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All Postings, Tim Bray:  (1,668 posts)

Source blog: ongoing

Wed, 01 Jul 2020 19:00:00 UTC

More Topfew Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in May I wrote a little command-line utility called Topfew (GitHub). It was fun to write, and faster than the shell incantation it replaced. Dirkjan Ochtman dropped in a comment noting that he?d written Topfew along the same lines but in in Rust (GitHub) and that it was 2.86 times faster; at GitHub, the README now says that with a few optimizations it?s now 6.7x faster. I found this puzzling and annoying so I did some optimization too, encountering surprises along the way. You already know whether you?re the kind of person who wants to read the rest of this.

Fri, 26 Jun 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Oboe to Ida

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I was listening to an (at least) fifty-year old LP, a classical collection entitled The Virtuoso Oboe; it?s what the title says. The music was nothing to write home about but led into a maze of twisty little passages that ended with me admiring the life of a glamorous Russian bisexual Jewish ballerina heiress who?s famous for? well, we?ll get to that. Regular readers know that I have a background task???working through an inherited trove of 900 mostly-classical LPs. In that piece I said I was going to blog my way through the collection but I haven?t, which is probably OK.

Thu, 25 Jun 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Break Up Google

Posted By Tim Bray

It?s easy to say ?Break up Big Tech companies!? Depending how politics unfold, the thing might become possible, but figuring out the details will be hard. I spent the last sixteen years of my life working for Big Tech and have educated opinions on the subject. Today: Why and how we should break up Google. Where?s the money? Google?s published financials are annoyingly opaque. They break out a few segments but (unlike Amazon) only by revenue, there?s nothing about profitability. Still, the distribution is interesting. I collated the percentages back to Q1 2018: Ads on GoogleAds off GoogleAds on YouTubeCloudOther 2018 Q170.97%14.84%??14.19% 2018 Q271.69%14.77%??13.54% 2018 Q371.73%14.58%??13.69% 2018 Q469.05%14.32%??16.62% 2019 Q170.99%13.81%??14.92% 2019 Q270.36%13.66%??15.98% ...

Sun, 21 Jun 2020 19:00:00 UTC

A-Cloud PR/FAQ

Posted By Tim Bray

I?d like to see AWS split off from the rest of Amazon and I?m pretty sure I?m not alone. So to help that happen, I?ve drafted a PR/FAQ and posted it on GitHub so that it can be improved. People who know what a PR/FAQ is and why this might be helpful can hop on over and critique the doc. For the rest, herewith background and explanation on the what, why, and how. A project needs a name and so does a company. For the purposes of this draft I?m using ?A-Cloud? for both. Why spin off AWS?

Sun, 14 Jun 2020 19:00:00 UTC

AWS?s Share of Amazon?s Profit

Posted By Tim Bray

I?ve often heard it said that AWS is a major contributor to Amazon?s profitability. How major? Here?s a graph covering the last nine quarters, with a brief methodology discussion: I think this is a useful number to observe as time goes by, and it would be good if we generally agree on how to compute it. So here?s how I did it. Start at the Quarterly Results page at ir.amazon.com. It only has data back through 2018 which seems like enough history for this purpose. Let?s take a walk through, for example, the Q1 2020 numbers.

Mon, 08 Jun 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Anti-Monopoly Thinking

Posted By Tim Bray

I recently read The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition by Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn. For a decade or two now I?ve felt the economy is over-concentrated and in recent years I?ve been super-concerned about concentration of market power in the Big-Tech sector where I?ve earned my living. Reading this book has reinforced that concern and been very helpful in introducing new angles on how to think about monopoly. The issue is central to the travails and triumphs of 21st-century Capitalism and if you care about that, you might want to read it too.

Sun, 31 May 2020 19:00:00 UTC

At CRAB Park

Posted By Tim Bray

On an errand, we felt the need to be outside near the sea. The closest opportunity was CRAB Park (see here). We hadn?t planned on visiting a homeless encampment but did that too. I seriously recommend the experience. Also I got pleasant pictures to accompany the story. CRAB is the nearest green waterfront to Vancouver?s Downtown Eastside which means some of the people you see have been considerably damaged by what we call ?civilization?, and show it. it?s also real close to the Port of Vancouver, third-largest in North America and biggest in Canada (only 29th in the world).

Mon, 18 May 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Topfew Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

This was a long weekend in Canada; since I?m unemployed and have no workaday cares, I should have plenty of time to do family stuff. And I did. But I also got interested in a small programming problem and, over the course of the weekend, built a tiny tool called topfew. It does a thing you can already do, only faster, which is what I wanted. But I remain puzzled. [To those who are interested in Amazon or politics or photography, feel free to skip this. I?ll come back to those things.] What it does Back in 2016 I tweeted Hello "sort | uniq -c | sort -rn | head" my old friend, and got a few smiles.

Wed, 13 May 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Meta Blog

Posted By Tim Bray

My recent Amazon-exit piece got an order of magnitude more traffic then even the post popular outings here normally do. Which turned my mind to thoughts of blogging in 2020, the why and how of the thing. Here they are, along with hit-counts and referer data from last week. Probably skip this unless you?re interested in social-media dynamics and/or publishing technology. Numbers In the first week after publication, Bye, Amazon was read somewhat more than 614,669 times by a human (notes on the uncertainty below). The referers with more than 1% of that total were Twitter (18.13%), Hacker News (17.09%), Facebok (10.55%), Google (4.29%), Vice (3.40%), Reddit(1.66%), and CNBC (1.09%).

Wed, 06 May 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Responses

Posted By Tim Bray

Boy, when your I?m-outta-here essay goes viral, do you ever get a lot of input. A few responses came up often enough to be worth sharing. This was via email, Twitter DMs, blog comments, and LinkedIn messages. All of which went completely batshit. So, some answers. But first? Thanks for the kind words! I had no notion how the world might react to a cranky old overpaid geek?s public temper tantrum. The world?s been astonishingly warm and welcoming. Apparently I hit a hot button I didn?t know existed. The crankiest geek on the planet couldn?t fail to have their heart warmed.

Wed, 29 Apr 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Bye, Amazon

Posted By Tim Bray

May 1st was my last day as a VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services, after five years and five months of rewarding fun. I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19. What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars, not to mention the best job I?ve ever had, working with awfully good people. So I?m pretty blue. What happened Last year, Amazonians on the tech side banded together as Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), first coming to the world?s notice with an open letter promoting a shareholders?

Sat, 25 Apr 2020 16:00:00 UTC

Mac Migration Pain

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, my backpack got stolen with my work and personal Macs inside. The work machine migrated effortlessly but I just finished up multiple days of anguish getting the personal machine going and thought I?d blog it while it was fresh in my mind. This might be helpful to others, either now or maybe later at the end of a Web search. But hey, I?m typing this ongoing fragment on it, so the story had a happy ending. And to compensate for its length and sadness, I?ll give it a happy beginning; two, in fact. Happy corporate The IT guys were excellent, they?re in quarantine mode too but somehow arranged on two hours?

Sun, 05 Apr 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Early 2020 Mac Upgrades

Posted By Tim Bray

With notes on microphones, Apple?s Magic Keyboard, laptop stands, and my [gasp!] new email client, MailMate. Suddenly we?re all working from home. Ours isn?t that big???in particular, only one office???and there are three other people working or studenting from it, so instead I?ve been using our boat. It?s cramped but scenic. As the number of weeks that I?ll be doing this stretches out into the unknowable future, there?s a chance for geek accessorization! I believe that in these days those of us who still have incomes should make a little effort to spread it around, especially when it might boost our productivity a bit, or anyhow our morale.

Sat, 04 Apr 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Plague Journal, April 4

Posted By Tim Bray

I?m an optimist so I don?t put the year in the title. Once again: Writing is therapeutic. Open up whatever program you use to write stuff in, and see what comes out. Today?s adventure was the Socially Distanced Farmers? Market. They were organized as hell, the market subdivided into three Zones, each with its own line-up, social distance chalked on the sidewalk. The people density was unusually high in the neighborhood and a lot of people have started just walking down the middle of the street, screw the motorists. I find this cheering. People are so open and friendly!

Sat, 04 Apr 2020 19:00:00 UTC

MacOS Lore, Early 2020

Posted By Tim Bray

I?ve used a Mac for an extremely long time; long enough that this blog?s topic tag is Mac OS X, what macOS used to be called. Herewith a looking-back summary. Previously on Mac Lore? Clicking on that ?Mac OS X? link cost me a half hour rat-holing on my journey over the years. So you don?t have to, here?s a compendium of advice I give people about the Right Way To Do It; although some of the recommendations are not Mac-specific: Your screen is wider than it is high.

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Plague Journal, April 2

Posted By Tim Bray

Hey folks, one decent therapy for times like these when the world?s trying to drive you crazy is to tell your story; doesn?t matter if anyone?s listening. This is adapted from an email to the family that got kind of out of control. Write your own #PlagueJournal entries and I?ll read ?em. I feel vaguely like I?m setting a bad example as I cycle furiously on empty-ish streets across town each day to the boat and back; the smallest office I?ve ever had, but the view is decent. The weather remains obstinately wintry, temperature refusing to venture out of single digits, which is OK when the sun?s out which it mostly isn?t.

Sat, 21 Mar 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Facet: Push vs Pull

Posted By Tim Bray

If you want to process events, you can fetch them from the infrastructure or you can have the infrastructure hand them to you. Neither idea is crazy. [This is part of the Event Facets series.] When you make a request to fetch data, that?s called ?pull?. Which is an off-by-one error; the ?u? should be an ?o? as in ?poll?, because that?s how most network stuff works. I?ve heard old farts of my own vintage claim that on the network, polling is really all there is if you dig in deep enough. But we do use the term ?push?, in which???maybe it?s just an illusion???the infrastructure reaches out and hands the event to you.

Sat, 14 Mar 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Plague Advice

Posted By Tim Bray

A couple weeks back ?Social Distancing? would?ve been a Big Thinker?s title in The Times, about the Downside Of Facebook. Now it?s a best practice if you care about flattening the COVID-19 curve and saving grandmothers. I?m a believer; recently I tweeted Cancel Everything and I meant it. But this shouldn?t mean that you can?t go outside; or shop; or photograph. Plague Advice Go outside! Today we went to the Riley Park Winter Farmers Market, eleven blocks away in cold spring sun. Damn it was cold, 5°C at best. But I bought beets.

Tue, 10 Mar 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Facet: Broker vs Serverless

Posted By Tim Bray

Your event infrastructure might be a service in the cloud or might be an actual computer (or cluster) you connect to. Both choices are perfectly sensible. The trade-offs? It?s complicated. [This is part of the Event Facets series.] At AWS where I work, our mainstream home-grown services (Kinesis, SQS, SNS) are all serverless. I mean, there are servers, lots of ?em, but you can?t see ?em, there?s just an endpoint that you connect to, usually with HTTP, to produce and consume events. Which should be unsurprising, AWS is built on the proposition that everything should be a service.

Mon, 09 Mar 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Facet: Point-to-Point vs Pub/Sub

Posted By Tim Bray

When there?s an event in the cloud, how many different receivers can receive it? There are two plausible answers: Just one, or anyone. [This is part of the Event Facets series.] Point-to-point The idea is that any given message can only be read by one receiver. You might imagine that, as the old photo above suggests, the sender supplies an address, choosing the receiver. But that?s actually a pretty rare scenario. What?s much more common is the way that SQS works. In SQS, when you send a message, you have to pick which queue you?re sending it on.

Sun, 08 Mar 2020 19:00:00 UTC

Facet: Deduping

Posted By Tim Bray

When you fire an event into the cloud, can you be sure it?ll only come out again once? It turns out that sometimes they come out more often than they go in. This may or may not be a problem in your application. If it is, there are techniques to help work around it. ?At-least once? This is a phrase you?ll hear a lot when you hang around with eventing/messaging people, (and cloud people generally). Builders work so hard at making sure everything gets delivered that they can end up doing it more than once. How can that happen?

Sat, 07 Mar 2020 20:00:00 UTC

Eventing Facets

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, at re:Invent 2019 I gave a talk entitled Moving to Event-Driven Architecture, discussing a list of characteristics that distinguish eventing and messaging services. It was a lot of work pulling the material together and I?ve learned a couple of things since then; thus, welcome to the Eventing Facets blog series, of which this is the hub. It?s going to take a while to fill this out. Eventing or messaging? They?re just labels. If it?s publish-and-subscribe people usually say ?event?; if there?s a designated receiver, ?message?. But there?s a lot of messy ground in between; and in my experience, the software does more or less the same stuff whichever label?s on the cover.

Sat, 07 Mar 2020 20:00:00 UTC

Facet: FIFO

Posted By Tim Bray

When you inject events into the cloud, do you care whether they come out in the same order they went in? If you do, you?ll be asking for ?FIFO? (rhymes with ?Fly, foe!?) (stands for ?First In First Out?) . Some software has it, some doesn?t. [This is part of the Event Facets series.] If you think about it carefully, FIFO is only meaningful when you have a single-threaded sender and a single-threaded receiver; with more than one, who gets to say which message was sent (or received) first? Real-world FIFO semantics.Credit: ?Caravan in the desert.

Wed, 19 Feb 2020 20:00:00 UTC

On Soaking the Rich

Posted By Tim Bray

The government of BC, the Canadian province where I live, just released a new budget which, among other things, raises tax on high incomes. Here is an overview. The top marginal tax on incomes over C$220,000 goes from 16.8% to 20.5%. This is just provincial tax; what with the Feds, the total top marginal rate is now 53%. Not everyone is delighted. For example Garth Turner, finance/real-estate blogger, who emits a howl of right-wing grief. I?m comfortable speaking about this since I?m personally affected. [These days, a Canuck buck is worth about $0.75 American.] It?s worth noting that our province is led by the New Democratic Party (everyone says ?NDP?)

Fri, 14 Feb 2020 20:00:00 UTC

Sally Leekie

Posted By Tim Bray

Happy Valentines! A day that celebrates love comes, in my mind, second only to the one that celebrates giving thanks. I didn?t do roses or chocolate, but I made dinner for a couple of people I love; one of the dishes was improvised and came out well, so this recipe is my valentine to the world. The main ingredients are salmon and leeks; thus ?Sally Leekie?. Ingredients Salmon: We use wild frozen-at-sea Pacific Sockeye, usually obtainable in Vancouver. 750g fed three generously. Leeks: A couple of big ones. Garlic: Confession: For this dish, I used minced garlic out of a jar that I bought in a supermarket; a couple of heaping teaspoons-full.

Sun, 09 Feb 2020 20:00:00 UTC

Why Google Did Android

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, in the late stages of my career at Sun Microsystems, as we were sliding into Oracle?s loathsome embrace, I had discovered Android. The programming language was Java, and not a dorky ?ME? subset. My employer was saying nice things about it, and I?d long craved something I could both carry in my pocket and program. I discovered it was pretty easy to program and eventually published the Android Diary series in this space, which got pretty lively readership. Thus, I shouldn?t have been surprised when, shortly after leaving Sun, I got outreach from Google?s Developer Relations org. I was receptive and almost immediately I found myself in Mountain View for the famous Google Interview Day.

Sat, 08 Feb 2020 20:00:00 UTC

Seasonturn

Posted By Tim Bray

It?s still February, winter obviously, and yet there was a bit of chilly sun today to greet 2020?s crocuses, the photo-introduction of which has become an annual ritual in this space. Here are two shots from January 15th, just twenty-four days ago. The snow was considerable but didn?t last long. The rain?s been extreme even by Vancouver standards, just relentless; we?re all feeling a bit climatically bruised. There could be more snow, but I?m ignoring that. Because of this: These photos shot with the recently-acquired steampunk Pentax M 100/2.8. This year they?re up a little earlier and there are lots!

Tue, 04 Feb 2020 20:00:00 UTC

Bye-bye Time Machine

Posted By Tim Bray

I recently switched my backup tool from Apple?s Time Machine to Arq Backup which for my needs is clearly better. And once I?d realized that, I wondered whose needs would be best served by Time Machine. To be honest I?m having a hard time with that. Time Machine setup I?d used Time Capsules and Airports for many years and then switched to a Synology DS416j with mirrored 6TB drives. It took a little jiggery-pokery to get the Macs and the Synology talking nicely, but then things seemed to work for a while. But not recently. At regular intervals Time Machine says something like ?Time Machine has enthrophased the gnocchometric continuum, and you need to back up from scratch again.?

Sun, 19 Jan 2020 20:00:00 UTC

Decarbonization

Posted By Tim Bray

We?re trying to decarbonize our family as much as we can. We?re not kidding ourselves that this will move any global-warming needles. But sharing the story might, a little bit. Those who worry a lot about the climate emergency, and who wonder what they might do about it, are advised to have a look at To fix Climate Change, stop being a techie and start being a human by Paul Johnston (until recently a co-worker). It?s coldly realistic, noting that the Climate Emergency is not your fault and that you can?t fix it. Only radical large-scale global political action will, and his recommendation is that you find an organization promoting such change that meets your fancy (there are lots, Paul provides a helpful list) and join it.

Tue, 14 Jan 2020 20:00:00 UTC

Orange Badge

Posted By Tim Bray

Late last year one of our admin people walked into my office, saying ?Five-year anniversary, new badge, gimme your old one?. Which means I?ve been here five orbits of the sun, my longest job tenure since my seven-year stay last century at a company I co-founded. Best and worst Best things? The work is fun and the people are nice. Of those working here in Vancouver when I showed on up December 1st, 2014, more than 70% remain, which is impressive in high tech???pretty well any of them can walk down the street to Microsoft or a game company and get a job that week, maybe for more money.

Sun, 12 Jan 2020 20:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 11: A Year In

Posted By Tim Bray

The I-Pace insurance renewal showed up so I knew a year must have (so quickly!) gone by. I?d thought I should write something to draw a line under this diary, and then just now the car saved my life, so now?s the time. Not much new information here but maybe a couple of smiles. The insurance???two drivers, good records, no commuting???cost around two and a half thousand Canadian dollars. That year?s other car expenses put together (electricity, replacing a vandalized window) are a tiny fraction of the insurance. Electric cars, even with sports-car performance like the Jag?s, are stupidly cheap to run.

Tue, 31 Dec 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Horopito

Posted By Tim Bray

It?s a place near the center of New Zealand?s North Island; we spent the last Christmas of the decade there. It?s considered remote in NZ which I guess makes it doubly so in the wider world. Unless you?re planning southern-hemisphere skiing you?re unlikely to go near it, so I felt words and pictures worth sharing. What happened was, Lauren?s brother and his wife who live in Auckland came to visit us and we took them to our cabin; they liked the country-retreat concept so much that they bought an acre in Horopito and built a house on it. This was finished and moved-into on December 18th and in a flash of insane courage, they invited their three children, two children?s spouses, and five grandchildren along.

Wed, 18 Dec 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Content-based Filtering

Posted By Tim Bray

The publish/subscribe pattern is central to data in motion???event-driven and messaging-based apps, I mean. I?m increasingly convinced that pub/sub software just isn?t complete without some sort of declarative filtering technology, so that you can subscribe to a huge shared torrent of data and only see the parts of it that you need to process. You could look at everything and write code to reject the data you don?t care about, but it?s nice to write a declarative rule and have the system take care of the filtering for you. This piece is about data-filtering technology we?ve been cooking up at AWS, and that I?ve personally put a whole lot of work into.

Sun, 15 Dec 2019 20:00:00 UTC

The Oil Patch Up Against the Wall

Posted By Tim Bray

I?m terribly worried about how my children???and humans in general???are going to deal with catastrophic global warming in the likely case that the average global temperature spike is somewhere in the 2°-4°C range. I want to highlight a couple of weekend stories on the biggest news story of the twenty-first century: The tragedy of the deniers, and likely consequences for the perpetrators. Like most literate people whose livelihood doesn?t depend directly on the fossil-energy industry, I believe the evidence is overwhelming that anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 overload has a strong greenhouse effect whose results are already visible in receding ice and flurries of ?hundred-year?

Wed, 11 Dec 2019 20:00:00 UTC

@bluesky

Posted By Tim Bray

At my day job they say ?Think big!?, and @bluesky is that. I can?t stop thinking about it, and bloggers can?t help thinking in public. This work can simultaneously be probably-doomed and obviously-worthwhile. I?m aligned with where Twitter is starting this conversation. First, speaking under my AWS-employee hat: One of our standard soundbites is that people and enterprises should strive to avoid ?undifferentiated heavy lifting?, i.e. wrangling software infrastructure. The basic machinery behind Twitter needs to?keep track of who said what and make it available to others. Let?s go further and grant (as I would) that Twitter exhibits the essential nouns and verbs of text-centric social media: Annotated linking, following, echoing, answering, liking, muting, blocking.

Mon, 02 Dec 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Strongly Typed Events

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in 2016, in Message Processing Styles, I was sort of gloomy and negative about the notion of automated mapping between messages on the wire and strongly-typed programming data structures. Since we just launched a Schema Registry, and it?s got my fingerprints on it, I guess I must have changed my mind. Eventing lessons I?ve been mixed up in EventBridge, formerly known as CloudWatch Events, since it was scratchings on a whiteboard. It has a huge number of customers, including but not limited to the hundreds of thousands that run Lambda functions, and the volume of events per second flowing through the main buses are keeping a sizeable engineering team busy.

Fri, 29 Nov 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Electric Boats

Posted By Tim Bray

I love boating, but I hate the fact that powerboats guzzle loads of fossil fuel. I assuage my guilt by noting that the distance traveled is small???a couple of hours for each return trip to the cabin, and there are sadly less than twenty of those per year. Then I got into a discussion on /r/boating about whether electric boats are practical, so herewith some scratchpad calculations on that subject. I?ve ridden on an electric boat, on the Daintree River in Queensland, on a small alligator-watching tour. This thing was flat and had room for maybe fifteen tourists under a canopy, necessary shelter from the brutal tropical sun; on top of the canopy were solar panels, which the pilot told me weren?t quite enough to run the boat up and down the river all day, he had to plug it in at night.

Sat, 23 Nov 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Wolfe and Gika

Posted By Tim Bray

Chelsea Wolfe I mean, and her opening act Thursday night was Ioanna Gika. It was exceptionally enjoyable, partly because nothing about it was wrong. Lovely music, great staging, good venue, exceptional sound. This happens rarely enough that it?s worth calling out when it does. Chelsea Wolfe Ms Wolfe has appeared on this blog multiple times. She has two modes: Acoustic, where the songs are ethereal splashes of complex slow-moving beauty; and electric, banshee keening nestled into a torrent of roaring guitar drone. Thursday night was sort of acoustic; Chelsea had an acoustic guitar and then a guy on keyboards and guitars.

Sun, 17 Nov 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Bits On the Wire

Posted By Tim Bray

Exactly 100% of everything on the Internet involves exchanging messages which represent items of interest to humans. These items can be classified into three baskets: One for ?media? (images, sound, video), one for text (HTML, PDF, XML), and one for ?objects? (chat messages, payments, love poems, order statuses). This is a survey of how Object data is encoded for transmission over the Internet. Discussed: JSON, binary formats like Avro and Protobufs, and the trade-offs. Much of what people believe to be true is not. History sidebar The first ever cross-systems data interchange format was ASN.1, still used in some low-level Internet protocols and crypto frameworks.

Sun, 03 Nov 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Subscription Friction

Posted By Tim Bray

At Canadian Thanksgiving, friends joined us at our cottage for turkey and the fixings. The food (what we made and what they brought) all came out great and we had happy stomachs. I did a lot of the cooking and wanted to check recipes and was brought face to horrified face with the failure of publishing to work on the Internet. The solution seems plain to me and this won?t be the first time I?ve offered it. But something really needs to be done. What happened was, I wanted to refresh my memory on turkey and gravy. These are dishes one makes regularly but rarely and the details don?t stick to my mind: What?s the meat-thermometer reading for a stuffed bird, and what order do you deploy the drippings, roux, and giblet broth in for gravy?

Sun, 13 Oct 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Easy Reliable Chicken Kebabs

Posted By Tim Bray

This involves a certain amount of chopping stuff up, also attention to hygiene, but requires no particular technical skill and has never ever failed to get rave reviews. Infrastructure and ingredients A barbecue. Charcoal is said to produce better flavor but gas is immensely faster and easier. Skewers. Metal or wood, whatever. Chicken. I?m lazy, I buy it skinless & boneless from the supermarket. Breasts are easier to work with but thighs come out a little better. A kg will satiate four large hungry people. Lemons. You could use the stuff that comes in bottles but that would be lame.

Sun, 06 Oct 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Records and Lenses

Posted By Tim Bray

Sunday included more fun than the recent average???at my age, chilling is often more attractive than partying. Sunday featured vinyl, vintage lenses, Southern guitar boogie, and a photo-assignment. With pictures! (Which may be a little puzzling, but stay with me.) What happened was, I noticed that there was a Fall 2019 Record Convention and on impulse took the e-bike crosstown to the glamorous (not really) Croation Cultural Centre. I strolled in the door of the big room with all the people and the nice lady said ?You want the record convention or the camera convention? This is the cameras.? Who knew?

Sat, 05 Oct 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Discogs Pain

Posted By Tim Bray

As I continue slowly ingesting the 900 classical LPs I inherited, I?ve developed a relationship with Discogs. It?s a good place to track your collection (here?s mine, in-progress). This is the story of my first attempt to use it to buy music, a laughable failure. It?s by way of public service, just leaving a marker, a warning others to be careful about charging into the marketplace. There?s a lot to like about Discogs. The screens are unfussy and fast and their coverage of everything ever recorded is just awesome. The LP collection I?m working my way through has plenty of obscurities by no-hit wonders, but I?ve been through a couple hundred records now and only hit one that it didn?t already have: Music from The Golden Age of Silent Movies played by Gaylord Carter at the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ.

Sat, 28 Sep 2019 19:00:00 UTC

At the Climate Strike

Posted By Tim Bray

I went and so did lots of others, but many couldn?t so I thought I?d try to share the scale and the feel. (Mounted on a hockey stick) I?m pretty old and cynical and still, this felt like it mattered. Even though it was good-humored and consciously funny. Partly it was just the scale???one of our big north-south thoroughfares full of streaming strikers it seemed forever, but they say the peak of the parade only lasted an hour and a half. The police estimated a hundred thousand but they are prone to undercounting based on an institutional fear of too many people in one place going the same direction.

Wed, 25 Sep 2019 19:00:00 UTC

On Sharding

Posted By Tim Bray

If you need to handle really a lot of traffic, there?s only one way to do it: sharding. Which is to say, splitting up the incoming requests among as many hosts (or Lambda functions, or message brokers, or data streams) as you need. Once you get this working you can handle an essentially unlimited request volume. Of course, you have to make choices on how you?re going to divide up the traffic among the shards. I?ve had intense exposure to the options since I came to work at AWS. Random spray This is the simplest thing imaginable. For each message, you make a UUID and use it as the Partition Key (if your downstream uses that for sharding), otherwise just pick a target shard using your favorite random number generator.

Sat, 21 Sep 2019 19:00:00 UTC

The Cloud and Open Source

Posted By Tim Bray

This is eventually about the public cloud and Open Source, but???apologies in advance???takes an indirect and long-ish path. In AWS engineering, we develop stuff and we operate stuff. I think the second is more important. We have good hardware and software engineers, and infrastructure that feels pretty magic to me (faves: the racks and networking gear, the consensus manager underlying QLDB, and the voodoo that makes S3 go). But, like Bill Joy said, ?Wherever you work, most of the smart people are somewhere else?, so I?m not gonna kid myself that we?re magically unique at programming. But on the operations side, the picture is really unique.

Sun, 08 Sep 2019 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXXIX: Island Wildlife

Posted By Tim Bray

Our probably-last Cottage-Life weekend of 2019 featured cetacean encounters and rodent rage. But I didn?t manage to photograph any of that, so just the usual trees and sunsets. Like this: Killers! This morning I was alone at the breakfast table, considering the, sea as one does, when I saw them and was yelling ?whales!? at the family. There were five killer whales, one an adorable juvenile who put a little hop into every surface-to-breathe. They weren?t in a hurry, stayed for a while. ?Orcas? is more common but I say ?killer whales?. Scientists prefer that too, although ?orca? has etymological standing, per Wikipedia.

Wed, 21 Aug 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Portraits of Puppets

Posted By Tim Bray

If you happened to check out my Twitter feed on the weekend, you?ll know that I attended a pair of dueling rallies outside a train station in central Vancouver. On one side, a crowd in black supporting the Hong Kong protests; on the other a red-clad flag-festooned squad bringing Beijing?s message. I was dressed in black and took pictures of the other side. The issue It?s a no-brainer. Hong Kong isn?t perfect but it?s a civilization, with laws and with access to the world. China is a big hulking cut-off-from-the-world prison for the mind, built on systemic brutality and corruption. I admire the Hong Kongers?

Sun, 18 Aug 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Talking Hong Kong Blues

Posted By Tim Bray

I?m imagining a discussion that might have taken place in Baidaihe at some point this month at the annual CCP summer offsite. ?Getting ugly in Hong Kong, and I?m not sure our Ms Lam is moving things in the right direction.? ?I hear from the people on the spot that what the good people want is just peace and quiet, this is just a bunch of teenage assholes making trouble.? ?Nobody wants to give their boss bad news. Haven?t you watched the BBC coverage? Maybe you?re hearing good things from your staff, but let?s suppose the gweilo TV is right? What are we going to do??

Tue, 06 Aug 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Jeanneau 795 Review

Posted By Tim Bray

In Europe this boat is called the Merry Fisher 795 and in the New World, the NC 795. I?ve owned it for a few months and improved it a bit and taken it a few places and feel like sharing. Why review? At this point, regular readers are thinking WTF, boat review?!? I?ve only been on a handful, I?ve only owned one since 2012, I?m still occasionally baffled by nautical jargon, and my command of knots remains imperfect. Here?s why. When you go shopping for a refrigerator or car or coffee-maker or TV or (especially) camera, there are loads of excellent detailed skeptical-voiced reviews you can read before you cough up the money.

Sat, 27 Jul 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Google Pixel Photo Workflow

Posted By Tim Bray

I recently wrote about the excessive difficulty of moving the Google Pixel phone?s excellent pictures through a Lightroom workflow. It turns out that Lightroom has a solution; herewith details, upsides, downsides, and alternatives. Also, cautionary words for Adobe on Lightroom Classic To start with, Adobe has a page telling you how to Sync Lightroom Classic with Lightroom ecosystem. Sidebar: ?Lightroom Classic? If you?re not sure what ?Lightroom Classic? means, they also have a page whose URL suggests it?s about Lightroom Classic vs Lightroom CC???but the ?CC? designation has apparently been lost, so the cloud-centric version is just Lightroom. For those of us with cameras that aren?t phones and produce huge raw files, Classic is the place to be.

Sat, 27 Jul 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Google Camera RAW vs JPG

Posted By Tim Bray

I recently wrote about how to move the excellent photos from the Google Pixel phone Camera app into a desktop Lightroom workflow. I was pleased that it?s easy to tell the camera to generate DNG ?RAW? files and include them in the process. But apparently, the camera?s JPGs are better and more useful than the DNGs. That?s weird. Here?s a pair of pictures to illustrate. This morning, the cat found a sunny corner of the back porch and was squirming around out of pure joy. The DNG is above, the JPG below. Of course they?re both JPGs now in the blog, but both are straight out of the camera, resized and JPGized by Lightroom with no sharpening or anything.

Tue, 23 Jul 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Google Photos Breakage

Posted By Tim Bray

The camera systems in the Google Pixel phones are excellent, but Google makes it way too hard for the serious photographer to get a decent workflow going. Does someone out there know a better way? If not, let?s get together and yell at Google. Pixel. It?s like this: Pictures you take with your Pixel migrate into Google cloud and may be found at photos.google.com. You don?t have to do anything to arrange this, it just happens. There are slideshow and sharing tools and they?re very decent. It?s a great service, I might even pay for it if Google asked. But I???like most serious photographers???want to pull the photos, in their highest-resolution form, into a processing workflow.

Thu, 11 Jul 2019 19:00:00 UTC

EventBridge

Posted By Tim Bray

The launch of Amazon EventBridge, a somewhat but not entirely new thing, has been well-covered by Jeff Barr; if you want to know what it is, go read Jeff. This piece is to provide a bit of background and context on EventBridge. I didn?t actually make any direct contributions, but was upstream from this work at the definition and early-planning stage. CloudWatch what? My first work at AWS was on the project that launched in January 2016 as CloudWatch Events. To us it felt like a small, simple, service???write rules to route notifications of things happening out there in AWS to Lambdas or other useful destinations.

Tue, 09 Jul 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Wealth Tax Stupidity

Posted By Tim Bray

Canada?s mainstream conservative biz paper The Financial Post recently published The NDP?s new tax-the-rich plan is terrible, even by their standards and it is stuffed with white-hot stupidity and bad arithmetic. Arguing against any given tax is sane???that?s what conservatives are for, innit????but if they?re going to use math that would get you an ?F? in Grade 8, they deserve a whack with the cluestick. Here?s a Post out-take: The proposal is for an annual one per cent tax on wealth over $20 million. This means that if an Ontario resident to whom this tax applies invests $100,000 in a 1.5 per cent GIC for one year (about the rate currently offered by big banks), he or she will earn a $1,500 nominal return on which will be owed $1,833 in tax ?

Sat, 06 Jul 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Reasons to Cycle

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently I enthused on the life impact of getting an e-bike. The enthusiasm remains and I two-wheel to work almost every day. Often my thoughts are of the form ?What makes this so great is?? Here are some of those, but there?s a very specific assumption: that your home city has decent bikelane infrastructure. Vancouver?s is not world-class but also not terrible, and I?ll toss in a few pix from my commute for non-bike-commuters who might not have seen what that means. I have 2½ blocks of regular street between homeand the nearest bike route. But it?s pretty nice. It?s free No charge to use the public roads or bikepaths.

Sun, 30 Jun 2019 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXXVIII: Refactorings

Posted By Tim Bray

What with our jobs and our kids, Cottage Life time has been tough in recent years. But we still believe in the place and the project enough to put money into repairing our dock and replacing our boat. Which raises issues of work-life balance and money laundering. And as always, these pieces are vehicles for pretty pictures of Keats Island and Howe Sound. This is actually from an earlier visit in April. Behind the elegant hydrangea-blossom corpses, Howe Sound and Gambier Island. Logistics What happened was, last winter?s windstorms got nasty, and one of them cost us the aluminum ramp connecting our dock and our float.

Sat, 29 Jun 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Auntie Beth?s Present

Posted By Tim Bray

My Aunt Beth died a few weeks ago. Her real name was Bertha Marian White (née Scott), here?s her obituary. I was close to her when I was a kid; she was an awfully nice person, and I?m sad. But she?d been fading for years, and in the way of death these days, Beth the person we knew pre-departed the spark of life in her body. One reason we loved her is she always gave the best birthday presents, and she did that again one last time this month. Here?s a 1986 picture of Beth?s and my branches of the family.

Wed, 12 Jun 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Go Creeping In

Posted By Tim Bray

I?ve seen the inside of the Google and Amazon tech stacks. There are common threads that run through them and also, I bet, through most BigTechCos. Here and there down the stack is a lot of C++ and vestigial remnants from earlier days, Perl or PHP or whatever. Out in front of humans, of course, JS. But in between, there are oceans and oceans of Java; to a remarkable degree, it runs the Internet. Except for, here and there, you find a small but steadily increasing proportion of Go. If you want to know what?s going on at Google, go follow Brad Fitzpatrick.

Sun, 09 Jun 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Micromobility

Posted By Tim Bray

This buzzword has been echoing round the corners of Net conversation, not loud yet but the voices are those that have seemed smart in the past. I joined in a few months back by acquiring a Super Commuter+ 7 e-bike from Trek Bikes. Count me among the converted. I concluded what will probably be the last episode of my Jaguar Diary with ?It makes me happy? but a new car isn?t a life-changer?. Well, I?m here to tell you that an e-bike is. And I suspect this whole Micromobility thing has legs. Two electric vehicles. I?ve biked to work intermittently since I started at AWS in late 2014.

Sun, 26 May 2019 19:00:00 UTC

On SQS

Posted By Tim Bray

In my position I probably shouldn?t have a favorite AWS product, just like you shouldn?t have a favorite child. I do have a fave service but fortunately I?m not an (even partial) parent; so let?s hope that?s OK. I?m talking about Amazon Simple Queue Service, which nobody ever calls by its full name. I?d been thinking I should write on the subject, then saw a Twitter thread from Rick Branson (trust me, don?t follow that link) which begins Queues are bad, but software developers love them. You?d think they would magically fix any overload or failure problem. But they don?t, and bring with them a bunch of their own problems.

Fri, 17 May 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Sour Times

Posted By Tim Bray

Really, they are. Our civic spaces are mis-led and full of anger, some of it even righteous. We have fouled our species? nest and are ignoring the smoke curling out of its edges, and don?t know what?s awaiting when we fall out of the tree. I?ve been sad a lot. For days at a time, even. I get up and find myself barking at my children for the smallest sins; just a shitty mood that I can?t shake. Introspecting, I see that I enjoy my job and get along with my family and am loved enough and have enough others to love.

Sun, 12 May 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Sungarden

Posted By Tim Bray

End of April, beginning of May, it?s pretty well peak time for flowers. Back in the last millennium, I used to run lots of flower pictures here, but they started blurring together in my mind in a way that made me not want to. But sometimes when the sun?s in just the right place, the flowers insist. These trilliums are at our cabin on Keats Island. They?ve usually bloomed and gone by the first time in spring we get over. Almost painfully pure, to my eye. A few houses down the street from us, this tulip, not content behind the white pickets, strains sunward.

Thu, 09 May 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 10: Four Months In

Posted By Tim Bray

Yesterday I drove the I-Pace to Seattle and back in one day, 459.8km (285.7 miles); the second time I?ve done that. What with that, and coming up for four months ownership, I thought it was time for another, maybe the final, instalment in this diary. Mostly good news???by a wide margin the best car I?ve ever driven let alone owned???but nothing?s perfect. Range That?s still the biggest talking point about electric cars. But up here in the Pacific Northwest anyhow, the charging network is pretty well good enough and getting better. If I?m staying overnight in Seattle I use the Level 2 chargers in the Amazon buildings.

Wed, 01 May 2019 19:00:00 UTC

2019 Networking Snapshot

Posted By Tim Bray

Home networking, I mean, and by phone. Hasn?t been on my mind much, because it?s generally been good enough. But for a variety of reasons I got an Eero WiFi setup and so now I have to think about it. What happened was, our ISP sent us a note saying ?We upped your data from 150Mbps to 300.? Our home infrastructure features Cat5 installed in the last century and an old Apple Time Capsule, none of us remember when we got it. Also, we?d like the new Jaguar to get enough WiFi out in the carport to do downloads. Wirecutter and a couple of other sites liked the Eero (I was a little surprised that the Google offering isn?t terribly competitive).

Sat, 27 Apr 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Tianjin

Posted By Tim Bray

It?s a chunk of China west and south of Beijing, extending to the sea, with a mere fifteen or so million or so people. It was where our walking-the-Wall sequence ended up, specifically at ??? (Huangyaguan). The wall there was OK, but there was an attached museum I really liked, and also the Eastern Qing Tombs, which are highly photogenic and full of stories. Here?s a view out over Huangyaguan from up on the Wall. [This is part of The Surface of China series.] If you make it to Huangyaguan, don?t spend your whole time up on the wall, leave an hour or two for the Huangyaguan Great Wall Museum, which seems not to have a Web presence.

Mon, 22 Apr 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Walking the Great Wall

Posted By Tim Bray

That was the name of the tour and that?s what we did, on each of five successive days. It was exhausting and thrilling and educational and yielded more good pictures than good stories. So herewith an illustrated narrative of what you might expect to do and see if you take this sort of tour. [This is part of The Surface of China series.] Tour stuff Our party comprised 14 and our tour-guide Lijuan, of whom more later. We piled into a little minibus with our backpacks in the first couple of rows and headed north out of Beijing. The party included four Canadian tech geeks and their two 12-year-old daughters and a wine merchant from Sydney; The rest were from the south of England.

Mon, 15 Apr 2019 19:00:00 UTC

On Liking Beijing

Posted By Tim Bray

It?s complicated. No big city offers just one flavor. Beijing (only China?s third biggest) has plenty. I feel no need to go back (see Disliking Beijing) but I liked some. [This is part of The Surface of China series.] Dancing! Our headquarters was the Laurel Hotel; the district seemed to be called Jiaomen, and it was? nothing special. But it had street life, notably including dancing. There were three separate dance scenes within a couple of blocks. We?re talking about a ghetto-blaster on a stand on the plaza in front of a mall or apartment building, maybe a dance leader, and then a gaggle of couples with wildly varying skill, dancing apparently for pure pleasure.

Sun, 14 Apr 2019 19:00:00 UTC

On Disliking Beijing

Posted By Tim Bray

Walking the Great Wall was fun, but Beijing is more intense, leaving me with strong and mixed feelings. There?s a lot to dislike, and on balance I can?t imagine wanting to live there. (But see also On Liking Beijing.) To start with, it?s flat and sprawling, built for cars not people, and the pollution is bad. We arrived on a nice sunny Monday and the air was pretty clear. But by week?s end it was gruesome. [This is part of The Surface of China series.] Bad air day. As they say in Green and Urbanist communities, if you build a city for cars, you?ll get cars.

Thu, 11 Apr 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Fujifilm X-T30

Posted By Tim Bray

I bought the latest Fuji in Hong Kong. Herewith the how and why, and twenty-four Chinese-flavored photos as supporting evidence. Um, if you?re visiting on a less-than-fast Internet link, you might have to wait a bit for ?em. Sorry ?bout that. Hong Kong cliche #1. 35mm, 1/680, f/4, ISO 320.Some of these 25-story apartment buildings are walkups,and the flats still go for a cool million. Hong Kong cliche #2. [email protected], 1/340, f/7.1, ISO 320. Hong Kong Cliche #3. [email protected], 1/220, f/3.6, ISO 1250. These guys yelled at me to stop shooting, but with a camera small and fast enough you can get a couple before they notice.

Tue, 09 Apr 2019 19:00:00 UTC

2,700 km

Posted By Tim Bray

That?s the distance from Hong Kong to Beijing, and if you?re on a train that cruises at 306km/h, you can leave at 8:05AM and arrive one minute past five in the afternoon. The train has a number and a Wikipedia entry: G80 (check it out for some cool pix of the train). I suspect that not that many readers have taken this, so herewith words and pictures. Hong Kong West Kowloon station is bright and new and huge. It?s faster than an airport but there are really a lot of stages to get through: HK exit, HK customs, security, PRC health, PRC customs, PRC immigration.

Sun, 07 Apr 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Visiting Buddha

Posted By Tim Bray

Its official name is Tian Tan Buddha but everyone in Hong Kong just says ?Big Buddha? and indeed it?s maybe the biggest tourist attraction. That?s OK, it?s worth visiting and you probably should if you?re there. I offer no insights about Asian religions but some possibly-useful tourist advice and a couple of pictures that make me smile. You can get a ferry from Pier 6 on Central over to Mui Wo on Lantau Island, where the Buddha is, along with both Buddhist and Christian monasteries, the new airport, Disneyland, and some damn nice hiking trails; I spent a pleasurable few hours on those a couple of decades ago.

Sat, 06 Apr 2019 19:00:00 UTC

The Surface of China

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, the girls are finishing Grade Seven so we walked the Great Wall of China. This actually makes perfect sense. By ?the girls? I mean my daughter and a schoolfriend; they?ve been in Mandarin Bilingual elementary and have learned quite a bit of Chinese. They may be at their maximum proficiency for a while, since their high schools? Mandarin offerings aren?t that great. So we (I mean the girls? parents) thought we should expose them to some Real Chinese. Except for none of the adults speak any, so we went shopping for tours and picked Walk the Great Wall of China.

Sun, 17 Mar 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Fun With Semiotics

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished reading The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet; it?s impossibly erudite and also hilarious. If you remember the Eighties and if have some idea why Foucault, Giscard, Nastase, and Eco were interesting, you might really enjoy it, especially if you?re also entertained by sex, violence, and conspiracy theory. I was in the library looking at travel guides for an upcoming vacation, and as I was coming down the escalator the book?s garish cover grabbed my attention sufficiently that I had to go look at it, and then took it home. There?s a story in here about signs and signals and that sort of stuff.

Wed, 13 Mar 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Pink Floyd Dad Jokes

Posted By Tim Bray

I took my 12-year-old and 19-year-old to see Nick Mason?s Saucerful of Secrets tour (Lauren had choir practice). The band was grizzled, grey, and genial; when Nick closed by saying ?We hope you had as much fun as we did? we felt he meant it. Their stage banter was that of well-bred Englishmen, dry and mild. Nick?s opening remarks: Hi there. This isn?t The Australian Roger Waters or The Danish Dave Gilmours. For context: Nick Mason is the only drummer Pink Floyd ever had. The concept is that, since the various Floyd incarnations mostly perform numbers starting with Dark Side of the Moon but there was a lot of good pre-Dark Side Floyd, that?s what Nick and the boys are playing.

Mon, 11 Mar 2019 19:00:00 UTC

Graying Out

Posted By Tim Bray

For many years I?ve interacted with my fellow humans, I think perhaps more than any other way, via the medium of Internet chat. But in my chat window, they?re fading, one by one. This problem is technical and personal and I felt it ought not to go unrecognized. Since forever I?ve used a chat client called Adium; it?s open-source, has a good, polished, flexible UX, and is self-updating. The people I talked to, some of them were on AIM, ICQ, on various flavors of Jabber and XMPP and then, in latter years, Google+. What?s happening is, they?re going away. The chat connections I mean, although many of those underlying services are winking out too, one by one.

Sun, 03 Mar 2019 20:00:00 UTC

2019?s Crocuses

Posted By Tim Bray

They come early, purple and gold harbingers of spring. Traditionally I have celebrated them in this blog space. But that nearly didn?t happen this year, for reasons that are obvious in the picture. They?d just come up when we got snow, which then in mid-February kicked off an extended cold snap, many nights hitting -5°C or below, and the daytime highs rarely topping +5°. So those little guys are survivors. They?ve lived under snow, with more shoveled on top (they grow by the sidewalk), and they?re still here. I had to pick and choose my photos because lots are kinda beat-up looking.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 20:00:00 UTC

LP Log

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, Lauren said ?My friend Leonard from choir has a friend whose husband died, and she?s wondering what to do with his record collection.? I said ?If she doesn?t want to try to sell them, I?ll have a look at them.? Then I took off on a business trip. When I got back, Lauren said ?You need to bring the records in from the van.? There turned out to be 900. This is the start of a story of musical discovery. They turn out to be almost all classical, where the exceptions are cheesy-looking pre-Rock pop music. I think this piece will anchor an ?LP Log?

Fri, 15 Feb 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Tech Office Sketches

Posted By Tim Bray

Herewith notes from the white-hot center of the Internet software profession. Maybe the reality these reflect prevails across other technology territories, but I wouldn?t know. In no particular order: Videoconferencing Generally it sucks. There?s Skype ?n? TeamViewer ?n? Zoom ?n? Webex ?n? our own Chime ?n? GoToMeeting ?n? join.me and they all suck in their own unlovable idiosyncratic ways. The visual glitches I can tolerate, but the audio problems make me want to scream; dropouts, static, echoes, the noise of hands softly leafing through a document drowning out any non-booming voice. In my decades-long career, I?ve used one videoconferencing system that was reliable and almost always Just Worked.

Sat, 09 Feb 2019 20:00:00 UTC

D&I Soundbites

Posted By Tim Bray

I went to a two-day ?D&I workshop for leaders?. Many in biz will know what that stands for: Diversity and Inclusion. The people facilitating were WMFDP, which stands for ?White Men as Full Diversity Partners?. Having said that, only one of the two was a white man, and the audience was more gender-diverse than the high-tech norm. Everyone was senior, there were lots of VPs in the room. It had a strong effect on me. Truths In the technology space, we suck at diversity. We?re broadly better than average at LGBTQ, probably not far off the mainstream at Under-Represented Minorities, and terrible at gender.

Wed, 23 Jan 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 9: Google Mapocalypse

Posted By Tim Bray

2019 is definitely the year of Linux on? the dashboard. This Jaguar is the first car I?ve owned with a serious infotainment system, and it?s opened my eyes to a few things, one of which might be a real Google vulnerability: serious competition in the map space. That?s the main story here, but I?ll tack on a few random observations about the infotainment system for the Jaguar-obsessed that have been reading this series. About those maps? At breakfast on my recent road trip, I got some crud in the socket on my Pixel 2 so Android Auto wouldn?t connect, and I was looking for a place in Seattle I?d never been.

Tue, 22 Jan 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 8: Road Trip!

Posted By Tim Bray

Today I drove the new I-Pace 290.3 mostly highway kilometers. In the best online I-Pace community, the top topic, with 1,115 posts as I write, is I-Pace range. Because when you come to electric cars, range anxiety is a thing. Today?s road-trip report will cover the general highway experience but, since it?s the hot topic, will zero in on range. Spoiler: You can almost always go 300km without trying too hard. Here?s the trip. It was a three-leg trip, from Seattle?s downtown to one of its western neighborhoods, then to SeaTac airport, then home to Vancouver; only the last (longest) leg is illustrated.

Tue, 15 Jan 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 7: I-Pace Over 100

Posted By Tim Bray

That?s over a hundred kilometers of course, which it took three days to achieve. I?m immensely enjoying learning how to deploy that electric-Jag power gracefully. Yeah, you can floor it, which is shocking if brutish fun and might damage your neck vertebrae. But you know what?s way sweeter? Coming out of a corner, or around a slower car, and easing the accelerator down, and then further and further down, smoothly. You can?t do this for more than a few seconds without being in seriously unlawful territory anywhere this side of the Autobahn, but oh my goodness those are really very pleasing seconds; the pool of acceleration is bottomless.

Mon, 14 Jan 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 6: I-Pace Day Two

Posted By Tim Bray

No highways were harmed in the preparing of this blog fragment; our new I-Pace is for the moment an urban runabout. In town, it doesn?t get you anywhere faster than a Honda Fit or 20-year old Ford Focus would. But those burn fossil fuels and we should all try to stop doing that. [Yes, I said I was going to do live updates to Sunday?s Green Light piece, but that turns out to be annoying. Sorry.] The door handles are flush when parked, but slide out when you unlock. When you unlock at night they glow and project, absurdly albeit with decent kerning, on the adjacent pavement.

Sun, 13 Jan 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 5: The Green Light

Posted By Tim Bray

I picked up the new family wheels, a 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, on January 12th. Current plans are for this blog fragment to get updates for the next couple of weeks, through a planned road trip, per the ?diary? part of the series title. The wait I?d reserved a spot in March and ordered the car in July, so it?s been a wait, and I?ve been in a sort of Gatsby-and-the-green-light mode. It?s not as simple as expectations being high, although the car?s won loads of awards; the early shipments have not been problem-free, and the car has picked up a legion of haters???chiefly $TSLA longs, but still.

Sun, 06 Jan 2019 20:00:00 UTC

Oil Fail

Posted By Tim Bray

Today I learned things that I think every environmentalist and investment manager should know: A coherent argument that we are more or less at Peak Oil. Not the Nineties version, which worried that we might be running out of fossil fuels, but rather that global human petroleum demand is about at its all-time peak and about to start drifting down. Some of the key data points involve electric cars, which I care a lot about, and China, which is always interesting. The effects are likely not enough to avert the oncoming global-warming disaster, but there are grounds for optimism about reducing its devastation.

Sun, 30 Dec 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SF-5: Serverless Bills?

Posted By Tim Bray

One of the best reasons to go serverless is that you might save a lot of money. This is especially true when your load is peaky and has quiet times; because when your infrastructure isn?t working, you?re not paying. But, not all loads are peaky. And here?s a quote from an AWS internal mailing list: ?For every compute load, there?s some level of TPS where Lambda is going to be more expensive than servers.? So, when is that? And how much should you care? [This is part of the Serverlessness series.] Saving money with servers The answer, of course, like always, is ?it depends?.

Wed, 26 Dec 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Christian Practice

Posted By Tim Bray

I?m in Regina, Saskatchewan with family for the holidays. On impulse I said ?Let?s go to a Christmas Eve carol service? and five of us did that. We went to Lakeview United, where ?United? signifies the United Church of Canada, the biggest Protestant denomination up here. It was uplifting and pleasant and sort of sad. Disclosure: I?m not Christian at all; but still. As you can see, the congregation (for the 8PM December 24th service) was sparse and elderly. The statistics are remorseless: Christianity is in decline. The proportion of Canadians who attend church weekly is not far from 10%. This surprises me, if only because the Church?s tools are still very strong.

Fri, 14 Dec 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SF-4: Serverless Latency?

Posted By Tim Bray

Suppose we like the idea of going serverless (we do). What should we worry about when we make that bet? What I hear when I talk to people thinking about it, mostly, is latency. Can a run-on-demand function respond as quickly as a warmed-up Web server sitting there in memory waiting for incoming work? The answer, unsurprisingly, is ?it depends?. [This is part of the Serverlessness series.] What we talk about when we talk about latency First of all, in this context, latency conversations are almost all about compute latency; in the AWS context, that means Lambda functions and Fargate containers.

Tue, 11 Dec 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SF-3: Serverless Everything?

Posted By Tim Bray

Sometimes we fans get a little over-excited and declaim that everything should be serverless. After all, we?re pretty convinced that owning data centers and computers is becoming a thing of the past. Well then, how could configuring your own hosts and paying for them even when they?re not working ever be a good idea? Let?s try to be moderate and pragmatic: Serverless, where possible. [This is part of the Serverlessness series.] But what does ?Where possible? mean? Here?s a nice concrete example from inside AWS: the Amazon MQ service, which is a managed version of the excellent Apache ActiveMQ open-source message broker.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SF-2: Why Serverless?

Posted By Tim Bray

Well obviously: Frugality, security, and elasticity. But I want more, I want better software. [This is part of the Serverlessness series.] Frugality The core idea is that when your workload goes to zero, so does your bill. You might save big; Financial Engines is the first case study that Google popped up for me, but I?ve heard muttered stories in the hallways about way bigger savings than that. And then there?s my co-worker who took his school-photographer wife?s Website billings from $10/month down to a few cents. And we?re not just talking about Lambda. When there are no messages flowing through your SQS queue, you?re not paying anything.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SF-1: What Is Serverless?

Posted By Tim Bray

I don?t think it?s that complicated: If you can?t see the servers in the service, then it?s serverless. Yeah, they?re still there, but the whole point is that you can mostly not worry about them. [This is part of the Serverlessness series.] That doesn?t work just for functions: Lots of services, for example RDS (in certain flavors), ElasticSearch, and Amazon MQ, require that you pick an instance that the service runs on before you start. Let?s extend the nomenclature a bit; if anything requires that you pre-provision IOPS (or other unit of capacity), then that?s not so serverless. It?s a great service, but it?s not serverless.

Sun, 09 Dec 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Serverlessness

Posted By Tim Bray

I work in AWS?s Serverless group, and in the process of pulling together my presentation at re:Invent, discovered that I have a lot of opinions on the subject and, while they may well be wrong, are at least well-informed. You can watch that YouTube, but who?s got an hour to spare? And anyhow, blogging?s really my favorite medium, so here we go. If I tried to glom them all together into one mega-essay it?d be brutally long, so let?s go short-form. The Serverless Fragments ?Serverless Fragment? has five syllables and ongoing doesn?t have that much room at the top of the page for the title, so let?s say ?SF?.

Fri, 30 Nov 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Step Functions Integration

Posted By Tim Bray

On Thursday we launched some add-ons for AWS Step Functions, on which I helped a bit. As usual, there?s a nice Jeff Barr blog. This is to add design notes and extra color. Our announcement describes these as ?Integrations????internally, while we were building them, we called them Connectors, and I?m going to stick with that because it has one less syllable and feels idiomatic. Tl;dr Up till now, Step Functions knew how to hand work to Lambda functions and to polling ?Activity Workers?. As of now, it can also make use of DynamoDB (read/write), Batch (start a job in either fire-and-forget or wait-for completion mode), ECS (regular and Fargate flavors), SNS (write-only), SQS (write-only), Glue (like Batch, async or sync), and SageMaker (same).

Sun, 18 Nov 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Post-REST

Posted By Tim Bray

More or less all the big APIs are RESTful these days. Yeah, you can quibble about what ?REST? means (and I will, a bit) but the assertion is broadly true. Is it going to stay that way forever? Seems unlikely. So, what?s next? What we talk about when we talk about ?REST? These days, it?s used colloquially to mean any API that is HTTP-based. In fact, the vast majority of them offer CRUD operations on things that have URIs, embed some of those URIs in their payloads, and thus are arguably RESTful in the original sense; although these days I?m hearing the occasional ?CRUDL?

Tue, 13 Nov 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Car Capitalism

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I was hurtling around a mall parking lot in a beautiful British-designed hundred-thousand-dollar sports car, and I thought ?Is this the good side of capitalism?? I ? Cars Disclosure: I like driving sufficiently well to have written, ten years ago, an encomium on the subject that includes a police takedown and a poem. And there are lots of things to like about the business. It produces products across a huge ranges of prices that work pretty well???better every year, in fact???and last a long time, and about which people have strong aesthetic feelings. There?s no suggestion of monopoly; competition is fierce and it?s possible for new companies to grab a foothold.

Sun, 04 Nov 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Car-Charge Economics

Posted By Tim Bray

The Wikipedia article on Electric Car Use by Country is interesting. Below I excerpt a graph (misspellings: theirs) of the leading electric-car jurisdictions: As I write, Norway leads, at over 20%, while the US average is 1.5%. (Visit the Wikipedia link for the latest whenever you read this.) How are all these cars going to be fed? Let?s consider the future business of car-charging. My own angle Since I?m about to become an electric-car owner, I?ve been pre-planning trips, both for work (i.e. to Seattle) and to visit family elsewhere in Western Canada. And I?m having a feeling I last had in the Nineties, as a bleeding-edge traveling Internet user.

Sat, 27 Oct 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 4: Marketing Tour

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, Lauren and I played hookey from work and took in Jaguar/Land Rover?s Art of Performance tour, and it was a total blast, a couple hours of pure fun. This is just a recommendation for the show plus a few things I?ve learned about the car (which remains super interesting) since the last Jag-Diary entry. The Tour If it?s coming anywhere near you, I recommend signing up and going; near as I can tell, the only requirement is that you have a driver?s license. It was in a big boring suburban mall parking lot. They started with good coffee and hors d?oeuvres in a tent, and a bunch of pretty Jags and Range Rovers outside in the parking lot, all unlocked so you could get in and fool around.

Thu, 25 Oct 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Retiring?

Posted By Tim Bray

I?m not young and I can afford to stop working. I?m wondering if I should. Reasons to retire Some mornings, I feel like sleeping in. And then, when I get up, I?d like to spend two or three hours on Feedly and The Economist, just reading what?s going on in the world. I?d like to spend more summer time at my cabin. When I?m engaged in work I bring a whole lot of intensity; not significantly less than a few decades ago, I think. But at the end of the day, man, I?m so tired. Some days I can hardly scare up evening conversation with the family.

Sat, 20 Oct 2018 19:00:00 UTC

On Weed

Posted By Tim Bray

Last Thursday, cannabis became legal in Canada. For example, here?s my local provincial government?s online cannabis store (screenshot below). There are going to be physical storefronts too, some private-sector, but the licensing process is slow so there aren?t any in Vancouver yet, except of course for the dozens of ?dispensaries? that have been up and running for years; I suppose some of them will become legal. Which is to say, it hasn?t been very dramatic. But I think it is sort of a big deal. It?s a big deal because it?s an example of democracy actually working. We had a legal framework whose goals???stamp out pot???were not only unachievable but unsupported by evidence.

Thu, 11 Oct 2018 19:00:00 UTC

On Cash

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I was walking through a train station on the way to work with the buds playing randomly on shuffle and a knifeblade of Real Music came in from outside so I had to pull them out of my ears, there was this young dude getting great electric sound out of a teeny amp doing a slow take on Little Wing with a really good voice: When I?m sad, she comes to me? plenty room between the notes and lots of soul in them. He looked a little hard-pressed; I put my hand in my pocket for some coin but there was no coin there because I live on plastic these days and that busker went unpaid that morning.

Sun, 23 Sep 2018 19:00:00 UTC

The Green Man?s Heir

Posted By Tim Bray

I just read this 2018 book by Juliet McKenna, which I discovered in Reading August/September, a blog post by Nicola Griffith, author of the excellent Hild (which I highly recommend here). I really enjoyed it and I bet a lot of you would too. Green Man doesn?t aim too high???a straightforward story of a fellow whose mother is a Dryad (tree spirit) living in the middle of England in the present day. His heritage means he can see, and interact with, woodland creatures out of myth (naiads, boggarts, and of course the Green Man); also that he is large, muscular, and has unusual (hetero-)sexual magnetism.

Sat, 22 Sep 2018 19:00:00 UTC

JSON Event Scheming

Posted By Tim Bray

I?m pretty sure that event-driven software is already a big deal and is going to get bigger. Events, de facto, are JSON blobs, and in general we?d like to make them easier to consume in computer programs. I?ve written before about how it?s difficult to specify JSON dialects, and also about Schemaless message processing. It turns out there?s good news from the world of JSON Schema, but the problem is far from solved. ?Event-driven?? It?s not exactly a new idea; I first heard it back when I used to program GUIs where of course everything is an event, and your code is all about handling them in callbacks.

Tue, 11 Sep 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Oh, Shenandoah!

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, back when I was doing Songs of the Day, I wrote up that great old American tune Oh Shenandoah, and idly wondered who Shenandoah was; the Wikipedia entry said he was a real person, an Oneida of the seventeen-hundreds. Then I thought of that lyric Oh Shenandoah, I loved your daughter, and wondered who she was and who might have loved her, and found myself going down a rabbit hole. I have now read several books on the subject, uncovered a hell of a story, an idea for a billion-dollar play or movie, and met some really interesting dead people.

Thu, 30 Aug 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Unbrittle Events

Posted By Tim Bray

At AWS, I?m now in the Serverless organization, which in 2018 is big fun. Someone asked me to check out the work being done at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), particularly around CloudEvents. There?s been a particularly interesting argument going on around there that I think has useful lessons for anyone who cares about designing network protocols. I?m naturally interested in Eventing because it?s central, not just to serverless computing, but to modern application construction in general. Events are a good way to think about a lot of different things: Actual events from the real world (?Garage door opened?) , infrastructure happenings (?database failed over?)

Wed, 15 Aug 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Diversity ?Goals?

Posted By Tim Bray

Many of us (speaking from the tech sector where I work) think the sector?s workplace diversity isn?t very good. Specifically, there aren?t enough women. Large companies???all the ones I?ve worked for, anyhow???have goals, and generally work hard at meeting them. Many companies now say they care about diversity, and have goals around improving it. But improvement is painfully slow; why? Maybe part of it is that those aren?t the same kind of ?goals?. How business goals work When I say ?large companies have goals?, I mean that in a very specific way. Each planning cycle, company groups and their managers take on a set of explicitly written-down goals for that planning cycle.

Sat, 04 Aug 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Bye-bye Haida Gwaii

Posted By Tim Bray

I?m down to my last few pictures and stories from our July vacation in Haida Gwaii and Gwaii Haanas. Fuji X-T2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8, 200mm, 1/680 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200 Most of our stops were at old Haida village sites. One of the highlights, aside from the totem poles, were the sites of the large houses; here?s a sample: Pixel 2, 1/350 sec at f/1.8, ISO 50 The idea was, they dug down into the earth, then they put up a fair-size house on top. The steps down to the floor would provide living and sleeping space; the fire would be in the middle.

Tue, 31 Jul 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Why Serverless?

Posted By Tim Bray

We were arguing at work about different modes of computing, and it dawned on me that the big arguments for going serverless are business arguments, not really technology-centric at all. Maybe everyone else already noticed. [Disclosure: Not only do I work at AWS, but as of earlier this year I?m actually part of the Serverless group. I still spend most of my time working on messaging and eventing and workflows, but that?s serverless too.] Now, here are a few compelling (to me, anyhow) arguments for serverless computing: Capacity Planning. It?s hard. It?s easy to get wrong. The penalties for being wrong on the high side are wasted investment, and on the low side abused customers.

Wed, 25 Jul 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Ninstints and Koyah

Posted By Tim Bray

On the second day of our Haida Gwaii excursion, our long morning Zodiac stage started just outside the park (the green zone on this map), headed through interior channels and then out into the Hecate Strait around the bottom right of Moresby Island, where we saw the seals and whales pictured previously here, then turning west along the bottom of Moresby through the Houston Stewart Channel and ending up at the place you can see marked ?Ninstints? near the bottom center of the map. It has several other names but to the locals it?s SG?ang Gwaay Llanagaay; they drop the third word so it sounds like Sgangway.

Sun, 22 Jul 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Photographing Haida Gwaii

Posted By Tim Bray

The photographic landscape is shifting under us. I took four lenses to Haida Gwaii, assuming you count the Pixel 2 as one of them, and you should; that?s the landscape shift. The ?real? lenses: Fujifilm 35mm F1.4, my favorite lens I?ve ever owned. Also one of Fuji?s cheapest; goes to show something or other. Fufifilm 55-200mm F3.5-4.8. Super-useful zoom range, could be faster, but then it?d be heavier. Samyang 135mm F/2.0, which I?ve blogged about a lot here; a difficult, beautiful, opinionated tool. Let?s start with a case study; some old weathered Haida totems on the beach at SG?ang Gwaay, an astonishing place that deserves its own write-up.

Sat, 21 Jul 2018 19:00:00 UTC

How To Visit Haida Gwaii

Posted By Tim Bray

It looks remote on the map and it is, but it?s not that hard to get to. The big reason to go is Gwaii Haanas, the huge southern Canada/Haida-Nation park. It is really hard to get to and, since it?s a large expanse of rocky islands, hard to get around in. But you can do it. The rest of Haida Gwaii I mean, outside the park. It?s beautiful and has roads and bridges and ferries so you can drive around and see it. We only allowed a single day and that was a mistake; you need two. We spent it driving from Sandspit, where the flights from Vancouver land and the tours to Gwai Haanas jump off, taking the ferry from Moresby to Graham islands, north through Skidegate and Tlell and Masset to Tow Hill, a huge chunk of volcanic rock with a nice boardwalk to the top.

Fri, 20 Jul 2018 19:00:00 UTC

T'aanuu ll­na­gaay

Posted By Tim Bray

On Friday July 13th I was sitting under trees looking at the ocean and I thought ?This is maybe the nicest place I?ve ever been.? The beach was at Tanu (T'aanuu llnagaay in the Haida language), which is here. In front of me, the Hecate Strait, much hated by West Coast mariners. Behind me, the old Haida village site, with interesting memento mori: a mass grave of fifty or so smallpox victims, and the beautiful modern gravestone of Bill Reid. Flowing over me, a breeze of what struck me as the freshest, cleanest, nicest air I have ever breathed. This was on the last day of our Haida Gwaii, uh, let me see, I can hardly call it an adventure after all that.

Sat, 07 Jul 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 3: What We Know

Posted By Tim Bray

Between June 4th, when the first wave of reviews of the New Jag hit (offically the I-PACE, what a dumb name) and the time the salesman called me saying ?time to sign the order if you want to be in the first wave?, I had to decide whether to spend a lot of money on a car I?d never seen in the flesh. So I paid damn close attention to those reviews. I?m a critical reader, and suspicious about the motives of product reviewers, and I think the picture that emerges is pretty clear. This post is to enumerate what I think it?s possible to know for sure about the car without having owned or even driven one.

Fri, 06 Jul 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Jag Diary 2: ?T-K?

Posted By Tim Bray

Apparently Jaguar committed to developing a serious electric car back in 2014, which was a brave move at that point. Obviously, this wouldn?t have happened, nor would the upcoming Audi, Porsche, and Mercedes BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles), if Tesla hadn?t proved that these things can be built and people want to buy them. Now, suppose you had the job of marketing this new thing to the world; how would you start? Launching The I-PACE (Reminder: Dumb name, hereinafter referred to as ?the Jag?) launched in early March 2018 at the Geneva Motor Show. They set up a sort of little go-kart track in a parking lot outside the show, with cones you had to drive around, whose tips illuminated in an unpredictable pattern.

Thu, 05 Jul 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Jaguar Diary

Posted By Tim Bray

On Wednesday, I signed an order for a 2019 Jaguar I-PACE, to be delivered in the late autumn. For those who don?t follow the electric-car scene, this is a brand-new no-petroleum product with range and performance in the same range as a Tesla S or X. Since electric cars interest geeks and greens???both over-represented in my readership???and since the Jag is a new thing and contains a lot of technology, I thought I?d do a diary-and-notes series on the car and the experience of getting into the electric-driving space. The configuration I ordered. The picture is kind of fuzzybecause it?s a screen grab from Jaguar?s VR configurator.

Thu, 21 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: What a Wonderful World

Posted By Tim Bray

That?s all, folks. Welcome to the last Song of the Day. I knew pretty early what I wanted it to be, because every extended endeavor should endeavor to end on a high note. And What a Wonderful World fits, albeit indirectly, into the exit theme, worship and reverence. It is of course, a wonderful world, from my point of view. After all, I?m its apex predator, the product of an evolutionary process that?s extended over most of our fair planet?s lifetime. In effect, I?m specifically the organism that is most well-suited to this particular world. Put another way, this world made us, and we should show reverence towards our Creator.

Wed, 20 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: It?ll Shine When It Shines

Posted By Tim Bray

At the end of the day, the pursuit of the divine is supposed to offer up wisdom and, practically speaking, teach you how to live life better. But for me, the sacred scriptures are songs; not that I listen to them looking for life lessons, but sometimes they?re there anyway. It?ll Shine When It Shines is by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and it?s up-front about its message; one that I feel good about passing along. Let?s hand the mike over the Daredevils for a moment: Seems like everyone is out looking for the sun singing rain and pain on he who hesitates.

Tue, 19 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: The Return

Posted By Tim Bray

I introduced Ferron to the Song of the Day a couple weeks back with Bellybowl, and I?d like to use her beautiful The Return in this closing focused-on-the-divine sequence, to help talk about my own experience of worship. But first, the song. The melody sways back and forth like the willow tree in the words, and the voice ambles through those words, pausing in unlikely places as the tree bends. And those lyrics: They mostly don?t parse into coherent sentences but Ferron knows what she?s doing and there?s no doubt where she?s aiming. Also, the harmonies are gorgeous and the arrangement is approximately perfect.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Graceland

Posted By Tim Bray

In case it wasn?t obvious from yesterday?s piece, Graceland???the real one I mean, Elvis? mansion in Memphis???is a place of worship. The visitors are serene, experiencing belief not faith; a lot of them saw Elvis on TV or even in the flesh. They know that, as Paul Simon sings, in his lovely, lovely song also called Graceland, that there?s reason to believe that they?ll all be received there. And also just the name ?Graceland? is the prettiest word imaginable. ?Poor boys and pilgrims? Paul sings, but getting into the mansion is kind of expensive so I guess it?s just pilgrims.

Sun, 17 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: So High

Posted By Tim Bray

More music on the subject of God (and Heaven too); a traditional spiritual arranged by Elvis Presley for his 1967 Gospel album How Great Thou Art, which was a triple-platinum hit and won the 1967 Grammy for Best Sacred Performance. So High is a fine, rousing tune with a good arrangement, and just terrific singing. Elvis never won a Grammy for pop music, but more than one for Gospel. I have a story to tell, possibly relevant. In about 1990, I had a business trip to Nashville, so I took my then-wife along and we did Tennessee: the Opry, Jack Daniels, Beale Street, Sun Studios, and of course Graceland (visit that Web site).

Sat, 16 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: O vis aeternitatis

Posted By Tim Bray

Ladies, gentlemen, and others, welcome to the 2018 Song of the Day closing sequence. This has been a lot of work and I thought I should try to end it with more than just a set of random tunes, so I picked a theme: Worship, the sacred, and the divine. To start, from Hildegard von Bingen, the oldest song to appear, first sung sometime in the years around 1150: O vis aeternitatis means ?The Power of Eternity?. Hildegard was a remarkable person; reading her Wikipedia entry makes me want to find out more. Normally, upon discovering an interesting ancient I?d go looking for their own writings in translation.

Fri, 15 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Live at Leeds

Posted By Tim Bray

I love rock music, and I love live albums, and this might be the best live rock&roll recording ever. I?m not claiming the whole album?s a Song of the Day (and anyhow, there?s been a baffling parade of re-issues and remasters and so on). But I am going to double up and recommend two songs: I Can?t Explain and the My Generation Medley. The first because it?s a pure pop gem, the second, even though it?s way long, because inhabits the joyful heart of the music I love. Live At Leeds was recorded on Valentine?s Day in 1970; it?s messy, chaotic, and full of brilliant moments.

Thu, 14 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Subcode

Posted By Tim Bray

By appearing twice in this series Jah Wobble joins luminaries like Miles Davis and J.S. Bach. Im not going to claim that he looms as large on the musical landscape; just that he writes and plays nice tunes featuring divinely great bass lines. And, well, I just cant say no to that. Subcode is a slithery, icy-cool river of funk. This is off Radioaxiom: A Dub Transmission which pairs Mr Wobble with Bill Laswell, famous American bassist/producer/impresario. Two basses are better than one! But it leads to a practical problem. If you want to hear this the way its meant to sound, your subwoofer has to emulate an Imperial Battle Cruiser exploding a medium-sized planet.

Wed, 13 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: One More Cup of Coffee

Posted By Tim Bray

This is my favorite Bob Dylan song, by a mile. Maybe its Scarlet Riveras violin that grabs me. Maybe its Emmylou Harris harmonies. Maybe its the fearsome chord hook when he sings To the valley below. Its just great. In fact, Ive liked it so long that I wrote a whole blog piece on it twelve years ago. In the unlikely event you want words by Bray on Dylan, there are plenty there. Lets skip ahead straight to the links. This is part of the Song of the Day series (background). Links Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify.

Tue, 12 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Im Not Afraid

Posted By Tim Bray

If this series brings one or two of you one or two really hot rock-n-roll tunes you never know existed, then I can go home happy. Maybe this is one: Im Not Afraid is by Fleming and John, a husband-and-wife tune who have never been big stars or anything like that, but should go down in history for this song. Its fast, its electric, its melodic, and the words run through your head in a fun way. Also, its an important question: What are you afraid of, and not afraid of? The answer, in this case, is heart-warming, but youll have to listen to the tune to hear it.

Mon, 11 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Steady As She Goes

Posted By Tim Bray

This is off Broken Boy Soldiers by the The Raconteurs, better known as Back when Jack White did a couple of records with Brendan Benson. Steady, As She Goes (why that comma?) was the big single on that record, co-written by White & Benson, and is just an outstanding pop tune, although Jack has his own ideas about where to take it. I took this myself, in 2008. The Raconteurs were maybe my favorite of the Jack White vehicles over the years, mostly because Benson didnt seem intimidated, clearly saw himself as co-frontman, able to play a guitar break or sing lead on a chorus when he felt like.

Sun, 10 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Bellybowl

Posted By Tim Bray

At one point in my life, I found myself married to a lesbian. Its a long story, not terribly happy. This arrangement had important disadvantages, but a pretty big upside: I discovered womens music. Its not actually a genre, its just that the performers are mostly lesbian and the audiences are mostly, women (although men were perfectly welcome; I have yet to encounter any class of musician who objected to any class of person enjoying their music, and (especially) paying for it. If youre wondering what kind of music Im talking about, listen to Bellybowl by Ferron, and youll know; mostly, excellent.

Sat, 09 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Crazy Fingers

Posted By Tim Bray

Im sad that I never saw the Grateful Dead live; theyve left marks on the collective musical consciousness that will be there as long as such a thing exists. But Blues For Allah is my favorite of their studio recordings, and Crazy Fingers by a wide margin the best song there. Thats a photo of my own personal copy of the record. Man, thats some really old cardboard and vinyl. Now, Im prejudiced, Crazy Fingers provided background for one or two very special moments in my youth, not the kind of thing I can share, but theres a warm glow and a smile inside every time I hear that tune.

Fri, 08 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: High

Posted By Tim Bray

High by Sir Sly (cool name) will be the last 2018 Song Of The Day in the current-hit category. The usual thing: I heard it on the car radio and it sounded good and then kept sounding good even on heavy rotation. While theres a serious problem with this work, its still a masterful piece of songwriting. Did I say there was a problem? Well, yeah& as the title might suggest, its totally about getting all whacked out on drugs, and Im thinking not just nice wholesome herb either. But I kind of suspect that my readership here is lacking in impressionable young folk who will be driven to a life of dissolution by a single pop song, and Im pretty sure that a few of you are in the Been There Done That camp, and might actually be amused.

Thu, 07 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Little Fugue by Stokowski

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, in the time of J.S. Bach there were no big orchestras, so most of his music emphasizes that boring stuff like inner detail and emotional tension and shifting soundscapes. When he wanted to write Big Loud Music, he wrote organ music. Which left modern orchestra conductors who really liked Bach with not much to play. So Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) solved that problem by arranging lots of Bach compositions  mostly organ pieces  for big modern orchestras. This horrified a lot of Bach purists, but the arrangements are mostly pretty great, and that Fugue, properly called BWV 578, is a fine example.

Wed, 06 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Somnambule

Posted By Tim Bray

Id ever heard of CSur de pirate until she popped up on my radio a few weeks ago. Shes from Québéc and I think the name best translates as Pirates Heart, but shes bilingual and at one point referred to herself as Her Pirate Heart, which is cool too. Anyhow, the singing is in French and is very beautiful, and also an oasis of peace in among all the loud male music Ive been hosting here recently. I dont know much more about this piratic performer than what you can read on her Web site or on Wikipedia. The songs are soft, sparsely arranged, and if I had to choose one adjective to describe them itd be feminine.

Tue, 05 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Badlands

Posted By Tim Bray

I was never that huge a Springsteen fan, right through Born to Run; I think I was just too much of a head-banger at the time. But when Darkness on the Edge of Town came out I snapped it right up and went and saw the tour in Toronto. A lot of his songs over the years just go right by me. But Darkness is a hell of a collection of songs, and that tour& OMG. Theres a lot of back-story here; Springsteen had been locked out of recording for three years by a legal fight with his ex-manager, and came out with a real chip on his shoulder.

Mon, 04 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Heart To Hang Onto

Posted By Tim Bray

Heart To Hang Onto is a song by Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane on their 1977 album Rough Mix. This piece is really a recommendation for the whole album, which is an outstanding collection of beautiful songs beautifully performed; its been played as often as anything in my collection, over the years. Heart To Hang Onto is one of Pete Townshends finest compositions, which is a strong statement. The album was maybe Townshends first-ever non-Who outing. He and Ronnie didnt co-write any of the songs; each sings their own, with the other accompanying, along with a gaggle of guest stars including John Entwistle, Charlie Watts, and Eric Clapton.

Sun, 03 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Little Wing

Posted By Tim Bray

Yesterday I quoted DvoYák saying (in 1893) I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them. Somehow he failed to predict that Americas composers would be what they called Negros back then. I want to recommend one piece by such a composer: Little Wing, by Jimi Hendrix.

Sat, 02 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: DvoYák Symphony No. 9

Posted By Tim Bray

On the title page of his 9th Symphony manuscript, Antonín DvoYák wrote Z Nového svta From the new world; its thus become popularly known as the New World Symphony. And by popularly I mean really, right up there among the most-played classical works. I can pretty well guarantee that almost everyone will have heard, and remember, the big swooshy melody at the front of the 2nd movement. The title is literally correct; it was composed in 1893 while DvoYák had a lucrative gig in New York as Director of the National Conservatory of Music of America. He was fascinated by Afro-American and Native American music; I quote: I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies.

Fri, 01 Jun 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Any Time

Posted By Tim Bray

This was written in 1921 by Herbert Happy Lawson and was a country hit for others including Patsy Cline, but todays song is a 2001 performance by Leon Redbone. Its an absolutely fabulous piece of singing and a guaranteed four minutes and two seconds worth of smiles. Very little is known about this artist, including whether Leon Redbone is his real name, or where he actually comes from; theories include Cyprus and Philadelphia. His entire professional career has been out of Toronto, and not that far out either; having survived an airplane crash, he travels only on vehicles with wheels. He plays music of bygone days; this 1921 composition is toward the later end of his repertoire.

Thu, 31 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Love To Burn

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a ten-minute-long guitar-heavy love rumbler from Neil Young and Crazy Horse, from the 1990 album Ragged Glory. Its a beautiful song, with strong message and great tune; about half the running time is one of a set of incandescent guitar breaks. I like a lot of different Neil Young music, but am most moved by the hard-rock outings, as on this record and Zuma. The quality of songs doesnt shift that much from one release to the next, and on the hard-rock offerings you get the big ambitious guitar constructs; whats not to like? On Ragged Glory, along with this one you get Over and Over, Mansion on the Hill, Love and Only Love, and of course F*!#in' Up which, Wikipedia carefully notes, is pronounced Fuckin Up, and is incomprehensible even by Neils standards.

Wed, 30 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Shenandoah

Posted By Tim Bray

This song is so old nobody knows where it came from. It was documented as an Atlantic sea shanty in 1876, and there are suggestions it grew out of an old Afro-American spiritual. So you can bawl it out in a rum-flavored roar, or you can take a twangy campfire twist, or you can do something different, as with the soft, contemplative version Im recommending by Keith Jarrett. Theres another story of the song: A lyric goes Oh, Shenandoah, I loved your daughter, and the father so addressed is apparently a historical figure. Wikipedia calls him Skenendoa, an elected chief of the Oneida, a tall commanding man with a long colorful life  he outlived the century of his birth.

Tue, 29 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Ball and Chain

Posted By Tim Bray

Having introduced Cheap Thrills to this series, I cant possibly leave it behind without featuring Ball and Chain. Is it just Janis Joplins greatest vocal performance, or maybe the finest live capture of a blueswoman ever, or maybe (not stretching very far) the hottest vocal performance ever recorded by anyone? Probably not, but its totally not an insane line of inquiry. In the very unlikely event you dont know Ball and Chain, turn this up loud. But get a grip on something firm first. It was written sometime in the Sixties by Big Mama Thornton but its not clear whether she ever got much in the way of royalties; some record-company sleazebag got a new Porsche instead, probably.

Mon, 28 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Oh, Sweet Mary

Posted By Tim Bray

This is from Cheap Thrills, by Big Brother and the Holding Company, featuring Janis Joplin. This songs a band effort with songwriting credits to all the members; Janis is not front and center. Im not sure its the best performance on the album  youd really have to give that to Ball and Chain  but its maybe the best-written song. And its a hell of a performance: Hard, melodious, well-crafted rock and roll. Cheap Thrills is not actually a live album; the crowd noise is synthetically inserted. Its special because it represents the peak performance of Big Brother as a group and Janis Joplin personally.

Sun, 27 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Colours

Posted By Tim Bray

Today we have an adorable little girl/boy-duet pop song called Colours off a very pleasing album of the same name by Devon Sproule and Mike ONeill. You can tell shes Canadian by the accent and the u in Colours. The song has a memorable tune and evey moment of it is full of smiles. This is yet another I-heard-it-on-the-radio discovery; I dont know much about Ms Sproule except what Wikipedia says. You may have noticed a lot of Canadian talent showing up in this space. Im not particularly nationalist, especially around the arts; its just that the scene here is sustained by legislation that requires radio stations to play a certain proportion of Canadian stuff, so you cant help but hear it, and while Sturgeons Law applies, there are still plenty of gems to be found.

Sat, 26 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Built For Comfort

Posted By Tim Bray

I saw most of the old blues guys perform, but Willie Dixon was the only one I ever had a conversation with; in maybe 1974 as a teenager, when I was a writer for the student paper at my college, and Willie was playing a show and I asked him what he thought about all these white kids liking the blues. He looked at me like I was an idiot  too polite to point out that you play for whoevers gonna pay  and said something like Blues is for everyone, man. Anyhow, he wrote like 500 songs, and Ive always thought Built for Comfort was right up there.

Fri, 25 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Dread River

Posted By Tim Bray

You know, were approaching a half-year into this and havent dipped into any pure Dub, which is clearly unsatisfactory. Winston Rodney a.k.a. Burning Spear has already contributed a Song, but if youre gonna dub, you just cant dub any deeper than Burning Spear. Dread River (Jordan River) came up on random shuffle while I was walking to the train the other day, and I smiled heavily for 3:13. Burning Spears most famous album is Marcus Garvey, and this all-dub collection is called Garveys Ghost. Its almost superfluous to pick out just one song, the albums a continuous smooth lyrical bass-heavy flow, the rhythm as deep as Yggdrasils roots.

Thu, 24 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: The Beat and the Glide

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a two-song medley, This Beat Goes On and Switchin to Glide, by Canadian rockers The Kings. Most people couldnt pick them out of a line-up, but a whole lot will have heard this song on the radio at some point or another. The Kings This is pure pop/rock fluff, not trying to do anything but entertain you with a cheery tune and a jangly guitar. I think the world just cant possibly have enough of this sort of thing. The lyrics are notable for rhyming wanna and Toronto, and for Nothing matters but the weekend / from a Tuesday point of view.

Wed, 23 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: 13

Posted By Tim Bray

Having spent a couple of days in 1958, lets jump fifty-nine years forward to 2017, and enjoy 13, a moody, soulful number by Torontonian Allan Rayman. Its here because I heard it on the radio and liked it. I still havent managed to get a 2018 song into the 2018 Songs of the Day, but Im getting closer. Rayman is not a very public person and his self-presentation is eccentric. His website is about as stripped-down as you can get. He doesnt seem to play any instruments but apparently writes all the music and produces too. Live, he often appears with just a guitarist and a DJ, which I guess we can forgive him for.

Tue, 22 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Willow Indigo

Posted By Tim Bray

Yesterday I took you back to 1958 and that worked out pretty well, so lets stay there. The title above is a little confusing; it refers to Duke Ellingtons awesome album Ellington Indigos, and its titanic take on Willow Weep For Me; but picking just one song is especially tough in this case. We have to be a little careful here, because Ellington Indigos has gone through a bewildering series of releases, with significant variation in the song selection, running order, and arrangements: Theres a good write-up at Jazz History Online. I have the CD, but the link above is to (I think) the original LP release, because you can stream it.

Mon, 21 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Fast Freight

Posted By Tim Bray

My Dad, back when I was a really little elementary-school kid, used to play music by The Kingston Trio, and they stuck to me the way things you hear as a kid do. This is music of a different era, but theres this one song, Fast Freight, that I think is timeless. I actually inherited my Dads copy of their eponymous debut album  from 1958, scratchy and in mono, and one time I cued it up, wondering if itd sound like what I remembered. Some of the tunes havent worn well, like when they try to do British accents, and they had basically no sophistication, but they sang interesting harmonies and took some of the songs at insane speed, so theres quite a bit to like.

Sun, 20 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Angel From Montgomey

Posted By Tim Bray

This is one of John Prines greatest, and thats really saying a lot. Its a surging, passionate song about being old and feeling empty. Its got a little novel in the lyrics and a tune anyone can hum along to, so great that you dont notice how sad it is. It originally appeared on Prines self-titled debut, which has already provided another Days Song, but never really got into the mainstream until Bonnie Raitt got her teeth into it on Streetlights in 1974. Bonnie says I think Angel from Montgomery probably has meant more to my fans and my body of work than any other song, and it will historically be considered one of the most important ones I've ever recorded.

Sat, 19 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: The Longships

Posted By Tim Bray

This is off Enyas Watermark album, which sold a zillion copies and put Orinoco Flow on a few peoples can-never-hear again list because every radio in the freaking world played it all the time in 1988-89. Even if youre one of those, there are lots of other things on this record to like, and this one I like especially. Now, Enya would never ever let a rough edge or a raw tone creep into her creations, and the artifacts on her recordings could never ever be performed live because they are the result of prodigious over-tracking and other studio wizardry; although perhaps one should say witchery?

Fri, 18 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Walk Away

Posted By Tim Bray

Way back in the Songs of the Day, in February I wrote about a Joe Walsh tune and added If I keep doing this, hell get a rocker into Song of the Day. I have, and now he has: Seems to me / You dont want to talk about it / Seems to me / You just turn your pretty head and walk away. Great stuff. You know, there was some bad James Gang karma back in the day. When I was sort of in the biz, as the resident house manager for all the rock concerts at a Canadian University, Id talk to roadies and there was this epithet: James Gang Roadie.

Thu, 17 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Attention Please

Posted By Tim Bray

Were going a little off the beaten track here; Attention Please is the title track from the 2011 album of the same name by Boris, which Wikipedia describes as an experimental band, whatever that means. They are from Japan and play mostly extremely loud drone metal, but with occasional excursions into soft moody stuff, for example this song; they are fabulous musicians. Most of Boris albums are mostly atmospheric guitar noise, but the story I read somewhere is that vocalist/guitarist Wata wanted to do some crooning and the band was OK with that. Boris have several albums I wholeheartedly recommend; my faves are Akuma no Uta and their collaboration with Sunn O))), Altar, which has an all-star cast and also some slightly less metallic stuff.

Wed, 16 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Steve Reichs Sextet

Posted By Tim Bray

Steve Reich is one of the larger figures in Twentieth-century New (as in non-pop) music, and has done well because his works are tuneful, dreamy, and engaging. Sextet is my personal fave because, along with all those other things, its got loads of energy. Its 25-ish minutes long; the five minutes of the last movement are the highlight and a really great introduction to Reich, if this is new territory to you. Sextet is in five movements for six players, two pianos and percussion with lots of hocketing. Its dreamy then flashy; I loved it the first time I heard it and still do.

Tue, 15 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: With You There to Help Me

Posted By Tim Bray

Im going back to the ones that I know / With whom I can be what I want to be& This is the opening number of Jethro Tulls 1970 album Benefit. I dont know if its absolutely the albums highlight, but its a fine song. I suppose most few readers are young enough to have known about Tull in their prime. They really were the complete package: Great songs, polished musicianship, and they put on a hell of a show. There were a lot of different members over the years, but the sound was always built around the charisma and throaty singing of Ian Anderson and the tasteful and forceful guitar of Martin Barre.

Mon, 14 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: du Pré Plays Elgar

Posted By Tim Bray

I have heard sober-minded people argue that Elgars Cello Concerto played by Jacqueline du Pré is the single greatest instrumental performance of any piece of music, any genre, any instrument, ever. Im not sure Id go that far that the claim is not crazy at all. Fortunately for us, it was captured beautifully, sound and pictures too. Du Pré was an interesting character, torn away from the world of music in mid-life by multiple sclerosis. She led a colorful life, and I really enjoyed the 1998 biography by her sister Hilary, A Genius in the Family: An Intimate Biography of Jacueline du Pré (also sold as Hilary and Jackie) but I see its at least semi-out of print; keep your eyes open in used bookstores.

Sun, 13 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: You Really Got Me

Posted By Tim Bray

Oops, weve been too long without a Maximum Rock and Roll song; thus this Kinks classic. The Kinks are cool but to be honest, there are only a couple of their songs that stick in your head from one year to the next; this is one of them. But if youre too young to have seen them perform at their peak, you missed something special. I remember a concert at some huge hockey rink in the early Eighties; I have rarely in my life been so entertained. It was a big stage with two long runways out into the crowd; one for Ray Davies, the other for Dave.

Sat, 12 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: BWV 131

Posted By Tim Bray

This is by Bach. Youll sometimes hear it spoken of as Cantata no. 131 but thats misleading, because its among the first  maybe the first  of his cantatas. The 131 is its entry in the BWV works-of-Bach numbering system. It doesnt actually have a name, but the text is from the 130th Psalm in German and begins Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir Out of the depths I call, Lord, to you. Its exquisite. As I write this, its 210 years old. A mere twelve years ago, I blogged about this work and about cantatas in general; how they came to be and why there are so many of them.

Fri, 11 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Stone Flower

Posted By Tim Bray

These essays have been love letters to songs, but in this case its really to an album: Santanas Caravanserai, from 1972. I its not just a disc-full of songs, its a 51-minute explosion of rhythm and passion, the songs are just pieces of the puzzle. Since its the song of the day, I have to pick one: Its Stone Flower, written by Antônio Carlos Jobim, whos appeared here before. To the extent Caravanserai has a hit, itd be Song of the Wind, or maybe Every Step of the Way. I like Stone Flower because along with the guitar/percussion assault, it embeds a nice friendly little pop song.

Thu, 10 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Norwegian Wood

Posted By Tim Bray

Ah, a Beatles classic, everybody loves those. But I actually want to highlight a performance by Patricia Barber, who takes this song further than any Beatle, living or dead. Patricias appeared in this series before, which puts her in pretty select company, and Im OK with that, Ive never understood why shes not an international megastar. Norwegian Wood is from a live album called Live: A Fortnight in France, recorded on tour, which is utterly charming end to end. As is almost everything shes ever shipped. The notion of taking a simple pop tune and wrapping an extended jazz tangle is not exactly new or surprising.

Wed, 09 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Gone, Gone, Gone

Posted By Tim Bray

Or, in full, Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On), written and recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1964. I ran across it on the Robert Plant/Alison Kraus collaboration Raising Sand, which is really a fine piece of work. Id never really listened to the Everlys till I started writing this, but that version is excellent too. That Plant/Krauss collaboration came out of the blue back in 2007 and sold a lot of copies, and made a lot of people smile. Its produced, and the songs curated, by T Bone Burnett; he did a fine job. When Plant and Krauss went out on tour, they threw in a few Led Zeppelin songs, most of which were absolutely charming.

Tue, 08 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Its Wonderful

Posted By Tim Bray

The full title is They Say Its Wonderful, written in 1946 by Irving Berlin, and since then covered by more or less every crooner living and dead. The version I want to write about is off the awesome John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, recorded in 1963. I have read more than one critic claiming that this is the best album ever recorded. Im not sure Id go that far, but it really is very very good music indeed. Picking just one song off it is tough, because theyre all so great. Theres sort of a formula; Hartman glides through an old standard, making his huge baritone float and dance, while Coltrane and McCoy Tyner (who should be on the cover) hang golden ornaments on the walls of the song.

Mon, 07 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Falling

Posted By Tim Bray

This is Julee Cruise singing the Twin Peaks Theme, composed by Angelo Badalamenti; David Lynch gets a songwriting credit so I suppose he contributed lyrics. Like Audrey Horne said, I love this music; isnt it too dreamy? Some dreams are nightmares. The sky is still blue The clouds come and go Yet something is different I work in a building in downtown Vancouver that makes a visual statement; its lobby is full of light and soaring timber, and theres a Fazioli piano that I hear cost $300K and anyone can play; usually pretty anodyne stuff. But one time I came back from lunch and this guy was playing the Twin Peaks Theme, the piano melody going up and up into the light and space; it was almost unbearably intense.

Sun, 06 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: S.O.B.

Posted By Tim Bray

This is by Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, outta Denver, from 2015. Youve probably heard it on a radio near you. Its a fine, stirring, uplifting tune that happens to be about detox. I dont know much about Rateliff, but the first time the song grabbed my attention and I started listening seriously, my eyes widened and I was thinking sounds like delerium tremens. Several people who are very close to me are alcoholics  all now sober at least for the moment, thank goodness  and so Ive seen the dark side of that street but Ive only ever read about delerium tremens.

Sat, 05 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Immigrant Song

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, there has to be something here from Led Zep, and Im picking this because, when I was sixteen and just feeling my way into the mysterious forest of popular music, someone said Hey I got this new record (that would be Led Zep III) and he dropped the needle on Immigrant Song, and in that instant I became a hard-rock fan; and Ill be proud to die one. Its a totally great tune. I try to keep the Song of the Day a little off the beaten track and I was thinking of going with Kashmir instead because the guys in the band say its their favorite Led Zep song, and I like it a lot.

Fri, 04 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Stolen Moments

Posted By Tim Bray

Oliver Nelson died in 1975 at 43 of a heart attack; hed be a legend if hed lived a little longer. Nowadays hes mostly remembered for The Blues and the Abstract Truth from 1961, and Stolen Moments is the song on that record thats always stuck to the back of my brain. The original cover and the 1990 re-issue;both with superb typography. Nelson was a University-trained composer, who did well by jazz but was always writing music for one type of ensemble or another. The Blues and the Abstract Truth is a straight-ahead jazz album with an all-star band including Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Paul Chambers, and Roy Haynes.

Thu, 03 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Mahler #9, Adagio

Posted By Tim Bray

In yesterdays song, Lou Reed declaims Sittin' down by the fire / Ooo, the radio does play / A little classical music there& Hey, good idea! The fourth movement of Symphony No. 9 by Gustav Mahler is labeled IV. Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltend. The German means something like Very slowly, with reserve and its slow all right but its not reserved at all, its full of wrenching howls of emotion. The symphony is massive, typically eighty-plus minutes or more to play, and frankly Ive no particular love for the first three movements. Theyre tuneful in places but bombastic in others, with no movement, no feeling that they know where theyre going and want to take me along.

Wed, 02 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Sweet Jane

Posted By Tim Bray

Some people just go out dancing / other people like us we gotta work. Lou Reeds Sweet Jane has been special to me since the first time it crossed my radar, which I dont remember since it was in the Seventies. This may be Lou Reeds masterpiece. Im pretty old, but too young to have been into the Velvet Underground. But I was living in dingy basement back in those days when someone brought home Lou Reeds Rock n Roll Animal and oh my goodness, every note on that record spoke to me, and it still does. I blogged at length on the subject a dozen years ago, Let me quote myself: Lets see: the band is tight as any famous-name classical string quartet, the guitars are orchestrated and played well; Lous vocals are wasted-sounding, which is appropriate, but the phrasing and timing is right up there.

Tue, 01 May 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Working Class Hero

Posted By Tim Bray

Its May First which is to say Happy Commie Day! Let me look for a Song of the Day in that spirit& oh hey, that wasnt hard: There's room at the top they're telling you still / But first you must learn how to smile as you kill.  John Lennon. Stolen from The Music Court, which looks like a cool place. Hey, and after all its a good song, easy to sing along in your head. You can quibble: Its about the class not the work in working-class, about growing up in a shitty dead-end (working-class) town in a shitty dead-end (working-class) school.

Mon, 30 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Sleepless Nights

Posted By Tim Bray

This was written around 1960 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant (an interesting songwriting team Id never heard of before) and made a hit then by the Everly Brothers. But the versions I care about are by Emmylou Harris, especially her version with Gram Parsons. The Bryants Its about the simplest country melody imaginable, sung super slow, so the lyrics are few: Oh, these sleepless nights / Will break my heart in two. Im really hard-pressed to pick between Ms Harris solo version on Pieces of the Sky (a wonderful collection, by the way) or the collaboration with Gram Parsons on a Flying Burrito Brothers album also called Sleepless Nights, which features her on several songs (extra-wonderful).

Sun, 29 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Aint No Sunshine

Posted By Tim Bray

So sad, Charles Neville of The Neville Brothers died. Ive been wanting to do a song from the Brothers but I went looking for good live video and turned up their superb take on Aint no Sunshine which obviously deserves a spot, so really today belongs to Bill Withers, but Im going to use that Nevilles video which, appropriately, features Charles. People dont appreciate how totally great they were. So many wonderful songs, live and recorded, their concerts sold out, particularly anything at home in New Orleans, and they sold quite a few records; but were never really big stars. OK, enough of that, Ill really try to throw them a Song of the Day before this series runs out of gas.

Sat, 28 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Third Degree

Posted By Tim Bray

Its been a while here since the Song of the Day was a straight-up no-foolin-around blues number. Lets let Eddie Boyd fix that problem. Third Degree was co-written by Eddie and Willie Dixon in 1953 and was something of a hit. Im a blues fan but didnt know about Eddie Boyd till I ran across this on a fabulous compilation called The Chess Story that apparently isnt for sale any more, but I bet you can find it in the used-record and CD bins in a record store somewhere. If you see one, snap it up. Chess Records is an interesting story.

Fri, 27 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Silver Dagger

Posted By Tim Bray

Its an old folk song, old enough in America to perhaps have come from Britain; there are variants aplenty. But for most people today, including me, Silver Dagger is that Joan Baez song. Ms Baez has a beautiful voice, great skill in using it, and (maybe most important) fabulously good taste in picking what to sing. Heres the cover of her debut album from 1960. Its my own photo of my own copy. A little sticker in the corner reveals that at some point I paid six dollars for it. I dont know if this is my fave by Ms Baez; you have to think of El Preso Numero Nueve and Diamonds and Rust (which by the way she wrote).

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Gloria

Posted By Tim Bray

The last time I plugged a song called Gloria, it was a setting of liturgical text from the Mass. Patti Smiths isnt; it begins Jesus died for someones sins, but not mine. So, profane not sacred, even though the full title on the album says Gloria: In Excelsis Deo. Also, one of the great rock vocals ever recorded by anyone. This is another piece I blogged about before, in which I used the phrase loud and uncompromising but still lyrical and lovely. Ill stand by that. Also, Ms Smith seems to be a generally decent, sane, strong sort of person. Shes come through hard times and still goes out on the road.

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Fascination Street

Posted By Tim Bray

This is my favorite Cure song, and the version Im recommending is one of the best-sounding electric-music recordings ever. I like the music even though I never really understood the whole emo/goth thing; thats OK, I can like Dub without getting Rastafarianism, and Bach while puzzled by Lutheranism. The only Cure music I own is a 1990 set of remixes called Mixed Up which I have listened to many many times; the songs are all good the production job is fantastic. I blogged about it back in 2007, dive in if you want more details. Heres what I wrote about Fascination Street back then: Oh my goodness, the opening is heroic and symphonic and danceable all at once; spires of sound topple into shifting textures of tone and resolve into mainstream guitar-and-drums rock flourishes.

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Nulla In Mundo Pax

Posted By Tim Bray

The full title is Nulla In Mundo Pax Sincera, which will leave many blank. A better way to put it is Emma Kirkby singing Vivaldi, a combination that will bring a smile to the faces of many who listen to any classical music at all. Antonio and Emma both have good hair. Ms Kirkby is a soprano who has made a career of Early Music; her voice is like silver with a dusting of sugar. Vivaldi is a dead Italian who wrote an absurdly huge amount of music, of which almost all is good and a lot is pretty great. Hes got a marked style: You dont have to be a deep classical-music maven to hear music on the radio and say oh, thats gotta be Vivaldi. He picked the wrong century to be born in; he died in poverty, but The Four Seasons is the best-selling classical recording ...

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: All Blues

Posted By Tim Bray

Obviously theres nothing obscure about Miles Davis Kind of Blue, probably the best-selling (and one of the most-praised) jazz albums ever. But All Blues is a little more subdued than the rest of the songs and its got a spine-chilling little highlight that Ive never noticed anyone else pointing out. With that, and with some notes from Miless autobiography, I might have something new even for long-time Miles fans. That autobiography is quite a book and I totally recommend it. Its brutally, unflinchingly honest; If you already sort of knew that Miles had a mean streak, you will for sure after reading this.

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Just Like This

Posted By Tim Bray

Once again a Song of the Day thats a song from today, more or less; there is actual musical life out there on the pop charts. And Something Just Like This isnt just pop, its particularly poppy pop featuring teen sentiment and minimal structure; but hey, its a pretty tune and its got a beat, you could dance to it. Its a collaboration between Coldplay and The Chainsmokers, and I dont know the first thing about either of them. I mean, weve been hearing Coldplay on the radio pretty regularly since the turn of the century, but none of those songs ever made me want to turn it up.

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Elizabeth Reed

Posted By Tim Bray

The full title is In Memory of Elizabeth Reed; it was written by Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers Band and is a highlight on their live album At Fillmore East, a collection of songs that is very special to a lot of people, including me. Itd be pretty obviously jazz if it werent for all the brilliant rock-guitar improv. The album is one of those rare occasions when someone did a great job of capturing a live performance by an ensemble at the absolute top of their form. I knew people whove seen the Allmans lots and Ive never heard anyone say they played better than on this record.

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Moustaki

Posted By Tim Bray

After all that hardass rock the last couple of days, I feel the need of something softer. Alors, profitons dune très douce chanson française de Georges Moustaki& oh wait. Im talking about Georges Moustaki, a francophone singer-songwriter of generally Mediterranean extraction who was hot stuff when I was in high school a hundred years back. This is seriously sweet sonorous stuff. When I get into someone obscure (to 21st-century Anglophones) like Moustaki, I have a hard time mentioning just one song in a large body of work, so Ill mention and link to a couple. Did I say generally Mediterranean? Per Wikipedia, he was born Giuseppe Mustacchi in Alexandria to parents who were Italian-speaking Francophile Greek Jews from the island of Corfu.

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Hoochie Koo

Posted By Tim Bray

Yesterday I veered gleefully off the road of High Culture into the musical gutter. So, lets hang out down here one more day. For your pleasure I offer Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo. It was written in 1970 by Rick Derringer, who is OK by me, originally for Johnny Winter. Ricks laid down some ace recordings both on his own and with one or more Winters. Rick Derringers list of collaborators includes the Winters, Steely Dan, Weird Al, and the World Wrestling Federation. I guess that makes him a Great American. Fortunately for you, I know the definitive version of Hoochie Koo, which is on a live album called Roadwork by Edgar Winters White Trash.

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Sharp Dressed Man

Posted By Tim Bray

This series has been getting kind of refined and intellectual in recent days, so were going to fix that right now. I dont think Ive ever heard a ZZ Top song I didnt like, and Billy Gibbons guitar sound is unequaled in its grit and its steel-spined groove. You also have to love the performances; the guys clearly dont take themselves too seriously (I once described their moves as a back-beat pavane). Sharp Dressed Man is pure fun. Now, lets get past one big issue. Bill Gibbons has a really dirty mind, and enjoys sharing it. I mean, songs like Lagrange and Tube-snake Boogie arent exactly subtle, and you might try to spin a story about how theyre a metaphor or something, then he comes down to the front of the stage, growls Know what Im talkin about? and flashes a leer half the size of Texas.

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Mishima

Posted By Tim Bray

This isnt a song, its a movie soundtrack, I hope thats OK. Its by Philip Glass, and the movie is Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters from 1985. The name refers to Yukio Mishima, a Japanese novelist who went crazy and tried to lead a restore-the-sacred-Empire putsch against the Japanese government in 1970 and, when it predictably failed, committed seppuku. Mishima was a loathsome person and my single attempt to read one of his books ran afoul of stinking heaps of metaphysical bushwah inside of a hundred pages, so I have no interest in seeing the movie. But its a damn fine set of songs.

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Misa Criolla

Posted By Tim Bray

Written in 1964 by Argentinian Ariel Ramírez, Misa Criolla is the Mass in Spanish set to music with a sound and structure that combines several indigenous styles. You know those buskers that set up in public markets everywhere in colorful South-American outfits with giant Pan-pipes and guitars both huge and tiny? That style of music. Misa Criolla is great stuff, sold a zillion copies back there, and I cant imagine anyone not liking it. Its is a little over twenty minutes long, but every minute is worth hearing. To bring it into Song of the Day territory, Im recommending the second movement, Gloria, which is the center of the piece and is well under ten minutes.

Sun, 15 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: La Isla Bonita

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a beautiful and simple little Spanish-inflected melody, written by Madonna, Patrick Leonard, and Bruce Gaitsch. It sold a lot of records for her and is a staple of her live shows. Last night I dreamt of San Pedro& Wikipedia says the song was written as an instrumental, then Madonna added words and melody. But it sounds like a single voice and vision. Im an admirer of Madonna but not really a big fan of most of her music. The actual songs only rarely rise to greatness, as La Isla Bonita does. But by pure force of will she became, for a number of years, the sexiest, most attention-worthy woman in the world.

Sat, 14 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Hurt

Posted By Tim Bray

No, not Trent Reznor singing the moany overwrought Nine Inch Nails version; I mean Johnny Cashs take on American IV: The Man Comes Around, his last studio album. Its grainy and sad and generally awesome. To his credit, Trent Reznor said that song isnt mine anymore. That whole American IV collection is pretty great. Its got an triumphant Bridge Over Troubled Water, sharing the vocals with Fiona Apple, a straight-ahead only-slightly-hilarious run through Depeche Modes Personal Jesus, a duet with Nick Cave on Im So Lonesome I Could Cry, and a deeply beautiful performance of Danny Boy. But Hurt is something special.

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Roads to Moscow

Posted By Tim Bray

Even on the oldies stations, you never hear Al Stewart any more. In my youth he was a pretty big deal though, and had mega-hits with Year of the Cat and Time Passages. Roads to Moscow wasnt a big hit but it was always my fave among his songs. I listened to it again the other night for the first time in years, and I was moved again by its story, and by its melodic grace. Als always been a bit (to use a British word) naff; goofy-looking, yucking it up, not much of a voice, not rehearsing much. But boy, some of those songs can get their hooks into you.

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Doin Summertime

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive always liked Doin Time by Sublime which is (gasp!) approaching twenty years old. But I have a secret reason, because the breathy backing track is off a record approaching sixty years old by Herbie Mann that my Dad bought when I was still in short pants, and I still have the original, and love it. Well, and also because its based on Summertime; Ive been in a musically-literate room where someone called it the greatest song ever written and while somebody else said What about Good Vibrations? a few heads were nodding. Lets take a trip through the times. Above, the needle drops at the start of the Doin Time official video.

Wed, 11 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: White Room

Posted By Tim Bray

Let me tell you a story. In 1968 when I was 13, my then-43-year-old Dad, a Professor of Agriculture, had a business trip to London, which was a white-hot center of the whole Sixties thing. He walked into a record store and asked them to sell him a couple of records for his son, whatever was hot. He came home with two Cream singles: White Room backed with Those Were the Days, and Badge b/w What a Bringdown. Was your Dad ever that cool? Anyhow, that means Ive loved White Room for fifty years. I ran off to my room to stick in the little plastic doohickey so I could fit it on my record player turned up to 45RPM; I only had one speaker, but it was big.

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Allegris Miserere

Posted By Tim Bray

The works title is really just Miserere (have mercy on us), but since so many composers have asked for mercy, and since Gregorio Allegri was sort of a one-hit wonder, everybody says it like in the title above. I think that we can each use all the divine mercy we can get, but maybe your need is less than mine. The (Latin, of course) text is Psalm 51. Its a little over twelve minutes of simple soaring melody, built of a short choral fragment repeated five times, with a variation last time around. Its got a colorful history. This Miserere was apparently written in 1638 for the Catholic church and became regarded as what today wed call Intellectual Property of the Vatican; a Pope forbade that it be performed anywhere but in the Sistine Chapel, and also that any copy should leave the Chapel.

Mon, 09 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Middle of the Road

Posted By Tim Bray

In case nobody noticed, I have a thing for loud-voiced women singing in front of heavy electric-guitar noise. Any list of those has to have Chrissie Hynde near the top. She wrote and sings this, provides some of the guitar noise herself, and throws in a triumphant harmonica break. Her voice is unique. Shes from Akron, Ohio and her intonation is pure Middle American White Girl, none of the traditional Southern or Black or British rock-vocal angles. Theres considerable songwriting and arranging skill in setting things up so her not-terribly-high not-terribly-sharp not-terribly-scratchy voice cuts through all the guitar chording. Anyhow, I love the way she sounds Learning to Crawl is probably the Pretenders best album, and you could have a long argument about the best tune on it, because its got Chain Gang and My City Was Gone.

Sun, 08 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: The Boys of Summer

Posted By Tim Bray

This was released by Don Henley of the Eagles in 1984, his words to music by Mike Campbell. Its only a minor member of the California-rock canon but its special to me, and I still love to hear it. Don Henley At some point in time not too long after 1984, I took a winter trip from Vancouver to Regina to visit my mother, by Greyhound bus since I was kind of broke at the time. Thats two days in a seat more or less, not an experience Id ever hope to repeat. I had some way to listen to radio through headphones; The Boys of Summer was hot that winter, and I cant ever hear it without remembering the bus ride.

Sat, 07 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Feel It Still

Posted By Tim Bray

Another contemporary  well, a year old  Song of the Day. What happened was, I liked Feel It Still on the radio, and liked that it quoted from Please Mr. Postman, and when I went looking for video to see what Portugal. The Man were like live, the first I found featured a stage surrounded by projected words reading NO COMPUTERS UP HERE, JUST LIVE INSTRUMENTS. So I was hooked. I dunno, theyre from Alaska, the singers got a crystalline countertenor, theyre not that dynamic live, the vocal arrangements are sharper than any razor. Its got a beat, you could dance to it. My eleven-year-old daughter can sing along, thinks theyre almost as good as Taylor Swift.

Fri, 06 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Plutonian Nights

Posted By Tim Bray

The Nubians of Plutonia was recorded by Sun Ra and his Arkestra before 1960 and released in 1966, but its not really music of either period, its of the distant future. Or at least thats what Sun Ra claimed; mind you, he also claimed he was born on Saturn and that aliens were going to be arriving any minute. Having said that, Plutonian Nights is one of the coolest jazz tracks ever recorded in any galaxy; Im glad it was this one. Sun Ra combined ludicrous costumery and good-humored erudite craziness with strong songwriting, the exceptional talents of saxophonist James Gilmore, and pretty deft keyboard playing when he felt like it.

Thu, 05 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Crazy on You

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in the Seventies when dinosaurs walked the earth, Heart was a pretty big one, and unique among hard (occasionally) rock bands in being woman-fronted, by sisters Anne and Nancy Wilson. Crazy on You was their debut single and for my money their best song ever, and one of the better arguments why Rock & Roll at its peak reaches above all other forms of music. While their line-up changed around over the ears it was always Anne on ear-splitting vocals, Nancy on hot acoustic guitar and harmony, and Some Guy on electric. On Dreamboat Annie, the wonderful album containing Crazy on You, That Guy was Roger Fisher, a founding member who sounded fabulous when he was playing behind Anne and Nancy but never really amounted to much thereafter.

Wed, 04 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Up On Cripple Creek

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a chestnut from The Band, written by Robbie Robertson and sung by Levon Helm. Its from 1969 but sounds like its hundreds of years old, part of the underlying fabric of everything. I suppose nearly everyones heard it, but its worth another listen. Theres nothing ground-breaking or innovative here, just a straightforward verse/chorus thing like you might have heard around a campfire or in a tavern in my grandparents grandparents grandparents time. Well, there is the funky wah-wah on Garth Hudsons Hammond, and the swirling instrumental polyphony, but really its a just a good old-fashioned singalong tune. And Levon Helm sounds like the guy at the next table over, assuming that guy was always flawlessly in tune.

Tue, 03 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Nocturne No. 1 Op. 9

Posted By Tim Bray

This is the first of Chopins Nocturnes, written when he was only about 20. My love is not specifically for this piece but for all twenty-one Nocturnes, but thats hours of music and you have to start somewhere. No more beautiful music for piano has ever been written. Eleven years ago I wrote a big long blog piece on the Nocturnes, with pictures and lots of exposition; if you want to find out more, its a good place to start and Im not going to reiterate. However, I did learn a couple of things when I popped up the Wikipedia article on this piece.

Mon, 02 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Lets Go Downtown

Posted By Tim Bray

The Song of the Day needs a rocker every so often to keep up the energy level, and its never had any Neil Young ever, so lets solve both problems with Come On Baby Lets Go Downtown, co-written with the late Danny Whitten. A triumphant rock holler carried on arching guitar lines, its a centerpiece of Tonights the Night, which is a triumph and a tragedy. Danny Whitten Tonights the Night was recorded and released in 1975, but Downtown was recorded live, with Whitten on guitar, in 1970. Whitten fell into the narcotics tarpit and died the same night Neil fired him from the band, as did longtime roadie Bruce Berry, in the months before the records release.

Sun, 01 Apr 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Desafinado

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a 1959 bossa nova by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça; the title means something like Out of Tune and is exquisitely incorrect. It has been recorded a staggering number of times. Im here to talk about my favorite version, with Jobim guesting on a recording by Stan Getz and João Gilberto. Its on a 1964 album called Getz/Gilberto, which is fabulous end-to-end. It also includes Girl from Ipanema which remains so beautiful all those decades later, although its gender politics probably havent aged well. Heres a story about this record: Down Beat, the jazz magazine, used to have this feature called the blindfold test where theyd play some tracks for a musician without telling him or her who they were, and ask for one- to five-star ratings.

Sat, 31 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Moana Chimes

Posted By Tim Bray

Dear Readers, as I write this I am sitting near the blue Pacific in a place called Napili on the island of Maui. When I post this, it will be from Vancouver on the morning after this Pacific expedition. Moana Chimes is Hawaiian music, performed by Ledward Kapanaa and Bob Brozman. It swings softly and complexly and yeah, sounds like Hawaii feels. When youre in the Pacific Northwest and it gets to be March, schoolkids have a Spring Break and after six months of short grey days and long wet nights, Maui gets awfully appealing, and is one six-hour plane ride away.

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Highway Star

Posted By Tim Bray

Ah& Deep Purple, now thats what I call Maximum Rock And Roll. And Highway Star is the maximum maximum. Also, it comes with a perfect live recording. When I say Deep Purple I refer, of course, to any iteration of the band that included Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, and Ian Gillan. Did I say iteration? Yeah, they had a lot, and some were mostly cashing in on a profitable hard-rock franchise. Fortunately, you can ignore all that crap, just buy one album and youll have all the Deep Purple anyone needs: Made In Japan. Along with Highway Star, it has masterful versions of Smoke on the Water, Lazy, Space Truckin, and especially Child In Time, which may edge the others in musical depth, but doesnt approach the raw Dionysian power of Highway Star.

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Shifting Camera Choices

Posted By Tim Bray

We just got back from a week in Maui; obviously, I took a lot of pictures. I think my choice of tools and techniques is pretty mainstream, so when I suddenly change them I wonder if Im part of a news story. As of this trip, I treat my camera (Fuji X-T1) and phone (Pixel 2) as peers, and which one I reach for depends on what kind of picture I want to take. And almost always, theres big glass on the Fuji (the Samyang 135mm F2 or Fujis own excellent 55-200 zoom). Im wondering if normal lenses on real cameras have a future.

Thu, 29 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Blue Moon

Posted By Tim Bray

Blue Moon was written in 1934 by Rogers and Hart, and has been performed since then by more or less everyone. It makes anyone sound good, good performers sound great, and great performers melt your heart. Nobody could ever say whose version is the best, but today Im shouting out to Billie Holiday, Elvis, and the Cowboy Junkies. Billie Holiday had a naturally twisty voice and on her take applied that twist with wisdom to what is, after all, a really simple melody. This is on her very first album of original material, Billie Holiday Sings (only available on vinyl), and she covered it again, live in Europe, on Billies Blues; but the original is better.

Wed, 28 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Pork Pie Hat

Posted By Tim Bray

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is a Charles Mingus jazz standard, first recorded by his band in 1959, and since then performed by many others, with voice and without. The version closest to my heart is a Jeff Beck electric-guitar instrumental. [Wait, didnt you have one of those yesterday!? -Ed.] [You say that like its a bad thing. -T] The song was originally conceived of as a tribute to Lester Young, a saxophonist, recently deceased back then, who had worn one. Ive loved Mingus music since I first heard it. He always had a big band and their big showpieces always involved playing really loud and really fast; as close as jazz ever gets to head-bangin metal music.

Tue, 27 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Ended as Lovers

Posted By Tim Bray

The full title is Cause Weve Ended as Lovers and for almost everyone its that beautiful slow instrumental on Jeff Becks fabulous Blow by Blow album, with a dedication to Roy Buchanan, whos already contributed a Song of the Day. That was my take until I started writing this and found out it was not only written by Stevie Wonder, but was recorded on Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta, featuring his then-wife. Im mostly here to talk about Jeffs version but Stevie and Syreeta do it up very nicely too. I can remember a snarky wise-ass review of Blow by Blow, in Rolling Stone I think, where they said something like The late Sixties had way too much guitar wanking, is 1975 too soon to take up the subject again? Apparently it was fine, because it sold a million copies.

Mon, 26 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Sour Times

Posted By Tim Bray

In the early Nineties there was suddenly this thing called Trip hop, which manifested out of another dimension and came to earth in Bristol, not otherwise famous for very much. Its distinguishing characteristic is being slow and dreamy and, I always thought, kind of sexy. Sour Times is probably the most famous Trip-hop song ever, by Portishead, along with Massive Attack the canonical trip-hopheads. When you listen to it first, you tend to just sink into the slow melody and Beth Gibbons beautiful, haunting singing. But theres a lot more happening; this one is worth listening to a few times. There are two recordings of this song; it was the big hit on their debut album Dummy, and appeared on Roseland NYC Live, in an elaborate arrangement with a big orchestra.

Mon, 26 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

Where Yegges Wrong

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently, Steve Yegge published two rants, each of which has gone viral and moved the Internet conversation needle a bit. I liked both of them, thought they were generally well-argued and useful. Unfortunately, there are a few assertions of fact there that are just wrong, and may be damaging. So I thought that, first of all, I should encourage people to go read these pieces and, second, point out the things that are counterfactual. The posts Now at Medium (sigh, it makes me sad when another indie blogger migrates off their own platform): why I left Google and Who will steal Android from Google?

Sun, 25 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: At the 100th Meridan

Posted By Tim Bray

Almost every Canadians list of Songs-of-the-Day is going to include a Tragically Hip number or two, and Im no exception. They had a lot of great tunes and this one is right up there. Cant write this without getting kind of damp, because we lost Gord yesterday it feels like. If youre not Canadian and have no idea who The Hip are or who Gord was, listen to this anyhow and if you like rock music youll probably like it a lot. Gord Downie and Rob Baker in 1989. For non-Canadians heres the tl;dr: The Hip were a guitar-rock band with strong songwriting, a charismatic singer in Gord Downie, and a fabulous sound based on Downies voice cutting through Rob Bakers wall of harmonious electric-guitar thunder.

Sat, 24 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: A Love Supreme

Posted By Tim Bray

Im talking two tracks today, named Acknowledgment and Resolution, but there are millions of people who love them but dont know their names. They are the A Side of A Love Supreme by John Coltrane, recorded in 1964 and one of the best-selling jazz records of all time. Thing is, most people just start at the beginning of the album and stick with it till the end. Or if youre a traditionalist like me, the LP. Either way everyone just thinks of it as A Love Supreme. Its a hell of a piece of music. Since this is modern jazz, the harmonies arent classical, but you stop noticing after a few seconds, because John is taking you on a trip and he knows where hes going and its hard to resist his pull.

Fri, 23 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Appassionata

Posted By Tim Bray

Formally, Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57, by Ludwig van Beethoven. The name Appassionata was attached not by Ludwig but by a music publisher ten years after his death. But its stuck because well, the music is really passionate; soft and intimate then loud and fast. Its usually the highlight of any concert where its performed. I heard someone say on the radio once, about Beethoven: Maybe not the best melodist or orchestrator to have ever composed, but unique in creating the feeling that each successive note is absolutely the only one that could possibly have been chosen. This is like that.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Barton Hollow

Posted By Tim Bray

The Civil Wars were on every radio for while there around 2010, and I liked it when they were; a refreshing break from electric noise (hey, I like electric noise, but still) and especially from synthetically-constructed pop sugar-candy. Barton Hollow is definitely my fave track, and I cant imagine anyone not liking it. I have Barton Hollow the album, and its mostly very good. Interestingly, the title track has a noticeably different sound; a little grittier, a little less pure, a little friction in the arrangement. I initially thought that the production quality wasnt up to the standards of the rest of the record.

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: The Man Who Sold The World

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a David Bowie song that I gather was mostly forgotten  Id certainly never heard it  until it popped up on Nirvanas MTV Unplugged In New York. This was in 1993, after which Bowie apparently added it to his regular live set; which is cool. The whole Unplugged set is great; it doesnt have any Nirvana chestnuts, just obscure numbers and covers. My second-favorite song on it is Plateau, for which a few Meat Puppets joined the band and has the immortal lyric You see a lot up there but dont be scared / Who needs action when you got words.

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Thats Right!

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a cheery bright fast polyrhythmic acoustic guitar instrumental by Jesse Cook. Like a few other numbers here at Song of the Day, I discovered this one by killing time in a record store; mind you, this was HMV in its declining days, not one of the cool-magnets of yore. But I loved the tune and asked the clerk and bought the record. The record is called Vertigo and all of it is at least listenable and at best memorable; Id call Thats Right! the highlight. It also has Sade guesting very prettily on a couple of numbers. On the YouTube linked below, Jesse intros the song and explains that it combines Bo Diddley and Bhangra rhythms with Zydeco accordion (played on Vertigo by Buckwheat Zydeco himself).

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Persephone

Posted By Tim Bray

My favorite living jazz musician, and sometimes my favorite living musician, is Patricia Barber, a Chicagoan songwriter, singer, piano player, and bandleader. Shes really good at all four of those things, and an evening with her band is one of the most intense musical experiences you can track down at this point in the twenty-first century. Modern jazzbos dont have greatest hits as such, but if they did, Persephone would probably be hers. Disclosure: Heres how deranged a fan I am. Once a year or so, I spend some surplus airline points and sneak off for a Monday evening in Chicago, where Ms Barber plays at The Green Mill (once Al Capones favorite bar) and you can go see her for some absurdly small amount of money; the crowd consists of about half locals and half devotees from around the world; Ive sat next to people from Taiwan and ...

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: I Put A Spell On You

Posted By Tim Bray

This song was written in 1956 by Screamin Jay Hawkins as a ballad, but he claims the producer got him drunk in the studio and thats when he started Screamin, and people loved it, so he never stopped. Since then, its been recorded a whole lot. Im here to recommend a mini video festivals worth of takes, and one recording, and this may be a little weird but I think its the best out there, by Creedence Clearwater Revival. I actually think the Jay Hawkins story is a little sad. He was a good songwriter with a huge, thunderous voice, and after this song he turned his stage act into a sort of slapstick voodoo-shaman sideshow.

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

How To Stop Kinder Morgan

Posted By Tim Bray

Yesterday, I was arrested and charged with Civil Contempt for failing to respect an injunction forbidding protesters from coming within 5 meters of the property where Kinder Morgan is trying to bring a pipeline for tar-sands bitumen to the Pacific. Herewith a few words on why this kind of action might work and how to go about doing it. Well, and I guess I should tack on a note about why the pipeline is a stupid idea and should be stopped, but I suspect most readers here are already on-board with that. But before any of that, my strongest thanks to our gracious hosts, the good people of the Coast Salish, whose unceded territory we were on.

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Spanish Pipedream

Posted By Tim Bray

John Prine, now theres an original. Hes an ordinary guy with a beat-up face and a beat-up voice, and his songs get played by folkies and rockers in bars and basements across America. Not outside it though I bet, he is just so American, and I mean that in the best possible way. Spanish Pipedream is a cheerful little uptempo number thatll make you smile. Its from a long time ago but the sentiment is fresh: Blow up your TV / throw away the papers / move to the country / build yourself a home. I stage-managed a John Prine concert sometime in the Seventies  my beer and rent money at college  and Id call it in the top five concerts Ive seen in my life, and Ive seen a lot.

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: The Dry Cleaner

Posted By Tim Bray

I already blogged about The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines, by Joni Mitchell and Charles Mingus, eleven years ago, so if you want a deep-dive on the music and context, go read that. Today, just listen to it, and if it doesnt get you smiling and bopping, theres nothing I can say that will help you. Ill keep it brief: Shadows and Light is a fabulous live album. The band: Mitchell, Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Don Alias, Jaco Pastorius (!) , and Michael Brecker. That is a jaw-dropping list of names. The song? Its fast, its funny, and its a great tune.

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Downpressor Man

Posted By Tim Bray

In the earliest days, The Wailers were Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh. Peter was the guy in the band who was a foot taller than everyone else; also the only one who could play any instruments. A huge guy with a huge voice, his songs never in a hurry, and there are a few that people will be listening to centuries from now. For instance, Downpressor Man. This is from Equal Rights, a really remarkable recording that includes chestnuts like Get Up, Stand Up and Stepping Razor. Its just a big warm slow bath end-to-end; the words and politics are cutting but the sound is gentle and cradling.

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Barretts Privateers

Posted By Tim Bray

I suspect every Canadian of a certain age has heard this, probably on CBC or maybe sitting up late of a hazy evening. Its a sad boisterous story of ruin at sea, mens music written for mens voices, and youll never forget it once youve heard it even once. While Barretts Privateers initially sounds like an old folk tune, its nothing like that; it was written in 1976 by Stan Rogers, whose music I loved, and it really hurt when he died at age 33, yet another touring musician who went down with an airplane. Its got some bars in 5/4 time, hardly a folk standard, and its sort of historically bogus.

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: Gimme Sympathy

Posted By Tim Bray

I think Im probably a big Metric fan even though Ive never actually sent any money their way, because whenever a song comes on the radio I find myself humming and smiling. Especially Gimme Sympathy. This is from Fantasies, released in 2009, which sure got a lot of radio play up here in Canada. Emily Haines has a fine, sweet, penetrating, voice, and major songwriting chops. Metric cuts right through the factory-produced schlock that mostly fills rock radio (and by the way always has, its just we forget the schlock of previous decades). I havent seen them play, but during the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver, there was a weird but excellent concert in which a bunch of musicians not including Neil Young but including Lou Reed and Elvis Costello put on an evening of Neil Young songs.

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: K.515

Posted By Tim Bray

I believe its official name is Mozarts String Quintet No. 3 in C, but saying K then a number tells everyone that its by Mozart, and since he wrote like fifty instances of every known form of classical music, its easier to just remember your favorite K-numbers. 515 is right up there among mine; strong Mozart, which is all you need to know. By the way, if youre wondering about those K-numbers, Wikipedias Köchel catalogue article has you covered. The thing is that since Mozart was usually broke and trying to convince three different wealthy patrons that he was their exclusive guy, he wrote music like a crazed gerbil on steroids and didnt keep much in the way of records, so trying to organize his oeuvre has been the work of several other peoples lifetimes.

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 19:00:00 UTC

SotD: After Midnight

Posted By Tim Bray

After midnight, its gonna be peaches and cream& mmmmm. This, originally by J.J. Cale, is one of the Twentieth Centurys sweetest little electric-music outings, gentle, sexy, and fast. Now, J.J. made a whole lot of money on this song when Eric Clapton decided to put it on a couple of albums and play it at a whole lot of concerts, and both versions are worth hearing. I saw J.J. play once  stage-managed the show, in fact had to convince him to play an encore. Ive seen Clapton several times and while he might not the greatest guitarist to have ever lived, he never plays a song the same way twice.

Sat, 10 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Atomic

Posted By Tim Bray

Oh& your hair is beautiful  well, that lyric divides people. Ive read high-falutin rock critics slam its superficiality, embedded in a track that hardly has words anyhow, and certainly none that make sense. But you know, every time she sings that phrase, I melt. And love the whole song. Back in the day when the band had hits on the radio I liked every one of them, and when they didnt any more, I bought The Best of Blondie and man, Im not sure theres ever been a pop recording with more end-to-end concentrated excellence. I noticed when my kids were young, Id put it on and every time, theyd both start dancing right away.

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Phase Dance

Posted By Tim Bray

So back in the Seventies, if you were a college student and it was summer, youd sit around smoking weed and then someone would say Lets go to the record store. And in those days the people who worked there knew all the coolest music. So in the middle of the head-banger era, youd float into the record store and thered a fast brilliant jazz-guitar instrumental, and youd suddenly find youd become a fan of Pat Metheny. Phase Dance was that song on that summer day, from his debut Pat Metheny Group. Its not his masterpiece (more on that later) but its a fast bright shiny cheery piece of music with a nice bass-line and it moves right along and is never boring.

Thu, 08 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Love Me Like a Man

Posted By Tim Bray

This was composed by Chris Smither (no, Id never heard of him either) but was a hit for, and is now sort of a trademark of, Bonnie Raitt. Bonnies recorded a lot of good music over the years, but the thing with her is you need to see her play live, its at another level entirely. Bonnie is a tuneful, convincing, loud blues singer (listen to Love Me Like a Man, for example), and is also a dazzling guitarist. In particular she has this gritty, textured slide-guitar tone that absolutely nobody else gets. This was brought home to me one time when I was at a concert and the opening act was led by her bands keyboard player, and they werent bad at all, funk and soul and energy.

Wed, 07 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Riding On The Rocket

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive probably seen Shonen Knife (Wikipedia if you dont read Japanese) more than any other currently-performing rock band. When they get on stage you can count on a couple of hours of pure high-energy high-melody high-rhythm hard-rockin fun, and you just cant have too much of that. Riding the Rocket is just one of a couple of dozen totally great as-good-as-Rock-gets tunes. Naoko Just the facts: Shonen Knife were originally three young Japanese women from Osaka, two of them sisters. Theyve switched instruments and members and have, over the years, become a rotating planetary system around Naoko Yamano, who provides lead guitar and vocals and a lot of songwriting.

Tue, 06 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Ashes to Ashes

Posted By Tim Bray

Its hard to pick a Bowie because, obviously, there were so many Bowies. One time my son and I, he then fifteen or so, were driving somewhere, and he asked me Dad, whos David Bowie? and I said A musician who& then I was stuck. For me, there are really two big Bowie songs, Heroes and Ashes to Ashes, and while the former has more emotion, I think Ashes has more musical depth. Oh, yes, and This Is Not America, but thats a niche taste. I believe the full title is Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). I remember my then-wife bringing home Scary Monsters; at the time I was in a jazz&blues phase and would never have bought a Bowie record, deeming him too synthetic.

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Brothers in Arms

Posted By Tim Bray

Dire Straits records have always been notably good-sounding, and Brothers in Arms became the occasion for the purchase of a brand-new CD player back in the day for many music geeks  I was one of them. The title song sounds good too, but today were acknowledging its beauty and sadness and message. The beauty, superficially, is in the exquisite guitar obbligatos that come in after each sad verse. But theres more; while nobody would call Mark Knopfler one of the great singers, he really gives it all hes got on Brothers, suggesting notes that are way out of his reach, and just the right amounts of room in between, here and there.

Sun, 04 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Am I Blue?

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, since yesterday I reached all the way back to the Nineteen Twenties for a show tune that went through many hands including Willie Nelsons, lets do it again today! Am I Blue was written by those big stars Harry Akst and Grant Clarke (Who? A couple of Tin Pan Alley types) in 1929 for the screen, and Wikipedia says its made it onto 42 different screens. Its a cool tune and up to the Song of the Day standard, but mostly here because I was charmed by video. The most famous, of course, would be the songs debut in On With the Show!, which reading about introduced me to the notion of Pre-Code movies; if the notion is new to you too, follow that link.

Sat, 03 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Blue Skies

Posted By Tim Bray

From waaaay back in 1926, this one. What happened was, I wanted the series to drop by Willie Nelson, and my fave Willie album is Stardust, and song on it is Blue Skies. That whole album is salve for the wounded soul I think, and Blue Skies maybe the sweetest and strongest. But, boy, does this one ever have a history. Typing Blue Skies live into YouTube gets you into some surprising territory. Just so you dont have to, I listened to versions by Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Al Jolson, Earl Hines, and Ella Fitzgerald. I think the clear winners on musical merit are Ella and Willie.

Fri, 02 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Im a Man!

Posted By Tim Bray

Wait& you say, thats two Steve Winwood songs in a row! Indeed. Only, this one is shorter and hotter. And anyhow, its a Spencer Davis Group song, so there. You have to feel a little sorry for Spencer, hell always be known as The Guy Who Had Steve In His Band. So, the world owes him one. This is the most primitive major-progression rave-up imaginable, which shouldnt be surprising since Winwood was still a teenager; he was 14 when the Davis band launched. And the lyrics, well, dont go there: Well, if I had my choice of matter I would rather be with cats / All engrossed in mental chatter showin where our minds are at is a high point.

Thu, 01 Mar 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: The Low Spark

Posted By Tim Bray

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys was the album and the song, and its a song thatll never die. It was recorded by Traffic, written by Winwood/Capaldi, and last time I checked, Winwood still goes out on the road and plays it for people. Play it for yourself, but sit back and listen carefully, theres a lot happening. OK, John Barleycorn may be more coherent, but Low Spark is the Traffic album (and the song) for me. The melody is memorable, the singing is strong, and the piano foundation is dreamy, but for me its the sax line from Chris Wood that brings it home.

Wed, 28 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Wish I Knew You

Posted By Tim Bray

Another Song of the Day that got here because its on the radio right now, and I smile every time they play it. The lyric in full says I wish I knew you when I was young. It resonates pretty deep for someone of my age. Of course, the guys in the band (The Revivalists) are young, but that doesnt seem to get in the way. This is the one, Im sure youve heard it recently: You shine like a star / You know who you are / You're everything beautiful& The Revivalists are a bunch of white boys from New Orleans; until I started poking around to write this piece I didnt realize they were a big complicated band with a horn section and a steel guitar, who stretch out in songs and go in surprising instrumental directions.

Tue, 27 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Cant Get There From Here

Posted By Tim Bray

For a lot of bands, theres one song thats special because its the first one you heard on the radio and you thought Whos that?! I dont know if Cant Get There From Here is my absolute favorite R.E.M. song; Man on the Moon has great surge-and-flow, Losing My Religion is the greatest car singalong ever. But anyhow, its a fine piece of work. Side-note: The title of the song is inconsistent, sometimes appearing with the apostrophe, sometimes without. This was in the early eighties, I had a long commute to work and at that point there was a Vancouver radio station that played interesting new stuff, and I heard a lot of later-famous bands there before most people did.

Mon, 26 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Cello Suite #5

Posted By Tim Bray

Today features the first artist to make a return Song-of-the-Day appearance: J.S. Bach. The music is the Cello Suite #5, a showpiece for basically every cellist whos ever performed, and an object of study for every serious student who gets a couple of years into the instrument. Cover page of the manuscript of the Suites by Anna Magdalena, Bachs second wife. The cello suites were written sometime around 1720; each has six parts, adding up to something over twenty minutes of music. So theyre long, and almost unbearably intense, so you dont usually hear them all at once, although Rostropovich apparently played them all night in 1989 at the fall of the Berlin Wall - theres a brief video.

Mon, 26 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Reviewing Ethics

Posted By Tim Bray

I used to do quite a bit of reviewing on TripAdvisor; enjoyed the feeling of contributing and used the service when picking hotels and restos. But then I realized that this little warm glow was really all about making money for Silicon Valley VCs, and I have a major attitude problem about that. Which raises the issue; Is it ethically OK to participate in review sites at all? [Spoiler: Yeah, sometimes, but definitely not on Google Maps.] Now, as for TripAdvisor, turns out the original VCs got their exit in 2004 when IAC snapped up the site, then it was spun off as part of Expedia, then split with Expedia with an add-on IPO in 2011.

Sun, 25 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Mannish Boy

Posted By Tim Bray

This eventually became Muddy Waters signature tune, which is sort of a pity because there were usually more interesting songs in his set, but he seemed to genuinely love it, and brought so much to each performance that you had to join in the love. I managed to see most of the big-name bluesman, mostly in a pretty elderly condition, but those are still highlights; I even interviewed Willie Dixon for the student paper; I seem to recall asking him what he thought about white college kids joining his audience and he looked at me like I was crazy; Blues is for everyone, man. I saw Muddy at the long-gone Ontario Place Forum in Toronto; he was really old and had to perform sitting down; then lurched out of his chair for Mannish Boy, busting some moves and hollering Im a MAN!; it was so awesome.

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Cream

Posted By Tim Bray

This my fave Prince song, by a mile. I suspect that makes me a heretic, and is also wildly inconsistent because its got none of his guitar shredding on it, which almost makes me grin ear-to-era. But its a pure pop gem, a thing no song should ever apologize for in any company no matter how august. I am in no way a Prince-ologist. I never managed to catch a live show, but wouldnt have missed the chance. What else can I say? His Super Bowl half-time show was maybe the most intense ten minutes of music by anybody ever. To quote myself on the day: I get the feeling that Prince decided some heavy rain would help his visuals and he had so much mojo going into this particular Sunday that God took his call and set it up. I hated most of his slow-jam moaners, and the extra-stupid ...

Fri, 23 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Spinning Centers

Posted By Tim Bray

This is from Unknown Rooms, a very beautiful collection by Chelsea Wolfe. Its a little unusual for this series in that its hardly a song all, just a floating, ethereal musical moment three minutes and nine seconds long. But you wont regret listening to it. The cover of Hiss Spun, her latest as of this writing. Im at risk of misrepresenting Ms Wolfe here; this may be floaty acoustic loveliness, but shes mostly a hard-edged electro-goth drone doomster. If you go to a show (which I recommend), expect a lot of dim lights and guitar roor. Having said that, the roaring dimness will have tons of musical integrity, just as the glowing light of Spinning Centers does.

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Submission

Posted By Tim Bray

Submission was a late addition to (most versions of) Never Mind the Bollocks, Heres the Sex Pistols, which anyone will tell you is Culturally Important. But mostly its just a really great rock song, which reveals that in among being Culturally Important, the Pistols were a highly competent and heavily rehearsed hard-rock band. Note: The picture above is inaccurate because Sid Vicious bass parts werent usable on Never Mind the Bollocks; the (pretty decent) bass youre hearing is by guitarist Steve Jones. Most people reading this are probably way too young to remember what a big deal the Sex Pistols were.

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Walk Like an Egyptian

Posted By Tim Bray

By The Bangles; OK, one of the most cheerful songs ever recorded, with a hilarious video. But its got a good beat, you could dance to it. And at 50° North Latitude where I live, well take any February smiles we can get. Seriously, listen to the song, watch the video, youll smile, how could that not be a good thing? Even better, stand up and do the dance around the office. What can I say? The band is tight, the vocals and harmonies are razor-sharp, the guitar sound is good. Playing this kind of music at this tempo is tough; they knew what they were doing.

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Take Me To The River

Posted By Tim Bray

You can call this one of the great songs in just about any musical conversation and youll get no argument. A great big swirl of the sacred and the sensual, with a razor rhythm and lots of chances to show off. It was written in 1974 by Al Green and guitarist Teenie Hodges for Al Green Explores Your Mind; it wasnt a hit, particularly, although a cover by Syl Johnson did OK. Then, four year later, the Talking Heads covered it on More Songs About Buildings and Food,, and that was a really big deal. The Heads had a following who liked their light-punk Manhattan sound, and this was a surprise.

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Into the Dark

Posted By Tim Bray

In full, I Will Follow You Into the Dark, by Death Cab for Cutie off their album Plans. This is a solo acoustic thing, stripped down to nothing but a lovely tune and a haunting message; both will stick to you, even if you heard them a million times on the radio a decade back. No personal connection here; I dont know anything about Death Cab, think its a dumb name for a band, dont know any of their other songs, wouldnt recognize any of them if I met them on the street. I just heard it on the radio driving a kid to school, and was hooked: If heaven and hell decide that both are satisfied/Illuminate the Nos on their Vacancy signs. Ive never been in a close-up-with-death situation, but it feels like the singers captured that feeling.

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Do You Love Me?

Posted By Tim Bray

Normally I write Song of the Day a few days ahead, and today I woke up on Valentines day and realized that days song was symphonic stuff by Brahms, which is great but not perhaps the Language Of Love. To make up for that, Ill send you all along a Happy Valentines for a few days back with a song thats about nothing but love, by Nick Cave. Nicks released a lot of good music over the years; this is off (sticking with the V-Day theme) Let Love In. It might be the album highlight but there are other gems too.

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Fine and Mellow

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a song not only performed but written by Billie Holiday; it was a hit in 1939, the flip side of the beautiful but gruesome Strange Fruit (the fruit was a lynching victim). Fine and Mellow is sad too, but a fairly standard man-treats-me-bad blues. Its a treat for the ears and the heart. You cant write about Billie without dipping into cliché: Victimized as a black and as a woman, drank herself to death, endless sadness in that story. Im actually not a devotee, quite a bit of her music goes bye me. But others, like this one, grab hard and dont let go.

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Death Dont Have No Mercy

Posted By Tim Bray

Death Dont Have No Mercy is a very old, very dark blues by Rev. Gary Davis which has been covered lots, by Dylan and the Dead among others. But today Im plugging a live version recorded by Hot Tuna in 1992. Hot Tuna are a very rootsy outfit. For those who dont know, they were the Jeffersan Airplane faction that didnt go Starshipping; guitarist/singer Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. They play blues and country and swing stuff, with a lot of extended guitar/bass breaks, always sitting down. This is on a live album called Live At Sweetwater Two, and I saw them play more or less this set a few months before they recorded it.

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Ashes the Rain and I

Posted By Tim Bray

The James Gang was a stripped-down band that mostly played primitive rock and roll (which I love) very well, and Rides Again is an example of that, but Ashes the Rain and I isnt primitive at all; five minutes of contemplative beauty. Disclosure: Joe Walsh has been, and remains, one of my musical heroes; a guy with a reputation for dumb stuff who really doesnt seem to be dumb at all. Plus, his guitar tone is second to, well none might be taking it a bit high, but it sure sounds great. If I keep doing this, hell get a rocker into Song of the Day.

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Brahms Variations

Posted By Tim Bray

Today, lets do classical music, as in a great big splodge of orchestral goo by a dead German. Brahms op. 56a and 56b is a set of variations on a theme; he thought the theme was Haydns, thus called it Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn. But now they think the Haydn attribution on the theme is sketchy, so now youll see em labeled sometimes as the Saint Anthony Variations. Anyhow, this is a super tasty splodge of goo, the kind of thing orchestras exist to play. Brahms, the year before the Variations were published. Brahms early career was up and down; he was in his late thirties before he got much traction.

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Jah Glory

Posted By Tim Bray

Third World have always had had a different sound, leaning quite a bit on sweet harmonies and instrumental flavors. Its reggae all right, but impure like most great music, and sounds as tasty as anything you can imagine. Jah Glory is such a sweet welcoming thing, a soaring song of worship. (You dont have to believe in Jah.) I saw Third World once in Toronto, I think part of the big Caribana festival, in a soccer stadium. The concert promoter had really screwed the pooch; the stage was one side of the field and when we filed in we found ourselves bottled up in the stands on the other side of the field, with the grass fenced off and a handful of cops lined up between the stands and the field.

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Dear Darling

Posted By Tim Bray

Mary Margaret OHara, a daughter of Toronto, hasnt recorded much and hasnt had hits and these are terribly sad things because shes a gem, a wonderful unconventional songwriter and singer. Her stuff gets pretty far out over the edge sometimes, but Dear Darling is a lovely straight-up country tune, hardly weird at all, or only in places. Ms OHaras performances were legendary in Toronto of the Eighties, and when she finally went into the studio and came out with Miss America, people thought she was on a rocket to the Top of the Pops. Despite, one hears, a parade of record-company executives throwing themselves at her feet, shes only ever recorded once since then, on the soundtrack to the 2001 move Apartment Hunting.

Sun, 11 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Mercy Street

Posted By Tim Bray

Nobody could call this obscure; Peter Gabriels So sold a kazillion copies and was right in the center of the zeitgeist for months back in the late Eighties. The songs were good, the sound was good, and (especially) the videos were good, which really mattered in 1986. Mercy Street was not one of its big hits, which always astonished me; I thought it by far and away the albums highlight. So isnt innovative or groundbreaking or anything; the song structures are conventional and the melodies are unfussy. The production quite properly focuses on Gabriels vocals, which on this record are outstanding in their artistry and just the sound of his voice, a pleasantly-rough English tenor, mostly singing in the comfortable center of his range.

Sun, 11 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Photo Antiphony

Posted By Tim Bray

Mobile-phone cameras are better this year than last, and next year theyll be better again. The notion of carrying around a heavy chunk of metal and glass called a camera is becoming difficult to defend and this makes me sad, because I like cameras. Using the big fat Samyang 135mm F2 is giving me strong opinions about what a camera has to be to become the anti-phone, the one youll take along even though theres a good camera on your phone. This piece contains 7½ pictures, 1½ of which could have been captured with a mobile camera, and one of which was.

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Fantaisie Impromptu

Posted By Tim Bray

After the hot guitar a couple days back, I thought some more flashy soloing would be fun, and the world currently has nobody flashier, on any instrument, than pianist Yundi Li, who seems to have rebranded himself as YUNDI. But I ended up at this Frédéric Chopin Fantaisie which has, yes, flash, but lots of music among and between it, and Mr Li really seems to understand Mr Chopin. If hes coming to your town, I recommend grabbing tickets; hes obviously a really good pianist but also a showman. One of his gimmicks, which I really like, is that when its time for him to play, he strides onto the stage, plunks down on the piano bench, and his fingers hit the keyboard about 0.5 seconds later.

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Broken English

Posted By Tim Bray

This the title track from Broken English, an album by Marianne Faithfull, on which every song is good and some are terrifying (not this one). I was sufficiently impressed by the album that I wrote a whole blog piece on it a few years back. Like I said there, Ms Faithfull has a lot of history and a lot of baggage; all worth reading about, and there are lots of places to do that that arent this blog. In 2009. No longer a goddess nor a burnout, just a grown-up. Whats interesting about Broken English is that its from well into her career, with a lot of glory and wreckage in the rear-view.

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Pride and Joy

Posted By Tim Bray

Its been mostly gentle and sophisticated around here recently. Lets turn to Texas and fix that; Pride and Joy, by Stevie Ray Vaughan, is about the simplest blues holler you can imagine, with a happy message and some smokin hot guitar. Wow, Stevie Ray has been dead for 28 years. The last time I saw him feels like yesterday; it was just weeks before his death. Stevie Ray had managed to achieve sobriety after a lot of years of hard partying; like many sober addicts, hed gotten to the point where the alternative was a coffin. Anyhow, that night when I saw him, he made a touching little speech about being sober, and how you had to take of yourself to be there for the people you love.

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Sodade

Posted By Tim Bray

Cesária Évora is probably the only person youve ever heard of (now that youve heard of her) from Cabo Verde, which is an island group 570km west of Africas westernmost point. She was a really great singer and recorded lots of fine collections of music. Its hard to pick from among them, but Sodade is a fine example. I dont know much about Ms Évora or about Cabo Verde either. Miss Perfumado, from which Sodade comes, is probably her best-known work. All of the songs on it are good, and in fact everything Ive hear from her is pleasing to the ear.

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Both Sides Now

Posted By Tim Bray

Anyones list of top songwriters would include Joni Mitchell, and any list of her top songs would include Both Sides, Now. Theres little I can say that will add value here, just give it a listen and itll improve your day, any day. Notes It was recorded by Judy Collins first, not Ms Mitchell. Speaking of recorded-by, check the list of cover versions, helpfully organized by decade; oh my goodness gracious. I can remember once when I was stage manager for a concert, during the endless hours of take-down, load-out, and clean-up, someone put a tape on the auditorium PA that had a cover by a warm-voiced male singer, and since it was only a half-hour tape I heard it like six times, and to this day it remains the voice I hear when I think of the song.

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Joan of Arc

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a song by Leonard Cohen, but Im talking about it as performed by Jennifer Warnes. It may not even be Warnes best cover of a Cohen tune, but its good enough to be any days song, and the recording is special. Many years ago, Jennifer Warnes released Famous Blue Raincoat, a collection of Cohen songs, and did very well by it. Its a fantastic record; Warnes inhabits Cohens tunes completely. Which is a neat trick, since shes got a big, creamy voice as wide as a river and smooth as satin, while Cohens voice is exactly none of those things.

Sun, 04 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Diaraby

Posted By Tim Bray

Todays song comes from Africa (first in the series); Diaraby is a slow dreamy electric African blues with exquisite singing and guitar, by Ali Farka Touré; seven minutes of pure musical joy. Lets start our trip to Africa in Mali, famous among other things for being the location of Timbuktu; and for its music. In 1994 Ry Cooder and Malian musical godfather Farka Touré collaborated on Talking Timbuktu, which includes Diaraby and is one of my very favorite recordings. Its a cant-miss record, cheerful yet deep, bluesy and African, especially appropriate for sitting outside on a warm day. I read the back story once of how Mr Farka Touré got into playing music that sounded simultaneously like John Lee Hooker and African campfire music, but I cant remember it.

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Happy

Posted By Tim Bray

The song-of-the-day recently has been trending a little bit to the eclectic and the obscure. Enough of that, lets dish up a hearty serving of meat-and-potatoes rock-n-roll. Happy is a simple stripped-down hard Stones rocker, vocals by Keef, with a nice tune, tasty chord changes, and you know what? I need a love to keep me happy too. You have to be a little nervous plugging the Stones in the era of #MeToo; their work includes dark splashes of shocking misogyny. But Exile on Main Street has less (cant actually pull any to the front of my mind), so well cut them some slack.

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

First Purples

Posted By Tim Bray

Its a tradition that I blog a photo of our crocuses the first time each year that Im home and theyre open and theres some light. In the Pacific Northwests late winter, we use some light in a forgiving kind of way. The big-ass new 135mm F2 lens was quivering in the camera bag for a chance at these little guys, how could I say no? The lens works well, but when I say works I mean the photographer does a whole lot of work to get the focus happening. It took really a lot of shots to come away with three that were usefully sharp.

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Ne Nehledej

Posted By Tim Bray

Im pretty sure Ne Nehledej, which is said to mean Stop Searching, is in the Czech language, because Iva Bittová is Czech. I dont know that much about her and frankly this Song of the Day mostly exists to highlight remarkable video, but Ne Nehledej is a nice song and Bittová is a great entertainer while also being out there on the edge. She sings and plays violin, and is as much performance art as music. But (unlike some performance artists) this performance is all about music. Its a bit confusing, because this song appears on Bittovás eponymous first album from 1986, but then theres another 1994 album with that title, which in that listing is translated as No, Do Not Seek.

Thu, 01 Feb 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: More White Flags

Posted By Tim Bray

Yesterdays White Flag isnt the only song of that name. I want to share one in particular, a minor hit by a minor band (one-hit wonder would be charitable) called the Leggatt Brothers, because I think its brilliant, a forgotten gem. But theres no live video and its not for sale digitally, so I loaded up the entry with a few extra White Flags. First, we have Joseph, a band featuring three sisters whose surnames are Schepman and Closner (I can see why they didnt use either), singing burn the white flag; not bad! Second, some guy named Dave Barnes; didnt get far into this one, but hey, you might love it.

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: White Flag

Posted By Tim Bray

Here we have a sweet sad love song by Dido (full name Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong) who was born in 1971 and is thus younger than many other Songs of the Day. It was a huge hit, hardly obscure (the album Life For Rent sold 10+ million copies). Its OK to be mainstream sometimes, and White Flag is more than OK, its brilliant. An Australian story A dozen years ago we went on a camping trip to the southeast corner of Australia with a dozen or more people, including a few kids. One evening, the little ones were asleep and we were sitting around the fire enjoying a few well-earned drinks when the partys three pre-teen girls wandered in out of the dark and said theyd been working on a song.

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: If I Had a Rocket Launcher

Posted By Tim Bray

Bruce Cockburn is sufficiently Canadian that his name may ring no bells. But I think If I Had a Rocket Launcher made a few waves back in the day and may jog a memory. Hes an interesting guy, and this is a nice, lilting melodic song about wanting to kill people. Cockburn (rhymes with flow-burn) is Christian, political, a dazzling (mostly acoustic) guitarist, and a decent singer and songwriter, with a pleasing throaty baritone. Hes been doing it for a long time; when I was the part-time University stage manager forty years ago, I put him on several times, and every show was a highlight.

Mon, 29 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Canones Diversi

Posted By Tim Bray

Almost a month in, and we havent had a visit with J.S. Bach yet. Long past time, and well be back a lot too, if this series stretches out much. Were going to start out with minimal Bach; well get around to thunderous Bach, passionate Bach, and show-off Bach in later installments. Today well sample from a small series entitled Canones diversi super Thema Regium, part of a larger work called Musikalisches Opfer, or in English The Musical Offering, composed in 1747, BWV 1079. Today well take on the Canon a 2, per augmentationem, contrario motu and the Fuga canonica in Epidiapente.

Sun, 28 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Slavery Days

Posted By Tim Bray

I sure do love me some reggae; my island-music tastes are mainstream, but once you get past Marley, the names are fading from memories. Maybe I can reverse that a bit. Lets start with Winston Rodney; his first band was Burning Spear, then he just adopted the name for himself. His music is a little deeper, his singing a little edgier, his horn arrangements excellent. Slavery Days has all of those things, and deserves to live forever. When you consider Mr Rodney, you have to take Rastafari (the religion, I mean) into account; hes serious about it. Its a strong flavor in a culture that produced a whole lot of really good music.

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Beck + Call

Posted By Tim Bray

I run a lot of old music but Im not someone who really thinks it was all better back in the day, or is all trash now. So from time to time, the Song of the Day is going to be something I liked on the car radio while I was driving around today. Today, its Beck + Call by July Talk. Who knows if itll still have listeners decades from now like most of the selections here, or even centuries like some. Who cares? Its a nice tune, neednt hang its head in the current company, and July Talk are hot stuff live.

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Habanera

Posted By Tim Bray

The full title is Lamour est un oiseau rebelle (Loves a rebel bird), a big soprano aria from Carmen, written by Georges Bizet in 1875. Thats right, an opera! Were into scary territory here, at risk of chasing away followers of this quixotic New Years Resolution. But bear with me, its quite a song. No, Im not really an opera fan. It has problems: pretentiousness, a lot of the music is lame, it encourages a hard vibrato-heavy voice that usually repels me, the male singers bellow, and they care way too much about the costumes. But, I go see them sometimes; Lauren and I subscribed to the Vancouver Opera for a few years, and really enjoyed it.

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: I Thank You

Posted By Tim Bray

Mr Moore and Mr Prater dropped their last names and were big soul stars as Sam & Dave between 1961 and 1981. That kind of music has been pretty far off the charts for a lot of years, although they got some help from the Blues Brothers. Theyve got two or three performances that belong in this series. I think that I Thank You was the first ever soul song that penetrated my consciousness, and is maybe still my favorite. It feels somehow wrong to write about Sam & Dave recordings, because their live performances were essential. They were seriously cool dancers and had the best horn-section orchestration I ever saw.

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: The Heart of the Sun

Posted By Tim Bray

In full, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun by (the very early) Pink Floyd. While Floyd written some beautiful music, if you want something thats new to, well, anyone, you pretty well have to go way back in time to before Dark Side of the Moon. Set the Controls is an easy, pleasing, soaring listen, with or without the help of hallucinogenic drugs. The album version of Set the Controls is unique in that it has input from all five Floyds, notably featuring guitar from both David Gilmour and Syd Barrett. Thats on Floyds second album, Saucerful of Secrets, but I hardly know it because Im a huge fan of the live take on Ummagumma; not surprising since I like live recordings generally.

Tue, 23 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Visions of You

Posted By Tim Bray

Jah Wobble grew up in East London with the Sex-Pistols-to-be, and his handle comes from a drunken Sid Vicious attempting to pronounce his real name (John Wardle). He joined John Lydons post-Pistols Public Image Limited and then formed Invaders of the Heart. Visions of You is the lead-off track on the Invaders Rising Above Bedlam disk, which I often play end-to-end. Its a lightweight pop song with an icy slow-funk background, a real treat for the ears. Wobble is a talented, dub-influenced bass player, and any time youre listening to his music, you want to deploy the biggest speakers you have access to, ideally connected to a whole lot of amplifier wattage.

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Lust For Life

Posted By Tim Bray

I suppose that in 2018 Lust For Life is an obscurity, something you might have heard on the radio or in an ad. Thats insane, its obviously one of the great rock songs of all time, and has given Iggy Pop, who co-wrote it with David Bowie, a performance vehicle that hes taken a long, long way. Im a hopeless fan of Iggy Pop. Hes a hardass rocker who never for even one on-stage instant is giving less than 100%. And a fine singer, always in tune. And, go read a few interviews; Iggy is an articulate, well-informed, pleasant dude, not at all full of himself.

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Cry Me a River

Posted By Tim Bray

Occasionally, the Song of the Day idea starts with a Greatest-Hits record that has multiple candidates, and I pick based on which turns up the best live video. Todays Greatest Hits are those of Julie London, and it was a tough choice, but what a beautiful piece of singing Cry Me a River is. It was tough because Julie, in my opinion, also owns the best-ever recordings of A Taste of Honey (the Beatles version pretty well sucks, while Martin Denny and Herb Alpert are only pretty good) and also of Light My Fire (the Doors version doesnt suck, but Julie brings a hundred times as much sex which in popular music trumps great instrumental breaks.

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Israelites

Posted By Tim Bray

The summer I turned fourteen, Israelites by Desmond Dekker and the Aces was the biggest hit in the world. I thought it was the best song of that summer and maybe the next summer too. Id go to the beach, where everyone had a radio, and as you walked along youd hear Israelites coming at you in super-stereo from a dozen directions; it sounded so great. So, what is it about this song? Maybe the razor-sharp proto-reggae beat, maybe Desmonds virtuoso singing, so deep in the beat hes a rhythm instrument, could be the cool baritone harmonies, or just maybe its a really great tune.

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Samyang 135mm F2

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I stumbled across Why you should own a 135mm F2 lens in DPReview (another Amazon property, hmmm) and boy was it ever convincing, so I clicked over (to Amazon, natch) and picked up the Fujifilm X-mount version. DPReviews piece opens with: Image quality, weight and value for money. Well, two out of three aint bad. Its actually hard to find the lenss home page behind the barrage of reviews and retailers, but I managed. And if youre another click-through-to-Amazon type, here ya go. You gotta respect Samyang for shipping all those mount options: Canon, Canon M, Nikon, Pentax, Sony , Sony E, Fujifilm X, Samsung NX, µ4/3.

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Travelin Prayer

Posted By Tim Bray

In the mid-Seventies, a women we found with a classified ad moved into my student house, and of course brought her record collection. It included something called Cold Spring Harbor by a guy Id never heard of, Billy Joel. We were pretty well a heavy-music joint that didnt listen to fluff without guitar solos, so Billy got no respect then, just like he gets no respect now. But, in among the cheesy ballads there was this song that got way under my skin, and still does: Travelin Prayer. Its great, pretty well flawless. The problem with Billy I earned my living most of my way through university by stage-managing the rock shows the student council put on, and then eventually the classicoids and jazzbos the University booked.

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: No Woman, No Cry

Posted By Tim Bray

Bob Marleys been gone a long time; longer than most people reading this have lived, I bet. But more than most deceased musicians, it feels to me like hes still out there; a quiet dub track woven into the universal quantum background hum. Try to prove me wrong. No Woman, No Cry is a good first entry for reggae in Song of the Day; Warm-sounding warm-heartedness; what could be better in a Northern-hemisphere winter? Reggae, its got this dark sweet warm pulse like molasses for the brain, but its not simple at all. I saw a documentary once about Marley and the Wailers breaking into mainstream music.

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Pärts Cantus

Posted By Tim Bray

Since Ive been rocking the house the last couple of days, lets do serenity instead. Specifically, Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten, for string orchestra and bell, by Arvo Pärt, one of my musical heroes. Heres how good this is: It just about got me killed, the first time I heard it. Which was on a rented cars radio in England, heading up the M3, where they drive fast; I was jet-lagged and I caught myself closing my eyes at 85mph to savor the fading tones of the church bell. Arvo Pärt is an Estonian, elderly but still active. He Believes In God, big-time, and knowing this may help you enjoy his music.

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Clampdown

Posted By Tim Bray

Yesterday, I used the phrase best Rock song ever recorded. Well, why not two days in a row? Because another fine candidate is Clampdown from the Clashs wonderful London Calling album. That record was a highlight of 1980 and Clampdown was a highlight of the record. I think a listen is in order now in 2018 if only for the lyric In these days of evil presidentes& need I say more? Great tune, strong words, hot playing, fine production. People hear that loud raw sound and might foolishly think that its easy to play. Clampdown, like a lot of their songs, is fast, and keeping that kind of thing together at that speed, particular with the lousy on-stage sound most rock bands have had to deal with, is a big deal.

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Day Tripper

Posted By Tim Bray

If someone asked me what the greatest rock&roll song of all time was, I wouldnt be able to pick. But if they kept asking, and you got a serious conversation going, Day Tripper would be in that conversation. Yes, I acknowledge that this is two loud-and-fast-BritPop Songs of the Day in a row. Its worth noting that Day Tripper is musically weird; to start with, theres a slow backbeat behind the fast rhythms. The chords veer from major into minor and back. And if you talk to people who really care about this kind of stuff youre apt to hear a lot of Wow& that tambourine! (Ringo BTW).

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Google Memory Loss

Posted By Tim Bray

I think Google has stopped indexing the older parts of the Web. I think I can prove it. Googles competition is doing better. Evidence This isnt just a proof, its a rock-n-roll proof. Back in 2006, I published a review of Lou Reeds Rock n Roll Animal album. Back in 2008, Brent Simmons published That New Sound, about The Clashs London Calling. Heres a challenge: Can you find either of these with Google? Even if you read them first and can carefully conjure up exact-match strings, and then use the site: prefix? I cant. Why? Obviously, indexing the whole Web is crushingly expensive, and getting more so every day.

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Missionary Man

Posted By Tim Bray

If I actually had any serious musical talent, I would have chosen rock&roll over all other professions. I guess I havent been running that many pure simple rock songs here, and thats wrong. So lets turn todays space over to Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart, and Joniece Jamison of the Eurythmics for some nice polished passionate BritRock. Since theres not really much to say about Missionary Man, let me pass on a little bit of Rock and Roll Theory, which most of you will know, but for those who dont: What is Rock&Roll anyhow? Three ingredients: 1) Blues chord changes, 2) electric guitars, and 3) a backbeat.

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Gravitys Angel

Posted By Tim Bray

Possibly you havent encountered Laurie Anderson, and possibly if you did you wouldnt like her, because shes pretty far out there. Gravitys Angel is at the near end of out-there, a simple-ish song with a lovely tune and a cool arrangement; a good place to start. What happened was, in the mid-Eighties Id heard O Superman on campus radio and then Laurie was coming to town and a couple of people whose judgment I respected said You really have to go see her so I did, never having bought a record, no idea what I was getting into. It was easily one of the top two or three musical experiences of my life; I got giddy in the middle of one of the songs because Id been holding my breath, because you had to.

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Please Dont

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean Baby, Please Dont Go of course, the blues chestnut to end all blues chestnuts. Nobody knows who wrote it, although apparently Muddy Waters first made it a hit; Wikipedia offers several plausible backgrounds dating from slavery days up to about 1925. The version Im chiefly recommending was recorded by Lightnin Hopkins in the early Sixties. That recording is on a collection called Prestige Profiles Lightnin Hopkins, its really pleasing. The audio is brilliant in that they apparently pointed a couple of good mikes at the musician and got out of the fucking way, an approach now unknown to the music business.

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: The Other 5:15

Posted By Tim Bray

No, Im not talking about the Who song from Quadrophenia (though its a fine tune), Im talking about the song by Chris Isaak. No, Im not talking about Wicked Game either, which I may feature here some day. Im talking about Chris 5:15, one of the several excellent songs on San Francisco Days, one of the several excellent albums Mr Isaak has released. Chris even had a TV show for a while, which was funny and, because Chris is funny, generally a good entertainer. Chris plays an enjoyable guitar, with a big relaxed slow twang, but hes mostly about the songwriting, and singing with one of the truly golden voices.

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Troy

Posted By Tim Bray

I bought Sinéad OConnors debut, The Lion and the Cobra, because Mandinko was on the radio and I liked it. The first time I played it, not having looked at the track listing, I noticed some meditative crooning about Dublin in a Rainstorm; the next time, a gut-grabbing throaty chant: You should have left the lights on; and then another time a howling declaration about rising, a phoenix from the flame. It took me a while to notice that all of these were from the same track: Troy. Its a hell of a song. Its a hell of an album too; other highlights are Never Get Old and A Drink Before the War, which inspired me to a grief-stricken piece on the eve of the Iraq war.

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Temporary Ground

Posted By Tim Bray

This is the best song from Jack Whites 2014 Lazaretto album, and it was the centerpiece of the show last time I saw him play. Its mostly acoustic, thus has to stand on its own sans bombastic guitar flourishes. Dont get me wrong, I like Jacks bombastics, but its good to let a song speak for itself, and Temporary Ground has a lot to say. Gosh, I do seem to write about Jack White a lot; in particular about his recent recordings and a recent concert. Heres why: He shares a lot of my ideas about how songs should be written, how rock&roll ought to be played, and how to record it.

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Voodoo Runner

Posted By Tim Bray

Todays song is Miles Runs the Voodoo Down, from Bitches Brew. In the series intro I said I wont be recommending abrasive free-jazz jams& and well, this is kind of abrasive and while it might not be free jazz, its pretty loose. But its wonderful improvisation and production, full of deep musical intelligence, and if you like anything at all in the electric-jazz space, youll probably like this a lot. If youve never checked the space out, this might be a good place to start. I am not gonna invest the ten thousand or so words it would take to even summarize Miles labyrinthine path through the genres, even the ones he invented himself, and explain where Bitches Brew fits in.

Sun, 07 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Solveigs Song

Posted By Tim Bray

Hey, there are songs in Classical Music, too! Maybe you think you dont like that stuff? Stick around and give this one a listen. This Song is the last movement of Peer Gynt Suite #2 by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, dating from 1876. Its exceptionally beautiful, one of the great melodies of all time. I encountered it some decades ago, when my cello teacher assigned it to me, and it works well on that instrument. I loved playing it and now I love listening to it. It turns out there are a lot of ways to perform this; while I mentioned cello, its often played as a piece for orchestra; the version I happen to have is from a 1989 Karajan/BPO outing and its lovely, but Im not going to claim that its definitive, Ive seen rave reviews of Beechams 1957 (!)

Sat, 06 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Petes Blue

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a minimalist guitar instrumental by Roy Buchanan (1939-1988). Genuinely obscure stuff, but Im pretty sure youll find it worth seven minutes and seventeen seconds of your time. Back in the day, Roy had a real following among electric-guitar devotees, including the Rolling Stones, who offered him a spot when they lost Brian Jones; he passed. I wasnt a huge fan, finding his playing often overwrought and overdecorated. But the B side of his debut album went straight to my heart; Petes Blue is the highlight. I still put that scratchy 45-year-old vinyl on sometimes, and smile every time. Nice-looking album cover, too.

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Cannonball

Posted By Tim Bray

Music comes in lots of flavors, most of which Id hate to have to live without, but the ones closest to my heart involve well-played electric guitars, female voices, and raw rock energy. The Breeders Cannonball has all three ingredients. Unlike many of the daysongs, this one has no personal back-story at all; Until I started writing this I had no idea who The Breeders are/were, I just liked this tune a whole lot when it came on the twentieth-century radio, and still do. Hm, it turns out they have roots in the Pixies and Throwing Muses and have been on-and-off over the years but are apparently still on.

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Ooh La La

Posted By Tim Bray

This by The Ditty Bops, from their self-titled debut album in 2004. Id never heard of them before, nor have I since; but this is a remarkable song and more than one friend, hearing it in the background, has stopped talking and asked Whats that? The Ditty Bops are a female duet with (on this album) tight harmonies, tuneful tunes with singing that is athletic and graceful. They sound very young. Ooh La La is fast and tight and a torrent of words hurtles by: Was it the fighting was it the fist / Was it adventure with a jealous twist / Was it desire for another's kiss / What brought the house down?

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Identikit

Posted By Tim Bray

This is from Radioheads recent A Moon Shaped Pool, which Ive been listening to a whole lot, and oh my goodness what a beautiful song. I came to Radiohead late, missed them completely on the way up. For years all I knew was they were the band behind the OK Computer hits on the radio, but I guess Im a fan now. I like pretty well all of Moon Shaped Pool, and its an absolute production triumph, the kind of thing I put on when people ask why I still have a big hulking old-school audiophile system down at that end of the room.

Tue, 02 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: Western Stars

Posted By Tim Bray

Nobody, and I mean nobody, brings more to a performance than k.d. lang. But shes not on the road that much, so you might have to settle for recordings. A good recording to settle for would be Shadowland, featuring production by country-music legend Owen Bradley and guest appearances by other divas-with-twang. This is probably the best song on Shadowland. This is part of the Song of the Day series (background). I actually saw k.d. last year, on her Ingenue tour, in which she played that breakthrough album end-to-end, then a bunch of hits. The place was packed, mostly with the gay and/or grey-haired.

Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

SotD: New Years Day

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in the late Eighties, for a few months I went to aerobics class, and once every session the instructor put this U2 chestnut on and every time my beats-per-minute cranked right up. Not in the slightest obscure, but worth revisiting at least once a year, ideally on this day. U2 are pretty well dinosaurs now, but then I am too. And when they stomped the earth in the late Eighties, it shook. They brought a whole lot of musical intensity to the stage, and the best live bass sound Ive ever heard. And passion: I recall a hot summer night back, then an outdoor show; Bonos arm was in bandages and a sling because hed fallen off the stage a few nights earlier.

Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UTC

Happy New Year!

Posted By Tim Bray

Best of 2018 to you. But this isnt a real blog post, its a placeholder to debug a subtle Unicode bug in my comment system that doesnt appear on my staging environment. *sigh*

Sun, 31 Dec 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Songs of the Day

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres my New Years Resolution: Ill try to try to publish a short piece every day recommending a song that I think is excellent, and apt to please at least some readers. Lets see how far into 2018 I get; a quick run through the collection turned up around 240 candidates, so a whole years worth of songs would be a stretch goal. Read on for motivation, logistics, and mechanics. Or just read the song notes, starting tomorrow. Or dont. Why? 2018 will be this blogs fifteenth year, and the fragments dont flow as fast as they used to; I have to reach back pretty far sometimes to achieve even three or four microessays a month.

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Moving Mobile Windows

Posted By Tim Bray

A large proportion of the information I consume on my mobile comes from two apps: The Economist (iOS, Android), and a whole lot of feeds via Feedly (iOS, Android). They both present text in narrow columns and share a lovely, simple navigation metaphor which unfortunately has recently broken (on Android at least). In both cases, each story is presented in a single column that fills the screen from left to right and extends arbitrarily far down, as long as need be for the pieces body. The stories are side by side. There are only two ways to navigate: Up or down the columns, and right or left between stories.

Tue, 19 Dec 2017 20:00:00 UTC

How To Sell Bitcoins

Posted By Tim Bray

In 2013, I bought a few Bitcoins from a dude in a coffee shop, paying with hundred-dollar bills. Later that year I sold enough to get my money back. Then I forgot about them, Bitcoins price gyrations occasionally registering in a corner of my mind. But earlier this month I decided to find out if the remainder could be turned into real actual money, and it turned out they could. Heres how. Important note: This narrative applies specifically to exchanging BTC for Canadian dollars, in Canada. Some lessons may apply in other jurisdictions. How I did it There are a lot of people out there on the Net who are eager to sell you Bitcoins, but when you want to sell them back for hard cold cash, the offerings seem to thin out.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:00:00 UTC

The Last JSON Spec

Posted By Tim Bray

The IETF just published RFC 8259 (also known as STD 90). Editor, yr humble servant. The legacy-ASCII full text is here and Ill link a nice-looking HTML version from here sometime in the next day or two. I think this is the last specification of JSON that anyone will ever publish. The story of how we got to RFC 7159, this RFCs predecessor, is told in JSON Redux AKA RFC7159 and I wont re-tell it. The reason 8259 exists is that the ECMAScript gang went and wrote their own extremely minimal spec, Standard ECMA-404: The JSON Data Interchange Syntax, and there was reason for concern over dueling standards.

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Dark Vegas

Posted By Tim Bray

I spent four nights in Las Vegas while at re:Invent. The citys daytime aspect is kind of flat and low-contrast because who cares what it looks like then? Photographers there come out like vampires after dark. I took along the ludicrous Achromat lens for the sparklies, so got em if ya want em. Also hotel, music, and venue recommendations you wont want to miss. Lets start with the sparklies. That lens sure is fun. Not to mention the effect when you tell your table-mates you brought along your Las Vegas Lens and pull a whole lot of tubular gleaming brass out of your bag.

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Unapocalyptic Software

Posted By Tim Bray

The Atlantic published The Coming Software Apocalypse by James Somers, which is full of dire warnings and strong claims. Heres one: Since the 1980s, the way programmers work and the tools they use have changed remarkably little. My first programming job was in 1979, I still construct software, and I can testify that that assertion is deeply wrong, as is much else in the piece. I would very much like to place an alternative view of my profession before the people who have consumed Mr Somers, but I wouldnt know how, so Ill just post it here; maybe an Atlantic reader or two will stumble across it.

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Do You Love Any Dead People?

Posted By Tim Bray

I think most of us do, so if youre in Vancouver around Halloween, you should go visit A Night For All Souls. Even if everyone you love is still alive, you should go anyhow because its full of extreme ethereal dark-hued beauty. All Souls is in Vancouvers Mountain View Cemetary, where Ive often taken pictures and played Ingress before; its central and, yes, has a terrific view of the mountains. The project is city-funded and I hope they go on funding it. The concept is simple: After dark there are soft lights everywhere, many of them in little shrines you can visit and write a message or light a candle.

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Dueling Camera Apps

Posted By Tim Bray

I got a Pixel 2, largely because its said to have a really great camera, with software-driven magic  machine learning at work. Here are two shot comparisons between the Google and Lightroom Android camera apps to see what that means in practice. Why Lightroom? Given a choice, I prefer the Lightroom app to Androids. It has better, more intuitive ergonomics, including a level; makes the phone feel more like a camera. Also, you can edit in the Android version of Lightroom, which has basically the same controls as the desktop version I live in. Also, it shoots and edits DNG RAW files.

Sat, 04 Nov 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Vintage Nauticals

Posted By Tim Bray

We keep our boat at Horseshoe Bay, a pretty little place when approached by land. Boaters coming in from Howe Sound come face-to-face with a huge antique float/pier/breakwater kind of thing, whose ugliness Ive long found magnificent and which today I took the time to tour and photograph. Turns out this huge steel thing is afloat, actually; heres how its fastened to the land. Those are big chains and huge truck tires. What happened was, I was out winterizing the boat. Vancouver missed autumn this year, snapped over from 18°C Indian-summer to basically zero more or less overnight. Today a few snowflakes drifted down and I was wearing a nontraditional Canadian boating toque.

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Working at Amazon

Posted By Tim Bray

Sometimes when were trying to hire a senior employee, I get asked to do a sell call, tell them what its like to work here. Since Im coming up on three years and havent quit, I guess the supposition is that Ill be positive. Since these candidates are outsiders and some of them dont come to work for us, nothing I can say can be a secret. So why dont I tell everyone? Before I dive in any further, everything here relates to AWS, not Amazon as a whole. It might be true of the retail side too, but I dont know because I dont work there.

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Live Metal is Better

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently I went out for a live metal triple-bill, with Endon and SUMAC opening for Boris, whom Ive covered here before (with groovy pix). More pix today, with words on the history and meaning of metal, and how to photograph it. Endon, the openers, are described as catastrophic noise metal and yeah, they were pretty catastrophic. A little too abstract for me, but sincere and really trying to bring it. Didnt get any pix. Heres my problem: I wholeheartedly love this music, in particular live, and yet I have to acknowledge that its sort of, well, ridiculous. The volume is much louder than can be sanely necessary.

Sat, 07 Oct 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Macro Trends

Posted By Tim Bray

In The bubble without any fizz, The Economist addresses the fact that financial-asset prices (stocks, bonds, and the like) keep drifting up and up in a world where inflation doesnt; are we in a mega-bubble? Whats really going on? Looks obvious to me, but then Im a left-winger. I think its all a straightforward consequence of economic efficiency and class warfare. Inflation? It stays low because our globalized economy is hyperefficient at making the things we want, extracting the fuels we burn, and growing the food we eat. And also flexible enough that it can scale up and down to meet demand without apparently kicking off waves of inflation or bankruptcy.

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Refresh Is Sacred

Posted By Tim Bray

There are two kinds of client applications: The first kind has a refresh or reload button to make sure your apps in sync with its servers view of the world. The second kind is broken. Of late, I have to deal regularly with several apps, notably including an emailer and a car-sharing service, that lack such a button. I can imagine why  a customer-focused product manager said Steve Jobs taught us that fewer controls are better and we should just take care of making sure were in sync with the cloud. So lose the button. Except for, it doesnt work. Apparently nobody in the world is smart enough to arrange for flawlessly reliable hands-off client/cloud synchronization.

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:00:00 UTC

You Might Be Evil

Posted By Tim Bray

Or at least, your employer might be. Over the years we in the tech sector have gotten used to being well-regarded. After all, we make peoples lives better, on balance. Thats changing. At the moment its rumblings from thought leaders, not pervasive popular anger. The other thing thats new is that theyre thought leaders who are progressives and liberals; just like most of us in the tech professions. It notably involves the M-word and those of us on the inside need to be thinking about it. The general public, by and large, love reading the news of their friends and the world on Facebook, buying stuff cheap on Amazon, using Google maps and mail for free, and using recent Windows releases at work.

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Photos of the Sky

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean No Mans Sky the game, which Ive been playing again lately. Its been accused of being mostly a platform for generating cheesy sci-fi book covers, but thats not true, and also I love cheesy sci-fi book covers, so this is mostly to show you some. With a few words on the game. Oh, just flying my starship over the landscape ofa planet I recently discovered and named. As one does. Updates No Mans Sky launched just over a year ago, preceded by a massive hype wave and followed by howls of disappointment when it fell short of expectations.

Sat, 09 Sep 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Canadian Tax Wrangling

Posted By Tim Bray

Our media, pro and social, echo with blasts of self-righteous anger over proposed legislation which would eliminate a few popular tax dodges. Weirdly, I see no-one arguing the other side; that the tax proposals are reasonable. I think Im qualified to make that argument, so I will. [If youre not Canadian, you can probably stop reading here.] The proposed tax changes Theyre summarized pretty well here. Basically, if you have a business and its incorporated  say youre a doctor, lawyer, contractor, accountant, that kind of thing  you can use your corporation for tax tricks, the effect being that you pay less tax on the same income.

Sun, 03 Sep 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Murder at Adolfs Cottage

Posted By Tim Bray

I recently read Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr. Its good  a Fifties-Iron-Curtain spy thriller gracefully mashed up with a pre-war murder mystery set in Hitlers Bavarian country getaway, Berghof. Its a repeat appearance for Kerrs Bernie Gunther, an appealingly hard-boiled veteran socialist cop who finds himself working for National Socialist management. And yep, there are Nazis in this story; the real not tiki-torch flavor. A couple of mega-Nazis, Bormann and Heydrich, and some relatively minor odd fish like Karl Brandt and Gerdy Troost. Nazis are convenient for a novelist, because they are reliably evil and twisted, so he can economize on characterization and leave room for plot and atmospherics.

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Large Companies Considered Harmful

Posted By Tim Bray

Theres a plausible case that capitalism per se isnt the problem. Concentration is: Variations range from too big to fail to good old-fashioned monopoly. Its painfully obvious that the acquisition of one monster telecom or bank or airline by another does neither their customers nor the economy as a whole any good. Its tough to write anti-monopoly law, because how do you quantify market power? However, you can quantify size. So lets use that as a club to bash away at the problem. Specifically: Pick a number X, and pass legislation decreeing that no company can have more than X full-time-equivalent employees.

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Enlightenment Technology

Posted By Tim Bray

Around 1500, the levels of technology and productivity in Europe and Asia were not dramatically different. But by 1700, Europe had leaped ahead and, by the twentieth century, mostly come to dominate the world; the labels Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution are commonly applied. A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy, a 2016 book by Joel Mokyr asks Why? and tries to answer. I encountered many jewels of insight and erudition in this book, which however is difficult, a rough read; Im not entirely comfy recommending it. But itd feel wrong not to pass a few jewels along, and in a couple places add perspectives that I think will resonate among geeks.

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Olympus TG-5 Tough Waterproof

Posted By Tim Bray

I found myself vacation-bound to Queensland (thats the top right corner of Australia) and the itinerary included beaches and coral, specifically the Great Barrier Reef, which is dying. I like to photograph the places I visit, and the Olympus TG-5 is getting lots of buzz in waterproof-cam circles, so I got one. The manual says that when its been in the ocean, you should give it a ten-minute freshwater soak. Camera geekery The Oly TG tough cameras have been underwater stalwarts for years, and the -5 differs from its predecessors notably in shooting RAW, offering 4K video, and having fewer megapixels, for better low-light sensitivity.

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 19:00:00 UTC

TLS Wiretap Fear

Posted By Tim Bray

There is a hot lengthy argument going on in the IETFs TLS Working Group which has been making me uncomfortable. Its being alleged that there is an attempt to weaken Web security in a deep fundamental way, which if true is obviously a Big Deal. Whats an IETF TLS WG? TLS is a broad term for the family of crypto and related security protocols that make the Web secure. You may have noticed that more and more web addresses begin with https: rather than http:, which is a good and important thing; TLS in action. The standards behind this good and important thing are hammered out by the Internet Engineering Task Forces (IETFs) Transport Level Security (TLS) Working Group (WG).

Sat, 22 Jul 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Android Auto

Posted By Tim Bray

I just had my first experience with Android Auto and I suppose there are lots of other people who havent been there yet, so a few words might be useful. Short form: Rough around the edges, but super-helpful. What with my job, I sometimes have to travel between Vancouver and downtown Seattle; all the options are lousy. Driving isnt my favorite but sometimes it happens. Recently I rented a car for the purpose; reserved the standard corporate-guidance minibox but they were overrun with summer tourists and, threatened with a long wait for the right car, I became That Guy you want out of your face.

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 19:00:00 UTC

On Password Managers

Posted By Tim Bray

It has come to my attention that people are Wrong On The Internet about password managers. This matters, because almost everybody should be using one. Herewith background, opinions, and a description of my own setup, which is reasonably secure. What is a password manager? Its a piece of software that does the following (although not all of them do all of these): Store your passwords in a safe way, protected by at least a password, which we call the master password. Make new passwords for you. Heres an example of a generated password: QzbaLX}wA8Ad8awk. Youre not expected to remember these.

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Map Review Fear

Posted By Tim Bray

My daughter had a swollen infected face on a holiday morning, so I looked up nearby walk-in clinics on Google Maps. The place was deserted, efficient, and kind. Afterward, without even thinking about it, I tapped a good review into the map. Then I wondered if I might be part of a really big problem. On Google Im still broadly in sympathy with Googles efforts on the Internet, which have mostly made it better. And theyre so easy to understand: They want everyone to be online all the time to see ads, ideally on a Google property where they dont have to divvy the take.

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Phone Obsession

Posted By Tim Bray

On a recent Saturday night, a family connection got into trouble that took me on a rescue mission to a party gone wrong, then Emergency. Then it echoed into nightmare. At the party scene there was broken glass and shouting and eventually first responders, and a partier left by ambulance; I beat the officials there and tried to hold things together. This young woman, barefoot and disheveled in her party dress, wandered through the front room a couple of times, crying. And in between the sobs I cant find my phone. Fuck you! Ive lost my phone. Go away! I just gotta get my phone.

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Bye, Rune

Posted By Tim Bray

She was a purebred (Bengal) actually, with a formal name: Bellsangels Rune, and a pedigree. Born March 23, 1998, departed this life June 22nd, 2017, aetat 19 years and 3 months. She predated our children and digital cameras and this is the only obit shell get, so itll be lengthy. But not unamusing I hope, full of stories, and bookended by baseball. The Rune is because when she arrived the senior housecat was named Bodoni after the typeface, and we failed to find a font we fancied with a feminine feline name; since she was skinny and angular Rune seemed OK.

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Games with Girls

Posted By Tim Bray

Weirdly enough, for the first time in my life Ive been spending videogame time with members of the opposite gender; specifically, my wife and daughter. Which is an excuse for reflections on (and groovy pictures from) No Mans Sky. Open world, with spouse I saw a review somewhere and on impulse picked up Horizon Zero Dawn, a pretty and fast-moving open-world bowshooter. I was watching one of the early cinematics when Lauren walked by, got stuck, and sat on the sofa. Surprisingly, she stayed there after the movie while I steered Aloy (the female protagonist) off into the game. Very surprisingly, a bit later she started pointing out opportunities to harvest goodies and dodge monsters.

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Pie Pride

Posted By Tim Bray

I apologize in advance for bragging, something I do here only rarely. But my Mom taught me to make pie and now I make pies. Its a beautiful thing, and there are lessons to be had. Ive made two in fact. Heres the first, with Granny Smith apples inside. If you want the recipe, just roll the blog clock back a decade to August 2006, when I recorded my mothers narration. A lot of wisdom packed into six minutes or so of lousy but appealing audio. We visited her again this spring and I took a more intense lesson with hands-on and copious textual notes.

Tue, 30 May 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Gareth and Rune

Posted By Tim Bray

Hes leaving and shes dying. Still, these are happy pictures. Thats Gareth Kirkby, a friend for decades, who came over for dinner because wed drifted apart, its been a while, and because hes leaving (has left now) for Asia, on a trip without a scheduled end. Hes political, a good writer and a good person and full of surprises. Well miss him. In his arms, Rune the Bengal cat, who is 19 years old and failing fast; a list of her ailments would fill too much sad space. But the interventions have (just barely) not reached abusive levels, and they happen without the hated trips to the vet.

Sat, 20 May 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Rock Surprise

Posted By Tim Bray

On Saturday we accidentally took in two different  very different  pop-music concerts; I got one decent pic but ended the evening angry. Months ago, Id learned that All Them Witches were touring and bought Vancouver-gig tickets, because I liked the basic loud well-written tuneful guitar-rock songs Id heard on the radio or YouTube or somewhere. Then Lauren looked at the calendar and said But weve got Bobbis birthday party that night. But it was OK because the party was early. It was at the Fairview Pub, which Ive gone by on wheels and feet a zillion times, once or twice even recognizing the name of the bar band, but never inside.

Sat, 13 May 2017 19:00:00 UTC

I Dont Believe in Blockchain

Posted By Tim Bray

There are conferences and foundations and consortia and keynotes; its the new hotness! But I looked into blockchain technologies carefully and Ive ended up thinking its an overpromoted niche sideshow. First off, I should say that I like blockchain, conceptually. Provably-immutable append-only data log with transaction validation based on asymmetric crypto, and (optionally) a Byzantine-generals solution too! Whats not to like? But I still dont think the world needs it. Im not stuck on the technical objections, for example to the laughably slow transactions-per-second of most real-world blockchain implementations. Where I work, scaling out horizontally to support a million TPS is table stakes.

Wed, 03 May 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Still Blogging in 2017

Posted By Tim Bray

Not alone and not unread, but the ground underfoot aint steady. An instance of Homo economicus wouldnt be doing this  no payday looming. So I guess Im not one of those. But hey, whenever I can steal an hour I can send the world whatever words and pictures occupy my mind and laptop. Which, all these years later, still feels like immense privilege. A lot of good writing is on Medium, which has learned its bloglessons. Shortish-to-longish form: check. Something fresh every day: check. Follow your faves: check. But on my phone, an irritating goober at the screens foot says open in app, trying to tempt me out of the blogosphere, off of the Web.

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 19:00:00 UTC

MLB Fan

Posted By Tim Bray

I was in New York last week, and got to make a call on MLBAM, a really good customer of AWS, where I work. The first three letters in MLBAM mean baseball, of which Im a devotee; and also a happy five-year subscribing customer of MLB.tv. So I was feeling sort of multi-level fannish. It was super-fun, and I got a cute picture. MLBs in a nice corner of SoHo and the offices are drop-dead cool, although I suspect the bobblehead-and-memorabilia density might be a bit much for some. Anyhow, while youre waiting in the lobby you can admire their fine selection of trophies, a lot of them tech-geek stuff.

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Six-page Typography

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I ran across Bringhursts The Elements of Typographic Style and was instantly captivated, by the books beauty and also the power of its message. So Ive got typography on my mind. Stand by for more on the subject, but it struck me immediately that Im living a typography lesson at work, in the form of the famous Amazon six-pager. Its not a secret; to start with, read Brad Porters excellent The Beauty of Amazons 6-Pager (although in typo-geek mode, I have to point out that Six-pager reads much more nicely than 6-Pager). Like Brad says, we put intense work into writing these things, and then others of us put intense work into reading them.

Sat, 15 Apr 2017 19:00:00 UTC

2017 Camera News

Posted By Tim Bray

Herewith some reportage on the most interesting cameras in the world, with opinions to provoke er entertain people who are up on this stuff, and a basic survey of the landscape for people who like pictures and wonder about cameras. Im an enthusiast photog (not remotely pro) and Ive noticed, over the years, when I write generally about whats up with cameras, I get notes from people saying thanks, that was interesting. I think I may have sold a few cameras over the years, even. Conclusions first Lets see if we can start some arguments. The most interesting cameras in the world right now are the new digital medium formats: Fujifilm GFX 50S, Pentax 645Z, and Hasselblad X1D.

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 19:00:00 UTC

JSONPath

Posted By Tim Bray

Or should be that be JsonPath? Whatever, its a tool Ive been using lately and generally like. But it could use a little work. The last project I worked on, Step Functions, has a JSON DSL for State Machines, which makes use of JSONPath (see Paths and Input and Output Procesing) to solve a tricky problem in a way that people seem to find easy to understand and use. Early on in that project we adopted the Jayway JsonPath library and it seems to mostly Just Work. But, weve had a few questions from customer along the lines of Your service rejected my InputPath, but it looks OK to me. Which raises the question: What is a legal JsonPath, anyhow?

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 19:00:00 UTC

IsItOnAWS Lessons

Posted By Tim Bray

I did some recreational programming over Christmas and the blog I wrote about it is now guesting in Jeff Barrs space for your amusement; try the software at IsItOnAWS.com. What I didnt do there was relay the lessons I picked up along the way; one or two are around AWS, but most follow from this being my first nontrivial expedition into the land of NodeJS. So (acknowledging that only 0.8% of my profession arent already Nodesters), here they are. Spoiler: I dont like Node very much. Lesson: Lambda has historically been used for behind-the-scenes work. But with the recent arrival of new API Gateway and Certificate Manager goodies, its become pretty easy to convince a function to serve HTTP requests pointed at your own web-space.

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Contradictions

Posted By Tim Bray

Back when I was an actual Marxist, we used to talk about the contradictions of capitalism. Its actually a handy phrase (alliterative too!) and recently I feel like the Internet is trying to stuff those contradictions down my throat. Fish in a barrel Its not exactly hard to reel them off. Item: The owners of every business are incented to pay their employees as little as possible, but need their customers to have spare money in their pockets. Item: Prosperity depends on growth, everyone knows that; but were using our ecosystem fully and population curves around the world range from flattening growth to steepening decline.

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Garage Color Fix

Posted By Tim Bray

I was out the other day shooting signs of spring; there was this garage, and it was pretty too. Color partly by some paint company, augmented by quite a few years of Prairie weather. Isnt it pretty? The reason Im writing this is that its the first time in years Ive had to put significant work into color repair on a Fujifilm pic. Because the version above looks just like what I saw. But out of the camera, it looked like this: Back in my Pentax days, I got pretty slick with the Lightroom white-balance apparatus, which is itself pretty slick.

Sat, 18 Mar 2017 19:00:00 UTC

Prairie Spring

Posted By Tim Bray

Most places know four seasons, but for the most intense experience of spring you really come Up North. Im in Saskatchewan visiting my Mom, went for a short walk in the park behind her house, and came back with pictures of the experience. Most obviously, the snow is retreating. With the melting and freezing of early spring, some of the snow is now crumbly puddled ice, which is melting in the cold March sun, and faster given an excuse. An excuse for a little Physics Moment with my ten-year-old: Hey girl, why did the ice melt over the leaf? But that ice is being attacked from below as above; see the blades of grass straining away?

Sat, 04 Mar 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Whiteboard Interviews

Posted By Tim Bray

The other day, I joined a semi-viral tweet chain with Ive been coding since 1979 and I still have to look up java.lang.String methods all the time. There were a bunch of programmers doing this and I thought it constituted amusing humility while also making a useful point: Remembering the details of any particular API or algorithm is irrelevant. Turns out I was part of a trend, see TheOutline: Programmers Are Confessing Their Coding Sins to Protest a Broken Job Interview Process. Except for, thats bullshit; I still do whiteboards at interviews, and I dont think the idea is broken. (Also, theyre not sins.)

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Spaced Paragraphs in Word

Posted By Tim Bray

The Internet is fierce with polemics about one-space-or-two-after-the-period. Bah, lightweight stuff. What about all those poor people you see making MS Word docs look a little more spacious by inserting an extra empty line between paragraphs? There is a better way! But the Office UI (on Mac at least) is heinous, so heres a step-by-step. Behold two paragraphs of text, crushed unkindly against each other. What you want to do is tell Word to henceforth leave a tasteful amount of space between all your paragraphs, without you having to moronically double-Enter. You pull down the Format menu and select Style, for reasons which are obvious if you understand how Word thinks about the presentation units that it manages for you.

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Looking Up

Posted By Tim Bray

Seems like everyone I know is blue and grouchy and angry; cant say as I blame them. But its time to turn a corner, because the futures just as long as ever, and we need joy to face it. Let me see if I can help. Canadas first few crocuses are up! Yes, I did blog about the spring crocuses in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 (twice!) , 2009 (twice!) , 2010 (twice!) , 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Clearly I need to remediate 2016s lacklustre performance. Once again, as I often do, I should echo the question from John Crowleys awesome Little, Big (seriously, one of the best books): What is Brother North-Winds secret? The answer: If Winter comes, Spring cant be far behind. This winter, our discontent has been political mostly.

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Geek Career Paths

Posted By Tim Bray

Suppose youre doing technology, and like doing technology, and your careers going well, and you find yourself wondering what youre going to be doing in twenty years. Ive been down several of the roads you might decide to take, and it occurs to me that talking them over might amuse and inform. Thanks are due to Andre Leibovici, who tweeted Is it possible to be in a sr. leadership position and still be hands-on w/ tech & code? For geek leaders out there... how to juggle? and got me thinking about this. Q: Should you stay in tech-related work? Seriously, this is the most important question.

Sun, 12 Feb 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Two AWS Years

Posted By Tim Bray

Wow, it was December 2014 when I climbed on board this train. Im sitting in a pretty interesting place and feel I owe the world some reportage. In terms of what its like to work to work here, I dont have much to add to last years write-up. Since then Ive got my fingerprints all over two AWS services: CloudWatch Events and Step Functions. There are few things as much fun as helping ship something and watching people start to use it. If you want opinions on what those products mean and how well they work, there are lots of blogs out there written by people who are less biased.

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Time Machine Completed the Backup

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently, I acquired a Synology DiskStation and wired up a nice comforting Time Machine-to-Synology-to-S3-to-Glacier backup data flow. But then I started to see Time Machine couldnt complete the backup with something about could not be accessed (error 21). Heres how it got fixed. [This piece placed here to attract search-engine attention and, with luck, help someone else dig out. If youre feeling public-spirited, toss in a couple links for visibilitys sake.] I was tempted to give up, but the thing was working fine for my wife, who however was not yet on Sierra; there was some Twitter rumbling about Sierra and Synology having relationship problems.

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Shooter as Tabula Rasa

Posted By Tim Bray

Last night I accidentally came face to face with Twitter horror, a very pale reflection of larger real-life horror, but still jarring. What happened was, someone shot up a Québec City mosque. For a few hours nobody knew whod done the shooting, and that absence of identity became a blank canvas which the Nets trolls painted with their shit-colored dreams. I got interested in the story and like everyone else was curious who the bad guys were. Watched Twitter because thats what you do when news is hanging fire. Tuned in the Radio Canada (French-language) livestream of the 1:45AM Eastern Time press conference by the Québec Premier, the Québec city mayor, and the police chief, which was emotional and had the sad facts about deaths and injuries, but didnt ID the shooters.

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 20:00:00 UTC

The Womens March

Posted By Tim Bray

Just like everyone else I have a theory about What It Means, but I also have a story and a cool picture to illustrate. We go to a few choir concerts, since my wife sings in one and is part of that social network. On January 21st in a two-choir show, the second half featured Roots N Wings, an all-women ensemble. They opened with just a few singers on stage, then the rest came up the aisles, singing Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (one of the Freedom Songs), some with the hats, some with signs. The crowd came alive, on their feet, clapping and yelling, singing along.

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 20:00:00 UTC

China Story

Posted By Tim Bray

I recently read Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien. It was shortlisted for, but didnt win, the Man Booker. Its wonderful but its not her best; Dogs at the Perimeter from 2011 is I think the best novel Ive read this century. Herewith notes on both. Do Not Say This ones about an extended Chinese family, containing many musicians, all over China and (briefly) in Canada. It starts during the Japanese occupation and leaves off nicely in 2016 without really ending. Along with the musicians, leading actors include the Anti-Landlord Campaign, the anti-Rightist Movement, the Cultural Revolution, and the uprising that ended in blood on Tienanmens stones.

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 20:00:00 UTC

Èê³ and Me

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been sending fewer words out onto the Net so far this year, and one of the reasons was The Last Guardian, which I finished last night. Now Im missing it and maybe writing about it will help. Theres been controversy about the game but I think that on balance its great, one of 2016s more significant works of art, and also a dozen or two hours of fine entertainment for those cold winter evenings. Im going to wrap my impressions around a handful of my screen-grabs  the Internet has better ones, but these are mine. I couldnt bring myself to scale them down, so theyre a gift for those of you with big screens; for the rest of you, try clicking on, then shrinking, a couple, to get the full effect.

Mon, 26 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Florida Gothick Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

I refer to Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen, which I enjoyed more than any other single book I read this year. Not saying its the best book of the year; but in late 2016, reading something that makes you repeatedly laugh out loud over a span of hours is not to be sneezed at. Ive previously plugged Hiaasen in this space, although not in this decade. Previously I would have said that my fave Hiaasen was Sick Puppy, but I recently re-read it and its dated a bit. Dont know where Id rank this in the Hiaasen hit parade, but I sure enjoyed the hell out of it.

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Network Storage

Posted By Tim Bray

A couple days ago in New Home Network I posted a request for advice on a home NAS box and networking hardware. Now I have the storage box, and boy was it ever easy and straightforward and anxiety-relieving. If you havent done this already, you might want to. The online reviews favor QNAP and Synology; the comments on my blog suggested Synology or build-your-own-its fun. I have opinions about fun and about storage for my irreplaceable digital life and they dont intersect. So I bought a Synology DS416j and two Western Digital Red 6T drives from fave local retailer NCIX  if youre in Canada, you cant beat em.

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

New Home Network

Posted By Tim Bray

Holiday project: Redesign the domestic infastructure. Looking for: Network and storage gear. Got any advice? Our current setup, a Mac Pro and Apple Airport, work fine. But their combined age is approaching 20 years, disks are getting full, and Im losing faith that Apple really wants that part of my business. Requirements The Internet comes in through a cable modem in the basement in a horrible spot for networking. Its rated at 150M and measures a little faster than that. The modem has dorky wireless feature which weve turned off, and theres Cat5 coming upstairs to a nice central-but-unobtrusive spot for broadcasting Wifi from.

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Snow Studies

Posted By Tim Bray

Vancouvers last two winters had no snow, and never even got very cold. Just now weve had a week of white pre-Christmas, with lows down to -8°C. But tonight the rain starts and well hit 9 above tomorrow. So I went out to take snow pictures. Our magnolia is never not beautiful Lets step back from it, enlarge our view enough to see the big evergreen behind it. At dusk I walked to the corner for groceries and fresh air, and saw this, photographed it, then came home and overprocessed it.

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

On Loving Rock and Roll

Posted By Tim Bray

Put another dime in the jukebox, baby. I like more or less all the music, at least all of its that written by humans and performed by musicians, which excludes most modern industrial. But Rock is the music of my time and tribe, and while other kinds can make me dream and weep, its the only one where the first guitar chord makes me smile and before long I cant not dance. Half a century In 1966, shrimpy 11-year-old me was on a pre-Christmas visit to my uncle in Drumheller, Alberta, and then we drove back to Edmonton, only a few highway hours but his car heater was on the blink and it was like -20°, so we stopped in a diner at least once an hour to warm up.

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Things about re:Invent

Posted By Tim Bray

The AWSpalooza took me to Vegas for four nights, with thirty thousand or so other cloud-heads. Herewith notes and sparkly Vegas pictures. Growth The numbers tell the story: from 12K to 19K to 32K, and I dont see any reason itll slow down. While the organization and logistics were formidable, obviously the work of seasoned pros, were getting close to the limit of what those venues can bear. Im pretty relaxed about life, but had a couple of little claustrophobia flashes, when the crowds overfilled those huge hallways. I took along the Achromat lens because its good at sparkly things and Vegas has lots of those.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Validating State Machines

Posted By Tim Bray

This morning we released AWS Step Functions, a Serverless Distributed Cloud Microservices Polyglot Workflow Orchestration Coordinator thingie. Its cool; you want to read about it, visit Jeff Barrs joint. Step Functions uses state machines specified in a JSON DSL called the States language. This piece is about the two validators I wrote for States documents, one of which is interesting. Not that many people care about validators and parsers; so if you think you probably wont be interested in the rest of this piece, youre probably right. The validator in the service Like most AWS Services, Step Functions has a front-end that handles the API calls and dispatches the work.

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Achromat Photowalk

Posted By Tim Bray

On a recent cold and damp (but not actually rainy) evening I was invited on a Fujifilm-sponsored photowalk on Vancouvers Granville Island. The day before, Id received the fruits of a whimsical Kickstarter splashout from months and months back: a Daguerrotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art Lens from Lomography. It was great fun among the sparkles in the dark. The lens looks like this: It has a Pentax K-mount, fastened here to my Fuji XT-1 using a Fotodiox adapter. Look at the fancy writing on the narrow part of the lens, then look a little further away from the camera body, above the writing, and you see a black slot in the top of the lens.

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Fujifilm Photowalk

Posted By Tim Bray

On Sunday, I bought new shoes. On Monday, I got my Kickstarter-backed long-delayed Daguerrotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art Lens. Thus, on Tuesday I was well-prepared for a Fujifilm-sponsored photowalk on Vancouvers Granville Island. Thats the Granville Street bridge,with the downtown condo wall behind it and a supermoon above. Sometime in the 3½ years Ive been in Fuji-land I got on their mailing list, which is OK because its low-volume and, well, got me this invite. The ultimate hosts were Fujifilm Canada (whose President and SVP were there), but also present and helping were The Fuji Guys and Beau Photo. I wish I had the cycles to do more photowalks.

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Pixel Abuse

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I went down to the dock in the dark, and took pictures that no phone-cam should ever be asked to take. You might be amused. I was with my ten-year-old daughter; The sky was black but the moon was full, its shadows knife-edged, first moonshadows shed ever seen. Its light, edging round the slope of our island, looked cool, only I didnt have a real camera, just my Google Pixel. Hmm, I sense a challenge. Heres the unimproved all-the-defaults version, which has a bit of primitive poetry perhaps. So for the first time I got serious with the manual controls on the Lightroom camera app; cranked the ISO up and the shutter speed down, held the phone against one of the dock pilings, and growled at the girl to stop bouncing.

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Software-Defined Cameras

Posted By Tim Bray

When I pull out my Pixel for a picture, I have to pick which app to tap: Googles Android camera (which oddly seems to have no link) and Adobe Lightrooms. The choice isnt hard, but is interesting. Let me lead with some actual pictures. In each case, the G-cam is first, the Lr-cam second. Howe Sound at dusk. Cabin overlooking Howe Sound, at dusk. The differences are subtle, and probably only matter if youre going to be using a really big screen or piece of paper for delivery. If youre the kind of person who cares, click-to-enlarge and, before I talk about the differences, see if you have opinions.

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Big-Show Tech

Posted By Tim Bray

Im all stressed out getting ready for re:Invent, Nov 28th through Dec 2nd this year, in Vegas. Im attending, and may even be speaking if certain pieces fall into place. Ive seen this movie before. At Sun, it was Java One. At Google, I/O. Every big tech company has one. They define the rhythm of the year, and Im wondering if theyre a good idea. Big! Most readers here have probably been to one or more, but for those who havent, heres how it goes. First of all, big is relative. Google and Apple favor San Franciscos Moscone West, a nice welcoming light-filled venue which maxes out at 5,500 heads.

Mon, 31 Oct 2016 19:00:00 UTC

How to Give Away an Android

Posted By Tim Bray

You take your nice modern Android, you factory-reset it, and you give (or sell) it to a relative (or friend, or stranger). (In my case, give and son.) But when they turn it on they see a screen labeled Verify your account with text reading This device was reset. To continue, sign in with a Google Account that was previously synced on this device. Heres one way to fix the problem. You, the original answer, grab the phone. Sign in with the primary account you used. Say No to all the sync options you get offered (to save time). Say No when asked if you want fingerprint protection, nodding at the text that warns you that if you bypass it, your device will be usable by a thief after reset.

Sat, 29 Oct 2016 19:00:00 UTC

After Mac?

Posted By Tim Bray

So, there are new MacBooks and many people are unhappy. Tl;dr: Apple thinks thin-and-light is more important than well-equipped-and-powerful. I griped on Twitter and got a storm of responses, mostly on the subject of other ways I might be able to get what I want from a computer. Sidebar 1 First off: Apple may well be right. Over the past couple of decades, the vast majority of their product launches have hit the sweet spot, turning out to be what people needed even if thats what they didnt think they wanted. Sidebar 2 At work, I use a Mac and it suits me just fine.

Sat, 29 Oct 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Sold My Google Shares

Posted By Tim Bray

I want the author piece linked in the sidebar to be a full disclosure of the financial interests of the person whos writing what youre reading. I think online writing without such a disclosure is troubling. Anyhow, my financial disclosures no longer include Google, because I sold all my shares last week. Not an insider Because this ongoing fragment touches on money, I should be clear that I have no material non-public information that might give me insight into the future of the Google share price. (In fact, Im not sure I ever did, even when I was working there.)

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Pixel Notes

Posted By Tim Bray

I pre-ordered the basic Pixel (5", 32G, Silver) because the 5X was getting on my nerves (more below); here are early-days notes. Tl;dr: Ugly, solid, fast, cool camera. No new build So, heres the secret insider story of where little mobile builds come from. Word goes around that the software has to ship by Date X to meet the hardware launch date. Usually its not ready, so what happens is they ship an interim build and then, some weeks later when the phones hit the shelves and people are starting to turn them on, when people turn them on they get prompted to download the real build.

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Message Processing Styles

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently Im thinking about how we process messages in networked software. Consider this Java snippet, for example. < !-- HTML generated using hilite.me -->boolean isPassNode(final JsonNode node) { if (node.isObject()) { final JsonNode child = node.get(Constants.TYPE_FIELD); if (child != null) { if (child.isTextual()) { return Constants.PASS_TYPE.equals(child.asText()); } } } return false; } Which asks: Is this a JSON object with a top-level Type field whose value is the string Pass? Is this a sane thing to want to do? And if so, whats a good way to do it?

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Fall Dark

Posted By Tim Bray

Most years I hate this season; less light every day, and with every gust a whirl of summer leaves torn from winter branches. Maybe I dislike the resonance with my lifes own greybeard season. Maybe its the trio of huge Pacific storms were dealing with. Lets be honest: Mostly, its shitty US politics. Some of the colors are beautiful though. These days, it needs an effort of will to look away from Americas slow titanic electoral trainwreck. We should make that effort. All it takes is going for a walk and leaving your mobile in your pocket. At least for a few minutes.

Wed, 05 Oct 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Wrong About Cameras

Posted By Tim Bray

Todays Wrongness Exhibit is iPhone 7 vs Leica M9-P: A Side-by-Side Photo Comparison by Michael Zhang, which demonstrates  any fool can plainly see, look at the photos  that an iPhone 7 takes pictures just as well as a $9K Leica setup. The wrongness here is extreme and, I think, instructive. Lets start with the picture in Zhangs piece, of a Japanese shrine in the rain. Lets see; it is medium-distance, even-depth-of-field, well-lit, and low-dynamic-range. Which is to say, about as easy to get right as a photograph can be. The kind of scenario where you dont need a Leica; in fact, maybe you dont even need a recent iPhone.

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Still Playing No Mans Sky

Posted By Tim Bray

Usually before I go to bed, for an hour or so. Idly poking around planets, finding stuff to beef up my weapon or suit or ship, chatting with aliens. Except for Ive decided to head for the center of the galaxy, so maybe Ill be done soon, whatever that means. This is mostly to pass along tips and share pix. Sharing an evening vista with a weird plant. The little red shield means my inventory was (as it used to be, usually) full. Its an easy game Seriously. Yes there are skills you need to learn, and youll die a few times until you learn them.

Sat, 17 Sep 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Focal Length and Angle

Posted By Tim Bray

If you care about cameras you probably like learning about interesting new (and old) lenses. Theyre described by two numbers: How wide they open (also: aperture, brightness, speed), and how long they are (also: focal length). That first number is generally comparable across lenses: Lower is better. The aperture unit, F-stop, is hardly intuitive, but whatever. Focal lengths are hard to compare, because how much the lens sees depends on how big the sensor behind it is, and there are lots of different sensor sizes. Generally, focal lengths are expressed as 35mm equivalent, meaning If we stuck this lens in front of a sensor the size of traditional photographic film, which is the same size used in modern expensive digital cameras, heres what the focal length would be. Which is dumb and irritating, because thats not the number printed on the side of the lens, and anyhow, the number itself ...

Wed, 14 Sep 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Old Geek

Posted By Tim Bray

Im one. Were not exactly common on the ground; my profession, apparently not content with having excluded a whole gender, is mostly doing without the services of a couple of generations. This was provoked by a post from James Gosling, which Ill reproduce because it was on Facebook and I dont care to learn how to link into there: Almost every old friend of mine is screwed. In the time between Sun and LRI Id get lines like We normally dont hire people your age, but in your case we might make an exception. In my brief stint at Google I had several guys in their 30s talk about cosmetic surgery.

Mon, 22 Aug 2016 19:00:00 UTC

The Fixing-JSON Conversation

Posted By Tim Bray

Last week I suggested some modest JSON improvements, and conversation ensued. Obviously, much was Hes Wrong On The Internet (again) but lots was juicy and tasty, and worth considering further. This is based on reaction in my own comments, and on Hacker News. Just use X For values of X including Hjson, Amazon Ion, edn, Transit, YAML, and TOML. Nah, most of them are way, way richer than JSON, often with fully-worked-out type systems and Conceptual Tutorials and so on. I just want JSON thats easier to edit and can do timestamps. Hmm, SON looks pretty close to what Im thinking.

Sat, 20 Aug 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Fixing JSON

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive edited a couple of the JSON RFCs, and am working on the design of a fairly complex DSL, so I think I can claim to have dug deeper in the JSON mines than most. We can easily agree on whats wrong with JSON, and I cant help wondering if itd be worth fixing it. Major irritant: Commas Hand-editing JSON may not be the most important way of interacting with it, but it shouldnt be as hard as it is. In particular, when Im moving things around in a chunk of JSON I can never, as in NEVER, get the commas right.

Sat, 13 Aug 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Light Transmission

Posted By Tim Bray

Lots of photographers, and people who teach them, talk about the advantages of shooting under a cloudy sky, or of having the suns light behind you. Increasingly, Im enjoying pointing my camera straight into the sun. Of course, as above, this can force you into a monochrome presentation (although the dock above is in color). But I remember, during my time in publishing technology and then again in VR, learning about emissive as opposed to reflective color. I dont remember the physics or the engineering, but I like it. Of course, the color/monochrome continuum isnt binary. Lets take three steps into total whiteness overload.

Sat, 13 Aug 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Things About No Mans Sky

Posted By Tim Bray

Of course, I had to pre-order this one after reading World Without End in The New Yorker. Ive only played a few evenings, havent done anything ambitious, but Ive learned that when youre learning something is a good time to write about it. Its just really cool bringing your ship in for a landing on a new planet. There seems to be a consensus that with this game, spoilers are a virtue; I think I would have found it severely frustrating if Id had to puzzle out all the crap I picked up in a quick scan of Reddit & IGN.

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Home Computer?

Posted By Tim Bray

Weve got this big old Mac Pro in the living room, a 2008 model; I call it the family mainframe. Im thinking it might get replaced with a Windows box. Long-time readers may remember this computer; I caused a mild Web sensation back in 2008 back when I invited opinions on whether I should hack it. With a hacksaw, I mean. Do you even need one? The conventional wisdom is No, because everyone has a laptop and a mobile and many living rooms will have a tablet or two lying around. I think you do, especially if you have kids. Theyll be wanting screen time, and I like having them at a computer thats in the room with the family, not hidden away upstairs; using a screen thats facing the family, not the wall.

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Susan and her SQL Problem

Posted By Tim Bray

As usual, it all started out innocently enough. Susan [ed: names have been changed to protect privacy] had no way to meet the deadlines her bosses had set for her. Bob had recently and abruptly left the company, and Melissa was on an extended medical absence, leaving Susan to do the work of three people. That is, three people each trying to reconcile a few dozen 40,000+ row Excel spreadsheets representing the general ledger of the Fortune 1000 company they consulted for. She was about to brush off ever-chatty and annoying Michael from Compliance when, for once, he recognized the stress she was under and said something useful.

Wed, 13 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Corporate Pride

Posted By Tim Bray

Theres this nice video message in the elevators at work, about the Pride Parade. And its making me uneasy. I took a picture of the message and its a fine thing; gives me a warm glow. Especially since theres going to be a big Amazon contingent in Vancouvers parade, which is a powerful, uplifting occasion. I have some history here: back in the Seventies, I was on the colleges student-paper staff and we sponsored and hyped up the first ever Gay Dance. Pretty radical at the time; you cant imagine the freakout among the Engineering jocks and Aggies. Three decades later, I have the coolest-ever rainbow-flag sticker over the glowy apple on my Mac.

Sun, 10 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Vegetables!

Posted By Tim Bray

This morning we went to the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, which is small and good, if kind of pricey. Its soup-to-nuts where by soup-to-nuts, I mean meat, vegetables, and booze. I approve of all three, but it was the vegetables in the sun that wanted to be photographed. We bought everything wed need for dinner, including the potatoes in the second-last photo, which werent bad; but the highlight was the sockeye salmon the guy had caught the day before just off Port Alberni.

Sat, 09 Jul 2016 19:00:00 UTC

The REST Report

Posted By Tim Bray

We were talking at work about Serverless: Whats the right tooling for developers building that kind of app? One of the businesspeople in the room said Wont developers need s special UI construction kit for Serverless apps? The technical people all looked blank, because REST. Browser code doesnt care (nor does a new-fangled React thingie, nor an iOS/Android app) whats hiding behind that HTTP POST. REST is more or less totally dominant among app builders today. Is there any prospect of that changing? What we talk about when we talk about REST HTTP CRUD. Well, HTTPS actually these days, thank goodness.

Sun, 26 Jun 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Video and Speed

Posted By Tim Bray

Im sure you know the feeling  you see a link to something that looks interesting, follow it, and when it turns out to be a video clip, you shake your head and kill the tab. The problem with video is its just too slow. But sometimes slow is OK, and maybe video can be fixed. This was provoked by I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything by Jeff Guo, which recommends watching video, by default, in fast-forward mode. The pitch is compelling, Ill probably pick the habit up. Right now I watch almost no Web video, but maybe thatll change.

Fri, 24 Jun 2016 19:00:00 UTC

New British Isles

Posted By Tim Bray

Following on the British EU referendum, some political re-alignment of the British Isles feels inevitable. I propose a re-organization into three states: Ireland, Britain, and Dál Riata (or perhaps Dalriada) which comprises what we now call Scotland and Northern Ireland. Heres a map. Vital Statistics Britain remains the big dog; but the new kid on the block is no slouch; about the same population as Bulgaria (less than Switzerland, more than Denmark) and about as big as Hungary (smaller than Iceland, bigger than Portugal). BritainDál RiataIreland Population (M)56.17.14.6 Area (km2)130,39594,62070,273 Dál What? The names are pretty easy; Ireland already has one, and what was once The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland loses its second half and is a little less Great, so Britain falls out naturally.

Sat, 18 Jun 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Other American Gods

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished reading The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, who also writes geek books about Linux and Apache and so on. I enjoyed it, its a page-turner. One of the reviewers on Amazon said This is what Gaimans American Gods should have been. Im not sure Id go that far, but both address the tricky problem of divine personae lodged in Middle America. Its a big sprawling messy book with subdivisions and malls and trucker bars, and then theres Father, a heartless God who fosters young Americans and trains them up, what business people call succession planning.

Thu, 09 Jun 2016 19:00:00 UTC

A Really Bad Year

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished reading 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, and enjoyed it a lot. You might not though, unless youre interested in the ancient Near East (from Greece to Egypt inclusive), or the practice of archaeology. Well, or the large-scale systemic collapse of great empires. It turns out that in the centuries leading up to 1200 B.C., this part of the world was mostly occupied by biggish Bronze-Age nations: Egyptian, Hittite, Mittani, Babylonian & Assyrian, Mycenaean. Trade was brisk and multipolar. Culture mashups happened; you can find Cretan frescoes in Egyptian palaces of the day. But by 1130 it was all over; most great cities had burned, commerce had collapsed, and alphabets were starting to replace the cuneiform, hieroglyphic, and linear scripts.

Sat, 04 Jun 2016 19:00:00 UTC

On the Left

Posted By Tim Bray

I have a problem lately: When I look in the mirror, I see a left-wing extremist. Im uneasy about my strengthening belief that Free Enterprise is gonna ruin everything good unless we take a knife to its testicles first. I think we need to: Tax the crap out of the 1% [disclosure: Im one], stamp out most forms of high-leverage financial speculation, introduce ruthless transparency such that any asset whose beneficial ownership cannot be established where legally appropriate is subject to summary confiscation, adopt a zero-tolerance posture on business crime, with jail time regularly administered for significant financial misdeeds, in rough proportion to the size of the takings, and roll out a universal basic income to deal with the inevitable decline in the proportion of humans enjoying full employment.

Sun, 29 May 2016 19:00:00 UTC

YouTube Addiction?

Posted By Tim Bray

You hear talk about Internet overload/addiction, but this very specific form has crossed my radar multiple times in recent days. In students, specifically. To the extent of failing multiple courses. Because they use laptops for everything, and YouTube is always a Cmd-Tab away, and whether your itch is Team Fortress 2 or cat breeding or string quartets or tentacles, theres always something new and fresh there to scratch it. So teachers dont get heard and homework doesnt get done. My hunch is its a real thing. Anyone else?

Sun, 22 May 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Another JSON Schema Gripe

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently I wrote of my disgruntlement with JSON Schema. Since then Ive learned that its authors plan more work, and that there are several other efforts to build a schema facility for JSON. This note is just a complaint about a particular use-case, with the hope that it might inform these efforts. Heres the problem; the language Im building includes a big object whose fields are also objects, and each of these child objects has a Type field, whose value is, in effect, an enum; a constrained set of string values. The rest of the fields in each child object depend on the Type value.

Sun, 08 May 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Hemlock Ocean

Posted By Tim Bray

I care most about the ocean, while Lauren cares more for the forest; fortunately the Pacific Northwest offers Cottage-Life compromises; illustrated with the help of a giant Hemlock. What happened was, a few years ago a construction project accidentally left behind a bare earth platform down near the water. We ordered 10kg of Coastal Forest Revegetation Seed Mix and used it liberally; now its a delightful little meadow, suitable for stretching out and considering the great seaside evergreens. Heres a sideways look, lying down. Fortunately nobody was nearby watching me scrunch myself down behind the camera and bend away unsightly blades.

Wed, 04 May 2016 19:00:00 UTC

On Color

Posted By Tim Bray

I just enjoyed reading The Search for Our Missing Colors by Amos Zeeberg in The New Yorker, and it gives me mental wire to hang some words and pictures on color and its absence. Color is hard I spent a few years in the publishing-technology business. Id go to the conferences, and thered always be seminars and boot-camps on Color. Like, twelve hours over two days, advertised as An introduction to a few of the basic issues in color. Lightly processed: backed off the highlights, darkened the darks, sharpened a bit. And applied Lightrooms PROVIA/STANDARD profile. Spend a little while digging into gamuts and color spaces and Pantone and CMYK and transmission and emission and reflection and so on, and youll see what they mean.

Sat, 30 Apr 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Specifying JSON

Posted By Tim Bray

I find myself tasked with polishing and publishing a little custom JSON-encoded language. Its harder than it ought to be. This didnt start with the language, it started with prototype software this guy wrote, that did something old and familiar in a new and dramatically better way. He replaced a bunch of gnarly old code with a few JSON templates to save time. Now, in the rearview, the JSON looks like an important part of an important product. And theres a lesson in that: All the good markup vocabularies are discovered by coders trying to get shit done, not cooked up in committee rooms in advance of software.

Thu, 14 Apr 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Photographer?

Posted By Tim Bray

Everyone takes pictures everywhere now, 24/7/365. So does photographer, in the amateur sense, still mean anything? I have pictures and questions that say it does. This is provoked by Om Maliks In the Future, We Will Photograph Everything and Look at Nothing in the New Yorker. It quotes Sontag (de rigeur for that subject in those pages I suppose), flirts with that seductive ol Internet Contrarianism, says smart things about photo software in general and and Googles Nik Collection in particular, and has plenty of arm-wavey futurology about Evolution and Conversation. I found the piece flat, partly because (oddly) it contains none of the authors photos; thus just words about pictures.

Mon, 11 Apr 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Speaker Dust Cap Dent Repair

Posted By Tim Bray

As previously noted in this space, Im a deranged audiophile, and for some years my speakers of choice have been from Totem, out of Montréal. In a recent renovation a woofer got a dent in a dust cap, where by dent I mean it was pushed in. Im posting the solution here in the hopes that future searchers will find it. I was sitting up late listening to Coltrane and something about the sound just wasnt gelling. Eventually it bothered me enough to turn on the lights and even then it took a while to spot the problem, illustrated below. The round thing in the center of the lower driver is supposed to be smooth and convex, not uneven and concave.

Thu, 07 Apr 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Getting the Picture

Posted By Tim Bray

Its like this: Averages are your enemy because they hide change. Making graphs is cheap and easy and more of us should do it more. What happened was, I was working on some software that takes an incoming flow of messages and stuffs them into an Amazon Kinesis stream. Kinesis is a thing that can soak up a whole lot of data really fast; the way it works is that you configure it with a number of shards, and each shard can soak up a thousand messages per second, or a megabyte per second, whichever comes first. Theres nice software for reading them out and doing useful stuff with them.

Fri, 01 Apr 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Cool Aussie Phoners

Posted By Tim Bray

What the title says: Three photos of Aussies holding phones looking cool. Some people think street photography is supposed to be B&W and sad, but Ive never understood that. The first two of these are in Melbourne.

Thu, 31 Mar 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Serverlessness

Posted By Tim Bray

Today Microsoft announced Azure Functions, joining Google Cloud Functions and (from 2014) AWS Lambda. This is fun stuff, and might be a big deal. In the beginning was the server. The last one I ever bought was from Dell; I can remember hauling it out of the cardboard and sliding it into the rack. I pinched a finger badly enough that there was blood on the floor. Then I had to argue with the sysadmin over Debian vs Red Hat. So, now that we have cloud biggies like the three companies named in the first paragraph [disclosure, I work for AWS] nobody has to shed blood deploying servers.

Mon, 28 Mar 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Mobile Aerials

Posted By Tim Bray

A little while ago I tweeted One thing phone-cams arent much good for is shooting out airplane windows. Since then, Ive noticed my Nexus 5X looking at me in a hurt sort of way. It seems I was wrong. These are both taken somewhere over Australia.

Sun, 27 Mar 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Lenses and Cameras in 2016

Posted By Tim Bray

Im on the way back from a couple of weeks in Australia, and of course Pictures Were Taken. I brought almost all my photo-gear but used it very unevenly; concluded that I have too many lenses, and was left wondering whether you really even need a camera any more. Herewith notes illustrated with Pacific-ocean (mostly) pictures. Numbers Dont know how many I took, but among the photos I kept, 14 were with the Nexus 5X, 119 with the Fujifilm X-T1. Lens stats for the latter:   Fuji 35mm  58    Fuji 55-200mm 26    Pentax 50mm  23    Fuji 18-55  4    Pentax 100mm 4    Fuji 10-24mm 4  Wide angle lenses?

Fri, 18 Mar 2016 19:00:00 UTC

Parrot Story

Posted By Tim Bray

Were visiting friends in Australia and I watched a pair of parrots interact; photographed them, but didnt understand. Oh, and a koala. This was actually at a Koala Reserve on Phillip Island, not terribly far from Melbourne; my 9-year-old insisted. Koala-watching has a Wheres-Waldo flavor, since they are usually asleep, wedged into a tree-fork near where they last stopped eating. So I wandering around trying to spot the stars of the show, and discovered these charming birds. There was interaction going on; one parrot was occasionally snuggling and nuzzling the other  totally cute. I looked away and suddenly, with a discordant bird-noise outbreak, one of them was flying away, while the one left behind had expanded his-or-her crest.

Mon, 07 Mar 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Urbanity

Posted By Tim Bray

Cities are our rule now, anything else the exception. Im biking most workdays, on concrete over the ocean into the stone heart of a small big city, getting ten dozen channels of nonstop urban input and every day I wonder where were all going. The future is distributed unevenly and cities concentrate the unevenness. The balconies and windows are full of stories. That buildings in the West End, a super-dense part of a pretty-dense city. As you can see, its not all pretty; the upscale condo developers, fueled (the story goes) by overseas capital, circle these towers like vultures, looking for a chance to evict retirees and immigrants and singles to build anew.

Sun, 28 Feb 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Lightroom, Mobile, Nexus

Posted By Tim Bray

In which I report on using the Nexus 5X in RAW mode, with the help of Adobe Lightroom, and on workflows for mobile photogs. With illustrations from Vancouvers Lighthouse Park. Backgrounder on RAW (Skip to the next section if you know all this stuff.) A RAW picture is supposed to be a bit-for-bit reproduction of exactly what the sensor in your camera saw. RAW pictures usually take up lots of memory, and doing a good job of presenting them on your screen often requires inside knowledge of the quirks of the camera and its sensor. There are a bunch of different RAW formats, but the industry seems to be converging on DNG, which is proprietary but still reasonably open and apparently technically sound.

Wed, 24 Feb 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Dell U3415W

Posted By Tim Bray

34", 21:9, 3440x1440. Which is to say, pretty big and pretty sharp. Full name: Dell UltraSharp 34 Curved Monitor. Its curved. I like it a lot. Thats a 13" MacBook Pro off to the left. To avoid revealing AWSsecrets, I filled the screen with the Ingress map and parked a browser window over it for scale, and another on the laptop. What happened was, Amazons got an engineering hardware refresh rolling around, which included a choice between either this beast or dual 27" monitors. The guys who deal them out tell me the choice is breaking more or less fifty-fifty.

Sat, 20 Feb 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Modern Corporate English

Posted By Tim Bray

The clients ask is simple, he said, but Im not convicted thats a good criteria; anyhow, there are important learnings for us. How much of that do you hate? Whatever; living languages dont care what you think. The awful truth English, among languages, is a shiftless tramp, equally at home in the alleys behind mansions and hovels. Its always ready to pilfer a scrumptious linguistic pie left to cool on a metaphorical windowsill, or fetid food-waste from the metaphorical gutter. These growths on Englishs not-so-fair face are harvested from the hallways and meeting rooms of North American high-tech, which is after all renowned for its creativity.

Sat, 13 Feb 2016 20:00:00 UTC

CL XXXVI: Island Ingress

Posted By Tim Bray

On a wet grey February Saturday we combined two of our amusements on a boat trip to Keats Island: Cottage Life and Ingress. Some of this will be comprehensible only to Ingress players, but there are a couple of fairly groovy pix. What happened was, right near our cabin theres North Keats Crosspath, an Ingress portal (that link will only work if youre a player) which I had owned for an awesome 449 consecutive days, until one of the opposition made a fairly heroic night-time boat trip and captured it a week ago. This was Not To Be Tolerated, so I and my wife (and fellow-player) arranged child-care, broke out the boat, and put to sea in adverse conditions.

Fri, 05 Feb 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Low-light Phone cam

Posted By Tim Bray

Regular readers will know that I have a thing about low-light photography. My new photo-toy is the Nexus 5X and Ive the urge to push it further into the dark than it really wants to go. Yes, the wide-angle is bending the building a bit; but its getting help from the architect. #Bike2WorkPix. 1/35sec at ISO 725. I remember, all those years ago, when the original Nikon D3 came out, the first digital camera that could see just as well as you in the dark. They more or less all can, these days. Thats a little corner of the mighty Pacific.

Tue, 02 Feb 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Marlowe, RIP

Posted By Tim Bray

Our big male cat, announced in this space in 2005, died suddenly. Bloggers cats get obituaries. Looking irritated, probably being tickled. Marlowe always had a great coat and there was a lot of cat under it; in mid-life he became obese, but when we put him on a diet and his waist re-appeared he was one damn fine-looking cat. He wasnt terribly smart or terribly affectionate. He liked the outdoors and was a pretty good rat-catcher. Hey, we live near the middle of a port city and thats a big plus. His greatest joy in life was a warm stationary lap, so he greatly approved of long TV shows.

Sun, 24 Jan 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Tender Sky Shoehorn

Posted By Tim Bray

In which I reveal a little life-hack that can get you out your front door noticeably quicker. First, a picture. Thats a really long shoehorn. You can use it standing up, just a slight stoop even for 5'11" me. This one comes from Daiso, a Japanese 100† (think $1) store, which has embarked on world domination. Why you should do this So you dont have to tie your shoes. Slip em off when you come home then use the shoehorn to slip em back on when leaving. Now, we all knw that your Mom told you never to do this, because it would ruin your shoes; theyd get all crushed at the back.

Tue, 19 Jan 2016 20:00:00 UTC

#Bike2WorkPix

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been cycling to work since late last year. Its good, for me and the world. But there are more convenient alternatives, and they tempt. So heres a little incentive: #Bike2WorkPix. Consider joining in! #Bike2WorkPix: From Vancouvers Cambie St Bridge The Hashtag Its like this: You can autopilot a bike commute; but its harder than in a car. You can ignore the world too; but thats way harder. Whats easier than in a car is to stop and take a picture, and everyones got a phone in their pocket, most with good cameras. So Im gonna try and do that every day I ride, and post it somewhere tagged #Bike2WorkPix.

Sun, 17 Jan 2016 20:00:00 UTC

On the Nexus 5X

Posted By Tim Bray

Well, the OnePlus One was a lot of phone for the money but, only a year old, is dying; the GPS has checked out and the pictures it takes look bad. I didnt feel like phone-shopping but when I did, the 5X was an easy choice. Its just fine, but only three features matter. With winter beach pix. What doesnt matter The screens great; the phones thin and light; the GPS is as good as Ive had; the LTEs fast; the OS is contemporary and fast; the battery gets though a day. And these things are true of every phone at every kiosk in every mall.

Mon, 11 Jan 2016 20:00:00 UTC

Cloud Eventing

Posted By Tim Bray

So, I helped build Amazon CloudWatch Events (blog, AWS console), which just launched. Been a while since my last extended spell of being an actual software engineer. Shipping feels good. What it does The clouds asynchronous; changes happen when they happen. Maybe you called an API a minute ago, maybe a database failed over, maybe your app saw a traffic surge. Assuming you want to know when they happen, the traditional approach is POLL LIKE HELL. Oops, I believe the polite usage is repeatedly call Describe APIs. The idea here is for our services to broadcast Events (OK, theyre really little JSON blobs) and for you to write Rules that match events using Patterns (OK, theyre really little JSON blobs) and route em to Targets, which are often Lambda functions but can also be various kinds of queues and streams and so on.

Mon, 28 Dec 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Mobile Counter-theses

Posted By Tim Bray

This is in response to 16 mobile theses by Benedict Evans of Andreesen Horowitz, a firm thats central to Bay Area VC culture. I think the theses are about half wrong. Ill run through his theses one-by-one. But first, I think our differences center on two things; one thats predictable given who I am, namely the cloud. The second is perhaps surprising: Whether keyboards matter. Here we go; you might want to flip back and forth a bit because I reproduce Mr Evans subtitles but not his arguments. 1: Mobile is the new central ecosystem of tech Tech is bicentric, these days: Cloud and Client.

Sun, 27 Dec 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Motorized Desk Tour

Posted By Tim Bray

For office workers: If youre among those (relatively few now, I think) who havent had a chance to try a sit/stand desk, I totally recommend them. Heres mine, cranked up: This looks weirdly sterile because it manages to show the only wall segments of my office that arent whiteboards covered with scribbles and diagrams. Plus theres a nice little table and chairs around it. These things are becoming ubiquitous in high-tech offices. I decided to give one a try because I have occasional pain in my upper-back and neck caused by decades of looking down at laptops. Amazon gave me a consult with an ergonomist, who said its not that sitting is bad and standing is good, its that you want to avoid being in one position all the time.

Sat, 26 Dec 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Christmas Decorations

Posted By Tim Bray

I hope that lots of you are having an excellent Christmas; I am. Heres an illustrated card featuring Vancouver Christmas visuals. We took our visiting Prairie relatives for a waterfront Christmas-eve walk, and it struck me that putting Christmas lights on barbed-wire looks dystopian by day, but is probably pretty at night. Just around the corner was a little nautical structure, and a dinghy in Christmas colors. Then Christmas came, and heres a bit of orgy-of-materialism hangover. Christmas day had the only sun of the week so between presents and turkey we took a stroll in a local hilltop park.

Mon, 21 Dec 2015 20:00:00 UTC

The Wrath of Heaven

Posted By Tim Bray

May it afflict intermittent left-channel outages, and an audiophile neighbor who lives for operetta, on the gormless enthusiasts who maladjust the audio in the car-share cars so everything sounds like a Bad Hair Band. Modern car-audio systems are tuned by professionals to sound reasonable out of the box. Maybe you like a little more punch in the bass, good on ya. Maybe youre listening to talk radio in a staticky zone, you want to lift the mid-range and back off the treble; who could object? But what is the pervasive pathology that leaves approximately 50% of all car-share vehicles with the bass and treble cranked right up, and the fader dialed to the back-seat?

Wed, 16 Dec 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Music Nights

Posted By Tim Bray

Been going out a bit more than usual; four nights of live music in the last month. The object of the game here is to convince a few more of you to get off the sofa and go hear people play. The entertainment was Big Sugar, Patricia Barber, Muse and a carol sing. Each was magic. Big Sugar Unless youre Canadian you probably dont know about them. Theyve never quite decided whether theyre folkies or rastas or bluesmen; have had a couple of hits over the years, you might have heard Diggin a hole. As the inset makes obvious, this picture isnt by me.

Mon, 14 Dec 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Twitter Numbers

Posted By Tim Bray

I still think Twitters interesting; it informs me and pleases me in ways no other service comes near. Also, it lets me talk to the world, and when you do that, you find yourself asking is anyone listening? Fortunately, Twitter will tell you. The numbers are big enough that the stats might be of general interest. Of course, Social Media Professionals all have known all this stuff for years, but most of us arent those. Where the stats are On Twitter Im @timbray, so my stats are at ads.twitter.com/user/timbray/tweets (you cant see that, youll need to plug in your own handle).

Tue, 01 Dec 2015 20:00:00 UTC

One Amazon Year

Posted By Tim Bray

December first made it a year here at Amazon Vancouvers engineering castle in the sky. Im working with good people in a cool office on interesting stuff. Its at the white-hot center of server-side computing but surprisingly unsurprising. Making vs talking It turns out that building and shipping nontrivial software is a lot harder work than evangelizing it and writing about it. I come home awfully damn tired some days. Im less engaged in the Internet conversation and miss that some, but Ive tasted more of that joy than almost anyone. And then the actual stuff Im working on  making AWS more useful while keeping it reliable  is so blindingly obvious that it doesnt really need evangelizing.

Sun, 29 Nov 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Game of Homes

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I got on an airplane, unexpectedly finished my book, and discovered there wasnt much else downloaded on that device. So I started re-reading what was there, namely Game of Thrones. Its hard to stop doing that once you start, and whats worse, I cant help thinking about Vancouver Real Estate. You may not have thought that our local home-selling business featured royal incest, bloody slaughter, and the frequent display of bare breasts. And well, youd be right, it doesnt. But bear with me. Sidebar: The Ice and Fire Books If you havent read these  in particular if youve been watching GoT on HBO and havent  you really ought to.

Thu, 19 Nov 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Long-form Reviewing

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a love letter to an automotive review, which turns out to be one of the best applications of blogging Ive ever seen. Specifically, the Long-Term Road Test format over at Edmunds.com. Whats happening is, the 2003 Audi A4  my write-up on it was one of this blogs launch features  is, well, as old as this blog. Its still a pretty nice car but has to visit the Audi doctor too often. So, were idly thinking of new wheels. Specifically, a run-about-town thingie: Smaller is better, and large fossil-fuel engines are inappropriate. Teslas are overpriced, which sort of leaves the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3.

Tue, 03 Nov 2015 20:00:00 UTC

CL XXXV: Fading

Posted By Tim Bray

This years Cottage Life chapter is over. Not the best, either; what with my new gig and all we visited less, and the kids would as soon be in the city. Still, its a rare privilege. I could show you more mountains or birds or trees and trees and trees. Instead, lets settle for three fading hydrangea blossoms. All on the same plant on the same afternoon. This guy puts on a pretty nice show from spring through to fall and its pretty parts age then die with grace. I admire that.

Sat, 31 Oct 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Industrial Music

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished reading The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook, which taught me that the big hits being pumped at us via the big divas with the great thighs are mostly the output of a reproducible mechanized process, and the mechanics are Swedes. No, really. I like most kinds of music; during the decades since I first fell under the spell of blues chords and backbeats, Ive managed to ride the pop-music waves with pleasure, finding something to like in most months radio. In the car, when the song ends and the ads start, I switch presets more or less at random and regularly find something fresh and tasty.

Fri, 23 Oct 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Paywalls Dont Scale

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres the problem: Every day I get emails about great offers expiring real soon, better act now. Theyre subscription deals from publications I mostly like, but Im not signing up. Id like to pay them though; heres how. At the moment, I subscribe (in the sense of paying regularly) to the New York Times and The Economist. Yes, Im aware thats boringly, crushingly, mainstream and sometimes I hate myself for it, but I keep on paying. Want more mainstream? The pubs I like but dont pay for include Haaretz, Beiruts Daily Star, the Financial Times, the Paris Review, the Boston Globe (if only for The Big Picture), the Mop & Pail, and the New Yorker (if only for Roger Angell).

Sat, 17 Oct 2015 19:00:00 UTC

PMs Gone Bad

Posted By Tim Bray

PM stands for Product Manager or sometimes Program Manager; these are the people in software development who dont write code and dont manage coders and make all the difference. A good one is beyond price, and a bad one has a unique power to inflict bleeding neck wounds on what youre building. Lets illustrate this with examples from Adobe, Google, and Apple. This piece is provoked by Lightrooms abject surrender to angry users after they tried to re-work their import dialogue. From inside But lets set Lightroom aside for the nonce and start back at Google, where I saw this happen from inside.

Fri, 09 Oct 2015 19:00:00 UTC

re:Invent in Vegas

Posted By Tim Bray

That was intense. AWSs customers are great. But I wish I could like Vegas more. Size matters There were 19,000 people, more or less, at the Venetian, up from 13K the year before. Im glad I dont own the problem of figuring out what to do next year. The way things are going you have to assume more people will want to come but Im pretty sure that hotel cant hold em. Split venue? Go for intensity over quantity and retreat to Moscone West (max capacity 5.5K) as Google and Apple have? Use one of the mega-venues? Beats me. Normally this is where Id put a picture of eager conference geeks, but this blog has seen enough of those over the years, so heres Vegas bignew Ferris Wheel instead; its impressive.

Sun, 04 Oct 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Ingress in 2015

Posted By Tim Bray

Yes, were coming up for the third anniversary of Ingress, the game; Im one of the few from the first late-2012 wave who are still on-board. Why? Well, Ive walked 1,017km playing this game. I am at real risk of dying from boredom; in that I find most forms of exercise crushingly tedious and just wont. Ingress is excellent as a defense against sinking into an entirely sedentary lifestyle. Also, Ive met a ton of interesting people, done a chase scene and park sprint in San Fran, hoisted a few beers, braved howling waterfront windstorms, and found interesting places in Tokyo and Hawaii.

Sat, 19 Sep 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Bad Tory Craziness

Posted By Tim Bray

Were having an election, one thats more entertaining than usual, and while our politics in Canada are in general a little saner than our southern neighbors (and our elections mercifully shorter), we shouldnt get too smug; heres the evidence. This turd showed up on my doorstep, apparently an effort to convince me to vote for the Conservative (Tory, we say) candidate. That is, the candidate of the currently-governing party; which apparently thinks that the citizens of central Vancouver are frightened of hypothetical local jihadis, and approve of us joining other rich countries in dropping bombs on the Middle East. Notice the local candidates name?

Sat, 19 Sep 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Money and Ads on the Web

Posted By Tim Bray

My goodness, the iOS-9 ad-blocker tech is rattling cages all over the Internet. Herewith some links, including a couple you likely havent seen, and one to a possible solution to the problem, from Google. Eric Meyer Content Blocking Primer. From which: &the entire industry is being given a do-over here. Not the ad industry; the web industry. Charlie Stross A question about the future of the world wide web. From which: &it looks like the current state of the ad-funded web is a death-spiral and a race to the bottom. Marco Arment Just doesnt feel good. From which: Ad-blocking is a kind of war  a first-world, low-stakes, both-sides-are-fortunate-to-have-this-kind-of-problem war, but a war nonetheless, with damage hitting both sides. Im particularly impressed by Marcos action, because his app has instantly been replaced by lots of others.

Sun, 06 Sep 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Girls and Axes

Posted By Tim Bray

Im talking about Rock-&-Roll as sung by charismatic young women accompanied by proficient electric guitar. I dunno if its a trend or anything, but Im hearing a lot of it and I sure like it. Some of the artists are wolves. Sidebar: Mens voices? A dozen years ago I was asking Why does everybody sound like Eddie Vedder? and while I dont terribly miss those days, I notice that at this point in this century all the interesting voices are womens, and I wonder when well have some Y-chromosome voices behind the microphones I like to listen to. Chelsea Wolfe Wow, its a couple of years since I ran across Unknown Rooms, which you can get at Amazon but I didnt, I got the full-rez bits at BandCamp and you probably should too; unless you burn for the vinyl, which you can get from her own site.

Sun, 30 Aug 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Good Zombie Fluff

Posted By Tim Bray

Zombie, as in shambling brain-eating undead. Fluff, as in a book thats an evenings worth of page-turning. Good, as in way better than it needs to be and will leave you smiling. Im talking bout Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, which I recommend. Its hardly an obscure book; was quite popular and then theres a reasonably well-reviewed movie version. Over on GoodReads I found people who liked the movie better, and the trailer looks amusing. Tl;dr: The story is mostly told in a zombies inner dialogue (who knew they had em?) He meets The Right Girl and eats The Right Brain and big changes start to happen.

Thu, 27 Aug 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Mid-life Stark

Posted By Tim Bray

This is a quick note on Killing Pretty by Richard Kadrey, latest instalment in the excellent Sandman Slim series. KP holds its own, better than some other Sandman entries. Theres plenty of wisecracking, LA noir, colorful violence, cool steampunk magic, and disgusting villains. And explosions of imagination thatll make you smile. But also something new: Kadrey is working on a larger story arc here. I dont mean the series ridiculous-albeit-fun cartoon theology and whats happening with Hell-n-Heaven. I mean, Our Hero has grey hairs and a job and a boss and a girlfriend with a career, and on several occasions passes up booze for coffee.

Wed, 26 Aug 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Distributed Hardness

Posted By Tim Bray

The other day this, from Mathias Verraes, got thousands of retweets. There are only two hard problems in distributed systems: 2. Exactly-once delivery 1. Guaranteed order of messages 2. Exactly-once delivery. Thats really funny, but it dawns on me that it might not be obvious why. (Well, except to cloud infrastructure geeks.) Its like this: In the cloud, youd like to operate at large scale with high reliability. (Take me out and shoot me if Im ever heard uttering the phrase infinite scale unironically.) Lists Heres a list of the ways that you can munch data at a scale that is, for the purposes of most apps, unbounded: Sharding.

Sun, 16 Aug 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Inside Amazon

Posted By Tim Bray

Gosh, it seems that my employers at-work culture is the talk of the Internet. Dont know if I should share on the topic, but I feel the urge and bloggers with the urge gotta blog. Tl;dr First: I havent seen that stuff Kantor and Streitfeld write about. Not saying that never did happen, or isnt happening somewhere, just that I havent seen it. Second: The similarities between Amazon and Google vastly outweigh the differences. Disclosures Long-ish; Sorry about this but its essential. I am an employee of Amazon. I am not a shareholder, but will be if I go on working here.

Mon, 10 Aug 2015 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXXIV: The Great Grey Room

Posted By Tim Bray

Its been long and hot, this summer, so its easy to like Cottage-Life days that are less bright and high and blue and green. On a deck overlooking Howe Sound, the structure of the view is all curvy mountains and towering evergreens and then the separate blues of sky and sea. I love it, but recently we hosted a relative Im fond of whos been struggling with mental-health issues, who after a few hours couldnt take it and asked to leave: Too much light and space. And yeah, theres as much as anyone could take. But grey days are different. Looking over the Sound, youre in a room: Grey sea floor, grey-green mountain walls, grey cloud ceiling.

Sun, 02 Aug 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Google Music

Posted By Tim Bray

I use iTunes at home, and otherwise Google Play music, which really isnt terrible. Since the Net is echoing with screams about Apples cloud-music problems, now might be a good time for a few words on the subject. But first, I should say that GMusic is probably only interesting if youre the kind of person who buys music sometimes; there are loads of options for people whove migrated to an all-streaming life, and I have no idea if Googles is competitive. Buy music you say?! I strongly approve of it. First, more money goes to the artist. Second, there are times when I really want to hear that particular non-mainstream track from 99 or 77 or 55, or all the tracks on that non-mainstream album.

Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Cranes

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, Shane & Ally asked us to a rooftop barbecue with views in every direction. Most of them featured cranes, and I dont mean birds, which is not necessarily bad. Also, it would be unfair to omit the moon. Looming over us was this crane complex, not unattractive at all. If it looks kind of grainy thats because Id fat-fingered the camera into shooting at ISO6400. But the X-T1 is sufficiently resilient that this (like many other of my photo-miscues) came out OK. Which is especially true when you shoot through the stupidly-good Fuji XF35mm. But wait! There are more cranes and theyve got the mountains behind them.

Tue, 21 Jul 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Sitting down with Trudeau on C-51

Posted By Tim Bray

A couple of months ago, ten people spent an hour sitting down with Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party leader and potentially Canadas next Prime Minister, to talk about Bill C-51, anti-terrorist legislation from Canadas Conservative government. I was one of those people, and perhaps readers might be interested in hearing about it. Sidebar: Why now? After the meeting I decided not to blog it, because I was worried about ethics; nobody had said the meeting was private but nobodyd said it was public either. Recently I mentioned this to a Liberal insider I know whod helped organize and he looked shocked: Why not?!

Wed, 15 Jul 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Meet Jude and Raziel

Posted By Tim Bray

I recently read When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid (A.K.A. @razielreid) and enjoyed the hell out of it. Then Raziel came to our book club meeting, which was weird but good. Sidebar: On Book Clubs I can feel the eye-rolling coming back through the Internet at me. The book-club notion had been opaque, but then I found myself exposed to my wifes because it was at our house sometimes. Seemed to center around wine and munchies and argument, with a lot of laughing. And Ive always been a bookworm, so now Ive been going for years. Anyhow, I recommend the book-club thing.

Sun, 12 Jul 2015 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXXIII: Fire and Water

Posted By Tim Bray

Weve had week after week of blue skies and warm air; which in the green/grey Pacific Northwest begins to feel oppressive, you can almost hear the plants, great and small, whimpering for water. After a while every mornings news told of new forest fires marching up one tinder-dry mountain or another. Which lent visual drama to the July 4th weekend but I have to admit soured the Cottage-Life ambience. The fires turned from up-country news story to local color; extremely local and very colorful. Heres the night before and the July-4th morning. A variation of the next shot was picked up by multiple media including the CBC and ABC; did anyone reading this see it on any ABC outlets?

Tue, 07 Jul 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Destroyer of Sleep

Posted By Tim Bray

I was less than 100% effective at work today, because I foolishly bought Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and August Cole, and read till 2:30AM. I just now finished it. Is it a great book? No. But its a ripping naval yarn, an old-fashioned war story. Also: Rail gun! Warning: Spoilers! But I read a few spoilers in advance and found they didnt take the edge off, much. Tl;dr A near-future China with a government somewhat different from its current regime launches a war of aggression against the U.S.A. and scores big early wins, based in part on technological excellence and also plenty of back-dooring and root-kitting.

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Highlife Rocks, iTunes Sucks

Posted By Tim Bray

I have the good fortune to live near a good record store, where I shop often. One of my best scores this year was Highlife on the Move: Selected Nigerian & Ghanaian Recordings from London & Lagos  1954-66. On Record Stores So, there are two things you find in record stores. The first, what with vinyls resurgence, are lots of foot-square packages advertising the music they contain, often with eye-grabbing visuals. The second, almost every time, is some pretty fucking cool music on the sound system. Record stores, theyre a good thing, and lets hope we have em with us for a while.

Sun, 28 Jun 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Leaf Processing

Posted By Tim Bray

In which I have excessive Lightroom fun with a simple photo of some leaves. This photo harvested on a visit to the VanDusen Botanical Garden, one of Vancouvers nicer things. The way it came out of the camera. Under a bright cloudy sky,the white balance (as expected from Fuji X-cams) is exact;they looked just like this. I thought the fun of the picture was mostly in the geometry, so why not try it in B&W? This is Lightrooms built-in B&W Contast High preset, the contrast softened a little with the Tone sliders, and a bit of grain for texture. But at heart Im a color kind of guy.

Wed, 24 Jun 2015 19:00:00 UTC

The New 40

Posted By Tim Bray

June 21st this year was its longest day, also Fathers Day and my birthday. I feel vaguely guilty because I havent the slightest insight into this growing-old thing, so dont expect golden-years reportage. As above so below. 1955 You could look it up; a good birth-year geek career choice. For example Allman, Bechtolsheim, Berners-Lee, Booch, Dubinsky, Gates, Gelernter, Gosling, Jobs, Murai, Ozzie, Schmidt, and Winer. (Feeling a little humbled right about now.) Summer in the city. 2015 Ill let you in on a little secret: Making computer software full-time is a lot harder than doing it a little and writing about it a lot.

Wed, 10 Jun 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Phoenix Is Doomed

Posted By Tim Bray

I remember my first visit, playing mini-golf in the desert in the Eighties, fountains and waterfalls everywhere, thinking these people are crazy and this place cant last. The next day we had to run like hell for the airport. Oh wait, this is a review of The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi, which is terrific. What happened was, wed flown from Vancouver to pick up a suitcase full of magtapes (the old reel-to-reel kind you used to see on movie computers) full of source code for some behemoth mainframe thing, you couldnt possibly transfer that much data over the network.

Fri, 05 Jun 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Posted By Tim Bray

Item: The W3C HTML Working Group charter is expiring. Item: Discussion on what to do is inconclusive. Item: Things are pretty quiet in the WhatWG. Conclusion: The best thing to do about HTML is nothing. As Sam Ruby points out, interest in work on vocabulary (by which they mean the actual anle-bracketed thingies that go into HTML) seems pretty lacking. Me, I think HTML is done. Which doesnt mean I think that the whole Web-programming platform is in a good state: (I posted this on Twitter a year or two ago.) The browser-as-a-platform is based on a lousy programming language addressing a lousy object model and using a lousy stylesheet language for visuals.

Thu, 04 Jun 2015 19:00:00 UTC

More Expanse!

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished reading Nemesis Games, the latest in The Expanse series by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Predictably, its fun, and if youve read this far in The Expanse well then of course youre going to read this one; but it left me a little unsatisfied. Tl;dr: While Rocinante is being fixed, Holden, Naomi, Amos, and Alex wend their four separate ways around the Solar System. War happens, and with a new adversary. Billions die! Bobbie is back! Holden keeps a secret! Amos has a hilarious scene with Avasarala! Other set-pieces include a bike ride across a postapocalyptic landscape and a 50-meter leap from spaceship to spaceship, sans spacesuit (not sure about the science on that one).

Sat, 30 May 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Online Photos

Posted By Tim Bray

Id like to have my pictures online, and Id be willing to pay for service. Heres what I want; I dont think any of the Cloud Photo services provide it, but Id be happy to hear Im wrong. An online photo. Google gets music right I use iTunes to organize music and listen to it on the big high-end stereo at home. I use Google Music when Im in automobiles and airplanes and hotel rooms. It works great; when I get new music, whether on a shiny disk or digital download, I import it into iTunes and Gmusic auto-magically loads it into the cloud before too long.

Mon, 25 May 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Web Decay Graph

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been writing this blog since 2003 and in that time have laid down, along with way over a million words, 12,373 hyperlinks. Ive noticed that when something leads me back to an old piece, the links are broken disappointingly often. So I made a little graph of their decay over the last 144 months. Longer title A broad-brush approximation of URI decay focused on links selected for blogging by a Web geek with a camera, computed using a Ruby script cooked up in 45 minutes. Mind you, the script took the best part of 24 hours to run, because I was too lazy to make it run a hundred or so threads in parallel.

Thu, 21 May 2015 19:00:00 UTC

No Magic

Posted By Tim Bray

I spent a couple days this week in eastern Washington State with a lot of senior Amazon engineers, all trying to discern and inscribe coherent form on the roiling surface of global-scale cloud tech. This piece is here so I can publish one pretty picture and four wise words about what it means to be an engineer. Obviously& We were in a session about a piece of software, starting to roll out internally, that might help address pain points we expect to become unbearable, assuming that AWS and Amazon grow to many times their current size. Andrew was leading; someone spoke up, asking And what if I need to do that 500,000 times a second? Andrew nodded, face creasing, then began: Obviously, theres no magic& More nods all around the room.

Wed, 20 May 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Internet.org

Posted By Tim Bray

All sorts of people are denouncing Internet.org, but it looks OK to me. Maybe Im wrong. If someone convinces me that I am, then Ill update this post with an explanation of why its a bad thing, and of course link to the evidence. What it is Near as I can tell, its a service, funded by Facebook, where less-well-off people in less-developed parts of the world can get bits of the Internet for free, notably including Facebook and Wikipedia. (But I do have to say that its damn hard to find a listing of what beyond that is actually on Internet.org.)

Sat, 09 May 2015 19:00:00 UTC

From the Hill

Posted By Tim Bray

Joseph Heath argued in 2001s The Efficient Society that Canadian society is about as optimal as it gets. This idea is not completely crazy, even when one loathes the gang currently in charge. This week I made a rare visit to Ottawa, took pictures, and thought about Canadian-ness. The West Wing of Parliament, currently under construction.It looked so cool at night; many pictures and only one came out. Parliament Hill is a welcoming place.Theres lots of grass out front to play catch or stretch out on. Weve had a heavy news week: a couple of provincial elections, a Guantanamo victim released, and a draconian new national-security law passed.

Wed, 29 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Car-share Economics

Posted By Tim Bray

I finally got around to trying car-sharing, which is to say sampling the future. The CBC has a good overview of Vancouver services; I cant imagine the pricing trade-offs being that different in other markets. We signed up for Evo; its a little more expensive than the competition, but you get a 5-seat Prius with a roof rack; were a family with kids. They mostly got us with good marketing, though, offering decent starter deals through my employer and the Auto Association, from whom we already buy travel insurance and so on. The experience Ive only used it once, driving from the office to where my bike was parked at the train station.

Sun, 26 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Lightroom at the Whitecaps

Posted By Tim Bray

Yesterday I installed Lightroom 6 and attended a Major League Soccer match, which the Whitecaps lost to D.C. United. Heres a combo review, with some Lr6-enhanced footie pix. The Whitecaps play at B.C. Place, whose roof-retracting strutsare visible just behind the traffic lights. The big difference LR6 manifests on your computer simply as Adobe Lightroom; its predecessor was Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5. Thats about the biggest difference; the editing and saving operations look and feel more or less just the same. Those struts cast interesting shadows on B.C. Places neighbors. Marketing The Whitecaps Football Club (WFC) markets itself aggressively as The best sports atmosphere in Vancouver.

Sat, 25 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

451 Again

Posted By Tim Bray

Back in 2012, following on work by others, I submitted an Internet-draft proposing a new HTTP status code, 451, to signal legal blockage. As of today, the latest draft is a work item of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Working Group of the IETF. Doesnt mean its future is clear, but Im still happy. Im posting here to focus on one particular turn of phrase, and to ask for a specific flavor of feedback. The blog post linked in the first sentence gives the history, and a prettified version of the latest draft is here. Process The HTTP WG having adopted it just means that theyll think about it.

Sat, 18 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Trees With Names

Posted By Tim Bray

This is the end of stories and pictures from New Zealand. Its green there; grasses and shrubs of course, but especially trees and trees and trees. Some have names; individual trees I mean, not species. Homo sapiens is an organism unique in its use of language, and language begins with naming things. Names matter, and things that have them may deserve more attention than those without. Four Sisters They are kauri trees in the Waipoua Forest. Kauris are remarkable, moderately tall and immensely massive; Laurens brother Martin has lots around his place in Auckland, and theyre pleasant company. I couldnt figure out how to get a picture of the Sisters at ground level that told the story of their bulk, but looking up somewhat suggests it.

Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

NZ Garden Waters

Posted By Tim Bray

Three more pretty pictures which, as I keep saying, are easy to find in New Zealand. Thanks are due to Hamilton Gardens and, surprisingly, to the Ingress community  yes, that augmented-reality game that Im still playing, two years later. It hadnt been raining much, so they were spraying down this pine tree in the Japanese Garden of Contemplation. What happened was, we wanted to do some touristing south of Auckland and Lauren noticed that Hamilton was a reasonably-short drive from all the places we wanted to see, so we put up at a decent motel there. Little fountain in the English Flower Garden.

Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

One + Four Months

Posted By Tim Bray

Which is to say, Ive been carrying the OnePlus One since early January; a third of a year, way outside the event horizon of most mobile-device reviewers. I stand by the conclusion in my January write-up: Its a lot, really a lot, of device for the money. Herewith the history, which surprisingly stretches back to 2011; also how the O+1 has changed my mobile habits. Beet salad at Belgard Kitchen 2011 The scene: Building 44 at Google, where Android was made (at that time, dunno if it still is). A gaggle of Developer Relations (DevRel we said) geeks on sofas, passing around the outlandish Samsung Galaxy Note.

Tue, 14 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

NZ Eye Candy

Posted By Tim Bray

I have a few more pictures I want to run and most have stories wrapped round them. These dont; except I guess the larger narrative about New Zealand being exeptionally pretty, and a nice place to visit. I suppose we could pick up and move there; the subjects come up at the dinner table. Somewhere in the west-coast-of-the-North-Island woods. The trees have leaves but arent deciduous. And the forest fills with a quality of light entirely unlike we see at 49°N. And another tree. In the far Northland I think. Which, if we did decide to change hemispheres, would be where Id want to go.

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

NZ Phonescapes

Posted By Tim Bray

Turns out all the shots-worth-keeping from my phone were landscapes. So here are three. Also a pronunciation lesson for Americans. By the way, that NZ abbreviation; its perfectly OK to use it in NZ. But, dear Americans: The pronunciation is enn-zed. If you say enn-zee the Kiwis, a politer-than-average nation, probably wont call you yokel, but their thoughts will be unkind. The One+ One camera doesnt seem as good to me as my Nexus 5s was, but when you get out in the wide-open spaces with lots of sunlight and the beaches of Muriwai to shoot at, youre going to get a decent result.

Sun, 12 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

NZ Birds

Posted By Tim Bray

I dont do much wildlife, and I dont shoot animals in captivity, and I dont publish blurry pictures. Lets break all those rules. Oh, and Terry Pratchett too. Our first full day in New Zealand, Laurens brother took us to Muriwai, famous for cliffs and beaches and gannets. Gannets arent terribly beautiful or inspiring, and their colony stinks powerfully. But still, a close look at their hangout is something youre unlikely to forget. Heres a group shot; note the fluffy youngster in the middle and the grouchy seagull up at the edge. Heres a close look at a parent and child.

Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

So, & What?

Posted By Tim Bray

Geeks like to prefix sentences, questions and answers both, with So, & The comma stands, in speech, either for a pause, or for a drawing-out of the o. This is so common that its exceptional, in my profession, not to do it. I hear it from grey-haired pony-tailed hippie geeks, tenured authorities on graphics algorithms, and recent-immigrant colleagues where its the only confident English in the sentence. Both genders, all ages. What do you think it means? Well, I did research and harvested hypotheses. Discourse Marker In Implementing incipient actions: The discourse marker so in English conversation (PDF, 2007) Galina B.

Sun, 05 Apr 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Sinking the Annapolis

Posted By Tim Bray

On April 4th, the Artificial Reef Society sank a navy ship; we were in the (floating) audience. Ive never seen anything like it. Heres the Annapolis, a former Canadian navy destroyer built in 1961, just prior to sinking. As the photo suggests, this is a nice little corner of the world. Its called Halkett Bay, and the view is nice whichever way you look. And as that photo suggests, boy were there ever a lot of miscellaneous boats on hand. We were rafted to a boat moored to a big barge being used by the TV cameras, and there were three more boats rafted onto us.

Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Narrow Road, Deep North

Posted By Tim Bray

The last parking lot in Aotearoa: fall cyclone fluting. A few minutes walk from that last parking lot and youre at the top left corner of New Zealand: Cape Reinga. Some days, they say, you can see the Pacific oceans waters meet the Tasman seas. But I couldnt. Look right: that last headland is the Surville Cliffs, actually NZs northernmost point. Look left: There really was music in the parking lot; by a little shelter with murals, the path to the lighthouse leads through it. I was sure there had to be a hippie up on its roof playing vaguely Asian riffs on a wood-flute; then falling silent.

Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Mori Snapshots

Posted By Tim Bray

The Mori people, who arrived in what they call Aotearoa in 1300 or so, have since the 1600s been sharing the islands with New Zealanders of Euro-extraction, for example my wife and children. They and their culture are definitely part of the package a tourist like myself sees and photographs. I have no information or insights to offer beyond what you can read online, so youre not going to learn anything about these people here, aside from what some of them and their works of art look like. Its interesting that they are so tourist-visible compared to my own countrys aboriginal peoples; you could easily spend a couple of weeks in Canada and your only contact would be place-names and the occasional totem pole.

Sun, 29 Mar 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Google + 1yr

Posted By Tim Bray

As of this month, Ive been an ex-Googler for a year. Sometimes I miss it, but my rearview-mirror feelings are mixed. What I miss Most of all, the bug tracker. Any employee can file a bug against any product and be certain that someone on the engineering team will at least look at it. There are certain internal-social-engineering techniques you can use to focus attention on an issue you think isnt getting enough. Lots of bug reports are feature-requests and others are feature-removal demands, and thats fine. Given Googles global impact, that bug tracker is one of the single most powerful world-changing tools that most people will never have access to.

Sat, 28 Mar 2015 19:00:00 UTC

Auckland

Posted By Tim Bray

I sure enjoyed visiting it but Im not sure Id want to live there. Green, maritime, rounded, not obviously scalable. With back story and of course pictures. Back story Attentive readers will have deduced from the recent cricket coverage that Ive been in New Zealand; heres why. In 1994 I met a nice software geek then living in Germany and we hit it off. Ive been married to Lauren Wood, a fifth-generation New Zealander, for a long time now, and we have two children who are also NZ citizens. Laurens family had scattered round the globe and connections had frayed; shed not been home in a long time.

Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:00:00 UTC

That Cricket Match

Posted By Tim Bray

I spent many hours last Tuesday in Auckland watching the Cricket World Cup semifinal between South Africa and New Zealand. It was insanely intense. I will probably spend most of Saturday night up watching the final. Herewith words and pictures, including a bit of overview for us New-Worlders to whom cricket is (mostly) foreign. How I got there Back in January, an Aussie friend told us that the CWC would be on while we were visiting New Zealand. I checked, and impulse-bought tickets for a semifinal. I had no idea how big a deal this would be. Some of the 45,000-strong crowd.

Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:00:00 UTC

RFC 7493: The I-JSON Message Format

Posted By Tim Bray

The Olde ASCII is at rfc7493.txt. Ill put a nicely-formatted HTML version here as soon as I pull a few pieces together. This is really, really simple stuff and should be about as controversy-free as an RFC can be. Back story Basically, RFC 7159 is the JSON RFC; it describes the existing panoply of JSON specs, and also more-or-less unifies the (small) incompatibilities between them. The history is here, from which I quote: If youre interested, I recommend opening up the HTML version and searching forward for the string interop. There are 17 occurrences. If youre generating JSON  something a lot of us do all the time  and make sure you avoid the mistakes highlighted in those 17 places, youre very unlikely to cause pain or breakage in software thats receiving it.

Sat, 07 Mar 2015 20:00:00 UTC

The Only Sane Transit Vote

Posted By Tim Bray

Vancouver is having a Transportation & Transit Referendum this spring: Yes or No on a 0.5% local sales-tax hike to pay for transit infrastructure, mostly public-transit train lines. The only sane vote is Yes; heres why. Strong bones Vancouvers a child among cities. As Doug Coupland (I think it was him) said: In 100 years, Paris will still be Paris and Tokyo will still be Tokyo. What will Vancouver be? Nobody knows. Growing children need strong bones, and thats what the votes about. Voting Yes: Its buying milk for your kids, and making them drink it before they go out to play.

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 20:00:00 UTC

At Work

Posted By Tim Bray

More reportage from inside the AWS factory. Looking for leaks or marketing? Nope. Seems Ive been here three months. It still feels weird to dig in and work on software without breaking frequently to explain it to the world. The main current project is stretching some envelopes so my explain-it energy is finding plenty of internal outlets. News flash! One of the things you get at any big tech company is an onboarding task; a little product feature or bugfix, the kind of thing that would take a person who knows the software and toolset about fifteen minutes. It took me a week and small change, learning how to check code out and build it and stage it and so on.

Sat, 28 Feb 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Catching Trees

Posted By Tim Bray

Recently, I wrote this about the Fujifilm 10-24mm ultra-wide lens: Im find­ing it hard to get com­fy with. What I re­al­ly need to do is go out for a cou­ple of pho­towalks with just this pup­py and force my­self to see the kind of pic­ture it wants to take. Here are some of those. Warning: Heavily-processed photos ahead. The street where I live is blessed with a variety of trees, including a few really big ones. Today we had a clear blue spring sky and it set them off nicely. With this kind of a lens you can stand right in front of a big tree and snap away.

Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:00:00 UTC

RFC 7464, JSON Text Sequences

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres a nice little RFC describing a nice little trick that might even be useful. Short form: People like to write JSON into logfiles. Text sequences make reading them easier and more robust. The trick You precede each JSON log entry with little-known Unicode character U+001E INFORMATION SEPARATOR TWO, and you stuck a newline (0xA) after it. This makes it easy to pick the byte stream apart into chunks you can hand your friendly local JSON parser, and cleanly survive the not-terribly-uncommon scenario where something blew chunks while logging and left behind a truncated/malformed entry. Im not going to reproduce the RFCs explanation; its perfectly transparent.

Sun, 22 Feb 2015 20:00:00 UTC

35mm Seasonals

Posted By Tim Bray

Just possibly I may have already touched here on the excellence of the Fujifilm 35mm F1.4 prime lens. This is just more of that, with illustrative late-winter/early-spring shots. This time of year it gets dark early. If you wait for good light to shoot, you wont get much. Or any light, actually. The world is full of photographic subjects, but all the most interesting ones are faces. This is my friend Michelle. Whats better than one face? A whole choir-load! Got a little lucky with the light here, but give the lens credit too. And then there was February sun! I was zoned in on these backlit roseleaves and then when I was processing the pic I kept having the feeling that the background was the foreground.

Mon, 16 Feb 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Zoom! Zoom!

Posted By Tim Bray

In recent days Ive bought two new Fujifilm lenses. The choices werent easy and Im far from convinced I did the right thing. Have a look and see what you think. 10-24 Back before Christmas I bought the (take a deep breath, official name here) Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS Wide Angle Zoom Lens. It was sort of on impulse; new job, Christmas coming, felt in the mood for a toy, stumbled across a great deal in a local camera shop. By way of background, its one of the few Fujinons thats outside the focal range of the two lenses I originally picked up back in March 2013, the 18-55mm and the 35mm F1.4.

Sun, 15 Feb 2015 20:00:00 UTC

5k: The Köln Concert

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, I was gonna make the traditional Sunday-morning pancakes and bacon and, as I do every other week or so, told the eight-year-old to turn the damn cartoons off already because I wanted music. I threw the ancient vinyl of The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett on the turntable and all these years later, I kept having to stop making pancakes because Keith had grabbed me where you have to listen when they grab you there. The Context Wikipedia has the story, dating from January 24, 1975 (wow, 40 years ago). Its an interesting story and this sort of thing has happened more than once: Famous players, adverse conditions, fantastic result.

Mon, 09 Feb 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Silly Java Strings

Posted By Tim Bray

Being a hyper-pedantic note about turning bytes into Java strings and a small fix for a smaller and almost-purely-aesthetic but ubiquitous problem. [Update: Heavily revised with a better solution.] [Most of the comments below apply to the original solution Id been using, which turned out to be sub-optimal.] So, its like this: Youve received some bytes over the wire and run them through a JSON parser and youre looking at a few of them that you know damn well are a field name in UTF-8. So, you say: final String name = new String(bytes); Then your perfectly sensible reviewer points out that its a Best Practice to call the constructor with the charsetName argument because otherwise itll use the platforms default charset.

Sat, 07 Feb 2015 20:00:00 UTC

#ActualGameplayFootage

Posted By Tim Bray

Good heavens, I started writing about Ingress in 2012, but havent since last July. Yeah, I still play, not obsessively but regularly. Im a greybeard so my bodys in use-it-or-lose-it territory, and as of today Ive walked 766 kilometres playing this game. Also, its enriched my life; see here and especially these pictures. But mostly, check that hashtag in my title; the thing is, I like to go outside and see things. #ActualGameplayFootage, looking out over Howe Sound. Operation Creek Slide What happened was, Resistance agent Ba1r0g got this idea for a nice big field two of whose three anchors would be way off the beaten track in places with little or no cell data, requiring cool network-engineering techniques, of which agents @Whydahlabtech and @NeddLudd have a rare command.

Mon, 02 Feb 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Text Editors for Freedom

Posted By Tim Bray

The press coverage says Court Orders IRS to Release Computer-Readable Charity Tax Forms. Theres this guy Carl Malamud who runs Resource.org, which is in the business of making public legal materials actually public. What, you exclaim, Public legal filings arent already public?! Nope, not unless citizens can get full-text versions for free. This is the story of how I helped Carl (in a small way) to stick a small wedge into a wall of really stupid public-sector resistance to openness. Theres this law in America called 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(B) (E-FOIA) that says (if I understand correctly) that nonprofits tax filings should be public, but that they dont have to disclose who their donors are.

Sun, 01 Feb 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Super Stifado

Posted By Tim Bray

My Super Bowl Stew has become a tradition, so I should share it. With some tech magic too. What happened was, eight years ago Prince played the Superbowl and I made a Stifado for guests, a Greek version of a fairly straightforward beef (or rabbit) stew distinguished by heavy oregano. I got the idea from a fellow-employees piece on the late lamented blogs.sun.com. I later refined the recipe with ideas from another foodie site, also now vanished, A Spoonful of Sugar (I think), dedicated to stews and suchlike. Anyhow, this morning two miracles happened; I was poking around the Internet not liking any of the Stifado recipes, when Lauren suggested looking in the Wayback Machine, and there it is: Beef Stifado by Paul Humphreys.

Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Tools!

Posted By Tim Bray

Im in the unaccustomed position of spending all my work time either writing software or in meetings about it. The current project is conventional big-system server-side Java. Thats not a landscape that anyones gonna wax lyrical over, but boy, have the tools ever come along while I was off Androiding and Go-ing and Rubying. IntelliJ and Git work together smooth as silk; I reflexively drop into a shell now & then to reassure myself with a git status but near as I can tell the IDE is just Doing The Right Thing. Also, YourKit shreds through sluggish code, shining the ruthless light of truth on that bad method.

Sun, 25 Jan 2015 20:00:00 UTC

The Crocuses of 2015

Posted By Tim Bray

Theyre traditional in this space this time of year, representing the first day Im at home and its not too cold and theres some light. Nobodys ever complained about me running more or less the same pictures early every late winter. As always, theyre lovely in purple and gold. This year they carry along stories about old books and global warming. Weve had a couple of dim weeks; its not the lashings of rain that hurt, its the low grim grey ceiling and the photon shortage. But suddenly this weekend the air is mild, the car claiming 16°C outside. Casting my eyes back at previous years crocuses, I note the (kind of funny) 2011 piece is dated in early March not late January.

Thu, 15 Jan 2015 20:00:00 UTC

Children in Combat

Posted By Tim Bray

Theres strife in every family. The kids faction is at a terrible disadvantage in strength and wisdom, so they have to fight sneaky. The analogy with guerrilla war is obvious, which gives me a chance to mix up family life and a book review. Its like this A lot of what parents say to kids is unwelcome, whether positive (Do your homework, Eat your salad) or negative (Dont hit your brother, Stop throwing the noodles). So, for a kid who doesnt want to eat the salad and does want to throw the noodles, theres really no upside in listening to grown-ups.

Sat, 10 Jan 2015 20:00:00 UTC

At Work

Posted By Tim Bray

No, Im not going to become an Amazon Blogger (that territory is well-covered) but I have at-work stories, neither leaks nor marketing. Point form: My first job out of school was with Digital, the worlds then-second-biggest computer vendor. Now Im back in the biz. Yes, I think of AWS as, effectively, a computer vendor; my third such employer, including Sun. (I remember vividly, in that first job, the convoluted, high-contact process, back then, of speccing and selling and delivering computers; quotes could run to hundreds of pages and invoices to a dozen.) The groups around me where I sit include SQS, SWF, and Autoscaling.

Wed, 07 Jan 2015 20:00:00 UTC

OnePlus One

Posted By Tim Bray

What happened was, the teenager smashed his phone, so we did the usual shuffle-and-hand-me-down. My only real constraint was No Nexus; been doing that long enough. I was pretty interested in the waterproof Sony Z3, or maybe a small phone since I usually carry an N7 too, or maybe one of those lovely silken-metal HTC thingies. But neither the carrier nor Google had any very good deals, and the O+1 is a very good deal. So now Im carrying one. Size matters I think I can claim a leading-edge voice on this subject, as an early adopter and fan of the original Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Sun, 28 Dec 2014 20:00:00 UTC

End of 2014

Posted By Tim Bray

As the year winds down Im mostly cheery about my slice of life, though distressed by much of what I see looking outside it. There are cheery-side pictures here. Somewhere on the Trans-Canada near the Rogers pass. Same spot, less photo-glamor. Both of these are the new 10-24. Here are things that will happen this first week of 2015: People will kill others because of devotion to supernatural entities. Were there a benevolent deity, he or she would manifest double-quick and say Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Thou. Shalt. Not. Kill. OK? But there isnt, as any fool can plainly see.

Sun, 14 Dec 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Twitter News

Posted By Tim Bray

Good news and bad news; but mostly bad. Its a playground for abusers and managements pointing the wrong way. Good news Kathy Sierra, one of the good smart people who make Life Online interesting, was chased off the Net by shitheads in 2007, then came back strong via Twitter, offering a refined mix of words and pictures. But then, earlier this year, it happened again. Because shes a woman with opinions. Which draws abuse. In her case, including from Weev (now theres an asswipes asswipe). To make it worse, the Twitter account she folded was insta-grabbed by an abuser and used as a club to beat her.

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 20:00:00 UTC

More Cheap Lens Fun

Posted By Tim Bray

On the weekend, I took candid photos of friends in soft indoor evening light. The best lens for this sort of thing, speaking as a member of the Fujifilm cult, would be the awesome portrait-optimized 56mm F1.2, which has reduced many reviewers to quivering jelly. I didnt have one of those but the pix are still OK. My friends Michelle and Philip That 56mm is the kind of lens Id totally buy, except for I was at Leos Cameras and accidentally bought a used smc PENTAX-M 1:1.4 50mm instead, for (I think) $75. Manufactured between 1977 and 1984, its easy to screw onto my A.D.

Tue, 02 Dec 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Closed Eyes, $45

Posted By Tim Bray

I took my daughter for a walk down the Main, and we happened by a funky consignment shop. I cant decide whether that second one is sad or not.

Mon, 01 Dec 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Amazonian

Posted By Tim Bray

As of December Im working for Amazon. This will be different from my last few gigs; in particular, dont expect to read about it here. The preaching and coding around privacy and security Ive been doing these last few months has been a blast, but it doesnt seem to be a paying job nor even a coherent organized project, the kind with co-workers. And Amazon is offering me one of those, so here I am with a smile on my face. What I will and wont be doing Ill be working on AWS. And thats all Im saying, because this isnt an outward-facing job; for the first time in oh-so-long, Im back in the full-time engineering trenches.

Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Practical Time Travel

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished reading William Gibsons The Peripheral for the second time, and I recommend you do too: Read it twice, I mean. Gibsons always written densely; idiomatic, with good flow, but its really packed in. I remember decades ago, talking over the Sprawl books with my brother: Early on, he said, you have no idea whats going on. What with that, and beauty of the words, and the interesting people in the stories, and the big set-pieces& well, Ive never read any Gibson just once. But I left out the biggest deal with his books: the backgrounds, the flavors, the astonishing skill at mise en scène.

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Defending The Mockingjay

Posted By Tim Bray

I saw Mockingjay  Part 1 yesterday and, having carefully avoided reviews, poked around afterward to see what other people thought. I was shocked to find them running more or less 50% negative. So heres why you should ignore the bad reviews and go see it. The gripes The critics seem to think that splitting the third Hunger Games book in two is a brazen cash grab, that the movie is dark and fashion-starved, and that theres not enough action. Why theyre wrong Because Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, and Philip Seymour Hoffman are all at the top of their games and theyve got a decent script to work with and if you like movies at all, why wouldnt you want to watch that?

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Reviving my Mac Pro

Posted By Tim Bray

Weve had this Early 2008 Mac Pro since, well, early 2008. Itd been showing its age but I fixed that. Long-time readers may recall the occasion when in 2008 I asked the Net whether I should hack this computer; with a hacksaw, I mean. Or perhaps its 2012 life-extension therapy. Its the family mainframe, does homework and Plexus and BitTorrent (legal stuff only, you betcha) and drives the big high-end audio system through a Benchmark Media DAC1 USB, also its my 15-year-olds gamebox, which means theres a BootCamp Win7 partition in there. How to I was encouraged by Bob Lees Six ways to breathe new life into an old Mac Pro, and Bobs was even older than mine.

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Keybase Client

Posted By Tim Bray

I got interested in Keybase.io the day I left Google in March, and Ive been evangelizing it, but even more the idea behind it: Using authenticated posts here and there to prove public-key ownership. Also Ive contributed Keybase-client code to OpenKeychain (lets just say OKC), a pretty good Android crypto app. Im more or less done now. This report is too long, and will probably be of interest only to the twelve people in the world who care about crypto implementations, key discovery, and modern Android apps. What it does There are now three screencasts over on YouTube: Sending a message, Receiving a message, and Can I trust this key?

Fri, 14 Nov 2014 20:00:00 UTC

The Dock at Gibsons

Posted By Tim Bray

Gibsons is mostly another strip-mall-along-the-highway town, but includes Gibsons Landing, a nice albeit touristy place mostly famous for starring in a Canadian TV show that peoples grandparents liked. Its got a big useful public dock  we say government wharf round here  which looks really good in mid-November slanting sun. None of the names for the town or any part of it seem to use apostrophes; I guess this makes sign-painters lives easier. Photogeek note: Its really hard to take that old (I mean really; its scratched and dented and looks old) 35mm prime off the camera.

Fri, 14 Nov 2014 20:00:00 UTC

How To Be Secret

Posted By Tim Bray

Suppose you need to exchange messages with someone and you need to be really, really sure that nobody else reads them. Heres how Id do it. Background To keep this simple, lets call the person youre trying to communicate with Elvis, and the people wanting to invade your privacy The Firm. This discussion assumes: Neither you nor Elvis are a high-value target, for example Ed Snowden or a big-time weapon smuggler. You have a trustworthy device. For most of us a personal computer, properly set up, is acceptable. In my opinion, the same is generally true of modern mobile devices.

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 20:00:00 UTC

Vancouver Election

Posted By Tim Bray

It happens Saturday, November 15th, 2014. Heres how Im voting. Theres one vote for mayor, a bunch for council, a bunch for Park Board, and another bunch for School Board. Im not voting a full slate; Im only voting for people I have feelings about. This is called plumping; I believe psephologists say it increases the power of your vote. Mayor: Gregor Robertson Ive heard Meena Wong speak a couple of times and shes probably closer to me politically, but Gregor Robertson gets my vote anyhow; heres why: Its actually close, and Im unimpressed with Kirk Lapointe. This guys highest life achievement is middle management in the newspaper business  famous for being badly run  and his big idea is counterflow lanes.

Sun, 09 Nov 2014 20:00:00 UTC

R and G and J

Posted By Tim Bray

I just read Adam Jacobs Rust and Go, comparing two new hotnesses. Me, Ive been (unaccustomedly) working the last few months in a familiar codebase/toolset, on an Android app; so I thought Id and an &and Java. Is Java boring? Android is the only place where Java isnt boring. The big back-end systems at Google and the other Net giants are the only other places where new Java code might change your life; and most developers arent writing those. Interesting new server-side code is in Node and Go and Rails and Erlang and so on. Maybe Rust too, soon. Mobile apps are still interesting, and half of them, more or less, are Android/Java things.

Tue, 28 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Security Problems

Posted By Tim Bray

The Internet is a dangerous place. We have tools to make it safer, but they go unloved and unused; by ordinary people I mean, the ones who arent geeks. How can we fix that? Lets look through some recent evidence; The conclusion is pretty obvious. Two-factor More generally, multi-factor: Sign-in with more than one piece of evidence. You may have noticed that pretty well any bank in the world will give you cash money when presented with a piece of plastic and a 4-digit number. OK, these days the plastic has an embedded chip, but still. Two-factor is great! Put yourself in the bad guys shoes; not only does he have to steal or guess your password, hes got to get his hands on something you carry around.

Mon, 27 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Ten MOA Faces

Posted By Tim Bray

On a recent rainy weekend I took my daughter to MOA, the UBC Museum of Anthropology. I think its maybe Vancouvers single best tourist attraction, and we have plenty of those. The shelves are crowded with objects made by the hands of Homo Sapiens and many of those objects are heads. Here are ten of them. This is in the European Ceramics gallery; not usually my favorite bit of MOA. East-European, 17th-century I think. From the really wonderful Without Masks: Contemporary Afro-Cuban Art exhebition, only running till November 2nd. This is part of the monumental The Raven and the First Men by Bill Reid.

Wed, 22 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Catching Faces

Posted By Tim Bray

Point-and-shoot cameras advertise Face Recognition, a cheap trick that a Serious Photographer using a Real Camera with a Fast Prime Lens would never go near. Oh, wait. What happened was At goto; Aarhus the big first-night party was 007-themed, which gave everyone with flashy duds an excuse to wear them. People were looking good and I wanted to take portraits; it was dim in that room, so I was using a prime lens jammed wide-open. Heres what Fujifilm calls Face detection at work. Kresten Krab Thorup, conference organizer, Erjang guy, smart. Nicky Plant, a beauty therapist with secret desireto be a Bond villainess.

Sun, 19 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Gamergate and Bullying

Posted By Tim Bray

Ive been watching the Gamergate brouhaha with sick fascination. We all know the Internets got ugly corners and suddenly the ugliness came out of the corner. I honor the courage of the women whove been standing up to the creeps. But I was kinda puzzled by who the creeps actually are and why theyre so upset; I know lots of heavy gamers and theyre by and large pleasant well-adjusted people. So I went looking for them. [Disclosure: Im not 100% unbiased: I once spent a couple years in online games. Also, I like Android car-racing games. Also, Im an L11 Ingress agent; L12 soon!]

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Vancouver Photowalk

Posted By Tim Bray

October 11th was World Photowalk Day. I attended the Vancouver edition, which was in a place Id never go looking for pictures; but I got some anyhow. We started at the Convention Centre and walked to Gastown, which is to say through Vancouvers maximal white-hot tourist density, where you dont need to be on a photowalk to be pointing a camera at everything. Which is why normally I wouldnt take my camera there. But you know, going somewhere to take pictures puts your eyes in looking-for-pictures mode. Which isnt my default; I normally lean back in my skull, waiting for something I see to exhort the camera out of the bag.

Sun, 12 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Making Android Crypto-friendly

Posted By Tim Bray

Google could tweak Android, in a pretty simple way, and make it immensely easier for anyone, not just geeks, to do cryptography with a nice user experience. All the pieces are there ready to go. [Note: I posted this first over on Google+ because I was trying to reach the Android group, and theres some useful discussion. But I thought I should replicate it here where I can stretch out a bit and show examples. Some of the material here assumes you know Android-API basics.] If you look at my screencasts showing off sending and receiving an encrypted message using the OpenKeychain Android app, youll notice they share an irritant: The stupid useless-to-humans encrypted text is visible; it looks like this: -----BEGIN PGP MESSAGE----- Version: GnuPG/MacGPG2 v2.0.22 (Darwin) Comment: GPGTools - https://gpgtools.org hQIMAwkuBalYH40qAQ/+J5NzcRNBdhcfipIzDal4cFEgvtfjFLvrEHMaWZn51h5m EceX+ittkZNwOsDcTacyp2dnIzduqjShFN9Um7eLdkc1G1zENyyvasreB5G2IIMn IRBCBxPC0nfnFpk+M/KrUCU3yl3oiBebtSwbIKhXsO9ujcWWp5x8uOfM4NcROKVa HibbtE6YI+t0oZc9+BvidkiCQIZnwbG7Vojg8cNgXQXaFHLYsIS5dXQwVcfG5g4P fI8qTcFtWNe6x4C3gE25Ztt5xim9JGOrYDpP1jy3FOKfVv7kp9qSz3+69cEFZLG3 1J7hznY4HxHiv0J+TtNtZvPNPs1zq4KDwtZxPA7/qCsayFYBGF2ivw6d6kPOuZZV E0kMHfSVSygSIkd2FAeLfVWCdPQaWvJr/diahu0+B1Bg6xmt7uqPccaiZ043Kmf3 q/KLADE5e9FDLVs6rOSfwnR7szDUxCUWQBxCzLTH6aZKQSzf3LG/nJkSUOrWUXiO eHRcujIgjsXDRS8KyVCLMdpcd4za3ndcGxcHbH8eIEik1GjmyoxMYRxIAOw7Cqj0 STLFqHmB0pXKhx23iUrKC0+ivAOVpMEtbjWxeEE1HkV8u5sNkA9d4OHyjuoMLpaW aa0rsD6LTRF2lsEMtSM5WBHbeplMYinv7fPnFGjM19flc5loFX6SuhnfUxOJ5D3S SQFdX9omfQWrmGnI/8zv9/z4zkRswv0pD6qGepFaTrcFTieHnnieYogH7E3/n0eW UIFZkbw/3thlwZ4b6uwDro/26y5ovCayB80= =9CtG -----END PGP ...

Mon, 06 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Is Encrypting Phones OK?

Posted By Tim Bray

Starting now, more and more phones will have their data encrypted, so nobody but the phones owner can peek. Apple just started and Androids following suit. Now we hear howls of outrage from government officials claiming this will protect criminals, doom victims, and so on. But theyre completely wrong. The pushback A particularly shrill shriek came from former FBI Assistant Director Ronald T. Hosko in the Washington Post. I could disagree with him here, but instead Ill point you at the essential Marcy Wheeler; in Former FBI Assistant Director Makes a Compelling Case to Eliminate the Corporation she pretty well reduces him to quivering blobs of protoplasm.

Sun, 05 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Kathys Gone Again

Posted By Tim Bray

I mean Kathy Sierra, on the Web at seriouspony.com, in Wikipedia, and formerly on Twitter; but as of now @SeriousPony is gone. Heres why. Over the years shes had loads of smart, eloquent things to say about Java and tech education and community-building and, in general, Life Online. Recently, Ive been entranced by the awesome Icelandic-pony pix that used to be on that tweetstream. So Im sad. There was a kerfuffle on Twitter saying Kathy had been forced offline by misogynist trolls. Which would be shocking, because its happened before, her primary attacker back then being Weev, always a troll, now with a brand-new Swastika tattoo.

Sun, 05 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Mitchells Marinus Books

Posted By Tim Bray

Mitchell as in David Mitchell who wrote Cloud Atlas. Books as in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and The Bone Clocks, which Ive spent an unreasonable number of hours reading this last month. Marinus is a character in both. They are huge, beautifully written novels that will take you places you never could imagine and introduce you to people youll never forget. Theyre also kind of flawed and sloppy; but youll have a hard time finding a better read among recent publications. Thousand Autumns Its the turn of the nineteenth century in Dejima, the Dutch trading-post in Nagasaki harbor that Imperial Japan just barely tolerated for a couple of hundred years starting in 1643.

Fri, 03 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Lake Leaves

Posted By Tim Bray

Herewith two pictures of leafy branches dipping into Sankt Jørgens Sø, one of what in English are called The Lakes in Copenhagen. This is at the northeast, near where Vester Søgade crosses Gyldenløvesgade. (OK, I admit it, I love typing Ø even though I cant pronounce it). The two pictures are almost identical, and to be honest werent that interesting the way they came out of the camera. But I decided to try injecting postprocessing drama and enjoyed what I got. You have to look pretty closely to tell which of the leaves and branches are seen in reflection. Heres the other treatment; admittedly a little extreme.

Thu, 02 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Mac + Android = Screencast

Posted By Tim Bray

If you want to show off your Android goodies and you have a Mac, its absurdly easy to make a decent-quality screencast; the tooling will cost you $29.99. I made a couple for my recent Open Keychain 3 piece; you can see them on YouTube, Sending a message with OpenKeychain and Receiving a message with OpenKeychain. If you need better production values than that, stop reading now and go elsewhere. Tl;dr (for experts) Buy QuickTime Pro from Apple. Grab the screen with adb shell screenrecord and the audio with QuickTime. Use QuickTime 7s Edit/Add to Movie thing to paste the audio onto the video.

Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Nine of Denmark

Posted By Tim Bray

I spent a week in Denmark, doing conferences and of course taking pictures. Its not the most visually dramatic place but you can find good shots anywhere when youre in tourist mode with fresh eyes. Its really hard to arrive in Copenhagen without going through the Central Station, which is very efficient. Its not a standout among Europes steel-and-glass train temples, but theyre all fun to look at. The city is kinda flat and grey and sensible; but theres water everywhere and you gotta love that. The goto; conference ran twice; Thursday-Friday in Copenhagen and then Monday-Tuesday in Aarhus; more or less the same speakers.

Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:00:00 UTC

OpenKeychain 3

Posted By Tim Bray

Release 3.0 of the OpenKeychain Android app is out today. Im super-proud to have been a (minor) contributor. Its getting pretty slick, if I say so myself; maybe almost civilian-ready. Read on for an explanation, with screencasts and geek notes too! What it does Your mobile device comes with a lot of different ways to exchange messages with other people over the Net. OpenKeychain can do three things: Encrypt the messages, so only the The Right Person can read them. Sign them, so that The Right Person knows who sent them. Decrypt them for The Right Person to read, while checking the signature.

Sat, 27 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Computer Love

Posted By Tim Bray

I havent always been Apples friend in this space, but this is just a note to say that my current MacBook Pro is by a wide margin my best computer ever. Also, tugboat pictures. Why share? Ive made intense professional use of computers for three decades plus. Im a connoisseur, if anyone is. If a computer makes me happy, its gonna make you happy. Everyone should share their expertise. Why tugboats? Because we went to the Vancouver Tugboat Festival and Im looking for an excuse to run pix and otherwise this is going to be a dreary wall of text. Tugboats are great!

Sun, 21 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Equinox Close-ups

Posted By Tim Bray

Our record-setting summer at one level was sobering (although I was cheered by the Climate Change March stories) but now kiss it goodbye. The sun came out and as it got low I went stalking flowers. This is a rose of some sort I think. The bee I think represents the first insect ever presented here. I have a visceral horror of arthropods and always glance away from other peoples bug macros. But this guy was so soft and benevolent-looking I managed to put it aside. A hydrangea; it was a pure uniform baby-blue in midsummer. Confession: I used the Fujifilm Velvia treatment to make it prettier.

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Missing the Cloud

Posted By Tim Bray

Im working on my speeches for the Goto conferences later this month, in Copenhagen and Århus, and Im using Keynote, and its the first time in a long time that my work lives primarily just on this physical computer in front of me, and its making me nervous and unhappy. News flash: along with the is-the-browser-done-for keynote, Im going to do a tech talk on the privacy/crypto stuff Ive been fooling with since leaving Google. But that means two different 45-minute talks. Other things I work on: My blog, which has two lives, on my laptop and at tbray.org; sync is ultra-low-tech via scp, but whatever.

Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Apples Privacy Policy

Posted By Tim Bray

See A message from Tim Cook and especially Government Information Requests. Its good; well-written and clear. Plus, theres a news story; as of iOS 8, Apple cant unlock a random iPhone. Mind you, this is also an Apple marketing piece. Grumblers I hear a certain amount of grumbling along the lines of Its a bunch of lies, Snowden said PRISM is pulling the goodies straight outta the servers. Also, Encryption is useless because a determined adversary will route around it. Im pretty sure both those arguments are crap. While nobody can know 100% for sure, its increasingly looking like the claims in those PRISM Powerpoints were, um, a little inflated.

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Life Changed Much?

Posted By Tim Bray

Occasionally, new technology changes lives. But mostly it doesnt. Im a greybeard and (like most people I think) the number of qualitative tech-driven shifts in my life fits on the fingers on one hand. How about you? Ground rules Lets keep it to this century. Which assumes the Internet, email, and some flavor of real-time chat; theyre part of civilizations background radiation, these days. Even so, my list of changes will extend further back than most peoples. Im pretty mainstream in most respects, but to the extent Im not, my list might be unrepresentative. So: My life is not automobile-centric, I almost never watch movies, and Im a bookworm; I think that about covers it.

Sun, 14 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Keys in the Cloud

Posted By Tim Bray

I just landed a nifty new feature for OpenKeychain. Its simple enough: If you want to communicate privately with someone, you need their key. So, just like when youre looking for anything else, you type their name or email or whatever into a search box and find it on the Internet. Heres how it looks Suppose I want to communicate with Dominik Schürmann; hes the lead author of OpenKeychain and a good example because of his long hard-to-type name. I start entering his name in the search box. Since hes is in my Android contacts, I can pick him from the drop-down and not type much.

Sat, 13 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Styling More Pixels, with Beards

Posted By Tim Bray

Our cameras put more pixels in each picture than our computers screens can display. But the screens are catching up, doing smart things with pixels so small you cant see em; Apple says Retina, but everyone who ships things with screens is going that way. Publishing pictures on the Web so they look as good as they possibly on whatever whoevers looking is carrying& well, its hard. But Im working on it. Heres my latest attempt  if youre in a feed-reader, drop by the tbray.org version to see what Im talking about  a picture of my friend Peter, who has one of the best beards ever.

Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

CL XXXII: Listen to the Trees

Posted By Tim Bray

On the forest-walks part of Cottage Life, a problem is that the kids chatter and squabble. So I tell them, Shut up and listen to what the trees are saying. They think its just Dad being silly, but I keep insisting that if they listen for that, theyll learn things. And Im right, they will. I think I may hang that one on a wall somewhere. Anyhow, trees may not actually be talking to you, but its obvious at a glance that theyre talking to each other.

Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

A Word on NFC

Posted By Tim Bray

The Applepalooza today banged the payments drum pretty hard. I dunno, payments are difficult. I had a close-up view of Googles struggles with Checkout and then Wallet, and Google has way more server-side culture and expertise; so Im not holding my breath. But NFC could be a really big deal. Refresher NFC is like RFID only weaker and more constrained; it basically doesnt work unless the two NFC devices are basically right up against each other. This is a feature  you cant use it without establishing intimate contact. Its cheap! There are all sorts of NFC variations, passive and active, secure and insecure, but the cheapest, passive devices that come on rolls like tape and emit a URL or other small static data when touched, can be bought in huge quantities at vanishingly small cost.

Wed, 03 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Gear VR Video Software

Posted By Tim Bray

Heres a little look behind the scenes on the Samsung Gear VR launch; you might want to start with the nice Engadget write-up. A lot of their demos are videos you can look around in, which (it turns out) involves software from Immersive Media, a company Ive been talking to; theyre headquartered in Western Canada near me. It turns out they have an API and you can have 3-D video in your apps, with or without the Samsung headset. Immersive has been doing 3-D cameras for a decade. They were involved in Google Street View, and have participated in lots of ads and other high-glamor apps.

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 19:00:00 UTC

Women Speaking

Posted By Tim Bray

I just finished reading Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution by Laurie Penny. And while it makes me nervous as hell to write about gender issues, silence seems less acceptable every day. Meta meta meta I hadnt read much by Ms Penny but can also recommend Why I Write, a terrific piece of writing on writing with a little sidetrip into writing about writing on writing, even. If it looks a little long, theres a crystalline excerpt at laurie-penny.com; but do read the whole thing if you think of yourself as a writer. Nervous, you say? Well, yeah. When it comes to gender and feminism and power relationships and so on, there is no shortage of opinions from hyper-entitled white men (want an example?)

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 ã?q. 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. [email protected], 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

[email protected]¬: 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

[email protected]¬: 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

[email protected]¬: 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

[email protected]¬: 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

[email protected]¬: 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

[email protected]¬: 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 [email protected] 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