Unraveling Obfuscation

ob fus cate – 1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy 2. to make obscure or unclear

Archive for April, 2008

Gaping (twitter) Void

Posted by Todd McKinney on April 10, 2008

Hugh deleted his twitter account. Is the world coming to an end? Oh wait, maybe it’s not so bad.

I had to nod in agreement when I read Frederic’s take on the situation, which was a nice follow up to my laughing out loud just at the title of Steven Hodson’s analysis. The obliteration of twitter might even have been part of the equation when Hugh recently drew this:

enrich - simplify

It seems the reasoning behind it was simple. The way I parse his post is that it (twitter) is a time sink, and was getting in the way. Clearing the decks and focusing on what is truly important is a really useful exercise. I suspect this kind of cost/benefit analysis will become increasingly common and also increasingly important to each of us as the social aspects of the internet are becoming more abundant and easier to participate in with each passing day.

Not long ago, I was working on a blog post and my wife asked me “so what do you expect to get out of doing that?”. Pretty good question, and one that applies to just about everything. It’s ok if the answer is simply “personal enjoyment”, life isn’t just about making a buck. It is important for me to answer the question, however, if I’m going to have any clear sense of priorities. We’ve only got so many hours to spend. It’s certainly worth questioning the value of our purchases every once in a while.


photo (drawering) credit: Hugh


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Subdomain hijacked? Standard practice for NetworkSolutions

Posted by Todd McKinney on April 8, 2008

At the risk of this really becoming a pet peeve of mine, I just can’t keep my mouth shut about the ways that Network Solutions is pushing the edge of the envelope. This company is not content to sit back and copy what someone else is doing – not a chance. They’re innovating. It just so happens that they’re finding innovative new ways to profit at other people’s expense. Most often, it’s their own customers they take advantage of. Here’s the story on TechCrunch, I won’t bother rehashing the whole thing here.

The good news is that the grief seems to be limited to NetSol hosting customers from my limited testing so far.


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A world market for about 5 computers

Posted by Todd McKinney on April 8, 2008


The old quote commonly attributed to Thomas Watson, which he probably never made, just looks more and more relevant with every day that goes by. Pendulum swings are nothing new in technology and we seem to be on a tear towards consolidation of anything and everything into massive services in the cloud.

500 lb Gorrilas

The news about Google’s entry into this market seems pretty predictable – it’s not like you need to be the amazing Kreskin to imagine that they think cloud computing is significant. The news is also flying all over today, so it’s kind of unavoidable. If you heard there were 10,000 free signups available, they were gone pretty much immediately. There is a wait list, so if you like that sort of thing, go here.

Probably the most interesting thing to me about this development is what does it mean for developers. I really enjoyed the early perspective by Bob Warfield on the SmoothSpan blog. In response to people complaining that it’s Python only, he offers this:

…it doesn’t take Google very many languages before there are few complainers left.  Add Ruby on Rails and PHP, for example, and most of the Web 2.0 world is now in your camp.  Add Java and what’s really left?  Microsoft will be more isolated than ever on their .NET platform.

I think that is a really significant point, and it’s one that hi-lights what is really at stake here. In essence, it’s shaping up to be a platform war. The barriers to entry for platform wars of the past were creating a modern, robust operating system and gaining enough users to make the environment interesting then providing tools and an ecosystem for developers to be productive and make money. Today, it also looks like you need to build multi-billions of dollars worth of datacenter infrastructure too.

What’s in it for me?

In typical Google fashion, they have changed the game quite a bit here. It seems kind of simple, but the strategy of “free ’til you get big” is very powerful. I’ve personally been very aware of Amazon’s cloud platform and following with great interest. I’ve also not built anything using it because it would require me to commit to paying for storage and bandwidth bills. Even though it’s supposedly cheap at low volumes, I’ve not been compelled to take on that kind of commitment just to play around with something that I could maybe find useful someday. Better just to wait until I really need it to figure it out. With the Google model, there’s no hurdle. Sign me up. It might even be fun doing a little Python coding for a change.

What Microsoft will end up doing with this remains to be seen. They are undoubtedly heading for the same turf, it’s just too important to ignore. There is probably lots of really interesting cloud strategy tied up in the Yahoo acquisition. This latest development from Google definitely raises the bar. I really think that’s a good thing. Agree, disagree or think that’s all just obvious? Let me know in the comments, or over on FriendFeed.


photo (drawing?) credit Ethan Hein

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Serendipity – and new friends

Posted by Todd McKinney on April 4, 2008


How it starts

It’s really funny how easy it is to get lost in my current toolset. I’ve got 21 browser tabs open, google talk windows popping up out of nowhere, twhirl going off with news about twhirl being acquired. It just doesn’t let up. Not that I’m saying I’m overwhelmed, it’s just that sometimes I can’t exactly trace my steps when I’m concurrently following so many avenues to interesting stuff. So it always strikes me as a happy moment when I come across something really good and unexpected.

How it ends up

The thing I accidentally came across today was just pretty cool. I followed somebody’s tweet from Twhirl to twitter to who knows how many other people. Trying to get both sides of a conversation can be a challenge sometimes. Part of the conversation ended up being a fascinating series of messages from someone who’s a professional musician and also very plugged in to technology. Without really even expecting it, I found a blog and a twitter stream to subscribe to that will undoubtedly make me a better guitar player (not hard to do) and enrich my view of technology and music at the same time. Happy accident, that. This twitter thing is starting to get kinda fun.

So, with that, here’s a link to one of my new friends who doesn’t know me:

Beautiful Bass Blog

jeffschmidt on twitter

photo credit Violator3
update: careful with that flickr link for photo credit – some of it is a bit edgy


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Living in the Cloud(s)

Posted by Todd McKinney on April 2, 2008

There was a discussion going around some parts of the blogosphere late last year about data archiving. I haven’t seen much about it lately. Partially inspired by my own vulnerability to data loss, and also by sympathy for Corvida retooling due to hosting problems, I think it’s about time to bring this back up.


Same coin, two sidesimage

The original discussion from last year that I was remembering was triggered by the tragic death of Marc Orchant. Not very long afterwards, the discussion turned to the fact that it would be a shame if all his work just disappeared. Scoble and Winer both weighed in with a call to figure this out, and Frederic had a down-to-earth suggestion that we should just print what we want preserved if we really want to survive technology changes. Frederic has a pretty good point, but I would really like to have something that is a bit more discoverable over the network than a pile of paper. The paper backup is probably a really reasonable redundancy step, however.

The other side of this coin has a lot less to do with preserving a legacy for future anthropology studies, and a lot more to do with preserving our sanity in the here and now. With a lot of content that gets generated nowadays, we really have a serious lack of redundancy built in. In the age of Google and seemingly endless disk capacity out in the cloud(s), would it really be so difficult to do something like RAID 1 for web data?


So, who’s fixing this?

The one voice that I hear consistently talking about the need for a solution to this problem is John Udell. Is there anywhere else I should be looking to find the people that are diligently working to come up with an answer? I’m just starting down the road to looking into it more deeply, so any pointers would be appreciated. One thing does seem obvious about this – there’s a clear need here that seems to resonate with people. It also seems likely that if a reasonable solution was in place, it would be easy enough to find. Even if I couldn’t hunt it down I would expect that well-connected smart people like those I’ve linked to above would have come up with something. Those factors alone make this seem like an area that has a lot of potential for “innovation”. I’ve also got enough faith in our industry to expect that someone is going to knock this one out of the park (at which point we will all look back and say “gee, that was obvious”).


photo credit Kables

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Irresistible technology – the tale of two browsers

Posted by Todd McKinney on April 1, 2008

We interrupt your regularly scheduled april fools day nonsense to bring you actual blog content. There have been quite a few recent software developments that keep gently calling to me, quietly urging a switch. This has been giving me a feeling of being drawn like a moth to a flame.


photo credit ul Marga

FriendFeed definitely tops the list, and is really becoming a must-have service for me. There are some collateral needs that grow out of my recent adoption of tools like FriendFeed, however, and I’m still resisting many of them. One good example of this is Disqus. Disqus itself, I’m using, and it’s really quite valuable. That’s what makes life complicated.

Blog hosting used to be a simple question for me. I love the freedom to manipulate every detail of blog software, and I’ve been down that path a couple of times. When I started up this blog I unequivocally decided to NOT host it myself. I just know that I would spend hours fiddling and tweaking and changing things, and I’d rather just have someone else handle it. Especially when it’s free. Now, the decision doesn’t seem so simple. I can’t see a clear way to get disqus to integrate with a hosted WP blog, and probably never will. Also, despite the fact that for me blogging=RSS it seems there is a certain value to having a well done design and the standard templates just don’t quite get there. Weighed against the pain that I know comes with self-hosting, I’m still just not ready for this kind of a hassle in my life. Score one for sticking to my guns.

The point of this post, though, is a change that I just have to make. I’m switching browsers again. It’s not because Jeff thinks my browser is lame :), but what is really driving me back to Firefox as my primary browser is the terrific collection of GreaseMonkey scripts that engtech has put out for FriendFeed. I’ve installed some of these tools and tried them out. Now, I just can’t use FriendFeed without them. The autopage fetching and comment expansion is really helpful, but the Twitter improvements are really the killer feature. Fixes the default setting on the reply checkbox and includes a handy character counter. Simple, and hard to live without. Well done.

I’ve written before about my increasing concern about browser memory appetites, and FireFox certainly does its part to keep my memory fully utilized. That, and the random browser crashes are probably the things that drove me away from firefox as my default browser the last time. Still, there’s so much to love about the multitude of available plugins, and engtech just pushed me over the edge.

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