Category > Opinion

Ideas of March

15 March 2011 » In Beer, Me, Opinion, PHP, Tech » 20 Comments

I miss blogging and the conversations that used to go with it. My friend Chris Shiflett probably feels the same way, because he is trying to start a blog revival with his Ideas of March post.

I used to blog much more actively, but with Twitter gaining momentum in early 2008 I found it easier to fire off a quick thought, observation, funny link, or another short piece there rather than put it on my blog. It helped building up an audience on Twitter was much faster due to the one-click nature of creating relationships and keeping track of content. I feel that the problem of doing the same for blog conversations has not yet been solved, despite services like Disqus.

Still, I think regular blogs are still relevant and valuable, because they do what the microblogging services cannot. Here are a few reasons why I like blogs:

  • Blog posts usually present a more complete and rounded point of view rather than a quip.
  • Blog posts require time to research, ruminate on, and rewrite before publishing, which leads to higher quality content.
  • They are indexed by a real search engines (Google), rather than the half-baked solution Twitter uses that cannot search more than 2 weeks in the past.
  • Posts can be saved to Instapaper or a similar service.

I want to get back to blogging, but a couple of things are slowing me down. Most of the things that I like to blog about fit into 3 broad areas: tech stuff — coding, architecture, interesting problems and solutions to them, etc; opinion pieces on various topics; and food & drink. So far I have been mixing them all in one blog, because I am not sure if it’s worth breaking out each one into a separate blog on the main site or even into a different site. I would be really interested to know if people mind reading mixed content like that or if they prefer more compartmentalized approach. I also want a better design for my blog, because I don’t feel that the current one allows me to present richer content well, like embedding photos, videos, code samples, and so on. Hopefully, I can find a designer who can help me with that.

In the end, really, it’s all about overcoming inertia and actually writing posts rather than just thinking about them. So I promise to write at least 2 blog posts before the end of March and resolve the abovementioned issues soon to help me blog more.

The blogs are dead. Long live the blogs.

Chrome Not Quite Shiny Yet

27 June 2010 » In Opinion, Tech » 7 Comments

A month ago I decided to stop using Firefox as my main browser, because I was becoming frustrated with its sluggishness and general stability issues. I wanted to give a new, modern browser a chance and Google Chrome seemed like the most fitting choice. I’ve been using it diligently and exclusively since then and wanted to share some good and not so good things that I found out after a month of daily usage. The caveat is that I’ve only used it on the Mac platform, so my findings may differ for Windows/Linux users.

  1. It’s fast and stable. Pages load quite a bit faster, if only perceptually. And while the memory usage is not that much lower than FF’s – after all, those DOM trees and images have to go somewhere – I have never had to force-quit (or even just quit) Chrome the way I had to with FF after a couple of days. This is a big win in my book.
  2. The built-in developer tools are nice, but are not quite as good as Firebug, it seems. I will have to try them out on a project before I can say this with certainty.
  3. There is a lack of integration with 3rd-party tools and websites I used with FF, mainly 1Password and Delicious. Yes, there are Chrome alpha/beta extensions for both, but I miss the full functionality the FF versions offered. Hope the vendors hurry up and bring them up to feature parity.
  4. I miss the quick search engine access that FF has in the upper right corner. That’s how I searched Amazon, Wordreference.com, and several other sites. I can’t find an equivalent in Chrome.
  5. There is no way to configure proxy settings through Chrome itself. You have to use a command-line parameter (who does that on a Mac though?), an extension, or do it through OS X’s System Preferences.
  6. It’s from Google. So it’s just what I’ve come to expect from their products – great engine and features combined with some usability problems and a lack of polish.

Overall, I’m pleased with Chrome and will continue using it as my main browser unti something better comes along.

Update: As the comments below indicate, it is possible to configure and use various search engines from the “omnibox”, aka the search bar. Right click and select Edit Search Engines.

I Used DMCA

22 April 2009 » In Opinion, PHP, Talks » 30 Comments

Yes, it’s true.

A recent post on Twitter from @atourino pointed to my VIM for (PHP) Programmers slidedeck on scribd.com. The slidedeck has been really popular, gathering close to 50,000 views, 2,500 downloads, a few dozen favorites ratings, and a “Hot” award. Good deal, eh? Except that I didn’t upload this slidedeck—someone else did.

Scribd’s about page describes it as the place “where you publish, discover and discuss original writings and documents”. I’ve used it in the past to find all kinds of documents and there’s a lot to like about the site, but the keyword here is “original”. I really don’t mind sharing the slides—heck, I tell everyone at conferences to download them from my site—but on my Talks page I specifically ask people to obtain permission before re-publishing the slides elsewhere. It’s not a difficult thing to do. So far I’ve resisted putting a copyright notice on every slide, because I was hoping the common sense would apply, but apparently not for everyone.

I contacted Scribd’s customer support to see how I could take the ownership of the document in question. They replied that I would have to submit a DMCA copyright infringement notice and ask for the document to be taken down. I understand that this is their policy, but I think this is going overboard, especially for a case like mine. I really wanted to handle this in a polite manner and in such a way that people’s links to the document wouldn’t break instead of doing the dickish move of demanding it be removed completely. At the same time, I feel that the person who uploaded my slides without permission was wrong. Thus, I had no choice but to send the DMCA notice along with a request for the document to be re-assigned to me.

I would encourage everyone to be more careful in handling publicly available content. Please check for any restrictions on usage and publishing, and if in doubt—ask. This will help avoid resorting to heavy-handed stuff like DMCA notices.

Good Obamorning!

05 November 2008 » In Opinion » 2 Comments

Yes, we can. Yes, we did. And yes, we will.

I spent last night at the Digg/CurrentTV election party, surrounded by friends, having drinks and anxiously awaiting the results of this historic election. The atmosphere was electric – you could practically feel the positive energy flowing through everyone there. A few seconds before the 8 pm poll deadline, the crowd started chanting the countdown, and when it hit and Obama’s electoral vote count jumped to 297… the place went crazy, exploding into shouts, cheers, and whoops of jubilation, and I could feel myself shedding a few tears.

Never before have I been this affected by a political event or issue. I am not yet a citizen, so I cannot vote, but I am proud that people who can finally made the right choice by electing Barack Obama, the first African-American to be the President of the United States. This is a man of extraordinary moral character, intelligence, and judgement, who overcame racial prejudice, claims of inexperience, outlandish rumors and many other obstacles in this long campaign. He is an agent of change, and this is precisely what this country and its people need in these trying times.

The only thing that marred an otherwise joyful evening was the news that California Proposition 8 passed. It’s terrible that such bigotry and prejudice is still out there. The fight against it must continue. Yes, we can.

Immigrants Live Longer

26 May 2004 » In Opinion » 6 Comments

Well, the cat is out of the bag. This article talks about a study that determined that immigrants in the U.S. live about 3 years longer on average than their U.S. born counterparts. I’ve long suspected this, since from my experiences people in Europe and other parts of the world are generally more physically fit and less reliant on drive-everywhere-and-through-everything mentality that plagues this nation.

The Oil We Eat

18 March 2004 » In Opinion » 5 Comments

February issue of Harper’s magazine features a great article by Richard Manning entitled The Oil We Eat that delivers an indictment against the modern day agribusiness and its contribution to the depletion of the planet’s energy reserves. Manning draws well-argued conclusions and after I was done reading I had to sit and think for a while about what we’ve gotten ourselves into. Some startling facts from the article:

1. Humans capture 40 percent of primary productivity of the planet.

2. It takes 5.5 gallons of fossil energy to replace one year’s worth of lost fertility per acre. In 1997 we burned 400 years worth of ancient fossilized productivity.

3. By 1960 the supply of unfarmed arable lands stopped increasing. Between then and now world population doubled.

4. Green revolution led to heavy use of fertilizers and took a heavy toll on water supplies.

5. In 1940 the average farm in the US provided 2.3 calories of food energy for each calorie of fossil energy. In 1974 the balance reached the brake-even point.

6. David Pimentel (Cornell University) says that if the entire world were to eat the way Americans do, we would exhaust all known world fossil-fuel reserves in 7 years. His detractors say he is off about 30 percent. “Fine. Make it ten years”.

7. Corn, wheat, hay and soybeans cover 82 percent of American farmland and they are not food as such, but commodities and require heavy outlay of more energy to become food.

8. Sugar consumption increased by 500 percent in England between 1860 and 1890. One sixth of nutrition came from sugar, the same as Americans today.

9. Archer Daniels Midland developed a high-fructose corn syrup in the early 70’s as the key ingredient in 3/4 of all processed food. This plague selects the poor, who eat the most processed food.

10. Eighty percent of all grain in the US goes to feed livestock.

11. Present trends: Mexico fed 5 percent of its grain to livestock in 1960; today it is 45 percent. For Egypt these numbers are 3 percent to 31 percent. In China, 8 percent to 26 percent. The observation, that the prairie grasses could support more bison before the prairies were brought under cultivation than beef farming today on the same area of land, if true, is noteworthy.

Everyone needs to read and understand this, whether you are a vegetarian, beef-eater, member of Greenpeace, or a rural farmer.

Wardrobe Malfunction

01 February 2004 » In Opinion » 7 Comments

I do not follow regular sports throughout the season but I do make an effort to watch the SuperBowl, mostly for the commercials. This 38th installment was suprisingly good and ended with Patriots winning in the same way as they did their first one – by a last-minute field goal.

I wish I could have watched the Lingerie Bowl during halftime; alas, no sputnik TV means no lingerie models playing tackle football. But the MTV-produced regular halftime show had perhaps more nudity after all. Janet Jackson got exposed thanks to Justin Timberlake (finally he’s good for something). I don’t see what the big deal is, but this should give FCC chairman Michael “My Daddy Is Secretary of State” Powell a hefty stick to beat down on the already puritanical broadcasting industry.

And so, was Janet’s bosom the “mystery performer” then? And we’ll probably never learn whether the “accident” was in fact approved by CBS.

Space Missions

09 January 2004 » In Opinion » 12 Comments

From an Associated Press article:

President Bush will announce plans next week to send Americans to Mars and establish a permanent human presence on the moon.

The Mars and the Moon? Why doesn’t he concentrate on the budget deficit and other things plaguing the country? Because this is nothing but a sweeping promise in an election year, so don’t count on much happening. It just frustrates me to no end that the space exploration is still within the government’s purview. The NASA is continually underfunded and even with the funds in hand they have a high rate of failures and flops and no clear goals for the future. The rate of space development could have been so migh higher had it been more open to private companies. This is 21st century after all, it’s time to stop monopolizing the industry! That’s an election promise that could work.

Language Instinct

06 January 2004 » In Opinion, Tech » 5 Comments

Simon Willison writes:

Looking back on 2003, one thing really stuck out for me: I didn’t learn a new programming language. The Pragmatic Programmers recommend learning at least one new language every year. . .

One new language every year? I have to question the validity of this advice. Programming language is just a tool, after all – the important thing is the knowledge of algorithms, complexity theory, data structures, protocols, and general computer science problem solving. The differences between mainstream languages may be significant, but the commonalities are overwhelming. The same solution can be implemented in roughly the same way in most of them. Knowing a language just for its own sake reeks a bit of hubris, in my humble opinion. Being comfortable with one language in each category makes more sense: one functional (Lisp, Scheme), one object-oriented (Java, C#), one scripting (Perl, Python, PHP), and a couple of specialty ones (SQL, HTML) provide a solid base and enable you to learn similar languages quicker, if need be.

Simon is probably going to resort to learning Snobol and INTERCAL in a couple of years, but that’s his choice. 🙂

21st century President

01 October 2003 » In Opinion » 5 Comments

With a swift move, presidential hopeful Wesley Clark secured support of the entire population of Sci Fi fans (all 50,000 of them I guess). I can only ask the higher powers that be to guide him to victory – unless a much better candidate emerges – because having Clark in the office will ensure a high-tech boom that will make the Internet one pale in comparison. Nanotechnology, faster-than-light travel, space elevators, high-energy physics, antigravity, and a cure for common cold. We’ll be living on the Moon and flying in our jetmobiles to work! Maybe we’ll even get.. khm-khm.. cold fusion brewing. Plus, Clark just seems entertaining. A quality that is sadly lacking in present day politics. Go Wesley!

P.S. Tune up your sarcasm filters if having trouble with the above paragraph.

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