flow

Posted By Tim Bray

The last Ingress fragment here was back in May, reflective of the fact that I, like many who leveled all the way up, lost interest and drifted away. But Ive been out a bit in the last couple of weeks; in particular spending quality time in graveyards. the game remains an interesting and under-reported story. Previously in this series: Ingress, Things About Ingress, Ingress, Month 3, Ingress Weekly, Ingress Tourism, Advanced Ingress, and Ingress Chase Scene. Where we play Ingress; for details, read on. Time and numbers Thats what the games about; in any given locality, the faction that can bring out more L8 players for more hours is going to dominate the map.

Sat, 07 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Ingress Ebb and Flow

Posted By Tim Bray

The last Ingress fragment here was back in May, reflective of the fact that I, like many who leveled all the way up, lost interest and drifted away. But Ive been out a bit in the last couple of weeks; in particular spending quality time in graveyards. the game remains an interesting and under-reported story. Previously in this series: Ingress, Things About Ingress, Ingress, Month 3, Ingress Weekly, Ingress Tourism, Advanced Ingress, and Ingress Chase Scene. Where we play Ingress; for details, read on. Time and numbers Thats what the games about; in any given locality, the faction that can bring out more L8 players for more hours is going to dominate the map.

Wed, 04 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

City of Trees and Cranes

Posted By Tim Bray

Vancouver I mean, of course. Were big on trees, and growing, so its hard to take a picture without one or the other. What happened was, we were at a rooftop barbecue more or less at the center of this map; the area is called False Creek Flats, a label I love. Its mostly empty space on the map north of where we were, which however isnt empty in the slightest. Theres a lot happening here. Id like to draw your attention to: The new brewery under construction in the foreground; Red Truck Beer, and some of their beers arent bad.

Wed, 04 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

City of Trees and Cranes

Posted By Tim Bray

Vancouver I mean, of course. Were big on trees, and growing, so its hard to take a picture without one or the other. What happened was, we were at a rooftop barbecue more or less at the center of this map; the area is called False Creek Flats, a label I love. Its mostly empty space on the map north of where we were, which however isnt empty in the slightest. Theres a lot happening here. Id like to draw your attention to: The new brewery under construction in the foreground; Red Truck Beer, and some of their beers arent bad.

Mon, 02 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Sony RX100 II

Posted By Tim Bray

I lost my much-beloved Canon S100 by leaving it on an airplane  how stupid is that?  so I got the new RX100 II (Sony, DPR, Sony); also called the M2 in places including its photos EXIF data, but II seems more official. The choice was easy, given my previously-stated belief that the best camera inventory is a large-sensor interchangeable-lens body wearing an opinionated prime lens, and a decent pocket cam with a zoom: If you really need a zoom lens, why not get one that has a pretty good camera built-in?. And many reviewers have asserted that the RX100 is the best pocket zoom you can get.

Mon, 02 Sep 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Sony RX100 II

Posted By Tim Bray

I lost my much-beloved Canon S100 by leaving it on an airplane  how stupid is that?  so I got the new RX100 II (Sony, DPR, Amazon); also called the M2 in places including its photos EXIF data, but II seems more official. The choice was easy, given my previously-stated belief that the best camera inventory is a large-sensor interchangeable-lens body wearing an opinionated prime lens, and a decent pocket cam with a zoom: If you really need a zoom lens, why not get one that has a pretty good camera built-in?. And many reviewers have asserted that the RX100 is the best pocket zoom you can get.

Sat, 31 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXVII: Cheap Audio

Posted By Tim Bray

Weve finally arranged, after five full years of Cottage Life, for music playback. There were complicating factors, notably my being a deranged audiophile; and the installation isnt 100% complete. But it sounds nice, and Ive already saved $259,404.01! Downstream Wed always wanted music and, within the first year or so, snapped up a pair of PSB Alpha B1s. From time to time, people who notice how nice the music sounds at our place ask me what they should buy, and I often begin with there are loads of options, but if you just buy whatever PSB speakers and NAD electronics fit in your budget, youll be pretty happy. Anyhow, PSB has been selling variations on the Alpha for a really long time, usually at a price point around $299/pair; stupidly good for the money.

Sat, 31 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXVII: Cheap Audio

Posted By Tim Bray

Weve finally arranged, after five full years of Cottage Life, for music playback. There were complicating factors, notably my being a deranged audiophile; and the installation isnt 100% complete. But it sounds nice, and Ive already saved $259,404.01! Downstream Wed always wanted music and, within the first year or so, snapped up a pair of PSB Alpha B1s. From time to time, people who notice how nice the music sounds at our place ask me what they should buy, and I often begin with there are loads of options, but if you just buy whatever PSB speakers and NAD electronics fit in your budget, youll be pretty happy. Anyhow, PSB has been selling variations on the Alpha for a really long time, usually at a price point around $299/pair; stupidly good for the money.

Wed, 28 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC4: Persona Questions

Posted By Tim Bray

A couple of episodes back, commenter tom jones wrote, urging me to study Mozilla Persona: it seems all the questions you are discussing have already been solved by them. Well, then. [This is part of the Federation Conversation series.] This piece in particular left a lot of open questions in my mind, which appear at the end of the sections down below. None of them are rhetorical and Id like to hear what people think. So I went and looked at the Persona docs, and had some email back and forth with Lloyd Hilaeil, a Mozillian who works on it, and wired it into my testbed at favcolor.net  and it sort of works.

Wed, 28 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC4: Persona Questions

Posted By Tim Bray

A couple of episodes back, commenter tom jones wrote, urging me to study Mozilla Persona: it seems all the questions you are discussing have already been solved by them. Well, then. [This is part of the Federation Conversation series.] This piece in particular left a lot of open questions in my mind, which appear at the end of the sections down below. None of them are rhetorical and Id like to hear what people think. So I went and looked at the Persona docs, and had some email back and forth with Lloyd Hilaeil, a Mozillian who works on it, and wired it into my testbed at favcolor.net  and it sort of works.

Tue, 27 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

The Tor Danger

Posted By Tim Bray

If you have a reasonably full life, from time to time you have to look a temptation in the face and say no. For example Tor.com. No, not Tor the private-Internet thing, Tor the sci-fi publisher of Charlie Stross among many others, excellent and otherwise. Its seductive  overly so. They feature fiendishly-clever rewatch (e.g. Deep Space Nine, which every discerning person knows is the only Star Trek series that matters) and reread series (currently including Zelaznys Amber). And of course, they sell books. With thoughtful, appreciative, beautifully-written essay-length appreciations. Which is to say, with fiendish effectiveness. And since its so easy to buy em these days, I did, a couple of times.

Tue, 27 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

The Tor Danger

Posted By Tim Bray

If you have a reasonably full life, from time to time you have to look a temptation in the face and say no. For example Tor.com. No, not Tor the private-Internet thing, but Tor the sci-fi publisher of Charlie Stross among many others, excellent and otherwise. Specifically, Tors Web site. Its seductive  overly so. They feature fiendishly-clever rewatch (e.g. Deep Space Nine, which every discerning person knows is the only Star Trek series that matters) and reread series (currently including Zelaznys Amber). And of course, they sell books. With thoughtful, appreciative, beautifully-written essay-length appreciations. Which is to say, with fiendish effectiveness. And since its so easy to buy em these days, I did, a couple of times.

Sun, 25 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXVI: Driftscapes

Posted By Tim Bray

Here in the top left corner of urban North America, we have a special relationship with wood. We live in it, sit on it, eat off it, and burn it for warmth and pleasure. Also, as part of Cottage Life, walk by the sea to admire the portions cast up. Well, and ephemeral log-draperies, where ephemeral means from the last high tide to the next. Consider the randomness: Each years climactic variation with input from surrounding soils and companions of every size (bear to microorganism); then after the tree found itself accidentally afloat subject to each waves attentions, the grinding against the rocks, then in stillness the light and wind put the final polish on what you see.

Sun, 25 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXVI: Driftscapes

Posted By Tim Bray

Here in the top left corner of urban North America, we have a special relationship with wood. We live in it, sit on it, eat off it, and burn it for warmth and pleasure. Also, as part of Cottage Life, walk by the sea to admire the portions cast up. Well, and ephemeral log-draperies, where ephemeral means from the last high tide to the next. Consider the randomness: Each years climactic variation with input from surrounding soils and companions of every size (bear to microorganism); then after the tree found itself accidentally afloat subject to each waves attentions, the grinding against the rocks, then in stillness the light and wind put the final polish on what you see.

Wed, 21 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Other Elmores

Posted By Tim Bray

Elmore Leonard died. He was an awfully good writer; Ive read loads of his books, some more than once or even twice, and regret it not a bit. There have been lots of grateful obits  my favorite is by Joan Acocella in the New Yorker  and they all say you should go read Get Shorty and yeah, its good, you should. So here are some more that arent usually in lists of his big hits but are really good too. Stick, from 1983, is actually a sequal to Swag, but I think its way better. Ernest Stickley is a loveable guy fresh out of jail for armed robbery who gets a really lousy chauffeuring job for a really irritating rich guy and, well, lots of amusing things happen and, as with most Leonards, you just know, you can feel it, that there are people like that doing things like that.

Wed, 21 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Other Elmores

Posted By Tim Bray

Elmore Leonard died. He was an awfully good writer; Ive read loads of his books, some more than once or even twice, and regret it not a bit. There have been lots of grateful obits  my favorite is by Joan Acocella in the New Yorker  and they all say you should go read Get Shorty and yeah, its good, you should. So here are some more that arent usually in lists of his big hits but are really good too. Stick, from 1983, is actually a sequal to Swag, but I think its way better. Ernest Stickley is a loveable guy fresh out of jail for armed robbery who gets a really lousy chauffeuring job for a really irritating rich guy and, well, lots of amusing things happen and, as with most Leonards, you just know, you can feel it, that there are people like that doing things like that.

Tue, 20 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC3: Whos Watching You?

Posted By Tim Bray

Worried about being watched? Me too. So whos doing it, and why, and what can they see, and what can you do about it? [This is part of the Federation Conversation series. Even though theres nothing here about federated identity, I think this background should be helpful in dealing with the (very sensible) paranoia about whos watching you.] The parties out there who are watching you fall into three groups: Spooks, people who want to hurt you, and people who want to monetize you. Spooks Im talking about your own governments employees. This is the era of Snowden and Manning and whichever ethically-exigent millennial comes along next; so we know, more or less, what it is they know.

Tue, 20 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC3: Whos Watching You?

Posted By Tim Bray

Worried about being watched? Me too. So whos doing it, and why, and what can they see, and what can you do about it? [This is part of the Federation Conversation series. Even though theres nothing here about federated identity, I think this background should be helpful in dealing with the (very sensible) paranoia about whos watching you.] The parties out there who are watching you fall into three groups: Spooks, people who want to hurt you, and people who want to monetize you. Spooks Im talking about your own governments employees. This is the era of Snowden and Manning and whichever ethically-exigent millennial comes along next; so we know, more or less, what it is they know.

Fri, 16 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Chromecast

Posted By Tim Bray

It took like five minutes to get it set up. It works. Its great. Its only doing 5% of what it could. The second computer This paragraph here is googlebait for anyone else facing the one thing that confused us (well, my 14-year-old) about getting Chromecast going. After its set up, to enable Chromecast on the second and other subsequent computers, you just install the Chromecast Chrome extension. Now those are what I call some excellent setup instructions. Its not quite accurate; the screen that says set me up actually has abeautiful background photograph. Setup details We have it plugged into the back of the Marantz AV Receiver rather than the side of the TV.

Fri, 16 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Chromecast

Posted By Tim Bray

It took like five minutes to get it set up. It works. Its great. Its only doing 5% of what it could. The second computer This paragraph here is googlebait for anyone else facing the one thing that confused us (well, my 14-year-old) about getting Chromecast going. After its set up, to enable Chromecast on the second and other subsequent computers, you just install the Chromecast Chrome extension. Now those are what I call some excellent setup instructions. Its not quite accurate; the screen that says set me up actually has abeautiful background photograph. Setup details We have it plugged into the back of the Marantz AV Receiver rather than the side of the TV.

Wed, 14 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC2: Single Point of Failure?

Posted By Tim Bray

If you rely on an Identity Provider (IDP) to sign into lots of apps, here are two things to worry about: If the IDP gets hacked, do the bad guys get into all your apps? And if you lose your IDP account, are you locked out of all of them? [This is part of the Federation Conversation series.] The hacking issue Facebook and Google and so on are obviously big fat juicy targets for the bad guys. And, let me share a non-secret with you: Facebook and Google do get hacked. So does every other site on the Internet. The difference is that big IDPs hire teams of full-time experts to watch the dials, look for anomalous patterns, and run perimeter probes 24/7/365.

Wed, 14 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC2: Single Point of Failure?

Posted By Tim Bray

If you rely on an Identity Provider (IDP) to sign into lots of apps, here are two things to worry about: If the IDP gets hacked, do the bad guys get into all your apps? And if you lose your IDP account, are you locked out of all of them? [This is part of the Federation Conversation series.] The hacking issue Facebook and Google and so on are obviously big fat juicy targets for the bad guys. And, let me share a non-secret with you: Facebook and Google do get hacked. So does every other site on the Internet. The difference is that big IDPs hire teams of full-time experts to watch the dials, look for anomalous patterns, and run perimeter probes 24/7/365.

Sun, 11 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Baseball Goobers

Posted By Tim Bray

Im talking about the little status-readout thingies that they have up on the TV screen when a ball game is on. Heres one. They present an interesting design problem. The data on display is: Team names: Two, conventionally represented as two- to four-letter strings. Score: Two small integers. Inning: One small integer, plus a one-bit top/bottom indicator. Balls and strikes: Two very small integers, where by very small I mean they can be represented as binary values: three for balls and two for strikes. Outs: One very small integer. On-base status: Three one-bit values. (Optionally) Speed of the last pitch.

Thu, 08 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

FC 1: Who Learns What

Posted By Tim Bray

When you click on the dark-blue button to sign in with Facebook (or bright red for Google) what does Facebook (or Google) learn about you? What does the app youre signing into learn about you? Uncertainty makes people nervous about federated login. [This is part of the Federation Conversation series.] And the answer is... It depends. Sorry. It just isnt simple. But the single most important thing is simple, and goes like this: You shouldnt have to guess! Since the answer is kind of complicated and depends on a whole bunch of factors, its entirely unreasonable for either the app youre signing into (lets call it the RP, identigeek jargon for Relying Party) or the Identity Provider (IDP) to expect you to know which information flows where.

Wed, 07 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

What Does App Mean?

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been Web-centric for a long time, and generally thought of what programmers build as sites. Then I was in Android and what everyone developed was apps. Now Im in a generalist role and, uh, a little unclear as to how to refer, generally, to what software builders build. Its a real problem if you do a lot of advocacy, like me. I often want to start a sentence Suppose youre building an X and you need to... Whats X? Ive found myself forced into klunky constructions such as site or service or app and back-end. Because its like this: Anyone who sets out to build a nontrivial piece of software these days is building some back-end server-side stuff and some browser-focused JS stuff and probably two mobile apps, iOS and Android.

Tue, 06 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Federation Conversation

Posted By Tim Bray

I published Why Federate? last week, arguing that apps should get out of the password business. Ouch! I got ferocious pushback in my comments, on Twitter, and on the accompanying G+ post. Take a minute and read a few. Clearly we need to have a conversation. So nobody likes federation? Its not that bad. First, my readership is impossibly geeky, way out on the edge of all the curves. Second, theres a big difference between talking to app builders and app users. Third, even given all that, I got twice as many +1s as negative comments. But Im not going to pretend I wasnt surprised; among other things, I hardly ever hear this flavor of response face-to-face.

Sun, 04 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Re-Enter Sandman

Posted By Tim Bray

Which is to say, Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey is out; the fifth Sandman Slim book. The books have a silly theological backdrop, nifty characters (all intensely human even if nominally demiurges or Nephilim or whatever), terrific atmospherics, good fight pieces, and (especially) razor-sharp hard-boiled dialog. Theyre full of gags and erudite-pop-culture references and youll find yourself doing plenty of smiling. Kill City Blues If youre hooked like me and havent snapped this up, go right ahead, its up there with the rest. If youre not yet, dont; go back and do the series in order; otherwise some of it will lose you.

Sat, 03 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

AV Receiver

Posted By Tim Bray

Being the story of how I stumbled into buying one, and why you might want to also. If youre any kind of Home-Theater weenie youve already had one for a decade or more and you can safely skip this. On the other hand, if, like me, the collection of boxes plugged into the big TV has grown like fungus and the rats-nest of wires behind it has become intimidating, read on. Back Story Going back to 2004, this blog has chronicled our journey into high-def, subwooferdom, region-free disk technology, and Roku. In related news, since Im a deranged two-channels-should-be-enough audiophile, I decided I didnt care about that surround-sound crap; so Id been driving the decent little speakers and subwoofer, all from PSB, with an elderly but pleasing NAD integrated stereo amp.

Fri, 02 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Oxford Visuals

Posted By Tim Bray

I went for a couple days for the OED Symposium (about which I have a huge ongoing splodge in progress) and of course took a camera. When it gets warm, windows have to be held open, with whatever is to hand. Well, maybe not; look close and you can see the boot is chained in place; so I guess its ironic and postmodern and so on. Appropriate in an academic town. The black taxis arent a London thing, theyre a Britain thing. But I love the way they look. Loading out after the Gloucester Green market; looks like these dudes did a good days business.

Fri, 02 Aug 2013 19:00:00 UTC

The Oxford English Dictionary

Posted By Tim Bray

The OED means a whole lot to me; professionally, I owe it everything. My work on it was 26 (!) years ago, but then this spring I got an invitation to their Symposium, which happened last week, and there was only one possible answer. Im profoundly grateful they asked, and would do it again in a flash. This entry, like the OED, is extreme in length and prone to rambling; but, I hope, also like the dictionary in that it might provide pleasure to people who like words for their own sake. The Symposium was at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford; about as old-school inside as out.

Tue, 30 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Why Federate?

Posted By Tim Bray

Part of my job these days is convincing people to get out of the password business and start Federating; that is to say, outsource the login mechanics to an Identity Provider (IDP) like Facebook or Google or Microsoft or Twitter (and there are lots more). Ive given the sales pitch quite a few times now; here it is. Scenario Youre putting up a new app and need to sign in users, so you use whatevers popular with the package youre using: On Rails, typically Devise, on NodeJS Drywall or Passport, on PHP Usercake, and so on. These things will take care of storing and checking usernames and passwords for you.

Sun, 28 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Good Raw Files

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been switching back and forth quite a bit between my two serious cameras, the Pentax K-5 (excellent late-2010 tech) and the Fujifilm X-E1 (same, late-2012). They both have important virtues, but Im starting to think the most important difference is raw-file quality. I have an example. People who know all about raw files and JPEG conversion and so on can hop on past the next section. Backgrounder: Formats and Spelling There are two ways a camera can save its captured images. First is JPEG, a file format that dates back to the early nineties, and still offers a pretty good ratio between data compression and perceived quality.

Fri, 26 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

OSCON 2013

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been to this event a bunch of times over the years, always as a speaker I think. But if I couldnt speak Id probably pay real money to come anyway. It feels, for the moment, still essential. Sarah Novotny gets things going. Softwares open-source-ness (or not) seems hardly newsworthy these days. For you youngsters, there was a time when it was controversial, something that mattered, and there were businesses with no-OSS policies, and you felt like you were swimming upstream if you insisted on running GNU/Linux or Apache or MySQL or whatever. Missing a couple of years let me look at OSCON with fresh eyes, I think.

Sun, 21 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Pacific Rim

Posted By Tim Bray

Hadnt actually gone out to a movie in a theater for a long time. Then I kept hearing kind words on this one from smart people with good taste. We sat a little too close to the really-big really-loud screen and still walked away smiling, albeit with mild headaches. I think this movie did a lot of things right and not much wrong. Yeah, its one of those movies about giant robots battling it out with giant reptilian aliens, and I recognize that some people wont be OK with that, but if you are, this is a really good one of those.

Sat, 20 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Cameraccessories

Posted By Tim Bray

Words and pictures about add-ons, specifically the Luma Cinch (a new thing) and the Helios 44m-4 58mm f/2 lens (a very old thing). Soviet Lenses What happened was, since I got on board the Fujifilm soul train via the mighty Fuji X-E1 and the astoundingly-good little Fujinon XF35 35m f/1.4, Ive been tracking the Fuji-X-rated blogs, where I ran across Jonas Dyhr Rasks Vintage Standard Lens Shootout, where I heard about the Helios 44m-4 58mm F/2.0. I hated some of the more-garish pix in his review of the lens but was struck by its potential. A little research suggested that this product of the USSR-that-was falls into the vanishingly-small category of pretty-damn-good lenses you can EBay for cheap.

Mon, 15 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Golang Diaries II

Posted By Tim Bray

I still havent written a thousand lines of Go; but what I have created does useful work and (considering I had to learn a language and a bunch of libraries along the way) didnt burn that much time. Herewith another batch of programming-permanoob reportage. Previously: Golang Diaries I. Illustrated Love Letter Im a Web guy, and this speaks for itself: resp, err := http.Get(uri) if err != nil { // horrible networking error, deal return failure } if resp.StatusCode != 200 { // grouchy server, deal return failure } mediaType := resp.Header.Get("Content-Type") if !strings.HasPrefix(mediaType, "application/json") { // bogus media type, deal return failure } defer resp.Body.Close() body, err := ioutil.ReadAll(resp.Body) // body is a byte array with the server response Isnt it pathetic that so ...

Thu, 11 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXV: Work Week

Posted By Tim Bray

There were two nations birthdays in four days, thus a slow spell at work; so we decided on a solid week of Cottage Life. And we invited all our friends to come for lunch. Friends came, work got done, and photos got taken. Work We have pretty good cell coverage on the island from Telus Mobility and get 3 bars of HSPA+; Speedtest.net says 3.5M down/2.3 up, which is plenty enough for my job. We make a hotspot with a Galaxy Nexus; reliability is better out on the deck than in the cabin, which is a better place to work anyhow.

Thu, 04 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Spies, Hypocrites, and Fools

Posted By Tim Bray

There are angry voices sounding in Europe over the NSAs large-scale indiscriminate information-gathering there. Its perfectly possible to be suspicious and cynical about the US spooks, a fan of Ed Snowden, and still think those voices are those of either Euro-hypocrites or Euro-fools. In general, I approve of espionage and yet intensely distrust law-enforcement organizations. I think a healthy civic society should: Aggressively regulate its own security establishment. Worry intensely about overreach and privacy abuse by security officials. Empower those officials to watch its enemies closely and its allies even more closely. Assume that foreign security establishments will routinely try to capture every word spoken and every picture taken.

Tue, 02 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Meta Meta Meta

Posted By Tim Bray

On Sunday I wrote On Medium about writing on Medium, after I posted a rewrite there of a piece I wrote about Texas politics. Now lets write about that. At the point I wrote On Medium, my blog had 1250 reads of the original piece, not counting those who mightve read it in my feed. The Medium version had had 455 reads. Today, the numbers are 1560 for my blog (feed-exclusive) and 1700 or so at Medium. But today, I glanced at the stats and got a shock: the meta-piece had 13.3K feed-exclusive reads. Huh? A bit of poking around reveals that those folks had mostly come from a Hacker News thread, where theres worthwhile discussion of blogging in general and Medium in particular.

Tue, 02 Jul 2013 19:00:00 UTC

The Kids and Miles

Posted By Tim Bray

It was my turn to do the dishes and I needed a little extra energy, so I cued up Spanish Key from Bitches Brew. The 7-year old was table-clearing, the 14-year-old drying, and after a bit they were both bopping along with Miles and the band. I just cant listen to that music in a simple way, my mind keeps going Wayne Shorter just did what? or Yow, 3 measures of pure hard-bop or Ease off on the wah-wah, John. But the kids are teaching me: You dont have to know the subtext or the context, nor need any pretexts, to want to shake your butt.

Sun, 30 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

On Medium

Posted By Tim Bray

Last week I wrote Texas Politics about the legislative-gamesmanship theatrics around Wendy Davis filibuster. It did OK on the blog, nothing special. Evan Hansen of Medium reached out asking if I wanted to republish there. I couldnt think of a good reason to do that, but then I also couldnt think of a good reason not to. So heres a bloggers-eye view of being a Medium author. The Medium version is Dont Mess With Them and its better than my version, because I did a couple more editing passes and tightened things up. Also, the presentation over there is terrific; minimal and very readable.

Sat, 29 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Better OS X Control

Posted By Tim Bray

If you use Emacs, you can stop reading now. If you dont, theres a possibility that you may not be aware of an incredibly powerful productivity-boosting tool that works in almost every OS X app. Read on. Take Control The trick Im about to describe works whenever youre editing text: Gmail, Pages, Keynote, wherever. It relies on the Control key, which is down on the lower left corner of most OS X keyboards (but stay tuned for a trick to make it more accessible). The trick is, hold down the Control key while youre hitting another, for example a, which Ill abbreviate C-A.

Thu, 27 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Rent-seeking for Nomads

Posted By Tim Bray

A friend was telling me of a young woman he knows whod been struggling to get by in New York and hed been sort of mentoring. Only shes spent most of this year traveling in Southeast Asia and South America, finding herself. I wondered what she was living on. Turns out shes offering her Manhattan apartment on Airbnb and covering its rent with enough left over to fuel her nomadic self-discovery. I wonder if its even legal? Whatever, when theres something desirable to be sold and people who want to buy it, deals get done; particularly in NYC.

Wed, 26 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Texas Politics

Posted By Tim Bray

If you werent watching the livestream (courtesy of The Texas Tribune) you missed an astounding piece of drama. I only caught the last 90 minutes, but wow. Wendy The charisma and eloquence of Senator Davis was astonishing. By the time I started watching, shed been silenced by the Republican legislators tactics and just stood there, watching and smiling. Gaming the System I dont think the transparent sleaze of the efforts to rule her her out of order were all that terrible. The whole point of being governed by elected legislatures is that its rule-based, and wherever there are rules they can be gamed, and thats OK.

Mon, 24 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Two Factor, Twice

Posted By Tim Bray

One of my jobs is browbeating people to turn on 2-Step Verification, and its working; more and more people are. Today I learned that weve got some open-source technology you can use to add 2-factor to your own app. Please Get Safe Seriously, if you havent already, and if someone hacking your Google account would screw up your life, then start here right now and come back after youve turned it on. Ill wait. What, you didnt do it? Youre not convinced? You think itll be inconvenient? Wrong. Its super-smooth; every so often, when Google asks you to refresh your login, itll ask you to enter a number that we send you by SMS.

Mon, 24 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Horror Story

Posted By Tim Bray

I just read Neil Gaimans The Ocean at the End of the Lane and its wonderfully done but I didnt enjoy it. Theres a good chance you might, though. Gaiman is one of the very few writers whose books I just go ahead and buy without waiting to read reviews or even sniffing the social-media fumes. This book wont change that even though it made me unhappy. Gaimans in good form, so the magic here is magical, the people are real (except for the ones that arent supposed to be), the monsters are monstrous, and the ambiance is intensely felt: You are there.

Sat, 22 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

3 Camera Reviews

Posted By Tim Bray

Its a wonderful time in the camera biz, with new device flavors grabbing market share all over the place. Ive made my bet on the Fujifilm X series, so lets start with a 2-parter over at The Online Photographer, Fuji X-E1: The Keeper (Part I) and Part II. Theres not that much new information here, but its fun piece to read. For something completely different, check out this early DPReview look at the Galaxy NX, Samsungs big serious camera thats also an Android Jellybean device. Im sure theres photographic gold in them thar hills somewhere. At the moment I have no urge to abandon Fujis diminutive form factor and fabulous Fujinon lenses, but if I get an idea for an Android app that uses the camera hardware, that could change fast.

Wed, 19 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Feature Phone

Posted By Tim Bray

My Galaxy Nexus unfortunately Died The Death. Itll boot and seem to work, but as soon as you try to open an email or whatever, kiss it goodbye. So I rummaged through the back of the closet and, well, its amazing how little you can get by with. Id like to replace the GNexus with one of those pure-Android HTC Ones theyre talking up, but you cant get those yet so I needed a stopgap. The closet yielded an old Nexus S which I put my SIM in and turned on; up come some antique Android version. Also, it was broken; probably this is some best-forgotten engineering build from three years ago.

Sun, 16 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Golang Diaries I

Posted By Tim Bray

Some of the most popular things on this blog have been diaries Ive written as I explore my way through a new technology or hobby. Im picking up the Go Programming Language, whose HQ is (significantly) at golang.org and which Im going to refer to as Golang for reasons which should become obvious. Whatever you thing of Golang, its apparently got some momentum and some seriously smart people are working on and in it; so this may actually be of service to the community. At this point, I should tip my hat to Mark Pilgrim, who taught me that a really good time to write about something is while youre still discovering it, before youre looking at it from the inside.

Sun, 16 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Unmapped Lands

Posted By Tim Bray

I ran across Theresa Couchman on The Setup (always recommended), which convinced me to buy The Unmapped Lands, and wow, is it ever fun. There is a whole lot of stuff in this book; probably more than really necessary, because the people in it are so interesting. I was actually sort of hoping Ms Couchman would ease off on the action a bit and just run with them a bit, but I never wasnt entertained. Lets see, we start with a hardass witch in Albany, NY, and then we get a demon and a smart rat and an Intuitive and a Magician and an alternate-reality portal and a grimoire and dragons and giant spiders and, yeah, theres more, but you get the idea.

Fri, 14 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

findIDP Tech Choices

Posted By Tim Bray

Im building a service that uses a bunch of heuristics to, given an email address, figure out which Identity Provider (IDP) you should try to use to log that address in. Im doing it in Go. Heres why. The Context You can read about about the whys of the thing in Project findIDP. But heres the how: You get an email address. You do a whole bunch of network retrievals; glance at the domains MX record, try WebFinger, ask some well-known providers whether they host the domain. People can go online and select their own IDP for email addresses they control.

Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Good Internet Baseball

Posted By Tim Bray

I was in OpenID meetings at Microsoft all day Tuesday, and started driving home to Vancouver at 4PM. This a fairly painful route at that time, but the Blue Jays and White Sox, via MLB on the Nexus 7, reduced the pain considerably. The problems included an accident on 405 (but theres always an accident on 405) and that Skagit-river bridge that fell down last month (but the detour isnt terrible). Still, a lot of stop-and-go. If you could just keep going you could do the trip in under 3 hours; it took me a just over 4. So right there in the Microsoft parking lot, I pulled up the MLB app on the N7 and checked out what was on; then tuned into the Toronto pre-game show.

Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Native Mock Orange

Posted By Tim Bray

Wikipedia does not list this among the common names of Philadelphus_lewisii but thats what we call it. At the moment it is a wild eruption of blossoms and perfume, actually managing to outshine the roses, which are in full-on attack mode too. The flowers are too many to count. Since they are mostly white, they wear the colors the sun drapes them with, depending on the time and the angle.

Fri, 07 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Project findIDP

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I got an invite to Poetica, the new startup by Good Internet People Blaine and Maureen. (Poetica has a strong central idea and is aesthetically a treat.) The login experience was unlike anything Id seen. The screen had just one blank space: Type your email address. So I picked my address at our textuality.com family domain, where mail happens to go through Google apps. The next thing I saw was the approval screen from Google saying OK to use your identity to log into Poetica? Then there I was, signed-in and seeing the new-user experience. Very, very slick; and of course no passwords involved.

Thu, 06 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Civilization

Posted By Tim Bray

Im writing this in the library at Renfrew Park Community Centre, waiting while my sons at a martial-arts class. Just walking in here, I got all choked up. I guess most places in North America have these scattered around. Quite likely lots of other places round the world too, only Ive never been to any because theyre emphatically for locals, usually. Theyre where you find gyms and meeting rooms and swimming pools and rinks and libraries, in some combination. In Vancouver, theyre pretty well all busy all the time. There are aerobics and yoga and swimming and karate and committees happening here.

Sun, 02 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

The Scalzi/Amazon Trap

Posted By Tim Bray

I kind of liked The Androids Dream and Redshirts by John Scalzi. A couple weeks ago I needed some light-ish reading so I picked up Old Mans War, and the jaws closed on my wallet. Its the first book of a multi-part space-opera series. The aliens are mostly satisfactorily evil, the solution to the impossibility-of-coherent-space-opera problem is clever, and the people in the stories are interesting. There are irritants  for example, the only character so far to suggest, you know, talking to the aliens before shooting, is reviled as a blowhard and quickly disposed of. But still, good story, clever premise, and I confess to enjoying space opera.

Sun, 02 Jun 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Blogginess

Posted By Tim Bray

Paul Kedrosky, highly visible Internet/Money guy, tweets: So strange to see people talking about future of blogs in 2013. Blogs still exist? (His own blog is now just a daily tweetpendium.) Pauls smart, but thats ridiculous. Just to warm up, heres some recent random blog brilliance, harvested from less-than-a-month-old tabs in the nearest browser. Doc Searls, Identity is personal. The gunslinger blog, scenes from the wild west. Colby Cosh, Lord, send pesticide for the weed of gendercide. John Hempton, Spark Networks and the strange failure of sex-starved Jewish computer science undergrads... and Practical lessons in assessing exotic risks. What Matters We increase and improve our body of knowledge through conversation.

Fri, 24 May 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Hotel Token

Posted By Tim Bray

An OAuth 2 access token is like a hotel-room key card. It gives access, all by itself without further checking, to a particular resource (in this case, room 238 at the Omni Interlocken in Denver.) Check. Its issued to a particular person, who has to be authenticated first (like by showing my drivers license at the check-in.) Check. Nothing on the outside tells you who its been issued to or what its for. Check. Its not obscured or encrypted, so you have to take good care of it (if a bad guy got it and knew what it was for, he could get into my hotel room and rob me blind.)

Wed, 22 May 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Glass Questions

Posted By Tim Bray

At Google in general and IO in particular, there are a whole lot of Glasswearers, and theres a smattering here at Gluecon where Im writing this. I dont own a pair (its tough to give them to Canadians for legal reasons) but have had a few looks, and am used to being in a room with them. So, a few things seem obvious. Are They Obtrusive? No. The novelty wears off and since theyre not flashing (unless you look real close) or moving, and they tend to neutral colors, they just become part of the visual landscape, right away. Also, they dont obscure the essentials of peoples faces, so pretty quick you dont see people-wearing-Glass, you just see people.

Sat, 18 May 2013 19:00:00 UTC

IO in the Rearview

Posted By Tim Bray

I enjoyed it more than any other so far. More APIs, less hardware. More sessions, each shorter. One keynote. Scale IO has been at Moscone West, its attendance thus capped at five-thousand-and-change people, for a while now. I predict it stays that way. Yeah, it sells out instantly and we could probably draw five times that number. All this is true of Apples WWDC too; In Unknowable, Rands says smart things about the advantages of smaller size. Moscone West, about as crowded as its legally possible for it to be, and its still a pretty decent space. But theres another factor; its really hard to grow much over 5-6K because then you dont fit in Moscone West, which is a reasonably light, airy, pleasant space; see above.

Fri, 17 May 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Ingress Chase Scene

Posted By Tim Bray

I hadnt been out to play in a long time, but I heard of a cross-faction event at IO, and Id never done one of those. It got way out into crazy-space; Even non-players might enjoy the story. Previously in this series: Ingress, Things About Ingress, Ingress, Month 3, Ingress Weekly, Ingress Tourism, and Advanced Ingress. Steve at the Diamond My Tuesday plane to San Fran was late so I missed the geek dinners. Restless, I checked the Ingress map and discovered there was a major level-8-portal farm down around the ballpark. Thus a late-evening walk round the diamond by the bay, admiring the waves twinkles.

Thu, 16 May 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Fun at IO

Posted By Tim Bray

There is a conscious effort to make Google IO not just an information-dense environment, but a party. I joined in the fun for all three evenings I was free in San Fran. This included one photo-walk, one rock & roll performance, and one cross-faction Ingress event. Here are words and pictures. Photo Walk As in, the Google+ San Francisco PhotoWalk with Thomas and Trey, where T&T are short for Thomas Hawk and Trey Ratcliff, two photogs of renown at least on G+. Over a thousand people signed up and a few hundred actually turned up. I heard 400-ish which, if true, means that each uploaded ten photos, more or less.

Wed, 08 May 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Springies

Posted By Tim Bray

I used to run lots of flower pix; it was almost a trademark for this blog in its early days. Their absence hasnt been a matter of policy; whatever mental subsystem it is that pulls the camera up to the eye operates several levels below the one where I think about things. But the sun was just right after supper tonight. From top to bottom: Poppies, the Rugosa thats winning this years Rose Race, and a Lonicera ciliosa Honeysuckle. Nothing I can say can add much. While on the subject of flowers: This spring in my neighborhood, many of the women are wearing simple dresses in floral prints, mostly lightweight stuff with a bit of swing and float to it.

Mon, 06 May 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Springtime Tab Sweep  The World

Posted By Tim Bray

The only unifying theme is that theyve been building up in the browser for months, and are generally consistent with my worldview. Why its OK to hate banks From The Economist, The people versus the bankers, an approachable, quantitative discussion of why banking is systemically broken, and why it would be good for society to inflict severe financial pain on bankers. Who you are and where you come from From Pacific Standard magazine, of which I know nothing, Ethan Watters writes We Arent the World, in which its revealed that peoples cultural roots influence their perceptions and behaviors, um, radically (etymology joke there), which isnt surprising, and that quantitative social science has never really wired in this apparently-an-axiom, which is.

Mon, 06 May 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Springtime Tab Sweep  Tech

Posted By Tim Bray

Ouch, some of these tabs are old. Unifying theme: none. Corroding Style Sheets Liking the look of Stylus. All these tantalizing alternatives when what we really want is to take the ship up and nuke CSS from orbit. Wisdom From CACM, The Tail at Scale by Jeff Dean and Luiz André Barroso. Maybe the deepest thinking about large-system performance characteristics youre apt to read in any given year. Git Joy Both good: LearnGitBranching and Git Koans. Emacs Joy Multiple-cursor madness. And, its fun! Eek. Mongo Joy Specifically, High Availability with MongoDB for Fun and Profit. I havent built a high-volume site in some years, and while Ive not missed it that much, I would like a chance to play with some of the new database tech.

Thu, 02 May 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Rock and Roll Story

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished reading Blues Highway Blues by Eyre Price, which is said to be one of a series called Crossroads Thrillers. If you like either American music or crime writing, you might like this. If you like both, your chances are pretty high. You might want to visit Prices site linked under his name there; its somewhat unique, which is getting hard to be on the Web these days. As of May 2013, his description of Blues Highway Blues is perfectly accurate; I cant improve on it, plus it comes with the audio of one of the songs in the book.

Mon, 29 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Who Owns Your Pictures?

Posted By Tim Bray

People are claiming that a new British law is going to allow anyone to steal your online pictures and sell them and keep the money. I think theyre mostly wrong about that law, but in the process of checking it out I ran across some bad behavior by social-media companies. OMG theyre stealing my pretties! Someone linked, with a gasp of horror, to UK.Gov passes Instagram Act: All your pics belong to everyone now by Andrew Orlowski. I was prepared to blow it off because Orlowski is generally wrong about everything. This is the man who, back in 2004, referred to Wikipedians as Khmer Rouge in nappies and has continued to get attention with lurid Internet contrarianism; which has also worked for Jaron Lanier, Andrew Keen, and lately Evgeny Morozov.

Thu, 25 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Johannesburg Noir

Posted By Tim Bray

Zoo City is by Lauren Beukes, published in 2010; shes written another since then and Ill make a point of reading it; which should be indicative. [Background: I was looking at the bookshelf screens on my tablet and realized Ive read quite a few recently without sharing anything, even though while none of them have been life-changing, a few are well worth the price of an e-book. This is bad behavior in a blogger, so Ill try to run a few short reviews and get caught up.] This book is seriously nasty, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Mon, 22 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

HP7  Draperies

Posted By Tim Bray

My Hawaii Problem is solved, or anyhow Im out of Big-Island pictures I feel compelled to share. These last two have absolutely nothing specific to the geography. This appeared by the pool at our resort in Keahou. What you cant see is the banner; it featured the triskelion which thought was for the Isle of Man; but it turned out to be the Flag of Sicily. And sure enough, a bunch of Sicilians showed up to eat and drink by the pool by the ocean. Someone played guitar and they sang rousing Sicilian songs. It was an afternoon thing, over by suppertime.

Sun, 21 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Advanced Ingress

Posted By Tim Bray

Wherever you go these days there are Level-8 players, and even the occasional L8 portal. Its a different game at that level. What may be my last piece on the subject; with a side-trip into BioShock Infinite. Previously in this series: Ingress, Things About Ingress, Ingress, Month 3, Ingress Weekly, and Ingress Tourism. A couple of our local enthusiasts got to L8 in less than 30 days play. It took me well over four months, and thats with a few road-trips to places oozing with portals; I confess that when I got real close to L8, I did put in a lengthy weekend afternoon driving around to places in Vancouver to find juicy green fields to smash and relink.

Fri, 19 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

News Fail

Posted By Tim Bray

So yeah, I sat up till 2AM (Pacific, 5AM in Boston), fascinated by the situation in Cambridge and Watertown. I listened to the police radio online, watched a few live Twitter feeds, and had a couple Google Maps windows zoomed in on streets that Id never heard of but now know where they are: Hazel, Dexter, Laurel. The professional news media knew less than I (3 timezones away) did, but said more; somewhere between nauseating and just silly. I tried a few live-TV streams but the inconsequential arm-waving and flow of bloviation-with-good-hair-on-top was unbearable. And clearly they werent listening to the scanner or watching the right Twitterers.

Thu, 18 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

HP6  Greens

Posted By Tim Bray

This, I promise, is the second-last outburst consequent upon the Hawaii Problem where my Lightroom is all bulgy with nifty Big-Island photos. Today, shades of green at Akaka Falls State Park. Its a nice park at the end of nice drive north from Hilo, with a worthwhile side-trip to that botanical garden then through the pleasant village of Honomu. The park itself is an unchallenging half-hour ramble along causeways through pretty dense rainforest up to where theres a nice view of the falls. Except for the green stuff was more interesting that the long twisting white stream of water. Like this: Oh, and the waterfall.

Tue, 16 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Measure the Pain

Posted By Tim Bray

Learning isnt free; re-learning is paying the price twice. Many of the people who use what we geeks make would like to re-learn less. One of them is Patric King, interviewed in The Setup, an instructive and enjoyable publication. Im excerpting his whole last paragraph but the rest is good too: I would love to see a return to a longer turnaround between software packages. Theres an artificial churn happening in how quickly we need to re-learn tools, because companies are learning to move their software products to a subscription basis. I am seriously tempted to jump off that bandwagon, if I were confident I could find a workflow and OS that wouldnt be painful to re-learn on a bi-annual basis, rather than every six months.

Mon, 15 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

HP5  Lava Context

Posted By Tim Bray

Having bombarded you with lava pix while dealing with my need-to-overshare Hawaii Problem, I thought itd be nice to show the story of where the hot rock came from. Lets take that literally; all those glowing-lava pix were part of what the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory calls the Peace Day flow from Pu`u `O`o vent (check out the nifty Recent Kilauea Status page). Heres its path down Kilaueas side to the sea. You might have to enlarge the photo to see the line of plumes: volcanic smoke, steam, and burning vegetation. The black-and-white version of that photo is remarkably dramatic, but Im storytelling here and this one has more truth.

Sun, 14 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

HP4  Botanicals

Posted By Tim Bray

Botanical gardens are A Good Thing. If you havent been to any, you should rectify that soonest. If you get to Hawaiis Big Island, you should definitely drive north from Hilo and visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. In this entry, the Hawaii-Problem you-gotta-see-these-pix monotony is relieved by sex. Even if youre not a botanical-garden sort of person, you might want to take Route 19 north from Hilo anyhow, because its beautiful, lush, country. Along the way, its worth stopping at Alae cemetery, which has one of the most remarkable trees anywhere. Then you turn off on Old Mamalahoa Highway, and the scenery suddenly gets even more intense.

Sat, 13 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

HP3  More Hot Lava!

Posted By Tim Bray

I wrote about hiking across hard lava to poke a stick into hot lava, and the pictures were groovy, but I had more than I could squeeze in there, so here are the rest that are worthwhile. Those who dont sympathize with my Hawaii Problem (the urge to force recent-vacation pictures down the worlds throat) will be happy to hear that there are only a couple more instalments after today. Here are the pictures. I really have nothing to add to what I wrote before. Well, once again: Go see this if you get a chance.

Fri, 12 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

HP2  The Last Palms

Posted By Tim Bray

The Hawaii Problem is when you come back from there with an irresistible urge to show off your pictures. Today, some lonely palm trees. Highway 130 heads south and west across the bottom right corner of the Big Island, then along the south coast. Chain of Craters Road heads down from Volcano National Park to the south coast and eventually meets 130. Except for starting in 1986, the lava flowed down the mountain and broke the link. The eastern end of the breakage is where you park your car and start hiking if you want to poke a stick into live flowing lava.

Wed, 10 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

HP1  Sea Turtles

Posted By Tim Bray

HP stands for Hawaii Problem, which is what happens when your friends come back from it and insist on showing you their pictures. Except for since this is the Internet, nobody can insist you look at anything. Anyhow, I have a few more I feel the urge to share, starting with sea turtles. Theyre easy to see on the Big Island and my favorite thing thats not an erupting volcano. This guy was grazing the tidal pools at Pu`uhonua O HMnaunau National Park, also known as City of Refuge, a really nice spot to visit. Our next sea-turtle is at the famous Punaluu black-sand beach, where they often swim and rest.

Tue, 09 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Polyglot

Posted By Tim Bray

Or in full, the Vancouver Polyglot {un} Conference. I saw it coming, thought it looked cool and that Id go, then I got copied on an internal conversation where someone suggested we should sponsor it. Doh, good idea, why didnt I think of it? So we are. So Ill not only go, Ill suggest an unconference session on my current Identity obsessions. Its a cool location and they look like cool people; come on down!

Tue, 09 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

I Bought Some BitCoins

Posted By Tim Bray

On Tuesday evening I gave an envelope full of hundred-dollar bills to a friendly long-haired young man Id never met in an undistinguished coffee-shop in an undistinguished neighborhood. By the time I got home, the BitCoins Id bought were worth noticeably less than I paid. Why I Did This Two reasons; both seem good to me. First, Ive been working for a long time and have built up some savings. Like they say, diversify your portfolio. Second, its a new (where by new I mean four years old) thing on the Internet. I feel both desire and duty to experience such things.

Sat, 06 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Card Update Degree of Difficulty

Posted By Tim Bray

In Hawaii I left my credit card behind where we ate lunch on the way to the airport. Called em from the departure lounge and told em to cut it up and throw it out. Called Visa and told em to send me a new one. Really pretty easy. Then theres switching over all the pre-authorized payments. I have seven; how many do you have? Here is a list, in decreasing order of degree of difficulty, of the difficulty of upgrading your credit card details. Stupid Website  Extreme Pain Example: My cable/Internet provider. Various kinds of obstacles and roadblocks, just generally horribly bad UX.

Thu, 04 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

On ID Tokens

Posted By Tim Bray

These are a product of the OpenID Connect work, and I think theyre going be super-useful; in fact I keep getting ideas for nifty things you could do with them. So heres a walk-through on what they are and how they work; maybe youll have some ideas too. What They Are ID Tokens are little chunks of text which claim that some particular person wants to tell some particular party out there that theyre signed in and authenticated by the Identity Provider that issued the token. There are some more goodies in there, but thats the big deal. ID Tokens are easy to understand and cheap for programmers to process.

Tue, 02 Apr 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Hem

Posted By Tim Bray

Currently listening to: Departure and Farewell by Hem; there was a plug in the New Yorker with a nice video sample so I checked out the site and there was the album for sale, lossless format, fair price; why wouldnt I just buy it instantly? Now, not every band is gonna get noticed in the New Yorker; but if you get noticed somewhere, and you have a nice sample, and your site will sell me the music, uncompressed, with a couple of clicks, Im probably gonna buy it right there. And I dont think Im that eccentric. The songs are very pretty and Sally Ellysons singing has got to touch your heart if you have one.

Sat, 30 Mar 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Ingress Tourism

Posted By Tim Bray

The game still feels like a big story to me, and still under-reported; so herewith Ingress coverage, featuring tourism, community cancer, client controversy, and tactical tips. With pictures of places Ingress players see. Previously in this series: Ingress Weekly, Ingress, Month 3, Things About Ingress, and Ingress. Tourism Im still not a serious player; you cant be one of those with a job and family and so on. But I travel a lot. Last time out, I mentioned the fun Id had playing Ingress in London. Ditto for Tokyo, ditto ditto for the Big Island. I guess if theres an Ingress-photography genre, its gonna be mostly cellphone photos.

Thu, 28 Mar 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Tropical Mirrorless Research

Posted By Tim Bray

I claim that watching people photograph the Big Island is effective camera-futures research; and camera futures are interesting now. So heres some research. Oh, and Big Island photos. Those camera futures became interesting with the arrival, this past few years, of mirrorless and other compact-format high-quality cameras (overview here). Check out I've Got Good News, I've Got Bad News for some data on sales trends; it suggests SLRs are doing well but compacts arent much of a factor. At the Pu»uhonua o HMnaunau (City of Refuge)park, a must-see on the Big Island. Why Hawaii? People go to the Big Island to see things.

Tue, 26 Mar 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Being Google

Posted By Tim Bray

This month saw my 3-year anniversary here, and I feel like one of my missions is to be a guide on this Magical Mystery Tour. So, here are some things about Google; without asking anyone first, because not asking first is best. Being Careful Startups are all damn-the-torpedos and ship-it-now. Been there, done that, loved it. Inappropriate with a user count on the order of a billion. My first-ever push to Googles webspace was a couple of paragraphs of documentation; the compulsory review process ended up with four rewrites involving input from three people. Not management-driven cover-your-ass rewrites, either; topics of debate included what is the actual failure mode? and Dont talk abstractly about developers, say You must... Code reviews are way fiercer.

Tue, 26 Mar 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Finite Surface Integral of the Earth

Posted By Tim Bray

I have watched the piecewise creation of the world; new pieces burn gold-red, creep into place like honey, lethally hot in the ocean-moist air. And of course took lots of pictures. Back Story I owe this experience to one of the many photographers on Google+, who posted on shooting lava. Since wed planned a vacation to the Big Island you can bet this caught my attention. Id visited the island and the volcano a couple of times, but live lava always seemed something that you had to be an extreme-hiking fanatic, and prepared to die in the attempt, to see.

Tue, 12 Mar 2013 19:00:00 UTC

X-E1@q¬: Still Water

Posted By Tim Bray

I bought a ticket on the Tokyo airport bus leaving from near the Google office and thought my fun with the new camera was over; but I was wrong. A half-hour wait provoked a random stroll which brought me to a little teeny shrine down a little teeny alley. I guess I should conclude this series with some more reportage on the camera, but hey, the most important thing isnt that, because theyre all pretty good these days. What matters is finding something worth pointing it at. Most times, all you really need is for the camera to get out of the way.

Mon, 11 Mar 2013 19:00:00 UTC

X-E1@q¬: Wheels

Posted By Tim Bray

Ah, the camera and the motorized vehicle; both blossomed last century but are going strong. Lets apply the first to the second and do it with a new camera in Tokyo. Whats not to like? Shameless plug: Includes my personal favorite picture in this series. This is a random lucky capture in Shibuya, which has come to inhabit its own mythology. I dont make a point of going there any more when I visit Tokyo but somehow I always do anyhow, and then I smile because for a place featuring vertical concrete and a trillion or so watts of synthetic illumination, its awfully human.

Mon, 11 Mar 2013 19:00:00 UTC

Sex Education

Posted By Tim Bray

My turn in the carpool schedule. Girl and Boy in the back seat, my first-grade daughter and her classmate whos expecting a little sister any day now. Girl: Daddy, how do they know whether its a boy or a girl before its born? Me: [Tries to explain about ultrasound (as if I understood it) and how they can see a not-very-good picture of the baby, still in Mummys tummy.] [Silence] Girl: But how do they know if its a boy or a girl? Me: Well, they look to see if it has a penis! [Longer silence.] Boy: Did you know that when a babys born, its naked? [Still longer silence.]

Sun, 10 Mar 2013 19:00:00 UTC

X-E1@q¬: Shades of Grey

Posted By Tim Bray

Im a color guy; but some pictures cry out for B&W. These are both from Kitanomaru Park, which I recommend to anyone for a walk, whatever the weather. There are museums about, and the Budokan; if that name rings a bell in your head this is probably why. Also its just a nice garden; the botanically-inclined will appreciate the careful labeling. This first picture in among the trees at the center of this map, and while its not quite as magical as the picture looks, its a pretty nice bit of greenery, a rare thing in the heart of Tokyo.

Sat, 09 Mar 2013 20:00:00 UTC

X-E1@q¬: Gates

Posted By Tim Bray

The event that took me to Tokyo with a new camera was in Chiyoda, which is to say right next to the Imperial palace. On two successive days, I took the opportunity to go visit; once to Kitanomaru Park, and once to the East Garden itself. Pictures today from the latter. The history of Japan is full of wars, mostly in a feudal flavor; all these walls and battlements and fortifications werent built for decoration. Doesnt mean they dont look good. These are the East gates. I confess, this photo had to be fixed up a little. The spring sun on the trees other side of the gate was overpowering, brilliant.

Fri, 08 Mar 2013 20:00:00 UTC

X-E1@q¬: Cylinders

Posted By Tim Bray

On Day Two of the new-camera-in-Tokyo trail lets move gradually from people to geometry. Because any city has lots of that. This is from the 20th floor, at Hitotsubashi University looking down over the Mainichi building; in the background are some of the Imperial Palace gardens (more to come from there). I said gradually and yep, if you blow this up you will in fact spot a few people. I wonder what the guys on the rooftop are up to; on a really big screen with the full-rez photo, its clear that theyre pretty well-dressed, i.e. probably not maintenance folk. Maybe they just stepped outside for a smoke.

Thu, 07 Mar 2013 20:00:00 UTC

X-E1@q¬: People

Posted By Tim Bray

So, I took the new camera to Tokyo and came back with pictures, which will inhabit this space for the next few days. For most, Im not gonna claim theyre typical; but these are. If youre going to show the truth about q¬, it has to be people. Because its buildings and cars and streets and so on are mostly nothing special, but the people who live among them are. Not far from Shimbashi station and its 10PM or so. I wont claim this is a good picture, but I will argue that its what Tokyo street-life is really, really like; do me a favor and enlarge it.

Wed, 06 Mar 2013 20:00:00 UTC

The Tragedy of the Re-Auth

Posted By Tim Bray

Were pushing the notion that sites should do Federated Identity; that those Sign in with Facebook/Google/Twitter/whoever badges you see everywhere are A Good Thing. And indeed they are. But its exposing a subtle problem. Background I spend a lot of time talking to people who are (in the jargon) RPs, where the initials stand for Relying Party and mean someone who relies on an Identity Provider (IDP in the jargon) to take care of login/logout. Its increasingly easy to set up Federated Login with an IDP, and as OpenID Connect stabilizes, therell be room for a real standards-based RP/IDP ecosystem.

Wed, 06 Mar 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Fujifilm X-E1

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, this month includes trips to Tokyo and the Big Island. And lately Ive been reading about cameras full of shiny new ideas. So I decided to indulge myself; here are way too many words about the state of cameras in general and in particular the one I bought. I suppose this is partly a review of the X-E1, but if you want to know the most important thing (what kind of pictures it takes) just follow the blog for the next week or two. Ill do a pictures-from-Tokyo series that covers a lot of different photographic styles.

Wed, 27 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Birthday!

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres an odd sentence made of special words: The Web can do big things for little people and little things for big; we think its really pretty good right now. In related news, this blog is ten years old today. On February 27, 2003, I told the world about this project. (Some readers might be entertained by Is This Thing On?  written the next day, about bringing up a new blog back then.) That odd sentence includes only words from among the one hundred most commonly used in ongoing since 2003; including almost all that arent just grammatical auxiliaries. The words found here to date total somewhat over 1,555,000.

Mon, 25 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

New Mobile Rhythm

Posted By Tim Bray

You know that Android Versions dashboard? It matters less and less for developers. And its been irritating me for months now that the mobile-device commentariat apparently hasnt noticed. Im hoping todays news will help make my point. Lets look at some recent history. September 2012 The debut of Google Play services brought OAuth 2.0 capabilities to apps running on all compatible devices back to release 2.2 (Froyo). December 2012 Google Play services release 2 brought major Maps-API improvements to apps on all compatible devices back to 2.2. February 26, 2013 Release 3 of Google Play services brought a major revamp of the Google+ API to apps on all compatible devices back to 2.2.

Thu, 21 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

JSON Lesson

Posted By Tim Bray

I just learned (maybe everyone else already knew) that its legal to have duplicate keys in JSON text. But please dont. There are three definitions of JSON. The lovely graphical one at json.org, the less lovely monospaced ASCII in RFC 4627, and Section 15.12 of ECMAScript 5.1. json.org says nothing about duplicate keys. RFC 4627 (section 2.2), says The names within an object SHOULD be unique. ECMAScript (15.12.2) says NOTE In the case where there are duplicate name Strings within an object, lexically preceding values for the same key shall be overwritten. So I guess this is legal: { "key":"a345", "key":"b678" } Gag.

Thu, 21 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

A or A?

Posted By Tim Bray

When ordinary non-geek people find out Im in the biz, I often hear Im going to dump the dumbphone and get something slick. Should I get an Apple or an Android?This question is getting harder and harder to answer. Here are some things I used to say. Movies, Music, Media? Apple This remains a little bit true; the worlds still playing catch-up with Apples media ecosystem. But it is catching up; Amazon and Google are both investing hugely in providing low-friction soup-to-nuts offerings, and really want to be your books/music/movie store. And I dont see how Apple has a moat here, some special secret sauce that the competition wont be able to match.

Wed, 20 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

The Wrath of Heaven

Posted By Tim Bray

May it afflict Dupuytren's contracture, hangnails, and other painful pathologies of the hand on every developer who screws with Control-A, -E, -F, -B, -N, or -P in any OS X app anywhere you can edit text. Firefox, Im looking at you (but only when theres a search box open at the bottom of the browser). StackOverflow, Im looking at you. Seriously, you guys are peeing on sacred ground.

Thu, 14 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

California Valentine

Posted By Tim Bray

OK, so I took these pix on the 11th not the 14th and, whats worse, processed them heavily, but theyre still a love letter to That State. Theyre from Venice Beach in LA, which I think a deep expression of Pacific Timezone consciousness. Yeah, its sorta sleazy and drug-oriented, but Ill deal with that in exchange for, well, that Pacific edge. LAs about a lot of things, like for example this.

Tue, 12 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Every Year This Time

Posted By Tim Bray

These little guys show up in our front garden, and every year this time I run photos of em, not that theres anything really new or different compared to previous years; but theyre whispering Spring! in violet and yellow, so how could I not share? Some others were really fully open to the sun, but I thought this family were adorable.

Sun, 10 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

XMLs 15th Birthday

Posted By Tim Bray

Whether you like XML or not, were stuck with it for a long time. These days, the only new XML-based projects being started up are document-centric and publishing-oriented. Thank goodness, because thats a much better fit than all the WS-* and Java EE config puke and so on that has given those three letters a bad name among so many programmers. XML for your document database is actually pretty hard to improve on. February 10, 1998 I was at some meeting or another at Microsoft, and we were trying to get the last few changes in and publish the final approved spec.

Wed, 06 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Ingress Weekly

Posted By Tim Bray

I still think Ingress is the most interesting piece of New Internet Stuff on the current radar. What else is there to get excited about, Vine? Gimme a break. Also I cant write about work until the release pipeline unjams a bit. So herewith more news from the front. Local Power Wow, the real gamers and grinders are all making it to Level 8. We now have ten eights by my count, just on the Resistance side here in Vancouver. So they went out one night and made 29 L8 portals. I tagged along and took photos, but Im only going to show you this one.

Sun, 03 Feb 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Gun Machine

Posted By Tim Bray

I originally noticed this bearded author, an interesting voice on Twitter and wow, also apparently a collaborator with Nick Cave in Grinderman and on the excellent White Lunar. Oops, wrong. The Warren Ellis who wrote Gun Machine is quite a different bloke from the Aussie-musician Warren Ellis. That settled, on to the book, which is good. Its a New York police procedural, which has been done before; but not like this. The killer is different, the cop is different, the corruption in the pillars of power (thats almost a cliché now too) is different. And cop shows are all about the ambience; does it make you feel like you are there?

Wed, 30 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Maximum N7

Posted By Tim Bray

Way back in August of last year, I tweeted Would totally pay ~$300 for a Nexus 7 with telephony & cellular data. So I did; with my own money I mean. You will be unsurprised to learn that its my favorite Android device ever. I got the maximal version, 32G and GSM, which cost me C$309. My Google Play shopping experience was a little better than at Apple, which always wants me to enter my password at least twice; but not quite as slick as at Amazon. Delivery, at a couple of weeks, was a little slower than Id have liked.

Tue, 29 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Ingress, Month 3

Posted By Tim Bray

Ingress is into its third month and if any other relatively-mainstream bloggers are covering the story I havent seen it, so this for the record if nothing else. There are strains showing; but interesting developments also. To start with: as of today, Jan. 29, every Zipcar and Jamba Juice location is an Ingress portal, it seems; which feels to me like a news story. [For context, see Ingress and Things About Ingress.] Personal History When I came back to Vancouver from Christmas on the Prairies, it turned out that a few of us had been away and the Green team had pretty well overrun the city.

Thu, 24 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Spies Love Books

Posted By Tim Bray

Actually I should have commas in the title because Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan is a book initially about spies but more about love and really mostly about books, and writing them. Which some may call incestuous, but people who read books like books so why not? Just before I took off for a short visit to Britain I asked on Google+ OK, getting on the long flight to LHR in a few hours, and my queue of unread page-turners is empty. What's a can't-miss from recent months? It worked well, and I ended up buying the two recommended by Richard Smith; this and Canada by Richard Ford, which I havent read yet.

Wed, 23 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

How to Think About OAuth

Posted By Tim Bray

Im not a deep OAuth 2.0 expert yet; at this point that label is reserved for the (substantial number of) people who wrote the specs. But Ive worked with a few implementations and talked it over with smart people, and I have opinions. Summary: Its a framework not a protocol, it has irritating problems, and its really very useful. Real Internet Protocols I mean things like HTTP and SMTP; plug a client and a server into each other and if it doesnt Just Work, thats surprising. OAuth 2.0 isnt one of those; the language of the spec is full of Out of scope and At the discretion of the implementor.

Sat, 19 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Xly

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres an assertion: Women arent interested in coding jobs. Its both obviously true (look at the numbers) and horribly misleading, because lots of women are interested and get great jobs in my profession. This piece isnt about women and software, its about how to patch English so we can talk clearly about this sort of stuff. The essential truth here is statistical: By any measure, the number of women who choose to engage with computing is dramatically lower than the number of men. The essential danger is the temptation to reason from statistics to individuals; Men are better coders, so Im going to pick Joe rather than Karen to interview for the job. The Pattern-Matching Problem Our minds contain a pattern-matching engine that is immensely strong at inferring the particular from the general; which was probably an evolutionary advantage when we were hunter-gatherers worrying about weather patterns and predator behavior ...

Thu, 17 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Geek Beers

Posted By Tim Bray

Im in London next week for the OIDF Workshop. I plan to spend the evening of Tuesday January 22nd with my bum on a seat in The Phoenix and a beer in front of me. Anyone who has an opinion about Identity or Android or Google or photography or Japanese Metal bands, drop by and say hello.

Sun, 13 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Dads Ties

Posted By Tim Bray

My father died ten years ago. Still, its not surprising that we turned up a box in a corner with some of his old files inside, and a nice belt, and these. Dad also liked to wear cowboy boots, sometimes. I myself like a Western-wear shirt. The box had his University transcripts from the forties and fifties, record of employment, diaries, baby pictures; havent missed him so much in years.

Thu, 10 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Yasutomo Cuben Wallet

Posted By Tim Bray

In that disconnected time between Christmas and New Years, a famous person in my tweetstream recommended a Secure front-pocket-carry sciatica-preventing über-light wallet... The pointer was to yasutomo2020.picharpak.com/wallet.htm; heres the intro page with some background. The website was lo-rent but still charmed me. I couldnt make out the color choices so tweeted back What color is the STD version? and the f.p. said Colorless, translucent, sort of like if NASA made waxed paper. Hes talking about the Cuben Fiber the Wa-ben wallet is made of, which I expect never to become intimate with since Im a motorboater. But the price was modest and there wasnt anything about shipping charges; generous since it comes from Hong Kong, but maybe not so much because its light as a feather.

Wed, 09 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Things About Ingress

Posted By Tim Bray

Im not even a serious player, I go out for a couple hours two or three times a week. But there are lots of stories to tell and lessons to learn; here are some of mine. [Warning: This post will be more or less completely incomprehensible to someone who hasnt played quite a bit.] Climate Protection This game is going to be another whole kettle of fish in the Northern hemisphere when its, you know, not so bloody cold and wet. Having said that: Theres a lot to be said for wrapping your device up in a good old-fashioned plastic zip-loc.

Mon, 07 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Client + Server - Passwords

Posted By Tim Bray

This has been live on our servers for a while, but is now announced and open for general use. Heres the short version: If you have an Android app and a web-server back-end, you can authenticate the person using the app to your back-end securely, efficiently, and with no prompts or passwords. Im pretty happy with this, and think that app developers who can use this should. Because your server really has to know who its talking to, but there are few things less friendly to a person using a mobile device than making them type passwords. The long version is a multi-step recipe, but nothing about it is actually difficult.

Sun, 06 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

The DI Opposition

Posted By Tim Bray

Another pile-on story; this time on David Heinemeier Hanssons Dependency injection is not a virtue. I agree with every word DHH writes here, but I think I have a better example. Tl;dr: Statically-typed languages can make unit testing hard, so People adopt dependency injection to work around this, and In a sort of Stockholm-syndrome effect, people argue that DI is A Good Thing and over-use it, to harmful effect. Another Example DHHs example is slick, but the publish! method includes enough deep-Ruby idioms that I bet its opaque to a lot of perfectly smart developers who think in Java or C# or ObjC or whatever.

Sat, 05 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Round Silver Things

Posted By Tim Bray

Compact Discs, remember them? I got one for Christmas, and you know, theyre not a terrible idea. First off, I have to plug the music: Vivaldi string concertos by Tafelmusik feat. Lamon & Bylsma, from 1992. Great music well played, and a beautiful-sounding recording; totally recommended. BTW, there seem to be lots of versions of this one for sale online here and there, some for less than the one I linked to (which I picked because its got the same cover art as mine). For the last couple of years, Ive bought music like this: (My favorite) By download direct from the artist, but only if they offer CD quality.

Thu, 03 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Functional Programming Wisdom

Posted By Tim Bray

I dont often dedicate a blog entry to just a link, but this one is important. Important, that is, if youre a computer programmer; in particular a programmer who needs to make code run faster on existing real-world hardware. Which is a minority of a minority, since it excludes most Webfolk whose servers are fast enough and clients are running 90% idle time. But that minority really needs to be thinking about Functional Programming, and if youre not 100% sure you know what that means, you should drop everything and go read Uncle Bob Martins Functional Programming Basics. Its the best short explanation of what FP is about, and why its important, that Ive ever read anywhere.

Thu, 03 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Two Million Saved

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in April of last year, I noted that my LifeSaver 2 app had saved a million call records and SMS texts into the cloud. Now its two million, and by a much more useful measure. But theres more work to do and its going to be fun. First of all, people upload a lot more stuff than they download. Im betting its because they forget that LifeSaver only saves your data for an hour or two, and dont have the new device handy in the time window, so they have to re-upload. So, as of today, people have restored 2,033,635 phonecall records and SMS texts from the cloud to Android devices.

Wed, 02 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Blog 4 $

Posted By Tim Bray

Andrew Sullivan, one of the worlds most visible bloggers, is going indie and will try to make a living at it. I wish him luck, but I think maybe hes thinking about it wrong. If anyone can make it go, it ought to be Andrew. Hes erudite, passionate, articulate, and has managed, at one time or another, to piss off just about every demographic and politicocultural faction there is. Hes also, although British, a US resident, and member of a faction thats terribly important for Americas future: a conservative whos neither anti-sex nor anti-science. Disclosure I like my job at Google, but at some point Id like to support myself by blogging.

Tue, 01 Jan 2013 20:00:00 UTC

Illustrated New Years Tab Sweep

Posted By Tim Bray

Welcome to 2013! If youre like me, you dont have too much planned for the day. So here are some goodies built up in tabs & bookmarks since sometime in mid-2012. Since words and links sans pictures are boring, I include pictures, mostly of snow, from our Christmas excursion to Saskatchewan. There was lots of snow! Ive mostly avoided things that everyone already linked to, and I hope that one or two tickle your mental palate. Hint: The best links are in the last section. The Technosphere Now that Im not doing Android full-time, I dont even have to think about telephone companies, and thats nice.

Wed, 26 Dec 2012 20:00:00 UTC

For Everyone

Posted By Tim Bray

Our family gathering is small this year; only five. Even at that size, when everyone likes the same book, thats remarkable. Im talking about Giants Beware!, a graphic novel by Jorge Aguirre (who doesnt have a Wikipedia entry, someone get on it). All five of us read it, cover to cover, on Christmas day. Granted, my 6-year-old daughter is an unusually good reader, and my 82-your-old mother is unusually bookish and open-minded, but still. The book is funny, deft, well-drawn, and a total page-turner. Its a little tougher than what the six-year-old gets from her first-grade library, and she groused out loud, demanding that everyone stop talking so she could concentrate.

Mon, 24 Dec 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Low-stress Inbox

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive long been aware of the Inbox Zero notion, and never really got it. My Google inbox has 6,457 messages and my personal inbox 5,096; none are unread and I feel no stress. Recently Ive noticed that lots of people have huge numbers of unread emails staring them in the face, more or less all the time I guess. This would drive me crazy in about fifteen minutes. So, as a Christmas present to the world, here is my recipe for maintaining an unread count of zero; a condition Ill call Low-stress Inbox. You Decide When to Read Set up your mail so that when youre not looking at it, there are no bright red numbers anywhere on your screen pestering you about whats unread.

Tue, 18 Dec 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Wintersun

Posted By Tim Bray

After a dry bright summer and a forgiving autumn, winter is biting down hard; day after day of lashing rain and single-digit-°C temperatures. And dark. Dark, dark, dark. When the sun comes out, its surprising. It wasnt even really out, just a gap in the clouds big enough for a stray beam to catch this old house. Like a performer in the spotlight, reaching back for a little more. In winter north of 49°, you take what you can get.

Mon, 10 Dec 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Which Cameras?

Posted By Tim Bray

Right at the moment, the Most Interesting Camera in the World is clearly the Sony RX-1. Its started to hit the streets; for example, check out some early pix from Duncan Davidson. Theyre good! The concept is brilliant, and I salute The Most [well, only] Interesting Part of Sony for it. But I probably wouldnt get one even at a less-stupidly-high price. Heres what I think: You should have a modern interchangeable-lens camera whose sensor can deal with darkness, and most of the time you should mount a difficult opinionated prime lens on it and walk around with that. Also, you should have a high-quality pocket camera with a reasonably big reasonably fast zoom and a sensor thats only moderately afraid of the dark.

Sat, 08 Dec 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Ingress

Posted By Tim Bray

Its a new thing on the Internet, a planetary-scale augmented-reality game being played on a real planet: ours. Its fun to play, particularly if you have kids. And interesting, I think, for anyone who cares about issues of Life Online, even non-gamers. If you want to know the basics, hop on over and read the overexcited pitch at Google Play and the calmer Ingress in Wikipedia. Go ahead, Ill wait. Back now? Heres whats actually interesting about the game. Numbers This has only been running since mid-November, and its hard to get an invite, but a lot of people are playing.

Wed, 05 Dec 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Gonna Hang Out

Posted By Tim Bray

Theres this notion of a Google+ Event, which combines G+, YouTube, and Moderator; its trying to be a new way to do an online conversation. Some of the outreach people at Google (i.e. in jobs like mine) are going on the road a lot less and Eventing a lot more, these days. So Im going to try it tomorrow (Thursday): Life, Identity, and Everything. The idea is, I and Breno (an Identity tech lead here) will talk a little bit about what were up to (OAuth, OpenID, AccountChooser, bearer tokens for n00bs, and so on), and I mean a little bit; single-digit minutes.

Mon, 03 Dec 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Play services

Posted By Tim Bray

Theres a new release of Google Play services, which brings some love to the long-unrevised Maps API, and introduces Photo Sphere APIs. The world hasnt figured out how big a deal Play services is; one of the highest-impact changes in Androids history. Historically, big new features in Android required Framework revisions, which require major releases with updates right down into the Linux kernel, which only ship twice a year, and which arent reliably made available on older devices. Play services allows the Android group to ship major new features (OAuth 2.0, Mapping, and Photo Sphere so far) in a way that is auto-refreshed on all compatible devices back to 2.2 Froyo.

Sun, 02 Dec 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Private By Default

Posted By Tim Bray

As of now, this blogs primary address is https://www.tbray.org/ongoing; note the red s. That means your communication with it is private, which I think is the way the whole Internet should be. Depending which browser youre using, you should see a little lock or some such in the address bar. On the right are readouts from (top down) Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. You can click on that readout to get some information on the privacy/security settings. What It Means The way this is set up, you can be pretty sure, when you see that lock, of two things: First, that your browser is really connected to www.tbray.org, not some other site pretending to be mine.

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

AccountChooser

Posted By Tim Bray

This isnt exactly a Google thing, but weve been putting a lot of work into it, and now its about ready to use. I think lots of sites should. Because its easy, private, secure, and reduces login pain. AccountChooser is from the OpenID Foundation, with active input from lots of big tech companies. Its not often that Ive seen this sort of thing happen co-operatively; no discernable jostling or politics. What You See To demonstrate, I built this little app called FavColor that will save one fact about you: your favorite color. Its badge is this little rainbow thingie. FavColor has a conventional sign-in page for people it knows and a conventional sign-up for those it doesnt.

Fri, 23 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

CL XXIV: Autumn Drama

Posted By Tim Bray

Each years Cottage Life ends when you Shut Down For Winter; this sad task includes tidying, sealing, draining, and then going away. We left it later this year than any before, into the season of storms and rain and darkness. Of course, when the sun breaks through that darkness it makes the mountains and so on look awfully good. When the rain sets in its still very beautiful, but hard to photograph properly. Best to stay inside, light a fire in the stove, and get on with the Shutting Down; also reading, eating, and napping. All of which we did. But when darkness arrived the wind picked up and the rumble and crash of the waves grew louder and louder; my thoughts turned to the mighty ship Bodoni tethered to our little floating dock in among the big waves.

Fri, 23 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

CL XXIV: Autumn Drama

Posted By Tim Bray

Each years Cottage Life ends when you Shut Down For Winter; this sad task includes tidying, sealing, draining, and then going away. We left it later this year than any before, into the season of storms and rain and darkness. Of course, when the sun breaks through that darkness it makes the mountains and so on look awfully good. When the rain sets in its still very beautiful, but hard to photograph properly. Best to stay inside, light a fire in the stove, and get on with the Shutting Down; also reading, eating, and napping. All of which we did. But when darkness arrived the wind picked up and the rumble and crash of the waves grew louder and louder; my thoughts turned to the mighty ship Bodoni tethered to our little floating dock in among the big waves.

Sat, 17 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Old-World Week

Posted By Tim Bray

I spent most of last week in Antwerp at Devoxx 2012, probably the biggest developer event in Europe. The European context was front-of-mind since, for recreation, the week before Id been occasionally reading US right-wingers introspecting on why theyd lost the election and where America is going. A repeating theme is how the US is at grave danger of becoming like Europe; theyre convinced that thats Baracks hidden agenda. And Europe, you see, is a terrible place. A week there, in only a corner of the continent, but among Eurofolk from all over it, and my opinion that the US wingnuts are just wrong is reinforced.

Sat, 17 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Old-World Week

Posted By Tim Bray

I spent most of last week in Antwerp at Devoxx 2012, probably the biggest developer event in Europe. The European context was front-of-mind since, for recreation, the week before Id been occasionally reading US right-wingers introspecting on why theyd lost the election and where America is going. A repeating theme is how the US is at grave danger of becoming like Europe; theyre convinced that thats Baracks hidden agenda. And Europe, you see, is a terrible place. A week there, in only a corner of the continent, but among Eurofolk from all over it, and my opinion that the US wingnuts are just wrong is reinforced.

Sat, 10 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Doe Laughs at the Rite

Posted By Tim Bray

I ran across an article by this dude Andy Doe, who used to run classical music at iTunes, and then was at Naxos records, called What Is Going on with the Record Industry? Worth reading and worth following links from too. It turns out Doe has a blog called Proper Discord, a large part of which is devoted to silly classical-record covers with snarky captions. Hes so good at it that he got invited to contribute such a piece, pretty hilarious, to The Rite of Spring at One Hundred. Woah, The Rite of Spring is 100? Now thats a good excuse for a celebration; its one of the best pieces of music ever written.

Sat, 10 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

How To Watch Blood and Chrome

Posted By Tim Bray

We watched all of BSG redux, and even though we loathed Caprica thought Blood & Chrome deserved a shot. Plus its online. Easily accessible on my computer, but I like to watch TV on my TV. Heres how. Buy a Roku. Install a Plex server on a nearby computer; in our case our living-room mainframe Mac Pro. Fight your way through the creaky, irritating Plex channel selector to find and install the YouTube channel. Install the Plex channel on your Roku. Configure Plex on Roku to know about the nearby Plex server. Tune in Plex on Roku, select the YouTube channel.

Sat, 10 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

What Conservatives are For

Posted By Tim Bray

Im no right-winger but Ive long felt that a healthy society needs sane progressives and sane conservatives, and that many of Americas difficulties are related to an absence of the latter. So heres a proposed Sane-conservative manifesto, written from outside. 1. Be Cautious Anyone whos dealt with the public sector, or even paid close attention to the news, knows that many government programs dont work very well. Some just fritter away energy and money to no particular effect, others turn actively harmful. Its not that those launching them are malicious or stupid; its that people are complicated and, in the societal aggregate, insanely complicated.

Sat, 10 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

What Conservatives are For

Posted By Tim Bray

Im no right-winger but Ive long felt that a healthy society needs sane progressives and sane conservatives, and that many of Americas difficulties are related to an absence of the latter. So heres a proposed Sane-conservative manifesto, written from outside. 1. Be Cautious Anyone whos dealt with the public sector, or even paid close attention to the news, knows that many government programs dont work very well. Some just fritter away energy and money to no particular effect, others turn actively harmful. Its not that those launching them are malicious or stupid; its that people are complicated and, in the societal aggregate, insanely complicated.

Sat, 10 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

How To Watch Blood and Chrome

Posted By Tim Bray

We watched all of BSG redux, and even though we loathed Caprica thought Blood & Chrome deserved a shot. Plus its online. Easily accessible on my computer, but I like to watch TV on my TV. Heres how. Buy a Roku. Install a Plex server on a nearby computer; in our case our living-room mainframe Mac Pro. Fight your way through the creaky, irritating Plex channel selector to find and install the YouTube channel. Install the Plex channel on your Roku. Configure Plex on Roku to know about the nearby Plex server. Tune in Plex on Roku, select the YouTube channel.

Sat, 10 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Doe Laughs at the Rite

Posted By Tim Bray

I ran across an article by this dude Andy Doe, who used to run classical music at iTunes, and then was at Naxos records, called What Is Going on with the Record Industry? Worth reading and worth following links from too. It turns out Doe has a blog called Proper Discord, a large part of which is devoted to silly classical-record covers with snarky captions. Hes so good at it that he got invited to contribute such a piece, pretty hilarious, to The Rite of Spring at One Hundred. Woah, The Rite of Spring is 100? Now thats a good excuse for a celebration; its one of the best pieces of music ever written.

Thu, 08 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Sending and Receiving

Posted By Tim Bray

Yes, this is about social media; is that still a thing? I depend on this blog and syndication feeds and Twitter and G+, all at once at the same time, and in a complicated and messy way. But life isnt terrible. Broadcasting The screen caps show see my current stats on Twitter (above) and Google+ (below); the nice round number on Twitter provoked this piece. I use them both as broadcast media, and they both work just fine for that. I get the feeling that Twitter reaches more influencers and is more effective for getting a crucial piece of news flowing its way around the planet.

Thu, 08 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Sending and Receiving

Posted By Tim Bray

Yes, this is about social media; is that still a thing? I depend on this blog and syndication feeds and Twitter and G+, all at once at the same time, and in a complicated and messy way. But life isnt terrible. Broadcasting The screen caps show see my current stats on Twitter (above) and Google+ (below); the nice round number on Twitter provoked this piece. I use them both as broadcast media, and they both work just fine for that. I get the feeling that Twitter reaches more influencers and is more effective for getting a crucial piece of news flowing its way around the planet.

Wed, 07 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Explaining the Election

Posted By Tim Bray

A pretty well full and complete explanation of the US election results may be found in The Right Republican, published in The Economist at the end of 2011. I quote: Nowadays, a candidate must believe not just some but all of the following things: that abortion should be illegal in all cases; that gay marriage must be banned even in states that want it; that the 12m illegal immigrants, even those who have lived in America for decades, must all be sent home; that the 46m people who lack health insurance have only themselves to blame; that global warming is a conspiracy; that any form of gun control is unconstitutional; that any form of tax increase must be vetoed, even if the increase is only the cancelling of an expensive and market-distorting perk; that Israel can do no wrong and the so-called Palestinians, to use Mr Gingrich's term, can do ...

Wed, 07 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Explaining the Election

Posted By Tim Bray

A pretty well full and complete explanation of the US election results may be found in The Right Republican, published in The Economist at the end of 2011. I quote: Nowadays, a candidate must believe not just some but all of the following things: that abortion should be illegal in all cases; that gay marriage must be banned even in states that want it; that the 12m illegal immigrants, even those who have lived in America for decades, must all be sent home; that the 46m people who lack health insurance have only themselves to blame; that global warming is a conspiracy; that any form of gun control is unconstitutional; that any form of tax increase must be vetoed, even if the increase is only the cancelling of an expensive and market-distorting perk; that Israel can do no wrong and the so-called Palestinians, to use Mr Gingrich's term, can do ...

Mon, 05 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Dear America

Posted By Tim Bray

Congrats on having gotten through another overly-long election. Notes from a spectator looking south from north of 49°. If the outcome is anything but Obama-POTUS/Dem-Senate/GOP-House, were into major-news-story territory, as in how could the phalanx of statisticians led by Nate Silver have been wrong? Seriously, the polls were fairly steady and linear this time around, Bayesian mechanics should have worked. Doubters in need of straws to grasp at, check out Colby Cosh, who points out flaws in Mr Silvers track record. Notably, that his baseball stats-wrangling failed to predict the achievements of Ichiro Suzuki. However, I detect nothing in the current political landscape as anomalous as Ichiro has been in baseball.

Mon, 05 Nov 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Dear America

Posted By Tim Bray

Congrats on having gotten through another overly-long election. Notes from a spectator looking south from north of 49°. If the outcome is anything but Obama-POTUS/Dem-Senate/GOP-House, were into major-news-story territory, as in how could the phalanx of statisticians led by Nate Silver have been wrong? Seriously, the polls were fairly steady and linear this time around, Bayesian mechanics should have worked. Doubters in need of straws to grasp at, check out Colby Cosh, who points out flaws in Mr Silvers track record. Notably, that his baseball stats-wrangling failed to predict the achievements of Ichiro Suzuki. However, I detect nothing in the current political landscape as anomalous as Ichiro has been in baseball.

Sat, 03 Nov 2012 19:00:00 UTC

That Time of Year

Posted By Tim Bray

In which northern-hemisphere photographers are tempted to shoot autumn leaves, autumn leaves, and more autumn leaves. Im jaded but couldnt resist these. In Vancouver, we dont rake leaves, we shovel them.

Sat, 03 Nov 2012 19:00:00 UTC

That Time of Year

Posted By Tim Bray

In which northern-hemisphere photographers are tempted to shoot autumn leaves, autumn leaves, and more autumn leaves. Im jaded but couldnt resist these. In Vancouver, we dont rake leaves, we shovel them.

Thu, 01 Nov 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Four Not For Me

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been reading lots this last year (less music, almost no videogames) writing here about the good ones, and mostly silent about the others. But theres this category of books I didnt like but you might, because I think the failing might be in me not the work. As in good, but not for me. Herewith, then, words on Assumption by Percival Everett, Malarky by Anakana Schofield, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Malarky Disclosure: Anakana is a Vancouver Irishwoman and I know her, our kids were in school together and shes been to our parties.

Thu, 01 Nov 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Nouveau Spam

Posted By Tim Bray

Gmail is really good at spam these days. Its been forever since Ive seen any pharmaceuticals or watches or penny stocks; the very occasional 419 and virtuous-girl-looking-for-friends leaks through. However, there is a steady flow, one or two per day, of intensely-miscellaneous pitches for products or services that look perfectly reasonable and mainstream  except for being spam-promoted. Theyre actually sort of, uh, interesting. Here are a few days worth, in the order I received them; the geographic distribution is remarkable. Cheery Spanish condom store. Italian commercial truck rentals. Bright-colored trucks at low daily rates! Mexican e-billing systems. Boring presentation, probably appropriate. Swedish anti-explosive gas-tank treatment, for motor racers.

Thu, 01 Nov 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Nouveau Spam

Posted By Tim Bray

Gmail is really good at spam these days. Its been forever since Ive seen any pharmaceuticals or watches or penny stocks; the very occasional 419 and virtuous-girl-looking-for-friends leaks through. However, there is a steady flow, one or two per day, of intensely-miscellaneous pitches for products or services that look perfectly reasonable and mainstream  except for being spam-promoted. Theyre actually sort of, uh, interesting. Here are a few days worth, in the order I received them; the geographic distribution is remarkable. Cheery Spanish condom store. Italian commercial truck rentals. Bright-colored trucks at low daily rates! Mexican e-billing systems. Boring presentation, probably appropriate. Swedish anti-explosive gas-tank treatment, for motor racers.

Thu, 01 Nov 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Four Not For Me

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been reading lots this last year (less music, almost no videogames) writing here about the good ones, and mostly silent about the others. But theres this category of books I didnt like but you might, because I think the failing might be in me not the work. As in good, but not for me. Herewith, then, words on Assumption by Percival Everett, Malarky by Anakana Schofield, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Malarky Disclosure: Anakana is a Vancouver Irishwoman and I know her, our kids were in school together and shes been to our parties.

Thu, 25 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Cant We All Just Get Along?

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres the weird thing about this identity gig: Theres no enemy. So who can we blame for our failures? Over the years, for each of the things Ive cared about, usually theres been an Adversary, a big strong scary one. Ive championed Unix against VMS, the Internet against the OSI stack, Linux against Windows, descriptive markup against Adobe, REST against WS-*, agile against waterfall, dynamic typing against the statically-typed incumbents, Android against locked-down app ecosystems, and so on. But, in the world of Identity, whos the bad guy? I mean, seriously, is there anyone who thinks the current username/password miasma is worth defending?

Thu, 25 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Cant We All Just Get Along?

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres the weird thing about this identity gig: Theres no enemy. So who can we blame for our failures? Over the years, for each of the things Ive cared about, usually theres been an Adversary, a big strong scary one. Ive championed Unix against VMS, the Internet against the OSI stack, Linux against Windows, descriptive markup against Adobe, REST against WS-*, agile against waterfall, dynamic typing against the statically-typed incumbents, Android against locked-down app ecosystems, and so on. But, in the world of Identity, whos the bad guy? I mean, seriously, is there anyone who thinks the current username/password miasma is worth defending?

Wed, 17 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Sandman Pricing

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in September I recommended (albeit in a sort of snotty tone) Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Shortly after that, I found out that its not just a book, its a series. Ive been reading it but Ive stopped because I think Amazons robbing me. I realized that Id enjoyed Slims company and the dark sparkle of the conversation so much that Id ignore the silly back story and cartoon theology and give the sequels a try. Im glad I did, because theyre terrific fun. But then I noticed people talking about how the book was on sale cheap, like for 99¢; Id paid a lot more.

Wed, 17 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Sandman Pricing

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in September I recommended (albeit in a sort of snotty tone) Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Shortly after that, I found out that its not just a book, its a series. Ive been reading it but Ive stopped because I think Amazons robbing me. [Update:] As many commenters have pointed out, the price difference seems to be because Im in Canada. A few points on that: The un-signed-in browser is also coming to Amazon from Canada, and Amazon knows that. I paid $10.36 on September 9th for Sandman Slim, which is now $1.15. I paid $9.35 for Kill the Dead, which is now $4.65 I paid $4.63 for Aloha from Hell, which is (gasp!)

Mon, 15 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Twitter OAuth, Easy

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in 2009 I wrote this little Ruby script I run Mondays to grab the last weeks tweets and publish them into the Short-form Fragments stream here on the blog, because who knows when Twitter might make my history vanish? It broke today and I fixed it and had another instructive OAuth experience. The error message was a 404 on something called user_timeline.xml; a bit of poking around produced contradictory evidence, but some of it was that this had been deprecated in favor of a JSON version. I was a little irritated but not too much; Id been using XPath probes to pull the interesting bits out of the XML, and tweets arent document-like at all, so JSON should be a better fit.

Mon, 15 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

5k: Hard Again

Posted By Tim Bray

In the mid-Seventies, old Mississippi/Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters had record-label problems, but still an audience. Young Texas bluesman Johnny Winter had never been a pop star, but had one too. So Johnny producing and playing on an album by Muddy wasnt really a long shot; and Hard Again came out great. (5k series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) The Context Nobody has ever played electric blues better than McKinley Morganfield. I saw him a few times, the last time just months before his death; of that, I wrote here: He was old and seemed older; was helped onto the stage and performed sitting down.

Mon, 15 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Why Vinyl?

Posted By Tim Bray

As an engineer and Internet guy, I feel almost guilty about the fact that I like listening to LPs so much; the technologies used to record the music and play it back should be obsolete. But I do. [This piece was originally going to be the last paragraph of 5k: Hard Again, but it got out of control; you can love Seventies electric blues without caring in the slightest about audio technology.] Im OK with digital music; my big setup is perfectly capable of vanishing when its playing anything produced with even modest competence, and regularly does better, grabbing my attention when its wandered, making me think damn, that sounds good. But theres the occasional work on well-recorded vinyl that goes further: when suddenly, the musicians...

Mon, 15 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Why Vinyl?

Posted By Tim Bray

As an engineer and Internet guy, I feel almost guilty about the fact that I like listening to LPs so much; the technologies used to record the music and play it back should be obsolete. But I do. [This piece was originally going to be the last paragraph of 5k: Hard Again, but it got out of control; you can love Seventies electric blues without caring in the slightest about audio technology.] Im OK with digital music; my big setup is perfectly capable of vanishing when its playing anything produced with even modest competence, and regularly does better, grabbing my attention when its wandered, making me think damn, that sounds good. But theres the occasional work on well-recorded vinyl that goes further: when suddenly, the musicians...

Sun, 14 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Lightroom Hint

Posted By Tim Bray

Probably everyone else already knows this trick, but in case you dont: You can tell Lightroom that whenever you import photos, if it recognizes the lens, to just go ahead and apply the default lens correction. Go into Develop mode; in the left side panel there are Presets, and at the bottom of that there are User Presets. Find New Preset in the menus, and uncheck everything except for the default lens correction. Give it a name and save it. Next time you go into Import, theres an Apply During Import thingie in the right panel; put your new lens-corrector preset in there.

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Help Plan My 2013

Posted By Tim Bray

The Identity group where Im working now is going to be launching some stuff soon, and I want to go out and talk to the world about it. Im looking for input on good developer-focused meetings and conferences that I should be at to talk and, more important, listen. Subject Matter At the moment, heres what I believe: The username/password dance sucks and doesnt scale, particularly on mobile. People putting up apps and sites regard identity  getting people signed up & signed in  purely as a tax; something they gotta do, but unrelated to what they care about. Most developers dont understand identity standards like OAuth, or the related crypto and signing technologies, dont want to learn them, and shouldnt have to.

Tue, 09 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Dont Change Your Hair For Me

Posted By Tim Bray

For the first time since 2003 Im seriously thinking about switching to Ubuntu. It feels like, since Snow Leopard, more things have been subtracted from than added to my Mac. This syndrome infects product-management groups everywhere not just in Cupertino; We know better; the experience for the average user will be better without that. But there aint no such thing as an average user, and its almost always a bad idea to subtract a shipping feature. In Particular Since Snow Leopard, theres been exactly one useful new OS X thing: windows you can resize at any edge. And there have been brutal amputations (most painful for me: loss of the Apache GUI and the moronic refusal to tell me what screen resolutions Im using).

Tue, 09 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXIII: High Pressure

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean the large zone of elevated atmospheric pressure which has blessed the Pacific Northwest for many weeks now, making this past summers Cottage Life a more or less weather-untroubled sun-bath. Me, I cant wait for the rain (coming Friday they say). The huge cedars and hemlock around our cabin are hanging in but theyre hurting; you can see lots of brown patches among the needles. I know perfectly well that winters winds will blow the dead bits down on the cabin by the bushel and clog our gutters and downspouts. There seems no technology that can address this. I was sitting under the cedars and glanced up; my eyes were caught by an odd lighting effect as the slanting October sun caught the boughs and needles sideways.

Fri, 05 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

The Playoffs

Posted By Tim Bray

I watched more baseball this season than I have in years (partly due to having gotten into Roku and MLB.tv); now the fun part starts. Lets have our own fun with predictions and opinions. Baseball Its better than other sports because they play on dirt! And also, because theres no clock, theres never a reason to run it out. And because the tension in the late stages of a close game; not remotely equaled by any other sport. MLB.tv Its really done astonishingly well; the virtues of baseball and the Internet mesh without any visible stress or strain, and I know that didnt happen by accident.

Tue, 02 Oct 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Noelogofaves

Posted By Tim Bray

I so enjoy being a citizen of the living and in fact sweaty smelly and horny English language. Here are some favorite neologisms of my adult years. I Was Like I remember the first time I noticed this, in an early-Web-era chunk of trash-TV commentary, and remarking how instantly comprehensible it was. I was like, he really shouldnt have done that. The comma is weak there (but typographically and grammatically helpful), much stronger in usages such as She was like, ewwwww. This has totally overrun the territory formerly occupied by I said, in effect, ..., along the lines of, and related idioms.

Sat, 29 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

On Oatmeal

Posted By Tim Bray

It has come to my attention that much of the world is Doing It Wrong. This is the obvious conclusion from the many supermarket shelf-feet of misguided Instant, Quick, and Flavored products. Oatmeal porridge done right is a fine start to any day; but like many of the best things in life, you cant hurry it up. What you want is a big bag full of basic oatmeal. The controversy over Rolled vs Steel-cut is lively; supermarket stalwart Quaker offers both. Ive actually noticed more flavor variation between one brand and another of rolled or steel-cut than between the two in general.

Sat, 29 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Button Button

Posted By Tim Bray

We were going downtown on a shopping errand and just where we parked, found Button Button (view source on that site for a giggle). As they say, its an amusing little button store, and the buttons amused my eyes, so here are some pictures that might amuse yours.

Thu, 27 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Colonoscopy

Posted By Tim Bray

That was the middle of my day. As a result of my age and other risk factors, I now get one every few years, and because Im a blogger, I can write about it; and I feel I have to, because I might save your life. It only takes a couple hours, its not terribly unpleasant, and its an insanely cost-effective way to not be one of the people killed by colon cancer; thats 50,000 or so in the US every year. So if youre middle aged, ask your damn doctor already. You can read a bit about what its like, with more cheerleading of course, here and here.

Wed, 26 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Android OAuth via Google Play services

Posted By Tim Bray

It started launching this morning, to every compatible Android device in the world running Froyo or higher. Thats a lot of devices, and even at Google scale itll take some time to roll out. This is a subtle but significant change in the ecosystem. Google Play services let the Android team release significant new APIs and capabilities to compatible devices without having to upgrade the whole platform. One of the first examples is the new Identity tools. OAuth 2.0 on Android Ive been working on this since early spring, and theres a post on the Android Developers blog with details, sample code, and so on.

Mon, 24 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Typographic Notes

Posted By Tim Bray

No story to tell here, just a few notes for publishing-tech fans, which I guess is more or less everyone who does Web stuff which is more or less everyone. But if you dont care about the difference between real apostrophes and ', you can stop reading now. Quotes Late last year I published Better Quotes and Better Quotes Redux, about why you should use real quotations marks, and how to make this a little easier on OS X. Some readers disagreed, but they were wrong. Since then, as a matter of principle, on every occasion I typed a single or double quote into a computer, unless it was code, Ive Done The Right Thing.

Sun, 23 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Hells Gladiator

Posted By Tim Bray

I just read Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey, on a Twitter tip from @GreatDismal, whose advice about books should always be followed, obviously. Its long and fun and ridiculous. Our Man Stark is a Really Bad Mofo who might perhaps have been Saved By The Love Of A Good Woman, only she died and he Went Downtown but now hes Back On The Streets Of LA and his Minds On Murder, except for Theyre Out To Get Him First. Well yeah, if you think this sounds a little derivative, clichéd even, youd be right, because it is. But Stark is interesting and a lot of fun to follow around, the plot doesnt give you much time to think, the stage is crowded with deeply strange and oddly believable characters, even if Stark often kills them before you really get to know them.

Thu, 20 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

High-Fidelity Harmony

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been meditating about audio fidelity recently, under the influence of The Civil Wars and Jeff Atwood. What happened was, I kept catching videos and radio spots by The Civil Wars and liking them. I thought maybe I should buy some, so I visited their Web site and noticed with pleasure that they sell uncompressed FLAC, not just MP3, so I snapped up Barton Hollow. Its good. But am I fooling myself in spurning compressed music? < !-- Coincidentally, and what provoked this fragment, Mike Johnson, one of my fave bloggers, wrote HD Downloads, which includes a useful introduction to consumer audio formats.

Wed, 19 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Sunset Cycle

Posted By Tim Bray

Were heading out after dinner to pick up gelati. Vancouvers been blessed with loads of surprising September warmth, but sunsets now soon after seven. Its like this: Shes big and strong enough to take the training wheels off, but she doesnt think she can, so she probably cant. We tried once and failed; but on the way back from this ice-cream trip, she said she thought shed be able to next time, so Im sure she will.

Sat, 15 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Cloud Atlas

Posted By Tim Bray

This, by David Mitchell, came across my radar because of the news around the forthcoming movie. In book form its called Cloud Atlas: A Novel, but thats a bit misleading because its actually six, wrapped up together. I enjoyed it a lot but cant give an unmixed recommendation. Describing the combining structure would be a spoiler, so Ill limit myself to saying that itll be familiar to lovers of the music of Steve Reich (a small group, I bet). Lets just say its clever and well-executed. In fact, thats how Ill badge the whole work: Smart and well-done; perhaps a little too much so for its own good.

Fri, 14 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Less Pain, More Money

Posted By Tim Bray

Logging in is annoying and slows you down. My job these days is mostly about reducing that pain, ideally to zero by eliminating it. Google really wants this to happen; here are two reasons why, one general and one specific. In general, wed like everyone to spend lots of time online. Less logging in improves the experience, so there you go; not rocket science. But lets be more specific: Suppose we give you a browser and offer you a challenge like Whats a good mountain bike? or Find a doctor for your kid. In this situation, Google really wants you to type things like good mountain bike or Knoxville pediatrician into the search box.

Wed, 12 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXII: Blackberries

Posted By Tim Bray

Leta be honest: Cottage Life is pretty soft. Thats the point, I believe, but... There Are Enemies. Chief among them are blackberries, not mobile devices I mean but vicious resourceful adaptive bloodthirsty vegetables. This story has a happy ending: we beat em and we eat em. In this lifetime, anyhow. The enemy fauna are invasive and aggressive and full of slum vigor; given space and sunshine they swarm open space, sending strong slender stems vaulting over anything mineral or vegetable to occupy new ground, digging deep in soft forest loam, launching new roots from any fragment that touches down, crowding out the native flora.

Fri, 07 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Whats Wrong With Twitter?

Posted By Tim Bray

About fifteen minutes after Twitter came on the scene, alternatives started crowding through the door behind it. So far, none of them have really made a difference. Why the crowd? There are ads And as they say, if the product youre using is free its not the product, youre the product. This seems to be the main driver behind App.net. I like App.net, but I dont like this argument, even though I also mostly dont like ads. Youd have to be a moron to ignore the historical success of services which are free, but with (mostly-disliked) ads. The proportion of people reading this who havent used such a service in the preceding 24 hours rounds to zero.

Thu, 06 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

September

Posted By Tim Bray

Here again, decades since it meant back-to-school for me; but now my kids go. It seems a bigger deal than the New Year, and weighs heavier as the number to come grows smaller. I Hate It The green leaves and young women are still worshipping the sun with their flesh, and I havent had to put on socks yet. But those hours of sun are on the steep downslope of the seasonal sine wave, less of them every week and you can feel it, and were gonna have to turn the furnace on at night one of these days. Winter is coming, like they say on BitTorrent oops Game of Thrones, and lets all just not overthink that lest we pick up seasonal-prospective-disorder.

Thu, 06 Sep 2012 19:00:00 UTC

The Big Picture

Posted By Tim Bray

A few weeks ago I was sitting in an airplane with mountains going by outside the window, and idly snapped a few pictures. They werent bad, and I wondered about printing one. I consulted with my neighbor Scott August, who when not being an artist has a high-quality printing business, and asked him how big we could go. Heres how big: Thats a chair behind it, holding it up. To my eye it looks wonderful. Its 40 by 50 inches, more or less. I left all the grain in and Scott printed it on canvas and they sort of cancel each other out.

Wed, 29 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Living in the Future

Posted By Tim Bray

The other day I got a Roku and some Plex software; now everything in the house is connected to everything, and to the Net, and remotely-controllable from our mobiles. It feels pretty magic. Baseball Arithmetic Wanting to watch a World Series originally got me into HDTV, and history is repeating itself. The late seasons getting interesting, and since the six major-league West-Coast teams each play 3-ish home games a week, I should be able to watch ball after supper when I feel like it. But I cant because the cable companys offerings are thin. Thus, online baseball, for which the price seems fair; so I needed the Net on my TV.

Tue, 28 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Statistics

Posted By Tim Bray

Last night on impulse I spent a couple hours scripting and graphing and heres a snapshot of the browser and operating-system market-share numbers as seen by this blog. The big trend is that there are no big trends. (For a while back in 2005-2007, I published a regularly-updated graph of the browser-market-share numbers. But it was too much work, and seemed less and less newsworthy. I have no plans to repeat this exercise regularly.) Platforms Less Mac and more Linux than I would have expected; but whats really interesting is that, in the last 12 months, not that much has changed.

Sun, 26 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXI: There and Back

Posted By Tim Bray

Since we became boat people, the tenor of Cottage Life has changed; we go and return when we get around to it, but each traverse is something of An Event. This last weekend, the still-strong late-summer evening sun flooded into the mighty Bodoni, sundazzle dances beautiful on the water but kind of hard to scan through for floating logs and other marine hazards. The interiors attractively retro, dont you think? Coming home, visiting friends tarried with our encouragement; we ended up leaving the island late. The sky was low and dark, the waves high and dark. Im proud to report that our somewhat-antique craft muscled through em with no real discomfort at a steady 20kt.

Sat, 25 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Feegles

Posted By Tim Bray

Lots of people I know, including my wife, keep telling me that I really ought to like Terry Pratchett, and Ive tried a few times but havent. Except for I just finished reading the Tiffany Aching books and loved them. The Problem Its just that I havent cared much about the people in the books. I admire the cynical wisecracking, often brilliant, and the sparkling imagination in the literary set construction and scene-painting. I mean, what if Death did have an apprentice? But too often, the sequence Im reading feels like a an elaborate setup for a (usually very good) punchline, and Im not sure that Pratchett actually cares about the people hes put on the pages, and what happens to them.

Fri, 24 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Kindle is Weird

Posted By Tim Bray

The Kindle store is sort of like a quantum vacuum; items flicker into and out of existence, and when theyre there, the measurable attributes dont stand still. An Ethiopian Romance Thats the subtitle of The Chains of Heaven by Philip Marsden (heres another listing from amazon.ca). I bought it on Kindle, based on a recommendation in The Economist, and enjoyed it as much as anything Ive read in the last ten years. A tasty Ethiopian dinner at Axum Restaurant in Vancouver Its not there any more. Except for sometimes it is, maybe as a consequence of where I am or what browser Im using.

Sat, 18 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Blogodammerung?

Posted By Tim Bray

Jon Udell is blogging less. Gosh, so am I. There are loads of ways to talk to the world, new alternatives here every day it seems. Is this thing, you know, over? Lets count ways to hurl words at the Web: (1) Blog on your own space, or (2) on someone elses, like Blogspot or WordPress. (3) Live it up on a mailing list with a public archive. (4) Go short-form on Twitter (wow, or maybe a competitor). (5) Social-net it on Facebook or G+. (6) Minimize effort on Tumblr or whatever. (7) Try a new mode with Branch, or (8) an even newer one on Medium.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Popular Metaphysics

Posted By Tim Bray

I just read Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story by Jim Holt. Its wonderful; will make you think, and enjoy your thinking. Almost anyone whos bothered to visit this humble blog more than a couple of times would enjoy it, I think. Ill provide a few words of review (just cheerleading, basically) and then dip into a little metaphysics myself; but Ill warn you so you can stop reading before I go there. The Question and the Method The Question is Why is there anything?  obviously the center of metaphysics. Because, well, maybe there neednt have been. Scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers prefer simpler explanations and shorter stories; and what could be simpler than the null universe?

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Dreampeaks

Posted By Tim Bray

A few days ago, I got on a plane heading just south of west out of Vancouver, in a window seat; the window unscratched and unsmudged, a rarity these days. And then there were clouds low over those Pacific Northwest mountains. I say Pacific Northwest because these peaks dreams may be American or Canadian, dont know which.

Sat, 11 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Best Practices

Posted By Tim Bray

That Steve Yegge is really good at starting conversations. Everyone including Steve thinks his essays are way too long, but theyre insightful and erudite and funny. His most recent outing, Notes from the Mystery Machine Bus, is all of those things, and worth plowing through to the end. Its also more or less completely wrong. Wrong Why? Because, after providing a framework to help think about competing software technologies, Steve says, essentially, Its like politics, were not gonna all just get along, use whichever suits you. But damn it, this is an engineering discipline, and for most projects we undertake, there should be some consensus Best Practices in terms of tools and architectures; where there arent, thats a bug.

Tue, 07 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Not the Softest on the Block

Posted By Tim Bray

We moved into our current place in early 1997 and, almost immediately, were badly burgled. Last week, Mat Honan got badly hacked. We took home-security measures and havent had any problems since. I protect my online presence, with similar results. Some lessons apply to both cases. Home Security Our freshly-purchased-but-old house was a security disaster waiting to happen: flimsy external doors and lots of them, no alarms, old single-glazed basement windows, you name it. So in the aftermath, we did away with a redundant door, fixed up the rest, and went shopping for a security system. The first guy we talked to wanted to put dozens of active alarms all over the place, including on an elevated side window, because, as he pointed out, the bad guys could climb up on the side fence and (precariously) get at it.

Mon, 06 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Three Mysteries

Posted By Tim Bray

Just some pretty pixels, no thematic or narrative distractions here. I think I know which flower this is. But this plants hanging up in the air and that doesnt look like sky behind it. Mystery. The grainy green makes me smile. I have a thing for white bricks, just cant resist pointing cameras at them. Its the formalism I guess. Only I cant remember taking the picture. Heuristics and the timestamp suggest its somewhere round The Drive. Mystery. One of my kids was fooling around with the camera in the back seat, and I was OK with that because bits are free and silence is golden.

Sat, 04 Aug 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Finding the Ways

Posted By Tim Bray

I just read The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane. It isnt a perfect book; but its a good one, which I enjoyed immensely because I found a new way of reading. The Book Its another travel book, but about places you go on foot  or in a small boat, which he finds analogous. The places are remote-ish corners of the British Isles, the Middle East, and the Chinese Himalayas. Its great flaw is that its too long; Macfarlane is prone to lengthy exegeses about how wonderful walking is and how special the places he visits are going to be.

Tue, 31 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

CL XX: Marine Vessels

Posted By Tim Bray

Im not really a Boat Person. But a quiet pleasure of Cottage Life is sitting on the deck with a long lens catching whatever comes by, and sometimes what comes by is beautiful boats. This sailboat had two masts and two jibs which means four sails, and was dancing back and forth across Howe Sound, its crew clearly inhabiting the winds intention. On the other hand, this ones entirely industrial, purposeful; out there to catch your dinner, not for fun. Still, its geometries charm. Eventually, they came together and crossed the sunsets track. And I think to myself..

Sun, 29 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

CL XIX: I Made a Table

Posted By Tim Bray

You can read the back story in a 2010 Cottage Life piece. And yes, Ive been working on this thing for two years. This weekend we sat round it to eat, finally. The supporting structure came out interesting. I put ten coats of varnish on the top; its going to spend some time out int he rain. I think it looks nice, and its friendly and welcoming to sit at. My only real regret is having made it only six feet long; more would be better. There were some errors, but the effects are cosmetic not structural; its solid as a rock.

Sat, 28 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

On the Deadness of OAuth 2

Posted By Tim Bray

Wow, did Eran Hammer ever go off. His noisy slamming of the OAuth 2 door behind him has become a news story. I have opinions too. First of all, if you read his (long-ish) piece, you pretty much owe it to yourself to read the (very long) comments too. Second: Im kind of a n00b here. Im a crypto cretin, a PKI peasant, an attribute-exchange airhead, and have been known to confuse authentication with authorization. Having said that: Ive spent a lot of time, the last few months, getting to grips with real actual OAuth 2 software, and Ive learned over the years that when youre in the process of first using a new technology, thats a good time to write about it.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Posted By Tim Bray

Mon, 23 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Counter Futures

Posted By Tim Bray

I was at the drugstore buying train tickets, waiting for a cashier, staring blankly at the magazine covers, and realizing theyre possibly (like many paper publications) doomed. So whats going to replace them? There is apparently a thriving market of people who will pay to read about movie-star marriages, home makeovers, and weight loss. So I tweeted When paper magazines are gone, what will they have by the checkout counters?. The People Speak Did I ever get answers. Here they are: Jhoon Saravia: QR Codes? Tap to buy e-magazines? Aaron Patterson: probably more batteries and candy. Trace Gilton: Fresh fruits and vegetables?

Sun, 22 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

CL XVIII: Misty Mountains

Posted By Tim Bray

We were recently on the Great Plains and I love em, but a few days there and I miss the mountains. Some prairiefolk cant settle down here on the coast, they feel shut-in because you dont have the big sky and long view. Im OK with an earthstone fence in front of the horizon. And still, our skies are big sometimes. That buoy is ours I guess, been there since we bought the place. Never been tended to, gonna just sink if ignored long enough. Hmf. Right, lets get back to mountains and so on. You can spend as much time as you like staring across Howe Sound and it never gets old, I find.

Sat, 21 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Checking out Intrade

Posted By Tim Bray

I kept hearing about how this or that political campaign or economic scenario was trending on Intrade, so I thought Id check it out. Then, of course, I had to make some bets. Its fun! But not a good way to make money I think. The rules couldnt be simpler (That page doesnt mention the flat $4.99/month it costs to play.) Im totally not a gambler. Played a bit of poker in college, without much success. Anyone in my trade finds themselves in Vegas sometimes, so once I went and got $100 and tried the casino thing; lost it in an hour without having much fun.

Fri, 20 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Tab Sweep (Non-geek)

Posted By Tim Bray

Not all sending-the-world-a-link publishing should vanish into FaceTwimblr+, methinks. So lets batch a few up. On Work I already plugged this, but it deserves another go-around. Colby Coshs Artisan chocolate and social revolution is the best essay by anyone Ive read anywhere lately. You need to read this, especially if youre young and wondering what to do with your life. On Publishing Nobody knows what the future of publishing is, but boy, are things ever moving fast. Its not controversial to say that many of the incumbents are doomed; an exception might be The Economist group, which may be a little hidebound, but is smarter-than-average.

Tue, 17 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Google I/O 2012

Posted By Tim Bray

I was there, after having worked on parts of the program, I took pictures, and I guess I should share some of that. It seems years ago already. Outside Google I/O, its an event. The preparations are sort of heroic in scale. On The Morning Of, the satellite trucks were parked end-to-end outside the venue, and the anchorguys were uplinking like crazy, and if its on TV it must real, right? Inside People; lots and lots of people. Mostly male, mostly smart, mostly well-paid, mostly geeky. I was actually irritated about the sellout-in-seconds, and had lobbied for a more intelligent admission procedure.

Sun, 15 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Rebuilding the Foundation

Posted By Tim Bray

If youre a geek, you know what HTTP is. If youre not, youve still seen those letters, lurking at the front of URLs everywhere. Its one of the two or three things that makes the Web actually work. Its being redesigned, perhaps. This telling of the story is mostly for geeks, but for the rest: If this effort is successful, you might notice some things run a little quicker. If it fails, you might notice some things running slower, or getting more expensive, and the Net growing a little less private and safe. Back Story When we talk about HTTP versions we use slashes: HTTP/0.9, HTTP/1.0, HTTP/1.1, and so on.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Twisted Trees

Posted By Tim Bray

This is one of Haffords big tourist attractions. Since Hafford is a small place, its actually a very small tourist attraction, a clump of trees on someones farm down a country road off a country road. But theyre weird trees: Aspens, just like the other clump across the parking lot, only different. Different, just like the name says: Twisty. It was hinted darkly to me by a local that Mysterious Forces Were At Work; and the little sign by the grove trumpets the mystery. But Wikipedia reveals that this is, probably, a mutation.

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

T.Runic

Posted By Tim Bray

I have an interesting job and a family, so it took me five times as long as anyone else, but now I have an Inferno-capable Level 60 Diablo III character. Im wondering if this is when I start getting bored. Herewith a few notes on the experience, and some tips for those who havent done D3 yet. Wanna Play? My characters name is TRunic, a Demon Hunter, built thus. She can pretty well walk through any situation at Hell Level, and is still grinding along through Inferno Act 1. Her DPS is about 18.7K, which is seen as low by connaisseurs of hard-assedness; but shes really pretty good at crowd control and kiting, so shell be there pumping out that damage well into a long fight.

Mon, 09 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

How Many Devices?

Posted By Tim Bray

Does it make sense to carry around two, three, or more portable computing devices? Select from: Regular-size laptop; say 15"-screen or higher. Skinny laptop i.e. Air at 13" or even 11". Big tablet at ~10" as in current iPads. One-hander tablet, typically at 7". Handset, 3½"-5". (My current load: 1, 4, and 5.) The choice will be increasingly in everyones face if the rumormongers are correct and Apple ships an iPad in the #4 slot. Sidebar Amusingly, back in 2010 I arrogantly claimed Apple will totally do a 7" device. Last fall, I sheepishly mumbled Clearly Im eating those words.

Sat, 07 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Prairie Town

Posted By Tim Bray

I spent a couple of days visiting family in Hafford, Saskatchewan. These Western towns arent like anywhere else, and my Dad came from one; I like visiting and photographing them. Heres the water tower through the trees, incredibly lush this time of year up into the edge of the parklands. Population 360, says Wikipedia, and shrinking. The Prairies are emptying out, farm and town. The traditional family farm no longer provides a living; some farms are still family-run, but the family has a bunch of employees and big operations top ten thousand acres. So the farmhouses that still stand every few miles along the country roads are mostly empty and crumbling.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Voices of Northern Women

Posted By Tim Bray

Last month I had the immense pleasure of attending Northern Voice 2012. This is the eighth year of Vancouvers own little blogging-and-social-media conference, distinguished by a resolute refusal to consider the business (or any other non-personal) dimensions of the thing. It got me thinking about gender issues, so here are thoughts on those. With pictures. Makes me think of Gumby. Intentional? One of the nice things about Northern Voice is the gender ratio, closer to sane than pretty well anything else I get to. Not only is such a milieu inherently more pleasant, it leads to the sessions being full of voices I wouldnt otherwise hear saying things I wouldnt otherwise think of.

Tue, 03 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Jerusalem Cartooned

Posted By Tim Bray

I just read Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle; its a graphic novel which would be a comic book if it werent a hardcover and werent about one of the worlds Great Big Problems. I recommend it totally. Delisle spent a year in Jerusalem, tagging along with his wife (an employee of Médecins Sans Frontières) and taking care of his kids. Theres no real storyline, just a diary full of small stories and smiles, what its like to be a househusband/artist in a neighborhood where tremendously sad things happen every day. I dont think this is going to change anyones mind about big Middle-East issues, and probably wont offend anyone except sympathizers with the inexcusable settlers movement.

Sun, 01 Jul 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Three of San Fran

Posted By Tim Bray

Photos, I mean. I was staying a few blocks west of Moscone West, and thats the wrong direction. But I enjoyed the walk even though there were severely damaged people along the way to smile at or avoid or step over. With a sad story. Red is the color. Its a working town. Vancouver keeps its gritty small-biz necessaries shuffled further away from anywhere youre apt to go walking. Which seems oversanitary; but boy, could Howard Street ever do with a little green. This motel felt very California to me. Sad Story I was walking along near these parts in early evening, and a very tall very thin very young black woman suddenly materialized at my elbow: Excuse me, hey! I averted my face reflexively and stepped out a bit and she said Oh my god no I dont want anything, just do you know the nearest BART? and then ...

Sat, 30 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Seven

Posted By Tim Bray

The other reviews of the Nexus Seven out there are probably unbiased, but theyre awfully rushed (VergeGadget get em on the air in less than 24 hours, which is impressive, but still). Mine are presumably biased, but the fruit of much longer exposure. Mine are absolutely biased by my powerful conviction that the 7-inch form factor is the right one for most personal uses of a tablet. (10-inch wins for sharing across the desk or along the sofa). Screen Its good enough. Any pixel density north of 200dpi or so is fine for me; I care more about color. Which on the 7 is more honest than your typical ultrasaturated Samsung, but on the other hand, I cant actually say that my pictures look better.

Fri, 29 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Now on Identity

Posted By Tim Bray

As of July 1, Im moving from Googles Android team to our Identity group, to work on OAuth, OpenID, and that sort of stuff. Back to being a full-time Web guy, for a while anyhow. Why? Several reasons. First, it was made increasingly obvious to me that I wouldnt be successful in the Android group unless I moved to headquarters, which really isnt an option for me. Second, Android has the best engineering team its ever been my privilege to work with, but its sort of a silo, and all-engrossing; Its easy to lose sight of the vast and wondrous landscape of online technologies and cultures.

Tue, 26 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Android at IO 2012

Posted By Tim Bray

I was co-lead for the Android sessions at Google IO this year, so Ive seen basically every session, most of them twice, some even more. Heres a highly personal guide to the ten Id go to if I had to pick just ten. 1. Whats New in Android The nature of a keynote means that theres not much room for technical depth on whatever it is we announce there. This is for that. 2. Marketing 101 for Developers You may not like marketing, but the mobile field is pretty crowded so you probably have to do some, along with all that engineering.

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

A Novel with Three Codas

Posted By Tim Bray

I just read Redshirts by John Scalzi, and enjoyed it hugely; to the extent that the family on the other side of the room wondered why I kept cackling out loud, over on the sofa. The book is silly and sentimental and extremely far-fetched, and at the same time very good, with a strong central idea and a loveable cast. Also its not afraid to mess with your mind a little. Anyone who knows what a redshirt is will enjoy this book. While thats a Star Trek reference, you dont have to think that Star Trek was actually good to appreciate it.

Wed, 20 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Need a Latin Legal Scholar

Posted By Tim Bray

As some of you may have noticed, last week I proposed a new HTTP status code to signal the situation where a request cant be serviced for legal reasons. Herewith the back story, and an appeal for legal help. Back Story What happened was, I saw a Slashdot thread about British ISPs returning 403 for Pirate Bay requests because of a court order, and how that was broken. I didnt follow the links or read the comments, but it turns out that the root was a blog post by Terence Eden. So I posted to the IETF HTTP mailing list: The thinking about returning 403 when youre forbidden to follow a link seems sound to me.

Mon, 18 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

United, Still Borked

Posted By Tim Bray

Earlier this year the United/Continental merger went through and pretty well everything customer-facing stopped working. Back in April, Duncan Davidson posted this horror story. Ive been off the road for a couple months, and now I discover that United still cant do advance checkin if youre on a code-share, nor can the airport machines recognize you. So you step up the counter and back into 1982. I pick that year because last time I checked into SFO I bitched and the poor haggard-looking staffer said We moved back in time 30 years. Anyhow, United must be spending a ton more on airport staff, to do the work that used to be automated.

Sat, 16 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

On Efficiency

Posted By Tim Bray

Everyone knows its a good thing. Economists talk about productivity and, more seriously, total factor productivity. When theres more, wealth generally increases, which is good. Except when its bad. Its good when I can pick up my rental car without shuffling paper, waiting in line, or standing in front of a counter. It sucks that the only efficient way to get anywhere and do business, in most of North America, requires the unshared use of a ton or so of fossil-fuel-driven steel. < !--Its good when I can walk a couple blocks from my house and hop on a bus that drops me, a few emails and tweets later, where Im going downtown.

Sun, 10 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Port Mann

Posted By Tim Bray

Greater Vancouvers geography includes inlets of the vast Pacific and the delta of the mighty Fraser; thus a lot of bridges. The Port Mann is one of the biggest and its getting a bigger replacement; I have pictures. Not only does it connect Vancouver to our biggest burb Surrey, it carries the Trans-Canada Highway. So it really is a big deal. These are snapped leaning out of and through the van windows as Lauren drove us across the bridge, from south to north. Here, as we head onto the bridge, a sunset with infrastructure. The old bridge is pretty big but the fast-growing replacement makes it feel small and old.

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Public-Speaking Antipatterns

Posted By Tim Bray

I am working on the Google IO sessions; this includes a large number of rehearsals. One premise of IO is that we put actual engineers, the people who build the good stuff, on stage; they deserve, and receive, support in polishing their material. Ive observed that every good early-stage presentation is good in its own way, but that many of those that need work need the same work. All this has been said before, but it cant hurt to say it again. Adapted from an internal email. Death to Bullet Lists Few things are more boring than an engineer reading words out of lists to a room full of people, all of whom can read.

Sun, 03 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Handset Love

Posted By Tim Bray

The press loves tablets. New-media theorists love tablets. The hardware makers love tablets. Tablets might become the default Personal Computers. But in 2012, my heart is still with handsets. Pocketable The device is with me unless Im naked or in my swimming suit. The best Internet device, like the best camera, is the one you have with you. Speaking of Cameras Theyre really getting pretty good; the days of the point-&-shoot may be numbered. Online Lots of tablets are WiFi-only, and thats fine, I guess, as long as Im in my home or office. And yeah, if I have a handset I can make a hotspot for a tablet.

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Otaku with Vintage Marbles

Posted By Tim Bray

It was a Saturday afternoon with child-care duties and nothing planned; the Straights event listings turned up a Pop Culture Collectibles Fair and Computer Swap Meet said to include toys and comic books, so I grabbed a nearby kid and took off. At the Scottish Cultural Centre. You could get a decent-looking not-too-old MacBook for $300. I came home with two Sixties comic books for the kid: one Tweety Bird, one Roadrunner. Also a CD: The Best of John Lee Hooker, 1965 to 1974. Also, a bag of vintage marbles. The whole thing, including admission, came in under $20.

Thu, 31 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Thai Poutine

Posted By Tim Bray

No, thats not a typo. Ive always seen Poutine as the Great Québec Mistake, a culinary misadventure which for some reason has become sort of hip in our nations downtowns. Basically its fries and gravy and cheese. Except when its in a Thai restaurant. Here we have deep-fried taro root with a lemongrass-chili sauce over tofu and hot peppers. I tried it. It wasnt terrible. It wasnt poutine either, which correlates. This is at one of our local joints, named Bob Likes Thai Food; on the long walls are aggressively-modern paintings of a fork on one side, a spoon on the other; labeled Bobs Fork and Bobs Spoon.

Sun, 27 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Z/1 Unaweep

Posted By Tim Bray

So, I bought this new pair of sandals and theyre just so great I had to pass the word along. No, this is not going to become a product-placement blog (and who here hasnt wondered how much it costs to get talked up on Dooce?) No shoe company is paying for this. (Well, theres an Amazon affiliate link; Ill be rich, I tell you, rich!) I hate shoes, except for certain hiking gear. No shoe Ive ever worn hasnt made my feet sweaty and uncomfortable. So as soon as its warm enough, the shoes go in the cupboard and stay there till autumn.

Sat, 26 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

On Being the New Boss

Posted By Tim Bray

Theres been a lot of linkage this week to David Lowerys Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss? Lowery is a music-biz insider, and says hes also a geek; and he really, really hates people like me. He makes some really interesting points; unfortunately, he comes across as a jerk. Tl;dr Which for those who dont know is Net-jargon for Too long; didnt read; it can be used both as a comment, and to tag a summary that precedes anything longish. Lets do both here. First off, Lowerys piece could have been condensed to a third of its length by a good editor.

Thu, 24 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Diablo III

Posted By Tim Bray

Im really not much of a gamer; but I did the Diablo dance back in the day, and have enjoyed revisiting the franchise. Herewith remarks on that thing thats been responsible for so many red-rimmed eyes at early meetings this last couple of weeks. D3 isnt just flawed fun, its interesting in a serious way, I think. I just finished taking a Demon Hunter (now L31) through Normal mode, playing only an hour and a bit in the late evenings. It was fun. In D2 I was an Amazon guy, and enough of the old reflexes still worked that I usually didnt feel like a complete idiot.

Wed, 23 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Florian

Posted By Tim Bray

Theres this blog called FOSS PATENTS written by a Florian Mueller, and when a software-patent-related issue heats up, reporters often seek out his comments for their stories. Im not sure this is a good idea, and Id like to offer some evidence; articles he wrote on a currently-hot story back in October 2010 and November 2010. This is a small but representative sample of his (many) offerings on the subject. Im not mad at Florian, who has every right to publish his opinions.

Mon, 21 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Uncrippling Tablets

Posted By Tim Bray

David Weinberger points out in Will tablets always make us non-social consumers? that tablets imply a less-interactive lean-back relationship with the Internet and thus the world. Its possible we can fix this by just uncrippling the keyboard; I cant really have a conversation with the world if I cant jam text in fast, interrupting bursts of high-word-flow with flurries of local edits. I sure dont want to live in a lean-back world.

Sat, 19 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Laugh at an Eagle

Posted By Tim Bray

Theyre serious, fierce-looking birds; except when theyre not. These two were hanging out next to our cabin, so I settled down with the big lens on the camera, hoping to get a dramatic shot of one or both taking wing. One somehow snuck off while I wasnt looking, and then the other decided it needed to clean up. This went on for a remarkably long time. I can report that the process works great; that was a fine-looking eagle when it finally flew away. I missed that shot too.

Sun, 13 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Red

Posted By Tim Bray

Particularly intense botanical red; it remains the Achilles heel of the sensor in many (all?) digicams. I often see things in my garden that I just cant get close to with the combination of camera and screen; hm, perhaps the problem is computer screens not camera sensors? Here we have some Japanese maple leaves against blue sky. The leaves were actually redder than this, but at least the sensor, while losing some of the intensity, managed to get close to the tint.

Wed, 09 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

CL XVII: Faraways

Posted By Tim Bray

Its May so Cottage Life is recurring. On the island, many of the things one sees and wishes to photograph are far away thus must be captured through fairly specialized lenses which tend to impose their perceptions, particularly when the lenses are elderly and actually not that elite. Here are three of those. The lens in question is my Tokina f5.6 400mm, which has a story attached. I processed these in Lightroom. It has a superb noise-reduction module, which on this occasion I wished had negative settings to crank up the vintage-telephoto grainy dreaminess. Which would probably betray truth-before-beauty.

Tue, 08 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Sensplore

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been working on some ideas for clean-screen apps; instead of controlling them with the touch screen, you wave your device around or tap it or shake it. To do this, Ive been learning about the output of the sensors you find on Android devices. Ive found that the documentation, while complete, contains some scary-looking math and assumes you know more about quaternions and rotation vectors than the average developer. Well, more than I do. So I created a little app called Sensplore which captures sensor data, dresses it up in CSV (spreadsheet) format, and emails it to you. Its Apache2-licensed on Google code; for those who just want to run it, go hit Google Play Apps.

Mon, 07 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Springies

Posted By Tim Bray

Two wet rhodos and a tricolor carpet. First the carpet. This is the grass under the magnolia tree, which accounts for the pink and green; the blue comes from the Spanish Bluebells, which will probably dead by the time you read this, since theyre wildly invasive and have to be beaten back regularly. Now the rhododendron. I was having trouble figuring out which to run and decided, as on too many other occasions, that bits are pretty well free.

Fri, 04 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Ghost Fluff

Posted By Tim Bray

Actually, the title is The Ghost Writer; I first noticed it in a movie my neighbor on a plane was watching and thought the visuals were pretty good. Which is relevant because the book turns out to be more or less perfect airline fluff: High velocity, a powerful hook into the real world, and very competent writing. The premise is that a recently-exited British Prime Minister who looks and smells and sounds like Tony Blair gets in a bunch of trouble for having facilitated torture in the War-on-Terror context, just as his autobiographys ghost writer turns up dead. The point-of-view is the replacement ghosts, and while theres no actual violence, the sense of offscreen menace is satisfyingly high.

Wed, 02 May 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Browsers and Apps in 2012

Posted By Tim Bray

Its like this: The browsers doomed, because apps are the future. Wait! Apps are doomed because HTML5 is the future. I see something almost every day saying one or the other. Only its mostly wrong. [If you dont want to read my opinions, hop to the end of this post for months & months worth of links to things I thought worth reading on the subject.] Apps Win If you want immersive/interactive polish, with ultra-fine control over your gradients and textures and how the things on the screen react to being touched, you need an app. If you want to capture what the phone can see, permute that images colors based on how hard you shake it, and vibrate in the users hand to say its time to stop shaking, you need an app.

Sat, 28 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

A Million Lives Saved

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, not really. But my LifeSaver 2 app has now uploaded over a million calls and messages for a temporary stay in the cloud and (in theory) transfer to other devices. This is not as impressive as it sounds since the number of unique users is still just a few hundred; but it pleases me nonetheless. I observe that the number of downloads is quite a bit smaller; it seems that people upload, and then it takes them longer than they thought to get their new device brought up and LifeSaver installed; long enough for the cloud scrubber to have erased their upload, so they have to do it again.

Mon, 23 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Same Old Sex Organs

Posted By Tim Bray

Of plants, I mean, of course. Which is to say, around this time every year I get all deranged about the flowers and inflict loads of pictures of them on you. If this sort of photographic cliché offends or (worse) bores you, stop now, move on to the next blog. My florals are getting a little on the kinky side. I cant not take pictures of them, but since Ive taken the obvious ones for lo these many years, Im really trying for something different, which leads to some distinctly odd colors and textures. This tulip was caught under the rhubarb bush, with sun coming through the green and the pink.

Mon, 23 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

More On That Pipeline

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive written before about the BC pipeline controversy. Like many Canadians, Im unconvinced that it makes sense to bet heavily on filthy carbon-laden bitumen, unconvinced that we should rip the hell out of Northern Albertas people and landscape to extract it, unconvinced that we should ship it out of the country so we can buy the refined product back, unconvinced that we should pipe it through our wilderness to the sea, and really unconvinced that it makes sense to run 250 supertankers a year into the narrow stormy fjords of northern BC. Heres an an outstanding open letter from an expert, addressing that last point.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Tab Trick

Posted By Tim Bray

A person watching over my shoulder asked How are you switching around so fast? and I realized that while most readers here know this trick, some may not, and its awfully useful. In Chrome and Firefox on OS X, comand-1 takes you to your leftmost tab, command-2 to the next one over, and so on. (Except for, command-9 selects the rightmost; huh?) Also, in both Chrome and Firefox, you can right-click on a tab and pin it; which shrinks it down to just the favicon, and locks it in place. So the trick is, put the same heavily-used tabs in the same place, and leave them there forever.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Sensor Kinetics Pictures

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently Ive become interested in the sensors that live inside Android devices, and how to use them. It turns out that interacting with them is a little on the non-obvious side, as is interpreting the read-outs. So I drew some graphs. Co-ordinates The sensors put out x, y, and z numbers that are expressed in terms of the three obvious axes, like so. Accelerometer This gives you numbers that represent the acceleration (minus G, gravitation) on the three axes. The magnitude of the vector is thus 9.81 or so when the device is standing still, zero when its falling toward the hard cold ground.

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Books Both Ancient and Modern

Posted By Tim Bray

I dont read lots of books; too busy with work and being a Dad/husband/homeowner/citizen. But theres always one on the go, and so they add up. Some are airplane-ride fluff, but not all. As a consequence I think about what it means for a novel to be modern; in particular because some recent highly-touted works have irritated me on account of their overly-self-conscious modernity. Among other things, its obvious that the term modern is strongly unrelated to the year of publication. Is Old Good? No. Just because I get mad at certain authors trying too hard to be modern doesnt mean that Im a worshiper at the temple of the classics.

Wed, 18 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Hating iMovie

Posted By Tim Bray

I took a movie of my son reading a story hed written, as part of a multimedia presentation for school. I shot it with my Pentax K-5 and the 50-135 F2.8, by candlelight (you can do things with modern SLRs that Kubrick had to have lenses custom-built for at huge expense). Well, and by candlelight I mean twenty or so tea-lights. When I pulled the AVIs into iMovie, the quality was ravishing, the firelight flickering on his creamy 12-year-old skin. When I exported the finished product, no matter how many times I twiddled the QuickTime and other export settings, it looked rather pretty, but omitted all the subtlety of tone and thus most of the beauty in what the camera had captured.

Tue, 17 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Stevens Creek

Posted By Tim Bray

When Im down here visiting the Plex I often stay at Hotel Zico; its comfy and attractive and inexpensive and central. It offers more or less nothing by way of food but I have breakfast at Google and dont eat at hotels otherwise anyhow. Its right at the intersection of 85 and 82 and thereby hangs a tale. I pulled into the parking lot earlier than usual on Monday and noticed that the parking lot had unusually high wire fences and behind them were lots of trees and other unattended greenery. The closer I looked, the weirder it got. There were trees and a valley with water at the bottom and I could even see a paved footpath; but (this is on El Camino just barely north of 85) no obvious way to get there; tall chain-link fances everywhere.

Mon, 16 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Opening Day

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive written before about our Little Leagues opening day, but this is probably the last time; my 12-year-old son is graduating and my daughter shows no interest. This is Canadas oldest Little League, one of its biggest and still growing at that; follow that link to last years write-up if you care, or if you want to see more smile-provoking pictures of kids baseball festivities. An Opening-Day ceremony requires a band and a mascot, self-evidently. Everybody loves a parade. The kids parade out by divisions, and each division gets its own sign. Now theres a fine-looking piper. Each team gets to wave its hat once in the course of the ceremonies.

Sat, 14 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Panties for Sale!

Posted By Tim Bray

For years, whenever I link to a book, I included my wifes Amazon Associates code; shed started in on that first, and it made sense to pool the family rewards. But Ive started using my own because its our family book-buying pool. This has some surprising side-effects. The way the Amazon program works is (Im guessing, but probably right) is by setting a short-lived cookie; as long as it stays alive, anything you buy while poking around Amazon sends rewards to whoever sent you over there. So when someone follows a link from here, I might get a commission from things other than the book I was discussing.

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

MBP vs MBA

Posted By Tim Bray

I recently upgraded to a recent 15" MacBook Pro (about to be superseded, if the Web rumor mill is correct). All the hip people, notably including my wife, are toting MacBook Airs these days; and yep, those sure are some slick little sex-bombs. But here are some reasons Id really have trouble switching from MBP to MBA. Its a real brick. This means someone like myself, who has big strong hands and touch-types very fast, can touch-type faster, because it doesnt wiggle around when you hit it. It has real speakers, which play something that sounds not entirely unlike real music.

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Meta Magic

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished Among Others by Jo Walton, enjoying it hugely. Not only am I pretty sure that some of you would like it too, I can predict who will and who wont. Predictions The novel concerns a young person whos mixed up in magic (believably and carefully) while fighting through the problems of adolescence in a dysfunctional but super-interesting family. Right away, some of you are thinking sounds interesting; the rest can stop reading right here. Next: if youre a bookish kind of person who as a kid read everything in sight; to whom books were and are important, the chances are very high that this is for you.

Sun, 08 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

On Privacy

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently, my employer announced that Android app developers pages come with a place to link to their privacy policy. This is such an obviously, painfully good idea; I cant pass up the opportunity for a short lecture on Why You Should Care and What You Should Do. Like it says in the sidebar, Im not speaking for Google, but I can report that Google is full of people who think about privacy and worry about it and talk about it all the time. I think mobile app developers should think and worry and talk just the same. Things I believe about privacy: It Matters to You There may be a few apps out there that raise exactly zero privacy concerns, but yours probably isnt one of them.

Fri, 06 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Two Botanicals

Posted By Tim Bray

It was a sort-of holiday (Easter day off in Canada, but not for Google US) which meant I was juggling childcare and OAuth-related meetings and MySQL issues. By child-care I mean going out on a walk where the kid has a bike and I have a camera. Vancouver has a kazillion ornamental flowering fruit trees, and theyre just getting into their stride. Theyre a treat for the eye but dont (in my experience, contain too many good photos. This is sort of an accident, I was zeroing in on some sunlit blossoms and trying different focus ranges, and what this picked up was more interesting than the flowers.

Wed, 04 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Bay Aerials

Posted By Tim Bray

Its what you do when you fly into San Francisco; you take pictures out the airplane window, because the city is photogenic. And those of us in the tech business fly in a lot. Plus, I got a new computer and should say a few words about how it works as a blogging photographers platform. But first, the pictures. I got a sort of a natural zoom as the plane came in from the north. I bet there are a few people reading this who can find their homes or offices on one of these photos. The Computer I recently asked the world which computer to get, and everyone said Wait, because there are cool new ones coming but they also said that what really mattered was memory.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Nocturnes

Posted By Tim Bray

Three darkish photos taken on a Vancouver Sunday evening. This one is sort of deceiving; the sun was setting outside the restaurant, casting fragments of dazzle at the other end of the long narrow room, which was quite adequately lit. When I first brought this up on the computer screen, it was black with just a touch of light here and there; its an OK photo made usable by the remarkable capabilities of todays photo-support software, in this case Lightroom 4. This is perhaps the canonical example of a picture that depends radically on the use of raw capture as opposed to jpeg.

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Eclipse to IntelliJ

Posted By Tim Bray

After two years I still loathe Eclipse, and my former love NetBeans is now from a bad neighborhood, and more and more people I respect are switching to IntelliJ Idea. So I thought Id give it a try, since Im just starting on a project that might grow large-ish. This is going to be a diary of the experience, heavily loaded with GoogleBait in case others encounter some of the same pain points that are inevitable in such a transition. Error: Module not specified Importing projects from Eclipse to Idea is a little tricky. First (I didnt do this) you gotta learn the lingo.

Wed, 28 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

WebSockets Follow-Up

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in early 2010 I wrote an immensely long piece called HTML5; a section called How To Spec? took a baffled look at one of the many HTML5 sub-projects, WebSockets. I was puzzled because the structure of the spec read like nothing Id ever encountered; in particular nothing Id ever seen in the IETF, where the work was sort of being done. I went so far as doing a strawman alternate draft in a more conventional style, as an exercise in comparison. Subsequently, I got involved slightly in the IETF working group, and found that the process was as strange as the spec it was producing; an attempt to embed the idiosyncratic WHATWG process in the IETF context; which is at least as idiosyncratic, but well-worked out and has produced some pretty good results, for example the Internet.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Help Me Buy a Computer

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean with advice, not money. Dear LazyWeb: Im about to replace the MacBook Pro that Im typing this on, and not sure what to get. The problem is the pictures. Im actually seriously thinking about buying a Windows (!) box. In recent years Ive been running with this perfectly-OK 13" SSD-based Google MacBook Pro. Its death knell approaches, and there are lots of options. Heres the Problem (Im looking at you, Adobe.) I take pictures. I use Lightroom to process them. I like it. The current camera emits DNGs that average between 20-25M, and I take them dozens or hundreds at a time.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Purple Place

Posted By Tim Bray

Not just any place, but BC Place, our local football stadium, which got a welcome refresh last year and is lit up in colors that change from night to night; its nestled among buildings and there are very few (any?) places where you can see the whole thing. But after dark, you keep getting surprised by bits of it from here and there around town. I must look up who designed this and think kind thoughts; its improved my city.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Data Pricing Sanity Maybe?

Posted By Tim Bray

Im hearing refreshing outbursts of sanity recently on mobile-data pricing (and puzzlingly, grumbling from people I normally agree with). Usage-based data pricing is inevitable. Just because the rumblings are coming from phone companies doesnt mean theyre wrong. The Problem Heres the simplest way I can put it: Fixed-price unlimited-volume data pricing is a totally, unfixably broken idea. Because once the network operator has your monthly payment, theyre powerfully incented to keep you from using the network; theres only downside in people enriching their lives via the Internet. Its painfully obvious that the world really needs a pedal-to-the-metal damn-the-expense buildout of wireless data capacity.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Eight From Maui

Posted By Tim Bray

Pictures, I mean. I suspect that many readers have been somewhere in Hawai»i at least once, and may find smiles in the photos. For those whove not, or who have but not to Maui, Ive wrapped some words of advice around the pictures. Why These Islands? If youre on the west coast of North America, its a direct 6-hour flight from almost anywhere. From anywhere else in the world, the Caribbean or Bali or Queensland might be a better choice if youre hungry for sunshine and beaches. Every Hawaiian photoset has to have one of those. Why This Island? Maui is just ridiculously nice.

Thu, 22 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Selling Canadians Short

Posted By Tim Bray

[If you dont care about Canadian politics, you can stop reading now.] Recently I ran across A budget, a leadership race  and a nation split up the middle, by Andrew Coyne, a titan of the Canadian conservative commentariat. It made me so mad that I wanted to emit a loud peevish whine in this space, but I decided to wait till Id cooled down. But unfortunately I havent. Mr Coynes thesis is that the residents of the energy-producing regions of Canada are corrupt fools. Fortunately his argument is pitiably weak. Coynes backdrop is the current leadership race in the NDP; [I wont explain the significance since youre not reading this if youre not into our politics, and anyhow its just the backdrop].

Fri, 16 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

White Punks on Dope

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been reading immensely more lately, but not reviewing much; not sure why. But A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan demands to be written about. Which lots of people have, its been reviewed to death, mostly positively, and won all sorts of prizes. It gave me as intense a book-reading experience as Ive had in years; Im still not 100% sure I like it. The book is unique; saying that it centers on some people with mental-health problems who work in the music biz is maybe beside the point; because the point might be the unconventional virtuosity of its construction.

Tue, 13 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Tab Sweep  The World

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, the old browser tab count is up well past thirty, and that makes it awfully slow to restart even if its Chrome. So, lets see if I can transplant some of these tabs into your browser. The Strongest Girls in the World This is the title of an essay about European politics and culture which I somehow missed when it was published in January 2011. It has as much clear-eyed concentrated thought on the relationship between individuals, families, and the state as Ive read, well, maybe ever. It considers, among other things, the Swedish Theory of Love and Pippi Longstocking.

Sun, 11 Mar 2012 19:00:00 UTC

Waterfront Life and Death

Posted By Tim Bray

Vancouver includes a small ingression of the mighty Pacific called False Creek. Three busy bridges cross it and many boats (including ours) are moored there. The space that surrounds it is overly planned but still interesting. I include two photos, one of which you might not want to see. [Warning: The second picture here is of a the mostly-eaten remains of a recently-killed bird. If youd rather not see it, dont scroll down.] Back when I came to Vancouver, a lot of the land around it was still industrial, and much was just empty. In the early nineties, freshly-single, I moved to a 16th-floor apartment, one of the first high-rises in Yaletown.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Who Buys Books?

Posted By Tim Bray

In our family its mostly Kindle these days. We share an account, and read on various electronic devices. This works great; recently my wife and I read the Inspector O novels, while my 12-year-old and I read The Hunger Games. This works because Amazon doesnt mind multiple devices at once having access to a book; and because our Amazon identity is a lightweight shopping-context thing, not like a This is really me Facebook or G+ identity. It requires trust; anyone in the family could go and charge anything Amazon sells to my credit card. But you can have that, at the family level.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Looking Up

Posted By Tim Bray

Skyscape, with wires and shoes. You know, this impression I have, that Lightroom 4 is making my pictures all look better, is almost certainly a placebo effect.

Thu, 08 Mar 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Story Pricing

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, this weeks Economist had a rave review of something called Dogs at the Perimeter, by a Madeleine Thien of whom Id never heard but who turns out to be from Vancouver. And to have created a Dogs at the Perimeter Tumblr, which is full of severe formal beauty. So I thought Id buy it, but the Kindle version was $18.03 and that bothered me. Which kind of rung a bell; a few days earlier Id tweeted OK, I just hit my limit. I am *not* gonna pay $18.03 for a thriller on Kindle even when its by Elmore Leonard.

Wed, 07 Mar 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Old Garages

Posted By Tim Bray

I took my little girl for a walk, she with her little training-wheels bike, me with my camera. We prefer the neighborhoods alleys for these expeditions. I was struck by the textures and colors of the garages backing on the laneways. The neighborhood is a bit anomalous. Historically it has been middle-class; the houses range from solid to very modest; no mansions. Some of the houses, of every shape and size, have been fixed up and cleaned up; others have become run-down. The anomaly follows from Vancouvers ferocious run-up in real-estate prices (theres talk of a bubble): The houses in front of these garages are probably in average worth in excess of a million dollars.

Tue, 06 Mar 2012 20:00:00 UTC

High Speed Packet Access

Posted By Tim Bray

This is my personal favorite mobile technology thats not an Android product in, well, forever. Popularly known as HSPA or HSDPA or HSPA+, its what youre using when your Android phone shows a little H up by the signal-bars readout. Before I dive in, I should freely admit that I understand very little about 2G and 3G and 4G and the forest of acronyms that surround them. But Im a damn heavy mobile-data user who travels widely, and thus I have some claim to connaisseurship in this space. Anyhow, here are the good things about HSPA. It Works Everywhere Specifically, in my experience, Canada, the US, Japan, China, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and Germany.

Sun, 04 Mar 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Who Gets the Mobile Money?

Posted By Tim Bray

The people who build the phones, the people who run the networks, or the people who make mobile interesting by writing the great apps? Sidebar: Asymco The numbers Im talking about are mostly from Horace Dedius wonderful asymco.com site. If you laboriously-gathered, elegantly-presented facts about whats going on around here, Horace has em. $350 for Apple Theyre obviously the best at turning a profit on selling phones. As Asymco reports, Apple gets about $650 per iPhone, has a margin around 55%, and thus makes a gross profit of $350 or so apiece. $590 for AT&T I went and dug through their 2011 Q3 numbers: They claimed a smartphone ARPU (dollars per customer per month) of $83.46 and reported a 29.6% gross margin; which over two years (a reasonable lifetime for a phone), by my math comes to just under $600.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Undocumented Territory

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, there was an irritating little bug in my LifeSaver app. Which turned into a real problem, since I was using an undocumented API. The story of the bugs death might be useful in giving a feeling for the 21st-century open-source world. Background LifeSaver reads your phone-call and SMS logs and pushes them into the cloud, where they stick around for a couple of hours; the idea is that when you get a new device, LifeSaver can also pull them back out of the cloud scratch-space and load them into the new phones logs . For the phone log this is easy, because theres an official ContentProvider you can read and update.

Mon, 27 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Network App Macroeconomics

Posted By Tim Bray

A friend of mine is working on a complicated publishing app; the data is XML, perfectly appropriate when your objects are documents. She told me they were thinking about automating some of the work by running XSLT transformations out there in the client with libxslt. I said Well yeah, as long as the clients a PC not a tablet. The category of things you can do on a PC but not a tablet is interesting. Anyone remember AJAX? Now we just talk about Web apps, with towers of JavaScript code (CoffeeScript for the ultra-hip) built on an ever-growing library substrate (yes, there is more than jQuery) making the browser look interesting.

Sun, 26 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

2012 Floral Drumbeat

Posted By Tim Bray

Nearly every year round this time, I run pictures of crocuses from our front yard. Each years batch looks pretty much like last years batch. Im not going to let that bother me. This is sort of like the Clash putting out the triple-album Sandinista in response to grumbling over the double-album London Calling, only different.

Mon, 20 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

No Iran War Please

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in 2002, this crazy idea of responding to 9/11 by attacking Iraq first started being floated. And now were getting stronger and stronger whiffs of Dorky Middle East War, the Sequel: Iran. Can the sensible people of the world please stand up and say Please, lets not do that. Its getting to the point where the New York Times has matter-of-fact articles like Iran Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets. On top of which, some of the particularly bloodthirsty members of the LikudAmerica fringe are pushing like crazy on that Overton Window, for example see Does AIPAC want war?

Fri, 17 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Brick Wall

Posted By Tim Bray

This one is in the bad end of Gastown, across the street from the Alibi Room where wed been for Valentines-day festivities. Yeah, the light really was that yellow.

Fri, 17 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Square Pictures

Posted By Tim Bray

I like square photographs and wish my camera shot that way. Recently theres been a flurry of good online talk about picture shapes. Back in January, Mike Johnson (AKA The Online Photographer) asked: Why Not Square Sensors? This struck a chord with me, and I echoed it on Twitter. Alex Waterhouse-Hayward emailed me an eloquent little essay, mostly in opposition. I asked him to blog it and now theres The Perfect Square. Mike Johnson brought in guest blogger Kirk Tuck to write They stole our choice of aspect ratios. Now were getting them back. If youre arguing about pictures, I think you ought to argue with pictures; so I offer Jon Ellis Tokyo Square.

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

LifeSaver 2.0

Posted By Tim Bray

Way last fall, I took my old LifeSaver app and re-wrote it to store histories in Google App Engine back-end as opposed to the SD card, mostly because lots of modern phones dont have SD cards. Then I had an attack of fear about deploying it, then I went on a world tour and got sick and took vacation and got distracted. I just published LifeSaver 2.0. No Fear The fear, of course, was of being the proprietor of a cloud database containing highly personal information. Lots of people had ideas on how to solve this, so I eventually picked the easiest: The data gets erased after an hour or so; see the Retention and Privacy write-up.

Sun, 12 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Illuminate Yaletown

Posted By Tim Bray

This is an event, a new idea I believe, an after-dark thing in an old now-fashionable brick-warehouse neighborhood. We went down to check it out, and before we got to the actual illuminations, ran across a hat shop party. This was in the Goorin Brothers shop, which isnt terrible; Ive bought a couple of hats there. There were some pretty sharp-dressed people there, looking good. They had a hat band; sort of like a hair band only different. If someone writes me the name of the band, Ill give them a plug, because they were excellent. They were giving away glasses of very decent gin and vodka punch to all comers, and I tell ya, Ill go to a hat shop party any time.

Sun, 12 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Now With Schema.org Markup

Posted By Tim Bray

If youre looking at this in a Google+ link to its home on tbray.org, the snippet describing it should be exactly the same as the paragraph youre now reading. This required the addition of three little chunks of schema.org markup to the HTML: On the <body> tag: itemscope=' itemtype='http://schema.org/Blog' Over at schema.org they suggest you just say itemscope itemtype='whatever', but screw that, its not well-formed. On the <h1> tag (which in this blog echoes the HTML <title>), itemprop='name'. On the <p> tag for the first paragraph, itemprop='description'. Of course, this is all done automatically; it doesnt appear in the upstream XML. Now that Im standing on the slippery schema.org slope, I could add all sorts of extra markup, because after all I do talk about books and music and movies and so on.

Sun, 12 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Safe Unlocking

Posted By Tim Bray

There are a bunch of ways to unlock your Android device. More or less all devices support swipe, pattern, PIN, and password. Which should you use? Not Swipe Ladies and Gentlemen: Your mobile device is exquisitely personal. It opens a gateway into your recorded correspondence with your colleagues, loved ones, and enemies. It quite likely allows you to spend money on books and music and movies with a few taps on the screen. Its a big, scary dangerous world out there. I sure wouldnt use swipe-to-unlock on any of my devices. An Official Answer? I dont know of one. There is lots to read on the subject in the DevicePolicyManager docs and the Device Administration guide, but Im not going to try to interpret; go read it yourself.

Thu, 09 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

On Boats

Posted By Tim Bray

It was Cottage Life that drove us to it. We like being there but havent enjoyed getting there. The water taxis are friendly and efficient, but they run on strict schedules, and leave from places that require fighting through rush-hour traffic. So we bought a boat. Boating isnt really a geek thing, and Im struggling a bit trying to find words that are both interesting and nautical. But its taken a lot of our time and attention; write what you know they say, and I know a whole lot more about boats than I did a few months back. Key Findings What you might want to know if thinking about a boat: If you walk around a marina, youll notice a lot of the boats look neglected.

Sun, 05 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Fog and Public Service

Posted By Tim Bray

It was super-foggy last night, so I went out to look at streetlights through tree branches. You could spend a lot of time fooling around with silly depth-of-field tricks. In both cases, the tree is my much-photographed magnolia which, as Ive written before, can never not be beautiful. This morning I was first up and discovered a couple of essential breakfast ingredients missing. As I walked five blocks to the store, I realized it had been a freezing fog, so the street generally, and the cars specifically, were pretty thoroughly iced. Someone, in the depth of night, had gone along the street and lifted each cars wipers off its windshield so they were pointing up saluting the morning.

Fri, 03 Feb 2012 20:00:00 UTC

An Office

Posted By Tim Bray

For a while it seemed like I was going to lose my dingy but exquisitely-located office on The Main. So I was going around town, looking at offices for rent. This one was actually pretty nice, if too far downtown. I normally try to make pictures look like what I saw, but this is a product of egregious ex post facto manipulation.

Tue, 31 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Channel Choices

Posted By Tim Bray

When I have something work-related to tell the world, I have a lot of choices: This blog, @timbray, +Tim Bray, or (work-related, remember), the Android Developers blog, @androiddev, and as of this week, +Android Developers. That last one, being the newest, has a mere 25K circlers (although probably more by the time you look); the circler/follower/subscriber count of the other channels ranges up to the astounding 195K for @androiddev. Its an interesting choice. The choice of personal-or-official-Google channel is easy to make, and I think would be for anyone. Blog-or-Twitter-or-G+ is trickier. These are moving targets and our understanding is shaky at best.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Street

Posted By Tim Bray

Over on Google+, there are a lot of photographers. I mean, really a lot. And not just nerd-with-an-OK-camera dabblers like me; were talking pros, big-name pros, some of them. Organized in circles, of course; go have a look. Now, Ive noticed that some of these people identify themselves as street photographers. Says so right there in the titles they put on the pictures. Im a city boy and I like pictures of city streets, too. Heres one I took today. But this isnt like what the real photographers over on G+ call Street. They mean low-contrast B&W captures of people usually against unremarkable backgrounds.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Cloudy

Posted By Tim Bray

I dont spend that much time thinking cloud these days, although there are interesting machinations here at Google that might suck me in should I get bored with Android. But the topic isnt going away just because Im ignoring it. Privacy and Cynicism I remember being in San Francisco last year and there were ads on the taxicabs: We care about the Private Cloud. Say what? This whole Private Cloud notion is a conspiracy between CIOs who think they can do a better job securing data than professional shared-services operators (uh huh), and systems vendors who love the idea of selling enterprises way more hardware than theyll ever need at one time, so they have the heavyweight infrastructure you need to support lightweight deployment.

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Size Still Matters

Posted By Tim Bray

I have to carry two phones; one for G-stuff, which is often unreleased software running on unreleased hardware, and another for my personal life. For the last few months, the G-phone has been a Galaxy Nexus and the Tim-phone a Nexus S. I noticed right from the start that I was always using the bigger one whenever there was a choice, and I assumed that was just Ice Cream Sandwich being so much nicer than Gingerbread. But now theyre both running the same software and Im still using the GN for everything. [Sorry, Google, yes I have texted my kid and looked up map destinations on the company phone that youre paying for.]

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Chinese Workers Problems

Posted By Tim Bray

This New York Times story, telling ugly stories of human suffering at Chinese outsourcers, isnt about Apple. Its pure politics and economics. Its Simple The management of well-connected Chinese companies neednt worry much about regulation or law enforcement, because China is governed by a corrupt autocracy. They neednt worry much about unions or other worker activism because that government has as a matter of industrial policy disempowered labor, making real unionism impossible. Weve seen this movie before. The description of 21st-century Chinese political reality applies pretty well to 19th-century Europe. Not surprisingly, so do the descriptions of the sufferings of industrial laborers.

Sun, 22 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Browser Sedimentation

Posted By Tim Bray

I wanted to hit my browsers home button and for a baffling moment couldnt find it. This remains a rare experience, but I found it a worrying symptom. Heres the top part of a browser window; Firefox in this case, but I think the narrative would apply to Chrome and Safari as well. Look, particularly at the top left of the window; are there ever a whole lot of controls and levels and frames and abstractions and graphics jumbled in there! The problem is that people like me (and I bet most readers here) cant even see that theres a jumble; the sediments of infrastructure are clearly separated in our understanding and thus our eyes.

Sat, 21 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Cirque Does MJ

Posted By Tim Bray

The full name of Cirque du Soleils new show is Michael Jackson Immortal; Google took me and somewhere between ten and twenty thousand other employees off to see it last week in Oakland. You werent supposed to have real cameras, but heres one my point-and-shoot managed. If you want a better visual, the video highlights on the site linked above capture the flavor pretty well. Now, I was never that big an MJ fan  just a little too controlled and mawkish for me  and in recent years, Id kind of soured on the Cirque. I remember seeing them 20 years ago, when they were a new thing and there werent a dozen different troupes.

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Not Piracy

Posted By Tim Bray

Sites all over the Internet are going dark to illustrate their objections to legislation currently before the US Congress. Im not American but these words are coming at you from a server in LA, so I guess I can weigh in. Ill limit my discussion to one word, Piracy; what the P stands for in SOPA. Piracy is when people use violence, or the threat of it, to transfer your possessions to themselves (after which you no longer have them), place you captivity in pursuit of a ransom, and in many cases inflict death on you as a side-effect of their business model.

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

HttpURLConnections Dark Secrets

Posted By Tim Bray

If youre programming in the Java language and want to talk to a Web server, there are several libraries you can choose from. HttpURLConnection is one popular choice, and for Android programming, the engineering team has now officially suggested that you use it where possible. Since there are irritating orthographical and Web-Architecture issues with the name HttpURLConnection, lets just say HUC. HUC is reasonably well documented, if by reasonably well you mean omits any discussion of the relationship between method calls and underlying HTTP traffic. Let me fill that in. Who knows, maybe some JavaDocs maintainer somewhere will feel inspired to address this.

Sun, 15 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Grey and Red

Posted By Tim Bray

The grey is one of Vancouvers rare snowy evenings. The red is the new illuminated circumference of BC Place, our venue for football and big-name rockers and the Home/Boat show. Its new look, with illumination and slanted retaining piers, has definitely added to the visual appeal downtown. Photogeeks may have already noticed that part of the grey is grey-as-in-grain, the result of pushing the Canon S90 to ISO1600, which is arguably outside the reach of its design goals. But in this case it degraded gracefully.

Fri, 13 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Skyrim

Posted By Tim Bray

I bought it for the houseguests over Christmas, got mildly hooked, took a character to level 17, but thats it, Im bored. Tech & production The achievement is stupendous. The world is vast, open, and visually compelling in a way not remotely equaled by anything Ive seen. In Skyrim youll regularly find yourself pausing just to admire a view. The combat graphics are believable and fun; watching the slo-mo of your character leaping onto a dragons head to plant the two-handed axe has gotta make you smile. Also, the quests and dangers are (mostly) nicely scaled so that the ones you find are within your reach, and the puzzles are (mostly) soluble given the evidence immediately to hand.

Wed, 11 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Newsworthy Tablet Launches

Posted By Tim Bray

I glanced at my newsreader yesterday and gave up almost instantly because it was full of irrelevant fluff from CES. Particularly irritating was a post over at The Verge announcing breathlessly that a vendor not worth mentioning here was... wait for it... planning to release a tablet in 2012! I twitterbitched: Dear Verge: X plans to launch a tablet in 2012 is not a news story for ANY value of X. Which was clearly wrong; many people tweeted back values of X for which it would be newsworthy: Cracker Barrel, Macdonalds, NASA, Vladimir Putin, a lost Amazonian tribe, the US Government, Pfizer, and God via Moses.

Wed, 11 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Blue on Blue and Brown

Posted By Tim Bray

A string of Christmas lights lingers into mid-January. This is on Main Street, a part of Vancouver that I especially care for.

Sun, 08 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Oily Politics

Posted By Tim Bray

The politics start with whether you say tar sands or oil sands. Whatever you want to call them, theyre up in Northern Alberta. Observers of American politics will have noticed the Keystone XL project, which would take the sands crude oil south to Texas. Northern Gateway, the Canadian version, would carry crude west to Kitimat on the Pacific coast for export to Asia; its in the news because the public hearings start next week, with thousands queued up to offer opinions. Im generally contra, and increasingly optimistic. Heres a list of the things that people like me worry about: The process of digging up the bitumen-and-sand mixture and extracting usable oil appears to be playing hell with the Northern-Alberta environment.

Sat, 07 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Seasonal Shinies

Posted By Tim Bray

Today we took down the Christmas tree. The pile of decorations is smaller than it was when we put them on, because the tree fell over the day after we put it up. Lots of decorations were broken, and also a couple of little hearts; but those mend.

Wed, 04 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

Computer Longevity

Posted By Tim Bray

We have a lot of computers around the house, but the main family living-room workhorse is a 2008 Mac Pro. Everyone knows that computers have short working lives, but Im thinking this one could be with us for a while. Long-time readers my remember this computer as the one that nearly got hacked (as in, with a hacksaw). Current Status Its got two 2.8GHz quad-core Xeons, 6G of memory, and a few terabytes of disk. Its used for: General-purpose computing for my 12-year-old: Essay-writing, Chinese dictionary, research. Lightroom. Final Cut Express; except I sort of lost my video mojo and havent done this in a while.

Mon, 02 Jan 2012 20:00:00 UTC

All The Way Home

Posted By Tim Bray

Its a play Ill be attending here in Vancouver later this month and would like to recommend, but I have a conflict of interest. Heres the Web site; if you get interested in seeing it youd better move fast as there are only seven performances and some are already sold out. All The Way Home is a Pulitzer-prize-winning play by Tad Mosel based on James Agees A Death in the Family. This production, by Vancouvers Electric Company Theatre, is unconventional. It takes place on the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, but the (vast, immense) auditorium will be empty; the audience (150 or so) will be on the stage with the action taking place among them.

Sat, 31 Dec 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Local Uncertainty Maximum

Posted By Tim Bray

Welcome to the end of the year. As I look forward into 2012, I foresee, uh... almost nothing. In fact I cant recall a time when the uncertainty was so pervasive. Here is a small compendium of prognosticational impotence. Asia Every year that China goes on just going on astounds me. Even if everything went just right, the law of big numbers is making it harder to sustain 10% annual economic growth; and the political bargain in recent years has been that the middle class should shut up in the face of brutal oppression and pervasive corruption, in exchange for the growth-driven flow of prosperity.

Tue, 27 Dec 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Type-System Criteria

Posted By Tim Bray

Starting some time around 2005, under the influence of Perl, Python, Erlang, and Ruby, I became convinced that application programs should be written in dynamically-typed languages. You get it built faster, theres less code to maintain, and the bugs are no worse. Ive felt negative not just about statically-typed tools in general, but about the Java programming language in particular. Living in the Android world has forced me to think about this more. The Old Argument Its remarkable that, fifty or so years after Software Engineering joined the mainstream, we have so little consensus on these issues. There are many people, including some here at Google, who think that doing large-scale software engineering without recourse to static typing is unprofessional, verging on malpractice.

Fri, 16 Dec 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Mobile 2011

Posted By Tim Bray

What a year. Ive been doing technology for way more than half my life and some other times have been as intense but nothing I remember combines speed and scale like the last twelve months. How about a year-end survey? Good: Momentum I mean the numbers you get at the beginning of every Android presentation, from me or anyone else: Hundreds of millions of this and billions of that. The interesting numbers arent Androids or Apples but the aggregates, which chart our progress toward putting the Net in the pocket or purse of every literate human. What does that do to the world?

Mon, 12 Dec 2011 20:00:00 UTC

The Extra

Posted By Tim Bray

Quiz: What is the the single Apple feature that you think best explains its price premium: Design? Performance? Integration? Aesthetics? I have another idea. I was in conversation with geeks, many of whom have a sideline in friends-and-family tech support. (Sound familiar, dear reader?) Most of us have migrated our friends and loved ones to some Apple configuration or another; pain at both ends thus minimized. But times have changed. Windows these days seems less the verminous cartoon nanny of yore; gets out of the way and does the basics. And then there are the Chromebooks. Ive never spent quality time with one, though I love the idea.

Wed, 07 Dec 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Which Side of the Plane?

Posted By Tim Bray

If youre one of the people who always books an aisle seat, you can stop reading. I never do, because I enjoy the view; Its a six-mile-high platform and youll see astonishing things. Keep your camera handy and youll come home with good pictures too. It turns out that one side of the plane is better than the other. In particular, you always want to be on the side facing away from the sun, to avoid glare, unreadable computer screens, and demands from grouchy seatmates to get the damn sun out of their damn eyes. Usually, this is pretty straightforward.

Wed, 07 Dec 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Billions of Apps

Posted By Tim Bray

There was some noise earlier this week about Android Market having downloaded ten billion apps, and (more interesting) the rate going up to the point where its now a billion a month. How might one explain these numbers? New Devices There are a million new Android devices landing in peoples pockets every two days; say 15 million a month. Make an assumption as to the average number of apps a new Android gets loaded up with, and multiply that by fifteen million to estimate how many of the billion downloads are to new devices. Better Devices A high proportion of apps are games, and games are more fun on the larger screens and snappier CPUs of this years devices; in particular on tablets.

Sun, 04 Dec 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Bits as a Service

Posted By Tim Bray

It is true, if inconvenient, that information wants to be free. Which fortunately doesnt mean were done with Art or Journalism or the other services embodied in bits. Stewart Brand He coined the phrase in 1984; the original is On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. I disagree with the first half: Information qua information, as in facts, wants to be free not expensive; things like the best route from here to the airport, the closing price of Google shares, and election results.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Four Scifis

Posted By Tim Bray

The electric-book-reading setup on the home front is in reasonably good order. The family shares an Amazon account and a Kobo account, and both those vendors are generous in the number of different reading devices you can have authorized at once. Lauren and I both use Android tablets of one size or another to read, and have few complaints. Also, were reading lots of books, so I should start reviewing a few. Just because this is a batch review doesnt mean that Ill always do that. Cops vs. Fabbers First, Rule 34, by Charles Stross. Stross is prolific; some of his books make me smile, others I dont begin to get.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 20:00:00 UTC

The Second Draft of History

Posted By Tim Bray

The first, they say, is written by journalists. Then theres The 9/11 Wars, by Jason Burke, which dives deep on the conflicts launched back on That Day ten years ago and takes the story right up into 2011. I think its probably essential reading for anyone fascinated by these sad sequences, especially those who might want to have public opinions. Large parts will be unsurprising to anyone who followed the first draft closely; few of these stories remain secret. Furthermore, Burke doesnt do grand unifications; the strength of the book is in the attention to detail and a determined refusal to bypass the particular.

Sun, 27 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Wrong on the Internet

Posted By Tim Bray

I was lying in bed this Sunday morning, checking the Net before coming downstairs to make scrambled eggs (with mushrooms and snap peas, yum) for the family, and ran across a bit of random snark from Aaron Swartz. Any Sunday morning is improved by a chance to argue about markup languages and how the Web works. Aaron tweeted: @timbray Hey, check this out: http://abcnews.go.com/m/story?id=8129947 Oh wait, you can't, because you broke Postel's Law. http://yfrog.com/nxalujjj At this point, if you dont know what the argument is about, you can stop reading; itd take a long time to explain, especially what with Mark Pilgrim having taken his toys and gone home.

Sat, 26 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Misscrolling

Posted By Tim Bray

We expect streams of text to scroll down in our browsers. But almost all of them scroll incorrectly. Figure 1 shows a column of text; the grey bars represent the lines. The blue rectangle shows the area currently visible in your browser. The red line is the last one visible in the current screen, the green one the next one that would be visible were the window a little longer. Figure 1: Before scrolling Figure 2 shows what you expect to happen when youre in this situation and you hit next-page or the space-bar; either option is acceptable. The top line visible in your browser window should be either the red or green line from the previous figure.

Thu, 24 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Tab Sweep

Posted By Tim Bray

Happy Thanksgiving Americans! If youre the type who browses while full of turkey, here are some postprandial links with no unifying theme whatsoever. The Arts Address is Approximate is fanciful visual poetry built with Street View. Pretty pictures of spider webs. Smart Geeks The excellent Sam Ruby relates his Experience with Git. What Brent said, in Pub Rules. Oh yes my goodness yes. If youre publishing on the Web and youre not doing what Brent says, youre Doing It Wrong. Civics 101 Canadas national broadcaster asks: Should marijuana be legalized in Canada? As many others have noted, mainstream economics reporting is hopelessly broken, which matters a whole lot, because just at the moment economics, which are always important, are more important than usual.

Thu, 24 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Snowleaves

Posted By Tim Bray

It snowed last week and, come the weekend, itd stayed cold and dry enough to leave some on the ground. I went out for a walk with my daughter, both of us carrying cameras. The first is by me, the second by the girl, who is almost 5½.

Mon, 21 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Geeks Gather in Belgium

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean the 2011 Devoxx conference, tenth in a series, held in Antwerp, otherwise famous for Rubens and diamonds. Its big: 3000+ developers. Ive been before, back when it was known as Javapolis before Suns estimable legal team intervened. It is the creation of Stephan Janssen, pictured below, who seems both nice and competent to a high degree in an unthreatening manner. Hes also behind Parleys.com, a good-looking eLearning offering, which will be offering online video of the Devoxx sessions. This sort of unassuming excellence is what more of us should aspire to. Heres what seemed important to me: The atmosphere is unpretentious, informal, and humorous; all good things.

Mon, 21 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Mountain Tops

Posted By Tim Bray

I usually ask for a window seat, and try to have some sort of camera handy. Ive been flying since I was very young and Im not young any more, but Ive never tired of taking pictures through airplane windows. I get the occasional raised eyebrow from the other frequent flyers sucking on their Bloody Marys, but I can take it. These are from the very late stages of a recent flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver; at a rough guess, somewhere in the vicinity of Tsil-os Provincial Park. When I was working my way through the trips pictures I thought those are OK and tossed them onto Google+.

Sat, 19 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Better Quotes Redux

Posted By Tim Bray

Last week I asserted that proper left/right quotation marks are essential, recommended KeyRemap4MacBook to fix the problem, and suggested option-S, -D, and -F as mappings for , , and . Readers objected to all three and indeed, I was wrong about two of them. Some felt I was unduly purist and pedantic, a punctuation jihadi; that those good ol mechanical-typewriter compromises " and ' are good enough. Those people are wrong. Modern typography is a highly-evolved combination of art and science, the end-point of centuries of refinement. Itd be insane to discard that accumulated wisdom to save a keystroke or two.

Fri, 18 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Antwerp

Posted By Tim Bray

I was here seven years ago. This time, I had a couple of hours of sunny midday downtime while I was waiting for my hotel room, so I walked around and took pictures. Antwerps cathedral is justly famous but my favorite spot is the train station, a massive old piece of architectural confectionery that has been mated not ungracefully to a fair-sized mall. Inside its dramatically vertical, with trains on every level from where you walk in to down at least four levels. Also it has that arching Euro-train-station iron-and-glass roof. Antwerp is a an unremarkable North-European mid-size city, busy and well-organized and functional.

Fri, 18 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

New Tintin Movie

Posted By Tim Bray

On Thursday night in Belgium I watched The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. Tintin was important to my younger self and is Belgian, so this was a cant-miss. I enjoyed it a whole lot, but I worry that some Tintinistas will see a betrayal of the franchise. What accounts for the considerable charm of the Tintin books? I think the key things are the oddly flat but still pleasing coloring, the strong visual composition of each frame, the lovable if one-dimensional cast of characters, and the hurtling although fanciful action-packed plots. On the evidence, the filmmakers agreed with that list.

Thu, 17 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Better Quotes

Posted By Tim Bray

If you are publishing text for people to read and you want it to look even halfway professional, you absolutely must use real actual left and right quotation marks: quotes not "quotes". Also right-single apostrophe: as in dont use don't. In the Emacs setup I use for writing this, I reprogrammed some keys years and years ago to do the right thing. But when Im typing stuff into Google+ or Twitter or whatever, its just me and the Mac keyboard. By default you can get  with option-[,  with option-shift-[, and  with option-shift-]. Which I find awkward as hell, and not remotely intuitive.

Mon, 14 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Thanks

Posted By Tim Bray

Thanksgiving has passed in Canada and has yet to arrive in the States. However, even in a dark time there are thanks to give. Dark, because late fall has bitten down with a vengeance these past few days. Weve had high winds that blew all the remaining leaves off the trees then lashings of rain to make them mushy. Daylight Saving Time went away so now the dark is gathering with cruel speed before 5 oclock, and the days will shorten for a few weeks more. On Saturday, after what Winnie the Pooh wouldve called a blusterous day, we had some light, and I mustered the children to help with our leaf-covered front lawn.

Thu, 10 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

GDD in Yokohama

Posted By Tim Bray

I was part of the entertainment at the recent GDD Tokyo 2011; I guess nobodys feelings are hurt if you hold a Tokyo-branded event down in Yokohama. I did not fall in love with Yokohama; mind you, we only saw the glossy boring built-up part right around the Pacifico convention center. The only thing that was visually interesting was this great big honking pink Ferris wheel. It was right outside my hotel room window. Here it is by day: And two by night, one close-up. The latter is when I walked over to try to get a ride; at closing time, alas.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Five of w

Posted By Tim Bray

Pictures of Shanghai, I mean. Not including any tourist attractions. Heres maybe the definitive shot, to my mind: Traffic in Shanghai is full-on madness 24/7, both the massive freeways and the tiny alleys. Actually this ones a little misleading because everyones staying neatly in their lanes; driving in China is usually pretty free-form. Wed eaten at the famous and nice but sort of boring Xintiandi district and decided to walk home on the back streets; spent quite a bit of time walking down Julu Road, which had a distinct ordinary-folks feel; a relief after so much Shanghai homogeneous-gleaming-mall time. The people of Shanghai are, on average, well-dressed and stylish, even the ones who dont look like theyre rolling in dough.

Sun, 06 Nov 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Bar Android & Twicca

Posted By Tim Bray

On Monday nights, this funky little teeny second-floor bar in Shibuya becomes Bar Android, a gathering place for Android geeks. This last Monday, which was Halloween, I went; what a blast, and I got a new Twitter client. I tried a few shots of the interior with my SLR but it was just too dark and crowded. However, the Galaxy Nexus managed to take this panorama, which is sort of twisted in places but nonetheless looks to me like the place feels. Its amazing that the phone managed to get anything useful at all; that said, apologies to the guys whose faces got fractured.

Sat, 05 Nov 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Jing an Temple

Posted By Tim Bray

Its sprawling golden roof, all curls and curves, dominated my hotels neighborhood visually. This is impressive since its neighbors are towering skyscrapers and gleaming malls. I wouldnt say it really belongs on Shanghais must-see list, but there were some awfully nice pictures to be taken inside. The Buddhas There are three main-attraction representations, of which two are pictured here. The first, pictured through doors, is said to be the largest jade sitting-Buddha in China. The second is the temples largest, in the main hall; for a sense of scale consider that I was standing beside it looking up. The third, a standing figure carved in thousand-year-old camphor wood, eluded my photographic wiles.

Thu, 03 Nov 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Up and Back

Posted By Tim Bray

Theres been a mini-flurry of debate on the Android Back button, with Christoffer Du Rietz arguing that its harmful and broken, and a small chorus of the usual Android-hater suspects chiming in. Steven Van Bael pushes back. There are interesting subtleties here. Provenance Heres a really easy question: Where does the notion of a Back button come from? I have argued, and Im really not joking, that the Web browsers Back button is one of the greatest user-interface innovations of my lifetime. First, its useful. Second, the knowledge that wherever you are, if youre lost or confused or change your mind you can back out, has been immensely successful in defusing angst among nontechnical users and encouraging them to check things out that otherwise they might not.

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Hills Tower

Posted By Tim Bray

Roppongi is a district in Tokyo that I dont much like; Roppongi Hills is a glistening temple of ultramodernism that I cant avoid because the Google offices are there. Its all very nicely done but flavorless in an international way. I will say that, particularly now with the Tokyo International Film Festival in progress, there are more drop-dead cool outfits (for both genders) walking around than Ive seen in one place for a long time. Anyhow, heres a picture of one of its towers at night.

Fri, 28 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Tab Sweep  Tech

Posted By Tim Bray

Clearly the art of the Tab Sweep has declined in the age of Twitter, and is apt to decline still further under the influence of Google+. But I think theres still a place for it. Hashbangs Back in February, I fulminated about abuse of hashbangs, most notably by Twitter. Theyre still doing it and it still sucks. Of the many responses, perhaps the most thoughtful was Jeni Tennisons Hash URIs. Web by Numbers The title is Interesting stats, and the top stat is Average Bytes per Page by Content Type. The rest are interesting too. Elixir In Why Rubyists should try Elixir he claimed last spring that it offers simple Object Orientation and charming syntax on top of the Erlang VM.

Fri, 28 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Mega Tab Sweep  The World

Posted By Tim Bray

Apparently I havent done one of these since January. The title is sort of a lie, since I dont have all these around in tabs; some are sitting in bookmark folders and so on. Going back through almost a year means that Ive actually reconsidered each of these and decided that it has aged well enough to pass on. Were Language Users And thats as good a specifier of Homo sapiens as any. Language is hard; for example see Evolutionary analysis shows languages obey few ordering rules. They present this sort of as a refutation of Chomsky, but thats silly; his important points are about the relationship between language and the mind, and are independent of languages structure.

Fri, 21 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Analytics

Posted By Tim Bray

For some years now, Ive largely ignored the issues of how many people read this blog, where they come from, what technologies they use, and so on. But today I took a sidetrip into Google Analytics and I found the numbers interesting, so maybe you will too. But first, these words Yes, in this world you always have to listen to a sermon before they roll out the free food. Here it is: Dont do this. Dont obsess over your analytics or invest your time in worrying about how many people are coming or where theyre coming from. The first reason is that its futile.

Thu, 20 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Worth Fixing

Posted By Tim Bray

As progress progresses, increasingly there are fewer things for which its worth paying what it costs to fix them when they break. I think that many of us are offended by the disposability of things like kids toys, Ikea furniture, computers that arent brand new, sunglasses, and mobile phones. There are some things, though, that are worth repairing. I have examples and Im trying to figure out what theyre examples of. An object I recently paid to have repaired. Item: Boats Weve been toying with the idea of buying a boat to simplify our visits to our cottage; the current logistics involve water taxis and become somewhat fraught on busy popular vacation weekends.

Wed, 19 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Leaf Girl

Posted By Tim Bray

We were strolling our neighborhood, I encumbered by a camera, she by her age, currently 5. Shes been advised by her Goddess-like teacher to watch out for fall things. Girl: Daddy, a leaf that fell! Dad: Hold it up and Ill take a picture. Lots more where that came from (Im talking about the leaf). There are focus problems. There are blown-out-sensor problems. I dont care.

Tue, 18 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

ICS and the New Nexus

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been carrying the Nexus Galaxy (lets say NG for short) around for weeks, watching Android 4/Ice Cream Sandwich (lets say ICS) come together. Its a pretty nice phone. Size matters. But software matters more. tl;dr The best thing about the device is the new Android release. The best thing about the new Android release is the apps: Gmail, Calendar, and so on. The second-best thing is the screen. The big debating point is the size. Hard to Photograph Featureless black rectangles, I mean; give me pretty flowers or Japanese rock bands any day. I totally failed to take a worthwhile shot of the phone, so heres Plan B: a Nexus S, the NG, an original 7" Galaxy Tab, and a Moto Xoom, all lined up on a shiny black piano.

Sat, 15 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Autumnals

Posted By Tim Bray

A bright weekend day in mid-October doesnt happen so often in Vancouver that you can ignore it. So I took my little daughter out for a bike ride; as in, she rode, I walked along with my camera in one hand, the other ready for a quick grab for when she teetered. The remaining flowers are in harbinger-of-winter mode, but still worth looking at. I used to call these California poppies. My readers informed me sharply that they were actually Iceland poppies, but Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, who is authoritative on these issues, apparently settled the issue; theyre Welsh poppies. Anyhow, most of em are dead and gone; but not this one.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Photos of Wata of Boris

Posted By Tim Bray

I cant remember how I first heard Boris, but I fell in love right away. Theyre from Japan and play very loud, very deep, very beautiful music; some of it on Tuesday evening in Vancouver, and I was there. Boris is a trio: Atsuo on drums and vocals, Takeshi on guitars and vocals, and Wata on guitars, keyboard, and vocals; their anomalously-nonmononymic friend Michio Kurihara contributes guiar on recordings and tour. Back Story What happened was, on G+ I posted about how much I loved Boris recent Attention Please and Trevor Bramble posted back You realize theyre coming to Vancouver? Thanks Trevor!

Wed, 12 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

DMR, 19412011

Posted By Tim Bray

Some things we now know to be good ideas: Writing operating systems in a compiled machine-independent language Performing file I/O by reading, writing, or overwriting integral numbers of bytes at integral offsets. Creating processes by duplicating existing processes. Null-terminated byte strings. Investing a substantial proportion of programmers time in building tooling to make themselves more productive. When explaining a new programming technique, starting with Hello, world. Its hard to believe that there was a time when any of these werent conventional wisdom, but there was such a time. Unix is composed of more obvious-in-retrospect engineering design choices than anything else Ive seen or am likely to see in my lifetime.

Mon, 10 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Occupying Wall Street

Posted By Tim Bray

Like many people around the world, Ive found the nascent Occupy Wall Street (OWS) action attention-grabbing and thought-provoking. The link in the previous sentence is to their own site run out of that park in lower Manhattan. Way back in the same week that I launched this blog, I argued that the chief virtue of Democracy isnt that the population can be trusted to pick the right policies (we cant) nor even to pick the right people (check out recent history). But the general public can reliably be trusted to detect the condition where they are being badly ruled: Oppressed, robbed, cheated, or otherwise abused.

Fri, 07 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Two From Mexico City

Posted By Tim Bray

I was sorting through back photos and ran across a couple I wanted to share; they have nothing in common aside from having been taken in Mexico City when I was there in August. Just a street scene. The streets are pleasingly busy and bustling; one feels alive there. This was in the little guardhouse at the gates to the big race-course, Hipódromo Cuauhtémoc is its full name.

Thu, 06 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

RAV4

Posted By Tim Bray

Im not a car guy particularly, but when one saves your life you have to take notice. Well, and dumb luck; but the car didnt get in the way. What happened was, Hertz screwed up and made me stand in line at midnight so by way of compensation, instead of the normal Google econobox (of which I approve) Stall 839 contained a brand-spanking-new shiny white compact crossover SUV. I loathe sports utes in principle and practice but was too tired to go back and demand something smaller. But then I started to like it right away. It has that nimble lightweight feel that so few cars at any price do, plus tons of room and outstanding visibility.

Wed, 05 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Steves Legacy

Posted By Tim Bray

What were the Really Big Things? Proving that user experience matters more than anything else in computer-based consumer products. Even more: that it matters more than everything else put together. Building polished, world-beating products on a foundation of open-source software. Bringing industrial-design values to the center of a traditionally specs-obsessed consumer-electronics universe. Breaking the telephone companies stranglehold on the world of mobile-device software. Breaking the media companies stranglehold on the world of retailing music and, well, anything whose value can be captured in a collection of bits. (Where by achievements I mean things that quite possibly wouldnt have happened at least for a while without his contribution.

Wed, 05 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Upcoming Gigs

Posted By Tim Bray

I think this counts as a travel-planning Personal Worst. In November, Im committing speechification in Tokyo, Shanghai, Broomfield, and Antwerp. To be precise: Google Developer Day Tokyo, Nov 1. Google Developer Day Shanghai, Nov 4th. Defrag 2011, Broomfield, Colorado, Nov 9th. Devoxx, Antwerp, Nov. 15th and 17th. Buy airline shares. I shudder to think of the carbon load. But hey, if youre going to be in one of those places, drop on by and say hello.

Sun, 02 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Wallpaper Candidates

Posted By Tim Bray

I have a nice photo on my Mac desktop, but I never see it because its always covered with windows. I see my Android-device wallpaper all the time though, because Im always hitting the Home button. I think this pattern is general and thus mobile is more interesting than desktop on the wallpaper front. Recently, Romain Guy posted a collection of 100 of his photos he uses for wallpapers. Many of them are exquisite; go look. I liked the idea so I made a bunch of themed collections for the same purpose. While I selected things that I thought might work well, I havent actually tried them all.

Sat, 01 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Ideas

Posted By Tim Bray

From time to time, in the course of day-to-day life, we all make stupid, basic errors in cogitation. For example, this morning I was unloading the dishwasher and, with three coffee mugs in one hand, used the other to open the cupboard where the plates and bowls go. I had a moment of complete blankness before I shook my head with the mild annoyance usual on these occasions. Heres what Im wondering: If humans had the kind of minds that never made that kind of mistake, might we also lose the ability to, on occasion, have surprising and wonderful ideas? Which is to say, perhaps innovation emerges in a process like that found in evolution: Random Variation and Natural Selection.

Sat, 01 Oct 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Theology Lessons

Posted By Tim Bray

I got a package in the mail today from Oxford University Press, containing The Architecture of Theology by Prof. A.N. Williams of Cambridge Universitys Faculty of Divinity. This pleases me intensely. I took the original of that picture on the cover; its the first interior shot in Sagrada Família, a piece here whose name echoes that of the famous Gaudí church in Barcelona. I even got paid for its use. I think there are some useful take-aways. Barcelona February I remember it like yesterday, touristing with Chris Pruett in the hard wind and rain under a bitter grey sky.

Thu, 29 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Android App Engine Client

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently I wrote a scary App-Engine back end for an Android app. I wanted it to be secure, which should be easy because Androids have Google accounts and App Engine knows about those. I got it to work, but the process irritated me enough that I decided to package it up as a public service. So now theres a little open-source library called App Engine REST Client. It offers GET and POST methods, includes an Authenticator class, and tries to be as simple as possible to use. When it comes to App Engine authentication, the factors that can trip up a literal-minded minded programmer with insufficient attention to detail, like for example me, include: The most obvious way of using the authent APIs can result in control jumping from one thread to another in a non-obvious way.

Wed, 28 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Post Sunset

Posted By Tim Bray

Part of the public pier by the Jericho Sailing Centre, one of the nicest things about warm Vancouver evenings. If you enlarge it, there are nifty cobwebs.

Sat, 24 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Sheep

Posted By Tim Bray

I totally promise that this is not going to become a sheepblog. Having said that, here are two. Photogeek note: I note that the K-5 tends to produce unreasonably dramatic images when asked to capture a reasonable foreground against a brilliant background; another example would be this Flickr photo, which I really like.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Cloud Lifesaving and Fear

Posted By Tim Bray

Last year I built (and of course blogged) this nifty little Android app called LifeSaver, which would copy your telephone-call and SMS logs onto an SD card, so you could move the SD card to another phone, run LifeSaver again, and get em all back. Calls and texts arent migrated by the excellent Android backup system. A few thousand people used it (I sure did, since I change phones all the time), and reviews are good. But its becoming less useful, because lots of phones these days dont have SD cards. A smart Googler suggested I put an App Engine back-end on it, so it wouldnt need anything but a network connection.

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Hula Hoops and Shoelaces

Posted By Tim Bray

Well,those seem at the center of her show. Taken at some festival or other this last weekend on Vancouvers Main Street which isnt very Main but is very good.

Mon, 19 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Windows Cold Call

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently, its been happening over and over: the phone rings after dinner and a call-center pickup system switches in a person with a heavy South-Asian accent who tells us that there is a problem with our Windows system, and offers help. Dear cold-caller; Yes, there is a Windows problem: Windows is boring. Its entirely peripheral to anything in my profession thats interesting; has been for a decade. It adds no energy to the ecosystem, and traps millions of Enterprise workers in an environment that while visually appealing (Win7 at least) is pointing away from where the action is. But hey, Win 8 looks great, they say, and Metro is bold and different and may even partake of cool.

Mon, 19 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Use the Source!

Posted By Tim Bray

Im working on an Android app and the documentation didnt stop me making a stupid mistake. If it werent open-source, that might have been a problem. For the first time in my Android life, I wanted to use a Notification. The instructions are straightforward, except for I was worried about what size graphic to use in the pull-down notification (as opposed to in the status bar); it didnt seem like they could be the same size, and the nice list of icon sizes didnt have one labeled Notification pulldown. So I tried guessing but that didnt work out very well. Worse than that, the usual plan B, typing notification pulldown icon size into Google, didnt help much.

Mon, 19 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

4G Performance Silliness

Posted By Tim Bray

I was scanning the mobile-tech news and saw a story on a performance shootout between the LTE implementations from Verizon and AT&T; I skipped by the link and cant find it now, but thats OK because Im here to debunk it. The study found that As LTE went to 45M/sec whereas Vs was only 35, or maybe the other way around, and maybe the numbers arent quite right. It Doesnt Matter As the user of a 50M/sec home network via my local cable company, I have found these things to be true: There are very few sources of interesting data on the Web that can reach double-digit MB/second.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Browser Breakup

Posted By Tim Bray

For some years, Safari has been my default browser. I generally prefer its choices in framing and ergonomics and shortcuts over all others. But Ive had to stop using it. In recent releases, Safari has been re-architected, with some of the work farmed out to a thing called WebProcess. This doesnt seem to be working out that well. Specifically, I note that: Switching from tab to tab is sluggish, and when the system gets overloaded, you get a lot of gratuitous repaints. The WebProcess and Safari processes feature prominently in readouts of whats consuming the systems CPU and memory. When you have a few dozen tabs open, some of them for days, and some of them being full of dynamic code, the whole system gets increasingly slow and unstable.

Sat, 17 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

D.F. From Above

Posted By Tim Bray

The letters stand for Distrito Federal which is (using Wikipedias felicitous adjective) coterminous with Ciudad de México or what wed call Mexico City. Im really fond of it. Not that Ive been there much; a few days in 1992 and then again last month. But something about walking its streets and riding its wheels and eating its food has filled me with smiles on every one of that small number of days. Its by any measure one of the worlds great cities; bigger than seems sane and striving against its boundaries; geographic, economic, political, and any other dimension you care to name.

Sat, 17 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Autumn Leaves

Posted By Tim Bray

Rain on the roof awoke me this September morning. Out and about later, I watched the leaves: green and working still, but starting to fall in waves and (we all know) not here for long. I thought of printed books and magazines. And silver disks. And cash.

Tue, 13 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

MOA Portraits

Posted By Tim Bray

That stands for Museum of Anthropology and Ive been before. I took pictures of a bunch of faces. My favorite I think being this crystal Bodhisattva. I could give you a description of where all these are from and what they mean, well that is if Id taken notes and not just pictures. If you want to know, go visit the place already.

Sat, 10 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Two Maps

Posted By Tim Bray

Im pretty relentless about adopting new technologies and usually unregretful about the ones left behind. In particular I have grave doubts about whether the book, I mean in its paper form, has or even deserves a future. But there are two sides to this story. Here we have two cartographic renditions of more or less the same piece of the planet; one via Google Maps on a Nexus S, the other on page 101 of the Ninth Comprehensive Edition of the Times Atlas of the World. The picture fails to convey the immense size of the Atlas; after dinner this evening, five people shared it comfortably for a lesson in New Zealand geography.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Chip Experience

Posted By Tim Bray

Basically all the credit cards in Canada are now chipped, which is to say that there are visible microelectronics toward one end. To pay, you slip that chip into the reader, confirm the deal and enter your PIN. This allows for a surprising amount of variation in user-experience quality. Its a huge time-saver in restaurants because the little reader doohickey is wireless and they bring it to your table with the bill, thus avoiding one round-trip for the service person. [At this point, Europeans are wondering why Im treating this as news, theyve had it for years.] Anyhow, there is an amazing amount of variation in the amount of work you, the customer, have to do accomplish the business of paying.

Wed, 07 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

The Drive by Night

Posted By Tim Bray

In Vancouver, the Drive means Commercial Drive; Hey look, a street with its own Web site! We took some visiting relatives out for gelati on a recent quiet Monday evening, and I brought the camera along. Dolce Amore is just an ice-cream shop, but Vancouver may not have a better one. I cant manage more than two scoops these days, but we were with three big twentysomething Albertans who flirted with the waitresses and inhaled three-scoop towers in gelato-flavor combinations that I found frankly perverted. In the old days, the Drive was our own Little Italy, and to this day you can get a damn good expresso while you watch Serie A on the satellite TV.

Thu, 01 Sep 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Aspect Ratios

Posted By Tim Bray

On one side of the aisle, this fall will bring a new iPhone & iPad; on the other theres a steady flow of Android handsets and tablets and in-betweens. One thing about the Apple mobile line had been puzzling me till recently: There are only two form factors. The prognosticators think that the next iPhone will be about the same size and shape as it is now. The same is true of the iPad, except for maybe itll have a double-density Retina display. It couldnt be more different on the Android size, with devices of every size and shape imaginable, some of em real eye-rollers.

Thu, 25 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Steve at NeXT

Posted By Tim Bray

Late in 1989 I opened my email one morning and there was one from sjobs@next.com saying come see us. So I went and spent the day and failed to make a sale, but so did Mr. Jobs. Back Story What happened was, Id been working on the New Oxford English Dictionary Project at the University of Waterloo, and wed built some pretty impressive tools for text transformation and search and display. We were in the process of rolling out our company, which lives on today: Open Text. Id gotten to know Michael Hawley, then a grad student at the MIT Media Lab, and Mike was friends with Steve Jobs; they rode bikes together in the California hills and hed been consulting for NeXT.

Wed, 24 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Three Roses

Posted By Tim Bray

Havent run a flower picture for a while. If color and light are good, then more color and more light are better, right?

Wed, 24 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Ex Twitter

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in 2010, I disclosed that Id become the owner of some Twitter shares. I sold them this week. The story provides a look into the world of public trading of private-company shares. This is a space that was new to me and I found interesting; maybe you will too. The Basics Companies are either public or private. A public companys shares can be bought and sold by nearly anyone on your friendly local stock exchange. A private companys shares can in principle be bought and sold, but there are a lot of laws and regulations which restrict this process. They are there for the excellent reason that private companies arent required to, and generally dont, disclose their financials, so theres less confidence about the value of their equity.

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Big Camera Tradeoffs

Posted By Tim Bray

These days, for a photographer who cares, a medium format camera is becoming a serious option. This is something that, while large, you can still fit in your hand, but has a huge sensor and gives you gobs and gobs of megapixels. Examples would be the Leica S2 and the Pentax 645D. These cameras are beautiful, objects of desire, but really Im not tempted. They give you enough pixels (40M or so) that you can confidently sell your work to high-gloss magazines or use it on big display posters. For a sample of the 645D at work, check out the Svalbard gallery by Jostein Øksne, especially Sarkofagen.

Wed, 17 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Posted By Tim Bray

The one in Mexico City, I mean; National Museum of Anthropology en Inglés. They arranged a walk-through for us after closing time and let us take pictures; here are a few. Warning: kind of sad. The artifacts spanned Mesoamerica: Mayans, Mixtecs, Toltecs, Aztecs. At one point I got interested in these times and places and read dozens of books. The problem was, the histories were full of gloom and empty of celebration; the writers were either telling tragic stories of societal collapse and European oppression, or alternatively seemed to have come to dislike their subjects. These figures do not seem the work of happy people.

Mon, 15 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Telus Android Island Internet Win

Posted By Tim Bray

For Net access from our cottage on Keats Island, we checked alternatives and ended up getting a Internet stick from Telus Mobility, plugging it into my old BlackBook, and having that broadcast WiFi. It worked, but not brilliantly, with big latency and regular outages. This week I had a bright idea, pulled the SIM out of the dinky little USB goober, dropped it into my original 7" Galaxy Tab, and had that create a mobile network. Wow! The Tab gets not only a more robust signal (probably because its bigger and has more room for an antenna), but also Telus HSPA.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

100 + 3 Sci-Fis

Posted By Tim Bray

I ran across Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books at NPR.org of all places. I enjoyed it, and immediately started thinking: Whats missing? First, I have to say that its a pretty good list. With surprises, even, notably the inclusion of Atwoods Handmaids Tale; welcome, but far from her best book. It is biased toward the old rather than the new which is in the nature of such things. Trivia: Ive read 42 of the first 50 and only 21 of the second. Ill read more. I considered, and could only think of three works that were obviously missing; interestingly, all by authors with other offerings that had made the list.

Thu, 11 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Reading the Economist

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean The Economist, which persists in referring to itself as a newspaper even though it physically appears to be a magazine. Well, it does indeed deliver news and is printed on paper. Oops, maybe not. The mobile app version is out, and its noticeably better than the one involving dead trees. Basics Anyone can install the app, its free. If youre not a subscriber, itll download some highlights from each issue. If you are, then at 9PM British time each Thursday, you can download that weeks issue, in full; all the articles and pictures. Ive been a subscriber for decades; there are a lot of people out there who feel that if you dont read The Economist, you really cant claim to be well-informed.

Sun, 07 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

CL XV: Eagles Nest

Posted By Tim Bray

This will be two consecutive Cottage-Life posts focusing on eagles, and thats OK because theyre at the center of the thing. Herewith a nest with an eaglet in residence; not the greatest picture but its something that I feel blessed to have seen and cant not pass on. Bald eagles like to hang out where there are tall trees right next to the ocean so the fishin is easy, and Keats Island has lots of those; also relatively few permanent human residents to bother them. Enlarge for a better look at the young bird. A small family of eagles lives somewhere in the trees right next to our cottage; theyve appeared in this space before.

Sat, 06 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Good Afternoon

Posted By Tim Bray

We often use the Internet as a vehicle for bitching and complaining, and I suppose thats OK. But sometimes things go well, and we should talk about that too. With a hairdresser anecdote and pasta-sauce recipe. It was an at-home Vancouver Saturday, our much-belated summer now fully in residence. On impulse I joined the afternoon pickup soccer game. At my age, an hours soccer with no pulls or sprains is a minor triumph, and chasing a bouncy sphere around a nice grass field on a sunny afternoon is really very refreshing. Now a bit of back story; on Friday, I went for a haircut because after all Im keynoting a conference in Mexico City on Tuesday.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Perma-noob

Posted By Tim Bray

This week Ive been learning how one would build a simple RESTful back-end for an Android app, using Sinatra on Rack on JRuby on Java on App Engine and its Datastore, by doing it. The app needs persistence and user-account authentication, among other things. Its been stimulating, but Im feeling wistful. Lets see, we could call this the JAD stack. The problem is that while Im reasonably Ruby-literate, Ive never touched Sinatra nor App Engine nor Google account authentication. So while I think my conclusion will be that this is a good clean high-productivity stack for building this kind of thing, I actually havent actually been very productive, because Ive had 25 different browser tabs perpetually open to consult on the details of all the different API levels and how they fit together.

Sun, 31 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Still Life Paintings of Daisies

Posted By Tim Bray

One of my favorite online activities is the discussion of photography and (often very loosely) related subjects over at PDML. A thread last March made me want to take pictures of daisies to serve as examples to support a point I was trying to make on the subject of nothing less than Art Itself. Unfortunately, this far north (and with a cool spring) theyve been hard to come by. But I found some. Id posted some other shots of flowers, acknowledging that they were steeped in cliché. This provoked a polite storm of only moderately-cynical argument, in which one gentleman offered I think about the retirement home with little old ladies taking oil paint lessons so that they can do still life paintings of daisies. Since then Ive been hell-bent on making a still-life of some daisies.

Sun, 31 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Good News-Biz News

Posted By Tim Bray

People still read news, but the howls of pain from the business grow always louder; the news about the news is all layoffs and paywalls. Id like to offer a cheery counter-example. Lets start with a boring corporate press release: TPM Ad Sales Revenue Up 88% In First Half of 2011. TPM stands for Talking Points Memo. Im a fan. Like most people who find politics and policy interesting, Ive enjoyed the last few years of US politics. In particular Ive been watching Americas self-induced debt-ceiling meltdown with a sick fascination. And like most people with interesting jobs, I dont have that much time to invest in being a politics junkie.

Wed, 27 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Suggestions and Additions

Posted By Tim Bray

These are the ways that you circle people on Google+. The streams of names, most with little photos but some naked, burn time but I cant stop. The word friend groans under an overload of meaning. There are so many names that I think I should know but probably I really dont, theyre just names that sound like you should know them. Some people have funny names. We all know the controversy about G+ and Real Names, but some of the funny names are really Real. Sometimes the humor is a tribal thing; to an English speaker, names from the Balkans and parts of Africa are most inclined to be humorous.

Thu, 21 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Japanese Brazilian Market

Posted By Tim Bray

São Paulo claims to have the largest Japantown in the world; its called Liberdade. Herewith three photos of items on sale there. Its a big city; claims to be the largest, with fifteen million souls or more, in both the Western and Southern hemispheres. Its not scenic or glamorous or touristic or fashionable, mostly; its about people focusing on working their way into the First World. Liberdade Its jam-packed and cheery and culturally variegated to a ridiculous extreme; worth walking around. This visitor from the other hemisphere and perimeter of the New World felt at home; Im used to a crowd where the faces represent every possible permutation of the gene pool.

Mon, 18 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Piracy

Posted By Tim Bray

Id like to draw your attention to The huge success of an AppStore failure by Luís Fonseca of GAMEized. Its the sad story of a mobile-game developer running into the reality that theres a lot of pirated software out there. I think the obvious conclusions are wrong, mostly. (GAMEized had perhaps the worst possible outcome, observing piracy rates on the order of 90%. They got unlucky, having been prominently featured on one of the biggest steal-apps-here sites.) Let me start by saying that this isnt an Apple-specific problem; there are pirates on the Android side, too. Its not even a mobile-apps problem, per se, but a monetizing-bags-of-bits problem.

Sun, 17 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Tisa

Posted By Tim Bray

A couple of days ago I switched the Neuton typeface into this space, via Google Web Fonts. I liked it but a lot of others didnt, and it turned out that for some reason, on Windows it just didnt work as a body font; I suspect itd be fine for display purposes (as in, for headlines). So, on to Plan B: FF Tisa Web Pro, from Typekit. Why Tisa? I spent a really excessive amount of time trying this font and that, but at the end of the day the choice was easy. I wanted something that was really easy to read, unobtrusive, and yet struck my eye as modern, whatever that means.

Fri, 15 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Somewhat Dutch-inspired

Posted By Tim Bray

The full quote reads Neuton is a clean, dark, somewhat Dutch-inspired serif font which reminds you a little of Times. I just now stripped the old serif/sans choice out of my blog (less marginalia!) and dropped in Neuton for all the body text. Using a Google web font is just as simple as they claim. I havent noticed a slowdown in the page load but I havent tested yet on a slow network. This follows some weeks of paradox-of-choice paralysis; there are just too many typefaces there that tickle my eye. So I sucked it up and pulled the trigger. I can always change my mind later.

Sun, 10 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Women's World Cup Qarterfinals

Posted By Tim Bray

I hadn't planned it, but am having a slow single-parent weekend and tuned in by accident. I was hooked in the first 30 seconds and watched three of the four. I probably won't be able to take in any more, but I'd unhesitatingly recommend that you do if you can. Compared to the men's event, it lacks some power and pace; but there's no shortage of elegance or precision or passion or courage or desperation. My heart was in my throat over and over. There's less of the childish cowardly diving and related sleaze that taints the men's version; but it's not entirely on the up-and-up.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Porto Alegre – Usina do Gasômetro

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a power-generating plant on the waterfront that has been converted for art-and-culture purposes; there's a cinema, a café, a children's space, and lots of nice walls for hanging pictures. We got there as dusk was beginning to fall; it was a treat for the eyes and camera. Geeks will agree that there's a vaguely Aperture-Science feel to the place (for the rest, that's a videogame allusion). These three shots are just me admiring the space. There were at least three art presentations; this is from gravetos armados, an installation by Antônio Augusto Bueno that really reached out to me.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Porto Alegre's Central Market

Posted By Tim Bray

Like the rest of town, it lacks the extremes of drama and beauty that conventionally attract tourists. We went there on Wikipedia's recommendation and I'm glad, since I got that you're-a-long-way-away-from-home shiver too rarely enjoyed by over-frequent travelers, but always by those who find their photographs rather than planning them. Boy, was it ever packed on a Friday afternoon. It's mostly about raw materials for food and drink. This being Brazil, “drink” includes mate, and here are some of your options for making it; I enjoyed the polished hand-lettering. I have so far failed to appreciate mate, but I think I'm in a majority; most people (not just Brazilians) seem to like it.

Wed, 06 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

FISL12

Posted By Tim Bray

I'm not sure what the F and I stand for, but the last two letters are for “Software Livre” FISL is the largest FLOSS event in the Southern Hemisphere, and brought me to Porto Alegre for a few days. The crowd is young (a lot of students) and serious. You'd think setting up a Tux-cart would be fun. Along with all the talks, which are pretty similar in content to what you'd find at a FLOSS event anywhere, there's a trade show, which I found kind of baffling. Big Oracle booth... huh? Various organs of government... well, OK, I guess. Little Web shops of one flavor or another, sure enough.

Wed, 06 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Porto Alegre – Around Town

Posted By Tim Bray

It's not the most glamorous or glittery place in the world, but it's nice and friendly. For one reason or another I took a whole lot of pictures in Porto Alegre. I think I'll have to break them up across a few entries here. It's a waterfront town, but the water's fresh, where a bunch of rivers come together and bunch up enough to be called a lake. I noticed a few nice-looking cottages on islands, and it works just as well as the ocean for hosting sunsets. There are a whole lot of places to eat, and the food we got was pretty good.

Tue, 05 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Road Music

Posted By Tim Bray

I spend quite a bit of time in hotel rooms. This is how I arrange my musical backdrop. I'm sure this is painfully obvious to most of you, but there are a couple of new-ish technologies involved, and it can be a real quality-of-life improver, so here goes anyhow. First of all, you need to go buy a wire like this. I forget what it's called at the nearest big box, but it's cheap; there's a small modern headphone jack at each end. Six feet (2m) or so seems about right. Next, you need to have a lot of music available.

Mon, 04 Jul 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Things About Google+

Posted By Tim Bray

No, I haven't figured it out. Neither has the rest of the world. Which means that now is a good time to write about it, while our impressions remain plastic. Famous people: The “Suggestions” list kept including them, and I kept adding them reflexively, because I follow some of them on Twitter. Then I stopped, because I follow some of them on Twitter. I particularly enjoyed declining the opportunity to add Jason Calacanis. Pictures: I publish the ones I really care about here on the blog. “Really care about” means thinking a bit and some time in Lightroom color-correcting, cropping, and so on.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Audéo

Posted By Tim Bray

I've been listening to a Shure 3C in-ear headset for seven years; wow! It's been just fine; but on a recent flight a clumsy seatmate bent the jack, so I needed something new. Audéo is made by Phonak, a Swiss outfit who've historically been about hearing aids not music. Apparently the disciplines are closely related, because the Audéo PFE 122 offers, by a wide margin, the best headphone sound I've ever heard. I did some poking around the Web's audiophile landscape and, while the latest from Shure and Etym¿tics and Sennheiser all got good reviews, I kept running across eye-rolling over these sanely-priced Phonak offerings, about comfort and isolation and accuracy.

Sun, 26 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Orange Circle

Posted By Tim Bray

Bright and spattery. Obviously left there by a city worker to highlight what I assume must be a survey marker. No, not enhanced at all, it really was that bright.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Remote Harmony

Posted By Tim Bray

We finally got a universal remote for the video setup at home. We're not early adapters and this is a pretty mainstream category, so quite likely you know all about it. In case you don't, just wanted to say that Logitech Harmony 650 is a super-nice product and works really well for us. Our setup is totally vanilla: a big 2010 Insignia TV, a new Motorola cable box, a middle-aged Toshiba DVD player, and an elderly NAD amp. Some of the remotes were broken, others claimed to be universal, ha-ha-ha. I'd tried universals a few years back and they basically just didn't work for whatever I'd had.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Turntable.fm

Posted By Tim Bray

All the geeks know about it, but not many civilians; in the Blues room this evening, we ended up talking about Web-server stuff and NodeJS. The idea is powerful; one symptom of which is, I keep thinking about ways to make it better. I could spend time describing what it is and so on, but the page title says it all: Play Music Together. Go check it out. Here some ideas that present themselves: The graphics are a good start, but there's plenty of room for improvement. In the avatars, in the groove animation, in the feedback meter, in everything.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

50M

Posted By Tim Bray

Which is to say, 50,000,000 bits per second to our home. It feels great. I was one of Vancouver's earliest broadband adopters, back in 1997 when it was still called “ADSL” one big megabit per second and hot damn was that fast after years of dial-up. We've upgraded modems a couple of times but it's still been DSL via the telco. The current plan had us at 3M down (we didn't get anything like that) and some pitiful trickle upstream. Shaw is a local cable company; they just upgraded their network and have some nice-looking plans. We signed up for “Broadband 50” ($49/month); they also offer a “Broadband 100” which I'd spring for if I believed there were sites out there that could get me data that fast.

Fri, 17 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Public Isn't Private

Posted By Tim Bray

After the hockey was over, we had a hideous riot in Vancouver. The only serious injury, thankfully, was someone who fell off an elevated highway. You can't begin to imagine how hurt and angry with the rioters the people of this town are. There's an interesting sort of Facebook-vigilante justice going on. But first, let me push back on our Police chief and Mayor, both of whom I'm normally reasonably OK with. Their post-riot statements tried to blame the event on “anarchists”. That's just bullshit. I'll tell you who the bad guys were: they were us. Ordinary Vancouverites of the young male sub-species; sure, a lot of suburbanites, but look at the damn map; suburbs is what most of Vancouver is.

Thu, 16 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Conundrum

Posted By Tim Bray

On his tweetstream, author William Gibson linked to an interview he gave the Paris Review. He had me right away, narrating the cooking-up of the term “cyberspace”. Then the text ran into a paywall: “To read the rest of this piece, purchase the issue.” I followed the link and discovered that said issue also contains an interview with Samuel Delany, another writer whose work has been important to me. Also, that they wanted $12.00 for it. I considered briefly then hit the Paypal button. Suddenly it was asking my choice of (expensive) shipping options, and I realized that it wanted to sell me an actual physical book.

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

“Web” vs. “Native”

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in February of 2010 I interviewed for a new job. It was the typical Google hiring-process siege; I talked to six or eight people over the course of the day. At least half of them asked me “Native vs Web apps on mobile; what do you think?” I think about it all the time. And I talk to developers all the time so I think I know what they're thinking. Thus this piece, which is goes on and on and on but that's OK, blogging is for long-form pieces! Includes a case study with screenshots. Disclosures I'm a Web guy.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Two Angles on Apricot

Posted By Tim Bray

Just because I've run pictures of this plant... [Enough! -Ed.] As I was saying, just an opening rose. Yeah, I photograph this plant too much. But when my little girl asks me “what's your favorite color?” I say “Apricot.” Back in 2000, I was hit by a car while bicycling and spent an unpleasant number of unpleasant days in hospital being reconstructed.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Two Angles on White

Posted By Tim Bray

Just a dogwood blossom, front and back. It is the Official Provincial Flower hereabouts. Its flowers are a bit floppy and ungainly; out of proportion to our very-young tree. But still, one must smile.

Sat, 11 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

No, Women Don't

Posted By Tim Bray

I just saw a witty tweet go by, about the different reasons why men and women go into politics. It's wrong. Whenever you see a sentence which beginning with “Men...” or “Women...” followed by a verb, that sentence is wrong. This includes for example all of those beginning “Women want” or “Men won't”. In fact, such sentences are wrong when instead of a gender they begin with “Canadians” or “Africans” or “Muslims” or “government employees” or almost any other collective expression. People do not exist or feel or think or act in the collective. They are individuals and every single one is an exception to lots of average findings about groups they can be sorted into.

Fri, 10 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Reading Feeds

Posted By Tim Bray

NetNewsWire and its author Brent Simmons have been much in the news recently. NNW's future is a moving target, and that matters because the app matters; it's one of the better reasons to use a Mac. I was an early adopter. I launched this blog in February of 2003 and had built a backlog of articles for launch day; it included two that mentioned NNW, including NetNewsWire 1.0. Since that time, it has not failed to be a part of my daily routine. Lite 4.0 That's the label attached to Brent's most recent iteration, now in the hands of Black Pixel; it's in the Mac App Store.

Wed, 08 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Driftwood Triptych

Posted By Tim Bray

Just a dead tree by the ocean. It's a well-known dead tree, big enough to show up at the center of this satellite photo. I have heard that it washed up during the Seventies. Friends took me down here, I think, on my first adult visit to Vancouver; it has decayed visibly but gracefully since then. I usually try to take first-time visitors here.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Struts and Shadows

Posted By Tim Bray

Just a part of a rocking chair. People, I find, are remarkably forgiving when you pull out your camera, screw on another lens, and point it at their furniture.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Who Follows?

Posted By Tim Bray

Anyone who's been on Twitter for a while and has built a following occasionally wonders how many of them are real people; because plenty aren't. So I took some measurements. Methodology For a little while, I routed all the “<someone> is now following you on Twitter!” emails into a folder, and when the count got to be up over 100, I went and sorted 100 new followers into baskets which I made up as I went along: Real people: For better or for (sometimes much) worse, these accounts give the impression of being actual members of Homo sapiens who, implausible though it seems, may want to read my tweets.

Thu, 02 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Cheap Laughs

Posted By Tim Bray

Reading the tech news of the day, I was moved to sneer at one story, and the Internet piled on in a way that gave me a few chances to snicker, so here they are. [Warning: Adult language.] I tweeted: “I mean, it's just fucking coupons. #amIcrazyOrAreTheyCrazy”. Selected responses: @datcatisfat: “No, it's like a ponzi scheme”. @hfiguiere: “I have some coupons for Bubble 2.0. $10 buys you plenty of steam. :-)” @coneslayer: “They are. If your whole business consists of taking in $10 and paying out $5, and you can't turn a profit...” @codinghorror: “HOLY SHIT DID YOU SAY COUPONS?” @getwired: “But these are REALLY, REALLY GOOD coupons.

Thu, 02 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

+1

Posted By Tim Bray

The official statement is: The +1 button is shorthand for “this is pretty cool” or “you should check this out”. This blog now has 'em. If you're one of the (vast majority of) people who are looking at this in one feed-reader or another, you can't see them, but you might want to glance at the home page to get the feel. Or just open this article in a browser and look down at the bottom. Why? First of all, anything that makes search better makes the Web better. Right now, the only way to “vote something up” on the Web is by linking to it.

Wed, 01 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Clamshadow

Posted By Tim Bray

Just a broken seashell on a beach. There weren't enough pictures in this space in May. We can fix that.

Wed, 01 Jun 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Pink Edges

Posted By Tim Bray

Just a tulip, and mostly out of focus at that. The tulips are about done for 2011 and this is the only worthwhile picture. Feaugh.

Tue, 31 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Me and My Browsers

Posted By Tim Bray

I use Safari, Chrome, and Firefox simultaneously. But I'm not sure I'm doing it right. Here's why and how. Chrome Never really used it much before I joined Google. But it's what's logged into the mothership and where a lot of work happens. Via the magic of pinned tabs, gmail is on command-1, calendar on command-2, docs on command-3, Google Voice on command-4, and @Androiddev on command-5. Anything I click on in one of those apps opens a new Chrome tab. I like that Chrome's fast, and I really like that it's robust. There doesn't seem to be any one web page that can bring it to its knees, and when something is grinding, you can look in the management console, find out what's wrong, and clean up.

Mon, 30 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

No Peace Soon

Posted By Tim Bray

In the Middle East, I mean. As of May 2011, the decades-old mainstream vision of how peace might play out is stone cold dead. The status quo is also apparently the future. Disclosure: I spent eleven years of my youth, between the ages of seven and eighteen, in Lebanon; my feelings on Middle-East issues could not be called moderate. It seemed somehow a news event when Mr Obama, a couple of weeks ago, reiterated the conventional wisdom of what peace could look like: Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, swaps to keep some settlements in Israel, shared Jerusalem, no significant right of return.

Sun, 29 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Preschool Photographer

Posted By Tim Bray

I like to walk around and take pictures. My little girl, turning five next month, desperately wants to be part of anything that's going on. So lately, I've been giving her the little pocket Canon while we're out and about. Somewhat to my surprise, she's into it, taking hundreds of snaps. It turns out they include a few smile-provokers. No, I'm not going to do a lengthy slide-show here. But when I look at them (of course after having triaged the total blurs and cat butts), I share a certain joy; someone who's just pointing a camera at anything that looks neat without overthinking it.

Thu, 26 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Nucks

Posted By Tim Bray

By which I mean our hockey team, now bound for the championship finals. In Vancouver this spring, vegan yoga instructors are hockey fans, as are professors of Patristic theology, gay-rights activists, sushi chefs, orchid breeders, and cloth-capped hipsters. I sort of am too; it's not a terrible condition. I even went to a game, my first in years. But they won't let you take a good camera in, so this is through a thick layer of acrylic with a point-n-shoot. It it looks like I'm right there next to the players, I was. This was the last regular-season game of the season that meant anything (clinching the President's Trophy); I snagged two seats on Craiglist, in Row 2 right beside the face-off circle to the goalie's right.

Mon, 23 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Archiver's Intimations

Posted By Tim Bray

Nearly two years ago, I finished migrating ten thousand songs' worth of CDs into bits; but the racks-full of disks have continued to occupy living-room space. So we bought some sleeves and storage boxes at Staples and have started the process, on an occasional evening, of packing them away. When might they be unpacked? Never. By my children after I'm demented, muttering “Why on earth did Dad keep this around?!” By a music aficionado late in the twenty-second century, hands shaking with glee; exclaiming “Arvo Pärt!”, “Boney M!”, and “Edgar Winter!” By a low-paid legal-firm functionary, working to value my estate because litigation has broken out...

Sun, 22 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Tall and Narrow

Posted By Tim Bray

As in, portrait not landscape. It's the way to go. Which is to say, tablets should be held with the short bits at the top and bottom. And columns of text should be long-ish and narrow-ish. There are consequences, in particular for tablets. Some evidence, were any needed: Books, which when opened are somewhere between square and wider-than-tall, divide their text into two vertical rivers. Safari's Reader mode and the fascinating Readability. (Interestingly, Safari offers Reader service on some of this blog's pages but not others. I feel troubled that it sees the need on any.) Newspapers. Already taller than wide, the text is still further sliced into tall-and-narrow.

Thu, 19 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

On Books

Posted By Tim Bray

I hardly ever visit bookstores now. On the other hand, I've read more books since last fall than in the previous several years; mostly on my Galaxy Tab. I'm going to miss bookstores, but maybe we'll save some of the best ones. Just so that this isn't all tech and biz, I've thrown in 21 capsule book reviews. Bookstores Throughout most of my adult life, they've mostly sucked. There was a brief renaissance when they got the idea that bigger might be better and most towns had a mall with a Borders or B&N or whatever, and there were comfy chairs and lots of interesting books.

Thu, 12 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Pictures of I/O

Posted By Tim Bray

I would be the wrong person to ask for an overview of the just-concluded Google I/O 2011. I've been working on the presentations and exhibitors quite intensely since February or so – even contributed a couple of lines of code to the Android app – and I have a strong vision of how it was supposed to be; this could not fail to color anything I might say about the event. However, I can offer a few impressions and pictures. It happened in San Francisco, I city I don't particularly like but is fun to photograph. The first day was I/O BootCamp, where 500-and-change I/O attendees paid $100 for a day of entry-level lecture and labs (the I/O material itself is not introductory).

Wed, 04 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

How To Die

Posted By Tim Bray

So, Derek's gone. I was finding it a little hard to maintain, this morning. I'd known him for a while; we weren't close but, like a whole lot of other people around geekdom and Vancouver, I'd been drawn in tighter and tighter as he wrote his way through mortal illness, always facing forward and keeping the story flowing even when everyone knew how, and recently when, it would end. The last photo I took of Derek. We weren't real friends as I said, but I was a fan, clicking on all the Penmachine links in my feedreader. And just now I was touched and honored to discover that apparently he left 82 comments on this blog over the years, between late 2006 and just a few weeks ago, which I just spent an hour reading.

Tue, 03 May 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Election Wow

Posted By Tim Bray

We just had a surprising election; I previewed it on April 10, and am slightly smug over having pretty well called the outcome on April 25th. The overview that rings truest, to me, is Colby Cosh's Four parties enter, two parties leave. Canadian politics is usually boring; but not this week. Anyhow, I wrote this because I wanted space for an observation and a prediction. First: Canadian politics suddenly looks a lot like Britain or Germany: Big, broadly-based parties of the left and right, with a smaller party of the center. Seems to be reasonably stable and functional in those countries.

Fri, 29 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

CL XV: Eagle Glass Again

Posted By Tim Bray

The Cottage life series has previously visited the subject of bald eagles, and of using long telephoto lenses to photograph them. Can't have too much of that stuff. What's going on is, the three eagles who hang out round the cottage are raising a fourth, and one of the folks along the shoreline found the nest and emailed directions. So we went and looked. I took a picture but it's just a messy tangle of sticks in a high evergreen fork with what might be some brown tail feathers. We watched for a half-hour, and a big eagle visited a couple of times with something recently-killed.

Wed, 27 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Wet Red Metal

Posted By Tim Bray

Just a picture.

Mon, 25 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Mobile Platform Count

Posted By Tim Bray

What's the right number? Of software platforms I mean, for devices which are real Internet citizens. At the moment, the volume players are iOS and Android. Microsoft and HP/Palm and RIM would each like to be the third, and one of them might succeed; conceivably more than one. Would that be good? I'm biased: Internet loyalist, Android admirer and subsequently advocate, and finally Google employee. I like variety and competition and I think a hot competitive ecosystem is best for the Internet and for Google too. I like the fresh look-and-feel ideas in WebOS and WP7, and I'd like to like Blackberry since I'm Canadian.

Thu, 21 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Reflowing

Posted By Tim Bray

Last month I rejiggered the publishing system here, making the text larger and wider and hyphenated and justified. Now more: a bit of cosmetic change, a significant stylesheet simplification, and a substantial gain in robustness. Plus, a lesson re-learned about the Web. The Visible Effect If you don't notice the changes, that's fine; I'm tinkering at the margins. If it all looks a little lighter, that's even better; I removed some bold-face here and some sidebar clutter there. The big deal is that if you make the window you're currently looking at really wide, you shouldn't see any surprises.

Mon, 18 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Shrubberies by Moonlight

Posted By Tim Bray

In recent years I've developed a mild obsession with low-light photography; this was a big factor in the recent decision to open my wallet for a Pentax K-5. I went crazy on the weekend and tried to use only moonlight; while it didn't, strictly speaking, work, the results are still interesting. My thinking was along these lines: I have a camera that's alleged to take usable pictures at ISO6400, plus I have a lens (the Sigma 30mm f1.4) optimized for extra-low light. So I put that camera and lens together for the first time, and practiced on a glass of red wine reflecting a hanging Tiffany lamp.

Sun, 17 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Opening Day!

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean our son's little league, Vancouver's own Little Mountain Baseball, Canada's oldest Little League and, with 600+ players up through the age of 12, quite the going concern. The Little Mountain in question is a pretty big hill in the middle of Vancouver whose name constitutes part of my neighborhood's. My son has been playing since he was in Grade One; I've coached and team-parented and generally been involved all those years. Just now I discover that LMB has no Wikipedia entry, although it has a history page on Facebook and is pretty deeply lodged in middle-Vancouver culture. Hmm, there's an opportunity for someone.

Thu, 14 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

100mm of the Day: Red

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a rhododendron, a very red one. Often they're hard to photograph because their redness enters a space that's welcomed by the human eye but stresses out camera sensors. That didn't happen here; not sure whether it's because it was kind of cloudy and grey, or maybe the camera sensors are evolving, or maybe this flower's redness is subtly different. On another subject, the problem scheduling the Google IO sessions is sort of like X simultaneous equations in Y variables, which would be fine except that Y is so much bigger than X.

Wed, 13 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

100mm of the Day: White Evergreen

Posted By Tim Bray

This is in Calgary a few weeks back. White on green on white, but you can't see any green. Today in Mountain View, the sun was dappling the green ground between the green trees. We were inside doing conference planning. And in most of Canada, the snow's gone, or going fast.

Tue, 12 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

100mm of the Day: Pink!

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, I did warn you up front that lenses with “Macro” in the name tend to be instruments of photographic blossom abuse; in this case, of an early and rather wet rhododendron. Yes, it really was that pink. I have applied no color-correction nor contrast crankage, aside from darkening the background a bit. I brought the new lens down to the Googleplex this week but it remained holstered today as a consequence of having spent five-plus hours in meetings, most Google-IO-related.

Mon, 11 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

100mm of the Day: Overcommitted

Posted By Tim Bray

Today is Monday; four weeks from the week of Google IO. What happened was, I liked it last year and told everyone “Hey, I'd like to work on IO” and they said yes. So you won't be hearing much from me between now and then except for maybe a few pictures, because you've always got time to shoot when you have a new lens; today's are close-ups from the Bugdroid surgical facility. Those little Bugdroid dolls are cool but they're really not robust enough for young children to use as toys. That's OK because We Have The Technology. Oh, yes, Google IO.

Sun, 10 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

100mm of the Day: Election!

Posted By Tim Bray

The new lens may have “MACRO” in its name but it's good fun out on the street too. Oh, and we're having an election! So let's wrap some Canadian politics around the picture. What's Good There's one way in which the Canadian approach outclasses our neighbors to the south: the whole thing, from the pulling of the trigger to the counting of the votes, is over in six weeks. Gotta love that. But First, the Picture Here are some street politics happening near where I live on Main Street in Vancouver. The campaigners are working for Libby Davies, who's held the seat for the NDP, our social-democratic party, approximately forever.

Wed, 06 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

100mm of the Day: Bee and Violet

Posted By Tim Bray

I recently acquired a new and sort-of-exotic lens; a Pentax 100mm “Macro”. This is what people my age may remember used to be called a “telephoto”. When you look through it, you don't see much of the landscape; so it's for zeroing in on a flower not a bush, a face not a crowd, a ship not a harbor. I've been having tons of fun with it so I'll load up the Internet with a few more pictures and share some. When people are showing off the capabilities of “Macro” lenses, it's traditional to start with a close-up of a flower or an insect.

Mon, 04 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Stadium Sun

Posted By Tim Bray

This is BC Place, where the Canadian Football team plays and the really big concerts happen. It's never been very nice under the vast dingy inflated roof, and the concert sound is reliably putrid. So they're making the roof retractable, and I went by while the sun was setting behind the project. I think the new building promises, once all the construction crud has been removed, a surprising elegance. And it has to be better the beige visual splodge it's replacing.

Fri, 01 Apr 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Reshaping

Posted By Tim Bray

For the first time in years, I'm working on changing the look of this here blog. I've been bored with it in recent years, then Blaine Cook's Beautiful Lines pushed me over the edge. As of today, if you're reading this at tbray.org rather than in one feed reader or another, the text is justified on both sides and hyphenated as necessary. There are side-effects, and I'm not sure I'm 100% happy with the results. I am sure there's lots more work to do. What Blaine Said His piece makes three arguments: Now we have wide variety in the pixel density on the screens we use, extra work is required to come up with density-independent designs.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 19:00:00 UTC

100mm

Posted By Tim Bray

I got a new camera! A Pentax K-5, and I'm sure I'll have more to say about it. But at the same time sort of by accident, I bought a lens, Pentax's D-FA 100mm f2.8; it's a little on the exotic side and fooling around with it has been eye-opening and also pure fun. That's my niece, and the cat's name is Poppy. I turned the camera on for the first time, pointed it across the room, said “Hey, Anne!” and shot without thinking much; the light was moderate so no trouble at ISO 800. Entirely unretouched excepting white-balance correction. Background What happened was, I was in Calgary on family business.

Tue, 22 Mar 2011 19:00:00 UTC

The Drive at Dusk

Posted By Tim Bray

In Vancouver, “the Drive” means Commercial Drive. [Note: That Wikipedia entry needs some editorial attention and pictures.] On impulse, and because it was sunny, we went over there for gelato after dinner and I took my camera. Copper, wood, and graffiti. Looking West down an alley. Cozy Apartments. Fresh red peppers for sale! The waves of immigrants and subcultures that have sloshed up and down the Drive are oddly assorted: Italians, Portuguese, Africans from former Italian colonies, Latin-Americans, commies, lesbians, punks, and dopers. Whatever; it seems to work pretty well.

Mon, 21 Mar 2011 19:00:00 UTC

The Main, Transpacifically

Posted By Tim Bray

I can honestly say “I liked Main Street before it was hip” but only because we happened to buy a house 2½ blocks away in 1996 and were introduced to its motley charms back then. The neighborhood these days is pretty well folks like us who bought in before it caught on, plus hipsters and immigrants rejoicing in the still-sane rents which are mostly a function of most of the buildings being 90 years old, beat-up, and not very upscale when they were built. Having said that, the commercial rents right on Main itself are whiplashing the interesting merchants. But let's focus in on some surviving low-rent Transpacific flavors.

Mon, 21 Mar 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Mainstream Failure

Posted By Tim Bray

The media's telling of the Japan story has been inexcusably bad. I can't count the number of pieces about confinement breaches and radiation surges; where they are not information-free they are wrong, and where they are not wrong, they bypass what matters. Here are a few specifics. The real story in Japan, by any objective measure, is the sustained post-tsunami desperation among those whose lives were swept away, and the narrative about the rescue and cleanup workers all over the Northeast. Read much of that? Me neither. Bloggers and other flavors of lone wolf are publishing heart-wrenching photo-essays from the front line of the recovery effort.

Sun, 20 Mar 2011 19:00:00 UTC

5¿¿: Benefit

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I glanced at my browser and saw a random turn of phrase, I'm going to see the ones that I love, and thought “That reminds me of something”. It turns out that it reminds me of With You There To Help Me, a lovely song on the album Benefit, a 1970 offering by Jethro Tull. So I pulled out the vinyl and have listened to it three times in the last two weeks; it's really just unreasonably good. (𔄝¿¿” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) The Context Although Jethro Tull remains a living and actively performing ensemble, they haven't had a hit in some decades now and thus quite a few readers here may never have stumbled across them; so here are the bullet points.

Fri, 18 Mar 2011 19:00:00 UTC

More on Baking

Posted By Tim Bray

There's a flurry of conversation among those who build and host blogs on the subject of “baking”, i.e. causing your blog's pages to be served using of ordinary “static” files stored on disk, as opposed to assembled at request time with calls to a database. Brent Simmons is sort of driving; see A plea for baked weblogs and More on baked blogs. First, a couple of add-on technical points: Serving pages out of flat files is even better than you think it is, because when the load gets heavy, your operating system tends to cache these pages in memory, and so if a page is getting requested steadily, the disks may not be involved at all.

Tue, 15 Mar 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Accidental Twitter Honeypot

Posted By Tim Bray

I have always-running searches for “Android sucks” and “Android rocks” that I look at a couple of times a day; I find them very useful for gauging the general zeitgeist. Anyhow, one of them accidentally has been giving me a real-time panorama of the world of Twitter spam; depressing, but impressive in its scale. Check it out.

Mon, 14 Mar 2011 19:00:00 UTC

A Year at Google

Posted By Tim Bray

March 15th is my first anniversary. When I'd been at Sun for a year I wrote how I was Angry at the Cat because I loved my work but I had to feed him before I could get online in the morning. Well, I'm OK with the cat now, but not because I'm less fully engaged. I'm not sure how this whole Google thing is going to work out but I'm glad I took the plunge. I'm not mad at that cat because he died. He's been replaced by another male cat who's not very smart and also very demanding at dawn till fed.

Sun, 13 Mar 2011 19:00:00 UTC

Fish and Baubles

Posted By Tim Bray

Lauren was having eleven knitting friends over Sunday so I took the 4½-year-old girl out for an outing. She and I both like trains and boats, so we took the Canada Line to the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay, where there's a nice little public market with things for kids to do. Public markets in the Pacific Northwest winter are fun places to take pictures, because there's not that much light coming in from outside so the merchants' stalls' lighting arrangements have a dark backdrop for dramatic effect. Without further ado, here are some of the goods on offer.

Thu, 10 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Current Dessert Snapshot

Posted By Tim Bray

It would have been better with a blue sky, but still a cheery sight. It's a little unusual that the sidewalk and lawn are deserted (while remaining desserted). [Stop that! -Ed.] It's a busy building, and also there's as often as not a party of passersby photographing themselves and the sculptures.

Wed, 09 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Between Stones

Posted By Tim Bray

I've been enjoying the reviews of the iPad 2, which seems a fine piece of work. Also smiling at the homilies on the irrelevance and hopelessness of competing products; a particularly good example is The iPad 2 Rant. I'm reminded of an old Go proverb. Go is a game in which the players take turns placing “stones”, white and black and rounded and finely finished, on a beautifully-crafted wooden board. It's not uncommon, when passions are high and the combat is hot, to slap your stone down so that the echoing wood rings out. It's not uncommon, when your opponent has played, to take a stone from your bowl and toy with it idly while you consider your response.

Mon, 07 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Birds by Heather Cash

Posted By Tim Bray

Here's a bright painting of birds on a branch entitled “Three of a Kind”, by Heather Cash. There's a story to go with it. Heather paints for fulfillment and profit too; she has a blog and an Etsy store. Lots of her paintings have birds! I haven't actually met Ms Cash. What happened was, at year-end there was an internal Google charity auction; the cause struck me as excellent and I decided to help. So I entered an item entitled “Juicy link”. I promised the winning bidder links from my blog (here it is) and Twitter stream. The charity did really rather well as Heather pounced to win a last-minute bidding flurry.

Mon, 07 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Things about Blogging

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, my manager organized an internal Google panel on blogging and asked me to join it. Other panelists were Matt Cutts, Don Dodge, and Chris Messina. Back in the day, meta-blogging was a big deal, one of the things the Internet talked about when it talked about itself. Not so much now; it's been a while since I actually thought about blogging as such, let alone held forth in public. In preparation for the event, I thought I'd jot down some helpful tips and tricks, and in no time at all I had more than twenty. I ran through them real fast in the hope of provoking some conversation – it worked – and got a laugh by saying “I guess I should write these up in a blog post”.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

2011 Crocus!

Posted By Tim Bray

I just realized that just because in 2009 I wrote “I just realized that just because in every previous year I've run an excited photo of the spring's first crocuses, that's not a reason not to run an excited photo of this spring's first crocus”, that's not a reason to run one in 2011. Anyhow, I didn't run one last year.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Playing Music Better

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in 2009 I migrated my digital music off CDs. The music lives on a Mac Pro and I play it through iTunes, digital out via USB to a high-end audio system. I've become unhappy with the setup. The biggest problem is iTunes, which I've come to loathe; but that's not all. Requirements Mine are a little unusual because I insist on storing the music losslessly; also because I don't want to send it all over the house a la Sonos. But they're also simple; I just want to point at a recording or playlist or something streaming off the Net and say “play that right now” and have it play, right then.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Impure Geometry

Posted By Tim Bray

The boy had a soccer game today down at Andy Livingston turf which is right up against Vancouver's infamous Downtown Eastside; I ended up in a parking lot down an alley that seemed to have just an unreasonable amount of geometry wherever I looked. There are at least four birds in the first picture. Last game of the season, and he says he's about had it with organized soccer. A pity, I sort of enjoyed the Soccer-Dad thing.

Fri, 04 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Barcelona Nightlife and Out

Posted By Tim Bray

I'll just tidy up the last lingering worth-showing Barcelona pix and it helps that they share an inside-after-dark theme. This is at a party, which was swanky and overdone and exclusive; despite the lighting, that's not Daft Punk on stage. The affair was mostly too complex for me; when in doubt, point a camera at it. The little Canon pocket jobbie, it usually doesn't overload, and when it does retains some grace. At that same event, this woman was sitting on a glowing cube and her dress was falling before it in lines that seemed impossibly elegant. I didn't ask her permission to take or run her picture so I guess it's just as well that it's from the elbows down.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

On Input

Posted By Tim Bray

I can't replace my computer with an Android handset or tablet, and the reason isn't power or speed or screen size or battery life. The big problem is input: getting my ideas, mostly in the form of text, into the device and onto the Net. I expect rapid progress on this front; herewith a short survey and my own proposal. Yes, It's a Problem Here's a strong claim: In this day and age, anyone who has had any success as a knowledge worker is an at-least-competent typist. And a second: None of the currently-available mobile-device input methods approach the performance of a well-built, responsive keyboard.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Letter Sweep

Posted By Tim Bray

I'd typed the first letter of some URL into the address window when I was interrupted. Looking back a moment later, I was startled at what the browser had assumed I wanted to visit. So here are my A,B,C browser guesses, which I suspect say something about me. What are yours? [A]ndroid Developers Blog. Not surprising, I edit it. [B]eilby Fine Arts; one of my PDML colleagues recently posted a “PESO” (see PDML + Twitter) here that I checked out. [C]IBC, my bank; it used to stand for “Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce”. How quaint. [D]aring Fireball. Yeah, I disagree with John's findings regularly, and he's mean-spirited about Android when he gets a chance.

Sat, 26 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Sagrada Família

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean the big Gaudí church in Barcelona, whose official name I can't not include: Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. Words are entirely inadequate to describe it, as are pictures. That isn't stopping me, but what's on offer here is a poor substitute for standing inside it with eyes wide. It was a brutal day; raining and blowing hard and not much above 10°C; a weekday too, and thus no line-ups to get in, which I gather is unusual. I remember as a kid staring for a long time at a picture (perhaps in Life magazine?) of one of its facades, which at that time was about all that was standing.

Sat, 26 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Making Money in Mobile

Posted By Tim Bray

Depending how you measure it, the mobile platform may already be the widest path from the software developer to the ordinary person. It's for sure the fastest-growing. So presumably there's some serious software money to be made here. But how, exactly? Back in the heady early days of the App Store's first rush of cash, the vision seemed clear: You crank out a wicked-cool mobile app, you fly PR people around in first-class, you rake in the dough. What could be simpler? I never believed it in the slightest. Let's go back to basics. Here are the ways I can think of to make money that involve mobile applications: App sales.

Wed, 23 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Xoom With Honeycomb

Posted By Tim Bray

I've been dogfooding one since December, through ever-so-many builds of Android 3.0. I'm way too close to this story to write what any sane person would call a “review”, but I can share some impressions. On Tablets in General A lot of big rich manufacturers sure are gearing up to ship 'em by truckloads and boatloads and trainloads; I haven't the vaguest idea how they'll sell. The iPad has proved that there is a substantial market for tablets, but we have no idea how elastic or price-sensitive or Apple-focused it is. I use the Xoom for lots of things, but my production day-to-day machine for reading mail and books and the Web remains mostly the Galaxy Tab.

Wed, 23 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Gos

Posted By Tim Bray

Which is Catalan for “dog”, and this is a blurry picture of Catalan dog. Well, I don't know for sure. The dog might be visiting from Spain or Sri Lanka, but it was solo in Barcelona. The picture may not be good, but it's a memento and makes me smile.

Mon, 21 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Restaurante

Posted By Tim Bray

Down another Barcelona alley. It's a good place to take pictures.

Sun, 20 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Palimpsest

Posted By Tim Bray

Barcelona, compared to some other Eurocities I could name, is relatively graffiti-free. Which doesn't mean pristine There were a lot of really late evenings and I can't actually remember where I shot this. Not that that matters.

Sat, 19 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Rambla Rainshine

Posted By Tim Bray

This is one of Las Ramblas, a series nice wide tree-lined Barcelona boulevards, mostly touristy now. This is a picture of it late at night, wet and uncrowded. You might want to enlarge that one for a sense of the scene.

Fri, 18 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

MWC!

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean Mobile World Congress 2011 in Barcelona, which I'm just back from. Oh. My. God. I've never seen anything like it. Four days, 49,000 mobile-biz people, a city where you start your after-dinner drinks 'round midnight. The Android presence was said by all to have been a marketing triumph, but I'm still not sure what that means. I met a couple of my heroes. Here's a photo of (part of) the booth at opening time on Day One, before anything started happening. And here are two more taken during the belly of the show; wall-to-wall madness. Several marketing people were at pains to compliment me on our efforts, which included: The booth had two levels and a slide connecting them.

Sun, 13 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Barcelona Midnight

Posted By Tim Bray

Just got in, the long haul from the Left Coast. MWC starts tomorrow and all the bank machines at the airport were empty except for the one attached to the bank, still open at 8PM on Sunday. I envisioned minions shoveling money in the back. We ate late, which is what you do here, and I was pointing the camera around as we strolled back to our digs. Ah, back on the old side of the pond.

Sat, 12 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Millions of Hovels

Posted By Tim Bray

There's a really interesting piece in the New York times about black-hat SEO, The Dirty Little Secrets of Search. Normally I'd just tweet a link, but it has this wonderful paragraph that totally captures the sad part of the Internet, the way I see it. I read it three times in a row, nodding all the while. ...the landscape of the Internet ... starts to seem like a city with a few familiar, well-kept buildings, surrounded by millions of hovels kept upright for no purpose other than the ads that are painted on their walls. I think anyone who has any reasonably-popular online property feels the truth of that statement in their gut.

Wed, 09 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Broken Links

Posted By Tim Bray

I've been getting madder and madder about the increasing use of dorky web links; for example, twitter.com/timbray has become twitter.com/#!/timbray. Others have too; see Breaking the Web with hash-bangs and Going Postel. It dawns on me that a word of explanation might be in order for those who normally don't worry about all the bits and pieces lurking inside a Web address. How It Works Suppose I point my browser at http://twitter.com/timbray. What happens is: The browser connects to twitter.com over the Internet and sends a query whose payload is the string /timbray. Twitter's server knows what /timbray means and sends back the HTML which represents my tweetstream.

Mon, 07 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

WF2: That's All, Folks

Posted By Tim Bray

[This is part of the Wide Finder 2 series.] This should be the final entry, after a couple of years of silence. The results can be read here, for as long as that address keeps working. I'm glad I launched that project, and there is follow-on news; taking effect today in fact. Conclusions This was a lot of work to demonstrate two simple findings that most of us already believed: It is possible to achieve remarkable throughput on highly parallel hardware, even for boring old-style I/O-heavy batch-processing problems. It remains unacceptably hard to achieve such performance. Whether you measure it by the number of lines of code, the obscurity of the languages and libraries you have to learn, or the number of bugs you have to fight, it's still too difficult to write concurrent application code.

Fri, 04 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Political Instability

Posted By Tim Bray

My own, I mean. I sort of thought I'd settled into a mid-life Canadian-mainstream political rut, but events have been battering me sideways. A recent political trauma occurred in January at the Churchill Club WikiLeaks event. The featured speaker was Daniel Ellsberg, a an old lion of the left, and boy was he ever convincing. I realized that I was listening to someone apparently positioned several leagues left of where I see myself, and admiring every word. Just one example: his pointing out, in terms that made anger unavoidable, the Obama administration's refusal to prosecute anyone for the widespread torture conducted by its predecessors (both direct and via extraordinary rendition, which is what they call it when you hand your political prisoners over to Arab autocracies for them to do the dirty); and simultaneous willingness to unleash the Justice Department against whistleblowers and leakers.

Wed, 02 Feb 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Android Constructors

Posted By Tim Bray

At the Honeycomb event today, I was immensely pleased to hear both Andy Rubin and Chris Yerga shout-out to the engineers; Andy followed up on Twitter. I just wanted to say that I've been in this business coming up on three decades, and had the pleasure of working with many software legends. The Android platform team is the most accomplished I've ever been close to. Not just by a little bit, either.

Fri, 28 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Downtown

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean in the Manhattan sense; I was there Tuesday and having an hour to spare went for a walk, ending up at the South Street Seaport, from whence this picture. This is once again the remarkable Canon S90 at work. I'll be honest, the picture doesn't quite capture the way the tower lights looked to me; the contrast had less drama, the play of light and dark more subtlety.

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Frozen Family

Posted By Tim Bray

We spent this last Christmas in Saskatchewan, which is flat, and so we went to a part that wasn't to have very cold fun. In Regina, there's a man-made lake, and they had to put the dirt they dug out for it somewhere, and quite a lot went into hill in the Wascana Centre, which isn't all that high and you can drive to the top of, but everything's relative and it sure feels high when you're standing on top of it. High, and on December 24th at -15°C with a breeze, really cold. I photographed my twin nieces Anne and Elizabeth up there; Elizabeth explains “I was trying to smile but it was too cold”.

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Tab Sweep – Technology

Posted By Tim Bray

I see lots of things online that I'd like to share. Often I do that via Twitter, but inevitably the number of browser tabs climbs, each representing something that I feel is owed further thought or attention. This is that. The only organizing principle is that these notes are tech-centric; It should be unsurprising that some go back months. Think Like The Web Most good startups and even quite a few enterprises have sort of figured out which way the Web's grain runs and how to avoid cutting across it. But I still see people and organizations being foolish in their obliviousness to how things work round here.

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Tab Sweep – The World

Posted By Tim Bray

Herewith notes provoked by certain long-lived browser tabs not primarily focused on technology or the Net. Considerably random. Still Warming In the great debates of this or any day, you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. And in the debate around anthropocentric global warming, the facts are not, among reasonable people, still in question: Climate change and evolution, from The Economist, not only slam-dunks the data, but continues with an instructive lesson on how it is that we come to believe things via a nice analogy with evolution; something that a notable contingent of airheads also fails to believe in.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Unfriending

Posted By Tim Bray

I've never really got much out of Facebook. Quite likely because I've been Doing It Wrong; so I'm trying to fix that. What happened was, I got on Facebook back in 2007; in the early days I accepted friend requests from almost anyone and in particular anyone who worked at Sun. This turned out to be a bad idea; every time I stuck my head in there, all these people I didn't know were shouting and poking and tagging, and I kept getting messages from strangers asking me to become their fans. So, I've decided to try to make it work.

Sun, 16 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Anniversaries & Ideologies

Posted By Tim Bray

I took my little girl to the Sunday toddler drop-in at the local community center and thought about this weekend's birthdays: Wikipedia's tenth and the IETF's twenty-fifth. The drop-in is a lifesaver when you've got a bored pre-schooler and lousy weekend weather. They've got a gym with various kind of trikes and ride-ons and climb-ons and balls; across the hall a playroom with a model kitchen; for $3.75 your kid gets quality entertainment and very decent snacks. In my mind, it's in the same category as Wikipedia and the IETF: something created by the public for the public. The lone-inventor narrative captures imaginations and makes for a hell of a story; and I guess there've been some.

Fri, 14 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Upcoming Gig: MWC

Posted By Tim Bray

That stands for Mobile World Congress, right around Valentine's Day, in Barcelona. A whole tribe of Androiders are going, and the mock-up of our booth is boggling minds all over the 'plex. Barcelona, baby, and the global mobile maelstrom; what's not to like?

Wed, 12 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Stuck in the Ceiling

Posted By Tim Bray

Just a picture I shot while walking around San Francisco not too long ago. One of these years maybe I'll start planning my pictures.

Wed, 12 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Ukulele Orchestra

Posted By Tim Bray

To be precise, Children's Ukulele Orchestra. I was out at Vancouver airport sometime around Christmas and they were performing and were not bad at all. The menacing part at the left is part of Bill Reid's Jade Canoe which is remarkably beautiful and, at Vancouver Airport, a plaything for toddlers and oldsters and ukulele orchestras.

Sun, 09 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Obese Pipes

Posted By Tim Bray

Jim Gettys has been demonstrating the seriousness of the “buffer bloat” problem; see Home Router Puzzle Piece Two – Fun with wireless, and The criminal mastermind: bufferbloat! This is mostly just to draw your attention to Jim's work, because you can probably improve your own Internet experience by acting on his advice; but have I have a related gripe of my own. As Jim points out, old guys like he and I can remember a time when the Internet used slower connections but felt faster. The good news is that it can probably feel faster again, if certain ISPs and network-hardware engineers stop the bufferbloat abuse.

Sun, 09 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

What Kind of Mother?

Posted By Tim Bray

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior by Amy Chua went through the Internet hive mind today like a hot knife through butter. I have some direct personal experience of these issues. Other Voices But before I get into that, I should link to some of the remarkably intense and wide-ranging reactions to Ms Chua; I liked the pieces from Christine Lu, Betty Ming Liu, and the MetaFilter community. We can draw a couple of conclusions right away: First, Ms Chua is serious and this isn't, as some speculated, a work of satire. However, the piece may be to some extent troll-flavored linkbait for her upcoming book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Sat, 01 Jan 2011 20:00:00 UTC

Bacchus, Golden

Posted By Tim Bray

On the last day of 2010 we drove 976km from Calgary to Vancouver. Along the way we stopped in Golden, BC for coffee and muffins at Bacchus Books & Cafe, which I totally recommend if you're there, and it's got me thinking about the future (if any) of physical-media retail. But first, a quick sidebar: No, that's not a misprint, and it's actually worse than that; the day before we'd gone 760km from Regina, where my family had gathered for Christmas, to Calgary. We gather because we enjoy each other and we travel because we're scattered across the country. This time my branch of the family chose on impulse to drive because we could and because the airfares were stupid and because Western Canada is awesomely beautiful, particularly in winter.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

How To Dash

Posted By Tim Bray

I was reading What If Israel Ceases to Be a Democracy? by Jeffrey Goldberg over at The Atlantic site. It's forceful, worrying, and short; I encourage you to read it too. But this isn't about that; it's about an appalling typographical botch and how you can avoid making it. Let me quote Goldberg's opening words: “Is it actually possible that one day Israelis -- Jewish Israelis -- would choose to give up democracy...” What's wrong with this picture? Well, those amateurish hyphens. Goldberg is trying to achieve a perfectly reasonable typographical effect and his production/editorial staff at The Atlantic are letting him down awfully.

Wed, 29 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

No More Fear

Posted By Tim Bray

Here's the country I want to be a citizen of: the one that decides to buy comfort and convenience by deploying courage. 9/11 We're coming up on the tenth anniversary, and can we just get over our sustained episode of collective chickenshittedness? As Bruce Schneier has pointed out repeatedly, terrorists post-9/11 have lost the ability to use planes as weapons, for two reasons: The cockpit doors are strengthened and locked. The passengers have learned that fighting is their best option; butter-knives against machine guns if that's all there is. All the extra scanners and pat-downs and machines and line-ups are buying us, unless all the experts I read are wrong, more or less nothing.

Tue, 28 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Year-end View of the Mobile Market

Posted By Tim Bray

It's that time of year; looks backward and forward are expected. In point of fact this is a lousy time to be prognosticating about the mobile space, because we're only days from CES and weeks from MWC, both of which will have tons of announcements, some of which might even be game-changers. But here's my overview. At this point I should emphasize once again that nothing I say represents what Google thinks, and further, that I am not in the Android strategy loop where Google executives think these kinds of thoughts. Here are a few things that seem obvious: The insanely-high volume of mobile-device sales isn't going to ease off any time soon.

Tue, 21 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Twitter ProTip: Less Is More

Posted By Tim Bray

I was looking at Twitter's lists of important and memorable Tweets, and spotted an obvious pattern: They're short. Back when I was first getting into this, I used to have fun crafting tweets that occupied exactly 140 characters. That got boring pretty quick, and then I noticed that Twitter's at its most fun when you get a bunch of people quoting and excerpting each other; and for that to work you need some room in the upstream tweets.

Tue, 21 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Keynote ProTip: Two Start Slides

Posted By Tim Bray

Here's a really small hyper-detailed recommendation: If you're using Apple's Keynote for presentations, make two copies of your opening title slide. I do quite a few public-speaking engagements. I prefer, when possible, to use Apple's Keynote package; one reason is its superb presenter display; the idea is that when you're presenting on the projector, your laptop has a handy display showing the current slide, the next slide, your notes to the slide, and the elapsed time you've been speaking. (I gather that other presentation packages now have cool presenter displays as well.) Anyhow, the central issue here is the time display.

Fri, 17 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Sufficiencies

Posted By Tim Bray

I carry around, in various combinations, two cameras, one computer, and two or more Android devices. They have some important things in common. Storage They all have enough. Both my Pentax SLR and my Canon point-&-shoot have SD cards that are, uh, I forget, a few gig, which is to say, I unload them before leaving on a major trip or once a month whether they need it or not. My MacBook has a hundred-and-something-gig SSD and I just drop whatever on it without thinking. My Android devices have various combinations of SD cards and internal storage and I install whatever comes across the radar, plus I load up endless hours of music, no problem.

Sun, 12 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

5¿¿: Broken English

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a 1979 recording by Marianne Faithfull, of whom many won't have heard. If it doesn't wrench your soul well then you don't have one. (𔄝¿¿” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) The Context What happened was, I just finished the months-long task of listening to my entire collection of LPs, deciding what to keep and what to sell. The months were full of pleasure; certain black disks stood out above the crowd and I'm hoping to write a few more of these. But Broken English hit me the hardest; it wasn't even close.

Sat, 11 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Phones and Soldiers

Posted By Tim Bray

I found myself nodding my head reading Jon Oltsik's Apple and Google Make the Department of Defense Jump Through Hoops for Mobile Device Security, a story that broke Thursday. Summary: US spies and soldiers, just like everyone else, want to carry iPhones and Androids. The Department of Defense (DoD) wants them to be secure. But DoD is frustrated because they're having trouble getting Apple and Google to prioritize their needs. It turns out that I have personal experience with this little logjam. But first, some background. DISA That stands for Defense Information Systems Agency, which provides systems and coordination, and sets standards, across many of the organizations in America's huge military and intelligence community.

Sun, 05 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

WikiLeaks

Posted By Tim Bray

I think the outpouring of words from every imaginable source on the WikiLeaks story is perfectly appropriate. These are important, complex issues and we're not close to consensus, or even a shared perception of what the issues are. The complexity and nuance hasn't in the slightest stopped me getting angrier and angrier with every day this story unfolds. Short Form Here's a sound bite I can sign up for, from Simon Phipps: “Wikileaks is like Pirate Bay; something that I don't like but have to defend because of the collateral damage caused by attacking it.” Unlike Simon, there are quite a few things I like about WikiLeaks; but even where it's open to criticism, its sins pale beside those of the rabble of wastrels, guttersnipes, nincompoops, and cowards lined up against them.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Nexus S with Gingerbread

Posted By Tim Bray

I've been carrying the new thing around for a few weeks now, and had fun taking pictures of it. It's worth noting that I'm transitioning from a Nexus One; I haven't really had any hands-on with the big new Evos and so on from HTC or Superdroids from Motorola; so I can't compare it to any of those. The “S” in the name is I think a reference to Samsung's Galaxy S line, which this shares a lot of tech and specs with. Hardware The new Nexus is sleek and graceful and manages not to look in the slightest like any Apple product.

Wed, 01 Dec 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Smart Talk

Posted By Tim Bray

I did some unavoidable driving-around today and tuned in, as I do from time to time, the sports station, which was discussing the evening-to-be's hockey game. Because while I am not what anyone would call a real fan, I am an admirer of serious, respectful, grown-up discourse. The afternoon warm-up show for the game proceeds at a measured pace, a leisurely flow of conversations with sportswriters and broadcasters, both here and from the opposing team's hometown. It's friendly. Voices are not raised. Jokes are made. It's also remarkably, you know, intelligent. They will spend ten or fifteen minutes in a row deep-diving on the subtleties of the Vancouver power play (hockey jargon for that period when your opponent is being penalized and you have a numerical advantage), or what trading strategies Calgary might deploy to enhance its not-terribly-good-I-gather chances of making the playoffs with the current line-up.

Sun, 28 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

SAD Therapy

Posted By Tim Bray

Maybe this is a lousy autumn, or maybe my tolerance for light starvation is ebbing as I age, but I seem to be working up an early case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, inflicting dark moods on my loved ones in a rhythm that echoes that of the storms and rain. One palliative is to look at birds and flowers. This can be accomplished near my place in Vancouver with a visit to the Bloedel Floral Conservatory. It nestles at the summit of a big hill called Little Mountain, geodesic among the evergreens, which is to say totally Riven-esque when you see it from below.

Wed, 24 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Bright Early Winter

Posted By Tim Bray

It was a brutally cold Sunday in November, getting close to record-setting territory. I wanted to stay inside, but then the sun came out. Once it was possible to go out it was necessary; the four-year-old had been cooped up all day and some running-around in the fresh air was clearly going to benefit everyone's sanity. So she got to play in the snow and I got to take pictures in the sudden sideways light. A couple of 'em deserve enlarging.

Tue, 23 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

A–1 Cycle

Posted By Tim Bray

I was walking down Main Street and there was a gentleman repainting on a ladder.

Sun, 21 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

LPs For Sale

Posted By Tim Bray

Eighty-three, to be precise, most containing superb music. What happened was, last year I ripped a thousand or so CDs. Shortly thereafter, I rediscovered the pleasures of vinyl. So I went through my whole LP collection end to end, with the objective of classifying them into three buckets: Records to throw out because they're horribly scratched. Records which are duplicated in digital form or I just don't like. Records to cherish and keep. I did keep a few duplicates just because I cherish the music so much or the album art is great. But now I want to dispose of the 83 records in bucket #2.

Tue, 16 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Santiago Lights

Posted By Tim Bray

Three photographs of Santiago de Chile by night from a hotel rooftop. I've seen lots of night-time cities and when I pulled these up on the computer I assumed they'd be throw-aways. But they looked different from any other city lights I've shot at and I kept going back to them, finding Santiago oddly graceful for reasons I can't express well; I may blow a few up on big pieces of paper to post on a wall for a while. They're not exactly true-to-life, I cranked the color saturation a little and the exposure quite a bit, but I think I was making the city look the way it really does only more so.

Sun, 14 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

What Android Is

Posted By Tim Bray

Being an illustrated run through the basics. What happened was, for our recent South American tour I wanted an Android architecture overview graphic. I ran across, among the Android SDK documentation, a page entitled What is Android?, and it's perfectly OK. Except for, I really disliked the picture – on purely aesthetic grounds, just not my kind of lettering and gradients and layouts – so I decided to make another one. I thought I'd run it here and, since I've been spending a lot of time recently explaining What Android Is to people, I thought I'd provide my version of that as well, in narrative rather than point form.

Sat, 13 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Phone Marketing

Posted By Tim Bray

On Friday, in our newspaper there was a glossy eight-page flyer from Bell Canada, one of Canada's big three telephone companies; it's a very mainstream outfit that nobody would ever accuse of being on the leading or any other edge. I found its contents instructive, and suspect that similar things are showing up in weekend papers around the world. The front page mentioned no products by name, but had a nice glossy picture of a Blackberry, a Samsung Galaxy S, and a Galaxy Tab. On the back page was iPhone 4: “This changes everything. Again”, no price mentioned. On the intervening pages we find ads for (I'll include the with-3-year-plan and no-plan prices in Canadian dollars, which this month are about the same as the US variety): HTC Desire Z, “Super-fast Android” ($129/$499).

Thu, 11 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Tiramisú

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, we'd done a Google DevFest all day, dealing with crowd overflows and balky Internet connectivity and covering too many sessions with too few speakers in a hot room with not much ventilation. After, Fumi and David and I climbed out of the taxi by our hotel in the financial-as-in-boring part of town (although the name of the street is pretty wonderful: Avenida Isidora Goyenechea). I spotted some sort of patio with awnings and trees and said “Let's have a drink”, so we found ourselves settled at Tiramisú which is called a pizzeria on some maps, but has higher aspirations.

Tue, 09 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone

Posted By Tim Bray

There are no whales; but my Twitter account has been inoperative for the last 4 hours or so, via any and all clients. The earth's background hum has suddenly fallen silent. I'm a river-of-news person on Twitter; I follow lots of people and often ignore it for hours and never worry what I might have missed, because if it's important it'll find me. But I miss you all, to a degree that shocks me.

Tue, 09 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Graven Images

Posted By Tim Bray

San Cristóbal hill (Cerro San Cristóbal) rises 300m above Santiago, Chile. On the hill are a park, a zoo, a Japanese garden, and some really great views when it's not too polluted, but the summit is about that old-time religion, in this case Catholic. Pope John Paul II rode the funicular to the top and gave a mass, in 1987. I rode it last week, along with some French hipster tourists, in the car with the best view, which still has a plaque about John Paul. I'm not inclined to belief in the supernatural, but if I were, Catholicism would not be my religion of choice; the whole thing seems not only patently unbelievable but more than a little creepy, starting with the sharp-dressing Bavarian at the top; and then there are things like this.

Sun, 07 Nov 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Orchestral Reflections

Posted By Tim Bray

As previously related, I traveled last week from Montevideo to Buenos Aires on a bus/ferry combo operated by Buquebus. Here are a couple of pictures from the ferry terminal. The bus/ferry change-over is at Colonia Del Sacramento, a Uruguayan tourist spot, but I was too tired and queasy to tourist, so I just waited at the terminal for an hour. Also along on the trip was an orchestra; a glimpse of an envelope in someone's hand revealed it had “Bach” in the name, so I suspect I would have enjoyed their music. Here are a few of them. The building itself was architecturally interesting but rough-edged; I couldn't decide whether it was unfinished or showing its age.

Sat, 06 Nov 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Turismo

Posted By Tim Bray

During the ten days centered more or less around Hallowe'en, I (in the company of my Google colleagues) visited four countries in South America. This is not the way to do it. But still, fun was had. Here are a few superficial yes-I-was-there photographs. Amazonia Flights from Canada to Brazil are overnighters; long overnighters. I got some sleep, and when I woke up the plane's map read-out claimed that we were more or less at the equator and over the Amazon. I don't really expect I'll have many chances in this lifetime to photograph it, so I'm going to run one picture even if it's full of glare and airplane-window artifacts.

Tue, 02 Nov 2010 19:00:00 UTC

First-Person Shooter

Posted By Tim Bray

So, I'm sitting with Mike Pegg here at our Google DevFest venue in Buenos Aires (by the way, in the Puerto Madera campus of the Universidad Católica Argentina, which is a lovely place). This guy who's attending the event walks up to us and says in a pained voice “Damn, Apple just called and told me they'd taken my app down. This is awful!” Mike and I were a little taken aback; the guy just stood there, so eventually I asked “Uh, what did it do?” “Oh, just a little AR thing. They took months and months to approve it and now they've taken it down!” “Yeah, but what did it do?” “Oh, it overlaid this realistic-looking rifle on the on the camera view, you could point it at people and shoot them.” And with that he walked off.

Sat, 30 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Three Mobile-Software Rules

Posted By Tim Bray

These days, I spend quite a bit of time talking about how to write software for Android. I think three of the general rules are worth expanding on here because I'm increasingly convinced they apply to software in general, not just for mobile devices. Crash-Only An Android app doesn't need exit code. You have callbacks for when you start up, when you become active, and for when some other app takes your place and pushes you aside; the latter two will typically be called repeatedly as the phone's owner switches back and forth between apps. But there's no need for exit code because the system can, and does, nuke your process any time you're not active and it needs the memory.

Sat, 30 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

No More Users

Posted By Tim Bray

I just wrote a little piece about how to write software, and it contained a few references to the humans who carry the mobile devices on which the software runs, and who interact with it. I found myself referring to these individuals as “users” or “the user”. Gack; I hate that word. In fact, I hate it almost as much as the word “content” which, in the Internet-biz context means “Words and pictures and sounds that you create and I monetize.” Anyone who uses the acronym UGC in my presence should prepare for a nasty reaction. Adding to my discomfort with the term “user” is that I now work in the mobile space; mobile devices are extremely personal computers, and using faceless terms for the people we are trying to serve just feels all wrong.

Sat, 23 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

A Week From Hallowe'en

Posted By Tim Bray

On October 31st, I shall wake up in Montevideo and go to sleep in Buenos Aires, which is to say away from my children; and I regret it keenly. So we bought pumpkins early and carved 'em today; maybe the pictures will help get you in the mood. The jack-o-lantern above is for and somewhat by my four-year-old daughter. Her instructions were approximate: “Big teeth!” But she seems to like my interpretation. The lower offering is from my 11-year-old son, who had selected his pumpkin by a simple metric: Largest he could carry. His first instinct was to search Google for interesting designs, which I thought deeply wrong.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

End of the Light

Posted By Tim Bray

This last couple of October weeks, since I got off the road, have been eerily beautiful here in Vancouver, tons of sun and still lots of green on many trees, while others send cascades of red and yellow twirling through rays which are increasingly coming from near the horizon. Well, and reflecting off the asphalt too. Capture memories and save them; that's what they tell parents of sick kids who aren't going to get well. Sort of like every summer, failing round about now up here at 50°N in the Pacific Northwest.

Sun, 17 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Hogtown

Posted By Tim Bray

See all those building blocks left of centre? There's really a whole lot of money there. Having said that, I mean no disrespect. I've lived in Toronto and been happy; if some happenstance forced me back to Eastern Time, it'd be among my top choices.

Sun, 17 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Fogtown

Posted By Tim Bray

Read the streetsign if it's not obvious where this is. That's the Bay Bridge, the one William Gibson wrote those nice stories about life on, life after the Big One hits the Bay Area. Early morning; the photo omits the street people sleeping end-to-end on the sidewalks; also the Porsches parked alongside.

Sun, 17 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

The Joy of Nerf

Posted By Tim Bray

When I was a kid, my parents, being progressive forward-thinking types, wouldn't buy me toy guns. My grandmother was untroubled by such scruples and gave me a huge, shiny, cap-firin' six-shooter. We do things differently now. Whenever you indulge in gender stereotyping, you're apt to be wrong; having acknowledged that, it seems to me that little boys' urge to fire things at each other is part of them, as much as their knees or noses. At some early birthday party my son, now 11, got a Nerf gun; now he has a substantial collection. There may be some who don't know about these large brightly-colored plastic objects, which shoot little soft-tipped nerf darts with remarkable zip and accuracy.

Tue, 12 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

October in Montevideo

Posted By Tim Bray

I'm going to be at RubyConf Uruguay at the end of this month; there are surprises. What happened was, I tweeted about the upcoming Latin-America Googlers' road trip, which includes a Developer Day in São Paulo on Oct 29th, and a DevFest in Buenos Aires on November 2nd. The RubyConf organizers pinged me, saying “our event is the 29th and 30th and we're in between São Paulo and Buenos Aires, could you come by?” I was delighted to accept; sounded like pure fun. I assumed I'd probably be the only gringo on the scene, and wondered what they might expect a visitor from Ruby's home hemisphere to say.

Tue, 12 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Referral Information Loss

Posted By Tim Bray

Late Sunday I published Ten Theses on Tablets; it picked up a few high-profile links and referrals and went mildly viral and as of now has been read (in a browser as opposed to a feed reader) 13,911 times. Who do you think might have sent those people? I wondered that myself, so I ran my referers script, and was a little puzzled because there were a few from Hacker News and TechMeme, but not that many. I dug a little deeper and, as of now, 11,721 of those fetches had an empty “referer” field in the log-file. Who do you think might have sent those people?

Sat, 09 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Ten Theses on Tablets

Posted By Tim Bray

As of now, I've been carrying the Samsung Galaxy Tab for a month, using it every day; this has included two major road trips. I suppose there are a few other humans who've had this much hands-on with a 7" form-factor tablet, but I don't know of any others with a blog and a free hand to write what they think. My experience with an iPad is much less, but non-zero. Also, anyone who hangs out in cafés in Pacific time and scores upgrades on a few international flights has lots of chances for iPad field observation. (Early finding: On airplanes, iPads are used for reading magazines and playing lightweight games.)

Thu, 07 Oct 2010 19:00:00 UTC

The Robot Road

Posted By Tim Bray

In an epic travel-planning failure, during the last 14 days I've found myself in Tokyo and then Århus, Denmark, to talk in public, mostly about Android, but mostly really to learn things. Here are some of them. The Tab As in Samsung Galaxy Tab, of course. I've found it to be a fine road machine, suitable for listening to hours of music on long plane flights, drawing you-are-here maps of strange cities, staying on top of email, and even doing some emergency short-form writing on a high-priority internal document. But at this point in history its primary use is starting conversations.

Thu, 30 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

MOA

Posted By Tim Bray

This fashionable suggestive-of-NY trigram is the new handle the UBC Museum of Anthropology would like to be known by. Well, I guess two syllables is better than twelve. When people coming to Vancouver ask what they should, the list I offer depends on what kind of person is asking, but it always includes MOA. Here are some pictures. Usually I don't take pictures in museums, because I like to take pictures of the unexpected. But the light was really good when we took the kids there the other day and I couldn't resist. Did I say we took the kids?

Thu, 30 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Other Tokyo

Posted By Tim Bray

Tokyo is one of the most glamorous and intense places in the world. I've photographed it a lot, and my pictures tend to reflect that. But on returning from my most recent trip, along with the usual stuff, there were some distinctly unglamorous photos. Not that good; but I thought they told interesting stories. A building being demolished from inside. Look close and see the guy standing on the edge with the hose. Late night on the subway platform. Busy busy busy! Somewhere in Roppongi.

Sun, 26 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Those Skies Again

Posted By Tim Bray

This past August, as we do most years, we visited relatives in Saskatchewan and spent some time out in the country. As always, I took pictures; here are ten of them. As always, many of the pictures are of the sky, because it's just not like anywhere else. I try to avoid one particular Saskatchewan cliché, because it's saddening: namely, the emptying countryside. The traditional family farm is simply no longer viable, so the population thins as they're sold out, put together, and operated in packages of ten thousand acres or more. Most people, given the choice, would rather live in town anyhow.

Sun, 26 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

On Books

Posted By Tim Bray

Until this month, I'd never even glanced at an e-book. Now I've read three and can't stop thinking about where this is going. The Story Thus Far It was the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Stieg Larsson that pushed me over the edge. I was on a road-trip and too tired one free evening to even think of going out. Also, on my last long airplane leg I'd read the first book in Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, enjoying his agile high-velocity plotsmanship even while my suspension-of-disbelief wavered; who know Sweden had so much bad craziness? So I decided to read the other Millennium books without visiting a bookstore.

Sat, 25 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Mobile in Mainz

Posted By Tim Bray

That would be MobileTech, a conference earlier this month in Mainz, a city near Frankfurt, famous for the Gutenberg legacy and not much else. Since I didn't get to the Gutenberg museum, and since Mainz looks like any other mid-sized city in the middle of Germany, there's not much by way of atmospheric photography. Well, the clouds at dawn as we descended over Europe were pretty. Take-aways This was my first pure-mobile event since joining the implacable Android army, so you can bet I was all ears, and probably as free of preconceptions as I'll ever be in this job. What struck me was: The German developer community isn't very religious; neither the iOS nor Android sessions were significantly busier.

Sun, 19 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

On Bacon

Posted By Tim Bray

Not only is it popular around the globe, it has for some reason special cultural weight among geeks. I cook some for my family most Sunday mornings. Have done for years, and only recently have I started getting consistently good results; so maybe sharing my experience will be useful. The Bacon If you buy it shrink-wrapped from the supermarket, you're very unlikely to have a memorable experience. You'll get something which is waterlogged, sliced way too thin, and doubtless loaded up with nitrites, which keep the product from going grey while it sits unloved on the supermarket shelves. You need to find a real butcher who will slice your bacon extra thick while you wait, within a day or two of when you're going to eat it.

Sat, 18 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

No Poaching?

Posted By Tim Bray

Today I see in Slashdot a suggestion that there's some sort of a no-poaching agreement among big Silly-Valley tech companies. I'd never heard of such a thing until, by chance, yesterday. I was flying from San Francisco to Vancouver and was talking to the guy in the next seat (it's remarkable what a conversation piece the Galaxy Tab is). He said he worked in Microsoft's Valley office and at some point in the conversation told me that you couldn't jump either way between, specifically, Microsoft and Apple; that if you were talking to a recruiter from the one, they'd drop you if you came from the other.

Fri, 10 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Tab In My Pocket

Posted By Tim Bray

Friday afternoon, Fedex brought me my Samsung Galaxy Tab, and from here on in let's just say “Tab”, which I predict everyone will and may represent mad product-naming skillz from Samsung. Since then it's been in my pocket and living room. Meta I'm going to update this as I go along, inside this piece. You can track changes, if you care, with a feed reader or on my tweetstream. I believe that what I have is production hardware, but know for sure it's not production software. So I'm going to try to be careful to discuss things that aren't likely to change as the software converges.

Tue, 07 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Nexus One PUK Unlock

Posted By Tim Bray

Unless you found this article using a search engine, which means you're probably having the same problem I did, you're very unlikely to be interested in its solution, so you can stop reading now and get on with your life. Certain SIM cards have to be unlocked by typing in a PIN every time you turn your phone on. For example, the Fonic SIM I'm using here in Germany. If you type the PIN in wrong three times, you get put into “PUK lock” to get out of it, you have to type in the much longer “PUK code”, which is printed on the carrier the SIM card came in.

Thu, 02 Sep 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Galaxy Tab

Posted By Tim Bray

So, there's a new kind of Android device in the world. The world still isn't sure just where it is that tablets are the right tool for the job. That granted, this is a nifty product. And I'm developing my own theory of what tablets are for. My impressions are based on a couple hours playing with one, which at this point is a couple hours more than almost anyone else. The model I played was not quite production – among other things, the product name stenciled on the back wasn't “Galaxy Tab” – but close. I won't have one on next week's trip to Mainz for MobileTech, but I'm pretty sure I'll be able to take one along to GDD Tokyo and JAOO in Aarhus, Denmark.

Tue, 31 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

A Story of O

Posted By Tim Bray

In recent days I've been thinking of JavaOne, as we kicked it around and decided we just couldn't send speakers; and of Oracle OpenWorld, to which JavaOne will now serve as an appendage. It reminded me of a conversation I had last year about Oracle. The conversation involved myself and a person with a convincing title who, as they'd say in the paper, was “familiar with the situation”. My question was: “OpenWorld is this totally all-about-business conference. The Oracle Develop meeting is just a second-rate sidebar. Where does Oracle go about building developer mindshare?” I'll try to reproduce the answer in full as best as I can remember it: “You don't get it.

Tue, 31 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

CL XIV: Bad Animals

Posted By Tim Bray

Only some of the animals are bad. Most of the photos are; but with redeeming features. Cottage life inevitably involves wildlife and thus danger. On the last morning of our last summer family cottage weekend, I strolled onto the deck in just-outta-bed mode to consider the unique morning air and light and ocean. Something chittered at me and I turned to confront a squirrel who was staring me behind the eyes. He was just adorably cute in his silky little stripes and tufty little tail. Rodents' nervous systems are different from yours and mine; they appear to teleport from wherever they are to somewhere else, be it inches or feet, without any movement of limbs or intervening stages.

Sat, 28 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Tethering

Posted By Tim Bray

I travel quite a bit, and I have found that the “tethering & portable hotspot” facility in Android 2.2 is just absolutely wonderful. It has saved me considerable money and got me reasonably-good connectivity in places I wouldn't otherwise have had it; I'm looking at you, big-name US hotel chains. When I heard that telephone companies were charging extra for this, I couldn't figure out how they were doing it; without considerable deep-packet inspection, how can you tell that there are other computers gatewaying through my Nexus One, which in fact seems to hotspot just fine on certain networks that are said to charge extra?

Sat, 28 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Late But Essential Review

Posted By Tim Bray

I read Michael Lewis' The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine months ago, and have been feeling guilty about not recommending it, because this material is sort of essential for anyone who would like to understand how our economy ended up in the toilet. Read on, not just for a (spoiler: positive) review, but for potentially time- and money-saving advice. Sidebar: Michael Lewis I should disclose that I'm a hopeless Michael Lewis fan; in my review of Moneyball I wrote “I suspect there may not be a greater living writer of reportorial non-fiction” and yes, I still suspect that. So you could either use my admitted bias to discount this review, or alternately join the club and next time you see a Lewis book in the airport bookstore, just grab it.

Mon, 23 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Late Summer Tech Tab Sweep

Posted By Tim Bray

Some of these puppies have been keeping a browser tab open since April. No theme; ranging on the geekiness scale from extreme to mostly-sociology. People First, the good news. There's real demand for senior people in our trade. Simon Phipps, who got me the job at Sun and whose opinions I pay careful attention to even when I disagree, has a new gig at ForgeRock, where they're trying to build a sensible profitable business around open-source principles and some damn good technology that Oracle was too stupid to get behind. Also, my long-time compatriot Dave Orchard just started looking for a gig; we had coffee the other day and he's fielding some super-interesting offers.

Tue, 17 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

CL XIII: Carpentry

Posted By Tim Bray

Most people who have a cottage which isn't a mini-mansion spend a lot of their cottage life maintaining and improving it. This can be a little stressful to those like me who are more or less entirely without home-improvement skills. I dunno why I never got the bug. I do like the idea of being a builder, but I can't make a nail or a saw proceed in a straight line very well, and I find that things that are supposed to fit together don't, and once together can't be made to come apart as expected, and the whole thing involves a lot of pain and swearing and small precious pieces that fall on the floor and roll under immovably-heavy objects.

Sun, 15 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Opaque Visual Remnants

Posted By Tim Bray

I've been so busy at work this last little while, I still take lots of pictures but don't have time to run that many. I was glancing back over the library and pulled out a few to publish for my pleasure and I hope yours. These have in common that they're sort of opaque; in the range from non-self-explanatory to mysterious. The above opaque piece of marine architecture is located just offshore of Vancouver's shiny new convention centre. Maybe a former helipad? The above opaque piece of marine architecture is located just off the premises of Barnabas Family Ministries, a very nice church-run retreat/camp establishment located on Keats Island just around the corner from our cottage.

Fri, 13 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Nazis in a Teapot

Posted By Tim Bray

Last Thursday evening Michael Gartenberg, who's a smart analyst, and blogger, tweeted that he'd searched for “Jewish” in Android Market and came up with some Nazi trash. Sure enough, he was right. The moron who was selling a “Hitler theme” and other related junk had used “jewish” and “jews” as keywords. Mind you, this crap was like five screens down, you really had to be working to see it. Anyhow, Android Market has pretty clear-cut policies about this kind of thing and someone filed a takedown request in the right place, and now that stuff is gone. The next morning Mr.

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Small Airport Victories

Posted By Tim Bray

Two of them in the last couple of days, both courtesy of having the Internet in my pocket. SFO Win I was traveling home Wednesday evening and at 7PM found myself in the United lounge at San Francisco airport, wanting to videoconference into an internal meeting, one I really didn't want to miss. (At 7PM in this case because we needed some folks across the Pacific on board). The problem was that I needed to be not only online but on Google's VPN; you can buy airport WiFi from T-Mobile but the price is exorbitant and the quality only so-so. T-Mobile's 3G coverage, on the other hand, is very solid around SFO.

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Galaxy

Posted By Tim Bray

That's what Samsung is calling their Android phones, the latest wave of which is getting reviewed all over the place. I've seen a few of 'em at Android HQ, and no doubt about it, they're nice; but so are the other recent Androids. What I'm astounded by is Samsung's marketing virtuosity; they've managed to line up every big mobile telecom I've ever heard of, all over the world, to carry one of these devices. I don't recall ever seeing anything like it from any handset maker. I wonder how it's done?

Mon, 09 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Upcoming Gig – JAOO

Posted By Tim Bray

I don't know what the acronym stands for, but JAOO 2010 is in Aarhus, a place I've never been to in Denmark; Oct 4-6. It's a popular event and I'm honored to be among the speakers. What happened was, before I started at Google, they invited me to come and talk about my Doing It Wrong piece, which I regard as summing up my years at Sun. After I joined Google, I wrote back and asked “Can I talk about Android too?” so I'll be speaking twice on successive days. Observant readers will note that this is the week after I speak in Tokyo; which has to constitute a major travel-planning failure.

Mon, 09 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Upcoming Gig – GDD Tokyo

Posted By Tim Bray

GDD stands for Google Developer Day; since not everyone can come to Google I/O, we take I/O on the road to various points in several continents and both hemispheres. GDD Tokyo, on September 28th, is 2010's first; I'll be helping out there talking Android in the keynote. I assume the Tokyo Googlers will find something else useful to do while I'm there. Regular readers here know that I have a special relationship with Tokyo – can't wait to be back.

Mon, 09 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Upcoming Gig – Mobile Tech

Posted By Tim Bray

That's MobileTech Conference in full, a new conference in Mainz, about which I know nothing except for it's near Frankfurt. It's by the same people who do the well-known “JAX” conference series all over Germany. September 6-8; notable for being my first keynote appearance on behalf of my new Android day job.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

CL XII: Far Away

Posted By Tim Bray

The primary recreational activity in our cottage life isn't boating or hiking or swimming or any of those undoubtedly worthy and improving pastimes; it's leaning back in a comfy chair on the deck admiring the view, frequently through a camera with a great big chunk of glass on the front, with a refreshing drink (this can range from a stiff G&T to a nice cuppa T). In this series, the tool is the big Tokina, the subject is faraway mountains, and the drink is Quail's Gate Rosé, which works just fine with those mountains and that lens. The effect you get, when shooting through several kilometres of air with a fixed-focal-length 400mm lens, is sort of hazy and ethereal and I like it a lot.

Wed, 04 Aug 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Unserious About Security

Posted By Tim Bray

Our devices all touch the Internet all the time. There many people on the Internet who are extremely smart and extremely bad and want to steal your money. We need to take security very seriously. The tech community's writers, both professional and amateur, are doing an inadequate job; arguably guilty of both recklessness and laziness. Consider two mobile-device security stories that broke recently. Wallpapergate I mean the Android Wallpaper Fearfest, nicely summed up in JR Raphael's The truth about those `data-mining' Android apps and then his excellent post-mortem. This thing splashed all over the Internet, inflammatory headlines claiming that millions of peoples' intimate secrets were being sent to (gasp) China!

Fri, 30 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Flower Overload

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I was sitting on the back porch in the sun drinking white wine and shooting flowers while the rest of the family cleaned up after dinner (I'd made it so that's OK) and picked fruit and so on. Only the camera was a little out of whack. As a side-effect of the expansive low-light photography project, it turns out that the K20D was hard-wired to ISO1600, which is not exactly the best choice for shooting brilliant colors in direct if slanting sunlight. Fortunately, modern DSLRs will cheerfully crank the shutter speed up to silly values like 1/4000 sec to deal with this.

Fri, 30 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

The Great Game

Posted By Tim Bray

Is it VHS vs Betamax, Mac vs PC, or Coke vs Pepsi? The current multibillion-dollar mobile-market war is a confusing tangle of software makers, hardware makers, and network operators. This isn't what a theorists would call a perfect or even very clean competitive market, but it does seem to be delivering a regular flow of better, faster, more usable products to the people of Earth. It's a privilege to be in it. This piece is provoked first by the general hubbub; not a week goes by without someone trumpeting a ludicrously-huge number of handsets or activations or subscribers. It got intense enough that Fred Vogelstein tried to clear the air recently in WIRED, ending with the plea “let's get our numbers straight”.

Thu, 29 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Head Count Fiction

Posted By Tim Bray

When conference organizers count people, the number they care about most is registered paying attendees; they track that every day as the conference approaches. Suppose you are an outsider, considering attending or sponsoring or exhibiting at the conference, and you inquire as to the likely attendance. You will never be given the real number; instead you will be told a number which is at least twice that, and usually higher. This is justified by including trade-show exhibitors' staff, the conference organizer's own people, PR folk and journalists, the food service crew, and is basically pulled out of a monkey's butt.

Wed, 28 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Other Android Languages

Posted By Tim Bray

I've been having this same conversation with a variety of programmers in recent days, and so I ought to share it with the world. I think it would be nice if you could build Android apps in other languages. The leading candidates seem to be Ruby and Python. People are working on it. This is my take on the state of play. [Sidebar:] As it says in the sidebar, I don't speak for Google, which is especially true here. The Android leadership at this point is focused on improving the platform, the devices, and the current programming tools; nobody has a mandate to work on other languages.

Mon, 26 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Three Pictures of Illuminares

Posted By Tim Bray

For many years, Vancouver's Public Dreams Society has presented Illuminares, a summer-evening festival built around a lantern procession. Typically held outside, around Trout Lake, it's a nicely-hippie-flavored explosion of fire and noise and energy. This year, because Trout Lake park is under construction, they held it inside and it was still fun, if not quite as much. I got some pictures which are sort of pretty and represent a new frontier I think in my current low-light-photography obsession. I should note that I was a performer at the event, appearing as usual with Russell Shumsky's West-African percussion ensemble “Linoleum Blownapart”.

Sun, 25 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Five Pictures of OSCON

Posted By Tim Bray

It's my favorite conference, I think. I love the smaller, more focused events too, but OSCON is a gathering of the tribes and we need one of those. Gosh, in Portland this time of year, even the street people are wired. Oh wait, that's Tim O'Reilly. What is OSCON For? I think the question is important; the conference isn't as big as it once was and I'd hate for it to start sliding downhill. Maybe it needs more focus on what it's about. I don't really think it's about Open Source as a whole, which is good as that subject has become inconveniently large and diffuse.

Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

D.P.H.

Posted By Tim Bray

I owe a whole lot to Perl. So does the practice of computing in general, and the construction of the Web in particular. Perl's situation is not terribly happy; I wouldn't go so far as to say “desperate”, but certainly these are not its glory days. Herewith some thoughts on Perl's place in history, and how a tiny piece of it bit back at me at OSCON this week. History Perl proved a bunch of things that now seem obvious but, a couple of decades ago, would have seemed unlikely and in some cases unbelievable: You can get serious work done in a language without requiring a compilation step.

Sun, 18 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

How To Sell Apps?

Posted By Tim Bray

I've been interested recently in Android Market; it, and its peers such as the Apple App Store and Ovi and (in a slightly different flavor) the Google Apps Marketplace are all recent arrivals, trying to do a new thing. And I don't think any of them are doing it very well. (While I work organizationally right next door to the Market people, at the moment I'm not really close to their internal architecture or long-range plans; I still have something of a black-box view.) Right now the consensus seems to be that Apple's is the best among the app-retailing alternatives. But none of them are actually very good.

Tue, 13 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Concurrent List Update With Shuffling

Posted By Tim Bray

.red { color: #f00 } This is a sketch of how to provide highly concurrent read and update access to sorted paged lists while requiring minimal locking. This particular trick has probably been covered before but if so I've missed it and haven't seen anyone else using it. I implemented it a long time ago in a closed-source and now-defunct piece of software. It worked really well, and I've never since seen it done quite this way. There was some thought that it might be patentable and a literature search back then came up empty. But I'd be amazed if this weren't being used here and there; who knows, maybe it's crept into the undergrad CS curriculum while I wasn't looking.

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Lightroom 3

Posted By Tim Bray

If I read the tea-leaves correctly, this is increasingly the tool of choice among serious photogs, although Aperture isn't going away any time soon. The new release has been well-covered elsewhere; I don't have too much more to add, but I do have a major gripe and a couple of pictures to illustrate the much-ballyhooed noise-reduction filters. Odds & Sods The new Import module is quite a bit better than what came before; better-matched to my photo workflow, which involves building up a month's worth of photos in a directory; these days, the import screen by default just shows you what's there but hasn't already been imported.

Thu, 08 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Multiwhatever

Posted By Tim Bray

On July first, Canada Day, we went down and took in the big show at Canada Place; fun was had. We're officially and as a matter of record here in Canada supposed to be about multiculturalism and any idiot can see we're multiethnic, but that doesn't actually mean we're eating off different tables or listening to different tunes. The event left a powerful impression on me. But first let me say that it was well-done; don't know by whom, but I admire them. There was music and humor and tasty food and places to dance and things to see, with a reasonable mix of public-spirited idealism and fun-for-fun's-sake.

Wed, 07 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Green

Posted By Tim Bray

Being a sunlit rain-forest interior from somewhere on the north slope of Keats Island. If you have a big screen, I really recommend blowing this one up. I've been trying to take this picture for a long time; there's a particular quality of life you get in the rain forest when the sun is strong and at just the right angle, and it's early summer so the moss is flourishing. I've pointed cameras at dozens of scenes like this over the years but the pictures are usually boring, failing to capture what it is that makes my eyes so happy and leads me out on this kind of walk.

Tue, 06 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

CL XI: Treeset

Posted By Tim Bray

At the cottage, life is surrounded by trees and constrained by the sun's coming and going. Especially going. In these pictures, it's going behind some trees. What happened was, I was sitting on the deck and moved my chair so the sun wouldn't be so painfully dazzling, and decided it looked kind of neat trying to squirm around the edges of the big evergreen trunks. This first picture features a coffee cup and what must be a woodland visitor out of Færie. Then I thought that the scene had too much apparatus, and tried to subtract everything but the sun and trees and mountain.

Tue, 06 Jul 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Numbers

Posted By Tim Bray

“Dad, why do you have two phones?” asked the 11-year-old. While that's excessive, it's dwarfed by the number of numbers I'm juggling. And one of them is in Clatskanie, and I had to write about 'em so I could drop that name. Clatskanie, my fingers just love typing it. Actual Phones At home, there's the home number [1] upstairs (stable for 13 years, wow) and then there's the number [2] for the office downstairs, more used by Lauren than me. Lauren has hooked both of 'em up to some alternate long-distance service which makes calling anywhere really cheap. I seem to think that's via her bank of all things.

Tue, 29 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Forget the Defaults

Posted By Tim Bray

I was watching engineers argue, someone was bitching about a code reviewer asking him to put more parentheses in a conditional: “As if I don't know the precedence rules!” I don't know them, as a matter of principle. Seriously. I've learned a lot of programming languages over the years, and I've taken care never to learn the operator precedence rules in any of them. It's easy to get them wrong and get bitten and why should I require that people reading my code learn those stupid rules. Today I wrote this: while (calls.moveToNext() && (count < howMany)) { I sorta kinda think that the parentheses after the && are superfluous, but being sure would mean memorizing something that adds no value and furthermore require that subsequent programmers do the same.

Sat, 26 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Day Sixteen

Posted By Tim Bray

Welcome to the World Cup 2010 playoff-round coverage from yer Fútbol-lovin' Web-centric mobile-enabled couch-huggin' amateur semi-fan. By and large, I thought the right teams made it through to the Round of Sixteen. You have to grant that Côte d'Ivoire, who are out, are a lot more interesting than Japan, who are in, but in every World Cup there's going to be the equivalent of this year's Group G. And it's a pity the hosts won't be there, but the goal differential in this case tells the truth; Mexico is just a better team. This round is where the favorites usually start to win; which means that it would be really unsurprising if the final were to be between the winners of a Netherlands-Brazil on July 2nd and Germany-Argentina on the 3rd.

Fri, 25 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Cheap Unlocked Phones

Posted By Tim Bray

I have an unlocked Nexus One with a pre-release of Android 2.2 “Froyo”, and I have a T-Mobile mobile data plan from Google; I imagine that, like most big companies, we get a pretty good deal on it. As of now, I'm never paying for Internet in a hotel or airport again. You can turn the Nexus One into a WiFi hotspot is a matter of a couple of clicks. It turns out that other Android phones like the Evo and the Droid X offer this capability, but because they're sold through and locked by the network operator, you have to pay extra for it.

Fri, 25 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Day Fifteen

Posted By Tim Bray

This World Cup 2010 prose covers the last few days of the round-robin stage, and is even geekier than usual because I watched most of it on a monster screen driven by a Google TV prototype amongst a gaggle of Googlers. OK, I admit it, the Google TV wasn't doing anything aside from sending the video from wherever to the projector. But the sofas were comfy, the geeks were friendly and enthusiastic, the café with breakfast was right next door, and when you get to the 'plex in time for the 7AM game you can park wherever you damn please.

Wed, 23 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Indie Android Interview

Posted By Tim Bray

I was doing “Office Hours” at Google I/O, and this guy walked up with a question and we got to talking. His name is Derek James of Polyclef Software; he comes from a different planet from the one this Web guy has been living in, one where Psychology Ph.D. candidates build actual real businesses, starting part-time, via single-handed mobile-device programming. I did an email interview with him. Numbers Tim: Let's start by establishing your credentials. I'd say that by most metrics, you'd rank as a successful Android game developer. Care to give us some numbers? Derek: Sure. First of all, I don't just develop games, though those are generally my more popular apps.

Sun, 20 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Day Ten

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, my job and my life have interfered heavily with your authoritative Web Geek's World Cup 2010 coverage. And – let's get this out of the way – my predictions as to which matches were going to be fun and how the groups would play out have been almost entirely wrong. In fact, the only games I watched end-to-end were Argentina-South Korea on Day Seven, and Brazil-Côte d'Ivoire just now, until I switched off at Brazil's third; too depressing for this Elephants fan. So rather than games, just some impressions and notes as we approach two-thirds of the way through the round-robin. Disappointed In the quality of play in general.

Sun, 20 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Unfinished, With Clouds

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, we went to a party at Shane and Ally's place on East First Ave at a mixed residential-commercial development with a common rooftop garden. We barbecued up there, sharing the space amicably with a couple of other parties. The view was compelling and the clouds were interesting. This is looking West from more or less here. Notice that in the foreground there's quite a bit of low-rise low-rent industrial land; every city needs to earn its living and to have cheap neighborhoods, but the density doesn't feel right. Doug Coupland (I believe it was in City of Glass) said “In 100 years, Paris will still be Paris and New York will still be New York.

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Maureen Forrester, 1930–2010

Posted By Tim Bray

I have a teeny little bit of personal history with this opera icon; sad to see that Ms Forrester has left us. This would have been some thirty years ago, when as a college student I was earning rent money by stage-managing any and every sort of musical event, one of which was a set of master classes given by the diva. For those who haven't been to a master class, it's essentially a public music lesson. The students (young professionals on that occasion) perform little bits and pieces; the Star critiques and praises and makes them retake and rethink and rework.

Tue, 15 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Day Four

Posted By Tim Bray

We're now four days into the unique insights on World Cup 2010 only available from those with a good basis in Web and Mobile technology. I didn't watch Netherlands-Denmark nor will I watch any further games that require me to get up at 4AM; there are limits to fandom. Japan 1 Cameroon 0 I wanted to be a Cameroon fan on the principle that fluid attacking soccer in the African style is something to be encouraged. But I was left cold; even the mighty Eto'o seemed a little lead-footed. Unless Cameroon has a reservoir of so-far-unrevealed brilliance, I don't see them making it out of the group.

Tue, 15 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Day Five

Posted By Tim Bray

We're now approaching the end of the first third of the round-robin in this geek-blog World Cup 2010 coverage. Long way to go yet. I didn't get up at 4AM to watch New Zealand-Slovakia, although I am the husband of a New Zealander and the father of two more. Oh well. And I might divert a bit of attention from work for an interesting game but I decided that Brazil-DPRK wouldn't be one of those; I gather I was wrong. I have a certain sick fascination with North Korea to the extent of feeling physical pain in my gut when I read about what its poor people have to live through.

Sun, 13 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Day Three

Posted By Tim Bray

Thus endeth the first weekend of a geek blogger's deathless World Cup 2010 prose. For other coverage from non-specialists, much more amusing than mine, check out n+1 magazine's World Cup Preview. I didn't get up at 4AM to watch Algeria-Slovenia but I guess I'm happy because I've been to Slovenia but not Algeria. Sebia 0 Ghana 1 I really couldn't figure this game out. The Ghanaians totally sliced up the Serbian mid-field, time and again, quality moves all over the place, then failed to penetrate the penalty area. The Serbians looked clumsy and unpolished but actually had, on balance, more scoring chances.

Sat, 12 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

2010 World Cup

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, four years ago in June we had a baby daughter and I ended up watching the World Cup. I'm not particularly a soccer fan but I found that I enjoyed the show immensely. I'm not a sportswriter but after I started blogging the matches more or less accidentally in a newborn-parent haze, that was fun too, and I got tons of email (that was before there were comments here). I don't have parental leave this time, so I probably won't see as much of the show, but lots of the matches are very early Pacific time... and then there's BitTorrent.

Sat, 12 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Day One

Posted By Tim Bray

Welcome to the ongoing World Cup 2010 blogathon. Mexico 1 South Africa 1 It's a pity the Bafanas couldn't have won. Their opening-segment nerves were forgivable, and their recovery admirable. Tshabalala's goal was pure beauty, the kind of thing that makes soccer worth watching. I also was impressed by keeper Itumeleng Khune's quickness and coolness under fire; he covered for some appalling South African defensive lapses. Except for one; on the equalizer there were three Mexican attackers lined up behind the defense, no South African anywhere near. What sets the elite European teams apart is, among other things, that they simply don't make that class of mistake.

Sat, 12 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Day Two

Posted By Tim Bray

Being the second outing in the bloggification of World Cup 2010. Korea 2 Greece 0 The first comprehensive pounding of this year's tournament. The Koreans apparently recognized fairly early on that the Greeks were having a rotten day and decided to go into all-pressure-all-the-time mode, and then it was over. It'd take real courage for them to try the same approach next time, which happens to be Argentina, but I'd sure like to watch it. I think just maybe the Koreans are underrated; among other things, I find it hard to believe the Greeks are as bad as they looked today.

Thu, 10 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Disclosure re Twitter

Posted By Tim Bray

A while ago, I made a small investment in a Vancouver company called Smallthought Systems, which has now been acquired by Twitter. Thus, I am now the owner of a small number of Twitter shares, and may fairly be suspected of bias when discussing that company. I continue to admire and use Twitter, and also continue to think that it's a bug when an apparently-fundamental medium for human communications is the product of a single company.

Wed, 09 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Early-Summer Evening

Posted By Tim Bray

The idea was, since I just upgraded to Lightroom 3, that I'd import whatever was on the cameras, beautify it, and report back on the big new release. Except for something went wrong; the most interesting pictures were all taken in a six-minute span out on the porch after dinner, and for some reason the big Pentax was in JPG not RAW mode, which drastically reduces Lightroom's scope. It's actually not that easy to switch the camera over; I suspect one of my children of fiddling with it while I wasn't looking. Having said all that, Pentax ships a pretty damn good JPEG engine in those cameras; so consider the following as a photo-essay on a bright early-summer back-porch evening.

Mon, 07 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Dots Per Inch

Posted By Tim Bray

I thought maybe the most interesting single thing about the new iPhone 4 was its display, not so much the 960 vertical dots but the 326DPI, in the cleverly-named Retina Display. Which leads me to wonder, how much does this matter? 300 If you care about this subject, I recommend a quick trip to Wikipedia's List of displays by pixel density. In the keynote, Steve claimed that there was some sort of a threshold around 300DPI having to do with the resolving capabilities of the human retina (thus the name). Indeed, three hundred is an interesting number; the first wave of personal-computer printers which produced results that actually looked really good started at 300DPI.

Sat, 05 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Windy

Posted By Tim Bray

Canada has long been a telephone oligopoly: Rogers, Telus, and Bell Canada; Canadians generally feel that prices are high and service only so-so. Now we've got a new mobile player, Wind Mobile. I signed up as soon as they got to Vancouver, at least in part for reasons of ideology; competition is a good thing. So far, Wind looks like a good thing too. Mobile network operators make it tough to compare prices, but Wind claims to be quite a bit cheaper. I've been paying Rogers through the nose because I got a package with unlimited US roaming, and some add-ons to (somewhat) reduce the data-roaming pain.

Thu, 03 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Mom's Birthday

Posted By Tim Bray

The weekend of May 24th, my extended family gathered in Calgary from points East and West across Canada to celebrate my Mom's eightieth birthday. Herewith storytelling and pictures. My Mom is the youngest of six children of Bob and Clara Scott, both Alberta schoolteachers; she left the profession to be a mother and he went on to become a Provincial Inspector of Schools; there's still an R.J. Scott School somewhere in Edmonton. The oldest boy was Allen, who died in the very late stages of World War II; the oldest girl was Beryl, who died a few years ago. Next was Patricia, who's not in good enough health to have made it to Calgary.

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Compatibility and Fragmentation

Posted By Tim Bray

Over on the Android Developers' Blog, we just published On Android Compatibility by Dan Morrill, who manages both the Open-Source and Compatibility work here. It's like this: The source code is the technology. The Compatibility Definition Document is the policy. The Compatibility Test Suite is the OEM tool. And the Android Market is the enforcement mechanism. I think it's an important piece, because there's been a lot of talk around these issues and, as far as I know, nobody had ever written up, for anyone except the OEMs, exactly what the Android policy and mechanisms are.

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Starting To Be Wrong

Posted By Tim Bray

Everybody knows that designing for the Web is not like designing for print: The shape is fluid not fixed, the font selection is limited, and there aren't enough dots-per-inch to do proper typography anyhow; the effect is that you have to give up fine control over layout. Which was true until 2010. The Transition It hits me especially hard because I've always been interested in typography and design (I didn't say I was good at it, just interested), and I come out of the publishing-technology business. I remember the sustained howls of anguish from design professionals when the Web came along and everyone wanted to use it and suddenly many of the things they they thought they knew became wrong.

Sun, 30 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Corporations and Emotions

Posted By Tim Bray

Is meaningful or useful to have emotional reactions to business organizations? Right now there's a lot of that going around; the atmosphere swirling around my employer and That Fruit Company a short commute away in Silicon Valley grows steamy. Which pales compared to the global outpouring of fear and loathing directed at a certain English oil corporation. I'm going to argue (after some personal digressions) that hating on BP is perhaps actively harmful. Personal Digression Recently I tweeted (and I apologize for the coarse language): “Unlike apparently everyone, I'm not pissed at BP. You gonna live on fossil fuel, shit gonna happen.

Thu, 27 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

On Art

Posted By Tim Bray

I enjoyed the conversation launched by Roger Ebert's thesis that the video-game form cannot rise to the level of art, and have found myself considering the art-or-not-fulness of this or that; particularly in light of having recently played a videogame and watched some TV. The Game I'm talking about Portal, which I played through again recently because it showed up on the Mac. I am by no means a heavy gamer, but I've done a few over the years, and I've never felt the slightest temptation to think of any of them as art, even as I admire beautifully-immersive environments or elegant atmospherics.

Sun, 23 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

I/O 2010 Words and Faces

Posted By Tim Bray

I worked like a madman right through I/O 2010 and went straight from there to an internal meeting and from there to my Mom's 80th-birthday bash, so there hasn't been much time for reflection. I can't find a theme to organize my notes by, so what you get is a dozen poorly-sequenced take-aways interspersed with seven faces. The faces are here because I did a bunch of short interviews with strangers and got the idea of pointing my 40mm pancake prime at people straight-on and close-up, and found the results compelling enough to share. I don't know all the names so I won't mention any.

Wed, 19 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Being at I/O

Posted By Tim Bray

The facility, Moscone West, is jam-packed to busting; the organizers slammed on the attendance brakes weeks back, worried about militant fire marshals, breaking the hearts of outsiders and Googlers alike. It's a nice building, full of light even in a grey California spring. Apple and (formerly) Sun and Oracle have always plastered their branding all over the city for their conferences; Google does none of that, except for a single big Google-Maps-style location marker outside the venue. The crowd is eclectic; more Android fans than any other sub-group, but lots of other kinds of people too. Geeky. Male. All ages. Friendly.

Wed, 19 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

IO Q&A: HTML5 vs Native Aps

Posted By Tim Bray

This gentleman is Steve O'Grady of Redmonk. Interview at Google I/O 2010. Steve and I have been to many, really very many, of the same conferences, during the course of my Sun career. He's operating out of his normal server-side milieu. Me, I don't worry about HTML5-vs-native apps at all, the Web will do just fine.

Wed, 19 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

The Android Phones

Posted By Tim Bray

There's this great big huge display case here at Google I/O just full of Android devices. I couldn't resist a slow walk past it.

Wed, 19 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

IO Q&A: A World That Works

Posted By Tim Bray

I'm here at Google I/O doing micro-interviews with random people, strangers and friends. I'll post a random assortment. I don't know this gentleman. I ask three questions: Who are you, what are you looking forward to, and what are you worried about? It's hard to find anything to disagree with in what he says.

Sat, 15 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Publishing Video in 2010

Posted By Tim Bray

My nifty new Canon S90 shoots reasonable video, and it comes to mind that I'd like to video-blog from Google I/O next week. So I embarked on an HTML5 video adventure, and am here to tell the tale. Sidebar: When I say “reasonable video”, I mean 640x480; which sounds small these days, but is more or less the resolution of an old 4×3-shaped TV show or movie on DVD. Plenty good enough for conference reportage; plus the S90's about as small as one of those Flip cameras. If this has worked, you should be able to summon up one minute of shamelessly self-indulgent home video.

Thu, 13 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

The Infancy of Mobile Video

Posted By Tim Bray

I was having lunch with Andre and Brian from Nitobi, who work on PhoneGap (a really nice piece of technology) and we found ourselves laughing over our phone feature cravings. There are two obvious things that everyone wants but just aren't there yet on the devices we carry around. First of all, video chat. My Nexus One is just the right form factor to bring friends & family up on, for some on-the-road face time. It is after all a communication device, right? The second thing that's not there yet is the world's single most popular application of video technology: TV.

Thu, 13 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Statistics Redux

Posted By Tim Bray

For a few years, ending in early 2007, I used to do a monthly (maybe even weekly) update to a post entitled Statistics, which had pretty graphs summarizing which browsers were visiting ongoing, and related information. After supper this evening I for some reason got interested in this problem again and made another graph. There are tricky issues both of form (how I built the graph) and content (what it says). Generated with the Google Chart API. Content I confess to being surprised by the very high proportion of visitors via NetNewsWire; apparently Brent Simmons' work on making it a full-function bathe-in-the-river-of-news tool is paying off.

Tue, 11 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Canon S90

Posted By Tim Bray

I must say I've enjoyed having this little black goober in my pocket. Herewith some words and pictures. Did I say “little”? Here it is hanging out with my Nexus One. If you want a pocket cam, this would be one of those, no doubt about it. It has some irritants, but it does most things well enough while getting out of the way. In terms of ultimate image quality, I think it's not quite up to the recently-deceased Ricoh GX100 at its very best. But it was hard to get the very best out of the slow, fragile, slightly-too-large Ricoh.

Sat, 08 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Practical Open Source

Posted By Tim Bray

Android is an open-source project, which has a bunch of cultural and economic consequences. I'm going to ignore those today, and describe how I use the source code to get work done. Getting the Source Before you can do anything with the source code, you have to go get it. This could be a daunting task if you're not familiar with what a “case-sensitive filesystem” is, or how to use the git distributed version control system. Fortunately, over at source.android.com there are step-by-step instructions that'll let you get by even if you're only lightly acquainted with all that stuff. I'd advise you, if you're doing anything substantial with Android, to go grab that source code.

Thu, 06 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Private APIs

Posted By Tim Bray

I wrote a post in the Android-Developer blog today cautioning about the use of Content Providers that aren't part of the published Android API. John Gruber pounced, deducing that, contrary to our stated policy, this constituted evidence of “private APIs”. Let me explain exactly what's going on here. The Policy I think it was best expressed by Android platform engineer Dianne Hackborn in her Multitasking the Android Way post: The available APIs must be sufficient for writing the built-in Google applications, as part of our "all applications are created equal" philosophy. This means background music playback, data syncing, GPS navigation, and application downloading must be implemented with the same APIs that are available to third party developers.

Wed, 05 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

HTML5 and the Web

Posted By Tim Bray

I am an unabashed partisan of the Web – its architecture, culture, and content. I'm proud to have played a very small part in shaping bits of the machinery and having contributed probably too many words to that content But as for HTML5? It's a good enough thing to the extent it turns out to work. But nothing terribly important depends on it. Let me start with some anecdotal evidence. Item: I got mail from really well-known Web technologist – his competence is not in doubt – making his first foray into mobile development. He wrote: “I'm trying to avoid appstore hell by developing rich HTML5 apps, but the performance on iPhone is shoddy whenever network IO is going on, and I seem to be able to crash the browser on our departmental Nexus One with such frequency it's not even funny.

Mon, 03 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

5¿¿: Jets Overhead

Posted By Tim Bray

Wow, it's been 2½ years since I did a Five-Star Monday piece, and this is for a disc I just bought today, so it may well be too early as well as too late. Jets Overhead are from Victoria, BC, which is near me; what I think deserve the stars are the first two songs from their 2009 No Nations, I Should Be Born and Heading For Nowhere; brilliant pure-pop tunes and can they ever sing. Also there's a geek angle. (𔄝¿¿” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) The Context The reason I bought this music was because they played it on the radio while I was driving around, and I liked it.

Sat, 01 May 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Tree Shopping

Posted By Tim Bray

Our pear tree died, a victim of old age, root pathology, and a high wind. Herewith consequences bureaucratic and photographic. Vancouver Tree Rules The tree doctor came by and pronounced the condition terminal (at this point, it was leaning against our porch, so not a surprise), quoted on its removal, and discovered that it was big enough to require a City of Vancouver license. I dropped by City Hall (we live nearby) and found the process efficient and courteous. I was neither surprised nor displeased when informed that the tree would have to be replaced. I was fairly shocked at the 7-page double-sided city flyer enumerating the acceptable species of replacement trees.

Thu, 29 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Flash History

Posted By Tim Bray

I'm a little irritated that all those preaching about Flash are ignoring the history – how we got here – so this is by way of filling that in. There was a time when lots of browsers didn't have Flash installed. On the downside, any attempt to use video was a crapshoot, and you might end up in the Pure Hell of the real.com website. Also, there were a lot fewer amusing lightweight games. On the upside, there were a lot fewer squirmy obtrusive ads. Flash filled an real need; for a lightweight portable graphics programming environment, and for an ubiquitous reliable video codec. That, plus a lot of determined marketing by Adobe, got us to the status quo, where it's assumed that every computer has a Flash player installed.

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Blogging at Google

Posted By Tim Bray

First of all, I should announce my editorship (starting today) of another blog, the Android Developers Blog. But at Google there are stories behind the stories. Android Dev Blog It's been around since November 2007, way before I'd ever heard of Android. In recent times it's been used somewhat like a press-release channel; each of the pieces heavily group-edited into just-the-facts mode. Perfectly OK (if a bit tedious) when that's the kind of channel you want. It seemed obvious to me that there was scope for a real bloggy kind of blog, since there are a ton of interesting stories inside Android crying to be told.

Mon, 26 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Wet Spring

Posted By Tim Bray

We've been having one, just as the garden's citizens have been in maximum-reproductive-frenzy mode, which I'm afraid leads to horrid overindulgence in photographic cliché. But they sure are pretty. These are both tulips, and I would swear on my mother's grave that I didn't crank the saturation or the contrast or anything, they really looked like that. Except for, Mom's doing just fine thank you and was probably busy in her own garden today. OK, I did a bit of highlight-recovery on the salmon-colored one.

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

LifeSaver Lessons

Posted By Tim Bray

I can't possibly do this job unless I get my hands dirty with Android technology, and then keep them that way. To start this process I just wrote a little utility app called LifeSaver (source here), which scratches one of my own personal Android itches. It's in the Android Market and maybe someone else will find it useful. I think the lessons I learned in the process are more interesting and useful than the app itself. What It Does When you get a new Android phone, you tell it your Google login and password and a few minutes later there are your email history and contacts and schedule, it's slick as slick can be.

Wed, 21 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Bump!

Posted By Tim Bray

One of the nice things about this job is that I'm meeting lots of interesting startups who are doing mobile apps. My fave so far is Bump. Bump World Headquarters The idea is simple: I bump your phone with mine, and the result is that I transfer something to you; say, a phone number, or a picture, or, of course, money. A good place to start getting the picture would be their FAQ. This is the kind of technology I like; a simple effect, instantly understandable, that requires rocket science under the covers to pull off. Ah, that startup ambience. You'll note that I erased the whiteboards, but I can reveal that one of them contained scraps of what appeared to be [gasp!]

Sun, 18 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

That Iterator Again

Posted By Tim Bray

Last week I wrote Content Provider Iterator, which simplifies the task of dealing with Android's Content Providers. Reto Meier, the author of what is currently the best Android developer book, got all nervous about my approach. He's got a point, but so do I. If you haven't read Reto's piece, please hop on over there and do so; I'll wait till you get back. To recap; my providerhelper package lets you write the following code: Reader<Call> calls = new Reader<Call>(Call.class, activity, CallLog.Calls.CONTENT_URI); for (Call call : calls) String number = call.getnumber(); I claim that this is about as idiomatic as you can possibly get, if your idiom is Java's flavor of object-orientation.

Sat, 17 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

New Photo Workflow

Posted By Tim Bray

As a side-effect of joining Google, I have a new 13" MacBook Pro, which has a solid-state disk (good!) whose capacity is only 113G. This has pretty well screwed up my previous picture-management habits so I had to invent a new workflow, which is working out pretty well. I'm not claiming it's right for anyone else, but others might find it a useful read. Plus since it's photo-related I've dropped in three miscellaneous pix that I think are eye-pleasers. The Old Setup I had always managed to keep my whole life, excluding music, on one computer's disk. I achieved this, even though I take a lot of pictures and shoot RAW, by being ruthless; I only keep the ones that I think good enough to publish or which have sentimental value.

Fri, 16 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

First Day of Spring

Posted By Tim Bray

There's an offical definition; on the radio someon says “Spring begins Wednesday at 3:18PM” or some such. For me, it's the first day I can go out in the yard with the kids after supper and shoot flowers while they hit balls and squabble over sideline calls. Three tulips: Tulips are nice, but the word “honeysuckle” warms the heart even though those flowers won't be with us for a good long while; in the interim here are some of its leaves, the sun behind them. Things are definitely looking up.

Fri, 16 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Where the Roads Cross

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 152 on 2010/04/16: “Bright, vivid colors can draw attention and add "pop" to a photo. Make a photo that has vivid colors today.” These are on a little traffic circle near us, tended by a volunteer; it'll be lovely into autumn but perhaps never again this colorful this year.

Tue, 13 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

A.D. XV: Content Provider Iterator

Posted By Tim Bray

Being a small morsel of Android-specific geek entertainment involving an example of the kind of thinking that being a Rubyist provokes which however may be grievously wrong.[This is part of the Android Diary.] What happened was, I'm writing a little Android app to get my hand back in, which makes considerable use of Android Content Providers. The Problem Content providers (I'll just say “Providers” from here on in) are a good idea, and allow you do to do some things in Android that would be awkward or impossible in other frameworks. A Provider is identified by what Android calls a Uri, and even though I'm pretty sure it isn't really a URI, it's a good thing to name data resources with short structured strings.

Mon, 12 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Essential Advice

Posted By Tim Bray

The fact that this isn't posted on developer.android.com is a bug, I'd say. If you're going to be doing any Android programming, you really need to get Reto Meier's Professional Android 2 Application Development. Yeah, he works for Google (same group as me) so I'm prejudiced. Whatever. For the moment, Reto's book is the Bible.

Mon, 12 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Life at Google

Posted By Tim Bray

Being the story of what I did last Wednesday. As I noted in the previous outing, I have the peculiar fortune of working for a company that's also a tourist attraction; so I'll do some tour-guiding while my eyes remain fresh. I woke up before the alarm went off in the Google Apartment where I was staying, not far off Castro street in Mountain View. The apartments are comfy but don't have a lot of personality. Each has good WiFi, two bedrooms and two bathrooms; my flatmate was a taciturn Czech who worked on “data security”. Tim, curious: “What sort of data security work?” Heavy Czech accent: “Every sort of data security.” [Silence falls.]

Sun, 11 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

An Android Side Project

Posted By Tim Bray

I want to be able to write apps for my phone in in something other than the Java language; for example Ruby or Python. This isn't one of the things my group at Google has asked me to look at, but I think it's worth doing and worth some of my time. I'm writing this today because I'm amused by the contrast with the current hubbub over Apple having tightened the developer thumbscrews. Why? I like the libraries, but I have to confess that these days, I've slipped into the camp of those who find the Java language verbose and rigid and overly ceremonious.

Fri, 09 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Canon S90

Posted By Tim Bray

My Ricoh GX-100 was slow, fragile, and subject to highlight-blowout, but still took pretty good pictures. It died the other day, and I'm just not happy without a camera in my pocket, so I ran out and grabbed myself this cute little “PowerShot”, for practical and sentimental reasons. Herewith some early-experience notes. Here's the first picture I ever took with it. It's just a random hallway around the corner from where I was sitting at the Googleplex. Why This Camera? I have to confess that the reasons were partly sentimental. For some years Canon had this “PowerShot S” series; the S50 was (in 2003) my first-ever “serious” digital camera, back when it was radical for a pocket cam to be painted black.

Tue, 06 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

What's New in Tablets

Posted By Tim Bray

Sorry, I don't want this to become an all-tablet-all-the-time space.; but how often do we get a new computer form factor? Anyhow, yesterday I got my hands on an iPad, and suddenly I find myself disagreeing with the world about what's important. The problem is that the iPad combines a whole bunch of new things and it's not obvious off the top which of them matter. Speed Is A Feature For a 1Ghz device with limited memory, the iPad is unreasonably fast. I suspect this accounts for a whole bunch of the “Wow!” reaction the iPad obviously provokes. Since there's no free lunch, I think it's really important that we understand what they sacrificed to get that performance.

Mon, 05 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Memory Matters

Posted By Tim Bray

Being a study of trade-offs in the design of mobile devices, with a view to avoiding dystopias and promoting creativity. The current tempest-in-a-teapot about background apps (Androids do, Apples don't) is instructive. Robert Love's Why the iPad and iPhone don't Support Multitasking is useful in explaining why this is actually hard: memory starvation. (Having said that, I'm quite sure that Apple will come up with a solution that's competitive with Android's, that's probably what they're pre-announcing later this week.) It turns out that this issue makes a lot of other things hard, too. For example, I'd love a touch interface on the two most complex apps in which I spend any time, namely my photo editor (currently Adobe Lightroom) and my IDE (currently Eclipse/Android).

Sat, 03 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

CL X: Nautical Visual

Posted By Tim Bray

Cottage Life almost by definition occurs near the water and in our case, lacking road access, is necessarily punctuated by time spent messing about in boats. This is an activity with many rewards, chief among them the things you see. First, heading more or less west across Howe Sound, looking back at morning over the coastal range. This is just the kind of thing that helps when you're trying to find your way inside the Android technologies and Google cultures and feeling somewhat daunted by both paths forward. We don't have a boat and thus employ a variety of ferry and water-taxi resources, often routing us through Gibsons, a town which combines pleasantly-faded television stardom with an extremely efficient small-boat terminus.

Fri, 02 Apr 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Wrong About the iPad

Posted By Tim Bray

Anybody who says they know how the tablet drama in general and iPad narrative in particular are going to play out is blowing smoke. Me, I'm inclined to think tablets will be a wonderful game platform, excellent for reading books, have a raft of vertical applications in hospitals and factories and airports and so on, and not be that big a player in the office setting. But hey, I could easily be wrong. Having said that, here's somebody who's wrong for sure: Marc Benioff. He wrote a piece entitled Hello, iPad. Hello, Cloud 2. From it, I quote: “The future of our industry now looks totally different than the past.

Mon, 29 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Spy Phone

Posted By Tim Bray

I was thinking for some reason of gangster movies and true-crime stories, where someone is “wearing a wire”. It dawned on me that any modern programmable phone is a “wire” in that sense. And everyone carries one; it wouldn't look suspicious. That is, I could easily write an Android app (and I assume the same is true for iPhone) that, without without showing anything on the screen, monitors the mike to see if anyone's speaking in the vicinity, and if so, records the audio to the SD card, maybe even encrypting it. You could make it smart enough to fade away out of sight when someone places or recieves a phone call.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Communication Silos

Posted By Tim Bray

On any given day, I'm apt to communicate electronically via the telephone, an Internet VOIP equivalent, email, IRC, IM, Twitter, and I might even write a blog post, like today. Why all these silos? Shouldn't these conversations be talking to each other? Maybe, maybe not. They differ in their latency, reach, and persistence and, on another axis, in length of form. I haven't thought this through very carefully, but it's never bothered me much that the only place the streams mix is in my mind. Right at the current time, my employer is shipping two products that, to some extent, can be seen as tools to get some of these things talking to each other: Buzz and Wave.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Ruby in Edinburgh

Posted By Tim Bray

Herewith some words and pictures from the Scottish Ruby Conference, which I attended last Friday and Saturday. It used to be called “Scotland on Rails” but they broadened the focus, which is sensible since Ruby in general is much more interesting than Rails as such. It is organized by Paul Wilson, Alan Francis, and Graeme Mathieson; Alan says that this year Paul did the vast majority of the work, so I guess I should run a picture of him. Paul actually looks nicer than that – to start with, he smiles a lot – but I liked the light and intensity of the picture. Since I'm doing that, here are a few more speakers selected on the scientific basis that I got good pictures of them.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Where the Roads Cross

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 133 on 2010/03/28: “Sunday Challenge: Backlighting in a scene can create drama. Make a photo with interesting placement of backlit subjects.” Somewhere in Edinburgh, off toward Holyrood. Actually taken on Saturday if you want to be pedantic, but I spent all day Sunday on an airplane.

Mon, 22 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Public Speaking

Posted By Tim Bray

I get a lot of requests to appear at one conference another; while I gripe about the wear and tear of travel, and being away from my family, I love doing this kind of stuff. Quite possibly you sent me such an invitation not too long ago and are irritated because I've been ignoring you. Sorry about that; I just didn't feel I should make any commitments while my professional status was so muddled. Anyhow, now is the time for a reset. So if you'd like me to show up at your event, please re-invite me, twbray at google dot com.

Sat, 20 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Round the Fountain

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 125 on 2010/03/20: “Liquids can be still and reflective or in motion and chaotic. Make a photograph of something liquid today.” The foam on the surface of the fountain pool in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. I'd been planning to shoot the fountain and I got a good picture too, but this was more interesting.

Sat, 20 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Life at Google

Posted By Tim Bray

At 7:45 AM on Monday the 15th, I and a bunch of really nervous-looking new employees stood together in a lobby at the Googleplex, waiting to be led in. Here are some random first-week notes while my eyes are still fresh. This might turn into a series, because I recognize that my current employer is sort of a technology tourist attraction and people might want to read about it. On the other hand, it has a culture of very cautious communication, so I'll have to be careful. The John But first I'd like to step back almost 20 years, to an occasion in the early Nineties when I was on-site at Microsoft.

Fri, 19 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Green Transport, Painted Blue

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 124 on 2010/03/19: “Change your angle today. Make a photo from 1' (30 cm) off the ground and post it.” This is how you get around the Google campus, when you can get one. The amount of time saved going from building to buildng is really remarkable. The basket is for your computer, of course.

Wed, 17 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Nexus One on Android 2.1

Posted By Tim Bray

That's what I've been carrying around for a month and a bit. It's awfully good; which doesn't mean I don't want more. [Editorial note: Just because I work for Google doesn't mean all-Android blogging. It's just that I have a bunch of material saved up that I didn't feel I should publish while I couldn't disclose that I was negotiating, then about to join, the remorseless Android army. Don't worry; pictures of flowers and overwrought screeds about programming languages will return.] [More editorial: This was mostly written before I actually showed up at the 'plex and had any inside info.

Mon, 15 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Now A No-Evil Zone

Posted By Tim Bray

As of this morning I work for Google. The title is “Developer Advocate”. The focus is Android. Fun is expected. How? Google and I have been a plausible match for a long time. Web-centric, check. Search, check. Open-source, check. The list goes on. We've talked repeatedly over the years, but the conversations all ended at the point when I said “...and I don't want to move to the Bay Area”. Then that changed. The process started with Dan Morrill who led me to Mike Winton who led me through the notorious Google Interview Process. I think I talked to eleven people in the course of my day there, failing one logic puzzle but acing the what-does-a-browser-actually-do test.

Mon, 15 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC

Being Kind to the Cat

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, a few days ago I wanted to try out some fancy language technology on Android. A cat got in the way but the WiFi saved the day. The way I understand it so far, the Android runtime is the Dalvik VM and the “Harmony+Android” libraries (unless you're a hardcore gamer who wants to bend metal in C++ with the NDK). So I don't think I need to be tied to curly braces and semicolons forever. One obvious option is JRuby; no, there's no rule saying you can't have another runtime system on top of Android. JRuby runs on Android but isn't really fast enough yet.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Invisible Flash

Posted By Tim Bray

Suppose you want to use Flash on your website. I think this is a bad idea, but I accept that some are going to ignore my wise advice and do it anyhow. If you do this and you're not careful, you can make it absolutely impossible for some people to see your show. Consider for example thesixtyone, a nice sort-of-game-structured music site that I use for background when I'm working on something that's not particularly taxing. It's lively and well-designed and dynamic and an example of intelligent and graceful Ajax. Only it wouldn't work for me when I first visited it.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Urban Colors

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 116 on 2010/03/11: “"Rules" can be stifling if taken to extremes. Break the rules today with focus, composition, etc, and see what happens.” This is Railspur Alley on Granville Island; the picture exhibits no fidelity whatever to the actually fairly interesting albeit soft shades of this much-patched wall.

Tue, 09 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Theory and Practice

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 114 on 2010/03/09: “Most of us enjoy some symmetry in our lives. Look around for it today and make a symmetrical photo. (via @melhutch) ” This was symmetrical on its architect's drafting board and then in its physical form, before the process of accretion started.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Blue Pacific Looking Up

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 113 on 2010/03/08: “Take care of the Monday blues by picking up your camera. Make a photograph dominated by the color blue.” This is a backwater of a backwater, the marina by Granville Island. The color is from the sky not the sea.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Hungry Hands

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 110 on 2010/03/05: “Food engages all the senses. Make a photograph of food that causes our mouth to water or pucker. Get the viewer engaged.” The hungry 3½-year-old had just got her stubby little fingers on the muffin. I had to shoot fast.

Thu, 04 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

System 9

Posted By Tim Bray

I own too much stuff and have begun to hate my possessions. I love a few things still, notably not including any computer technology, some of which can be admired for a brief period before it is superseded, and I enjoy helping that process along. The things I love include a few pictures, some books, but mostly hand-made artifacts that produce music: chief among these would be my cello (although that relationship has become complex), my djembé, and my record player. I know it's a “record player” because I bought it from the man at recordplayer.com; please follow that link before moving on.

Thu, 04 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Vertical Shadow Slices

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 109 on 2010/03/04: “Striped patterns have a natural pattern that catches the eye. Find some stripes today and make a photo.” I couldn't find any stripes that were interesting enough without some sort of overlay. This is just some corrugated siding.

Wed, 03 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

How To Get There

Posted By Tim Bray

This is just a fan letter about the maps-and-directions software that I guess has been in GPS products for years and is now on every Internet-capable phone. I'm a little too close to most technology, particularly the sort you get over the Net: either I can see the glitches and flaws, or I can see how I could have built it myself, in principle. But not the directions-to-anywhere stuff; to me, it's pure black magic. I have no idea what the inputs are, what sort of data structures you build with them, or what sort of algorithms you'd use to compute the directions.

Wed, 03 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Clarity Control

Posted By Tim Bray

One of the more heavily used controls in Lightroom's “Develop” module is labeled “Clarity”. Here's a nifty little illustration of its powers. I'll do three treatments of the same picture; needly evergreen branches against a grey sky. This is my Ricoh GX100 point-and-shoot pocket camera; there's nothing terribly special about the picture except perhaps that I shoot in raw, which maximizes the scope for exactly this kind of post-processing. The first shot, aside from the built-in anti-aliasing, is more or less how it came out of the camera, modulo a little cropping. Lightroom's Clarity control does something that appears to the eye like straightforward sharpening.

Wed, 03 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Tree Trunk

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 108 on 2010/03/03: “Weathered objects have a lot of character: cracked, rusted, bleached, etc. Give us your best weathered shot today.” Bark of a tree in the playground of an elementary school. Taken with the NexusOne.

Tue, 02 Mar 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Grainy Rainbow

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 107 on 2010/03/02: “Find out what those buttons and dials on your camera do. Play today! Try a new setting and make a photo. (via @dibytes) ” The rainbow was unearthly intense at sunset after a day of rain. I'd been dorking around with the camera for today's assignment, shooting ordinary trees with the camera in "Scene mode" (I don't know what that actually does) and at ISO1600 for extra oddness. Remember, this is a point-n-shoot (Ricoh GX100), so that ISO is way out of bounds. I got a chance to stroll around and try to capture the rainbow, but I couldn't get the wires out of the view and for the first few, I accidentally left the camera all whacked-out.

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Pick-up Game

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 105 on 2010/02/28: “Sunday challenge: Make a photo that invokes or communicates happiness to the viewer. Make 'em feel it, not just see it!” After the Big Game, we went out for a walk in the 13°C sunshine, in several ways a golden afternoon. Main Street was full of cars honking, flags waving, people howling. This group were celebrating the best imaginable way, with high-energy street hockey.

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Those Olympics

Posted By Tim Bray

It started a couple weeks early for me with a gentle welcoming invocation by an elder of the Musqueam Nation. It's done, finally. What happens on the morning after? Maybe we can all wear less red. I'm a blogger and photographer and I really ought to have been doing an Olympic Diary series, except for I've been distracted. But I can't let these last weeks living at the center of it all pass unremarked. This is way too long and stuffed with network-clogging photos. My Take You don't have to ask me because Vancouver's own excellent Frances Bula totally nailed it in Hey, it's okay to be grumpy about the Olympics.

Sat, 27 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Skyline With Illuminations

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 104 on 2010/02/27: “The horizon can be a strong composition element. Make a photograph that emphasizes the horizon today.” It's an artwork called "Vectorial Elevation" that's been showing here in Vancouver as part of the Olympic festivities, ends tomorrow. Really quite impressive even when shot with a wet camera on a rainy evening.

Fri, 26 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Noracle

Posted By Tim Bray

Today I resigned from Sun/Oracle – the official integration date here in Canada is March 1st, so I won't ever have actually been an Oracle employee. I'm not currently looking for another job. I'll write some looking-back and looking-forward stories when I've got a little perspective. I can't say enough good things about the people at Sun – and outsiders with whom I worked – over the past few years. Thanks for enriching my life!

Thu, 25 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Within the Rhythm

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 102 on 2010/02/25: “Negative space can be just as important to a composition as your primary subject. Explore negative space in a photograph.” An interior view of the same djembé that appeared in Dailyshoot 87. We're looking up into the bottom of the drum; the white area is the drumhead, just outside of which I placed a scary 1500-watt (!) halogen work-light.

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Boob Tubes

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 101 on 2010/02/24: “There is often a conflict between traditional and contemporary. Make a photo that shows this tension. (@melhutch) ” In the background, a recent 1080p 42-inch LCD television. In front, one of its predecessors. The idea was Lauren's not mine.

Tue, 23 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Off By One

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 100 on 2010/02/23: “Monochrome photos don't have to be the result of processing or desaturation. Find a monochrome composition and shoot it. ” The assignment said MONOchrome but I'm a computer programmer and we're prone to off-by-one errors, so I claim this falls within the spirit of the thing. As I was lining up the picture, an elderly lady said: "Cherry blossoms in February!".

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Giving Up On Patents

Posted By Tim Bray

Not so many years ago, even as I was filled with fear and loathing of the hideous misconduct of the US Patent & Trademark Office, I retained some respect for the notion of patents. I even wrote what I think is an unusually easy-to-read introduction to Patent Theory. But no more. The whole thing is too broken to be fixed. Maybe it worked once, but it doesn't any more. The patent system needs to be torn down and thrown out. I offer the following evidence, just a few random things that came across the radar in recent weeks. Some of these are long but they're all worth reading: RIM hit with more patent woes.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Sideways and Three Deep

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 99 on 2010/02/22: “Squares and grids surround us in our built environment. Focus in on some squares today and make a photograph.” Found in the back alley, weathering gracefully. Probably not good for much any more.

Sun, 21 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Brown and Green

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 98 on 2010/02/21: “Backgrounds are tricky. They can make a subject stand out or distract from it. Make a photo with a good background today.” Last year's witch-hazel leaves remain attached, as usual. No harm done I guess, but every spring I spend a few minutes giving it a haircut.

Sat, 20 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Olympic Curling

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 97 on 2010/02/20: “An old adage in photography says if you want to improve your photographs, move closer. Fill your frame today!” Skip Niklas Edin throws a rock late in Sweden's February 20th match with the United States. Sweden started the day 3-1, the USA 1-4, but the USA pulled out a razor-thin win.

Fri, 19 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Let Your Data Go

Posted By Tim Bray

It's like this: If you send data to someone over the Net, you can't control what they do with it. At least cost-effectively. Or, if you want a good outcome. This applies to Internet Standards. Any standard that tries to constrain the way in which data, once received, is processed, is broken. Similarly, to business. Any use of legislation or technology that tries to control what people can do with digital media objects, once they've been transmitted, is broken. Also any business model that relies on such control. For supporting arguments, check the last five years of this blog. I offer as further supporting evidence the fact that the Internet works and that it's a good place to learn, have fun, and make money.

Fri, 19 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Green Arrows

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 96 on 2010/02/19: “Symbols can be simple, ornate, plain, or colorful. Make a photo of a symbol that represents or stands for something else.” The glyph is on the side of a van, advertising its recycling-and-junk-removal function. This seems to have become a big business in every city; maybe we should buy less junk.

Thu, 18 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Black, Yellow, Violet

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 95 on 2010/02/18: “Frames outline the focus of a subject. Make a creative photo with natural framing: windows, doors, trees, borders, etc.” Just a few houses west of our place as we were walking down for an evening out; tapas with good people here from out of town, then off to an evening of music. So, this one is full of memories and smiles.

Wed, 17 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Late Early Flowers

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 94 on 2010/02/17: “Fragility conveys tension. Make a photo today of a person or object in a fragile state. ” The crocuses, collectively, aren't fragile at all; they'll be coming up here in spring long after I'm gone. But this year's plants are about done. Some have fallen (look close) and the ones that still stand are showing tatter. They've got a couple more days, maybe.

Tue, 16 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Shawl, In Progress

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 93 on 2010/02/16: “Things are always a-changin'. Make a photo that offers a snapshot of something being built, fabricated, or assembled.” I stopped by a construction site today and took a bunch of carefully-composed photos of the sun slanting through the framing and shadows cast on concrete. A couple are pretty good. Then I came home and found this.

Mon, 15 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Hair Extension Patriotism

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 92 on 2010/02/15: “It's Presidents Day in the U.S today. Make a photo with a patriotic theme for the country you call home. ” With the Olympics on, virtually every store in town has some flavor of patriotic merchandise in the window. The relationship with the goods on offer can be difficult to discern.

Mon, 15 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

HTML5

Posted By Tim Bray

It's all over the news these days, because it's A Good Thing: the Web will be smarter and faster and better. And for other reasons involving politics and vituperation. I love parts of HTML5, but it's clear that other parts are a science project. And as a sometime standards wonk, I'm puzzled by aspects of the way the spec (not the language, the spec for the language) is put together. What's Good I suspect I agree with most external observers: what's cool are the new elements like video, audio, and canvas. And since I'm a protocols guy, the closely-related Web Socket work; more on that below.

Sun, 14 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Riding the Bus Together

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 91 on 2010/02/14: “Sunday (Valentine's Day) challenge: What is love? Make an interpretive photo today. Keep it clean, people. :-)” On the bus coming back from the traditional corny-but-fun parade for Chinese New Year, which falls on Valentine's Day this year. I'm on single-Dad duty this Feb. 14th (snif).

Sat, 13 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Three Stacked Basketballs

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 90 on 2010/02/13: “Odd or even: Compose an image with an odd or even number of subjects today, and make a photo. ” On the Web at The Basketball Jones Show. We caught him as part of the Olympic festivities at the Granville Island Market. He's as much a comedian as juggler.

Fri, 12 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Moneyball!

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 89 on 2010/02/12: “Continuing the Friday fun theme, make a photo that goes with the title of a book you've read.” The reference, of course, is to the title of Michael Lewis' (typically) excellent baseball book.

Thu, 11 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Awaiting the Torchbearer

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 88 on 2010/02/11: “We often get stuck in a rut of always zooming to the longest focal length. Break out today by making a wide-angle photo.” Cambie Street, waiting for the Olympic flame to go by. The turnout was magnificent! This is one of the few blocks that wasn't jam-packed.

Wed, 10 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Djembé (detail)

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 87 on 2010/02/10: “We all have some sort of hobby or favorite activity. Make a photo that shows something you enjoy doing. (via @azmichelle)” Imported from Guinea in West Africa by Russell Shumsky. It sounds excellent but could sound better still were I a better and more dedicated drummer.

Tue, 09 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

The Listening Engine

Posted By Tim Bray

I've been thinking about Jeremy Toeman's Will Normal Folks Ever Use Twitter? A related question is: “Will normal folks ever use feed readers?” I suspect the answer to both questions is No. This might signal a new kind of stratification in society. It's always been possible to be very well-informed; there've been clipping services and above all old-boy networks; but services cost real money, and many lack networking skills or aren't Old Boys. But the Net is the greatest listening engine ever devised. These days anyone can choose, with its help, to be well-informed. You have to make the effort to figure out which key people are really on top of what you care about, so that you can start listening to them.

Tue, 09 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

"nothing but the start of terror"

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 86 on 2010/02/09: “Franz Kafka said "Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old." Make a photo of something beautiful today.” Opening of the First Duino Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Mark Doty. I saw little real-world beauty today, but this qualifies, and I did photograph it off the screen.

Mon, 08 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Whiskers!

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 85 on 2010/02/08: “Pet photos are such a cliche, but they're also cute. Make an interesting photo of a pet today. (via @rmanalan)” He wondered why I was hovering over him with this swollen black clicking thing. After I whistled five or six times to get him to look at me, he started tuning me out.

Sun, 07 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Heading Out to the Game

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 84 on 2010/02/07: “Challenge: Practice storytelling today. Look for 3 images that tell a story, and make a set of photos that go together.” Super Sunday: With friends in the burbs, and a sad ending.

Sun, 07 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

In Spring

Posted By Tim Bray

Young men's fancy turns to thoughts of, well, it depends. It's been well into the Celsius teens in recent days, with splashes of sun. Certain public-spirited young women leap at the chance to celebrate by way of a short skirt. I'm young enough to appreciate that, but old enough to be a gardener. After all, the short skirts and these vibrant colors are closely related in their intended function. For the younger men, specifically my own 10½-year-old, the season's thoughts are of videogames. I succumbed Sunday morning to intense lobbying and took him and his friend off to the mall to visit the local EB Games AKA GameStop for some swapping and shopping.

Sat, 06 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Riviera

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 83 on 2010/02/06: “Curves carry the eye along with them. Make a photo that creates a sense of movement with curves today.” Taken from just northwest of this particular Seventies-vintage Buick, looking southeast.

Fri, 05 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

They're Hiring!

Posted By Tim Bray

Something about my Current Status post the other day touched a nerve, and a substantial number of people wanted me to pass on the fact that they're hiring and might well be interested in Sun alumni. (Hmm... now this piece is provoking “us too” notices. I'll update, for a while anyhow.) Of course, I should mention that at the recent Oracle/Sun media event, all the executives we're wearing “We're Hiring!” buttons; probably not Sun alumni right now, but lots of people aren't and we get to be at the top of the list. Here are the rest: The Googlers were well-represented; I heard from Denton Gentry (“There are many Sun alumni at Google, and many reqs open.

Fri, 05 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

My Neighbor

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 82 on 2010/02/05: “More fun on a Friday: Make a photo that goes with the title of a movie you've seen, interpreted any way you like!” On one of my many trips to Japan, someone gave me this charming Totoro music-box. I can't remember who; if it was you, please accept my apologies and let me know.

Thu, 04 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Current Status

Posted By Tim Bray

I'm getting a lot of questions, and I think it's important that readers know who pays the author of the words they're reading. So: I have received an offer of employment from Oracle, with compensation that's acceptable, and am waiting for information about the role that is contemplated and where I'd fit into the organization. I have until next week to accept or decline. I'm pleased that I got an offer, and assume that the picture will fill in soon; merging an 80K-headcount company with a 30K-headcount acquisition is complex, but Oracle has been around this track lots of times. I'm sad about the Sun people who are on their way out (except for the ones who wanted out) and expect that this wave of pretty-senior and pretty-clueful people will have a noticeable impact on the industry.

Thu, 04 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

This is not like that

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 81 on 2010/02/04: “Contrasting ideas engage the mind. Make a photo today that tells a story with contrasting elements. (via @dibytes)” This architecture is not like that architecture. In Vancouver's mostly-boring downtown.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Vacant Lot (detail)

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 80 on 2010/02/03: “Make a "sharp" photo today any way you interpret it, either tack-sharp focus or a subject that is sharp itself.” This wall facing a vacant lot has been left unfinished for a long time, as we wait for construction. The pigeons have noticed.

Tue, 02 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Wet, Blue, and Early

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 79 on 2010/02/02: “It's Groundhog Day in the U.S. Make a photo that illustrates whether it's more like winter or spring where you live.” These (very early) crocuses would be open were they sunlit, but here they're coated with raindrops.

Mon, 01 Feb 2010 20:00:00 UTC

On the Main

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 78 on 2010/02/01: “Time for another color theme: Orange! Keep your eyes peeled for anything orange today and make an interesting photo.” On Vancouver's Main Street, which is trying to gentrify its legacy of elderly and, um, sincere retail architecture.

Sun, 31 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Edges of the sky

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 77 on 2010/01/31: “Sunday Challenge: Wherever there's an edge, there's energy. Make a photo where two things meet: land-water, land-sky, etc.” Three edges of the sky. Captured walking in the back alley with my daughter, cautious on her little bike.

Sun, 31 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Pricing Drama

Posted By Tim Bray

It's been a hairy few days, starting with Amazon firing a broadside at Macmillan (I like Charlie Stross' summary the best) then, within 72 hours, backing down. The ensuing conversation (mostly on Twitter) has been very interesting. Early on I remarked “The 21st-century marketplace is being reinvented in real time right now” which I think is obviously true. A lot of the crowd was expressing fury that anyone would charge $14.99 for a bag of bits and yes, that does seem a little steep. Later on I followed up with “The actual price isn't important. What matters is how it's set.

Sat, 30 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Wet stairposts

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 76 on 2010/01/30: “Get up close and personal with a building today. Make a photo of an architectural detail.” Two front-steps stairposts on a mild wet extremely green day.

Fri, 29 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Confections

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 75 on 2010/01/29: “Sugar, spice, and everything nice. Make a photo of something sweet today.” Confections at Shaktea on Main Street in Vancouver.

Fri, 29 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Dailyshoot Mashup

Posted By Tim Bray

For the past couple of weeks I've been participating in the Dailyshoot project, a gift to the world from James Duncan Davidson and Mike Clark. Now I'm feeding that photostream into this space. Apologies to subscribers for the 16-picture backlog; in future it'll be a dull rumble. This raises some interesting issues in photography and publishing policy and mashup technology. Photographically Speaking Dailyshoot takes almost no time and I enjoy it and I think that it'd be good for the development of almost any photographer. I route the assignment tweets to SMS so they're on my phone real early every morning.

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Meth, crack, smack, bud, whatever

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 74 on 2010/01/28: “The economy is in the news all the time. Make a photo that illustrates the economy or its impact on you in some way.” Meth, crack, smack, bud, you name it. Vancouver's Downtown Eastside public drug market.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Sun/Oracle Strategy Session

Posted By Tim Bray

I'm live-tweeting the session, but Twitter is in trouble, I don't see anyone's tweets but my own, and I guess mine are going into a black hole for most people who follow me. There is some news here, which you can see (I believe) by keeping an eye on @timbray.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Nothing Creative

Posted By Tim Bray

Compared to my Mac, the iPad lacks a keyboard, software development tools, writers' tools, photographers' tools, a Web server, a camera, a useful row of connectors for different sorts of wires, and the ability to run whatever software I choose. Compared to my Android phone, it lacks a phone, a camera, pocketability, and the ability to run whatever software I choose. Compared to the iPad, my phone lacks book-reading capability, a whole lot of performance, and screen real-estate. Compared to the iPad, my computer lacks a touch interface and suffers from excessive weight and bulk. It's probably a pretty sweet tool for consuming media, even given the unfortunate 4:3 aspect ratio.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Nothing Creative

Posted By Tim Bray

Compared to my laptop, the iPad lacks a keyboard, software development tools, writers' tools, photographers' tools, a Web server, a camera, a useful row of connectors for different sorts of wires, and the ability to run whatever software I choose. Compared to my Android phone, it lacks a phone, a camera, pocketability, and the ability to run whatever software I choose. Compared to the iPad, my phone lacks book-reading capability, performance, and screen real-estate. Compared to the iPad, my computer lacks a touch interface and suffers from excessive weight and bulk. It's probably a pretty sweet tool for consuming media, even given the unfortunate 4:3 aspect ratio.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Sun/Oracle Strategy Session

Posted By Tim Bray

I'm live-tweeting the session, but Twitter is in trouble, I don't see anyone's tweets but my own, and I guess mine are going into a black hole for most people who follow me. There is some news here, which you can see (I believe) by keeping an eye on @timbray.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Tricolor

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 73 on 2010/01/27: “Take something common--an object, building, or landscape--and compose an abstract composition with it.” Tricolor.

Tue, 26 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Google vs. Gmail

Posted By Tim Bray

We've had our Textuality.com domain since dinosaurs stalked the earth, and I'd like tbray@ to be my personal email handle right into the grave. But our current ISP/host is kind of lame and slow and has fourth-rate spam filters that get in the way. So Lauren suggested Google Apps for Email, and the buzz around it seems good. We're about to pull the trigger, but it seems to be harder than it should be. I currently route the Textuality email over to my Gmail account, where there's an inventory of ninety thousand or so messages, a couple of gigs' worth. I find a fluidized Gmail client quite usable, and the Android client is superb.

Tue, 26 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Google vs. Gmail

Posted By Tim Bray

We've had our Textuality.com domain since dinosaurs stalked the earth, and I'd like tbray@ to be my personal email handle right into the grave. But our current ISP/host is kind of lame and slow and has fourth-rate spam filters that get in the way. So Lauren suggested Google Apps for Email, and the buzz around it seems good. We're about to pull the trigger, but it seems to be harder than it should be. I currently route the Textuality email over to my Gmail account, where there's an inventory of ninety thousand or so messages, a couple of gigs' worth. I find a fluidized Gmail client quite usable, and the Android client is superb.

Tue, 26 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

A sunlit autumn remnant, looking down

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 72 on 2010/01/26: “Change your perspective today. Make a photo from a bird's eye view. Get out the chairs and ladders if you need to!” A sunlit autumn remnant, from above.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Teachable Moments

Posted By Tim Bray

My son, who's just started “Computer Labs” at school, came home all eager to tell us about this “Google” thing on the Internet. So far, we haven't particularly encouraged computer use at home. We got into an interesting family talk which was reported back to the teacher, then Lauren and I found ourselves invited to come in and teach the Internet to the class. So we set up scratch blogging space; this ended up being instructive both for them and us. I went and spent $8 for a decent class-related domain name, and Lauren whipped up a WordPress blog, which there was room for in her current hosting package (BTW, she's been very happy with Canadian Web Hosting).

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Teachable Moments

Posted By Tim Bray

My son, who's just started “Computer Labs” at school, came home all eager to tell us about this “Google” thing on the Internet. So far, we haven't particularly encouraged computer use at home. We got into an interesting family talk which was reported back to the teacher, then Lauren and I found ourselves invited to come in and teach the Internet to the class. So we set up scratch blogging space; this ended up being instructive both for them and us. I went and spent $8 for a decent class-related domain name, and Lauren whipped up a WordPress blog, which there was room for in her current hosting package (BTW, she's been very happy with Canadian Web Hosting).

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Arts & Crafts

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 71 on 2010/01/25: “Right (90-degree) angles can help define a composition. Make a photograph involving intersecting lines. (@lyzadanger) ” Arts & Crafts.

Sun, 24 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Two-faced mom

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 70 on 2010/01/24: “Sunday challenge: Experiment with shutter speed today by making a photo with a long exposure. ” Two-faced mom. (At the Sunday morning community center toddler drop-in, for which thanks.).

Sat, 23 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Axe Generations

Posted By Tim Bray

I rented It Might Get Loud, a 2009 music documentary featuring Jimmy Page (born 1944), The Edge (1961), and Jack White (1975). If you know who these people are and think you might like it, you almost certainly will. I have one really important piece of advice for those who are going to watch it. It's really a nice movie; the bulk is slow-paced soft-spoken autobiopic giving the three life/music back-stories. The people and stories are all interesting but not at all like each other. This is more or less a love-fest; there's no journalism or muckraking happening. There are little bits of whimsical animation and off-the-wall scriptwriting at work, to keep things from being too linear.

Sat, 23 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Axe Generations

Posted By Tim Bray

I rented It Might Get Loud, a 2009 music documentary featuring Jimmy Page (born 1944), The Edge (1961), and Jack White (1975). If you know who these people are and think you might like it, you almost certainly will. I have one really important piece of advice for those who are going to watch it. It's really a nice movie; the bulk is slow-paced soft-spoken autobiopic giving the three life/music back-stories. The people and stories are all interesting but not at all like each other. This is more or less a love-fest; there's no journalism or muckraking happening. There are little bits of whimsical animation and off-the-wall scriptwriting at work, to keep things from being too linear.

Sat, 23 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

From the philology shelves. Alas, poorly organized

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 69 on 2010/01/23: “We're all collectors of something. Find an interesting way to display and make a photo of a collection today.” From the philology shelves. Alas, poorly organized.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

On Self-Promotion

Posted By Tim Bray

This conversation started with Clay Shirky's A Rant About Women, which advised that gender to self-promote a little more, maybe even bullshitting sometimes. There have been good follow-ups and I've been thinking about this a lot. It's a fallacy, though, to think that these issues are important only to women. Other Voices I've saved a few browser tabs with the better responses: Gabriella Coleman's Being Bad-Ass w/o the Arrogance argues that in disciplines where women aren't bashing against glass ceilings, for example Anthropology, the people you emulate aren't “low-life jerks clawing their way to the top”, unlike (by implication) the “sea of white men” at technical and academic conferences.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

On Self-Promotion

Posted By Tim Bray

This conversation started with Clay Shirky's A Rant About Women, which advised that gender to self-promote a little more, maybe even bullshitting sometimes. There have been good follow-ups and I've been thinking about this a lot. It's a fallacy, though, to think that these issues are important only to women. Other Voices I've saved a few browser tabs with the better responses: Gabriella Coleman's Being Bad-Ass w/o the Arrogance argues that in disciplines where women aren't bashing against glass ceilings, for example Anthropology, the people you emulate aren't “low-life jerks clawing their way to the top”, unlike (by implication) the “sea of white men” at technical and academic conferences.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 68 on 2010/01/22: “Let's have some fun on a Friday. Make a photo that goes with the title (or lyrics) of a song. Interpret away!” Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun.

Thu, 21 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Paying For Books

Posted By Tim Bray

Last evening I reviewed a book by Charles Stross. Today, I'd like to encourage you to read his essay The monetization paradox (or why Google is not my friend). It's got me thinking about how we can ensure that writers still write books. And also measuring: I discovered that, since 2003, I've written 1.22 million words in this space. Yow. The problem of how we pay for journalism is hot stuff right now, as current business models seem pretty well done for and we don't have replacements in sight. Stross broadens the question: How do we arrange to pay writers to write?

Thu, 21 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Paying For Books

Posted By Tim Bray

Last evening I reviewed a book by Charles Stross. Today, I'd like to encourage you to read his essay The monetization paradox (or why Google is not my friend). It's got me thinking about how we can ensure that writers still write books. And also measuring: I discovered that, since 2003, I've written 1.22 million words in this space. Yow. The problem of how we pay for journalism is hot stuff right now, as current business models seem pretty well done for and we don't have replacements in sight. Stross broadens the question: How do we arrange to pay writers to write?

Thu, 21 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

"Words fail me."

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 67 on 2010/01/21: “Quirky things often catch your eye and make for interesting art. Make a photo of something that makes you go "Hmmm" today.” "Words fail me.".

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Leaf Compacting With Children

Posted By Tim Bray

It's like this: You're out in the yard, raking up the leaves that you didn't get to last fall, piling 'em into the big yard-waste bin, and the 3½-year-old is wandering around pretending to help. Pretty soon the bin will be looking full while there are still lots of dead leaves that need to go in. Here's what you do: You hoist the child up in the air and announce “You're a squisher! Straight legs!” Then use the kid like a pile-driver to make room in the bin. Up-down up-down; the leaves compact amazingly and the child is squealing with glee.

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Robot Sex-slave Blues

Posted By Tim Bray

Being a review of Saturn's Children by Charles Stross. Granted, my title is a little lurid, but so is the book, and I mean that in the nicest way. My heart was won in the third chapter, in which Our Heroine, captured by the Bad Guys, is (get this) lashed down across the railway tracks to Meet Her Doom. Which I have to call damn stylish. OK, the track isn't for trains, it's for a mobile city that has to roll slowly around Mercury to stay in the shade. And the chapter's title is Silent Movie. Anyhow, said heroine is in fact a Robot Sex Slave and distinctly has the blues.

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Robot Sex-slave Blues

Posted By Tim Bray

Being a review of Saturn's Children by Charles Stross. Granted, my title is a little lurid, but so is the book, and I mean that in the nicest way. My heart was won in the third chapter, in which Our Heroine, captured by the Bad Guys, is (get this) lashed down across the railway tracks to Meet Her Doom. Which I have to call damn stylish. OK, the track isn't for trains, it's for a mobile city that has to roll slowly around Mercury to stay in the shade. And the chapter's title is Silent Movie. Anyhow, said heroine is in fact a Robot Sex Slave and distinctly has the blues.

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Leaf Compacting With Children

Posted By Tim Bray

It's like this: You're out in the yard, raking up the leaves that you didn't get to last fall, piling 'em into the big yard-waste bin, and the 3½-year-old is wandering around pretending to help. Pretty soon the bin will be looking full while there are still lots of dead leaves that need to go in. Here's what you do: You hoist the child up in the air and announce “You're a squisher! Straight legs!” Then use the kid like a pile-driver to make room in the bin. Up-down up-down; the leaves compact amazingly and the child is squealing with glee.

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Penstack:

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 66 on 2010/01/20: “Make your camera the star of the show today. Use another camera or mirror to put your camera in a photo of its own. ” Penstack: K20, *istD, P30.

Tue, 19 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Power Web Site

Posted By Tim Bray

I propose a new definition. A site which is designed as the primary Web property for a person, place, or thing may be called a power site if, in popular search engines, it ranks above the Wikipedia entry for that person, place, or thing. There aren't very many.

Tue, 19 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

On the Blankness of Google

Posted By Tim Bray

Today, without planning to, I visited the Google home page, then also Yahoo and Bing. They don't look like each other at all. I think, first of all, that Yahoo is the past, Google the present, Bing the future. And second, that it doesn't matter much. There are probably many young people, young Web designers even, who don't know why Google's default home page is so stark and empty. I was around for the first generation of search engines – built one of 'em myself – and it went like this: The first couple of generations had ugly, amateurish-looking front pages. Then a few of us did IPOs and had real money and wanted to build a business model.

Tue, 19 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Power Web Site

Posted By Tim Bray

I propose a new definition. A site which is designed as the primary Web property for a person, place, or thing is a power site if the person, place, or thing has a Wikipedia entry but, in popular search engines, the site ranks above that Wikipedia entry. There aren't very many. But they follow simple patterns. Persons The search engines are actually pretty good. Very few people have Power Web Sites, except those who are primarily (at least in part) thought of as bloggers. Such as, for example, Paul Graham and, well, me. But not Tim Berners-Lee, Barack Obama, or Roger Federer.

Tue, 19 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

On the Blankness of Google

Posted By Tim Bray

Today, without planning to, I visited the Google home page, then also Yahoo and Bing. They don't look like each other at all. I think, first of all, that Yahoo is the past, Google the present, Bing the future. And second, that it doesn't matter much. There are probably many young people, young Web designers even, who don't know why Google's default home page is so stark and empty. I was around for the first generation of search engines – built one of 'em myself – and it went like this: The first couple of generations had ugly, amateurish-looking front pages. Then a few of us did IPOs and had real money and wanted to build a business model.

Tue, 19 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Seventies vintage, from Belgium

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 65 on 2010/01/19: “Make an interesting photo of a mode of transportation today: car, plane, bicycle, subway, or whatever you like!” This is a seventies-vintage bike from Belgium; elegant shapes.

Mon, 18 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

A Wall

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 64 on 2010/01/18: “Practice the art of simplicity today by making an interesting photo from a minimalist perspective (@domingocaceres).” A wall.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

On Namespaces

Posted By Tim Bray

It so happens that my name on is the front page of Namespaces in XML 1.0, a technology which is pretty broadly disliked. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I think we've learned some useful things since then and can make some good consensus recommendations for people doing this kind of thing, especially if they're using JSON. Problems of History A good place to start brushing up on this would be with James Clark's recent XML Namespaces. James is authoritative on technology, but I'm going to quibble with his take on history: “the argument for naming namespaces with URIs is that you can do a GET on the URI and get something human- or machine-readable back that tells you about the semantics of the namespace.” I'm not sure.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

On Namespaces

Posted By Tim Bray

It so happens that my name on is the front page of Namespaces in XML 1.0, a technology which is pretty broadly disliked. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I think we've learned some useful things since then and can make some good consensus recommendations for people doing this kind of thing, especially if they're using JSON. Problems of History A good place to start brushing up on this would be with James Clark's recent XML Namespaces. James is authoritative on technology, but I'm going to quibble with his take on history: “the argument for naming namespaces with URIs is that you can do a GET on the URI and get something human- or machine-readable back that tells you about the semantics of the namespace.” I'm not sure.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Lauren, by candle-light

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 63 on 2010/01/17: “Sunday challenge: We've photographed many things, but few people. Make a photo where the theme is a person or people.” Lauren... by candlelight! ISO 800, 1/8 sec at f1.4.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Found in our back alley (many candidates there)

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 62 on 2010/01/16: “One man's trash is another's treasure. Make a photo of something discarded or abandoned today. (@lyzadanger) ” Found in our back alley, along with many other trash/treasure discarded/abandoned samples.

Fri, 15 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Ceiling, skylight, rafters, light

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 61 on 2010/01/15: “Converging lines direct the viewer's eye. Sometimes found in railroad tracks, highways, and buildings. Make your photo!” Ceiling, skylight, rafters, light.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

NEC 2960, Android ADP2

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 60 on 2010/01/14: “Play with contrasting scale today: juxtapose something small with something big! (@melhutch) ” NEC 2960, Android ADP2.

Wed, 13 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Lauren knitted this touque for me

Posted By Tim Bray

Assignment for Dailyshoot 59 on 2010/01/13: “Make a photo of something you wear to keep yourself warm and/or dry: coat, gloves, scarf, hat, you name it!” Lauren knitted this for me. It's part of a really super warm touque.

Sun, 10 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Photos For Sale

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, someone wanted to buy a print of one of the photos here, and doing that turned out to be fun and have fringe benefits, so now anyone can. We have a nice Canon i9900 printer and I find that I actually enjoy setting up prints and holding them in my hands. Plus when I give them away as Christmas or birthday or soccer-coach presents, people seem happy to get them. The trouble is, we have only so many walls to fill, and only so many coaches and relatives to pester with presents, so the printer goes idle for months at a time.

Sun, 10 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Fried Noodles

Posted By Tim Bray

I speak of Yakisoba and Yakiudon, Japanese stir-fry dishes differentiated by whether the noodles are thin buckwheat (Soba) or thick wheat (Udon). The way I make them, people like them; but the names are a little misleading because the noodles are pretty well backgrounded. Herewith some illustrated recommendations; including exotic hand-imported ingredients. Black Soba Last September, during the expedition to Shimane for RubyWorld, we took a road trip that included a stop at a soba-specialist restaurant near Izumo, with a soba-specialties shop attached. I bought a package of the exotic-looking black variety that had been the meal's centerpiece.

Sun, 10 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Photos For Sale

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, someone wanted to buy a print of one of the photos here, and doing that turned out to be fun and have fringe benefits, so now anyone can. We have a nice Canon i9900 printer and I find that I actually enjoy setting up prints and holding them in my hands. Plus when I give them away as Christmas or birthday or soccer-coach presents, people seem happy to get them. The trouble is, we have only so many walls to fill, and only so many coaches and relatives to pester with presents, so the printer goes idle for months at a time.

Sun, 10 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Fried Noodles

Posted By Tim Bray

I speak of Yakisoba and Yakiudon, Japanese stir-fry dishes differentiated by whether the noodles are thin buckwheat (Soba) or thick wheat (Udon). The way I make them, people like them; but the names are a little misleading because the noodles are pretty well backgrounded. Herewith some illustrated recommendations; including exotic hand-imported ingredients. Black Soba Last September, during the expedition to Shimane for RubyWorld, we took a road trip that included a stop at a soba-specialist restaurant near Izumo, with a soba-specialties shop attached. I bought a package of the exotic-looking black variety that had been the meal's centerpiece.

Sat, 09 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Afterglow

Posted By Tim Bray

“All is quiet on New Year's Day” the song says. Also wet dark and cold in Vancouver starting around 4PM, this time of year. But my camera's marketing literature says it's waterproof, so I went out to listen to guitar solos in my head and shoot wet lights. It was appallingly rainy and chilly and generally awful; had been for days. I was going stir-crazy and tried to interest the family in a walk round the neighborhood but the grownup faction shook their heads at me in an irritatingly-tolerant kind of way, while the toddler squealed “It's raining, Daddy!” OK then.

Sat, 09 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Afterglow

Posted By Tim Bray

“All is quiet on New Year's Day” the song says. Also wet dark and cold in Vancouver starting around 4PM, this time of year. But my camera's marketing literature says it's waterproof, so I went out to listen to guitar solos in my head and shoot wet lights. It was appallingly rainy and chilly and generally awful; had been for days. I was going stir-crazy and tried to interest the family in a walk round the neighborhood but the grownup faction shook their heads at me in an irritatingly-tolerant kind of way, while the toddler squealed “It's raining, Daddy!” OK then.

Thu, 07 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Had It With Harper

Posted By Tim Bray

In Canada we're about to enter our fifth year of Conservative (AKA “Tory”) minority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They've been uninspiring and not terribly likable, but reasonably competent; enough to stay out of real trouble with the voters. I'm no Tory but I've mostly been “well, whatever”. No longer; it's time to bounce these bozos and see if we can do better. Harper's posse have pushed my hot buttons four separate times in the last few weeks; any one of these might've been enough to flip me into toss-the-turkeys mode. First, at the recent Copenhagen summit, we were clearly Part Of The Problem not the solution.

Thu, 07 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Had It With Harper

Posted By Tim Bray

In Canada we're about to enter our fifth year of Conservative (AKA “Tory”) minority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They've been uninspiring and not terribly likable, but reasonably competent; enough to stay out of real trouble with the voters. I'm no Tory but I've mostly been “well, whatever”. No longer; it's time to bounce these bozos and see if we can do better. Harper's posse have pushed my hot buttons four separate times in the last few weeks; any one of these might've been enough to flip me into toss-the-turkeys mode. First, at the recent Copenhagen summit, we were clearly Part Of The Problem not the solution.

Mon, 04 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

RESTful Design

Posted By Tim Bray

In full, that's the First International Workshop on RESTful Design, abbreviated as (sigh) “WS-REST”. It's next April in Raleigh, NC, co-located with WWW2010, and I'm on the program committee; the call for papers is now open. I wish I'd been the one to think of setting this up, and I'm happy to be part of it. In the REST space, there are a ton of people out ther Just Doing It, and I'd be happy to see a lot of submissions which report on lessons from that, rather than diving into hypertext casuistry. Get 'em in.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Doing It Wrong

Posted By Tim Bray

Enterprise Systems, I mean. And not just a little bit, either. Orders of magnitude wrong. Billions and billions of dollars worth of wrong. Hang-our-heads-in-shame wrong. It's time to stop the madness. These last five years at Sun, I've been lucky: I live in the Open-Source and “Web 2.0” communities, and at the same time I've been given significant quality time with senior IT people among our Enterprise customers. What I'm writing here is the single most important take-away from my Sun years, and it fits in a sentence: The community of developers whose work you see on the Web, who probably don't know what ADO or UML or JPA even stand for, deploy better systems at less cost in less time at lower risk then we see in the Enterprise.

Fri, 01 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC

Getting Lost Outside America

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, we got into the habit of watching episodic TV; Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, and so on. Both Lauren and I tend to work in the evenings, but a 40-minute video segment makes a pleasant break. The problem was, we got going on Lost without realizing it wasn't done yet. Thus, we are faced with the dismal prospect, starting next month, of watching TV on TV; that is, whenever some network scheduler thinks we should, and with ads. Which is clearly unreasonable in 2010. Solving this problem is pretty easy for Americans but harder for the rest of the world.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 20:00:00 UTC

After Branding

Posted By Tim Bray

In 2010, you are whatever the Net says you are. Deal with it. Let's assume that you want to deal with it; that is, you care about the picture the Net paints of you. I think that most of us should care, and I can think of three approaches to influencing the Net's view: Branding, Offending, and Spelling. The first probably won't work and the second stinks, so that leaves Spelling; more precisely, spell-checking and what it stands for. [You know what's weird? I feel no need for any explanation or defense of my opening sentence.] Plan A: Branding In business, they say that reality is what marketing creates.

Sat, 26 Dec 2009 20:00:00 UTC

Boxing Day Fog

Posted By Tim Bray

You can buy 1-Terabyte disks for $79, or 40-inch TVs for $500, or you can pretend the air isn't a wet grey mass and head for a wintry beach. This is color photography, it's just that there weren't many. I tried them in B&W, but preferred the ghostly tints to the hard monochrome. There may not be colors, but there are birds. Every shot here has 'em, you just have to look a bit. Such a cliché, but I love 'em. On this day, the waterfowl were mostly these snappy 2-tone models; someone reading this will doubtless know what they are, but I am not gonna get on birding's slippery slope, thank you; I have enough hobbies already that involve obsessive behavior.

Fri, 25 Dec 2009 20:00:00 UTC

Merry Christmas

Posted By Tim Bray

I hope you basked in the warmth of loved ones' company, ate well, and were pleasantly surprised. I have seasonal pix, with thoughts on Joseph Ratzinger, McKinley Morganfield, and turkey stuffing. I'm losing patience with the carefully-multicultural “Happy Holidays” and “Best of the Season”. This particular feast day's context is Christian, and there's nothing wrong with that even if you're not, either as a matter of faith or heritage. The multiflavored citizens of Vancouver pitch in gleefully and I'm not sure the proportion of unbelie