Friday, May 26, 2006

Picasa Linux PNG problems (Screen Shot)

This is a PNG image that has problems with discoloration when viewed in Picasa on Linux.

This is an example of a problem with a PNG image. This JPEG was created by Picasa from a PNG image when I used Picasa to post it to this blog. This is the sort of discoloration that appears in Picasa as well.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Web 2.0 - A Rebuttle

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to his latest blog entry. A review of some of the new "Web 2.0 Desktops" that have become available. For those of you who may not be familiar with this concept, check out his review here to get an idea of what they are all about.

This was not the first time that I've heard of such things, "Web 2.0" sites have been gaining in momentum recently, and nary a day passes where I do not hear of some new site touting some new "Web 2.0" technology. I have to admit that, like many other people, when I look at things like protopage and gmail, flikr and others, my first instinct is to say "neat". These things are neat, and they embrace the hacker spirit. These sites are doing new and neat things with web technologies that have been around for years, and to that end I am happy to see new innovation in the web.

Now here's the "But". I was playing with some of these web desktops, and the main thought in my head was "why?". I already have a Desktop that I like quite well. It is faster than any of these "web 2.0" desktops. It's more customizable. It works even when my internet connection is down. I can choose the version that I like best. In short, the problem with these new "web 2.0" desktops, and with many other "web 2.0" applications is that they are just re-inventing the wheel- but "on the web".

Now, you must not think me a luddite- but I have to say that I am not fond of the way these things are going. The problem is not that I have some problem with internet applications- quite the opposite in fact. The problem is that I think there is too much focus on the web.

When it was first getting started, the World Wide Web was but a small part of the internet as a whole. It was a small piece that, along with Usenet and BBSes, IRC and email, ftp and ssh, made up the Internet. Along came IM and P2P applications, MMOGs and streaming media. A whole ecosystem of Internet applications that filled their own niche and played their part in global communication and information sharing. There was a time when the possiblities were endless.

With the Internet at our disposal programmers started thinking new and interesting ways to use this network. One of the earlier examples of this new type of programming was the X Window System. X was designed from the ground up as a network based window server. Other applications were developed that helped to unite the Internet and the PC. Other examples that cropped up were things like KDE's fish:// built into Konquror. Microsoft's Active Desktop, X and Windows screen savers that crawled the web. Email clients that pulled mail onto your computer. But, outside of Apple we do not see much innovation like that anymore.

The problem started, I think, when too many people started associating "the web == the internet". The web began to grow, and the mindshare of this varied Internet ecosystem began to die out. As always happens in nature, when an ecosystem goes out of balance, new entities had to be created to fill the niche of those that were dying out. Enter "Web 2.0". People started using Javascript, Stylesheets, XML, all of the new web technologies to rebuild applications of the past on the web. This congolmoration of AJAX, SOAP, XHTML, all of these things became the new buzzword "Web 2.0". "Web 2.0" applications became larger, more complex, and began to try to fill the niche of other internet-aware applications.

So, people started seeing the web as the entire Internet, and so developers began to build "Web 2.0" applications- that is to say: dynamic applications built on new web technolgies that took the place of those applications which were traditionally internet-aware client side applications. Users who had previously been under the impression that the web was the entire Internet began to see new types of Internet-enabled applications, and technology enthusiasts praised the development of "Web 2.0". What's the problem?

The problem is this. In the excitement to turn the Web into the new Operating System, there has grown a divide between the desktop machine and the Internet. The promise of local Internet-aware applications has fallen out of favor. Internet technolgies were developed for and used on the web, accessed through the web browser, and seperate from the local machine. The cycle grew and as more things were done on the web, more things had to be done on the web. The more "Web 2.0" applications are built around the web browser, the less mindshare is given to Internet-aware local applications. People grow blind to other possiblities, and so more and more technologies are built on the "Web 2.0". This development further seperates out the local componenet of computing, moving the applications to the web, and taking control away from the user.

Office applications, photo management applications, music, video- all are now being accessed exclustively through the "Web 2.0". This means that there is comming a shift. The web browser is becomming the new Operating System, and all applications, files, preferences are saved on the web. The consequences of such a shift are deep and dire.

Perhaps the largest consequence of this shift is in ownership of the software and of the files. Traditionall, even though proprietary software was licensed, there was some aspect of ownership to it. Even moreso with Open Source Software. With traditional software a user had the ability to customize, to change, to remove their software. If a user created a document with Microsoft Word, then as long as their hard drive continued to function they owned that document. They had the ablitiy to transfer that file to someone using to open it up in a hex editor if they wanted- even the ability to run that file through a disk shredder and delete it so that it could not be recovered by any but the most determined technological guru.

If someone wanted to see what a user was writing, then either they had to seize that users computer, or else ask for a copy of the document. Now it's as easy for a government body to get the documents a user is working on as going to the "Web 2.0" Application host, and saying "patriot act". Now a cracker needs to break into just one website to get the documents of millions of users. Now a natural disaster can destroy millions of users documents.

It's more than that though. More than government paranoia and document saftey. The shift in the mindset that "Web 2.0" promises is a shift in the way we view computing. The computer, the applications cease to become tools, and instead become a service. Documents are products of the service and owned by the service provider- much like wedding photos. Users lose control to hack and tweek their applications, and they lose the sense of identity that comes from having their programs, their documents on their machine.

"Web 2.0" turns the concept of the internet from a network of connected computers sharing information into a magical place from which services are bourn, and into which documents are stored. "Web 2.0" has turned the Internet into the magical ether of information.

So what should be done? You may recall my reference to Apple several paragraphs before. Lets examine what Apple has done, as well as a handfull of Open Source developers, and use this as a guideline for an alternate form of Internet based computing Integration that promises a brighter future than "Web 2.0".

Rather than put the focus on web services, Apple has created applications, and a framework for application development that idealize what the Internet and the proliferation of broadband should hold for the future of computing. Widgets.

The idea of the Widgets, introduced with Apple's Tiger, is a prime example of how the Internet should be leveraged for applications. Applications themselves are written using the same technologies as those used to create "Web 2.0" applications, and yet have access to the power of the local machine. They are installed rather than servered over the internet, and yet many- if not most- of these widgets pull their data and share it over the Internet.

With a simple keypress I can bring up a window, and use a local program to access this blog, my deadjournal, or to view the local weather. I have all of the benefits of an always on connection to the Internet, plus the power and speed of my local machine. I have all the power to create a quick, pretty, easy to code, easy to use application based off AJAX, with the power to use the libraries, scripting languages, and APIs installed on my local machine.

I have the power to decide what version of a program I want to use. I have the power to create my own program and use it- and have it access the same Internet that any other official widget can access. I have the power to download an Open Source widget and hack it to my hearts content.

These widgets are the first steps to what the new world of Internet-enabled computing should be- without "Web 2.0". Local applications that have Internet connectivity integrated into them. But there is still a long way to go. Why not create APIs that allow developers to easily tie into Internet sites. Allow various programs to access the same places on the Internet, which may also offer "Web 2.0" versions of their applications for those who do not have access to local programs. Why not bridge the gap between local computing and the Internet, instead of widening it with the Web, 2.0?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Strange Dreams of Cigars and Tunnels

It's a curious thing, the way we view the future. The things we know, the things we see are constantly distorted through the glass that is our mind, it's warped shape disfiguring the light into something melevolent, as if to warn us, to scare us into standing still in time. It's even curiousier still how, no matter how bad our circumstances may seem, all prospects of future happiness seem bleak, as though even in the very epitomy of the depths of dispair, we fear the future will always bring something that will completely redefine our innocent notions of suffering. What doesn't kill us, they say, can only make us stronger. The problem of course is that, no matter how bad things may seem at the moment, we are alive, but we don't know as we go hurtling on into the indefinite and undefined future how long things will continue to make us stronger, until they finally make us stronger to death.
And so, we use the strenght we have to cling on to where we are at, we kick and bite and struggle against the flow of time, moving forward but always staying still, afraid of what we glimpsed through the looking glass. Yet the future always comes, inexurably onward, like a locomotive moving slowly, steadly, ever onward. As the future gets closer, as we struggle to run from it, it's image grows steadly more warped, more melevolant driving us to chase the past speeding away from us as fast as the future speeds toward us, and then something happens that - though we've experienced it a thousand times before - we never expected, never would have dared to dream. The future arrives not in gnashing teeth, breaking bones and teaing sinue, but in soft clouds and clensing rain. We see past the warped image of the future, the skewed image of the past, and we for a moment see clearly the present, in a way much better than we ever imagined it. We take steps out of our valley of dispair, and find that the hardships we thought to be the tip of the iceberg were in fact not portence of some looming doom, but rather a valley that proceeds an inevitable peak. That's not to say that all hardships are behind us if we just embrace the future, but rather that when we move forward, even with the most difficult of tasks, we find that it is indeed better to move past them than to dwell on our own suffering.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Barrage of Disks

The last days of september through the middle of january, the "Holiday Season" has historically been a strong few months for gamers and game companies. This year is no different, except that really it is. There was a drought for a while, in games, it seemed that for a while the only thing to do was to anticipate the new games that the companies had us all salivating over. The avalanch has begun however, and many gamers find too many titles to adequately play. On a completely unrelated note-I'm sure, I've been particularly unproductive lately.

Doom 3 has been out for a while now, Half Life 2 has gone gold, and Halo 2 should be arriving shortly as well. I don't play first person shooters though, so lets get to some of the releases that I've particularly excited about. Not too long ago, I finally got around to buying Resident Evil 0, it's been a really fun game, but sadly it doesn't stand much of a chance of getting finished anytime soon, in the face of all it's competition. Not too long ago, I took a risk and purchaced another PS2, having been without one for about a year, since my old one crapped out. Along with the PS2 I picked up Star Ocean 'Till The End of Time. Two days later I was back up at gamestop picking up Tony Hawk's Underground 2, and a day after that, Paper Mario 2; I have yet to pick up Silent Hill 4, and I'm still eagerly awaiting Resident Evil 4.

This year seems to be the year of long awaited sequals, but the question is, why are all the games in a year of great games? The game companies seem to have gotten the idea into their heads that the christmas season is the only time when gamers want to play games. The idea certainly has roots in sound logic, there was a time when games were relegated to the realm of expensive childrens toy's. There was also a time when children had a much smaller disposable income, and had to rely on gifts on their birthdays and on christmas to get the expensive toys, such as videogames. Neither is true today.

The single largest market for videogames today is males, age 18 to 35, followed closely by a tie between males ages 12 to 18 and females age 20 to 35. The fact is that two of the largest game markets not only have year 'round disposable income, but many have less income to spend on games in the holiday season, because a lot of gamers now are at the age where they have kids to buy for now.

I suggest that we show the game companies that we are willing and able to buy games year 'round, I say gamers of the world, since it will take a while to finish the majority of the games that are comming out this season, put a couple of games on hold, buy a couple of those new games this summer.

Dreams that Haunt

So I had a dream the other night, it was kind of depressing, but I think that I'll share it with the 2 or 3 of you who read this site anyway. Here it goes.

I don't know what time of day it was, it had to be sometime in the midmorning. The sky was already a pale blue, the sun hidden behind the wispy clouds as it ventured to it's noontime azimuth, but the air outside was still cool as it kissed my cheek, and dew still clung tightly to the blades of grass and the clovers that made up the lush green lawn. As I stepped out onto the back deck to behold the surroundings, I was reminded of a sadness in my heart, today was the day of my father's wedding. This was his fourth wedding, and I didn't hold anything specific against his new bride, except that historically my father did not pick the best women to betroth. From the left I saw her and my father round the house, dressed in their wedding day finest, and I stepped down the stairs into the yard and to give them both a hug and my blessings. The blessings were of course half hearted, but I wanted at least to be polite. In all honesty I didn't know the woman, but I was sure that I probably didn't like her. "You know she has a daughter your age" my father said to me, as though this was some coincidence of special magnificence, but I barely gave it a second thought.

I'm not sure if I was bored or overwhelmed with the situation, but the cause doesn't really matter I think. I decided to slip worlds. To slip worlds sounds like an amazing feat to the uninitiated, but is quite common and ordinary for those who have learned how to do so. The world we see is one of many, and they are not so separate. With skill one can learn to slip under the thing veil that separates these worlds, and explore entire other universes.

I found myself on a boardwalk, the sun was setting, and the stars were already in the sky, which was a brilliant shade of deep violet. I listened to the soft sounds of the waves as the washed up on the beach, and walked around the oddly shaped boardwalk, until mine eyes happened upon a woman. She was a little taller than me, not by much. Her skin was soft and white as porcelain, her lips a deep black. Here eyes were blue, and the eyeliner she wore was black and red. Her hair was black as well, a few inches long, spiked up. She wore a dog collar with steel spikes. Her outfit was leather, elegant but simple, ankle pants and a leather and cloth v-neck shirt. We began to speak.

I was enthralled by her grace and beauty, and I learned that she was the daughter my father had spoken about, and a fellow world slipper. We spent a great deal of time talking, when to my surprise, she embraced me and kissed me deeply and for an infinite moment, I was lost in her lips. Then something happened that had never happened before, I blipped, I was, for the blink of an eye, not in this world any more. It was as though I had disappeared for the briefest moment, but when I returned, she was gone. I looked around, wondering where she could have gone, when I ran across a strange old man.

The man was short, no more than 3 and a half feet tall, wearing a yellow rain coat, and a Vietnamese style pointed hat, he had thick glasses and a white beard that touched the floor. He told me that she had gone. My heart dropped and as I tried to get more information from him, I glanced upward into the ever darkening sky and I saw her face among the clouds. We spoke at length, the visage in the sky and me. I completely disregarded the old man, and walked to a secluded part of the boardwalk. I told her that I longed for her embrace once more, I longed to be with her forever.

Suddenly, she appeared before me, ethereal, but more than just a face in the clouds, and she walked toward me. I looked at her and began to cry and reached for the vision, and pulled her toward me, and my love gave her substance. We fell backwards onto a higher section of the boardwalk and were lost again in each-others arms. Not more than a night had passed though, when I went for a walk and returned to find a letter from her. She was gone.

My heart sunk deeper than the depths of the ocean who's sound once soothed me, and I fell down on all fours in the sand and let out a howl. She had said in the letter that she had gotten online, and searched for my name to learn more about me, in a journal entry I had written, I had talked about spending time at a graveyard. She was amazed at the apparent cruelty of this, and had left me.

In an instant my world was shattered, I had planned to ask her to wed me, and she was gone now. I looked to the sky and saw her face again, and begged her to return, but she told me that she regrets having even been allowed to return once, to take form again and she was gone forever. As her face faded from the sky I cried out her name, but there was nothing.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Typing by Touch

Ok, this is a rather inane post, but I thought I would write about something that has always facinated me. Typing by Touch. It's something that many of us do, at least to some extent, but really how often do you think about the fact that you are doing it, untill someone else points out "wow, how can you type like that". One of my friends proudly exclaims that she types using the "columbus method" which is, as she humerously describles "typing by search and discovery". In a related note, I've been interested in learning the DVorak keyboard layout. The primary reason that I have, thus far, avoided learning it, is that typing by touch seems to be more muscle memory than any sort of actual knowlege that one attains, and since most keyboard layours use the QWERTY layout, I'm afraid that while it may be benefifial at home, it would inhibit my ability to type on other keyboards. Oh well. I require sleep.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

GMail, A Review

So I was reading a review of GMail today on slashdot today, and happened to mention to someone on IRC that I would like an account. Well wouldn't ya know they just happened to have an invite, so botta bing botta boom I have a gmail account. I figgured since this seems to be a topic of some interest to a lot of people, I would give my opinion of gmail, and the privacy issues surrounding it.

First off, gmail. If you've been locked in a closet for the last 6 months, gmail is a forey into the email area by everyone's favorite search engine, google. Google is offering up 1GB of storage, a slick user interface, and the ability to search your email using googles powerful search engine.

The user interface seems to be the first thing that everyone raves about. To be honest, I don't see what's so hot about it. The interface is definitely a breath of fresh air compared to hyperactive sites like Yahoo! and Hotmail. Even on my high bandwidth cable connection, Hotmail and Yahoo both are slow to load, I have seen how long it takes to load on dialup, and cannot see how they have so much popularity. Google does win hands down in this aspect, with it's clean, text based user interface, I imagine that gmail would be sleek and fast even on dialup. Having established that, relatively, the gmail interface is excellent, I think it could use a little tweeaking before it would merit all the prais it recives.

The 1GB storage space is definitely a feature worthy of noting, but there is not a lot to say on the subject. Google provides you with 1GB (though it's listed as 1000MB I have heard reports that you are infact given the full 1024GB of space). I have a hard time imagining that I will ever be starved for space with 1GB, since I am in the habbit of keeping a pretty clean mailbox, but it will certainly be nice to have the extra space for transfering large files. Doing graphic art and some 3D animation, I transfer quite a few files over 50MB or 100MB, and I am interested to see how much of a boon this extra storage space turns out to be in this case.

Because of the relatively short amount of time that I've had the account, I cannot say much about the spam filter, other than that I have not, thus far, seen any spam reach my inbox.

One nice feature of gmail is the spell checking. I composed a several page long email and ran spell check on it, and it managed to recognize a number of mispelled words, without marking too many technical terms. Spell checking works much like it does in any word processor, with mis-spelled words highlighted, and then the user clicks on them, it proposed a list of possible correctly spelled words to choose from. This is a feature which I never understood why other email providers did not offer.

One thing that seems to have been a huge deal among the paranoid privacy advocate crowd is the gmail privacy policy. Simple stated, people are going apeshit because gmail states that they will have a machine analyse your email. While I wouldn't like a person sitting there reading my email, I fail to see what the deal is with having the machine analyse your mail. The fact is, pretty much every spam filter is already going to be browsing your email anyway. Google just goes a step fruther by providing ads targeted at the subject of your email, based on analysing the content of it. My thoughts on this are that google does have to make money on this, or what's the point?, and I would prefer to have ads based on something that I'm interested in than some random flashing blinking pop-up advertisement. I think the people who get upset with what google is doing are the same people who freak out when their TiVo starts suggesting programming for them, people who fail to understand that machines are not (yet) congizant and capable of understanding the text they are parsing.

Ads are, just as with google's website, text based and completely non-intrusive. As stated above, google groks the content of your email to provide targed ads, similar to the targed ads when you run a web search. For the most part these ads stay out of the way and are pretty easy to ignore.

For more information on GMail, just search around on the web, there are a lot of articles written by people who have more experience with the system, and are better writers than I.

Untill next time, I'm signing off.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

If I ruled the world (part 1)

You know, I think everyone thinks that they could do a better job than anyone else if they were given absolute control over the world, and I'm sure that this is because any given person is always more able to server their own needs better than anyone else, give the resources of an entire world. I'm sure that if I ruled the world, no matter if it were a utopia or a distopia, you would be able to do better, but let's give thought to what I would do if I were to rule the world.

The first thing I would do, if I ruled the world, would be to abolish all corperations and businesses, and funnel all their funds into a central repository. Not because I'm a communist, but because to make the world better we have to start back at square one. Everyone would go back to zero in my new world, the government would run the infrastructure at first. Of course there would be no laws against starting a business or owning property, competition is always good, but everyone would have an equal chance to start out with.

Education would be the next thing I would invest time in, if I ruled the world. A Utopia is build on the backs of learned citizens. The education system, in america at least needs heavy revision. The biggest problem with education I think, is the delusion that we are all equal. We are not. That is not to say that any person has more intrensic worth than any other, but we are all born with unique abilities, and to treat everyone the same is to relegate everyone to mediocraty. Some people are smarter than others, some people are faster, taller, prettier, more artistic, these gifts should be encouraged.

If I ruled the world, the law would dictate that only the spirit of the law should be obeyed, exploiting loopholes in the law should carry a most severe punishment.

If I ruled the world, everyone should be educated on the cultures, religions, and lifestyles of others, intolerance is a pestilence that rots at the core of a Utopia.

If I ruled the world, voting would be mandatory.

If I ruled the world, people would be encouraged to critizise me, it's easy to be out of touch when you rule the world.

I'll finish this later.

The Surreal

The mind is a multi-faceted mystery machine marching maniacaly into insanity. The dreams tie us to other worlds, how tempting it would be to pull up anchor and sail away.

I just woke up. It's not quite 3:00pm yet, and I'm up early. I haven't showered yet, I am still unclean with the deeds of my dreams. I'm going to take a break from all my research and writing and movie watching and brain rotting today to write some good code. I am going to write my character managment system for 3.5 edition D&D today. It will be written in Java, check back here for a link, I'll post one as soon as it's done.


The world before me is a tunnel, the ghouls reach their gastly arms grasping for a hand full life. Onword I go! into the distance seeking that ever distant horizon, unreachable called Love. But how long shall I walk?
I stand at the other side of the bridge, no longer draped with peers over that lonely abyss which echoed out my calls and reflected my inner monster but the planks of that bridge were built in pairs, and now I stand alone in the glorious yet wretched sea of solitary victory. Now I am drowning.
The life rafts tease like mirages in the distance, calling out rhythmically like drums, beating in tune with my own heart. I see a glimps of my resuer only to have the images torn away it's memory burned into my eyes.
How many breaths can I still take? How many ghost ships will show themselves to my eyes. Wearily I swim and Lo! the Leviathin seeks me, his is the monster who's echo I heard all those years ago.
Man can be loved for his imperfection, he is the going over, and the going under, but what awaits that which crosses the bridge? Can there be pain without enlightenment. Desire comes from the loins of knowledge.
The tree has grown, and I have climbed my own branches, 32 paths all trodden, my waxing and waning philisophical flows with the winds.
I am gone, but here forever, my mark on you can never heal. You ask to see behind the mask but cower to see more than hollow eyes, I am not so empty. Isis, Osiris, Horus, who will rule the next age? if there is one to rule at all. Will those who have crossed the abyss become the old gods to new worlds? Beware, the singularity draws nigh, beyond comprehention lives only feeling, can you live then without goals and without regrets?
They ask what I belive, and laugh thoughtlessly when I tell them, but they are all just illusions. I am filled to the brim with moonlight and emotion, my muses stimulate my depression, together they are the turtles and the elephants on which this world rests. Aleph-Null is more than just a concept, can you see beyond the veil to worlds within worlds?
I see our cities drentched in steel and cement, towns nesteled in idealized forests, but even the outside lives forever within. After the rain the greenest thing I see are the graveyards.

To meet a kindrid spirit is to find water in the desert, even if you have ample water, you must cherish each and every find as though it will be your last. But do not think that I speak only of friends, for the most kindred of spirits are those with whom we compete, those who make us better ourselves and question our own greatness. There is no room in ones life for those who do not compel us to greatness. Beware though that these kindrid spirits do not show themselves as ghosts on the horizon. They are the lights at the end of tunnels, but fall not down the rabbit hole, unless your prepared to never look back.