Time to clean house

Periodically I have to clean house, meaning that I close down all those online accounts which I opened and never used, unsubscribe from lists that are no longer useful, cut out RSS feeds I don’t read, ‘unfriend’ people I never talk to, and go through all the computer gear I have amassed and get rid of unwanted and unused stuff.

Now is that time.

UPDATED – 7/30/08 – Cleaned up a lot of stuff, got one taker on craigslist for all of it and then nothing more is heard from them – unbelievable – I guess free means the person does not value the stuff.


When not to send a drive in even if it is under warranty

One of my drives failed over the weekend, it was the main drive on the the main computer (I had a current backup so lost no data,) but I ran into the issue of whether to send the drive in under warranty or not. The drive is an expensive 150GB WD Raptor which spin at 10,000RPM (it does make a difference,) so I would like to get it fixed under the warranty. The problem is that the drive won’t even spin up so I can’t wipe it.

So it won’t get sent it because of the data that is on it, way too much personal stuff there. I will use it as a paperweight for a while, take it apart to satisfy my inner geek and then take a hammer to it.

Grouper getting a make-over

Last week I posted something small, so this week it is time for something big (I try to alternate.)

This is a Nassau Grouper getting a make-over from some Peterson Cleaner Shrimp at a cleaning station. If you look carefully you can see the shrimp in its mouth.

A cleaning station is a place where fish (and other creatures) can come and get a cleaning from resident shrimps and other cleaning fishes. The cleaning consists of removing dead skin and flesh, as well as any parasites that may be on the fish getting cleaned.

A reef will have cleaning stations all over, you only need to look where fish are hovering, usually at a slight angle, with their mouths and/or gill open. This is usually the signal that they want a cleaning rather than hunting for dinner!

On this particular shot I was able to loiter for about 5 minutes, taking lots of shots as the shrimp clambered all over the grouper to clean it. Cleaning stations are a great place to get good shots because the fish are usually very relaxed and don’t move, so if you are patient you will be usually rewarded with great shots.

The oddity here is that I could not see the Corkscrew Anemone where Peterson Cleaner Shrimp usually hide in, but maybe it was tucked away somewhere out of sight.

Peterson Cleaner Shrimp will also clean diver’s hands if you let them which I have done before and which will be the subject of a future post.

“stuck with a multilanguage future”

At the end of a fairly predictable article where SOAP and REST supporters take cheap shots at each other, Tim Bray being one of them, Bray comes out with some pretty eye-rolling stuff:

During a keynote presentation at OSCON on Friday, Bray will talk about the “language inflection point,” in which various languages such as Perl, Python, and Ruby have been gathering momentum at the expense of the established Java and .Net platforms.

“Up until two years ago, if you were a serious programmer you wrote code in either Java or .Net,” Bray said. “[Now], there are all these options that people are looking at and it’s really an inflection point.”

I fail to see what “serious programmer” and specific languages have to do with each other, I would have thought that a “serious programmer” would pick the language best suited to the task at hand.

The Java platform is accommodating scripting languages such as Ruby and Python on the JVM, Bray noted. Sun has been enabling these to work on the Java Virtual Machine. “The Java language is not what the cool kids are choosing to use these days,” said Bray.

IMHO the “cool kids” who are really smart learn a variety of languages and keep learning new ones. They do this to increase the breadth of their knowledge and toolbox, so they don’t approach every programming problem with the same hammer.

Still, Java will stay around, he said. “The Java language isn’t going away. It’s the world’s most popular programming language,” Bray said.

I have not seen any specific figures as to how popular a specific language is, in fact how would you measure that. Lines written? Programmers using it? Users using application written in it?

“I think that like it or not, we’re stuck with a multilanguage future,” he stressed.

What’s not to like about a “multilanguage future”, we have a multilanguage present and we have had a multilanguage past, multilanguage has served us well and will continue to do so. As for being “stuck”, I am glad we were not “stuck” 30 years ago otherwise we would all be writing stuff in COBOL, or worse assembler.

Landlines disappearing near you soon

Came across this article on dvorak.org/blog about the decline in landlines across the US:

With millions of Americans snapping up the iPhone, AT&T, the exclusive U.S. carrier for the popular phone, should be quite pleased with the stream of revenue it can expect from customers.

But AT&T, the biggest telecommunications company in the United States, has a problem: analysts say consumers are dropping traditional landlines faster than expected. The company, which still gets 32 percent of its revenue from its landline business, was scheduled to report its second-quarter financial results Wednesday and was expected to talk about how its traditional phone service is contracting.

AT&T is not the only company facing a changing environment in the communications business. All of the major U.S. telecommunications companies – AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Nextel – are figuring out how to make more money from customers as they spend more time sending text messages or browsing the Web on their cellphones, rather than talking.

I don’t think this has anything to do with the iPhone, but it has everything to do with the fact that cell phones have replaced landlines almost completely, making them completely redundant, and with the fact that Skype is so cheap. Consumers are using cell phones for the convenience and Skype (or whatever system) for the (lack of) cost. A landline costs and is inconvenient because you can’t take it with you.

And I don’t buy the argument that the cell phone companies are having a hard time making money, we pay for the minutes whether we use them or not, and the minimum cell phone plan costs four times what the minimum landline plan costs, not to mention the contract the penalties for early termination. Finally deploying cell phone infrastructure is a lot cheaper than deploying landlines, you only have to look at Europe and Asia to see that.

The business of telephony is changing, out with the old and in with the new.

Apple iPhone as a keyboard remote for AppleTV

I was very happy to see that you could use the iPhone Remote application as a remote for your AppleTV as well as for iTunes, but you can also use it as a keyboard when the AppleTV needs text input, when searching for movies for example (found on Daring Fireball, via MacRumors.com.

Very cool indeed, I have been wanting something like that for a while.

Language recognition

Recently I needed a language recognition library to identify the language of specific chunks of text. I asked a network of colleagues here in the Boston area and they came up with the following:

  1. LingPipe
  2. TextCat
  3. Simile

There is also:

  1. Lingua::Identify
  2. The language identifier in Nutch

And all this led to:

  1. TCatNG Toolkit
  2. TextCat derivatives and current home in SpamAssassin

In the event it seemed simple enough to write my own using the text collection in TextCat as source material for the ngrams and associated frequencies.

As for a corpus, I stumbled onto this project: “Corpus building for minority languages” which led to a status page, which lead to the Declaration of Human Rights in 335 languages.