January 13, 2004
Comment Spam

Our first serious outbreak of comment spam. Comments will be disabled until the forces of unrighteousness are suppressed......

Posted by DeLong at 02:06 AM

January 09, 2004
Movable Type-Based Courseware

Movable Type-based courseware from Elizabeth Lane Lawley....

Posted by DeLong at 06:00 AM

November 23, 2003
Form Factors

Arnold Kling believes that the PDA is an abomination: The Bottom Line: Form Factor of Failure?: I think that there are way too many companies chasing way too consumers in the market for pocket-sized thingies with tiny screens and tiny keyboards. I think that the total market for that form factor is less than 10 million people in the U.S., and it would take 100 million users to support all the companies offering products in that space. I like a mobile phone. And I think I would like a small laptop, like the Sony TR1A or TR2B or whatever the heck it is. The in-between form factor does nothing for me. If you want a screen that I can put in my pocket, I think you had better make it in the form of goggles. I agree. I like my mobile phone. But the only reason I *ever* take out my PDA is in situations where it is rude to take out my laptop and type on it. There are many such situations--but as soon as my laptop turns into a tablet, or as soon as social conventions shift, my PDA use will drop to zero. So Arnold is right....

Posted by DeLong at 03:52 PM

November 07, 2003
The Vingean Singularity Approaches

And let me, for one, be among the first to welcome our future purple reptilian cybertronic overlords: 172653 - Sometimes Barney Starts Playing Peekaboo on His Own: This article was previously published under Q172653: SUMMARY: Sometimes Microsoft ActiMates Interactive Barney starts playing peekaboo on his own. This occurs because Barney's eyes are light-sensitive and adjust to changes in lighting. Therefore, sudden light changes, such as moving into a dark room, passing under a shadow in direct sunlight, or passing under direct incandescent lighting, may cause ActiMates Barney to start playing peekaboo. Free will? Certainly looks like it....

Posted by DeLong at 05:19 PM

November 05, 2003
Moore's Law Continued

Intel now thinks it sees how to achieve another four-fold increase in transistor density: Intel Claims Breakthrough in Chip Making: ...With today's transistor gates - which consist of a piece of material that functions like a water faucet for electrical current - approaching thicknesses of just five atomic layers, computer chips have come to require more power, which causes them to run much hotter. Intel, the world's largest chip maker, has been struggling with the problem of excess heat as it has moved from etchings as small as 130 nanometers to the even narrower 90-nanometer limit. Intel's chips have been running significantly hotter with each generation and there have been recent reports that the problem has caused a delay in its most advanced version of the Pentium, the Prescott. The new Intel technology would not be in use until about 2007, perhaps three generations of chip advances into the future. The industry is just now making the transition to 90 nanometers. After that it hopes to scale down to 65 nanometers, followed by a leap to just 45 nanometers, where the new material, which Intel refuses to identify, would come into play......

Posted by DeLong at 08:00 AM

November 04, 2003
Let Us Now Curse Microsoft Windows

The Ten-Year-Old is trying to install SimIsle on our lone Windows computer--purchased because the Thirteen-Year-Old wanted to play Medieval Total War, and there was no Macintosh version. It is throwing up a post-installation error message: something about WinG32.dll incorrectly installed in the "System" rather than in the "System32" directory. Shouldn't an operating system smart enough to know that the WinG32.dll file is in the wrong directory also be smart enough to move, copy, or link it to the right directory? I mean, what's the problem requiring human-level attention here, anyway? I don't like the lesson this machine is teaching the Ten-Year-Old: that when she tries to do simple things, they just don't work, and computers can only be understood and made to work by Big People like Dad. The fact that this is an accurate lesson, at least as far as Windows machines are concerned, is beside the point....

Posted by DeLong at 08:44 PM

October 29, 2003
The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg succumbs to the soft bigotry of low expectations. He writes about Microsoft's new product: WSJ.com - Personal Technology: Overall, I like OneNote. It's a good idea well executed, especially for a first effort at Microsoft... Hold Microsoft to the same standard you hold everybody else's 1.0 releases, Walt! UPDATE: Walt Mossberg corrects me: I have misinterpreted him. He didn't write "It's a good idea well executed--for a first effort by Microsoft, that is." He wrote "It's a good idea well executed (and, surprisingly, it's a first effort by Microsoft)."...

Posted by DeLong at 08:21 PM

October 25, 2003
The Tribe of Macintosh

Robert Waldmann (in email) muses about the peculiar behavior of Macintosh users who look forward to (and buy!) software upgrades: I click on your site.... I miss and get carried to www.apple.com. There I see an add for Mac OS 10.3 Panther (it's like getting a whole new Mac). I assume this is hype, but, hey, they are still megahits away from the competition. If one were so foolish as to "upgrade" to a newer version of Windows XPain--well, it is like getting not a brand-new but a ten-year-old computer (it would be as slow as frozen molasses). Yes, Robert, it is true. Macintosh users do pay to update their system software. And we do expect to get better performance on the same machine with each update. I've already figured out that the Expose tool is going to make me much happier......

Posted by DeLong at 09:09 AM

October 24, 2003
Mitch Kapor Tries to Change the World--Again

Shouldn't information technology help us deal with all our information? Mitch Kapor tries to change the world once again: Trash Your Desktop: ...Code-named Chandler, after the mystery writer (because, Kapor says, what they're creating was something of a mystery even to them when the venture launched two years ago), the software promises to put all related e-mail messages, spreadsheets, appointment records, addresses, blog entries, word-processing documents, digital photos, and what-have-you in one place at one time: no more opening program after program looking for the items related to a specific topic. It takes the core functions of Microsoft Outlook, the Palm Desktop, and other personal information management programs and integrates them with the rest of your PC and the Internet. All the information you need to complete a given task or project is grouped on-screen, organized around the one function--e-mail--Kapor sees as the central conduit of our electronic lives. Because Chandler presents information in its logical context--displaying all related items together--and not in the separate folders and application windows of the traditional desktop computer system, you can think of it as a new way into your computer. "It may be hubristic," says Kapor, "but we're trying to push the edge...

Posted by DeLong at 11:43 AM

October 18, 2003
Linkrot!

Kevin Drum writes: Calpundit: Calpundit Back Up: CALPUNDIT BACK UP....Yeah, I'm back. What a mess. A combination of host problems and Movable Type fragility wiped out my site for the entire day. I'd bore you with all the details, but I'm too pissed off right now to write about it. Anyway, all the posts and archives are back online, although all comments have been lost for the previous dozen or so posts. Also, all my permalinks changed during the reconstruction process, so if you have ever linked to anything at all here, your links now point to the wrong post. It's not quite the classic version of linkrot, but it's close. I find that google reports that I have "about 185" references to Kevin Drum or Calpundit, all 185 of which are now pointing to the wrong place. I clearly need to either (a) resign myself to having nearly tenscore dead or misleading links, or (b) learn enough perl to write a filter to rewrite all those links to an intermediate "apology" page and then link them forward to http://www.calpundit.com/. In any event, thank God I have been good at quoting enough context to make much of the discussion and...

Posted by DeLong at 12:48 AM

October 17, 2003
The Wayback Machine

He he he he he! This is now truly useful! Internet Archive Wayback Machine I'm finding all kinds of things that I wished that I had saved......

Posted by DeLong at 05:26 PM

October 14, 2003
Scoop

The Daily Kos is changing its software from Movable Type to Scoop: Scoop || What is Scoop?: Scoop is a "collaborative media application". It falls somewhere between a content management system, a web bulletin board system, and a weblog. Scoop is designed to enable your website to become a community. It empowers your visitors to be the producers of the site, contributing news and discussion, and making sure that the signal remains high. A scoop site can be run almost entirely by the readers. The whole life-cycle of content is reader-driven. They submit news, they choose what to post, and they can discuss what they post. Readers can rate other readers comments, as well, providing a collaborative filtering tool to let the best contributions float to the top. Based on this rating, you can also reward consistently good contributors with greater power to review potentially untrusted content. The real power of Scoop is that it is almost totally collaborative. Of course, as an admin, you also may pick and choose which tools you want the community to have, and which will be available to admins only. Administrators have a very wide range of customization and security management tools available. All...

Posted by DeLong at 09:45 AM

September 25, 2003
Notes: Definitions

Paul Walker contributes a definition of a distributed computational system: A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you did not even know existed can render your own computer unusable....

Posted by DeLong at 05:03 PM

September 24, 2003
The Verisign Typo Crisis

Michael Froomkin writes about the Verisign typo crisis: Discourse.net: Sitefinder: The Biggest Internet Crisis You May Never Have Heard Of: Last week, VeriSign, the people who run the .com registry (the big data file that has all the .com registration data in it), unilaterally decided to change the way the most-traveled portion of the Internet works for most people. Until then, if you typed in a .com domain name that didn't exist, you would get an error message. Unless, of course, you were an MSN or AOL subscriber, in which case you would get a custom web page they each designed, and which included some ads from folks who thought that they might profit from common misspellings. Well, VeriSign saw a profit opportunity, and it decided to eat AOL's and MSN's and everyone else's lunch by introducing its "Sitefinder" service. In the new .com, every browser typo, every attempt to load up (the technical term is "resolve") a domain that didn't actually exist, leads you to special pages designed and owned by VeriSign--and on which we are all invited to buy tailored advertising. [Sitefinder, incidentally, has the most unintentionally hilarious terms of service I have ever seen : a web...

Posted by DeLong at 10:37 PM

September 12, 2003
The Movable Type Cult

With great pleasure we welcome Dan Drezner to the ranks not just of Movable Type users but Movable Type cultists: danieldrezner.com :: Daniel W. Drezner :: Blog: If you decide you like blogging, then switch to Moveable Type: Boy, have I been converted. I didn't know what I was missing until I made the switch. Comparing MT to any version of Blogger is like comparing any BMW to a Saturn. Yes, the latter is a fine car (I own one), but the former is much more fun......

Posted by DeLong at 12:57 PM

August 24, 2003
Yes, He Would Be Much Happier If He Got a Mac

Kevin Drum loses hours out of his useful life downloading, installing, and repairing the damage from a Microsoft security patch that it turns out he didn't need. But, he says, he begs readers not to tell him that he should get a Mac: he has "excellent reasons" for his choice of the Microsoft Windows (TM) operating system, and losing hours out of his useful life every once and a while is a very small price to pay for its glories. CalPundit: Windows Security: An Oxymoron?: Rob Pegoraro has a pretty good column in the Washington Post today about the security holes built into Windows that makes it so vulnerable to worms and viruses. Virus writers don't target Windows just because it has the biggest installed base, he says, but also because Windows is inherently more vulnerable. I think he underestimates the network effects inherent in Windows' huge installed base, but he still makes some good points about Microsoft's poor design decisions. At the same time, he also chides users for not keeping their systems up to date:Part of this is users' fault. "Critical updates" are called that for a reason, and it's foolish to ignore them. (The same goes for...

Posted by DeLong at 03:01 PM

August 23, 2003
Pushed Over the Edge

Pushed over the edge by the security vulnerabilities of Windows (and by other factors): retroBlogs: Linux ahoy! I[ndian ]I[nstitute of ]T[echnology] Bombay is going Linux in two days time. This decision comes as a result of current situation of network which is suffering from one of the worst virus attacks ever. It's a forced migration from Windows to Linux for more than 4000 users, but I guess this is the only way. One of my Linux enthusiast friend claims that this would have happened in 6 months time anyways. SCOPE I say, because I dont see any scenario wherein my Window-lover friends would have willingly shifted to Linux. No-piracy is one, though. But in India one doesnt have to pay for any software, not as yet.... And there's more to this. When a technology institute of this stature takes such a decision, its bound to have far reaching effects. And I hope that folks at Redmond (or atl east Hyde) are watching. Today its IITB, tmrw we'll have more IITs and then whole of India (ahem!). I cant imagine how much foreign exchange we'll be saving. Its almost like oil!......

Posted by DeLong at 07:54 PM

August 21, 2003
Assimilation, "You've Got Mail!" Style

Max Sawicky of maxspeak.org is being assimilated by AOL. Already he has changed his personal identifier string from "Max Sawicky" to "p115285". Shareholders of the former Time-Warner hope that resistance if futile....

Posted by DeLong at 01:52 PM

Consequences of Operating System Monoculture

An interesting article on viruses by Charles Duhigg of the Washington Post: Strong Attackers, Weak Software (TechNews.com): ..."This is the fastest-growing e-mail virus of all time," Sunner said. MessageLabs, which scans 17 million e-mails per day for 6,500 businesses, detected a Sobig.F infection in one of every 17 e-mails scanned when the virus peaked Tuesday. The previous peak infection rate was one in every 125 e-mails for the "Klez" virus last year. This has been a big month for "fastest-growing" computer viruses and worms. Last week, the "Blaster" worm infected at least 500,000 computers worldwide, forcing the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to shut its offices for a day and jamming computer networks around the world. The "Welchia" or "Nachi" worm, which appeared earlier this week and is designed to protect computers against Blaster, brought down the check-in system at Air Canada and infiltrated unclassified computers on the Navy-Marine intranet, a first for computer viruses. CSX Corp., the third-largest U.S. railroad, yesterday reported a computer virus slowed or halted service on its 23,000-mile eastern U.S. network, forcing cancellation of some Washington-area trains and causing delays averaging six to 10 hours. Computer security experts say the recent upsurge in virus activity is...

Posted by DeLong at 07:05 AM

August 12, 2003
A Worrisome Trend...

In the past week, three messages that I did want to read got filtered into the "spam" mailbox: Lalith Vipulananthan - Friday, 10:04 AM +0100 - Re: hot stuff Alison Oaxaca - 8/6/03, 12:09 PM -0400 - NSF Deadline Jim DeLong - 8/4/03, 9:23 AM -0400 - Tabloid Headline of the Week You may say that anybody who puts "hot stuff" or "tabloid" in the subject line of an email message deserves what he gets (even if he is my father)--or that it is Eudora's fault for not having a "whitelist" of senders--and that spam-control technology will stay ahead of spamsters' ingenuity. But I find this worrisome. I don't need to add "check my spam mailbox for non-spam messages" to my list of daily tasks......

Posted by DeLong at 09:23 PM

August 01, 2003
TypePad, the Successor to Movable Type

TypePad, the successor to Movable Type: TypePad Feature List Not for me, alas! Even $15 a month gets you only 3 GB of bandwidth a month. I pumped out 7.8 GB in the last week of July......

Posted by DeLong at 07:54 PM

July 29, 2003
Needed: Bigger Laptop Batteries

At every conference I've been to in the past year, I've seen this happen at least once: Somebody gets up in the middle of a presentation and heads out for coffee, and then trips over a laptop cord as he makes his way toward the back of the room. He (or she) stumbles--perhaps falls. A laptop lurches toward the edge of the table--and, twice in my sight, falls off with a sickening crunch to the (hopefully carpeted) floor. Bigger and better laptop batteries are clearly a high priority......

Posted by DeLong at 04:02 PM

July 20, 2003
RSS Feed Readers

A new one: Shrook: RSS done right...

Posted by DeLong at 09:35 PM

July 12, 2003
Revolution in Disk Drives Continues

I'm blown away by the idea that there is anybody who thinks he knows what to do with 20,000 terabytes of mass storage... ACM Queue - Content: "Not many of us know what to do with 1,000 20-terabyte drives--yet, that is what we have to design for in the next five to ten years."...

Posted by DeLong at 10:19 AM

June 30, 2003
Terabits per Square Inch...

Some awesome things are going on in the buildings just to the north: Berkeley Engineering Lab Notes: Printer-friendly version: ...Moore's Law has been outpaced by the explosion in data storage. Every time you open a computer catalog, it seems, you can buy a bigger hard drive for less money. The price/performance curve of hard drives is now steeper than that of microprocessors. Most recently, the storage industry demonstrated hard disks that can pack 100 gigabits of data into one square inch of magnetic media. Within the next few years, manufacturers promise a whopping one terabit per square inch storage density. To help the industry reach that milestone, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering Roberto Horowitz and his students are building microscopic actuators and sensors that enable drives to pack bits just nanometers apart. The actual disk in any PC's hard drive consists of an aluminum alloy plated with a magnetizable material. A motor spins the disk at up to 10,000 revolutions per minute. Another electromagnetic "voice coil" motor controls the position of the suspension system that holds the read/write head, not unlike a needle on the end of a record player's tone arm. As the platter spins, a cushion of...

Posted by DeLong at 08:38 PM

June 25, 2003
The Reality Distortion Field

Ars Technica's Hannibal voluntarily enters Steven Jobs's Reality Distortion Field: Ars Technica: Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference - Page 1 - (6/2003): At about noon yesterday, I phoned Deffexor to see if he wanted to head out to the Apple store in Cambridge and catch the WWDC keynote.... I'll be back again.... The Apple UI team's ability to use Quartz's rendering model to stunning visual effect was on full display. Exposť, a new UI feature that allows you to take in your entire desktop at a glance... knocked everyone's socks off.... The changes to the Finder were nice, and long overdue, but I was ultimately disappointed.... Apple's new digital camera... will be something that sells Macs... "network marketing"... the G5 towers are very nice machines for the money. You can now get a dual-processor, 64-bit Unix workstation with great consumer features, plenty of next-gen I/O capabilities (USB 2.0, Firewire 800, Bluetooth, etc.), a Superdrive, and excellent performance for less than the price of a dual-Xeon and significantly less than the price of a comparable Unix workstation from one of the other workstation vendors... the Mac a superior platform for creative professionals. That last point is actually kind of hard for me...

Posted by DeLong at 10:35 AM

June 03, 2003
Dealing with Linkrot

Via Unfogged, Puxedo has written a possible solution to the linkrot problem: Unfogged Archives: Unfogged is only two months old and already linkrot was creeping into some of the older posts. When we first started the blog, I thought posts were by nature transitory, almost like spoken words, but the blog has become a way for me to keep track of things I've read and said and dead links make a lot of the posts incomprehensible. Luckily, there is this very cool solution to linkrot, which, much like Google, allows us to cache locally pages that are likely to disappear. It works like this (note the URL). Our old host didn't support one key piece of the plugin that allows us to cache pages, so, despite otherwise excellent service, we had to move. In order to be fair to sites that make their content disappear deliberately, the cache directory will be inaccessible to search engines and direct links to cached content will not work (they work now, but won't when the DNS has resolved itself). If you have questions or suggestions, please drop me a line....

Posted by DeLong at 06:53 PM

May 25, 2003
Uses for a Palm Pilot

Use 67: Al Fishlow gave a nice commencement speech at the Berkeley International Studies graduation last week. The nice thing about having a Palm is that I could jot down enough notes during it that thereafter I can remember the high points of it: Commencement Speaker Albert Fishlow: Delighted to see the growth of international studies... Profound changes of past 15 years since International Studies was started, changes we need to grasp... End of socialism, coming of privatization... mixed results from neoliberalism... increasing inequality... interventions... new nations... death of nations: Congo, Liberia, Rwanda... Technology: cellphones, computers, internet, globalization... biotechnology... Critical deficiencies in the American economy--failure at saving. Forthcoming dollar decline... End of closed-economy analysis... We ignore the rest of the world at our peril... Nationalism is the wrong road... We--the United States--lose interest in foreign affairs very quickly... And our interest is not all that great... The Dutch and Swedes do spend 1% of GDP on foreign aid. We spend 1/10. Will we double our spending on foreign aid, as Bush promised at Monterey? Will the $15 billion promised for global AIDS materialize?... Needed: a new internationalism... Needed: optimism......

Posted by DeLong at 08:45 PM

May 21, 2003
Shudder

Occasionally I run across descriptions of life on the Windows side that make me thank $DEITY that I'm not one of them, and don't think "wasting an afternoon undoing [operating system] rot" is a normal and typical part of life. Here Jon Udell provides a fine example of this kind of narrative: Jon Udell: Testing for Windows rot: ...while wasting an afternoon undoing some rot that had crept into a Windows XP installation.... Windows rot isn't really about catastrophic failure, it's about, well, rot. I love this description: The problem with WinRot is that its a process that just seems to "happen" over a period of time. There's no warning, no messages in the event log, no "Windows would like to rot now. Is this ok? Yes/No" dialog. Nothing. [Jim O'Halloran's Weblog] In my case, two bizarre symptoms appeared on the same day: MSIE 6 began crashing hard immediately upon loading any Amazon.com page. It was fine, though, with every other site. And MSIE 6 on another machine was (of course) fine with Amazon. Radio UserLand's GUI interface, accessed by right-clicking the tray icon and selecting Open Radio, became inaccessible. No other functions of the program were noticeably affected. I...

Posted by DeLong at 07:00 PM

May 13, 2003
Not Moore's Law

Not Moore's Law, but still very impressive: WSJ.com - Looking Good: ...point where you don't need a six-digit income to afford one anymore. The average price for a 15-inch flat screen last year fell to $297 from $700 in 2001. "It's a momentous transition that's going on in the monitor marketplace at the moment," says Jennifer Gallo, an analyst with market-research firm International Data Corp. "Not only are consumers buying more flat-panel screens, but we're seeing price wars."... Driving the price decline for flat screens is a glut in liquid-crystal display panels, or LCDs. Flat-panel makers in Asia, where production is concentrated, have invested billions in new LCD factories in recent years. A typical LCD factory, or "fab," costs about $1 billion to build, which the manufacturer tries to recoup quickly by keeping prices high.... Flat-panel sales nearly doubled in 2002 to 29.1 million units. In Japan last year, LCDs accounted for 75% of the 6.8 million new monitors sold, a figure Mr. Semenza predicts will jump to 85% this year. He expects Europe to hit the 50% mark this year, up from 32%, or 10.6 million units, in 2002. In North America, the adoption rate hasn't been as rapid...

Posted by DeLong at 03:50 PM

!*#@!

Rob Schaap is, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden says of Daniel Davies, an inspiration to men of good will and bad attitude everywhere. Somebody needs to take up a collection to get Rob off of Blogspot and onto Moveable Type--that or Google needs to pour much, much more money into making sure that Blogspot doesn't lose half-composed posts. blogorrhoea: WARNING TO NEWBIE BLOGGERS: NEVER write long, carefully composed and hauntingly beautiful posts straight into Blogger. The link will break just as you attempt to post it and you'll lose the !*#@! lot. Sigh....

Posted by DeLong at 03:30 PM

April 23, 2003
Things That Make You Go "Hmmm...."

If I were going to talk about advances in human-computer interfaces, I certainly would not talk about how great Microsoft is: about how "...[t]he move to a true advance in user interface is long overdue and, with Microsoft?s success with the thumb mouse, we just might soon be seeing the software-only company leading the way." I would talk about David Gelernter's Lifestreams or about AquaMinds's Notetaker or I would find something else--find some other intriguing, useful, actually-shipping products to praise. But, then, I'm not consulting for Microsoft. I'm afraid I'm going to have to take everything in AskTog with several grains of salt in the future... AskTog: While the battle lines of pro- and anti-Aqua have been drawn in blood, no one seems to be looking at the real problem, and that is that Apple, in OS-X, is doing nothing other than running a 10-year-old and 20-year-old interface together at high speed. Apple has one advantage shared with Microsoft—control of the interface—and one advantage that is unique—control of the hardware. Apple seems unwilling or unable to take advantage of either. The next big movement in interface technology, just as with the last, will result from a marriage of hardware and...

Posted by DeLong at 08:42 PM

March 12, 2003
The Meltdown of the Berkeley Email System

Life as a sysadmin must be absolute hell: UCLink Homepage: Mar. 12, 2003 6:30pm: We have identified the original cause of the UCLink problems and are now rebuilding the system. We hope to have the system available by 8:00 am Thursday morning if all goes well. If not, we will provide an alternate email system to UCLink account holders. Mar. 12, 2003 11:41am: UCLink is currently unavailable due to serious disk problems. We are working on the problems and will keep users informed of our progress. Please check back for updates. You can also read the article posted on the UC Berkeley News for further information on the problems. We apologize for the inconvenience that this has caused you. Mar. 11, 2003 11:45am: We are working on performance issues which have arisen due to disk problems. We continue to work on restoring inboxes and folders for accounts j - o and will have an estimated completion time later today. Mar. 10, 2003: UCLink is up, however performance is slow due to extremely heavy usage. The inboxes and folders for accounts whose names start with j, k, l, m, n, or o, were lost Friday due to a disk problem. We...

Posted by DeLong at 10:22 PM

March 04, 2003
Why We Like Macintoshes

Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle reminds us of why we are glad we don't do Windows: HoustonChronicle.com - Computing: NOW I know how a doctor feels when he loses a patient whose problems have cascaded from minor to fatal -- and it's partly the physician's fault.... In my case, the death in the family is my own PC. I tried treating it for the digital equivalent of a hangnail, and in the end wound up killing the poor guy.... My problems began when I installed some new software that I plan to review -- Easy CD & DVD Creator 6, the latest version of Roxio's best-selling program for burning CDs and now DVDs.... After installing the program, I noticed that some of the icons for background programs that normally show up in the system tray were no longer there. The Task Manager showed the programs themselves were running, but I couldn't get to them via the customary icons. It was time to launch into troubleshooting mode, a state of being I know all too well. Fire off an e-mail to Roxio tech support. Do a search on Roxio's support forums, on the Web and in Usenet news groups to...

Posted by DeLong at 03:43 PM

February 14, 2003
Google and Larry Page

Google: 25000 computers all held together by velcro. How much--one cent? ten cents? twenty-five cents?--for each ad click-through. How many searches a day? And now they cannot be unseated from their king-of-search position unless someone has a truly much better software idea... Scattered notes taken that have very little to do with the substance of Google founder Larry Page's talk: "Inkjet printers made of legos" "Disk drive cases made of legos" "Actually, they weren't even legos. The point was to save money by building cheaper disk-drive cases. They were knock-off duplos from CostCo." Larry Page: "Keynote would be really outstanding if you had a fast machine to edit your presentations on." Smart-Ass: "A machine faster than those at the disposal of the founders of Google?" Larry Page: "You know what I mean: a machine faster than this laptop here." Larry Page: "Google has been profitable since the first quarter of 2001. Why did we make becoming profitable such a priority? It's good that we did, because we might well be gone if we hadn't. The real reason is that we became profitable in the first quarter of 2001 because Sergey Brin made it a priority. You see, Sergey would try...

Posted by DeLong at 04:45 PM

August 14, 2002
Making Life Difficult

Now will someone please explain to me why Apple's and Linux's desktop market shares are so small? On Lisa Rein's Radar: Warning To Windows Media File Collectors: Your Music Will Die With Your Computer: A guy reformatted his hard drive and then found out none of his Windows Media files would work. Turns out that Windows Media Player turns the "copy protection" (copy prevention) on by default when it rips CDs, so when he reformatted his hard drive the player thought he was trying to play the copy protected files and a computer other than the one they had been licensed for. Let me say this another way: when you rip CDs on a Windows machine using Windows Media Player, it makes a unique identifier for your computer (that has privacy implications, yes, but I'm trying to make another point here). That unique identifier is associated with a license that is stored separately from the file itself that will only let those files be played back on the one single computer that matches the unique identifier. No other devices. Ever. (Without a lot of hassle anyway -- Without having to backup and restore your licenses on the other computer --...

Posted by DeLong at 02:55 PM

August 05, 2002
Five Nines Instead of Nine Fives

"Five nines" means that if you express the reliability of a system numerically, the first five digits are nines: there is a greater than 99.999% chance that the system will do what you hope it will in any particular operation, and only one chance in 10,000 that something will go wrong and break. "Five nines" is a joke--as in, "You wanted nine fives of reliability? I thought you said nine fives!" i.e., that the system will perform as hoped for 55.5555555% of the time--barely more than half the time. The rest of the time something will go badly wrong. Back when I used Windows machines and pre-OS X Macintoshes, it felt like my computer systems had nine fives of reliability. You learn strange habits when you know that the blue screen of death--or the bomb icon--will appear at least twice a day. You save after every paragraph. You don't leave one program open, with a task half completed, while you switch context to another: you know there is a good chance that you will never return to the old program. You write a lot of things down on scraps of paper to try to keep track of what is...

Posted by DeLong at 07:08 PM

July 03, 2002
Google Doesn't Worry About Stickiness

Jason Kottke meditates on how Google understands the web--how it is eager to make its website an elastic place that you use to trampoline to the rest of the web, rather than a sticky place that it is hard to get away from. kottke.org :: Elastic, not sticky | Google now has this bit of text on the bottom of each of their results pages now: "Try your query on: AltaVista Excite Lycos Yahoo!" Click on Excite (for example) and it takes you directly to an Excite search results page for whatever term you were searching for. What's going on here? Google linking directly to competitors' Web sites? Have they gone insane? What Google is doing here is instructive for most companies offering online content or services. Google knows their search results are good and displayed in a useful way. You want to wander off to Excite? That's ok because they know you'll be back soon. Google doesn't care about stickiness (which is a nearly unattainable goal unless you're AOL or Yahoo!)... they know that you're not going to spend all your online time at their site. They care much more about making their site elastic: vistors aren't stuck in...

Posted by DeLong at 03:06 PM

July 01, 2002
A Trillionfold Fall in the Price of Computation

William Nordhaus (2002), "The Progress of Computing" (New Haven: Yale University xerox), heroically ventures where angels fear to tread and constructs estimates of the falling price of computation: trillionfold in the past 60 years: 35 percent per year compounded continuously. A halving time of 2 years....

Posted by DeLong at 10:10 PM

June 20, 2002
Is UNIX the Answer for Office Workers?: It Can Be

Arnold Kling doesn't like UNIX-for-desktops, and criticizes Eric Raymond for thinking that UNIX is the answer to anything--including "version fatigue", the sense of exhaustion that comes from having to learn new things about user interfaces and system customization with each new upgrade of each new program. Unsatisfied with the fact that each new Microsoft system and application version is just incompatible enough with your previous version to make it both annoying and inefficient to have to learn the differences and also more annoying and more inefficient to remain one version behind everyone else? use UNIX, says Raymond. And Arnold Kling is not happy with this proposal: Let's go to the videotape: Here's Arnold: Corante: The Bottom Line - The economics of information technology. Command Line Bigots--An article called "Version Fatigue" by Instapundit drew this response from Eric Raymond: I have been using the same text editor since 1982. I have been using the same command-line shell since 1985, and the same operating system since 1993. But that last date is actually misleading, because I still get use out of programs I wrote for the previous dialect of my OS as far back as 1982, without ever having had to alter...

Posted by DeLong at 07:07 AM

June 17, 2002
Cory Doctorow Learns Not to Blithely Download From Microsoft: All Your Preferences Are Belong to Us!

Cory Doctorow learns once again not to blithely download files from Microsoft without carefully, carefully researching what it will do beforehand. This is an established rule by now--along with "never get involved in a land war in Asia" and "never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things Explorer 5.2 for OS X released Microsoft just released the 5.2 updater for Internet Explorer for OS X -- weirdly, there hasn't been any fanfare about this release, and there're precious few notes on it, other than: This latest version --version 5.2--provides all the latest security and performance enhancements for Internet Explorer 5 for Mac OS X and a new home page--www.msn.com--for Internet Explorer. It also provides support for the new Quartz text smoothing feature provided in Mac OS X version 10.1.5 and later, so text on your screen is easier to read. Update: Just ran the installer. It makes you quit out of all your other apps before it'll run. Hellooooo? This is Unix! Jesus. The installer overwrites your preset homepage with MSN. Argh. The actual app is not visibly faster or more stable than 5.1 was and the Quartz support...

Posted by DeLong at 11:37 AM

June 16, 2002
Apple's Planned Spontaneous Viral Marketing

As someone who has been using Apple computers since the mid-1980s--and who has never dared face up to the hassle costs of switching to the dominant platform--the continued health of Apple computer is somewhat important to me. If I do switch, I want it to be when I think it is a good thing to do, not when the Macintosh platform crashes. But how can Apple survive with 5% market share? Isn't the overwhelming proportion of software talent going to be devoted to writing programs for Windows machines? Doesn't that mean that the next five big things will all require that I run Windows? All I can say is, apparently not. Apple is good enough at programming--and especially at marketing--to survive. Now is, for the first time in a decade, a moment at which I feel optimistic about its long-run survival.

Posted by DeLong at 07:12 AM

June 12, 2002
Google Is Thinking, and Learning

Over in the far-right column on this webpage is a little heading, "Google Says, 'Look At...'" Beneath it is supposed to be a list of ten websites: ten sites that the Google search engine thinks are "similar" to this webpage. At the moment Google is thinking about this request: it doesn't have much experience with this webpage, after all. At the moment it can only find two pages similar to this one: Chris Bertram's website one particular page from the Indymedia Netherlands website I hope Google has not finished thinking. I hope that the number of pages it finds "similar" will grow to ten over time. And I hope it will tell me about some web resources about which I am currently ignorant....

Posted by DeLong at 09:29 PM

A Plea For Mercy to Microsoft Word, v.X

Procrastinating Since 1979 Dan Hon's relationship with Microsoft Word, v. X, has taken a turn for the worse: Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2002 10:48:45 +0100 Subject: A short rant on the topic of MS Word From: Dan Hon <dan@danhon.com> To: Culture <culture@busstop.org> X-Mnemonic: [CULTURE:78453] X-Original-Message-ID: <B92CD78D.35EA-1077936497an@danhon.com> Reply-To: culture@busstop.org Seeing as MS Word ATLs and mini-rants appear to be in vogue... A Short Rant Concerning Word v.X, or, A series of Heartfelt Pleas Please, Word v.X, do not consume up to 1gb of virtual memory--it is unbecoming of you as a jumped up word processor Please, Word v.X, do not protest that you cannot save the notes for my exam, for it shall not only vex me but cause much stress Please, Word v.X, an "Automatic Save" feature is only useful if it saves; and saves automatically (I feel an element of predictability would not go amiss, at least when I click print, I don't get a wet fish thrown at me. Though I wouldn't put it past you, Word v.X) Please, Word v.X, when I mount a network share, actually notice that it exists; and let me do something useful with it, such as saving or opening files (I realise...

Posted by DeLong at 11:41 AM

About Movable Type

X-pair-Authenticated: 65.184.78.217 Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2002 11:29:28 -0700 Subject: Re: Notification of Payment Received From: Benjamin Trott <ben@rhumba.pair.com> To: Brad DeLong <delong@econ.Berkeley.EDU> Status: Well, the only help I would like is a pointer to something to read about how to configure your--excellent--Movable Type in non-obvious ways to do non-obvious things. Is <http://www.movabletype.org/spotlight/> the best place to look? It's definitely the best place to look to find the examples of using MT in non-obvious ways. In terms of actually figuring out *how* these people use MT in these non-obvious ways :), some places to look are in the Tips & Tricks section in our support forum, and at the scriptygoddess site: http://www.movabletype.org/support/ http://www.scriptygoddess.com/ Hope this helps, bye, Ben...

Posted by DeLong at 11:20 AM

May 30, 2002
David Reed: Did You Try Google?

It happened again. I told a friend about a new program. He wants a URL. I say "Did you try Google?" and he says "oh ... yeah." He doesn't need a URL...

Posted by DeLong at 02:18 PM

May 24, 2002
Why Has the IT Revolution Come Slowly to Europe?

The Economist reports on an OECD working paper--“The Role of Policy and Institutions for Productivity and Firm Dynamics: Evidence from Micro and Industry Data”, by Stefano Scarpetta, Philip Hemmings, Thierry Tressel and Jaejoon Woo. OECD working paper 329, 2002 <http://appli1.oecd.org/olis/2002doc.nsf/linkto/eco-wkp(2002)15/$FILE/JT00125006.PDF>--that tries to account for why both unemployment and productivity growth have been unsatisfactory in most of continental Europe over the past decade. Scarpetta et al. may finally have found the smoking gun linking labor and product market overregulation to poor economic performance...

Posted by DeLong at 02:25 PM

May 23, 2002
Strong American Relative Growth

During the 1990s, U.S. economic growth by far outstripped that of the other major industrial economies.

Posted by DeLong at 02:27 PM

May 17, 2002
The Persistence of Relatively Rapid U.S. Growth

U.S. economic growth in the 1990s has vastly outstripped that of the other components of the world economy's industrial core.

Posted by DeLong at 02:43 PM

May 15, 2002
How Google Really Ticks

The Anatomy of a Search Engine The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine | Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page | {sergey, page}@cs.stanford.edu | Computer Science Department, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305 ABSTRACT In this paper, we present Google, a prototype of a large-scale search engine which makes heavy use of the structure present in hypertext. Google is designed to crawl and index the Web efficiently and produce much more satisfying search results than existing systems. The prototype with a full text and hyperlink database of at least 24 million pages is available at http://google.stanford.edu/. To engineer a search engine is a challenging task. Search engines index tens to hundreds of millions of web pages involving a comparable number of distinct terms. They answer tens of millions of queries every day. Despite the importance of large-scale search engines on the web, very little academic research has been done on them. Furthermore, due to rapid advance in technology and web proliferation, creating a web search engine today is very different from three years ago. This paper provides an in-depth description of our large-scale web search engine -- the first such detailed public description we know of to date. Apart from...

Posted by DeLong at 05:33 PM

Freedom to Innovate?

Lurking behind the legal case that is now Unsettling States v. Microsoft has always been a whispered sotto voce claim by Microsoft that competition--in the market for PC operating systems, for office productivity suites, for browsers--is a bad thing. Technological innovation needs a single, strong, dominant, monopolistic firm to set the standard, and to tell the industry when it is time for the standard to change. Whenever I make this (possibly true, possibly false) point, I refer to UNIX-on-micros in the 1980s, when an operating system technologically superior to MS-DOS went nowhere because the lack of a dominant standard-setter prevented growth and allowed the emergence of enough small incompatibilities to fragment the market and discourage applications development (which led John Doerr to once say that I knew nothing about UNIX in the 1980s, applications development, or software markets.) I have never been able to evaluate this argument satisfactorily. But last week something happened to one of its biggest boosters. Keith Teare, CEO of Real Names, who had favored the maintenance of Microsoft's monopoly in web browsers as pro-consumer because "without Microsoft [to set the standard, and make sure that Real Names's products are included in the standard set of browser...

Posted by DeLong at 02:54 PM

November 23, 1999
How Computers Really Work

Review of Charles Petzold, Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software Have you ever wondered just how your computers really work? I mean, really, really work. Not as in "an electrical signal from memory tells the processor the number to be added," but what the electrical signal is, and how it accomplishes the magic of switching on the circuits that add while switching off the other circuits that would do other things with the number. I have. I have wondered this a lot over the past decades. Yet somehow over the past several decades my hunger for an explanation has never been properly met. I have listened to people explain how two switches wired in series are an "AND"--only if both switches are closed will the lightbulb light. I have listened to people explain how IP is a packet-based communications protocol and TCP is a connection-based protocol yet the connection-based protocal can ride on top of the packet-based protocol. Somehow these explanations did not satisfy. One seemed like answering "how does a car work?" by telling how in the presence of oxygen carbon-hydrogen bonds are broken and carbon dioxide and water are created. The other seemed like anwering...

Posted by DeLong at 04:06 PM

October 30, 1999
Getting a Head Start on Writing an Important New Category of Software

Review of Charles Ferguson, High Stakes, No Prisoners by Michael Froomkin and Brad DeLong Charles Ferguson has written a very honest book. That honesty is one chief reason to read it: he dishes the dirt on Netscape, Microsoft, his lawyers, his venture capitalists, and not least himself. But his very honesty gives the reader some critical distance--and gave us the tools to question how long the core conclusions of the book will continue to apply. In 1993 Charles Ferguson--MIT-trained engineer, consultant, and high-tech industry analyst--had a brilliant idea: the world needed a visual development software tool to create online information systems. The tool had to be visually-oriented to be useful to the non-programmers who knew the information. Yet the tool had to be sophisticated to allow organizations to structure their data in useful ways. Ferguson sunk his then-life savings into his idea. He created his software corporation, Vermeer. With his partner, Randy Forgaard, he assembled a very good programming staff. He raised venture capital. He pursued the enterprise with monomania mixed with paranoia. And by the end of 1995 there was code that was more sophisticated than the code of potential competing programs like NaviPress, Netscape Composer, or PageMill, and...

Posted by DeLong at 03:06 PM