Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Three Reasons Not To Use Amazon SQS

I've seriously considered Amazon's Simple Queue Service (SQS) for a project I'm working on. That is, until I read the fine print.

1. SQS does not guarantee order which fundamentally violates the basic principle of the queue data structure.

2. SQS does not guarantee deletion of a message on the queue meaning that you must handle the case where a message could be processed twice.

3. SQS does not guarantee returning all the messages in the queue when queried.

Very disappointing. What appealed to me most was the fact that the queue service is guaranteed to always be up and running.

Here's Amazon's SQS documentation:

The following information can help you design your application to work with Amazon SQS correctly.

Message order—SQS makes a best effort to preserve order in messages, but due to the distributed nature of the queue, we cannot guarantee you will receive messages in the exact order you sent them. If your system requires that order be preserved, we recommend you place sequencing information in each message so you can reorder the messages upon receipt.

At-least-once delivery—SQS stores copies of your messages on multiple servers for redundancy and high availability. On rare occasions, one of the servers storing a copy of a message might be unavailable when you receive or delete the message. If that occurs, the copy of the message will not be deleted on that unavailable server, and you might get that message copy again when you receive messages. Because of this, you must design your application to be idempotent (i.e., it must not be adversely affected if it processes the same message more than once).

Message sampling—When you retrieve messages from the queue, SQS samples a subset of the servers (based on a weighted random distribution) and returns messages from just those servers. This means that a particular receive request might not return all your messages. Or, if you have a small number of messages in your queue (less than 1000), it means a particular request might not return any of your messages, whereas a subsequent request will. If you keep retrieving from your queues, SQS will sample all of the servers, and you will receive all of your messages. The figure below shows messages being returned after one of your system components makes a receive request. SQS samples several of the servers (in blue) and returns the messages from those servers (Message A, C, D, and B). Message E is not returned to this particular request, but it would be returned to a subsequent request.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What Every Man Wants In Bed

No, this isn't porn – it's actually better. I have got to get me one of these

Friday, December 7, 2007

Violin Playing Robot

This is pretty amazing.

Gift Cards

We gave cash, instead of a gift card, to my sister-in-law for her birthday this year. It felt slightly awkward but it saves everyone money.
These gift card charges are just wrong - what has to be maintained that requires almost $5 each month? Is it really that much trouble for Visa to hold on to its customers' funds for more than six months?

(click to enlarge)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Airline Departure vs. Actual Departure

Most people realize that, for an airline, an "on-time departure" means that the plane pushed back from the gate within 15 minutes of their scheduled departure time. Of course, the airplane may sit on the tarmac for who knows how long.

Enter one of the 'Net's best kept secrets,, which is great at displaying realtime aircraft tracking from the FAA.

UAL reports that this flight I was tracking (UAL 5744) departed seven minutes ahead of schedule. So, what time do I really need to get to the airport to pick up my wife?

Well, it turns out that the flight went wheels-up almost 25 minutes late, but it still arrived ahead of schedule.

Not bad - in reality, this flight typically takes 25 minutes from takeoff to landing.

OS Market Share

Monday, November 26, 2007

Apple Software Build Numbers

Paul Suh, from writes the following:

Have you ever wondered what the build numbers mean for Apple software? (Click on Version to get to Build to get to Serial Number then back to Version)

For instance, Mac OS X 10.4.10 Intel is build 8R2232. Mac OS X Server 10.4.11 Universal is 8S2169. These numbers have the following rough meanings:

8 - This is the major version number of the software package. 10.5 = 9, 10.4 = 8, ... 10.0 = 4. Prior to that was NextStep 3.3, from which we get the 3 series.

R - This is the minor version number. It is always incremented for system updates (i.e. 10.4.10 to 10.4.11 is always a letter jump), but may be incremented as well for hardware-specific builds. R is the 18th letter, but only the 10th update to Tiger. The other 8 letter bumps were for hardware support for new releases. Security updates generally don't merit a letter bump.

2232 - This is the sequential build number within the minor version. If it is a four-digit number, the first digit indicates a specific platform. In this case, 2 indicates that it is for Intel. A three-digit or shorter number indicates a unified build for all architectures. The remaining digits are the sequential build number. In this case, the R train had 232 builds before release, the first one being build 8R2001. Although the builds are roughly daily, you can't really go by that number. In the early stages builds may only happen once every two or three days; towards the end they may occur two or three times a day. The build trains of successive releases may overlap to a certain extent, based on what Apple Engineering sees as the priority vs. risk of various changes to the code. The earliest builds of 10.4.11 almost certainly overlapped with the last builds of 10.4.10. The builds of Leopard definitely overlapped with builds of Tiger updates, going back to almost all the way to the day after Tiger was released.

Note that different software packages have totally different build numbers, so you can't compare the build numbers to each other in a meaningful way. The exception is that Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server share the same build numbers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Christmas in Southern California

How do you know when it's Christmas in Southern California?
Starbucks switches from white to red coffee cups.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What is the deal with Asian hacking?

The hardware firewall on my mother's network was having a problem so I had her plug her computer straight into the cable modem. I realized that this isn't the best idea, but it's a Mac, so the only way someone could get in is if they guessed her username and password which were both strong.

However, I was alarmed when I took a peek at her security logs (/var/log/secure.log) to see so many attacks over SSH - primarily from from Asia (China, Korea, and India). Here's a small sample:

Nov 10 13:57:27 MacBook-Pro sshd[11704]: Invalid user admin from
Nov 10 13:57:28 MacBook-Pro sshd[11706]: Invalid user test from
Nov 10 13:57:29 MacBook-Pro sshd[11708]: Invalid user imaging from
Nov 10 13:57:31 MacBook-Pro sshd[11710]: Invalid user oracle from
Nov 10 19:20:41 MacBook-Pro sshd[12097]: Invalid user test from
Nov 10 19:20:45 MacBook-Pro sshd[12099]: Invalid user guest from
Nov 10 19:20:49 MacBook-Pro sshd[12101]: Invalid user admin from
Nov 10 19:20:53 MacBook-Pro sshd[12103]: Invalid user admin from
Nov 10 19:20:57 MacBook-Pro sshd[12105]: Invalid user user from
Nov 10 19:21:13 MacBook-Pro sshd[12116]: Invalid user test from
Nov 10 20:23:04 MacBook-Pro sshd[12152]: Invalid user apple from
Nov 10 20:23:09 MacBook-Pro sshd[12157]: Invalid user brian from
Nov 10 20:23:15 MacBook-Pro sshd[12162]: Invalid user andrew from
Nov 10 20:23:20 MacBook-Pro sshd[12167]: Invalid user newsroom from

Each attack would last between five and 20 minutes and they'd all go for the low hanging fruit such as common usernames and passwords. One solution is to simply change the SSH port from 22 to an obscure port.

I'll be keeping a close eye on those logs.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

President's Entourage

It's absolutely amazing how many people travel with the President.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Horno Fire

I was wondering if my home in Carlsbad would still be standing by the end of this week. Two wildfires came within a few miles of my house. That may not sound very close until you consider just how fast these fires moved. The previous day they easily covered 20 miles. The reverse 9-1-1 system worked very well and I received an automated call about the voluntary evacuation south of Palomar Airport Road.

I took these photos from the I-5 at Camp Pendleton as I drove home last night - about 25 minutes from my house. This fire was intentionally set as a backfire in response to a fire that originated at Horno, on Camp Pendleton, which is home to the First Marine Division. The backfire "backfired" as it got out of control and traveled west, over the mountains, to the Pacific Ocean about four miles away where it jumped the freeway.

When it hit the ocean it turned north towards the San Onofre nuclear power plant and San Clemente a few miles away. Shortly after I took these photos the I-5 was closed in both directions. Luckily, no homes have been damaged by this fire but one section of military housing, near San Clemente, was evacuated. However, inland areas around Escondido and Rancho Santa Fe have been devastated.

Total area consumed by these wildfires: Google Maps.

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wildfire Evacuation Checklist

Wildfire Evacuation Checklist

- Pack important papers
- Turn off gas
- Distance BBQ tanks
- Pet cages/carriers & food
- Leave outside lights on so FD can see your home through smoke.

__ Photographs of all family members 
__ Pets (if advance warning, take to an approved shelter) 
__ Pet ID tags 
__ Pet medications 
__ Pet leashes 
__ Pet water bowls 

__ Health insurance card 
__ Car insurance card 
__ House deed 
__ Marriage license 
__ Insurance papers 
__ Tax papers 
__ Birth certificates 
__ Drivers' licenses 
__ Legal documents 
__ Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) 
__ Computer backup disks 
__ Computers (time permitting) 

__ Check books 
__ Savings books 
__ Credit cards 
__ Cash 
__ Purse 
__ Wallet 
__ Blank checks 

__ Prescriptions 
__ Analgesics 
__ Motion sickness tablets (for pets & people) 
__ First-aid kit 
__ Prescription glasses 
__ Prescription dentures 
__ Prescription hearing aids 

__ Gold, silver, and other valuable jewelry 
__ Family heirlooms 
__ Decorations, pins, awards 

__ Photos and albums, slides, movies, home videos 
__ Family Bible 
__ Irreplaceable keepsakes 
__ Original paintings 

Food and Water (for three to seven days - if time permits)

__ Water (at least one gallon per person and pet per day) 
__ Non-perishable, ready-to-eat food 
__ Pet food 
__ Pet treats 
__ Manual can opener 

Toiletries (if time permits) 
__ Soap and towels 
__ Toothbrushes and toothpaste 
__ Shaving articles 
__ Sanitary devices 

Clothing (appropriate for the season - if time permits) 
__ Change of clothing for each person (for one to seven days) 
__ Coats and jackets 
__ Hats and caps 
__ Gloves and scarves 
__ Shoes and boots 
__ Change of underwear 
__ Sleepwear 
__ Infant supplies and toys 

Additional Items to Take (if time permits) 
__ Cell phones 
__ Reading material 
__ Recreational items 
__ First-aid kit 
__ Flashlights and extra batteries 
__ Portable radio and extra batteries 
__ Cameras and extra batteries 

__ Fill evacuation vehicle gas tank 
__ Park evacuation vehicle in the garage heading toward street and travel route 
__ Close evacuation car windows but DO NOT LOCK CAR and leave keys in ignition 
__ Close garage door but leave it unlocked (disconnect automatic garage door opener) 
__ Establish an evacuation plan, travel route, probable destination 
__ Determine where separated members will meet 
__ Follow any official agency's evacuation instructions 
__ Turn off natural gas at meter 
__ Disconnect propane tank 
__ Close or cover outside vents and shutters 
__ Remove combustible items from around the outside of the house 
__ Turn off appliances, thermostats, fireplaces, stoves 
__ Leave one light on in each general area so firefighters can see your house in dark and smoke 
__ Release any livestock in the area 
__ Close fire resistant window coverings, heavy drapes, and Venetian blinds 
__ Move overstuffed furniture away from windows 
__ Cose sliding glass doors into the center of the house (DON'T lock them) 
__ Remove lace, nylon, or light material drapes and curtains 
__ Place a ladder against the roof of the house on the side opposite the approaching fire 
__ Fill bathtubs, sinks, and containers with water 
__ Soak burlap sacks, small rugs, or large rags in containers 
__ Turn on exterior lights 
__ Lock doors and windows 
__ If instructed, tie large white cloth to front door knob 
__ Don't tie up telephone lines (notify friends and relatives by e-mail where to contact you) 
__ Make safety equipment obvious for firefighters (spigots, ladders, chain saws, hoses, etc.) 
__ Plug air vents and openings that are close to the ground 
__ Prepare an "information note" to leave on the door detailing who you are, where you have gone, where flammables are (such as lawnmower gas, ammo, chemicals - move them all into one place) 

__ Keep evacuation vehicle gas tank full 
__ Practice family fire drill and evacuation plans 
__ Practice STOP, DROP, and ROLL (should clothes catch on fire) 
__ Prepare a list of valuables to take with you (store together, if possible) 
__ Make a video of all belongings, talking about each 
__ Take still pictures of all belongings as a backup 
__ Document an annotated list of all belongings 
__ Develop outdoor water supply with hoses to reach entire house, nozzle, and pump 
__ Have fire tools, ladder, and fire extinguishers available 
__ Post name/address signs clearly visible from street or road 
__ Post load limits on access bridges 
__ Clear driveway to at least 20 feet wide with 15 feet vertical clearance (for emergency vehicles) 
__ Clear weeds and cut grass within 10 feet of structures, propane tanks, utility boxes 
__ Clear debris from roof and gutters 
__ Clear vegetation from within 3 feet of hydrants 
__ Remove trees growing through porch, deck, or roof 
__ Remove trash and debris accumulations 
__ Remove branches that overhang within 15 feet of roof and chimney 
__ Stack firewood uphill or on a contour at least 30 feet away from house 
__ Thin and prune your trees and brush 
__ Install smoke detectors and test quarterly 
__ Install only non-combustible roof material 
__ Install shutters, fire curtains, or heavy drapes on windows 
__ Install screens on foundation and eave vents 
__ Install enclosed sides on stilt foundations and decks 
__ Install chimney screen or spark arrestor 

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Photo Copyright

When a photographer snaps a photo, he or she owns the copyright to that photo. The copyright is secured upon creation of the work by the artist.

So, if I'm traveling with my family on vacation and I have a stranger take our family photo, should I get the stranger to sign a release?

Of course, this is a non-issue, but I could easily see a rare case that would capture the media's attention.

Friday, October 5, 2007

What Good is OpenID?

Wikipedia says the following about OpenID:

OpenID is a decentralized single sign-on system. Using OpenID-enabled sites, web users do not need to remember traditional authentication tokens such as username and password. Instead, they only need to be previously registered on a website with an OpenID "identity provider..."

Here's how it's suppose to work... you create a profile at one OpenID server and then all other Web sites that use OpenID can refer back to the original OpenID server where you created your ID.

So, after a week of trying it out I've discovered that, generally speaking, each site that hosts an OpenID server will want you to use their own OpenID server.

I reached this conclusion when I created an OpenID profile at and then, several days later, I need to go through the whole process again at

Sure, I'm probably misunderstanding how OpenID is suppose to work - so don't hesitate to correct my misperceptions.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Is that iTunes on Verizon's New Phone?

Nope, that's not iTunes. The similarity is just an amazing coincidence.

Apple Dashboard: No Stock Quotes

What happened to Apple's Stock Quote Dashboard Widget? It stopped working yesterday - obviously a server issue.
I'm wondering if this is related to Leopard's forthcoming release or, perhaps is no longer providing Apple with their quote data.

First, NBC now - when will it end!

Update 1: After digging through the widget, it seems that the call it's making to the following URL which is returning no content:

If your widget looks fine, try restarting it by clicking on it and pressing cmd-R.

Update 2: After 36 hours it's working again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The New AT&T

The new AT&T looks a lot like the old AT&T:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Year In the Life of a Startup

An interesting read with lots of details on a first year startup:

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Humanity Destined Since Big Bang

A simple theory is that, since the Big Bang, humanity has been predetermined to exist.

Let's presume no intervention by a supernatural being and also, let's presume consistent physical laws from a macro (newtonian) through a micro (quantum) level.

For systems with a small number of particle interactions, for example our solar system, we can predict with great accuracy, eclipses, phases of the moon, and sunrise & sunset. To predict these, we only need to concern ourselves with three objects (Earth, sun, and the moon).

But, for us to calculate systems with many more particles, such as the weather on Earth, it becomes more difficult. Although the roll of a die may seem random, it's not - we just can't calculate all the variables involved.

Let's suppose, for argument sake, that there is no other life in the universe. That would mean, since the Big Bang, 15 billion years ago, that intelligent, sentient and sapient life was destined to arise on Earth.

Considering that a universe (or any system) devoid of life would be devoid of free will, then the first life evolving anywhere in our universe was destined to happen.

Which raises an interesting point about free will. If an entire human's existence is destined by the laws and interactions of physics how do we generate true randomness which we call free will?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

iPhone SMS Mailbox Almost Full????

How can an iPhone, with gigabytes of free memory, complain that the SMS mailbox is almost full? Give me a break, it's SMS for goodness sake!

We're talking bytes, individual bytes - as in eight bits to a byte. What is this, 1983, when 16K was a virtue? Are the other 17,179,869,184 free bits in my iPhone too good to store plain old bytes that represent ASCII text? How snobbish.

I sure would love to archive the SMSes before I delete them off the phone.

Interesting Thought on Consumerism

Here's an interesting thought:

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

iChat: Too Much Information

What happens if you select all your buddies in iChat and then do a cmd-I?

That's almost as scary as pressing ctrl-option-cmd-8 at the same time.

Luckily, option-clicking on any of iChat's red (close window) buttons quickly resolves the issue in an animated way.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wireless Keyboard & Mouse Companion

I hate battery operated devices that don't have rechargeable batteries. I tried getting by with devices which took AA batteries by using rechargeable AA batteries, but it was a pain since they have about 1/4 the life span of non-rechargeable batteries plus you need to keep the recharger handy.

So, when I heard about the USB Cell on a Podcast, I had to get it. It's a simple rechargeable AA battery which can be recharged by plugging it into a USB port. Brilliant!

I keep one battery in my wireless mouse and the other battery is plugged into one of my computer's USB hubs. Low battery warning from the mouse? problem, just swap the batteries.

After using this handy device for several months I'm sold on it. (I no affiliation with this company other than being a satisfied customer.)

[ digg this ]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Apple Software Update On Windows

How come the Apple Software Update on Windows XP doesn't say:
Downloading (12.70000000000001 MB / 22.399999999999912 MB)?

[ digg this ]

Lies, Damn Lies, & Statistics

Stats like this really need to cite their sources to have any real creditability:

While I don't doubt the meat of these stats, I'd like to know how old it is. For example, does it include Duke Cunningham who's no longer a Congressman, etc? Also, accused is a very weak word - does that mean accused in a police report or court of law or is it like when my wife accuses me of being a pig? (bad example, since the ladies are saying, "All men are pigs.")

Also, to say "little more than 500 employees" is like saying a fighter squadron only has 30 or 50 people since that's how many fighter pilots there are in a squadron. Never mind the support staff to run the Congress or a squadron.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

E*Trade Dies As Fed Cuts Interest Rates

CNN Reports:

Unfortunately, E*Trade can't handle the load. At first, I couldn't get past the login page; now I can't even get the home page:

I guess the timer for their guaranteed two-second execution doesn't start until you can login and place the order.

[ digg this ]

Friday, September 14, 2007

Good Deal?

Which is the better deal: The Annual Professional Courtesy Rate or the Annual Professional Courtesy Rate?

(click to enlarge)

[ digg this ]

Chop Chop

Every time I sit at this table, in the local cafe, I see these chopsticks out of the corner of my eye and I keep wanting to move them to the side of the table.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Powerball Winner's Nightmare

This guy has had nothing but trouble since winning $315M five years ago. For example, "At a strip club, thieves broke into his Lincoln Navigator and stole a briefcase stuffed with $245,000 in $100 bills and three $100,000 cashiers checks."
Full story

digg story

Happy Programmer's Day

Today is the 256th day of the year - that makes it Programmer's Day.

Where the Wikipedia article? It used to be there.

[ digg this ]

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ultra Tiny Apartment

There's this ultra-tiny apartment a couple blocks from where we live in Capitola. It's situated on the corner of a small apartment complex parking lot and it's really an apartment - not a utility or storage building.

I wonder who lives in this 150 sq-ft building?

digg story

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Text Messaging at 35,000 Feet

Text messaging with people on a airplane allows you to flirt with other passengers not seated in your row (as long as the passenger in front of you doesn't mind some poking on the back of their seat).

This looks like it could be fun - at least until the novelty wears off.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Apple Passes Google In Market Value

Today, Apple, worth $120B, passed Google, worth $119B.

read more | digg story

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Never Get Out of the Boat." - Apocalypse Now

"Never delete Safari." - Joe Moreno

Sounds obvious, but I never considered how important Safari is on Mac OS X (or having at least one Web browser) - especially since Mac OS X doesn't ship with any other Web browser.

Something happened to my father-in-law's iMac and Safari went missing. They're not sure if maybe they deleted it and emptied the trash or if the 10.4.10 update failed.

Regardless of how it happened - Safari was gone.

I tried, unsuccessfully, to curl to get the URL for their download page but I gave up after about 30 minutes of parsing HTML and redirects with my eyes.

I was pretty stumped - I wanted to solve this problem right there on the spot without going home and downloading a DMG to a thumb drive.

As luck would have it, earlier that day, I had downloaded and installed both Safari 3.0b (public beta) and Firefox on one of my servers back home so I AFP'd into the servers and pulled the DMGs out of the trash.

So, I expected the story to end there after downloading both Web browsers. But, for some odd reason, only Firefox would install and run. Safari 3.0b installed couldn't be installed on the 10.4.10 volume. Well, at least having any Web browser is better than none - and Firefox isn't a bad one to have.

Once Firefox was installed I went to and re-downloaded Safari 3.0b but it still wouldn't install. The installer simply said that Safari couldn't be installed on the Macintosh HD volume. So, I looked for Safari 2 to download. It seems that Apple not longer offers Safari 2.x as a download??? - only 2.x updates are available or the public beta of Safari 3.0.

Since my father-in-law was used to the Safari UI I downloaded Webkit and tried to install that. But, Webkit doesn't work without Safari. So, I manually copied the Safari 3.0b app onto my father-in-law's computer, via AFP, from my server. Although the Safari 3.0b app wouldn't run (it just bounced and then crashed with an undefined symbol error) it was enough to get Webkit up and running. Webkit was now working but not Safari - very odd.

I still wasn't satisfied so I manually downloaded System/Frameworks/WebKit.framework but that didn't fix the problem.

In the end, I remembered that I still had a server with Safari 2.04 and I manually copied that app to my father-in-law's computer and all seems to be working well.

Two questions come to mind:
Why couldn't I install Safari 3.0b on a 10.4.10 iMac?
Does Apple still offer Safari 2.x as a full download?

[digg this]

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Midlife Crisis

On my 40th birthday (Aug 4) I jumped out of a plane from two miles above Long Island. Accompanying me were my mother (actually, it was her idea to go) and my wife.

Friday, August 17, 2007


You have to treat yourself right.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mom Skydiving (Not bad for 72 years old)

August 4, 2007 - East Moriches: Two miles above Long Island:

Friday, August 10, 2007

Three Years of Windows Uptime

I have an old Windows NT machine running a mail server which I only use when the main mail server goes down.

I couldn't remember the last time I rebooted it so I checked its uptime tonight:
26,850 hours of uptime.

Click to enlarge

Full screenshot:

digg this

Monday, August 6, 2007

Blood Chit

What happens when you're shot down over enemy territory? U.S. Service Members carry what is known as a Blood Chit. Blood Chits have been around for centuries.
Basically, it's a notice, written in several languages, that members of the armed forces can present to local nationals in order to receive assistance. In return for the assistance the service member will tear off a corner of the Blood Chit which has a specific serial number that the local national can turn in for a reward.

Blood Chit from one of my flights.
(Click to enlarge)

digg this

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Safari Thwarts "DoS" JavaScript

I hate seeing the spinning beach-ball of death (sbod) when surfing Web sites with Safari; especially when I'm forced to quit Safari to fix the problem.

While surfing with Safari 3.02 beta I noticed the beach ball again, but, this time, after about 60 seconds, this window popped up:


Friday, July 27, 2007

iPhone Model Differences?

In addition to these physical difference's between some models of the iPhone, I came across another one today.

It seems, on the older model iPhones, when someone calls, and you have their photo in your address book, a thumbnail of the caller shows up in the upper right corner of the screen. But, on the newer model iPhones, instead of just a thumbnail, the caller's full size photo is displayed on the entire screen.

What does your iPhone do?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Apple to Sell 19,440,000 iPhones in Q4

Today, Apple Inc announced that they sold 270K iPhones in the last 30 hours of third quarter.

It isn't hard to extrapolate from this number to figure out what Apple will sell in its Q4 '07:
90 days x 24 hrs / 30 hours x 270,000 = 19,400,000.

It's just basic math.

digg this

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Different Versions of the iPhone on the Market?

What's the difference between the iPhone with the bell symbol on the silent/ringer switch and those iPhones without the bell symbol? Several things seem to indicated that the phones without the bell image are an older model despite the fact that all iPhones report the same build and version in their software.

Why was the bell symbol added?
The bell symbol was added to make it easier to see the silent/ringer button. Without the bell symbol, you can't easily tell which position the switch is in when you don't see the orange dot. In other words, at a glance, you may find yourself trying to flip the switch both ways until you get it right.

Sloppy Buttons
Clicking the buttons on the newer phones, with the bell image, feels clean and crisp. The tactile feedback on the new phones make a big difference - you can feel the solid click. On the older versions, the sleep/wake button is flushed against the phone and you really can't feel it turn on and off.

Functional difference
The most notable functional difference also relates to the silent/ringer functionality. On the models without the bell symbol, when the phone is in sleep mode and you flip the silent/ringer switch, the screen does not turn on. However, on the models with the bell symbol, the screen does turn on, briefly, to give the user visual feedback that the phone has been switched from one mode to the other.

All of these differences, except for the last one, are aesthetics which would indicate that there's a clear difference in the software builds as well as the industrial design. I would imagine, during a future software update for the iPhone, that all versions would be updated so that the screen on all the models turns on, briefly, when flipping the silent/ringer switch.

Update: It seems I was wrong about the functional differences - there actually appear to be none. My mistake.

digg it

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pale Blue Dot

Obviously, the universe is big - but, just how insignificant is humanity and our world in the big scheme of things?

It was Carl Sagan's idea to turn Voyager's camera back toward the planet that launched the spacecraft in order to reveal to that planet's inhabitants their "true circumstance and condition." After much resistance, Dr. Sagan prevailed, and on February 14, 1990, from a distance of 6.4 billion kilometers, Voyager 1 captured this image of our Earth. Here the entire world fills only 0.12 pixel and appears as a tiny crescent of light. The apparent rays of light are not sunbeams, but scattering off the camera's optics, a result of pointing it so close to the Sun. Now one of the most famous images ever taken from space, this humbling perspective of our beloved home is a part of Dr. Sagan's invaluable legacy.

The Earth, near the middle of the top band of light, is barely visible in this scaled down image.

(Click to enlarge)

Hear Carl Sagan describe it in his own words:

digg this

Monday, July 16, 2007

Unlocking the iPhone Could be Impossible

Unlike mobile phones made by traditional GSM handset manufactures such as Motorola and Nokia, the iPhone could prove to be very difficult or virtually impossible to unlock from AT&T's network.

My thinking is that Apple designed the current iPhone model to work specifically (and only) with AT&T Mobility (formerly Cingular). Other handset manufactures generally design a handset to work on any GSM network - after all GSM is a global standard - then they put in a software lock which can be unlocked with a code.

What if Apple put a digitally signed hardware lock into the iPhone's ROM?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Belkin Case Scratches iPhone

When I bought my iPhone I also purchased a Belkin acrylic case to protect the phone. The irony is that the case scratches the phone where the plastic comes in contact with the iPhone.

Has anyone else seen this problem?

It took me a couple days to figure out why the phone scratches were increasing. Now, I no longer use the case, but I'm wondering if it's possible to buff out the scratches.

Click to enlarge image

Although it doesn't come through in this photo - the scratches are very noticeable since it's on the shiny chrome part of the phone. I know, I'm whining, but, damn, you'd expect a case to protect the phone not to damage it.

Update: It seems I was a little slow to notice that this is a known problem.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Literally an iPhone Hearing

During today's House Subcommittee hearing on Telecommunications and the Internet, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) used an iPhone, as a prop, in his remarks. His comments hit the nail on the head when he asked that the same conditions that applied to the 1968 Carterfone ruling also be applied today to the US wireless carriers (in other words, the right to attach any device to a wireless carrier's network as long as it does no harm).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

iPhone to include everything + kitchen sink.

According to this blogger's posting, iPhone will do it all very soon.

read more | digg story

iPhone Congressional Hearings Already?

The guy, in the video, below, isn't the best presenter, but he touches on some valid points.

Basically, he's talking about the oligopoly that the big four wireless carriers have in the US (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, & T-Mobile). They dictate to the handset makers and service providers what content and features can be made available on their network.

It's referred to as the "iPhone hearings" because the iPhone, which uses a SIM card, is technically capable of working on any GSM network in the world, but AT&T has dictated to Apple that it must be locked to the AT&T network. This is a common practice, but, since the iPhone launch has received more attention than probably any other consumer electronic product, it's brought the issue front and center into the limelight.

Consumers - non-ATT customers - want this product but can't get it since they use T-Mobile, or some other wireless provider. This is similar to buying a Dell computer and being told that it will only work with Comcast high-speed broadband. Or, being told that a certain type and brand of TV will only work with NBC.

These issues are generally referred to as "network neutrality" and "right to attach".

Details here.

Just how easy-to-use is an iPhone?

So easy a one year old can use it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Steve Jobs - The Man With No License Plate?

Most employees at Apple have heard the rumor that Steve Jobs' car doesn't have a license plate on it.

But, is it really true?

Here's an actual photo of Steve Jobs' car in the Apple parking lot. The car has a barcode in place of its license plate.

Anyone know how that works?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Charge iPhone Using FireWire

I put my old FireWire wall charger to good use - it's sitting on my night stand charging my iPhone while I sleep. After all, I'd hate to be more than a few feet away from it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

iPhone IM Chat w/o Logging Into 3rd Party App

Just a quick reminder. You can instant message between iChat/AIM and the iPhone (or any SMS capable phone) by starting an iChat conversation with any US/Canada cell phone number (+1-xxx-xxx-xxxx). Response time is amazingly fast.

In iChat, click the + at the bottom left of your buddy list and then click the New Person button. Simply add their phone number (with the +1) as their Instant Messaging user name and your all set.

The phone number must appear in your buddy list with the leading "+":

Friday, June 29, 2007

Tales of Buying the First iPhone

I was debating whether I was going to wait on line for hours to get an iPhone today. On my way to a lunch meeting in San Jose I stopped by the local Cingular/AT&T store (one of only two in all of Santa Cruz county) and I saw that there were only about 15 people on line. I called Laura and told her to grab a spot on line for a couple hours until I could relieve her after my meeting. Just before noon I visited an Apple retail store in San Jose and the line had a couple hundred people already queued up so I figured that it was probably a bad bet to wait at an Apple retail store.

Laura was on line by 11:30 am and I showed up at 2:30 pm to take her spot to await the 6 pm "witching hour" when they iPhone sales' would commence. Guess what? Ms. Impatient wouldn't give up her spot! She was actually enjoying it! Laura was about 25th in line and there were about 20 people behind her so she told me to go to the end of the line – that way we could buy two iPhones since it was one per person at the AT&T stores (at the Apple retail stores it was two per person).

So, I queued up at the end of the line. There were plenty of people walking by who didn't know why there was a crowd camped out in the middle of the mall (we refer to them as "civilians") - when they asked me what all the fuss was about I told them that Paris Hilton was in one of the stores signing autographs.

The geek factor, of the people on the line, wasn't too bad. One group near the front of the line had a video projector and played Star Wars - in its entirety - by projecting it on the ceiling.

Click image to enlarge

At 6 pm the AT&T store reopened and the first batch of seven customers dashed in. It seemed to take forever until the first, ecstatic, iPhone owner emerged. I couldn't understand what took so long since the only thing that needed to be done was to pay for the phone. Activating the phone is done at home through iTunes. Finally, after 15 minutes the first customer pranced out of the store to a round of cheers.

After waiting for an hour after the store reopened it was Laura's turn. She literally darted into the store – a distance of about six feet.

So, at this point, we knew that one us was about to become an iPhone owner. As I neared the door to the store the AT&T manager came out and announced, "At this point, I only have nine units remaining."
Panic choked everyone around me. I quickly counted nine - exactly nine - people in front of me. As I counted, people started dissecting the manager's announcement with follow up questions, "Does that nine include the people in the store or is it in addition to the people in the store?"
He said he wasn't exactly sure because the inventory was moving so fast.

BP 160 over 110, pulse 170 and rising with tunnel vision.

Laura emerged with her iPhone in hand. I whispered to her, "They going to run out right around me!"
There was only one person in front of me, at this point, and he asked Laura how much he could pay her for her iPhone if they ran out. But, a moment later, he was invited in. A few minutes later another employee emerged. I thought it was to make a follow up announcement, but, instead, he walked over to me and introduced himself as Dave as he escorted me into the store - with Laura in tow.
"Do you have any 8 GB left in stock?", I exclaimed.
Just as I said that, another sales rep picked up an unopened 8 GB iPhone and started to bring it to the back of the store. Dave called to her and grabbed it as he told me, "This is the last one."

I couldn't believe it - I just made it! After waiting for more than five hours I was the last one to receive an 8 GB iPhone. Whew! Had one more person been in line my only option would have been to place a backorder which would have been shipped to my house. The backorder option would have been a faster alternative than waiting for the store's resupply stock.

The Apple online store reports a 2 - 4 week lead time for orders placed through the company's Web site.

Had Laura not gone to wait on line at 11:30 this morning neither of us would have an iPhone. Thanks, honey!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

No DRM Free Songs for Sale on eBay?

Remember a few years ago when an iTunes song was resold on eBay after some brouhaha? It was deemed too impractical due to DRM. How come we haven't seen anyone resell an iTunes Plus song without DRM? First Sale doctrine should make this easy.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

David Pouge On UI Design

In the TED conference video, NYT tech journalist compares UI designs between the Mac, Windows, and Palm.

read more | digg story

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Where did that spam e-mail come from?

The way you can tell where an e-mail originated from is to look at the e-mail's headers. The default headers show To, From, cc, Subject, & Date. To see all the headers, you need to select Show All or Long Headers. Here's how to do it on Mac OS X's Mail application:

By revealing all the headers you can see each hop the e-mail message made to get to from the originator to you.

Each time an e-mail makes a hop, from the sender to the recipient, it is stamped with the information of the relaying server. A typical e-mail will have two to five hops and each hop will be stamped Received: showing where the relaying mail server received the e-mail. The first Received hop, at the bottom of the list, is usually where the e-mail originated and each successive hop is added above the previous hop. Of course these hops can be spoofed, but that's usually not necessary for a spammer since they highjack people computers (details below).

Most ISPs (except for Google and a few others) will stamp the sender's original IP address on the first hop - even if the e-mail was sent using Web mail.

Here's a perfect example of a phising spammer's e-mail claiming to be sent from PayPal.
(click on image to enlarge - blue highlighted area shows the IP address of the highjacked computer - actual recipient's e-mail address redacted for privacy)

The e-mail should have originated on PayPal's network but, instead, it originated somewhere in Brazil ( Here's the text from its first received header, where the message orginated:
Received: from ( [] (may be forged)) by (Xserve/smtpin36/MantshX 4.0) with SMTP id l5ND6ElW020957 for <>; Sat, 23 Jun 2007 06:06:16 -0700 (PDT) is clearly not

Hard To Catch
It's hard to catch spammers because they highjack unsuspecting personal computers throughout the world. In virtually all cases, these are Windows computers which have been infected with viruses, worms, and spyware. Each highjacked computer is used to send out fake e-mails (spam) to thousands of people without their knowledge before or after the fact. Some of these fraudulent e-mails claim to be from legitimate companies - especially financial institutions such as PayPal and banks.

The purpose of most of these phishing e-mails is get the recipient to click on a link in the e-mail which looks like it'll take the user to their financial institution but, instead, it redirects the user to a Web site which looks exactly like the real thing. From there, a user will enter their account login and password and then click submit, which submits the user's login and password to the spammer's server. Once the spammer has a user's login and password, they can log into that user's real account and do what they please.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Love/Hate AT & T

When it comes to AT&T, I love their top of the line business DSL with five static IPs. I recently had a technical problem where a route to a Web site only worked on two of my five static IPs due to a misconfigured AT&T router. The technical support staff was outstanding as we troubleshot the problem, together, on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and, finally Monday, when the problem was fixed.
Although it was a bear to track down where the problem was, it certainly wasn't a show stopper, so their attention to the problem was greatly appreciated.

That's the love part.

The hate part is when I receive my AT&T phone bill and see that basic phone service costs $5.70/month but caller ID costs $7.99 and it's going up to $9.99 in mid July. My mother-in-law and father-in-law have more than 50 years of combined time employed at that company and they know how simple it is to provide a customer with dial tone service. Ten dollars/month seems a bit excessive for caller ID.

New Capitola Data Center

Top Row (L-R): Database Server, App Server, App Server, Web server
Middle Row: Ink Jet Printer, GSM Modem, Fax
Bottom Row: USB Drive, NAT Router, Gateway Router, Network Switch

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How to Make the iPhone Location Aware

About five or six years ago I did wireless development on the Palm VII and Palm i705. These wireless apps were similar in design concept to a Mac OS X Dashboard Widget - except the apps were just HTML (no CSS or JS). The really cool thing was you could put a proprietary tag in your HTML form which told the cell tower repeater to embed its ZIP code in the HTML form submission on its way to your Web server.

You could just hit AutoFind in, for example, the Starbucks app and it would show you the closest Starbucks cafes without you needing to know your ZIP code. Very handy - plus, a user could block this feature if they wanted privacy. Obviously, this isn't good enough for navigation, but it's a start in the right direction without adding the costs of GPS electronics to the iPhone's price tag.

Unfortunately, Palm shut down its service in 2004. I believe the Palm VII originally retailed for $599 and it used Cingular's network at a blazing 9600 baud. (I think only people over 30 use the word baud anymore.)

Does anyone know if this feature (ZIP code embedding) is still available on other mobile platforms?

Joel Compares Apple vs Microsoft Fonts

At some point, the resolution of a display can't properly render fonts. So, which do you prefer, blurry or pixelated? Either way, there are tradeoffs.

read more | digg story

Sunday, June 10, 2007

High Level Politics

High level politics is about access - meaning access to power by those who support their candidate. If my friend is running for president I will vote for him since I have access to him.

This is one reason why incumbents typically win reelections. This is also why Governor George W. Bush was nominated over Senator John McCain for the 2000 Republican Party primary. Since George W. Bush is the son of a former president this gives the first Bush's former supporters access to the current presidency.

Using this reasoning, Senator Hillary Clinton stands the best chance of getting the Democratic Party nomination for the 2008 presidential election. Her election to president gives former President Bill Clinton's supporters access to President Hillary Clinton.

But, the Democrats face an obvious wildcard among its two current front runners (Senators Clinton and Obama). Despite my reasoning are Americans ready to elect either the first woman or first African-American president?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

God Bless The Convertible

When the new patio set won't fit in the Honda Accord (much like the BBQ) then it's time to turn to the VW Bug convertible.