July 2010 Archives

From AT&T's website. This is the form they present when you want to check on the status of an order. Note the captcha, unretouched and exactly as it appeared onscreen in this actual-size screen grab:

AT&T Captcha Fail

Leave it to the Death Star to come up with the most ingenious captcha of all, guaranteed to foil not only evil spam bots but every single legitimate user as well.

The latest slick new shiny thing is out and it's called Flipboard for iPad. Flipboard is old RSS-reader wine in a new bottle and I'm not buyin' it. It is pure iPad gold, don't get me wrong. It will probably be hugely popular. But I see it as pure eye candy that fooled the VCs who should know better but hey, anything with "flip" in the company name is a horse worth gambling on to a VC, right? (I'm guessing the suitors are AOL or IAC, maybe CondeNast but do they have the cash?).

the latest shiny thing for ipad

Most of what your "friends" are reading or sharing or linking to is crap. Flipboard lets you get at the crap in a prettier way. This is not progress.

I don't believe Flipboard changes things anywhere near the way the pundits are already saying. It isn't a solution, it's just a slicker, shinier instantiation of an ever-worsening problem (it keeps you drowning in middle of an ever-widening river) when what we need is a solution to the problem (something that dams the river). It is not the answer. Perhaps it is yet another necessary stage (sheesh, how many more stages do we have to go through?) before the real solution, a veritable paradigm shift, starts appearing.

Harry Shearer outdoes himself with a satire on the Mel Gibson phone-tape scandal. From his Le Show yesterday. The Mel Gibson piece starts around 33:44 into the mp3 file which is available here. Click the "download" link from that KCRW page.

Harry not only nails his raging Mel Gibson impression, but the subject matter is hilarious.

Very creative. And I agree. Libraries rock.

(I wish they could have shot another take, or at least done a quick audio overdub to fix the "liberry" gaffe.)

I was impressed by the Jobs presentation on the iPhone 4 controversy. However, he mentioned Apple's transparency in his talk and then the company chose not to be fully transparent with the video. If Apple truly wants to be fully transparent, then the video of the press conference should have included the Q&A session as well as the Jobs presentation. As it is, the video abruptly ends with Jobs inviting two of his colleagues up on the stage saying "... and we're going to try to answer your ques---". Mid-sentence! What was Apple thinking by cutting it there? They should have provided the full video, blemishes and all, rather than deny that there was a Q&A or imply it was not worthy of public consumption (it's clear that's what Apple thinks of the media, but that's another matter.) Offering the full video would have qualified the event, more particularly, the recording of the event, as an actual press conference. As it is, all outsiders got to see was for all intents and purposes the latest Jobs keynote. That is not being transparent.

Since the big phrase of the day is "hard data", here's some hard data. After watching the video, I reached for my beat-up, scratched, dented, but still chugging away iPhone, er, iPhone 2007 edition, the original one, 8GB, and noted that the cellular signal strength was indicated as five bars. I then held the phone in a different way, and watched as the signal fell to two bars. I then released this particular kind of grip and held it more delicately with two fingers, one on each side. The signal went back to five bars.

Oh, and another thing... Everyone gobbled up Jobs' 0.55% quote and the media faithfully reguritated it, but I am left wondering: 0.55% of customers called AppleCare. Okay, sounds swell. But how many contacted Apple in some other way? What is the TOTAL percentage of customers complaining out of the three million total customers? How many just called the local Apple store they bought it from? How many bought it from AT&T, or BestBuy, and complained there? How many went back to their local Apple Store and complained to the Genius Bar? When you add up all the complaints, is it more than 0.55% of 3 million? I bet it is. Maybe not by much, but I bet by > 2x. If I'd bought an iPhone 4 (which I have not) and found problems, I would have gone back to the store, not called AppleCare. I bet lots of people did just that. But Apple has not, to my knowledge, disclosed those figures.

Can you imagine, say in the 70s or 80s, that this would be a "normal" scene in a public park in 2010?

Tourists Riding Segways in San Diego Park

Remember Segways? Those things that Dean Kamen and company came up with after a brainstorming session where the question was, "How can we outdo the idiot bicyclist? Surely there's something we can build that is more dangerous to the public." I suspect somebody tilted the country and all the Segways rolled over to San Diego, where the tourists now pay big bucks to rent 'em. It's weird. Good luck if you are unlucky enough to encounter a whole herd of 'em barreling towards you at full speed on a narrow sidewalk. They do not yield to pedestrians.

Warren Buffet has been known over the years to be particularly interested in "ugly" and "boring" companies, that is, ones that are not "hot", "flashy", and getting a lot of attention but are nevertheless well-run, profitable, growing businesses. He once said, "be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful." There's a notion, I believe, that's tied to this sort of thinking, that I apply when it comes to software design. Be skeptical when the demo is perfect and full of eye candy or suggests IMAX thinking for a tiny screen. Ask for the ugly use case: all text, no images; big fonts instead of small; black and white instead of color. Try to break the design. Find where it cracks.

Microsoft Live Labs has a new proof-of-concept demo called Pivot which they've written about over at VentureBeat. It's sort of a genetic splicing of Apple's iPhoto with Google's visual timeline search under Google News Archives, where you see frequency counts of results represented as vertical bars in a timeline, so you get to see how many results there were in, say, the 70s versus the 80s versus the 90s, or by year just within the 70s (something I have done thousands of times when researching material for my book). With Pivot, they've added the actual "pages" as building blocks that make up the bars. That's cool. I'm pleased to see stuff like this; it gives me hope. There is good thinking in this article and I've seen good thinking lately elsewhere too regarding new and sometimes radically new interfaces for browsing, curating, searching, and interacting with ever-increasingly vast stores of information. The more proofs-of-concepts, demos, ideas, the better. I can't wait for computing to get past the desktop operating system model and the conventional website model (mobile apps are a start, but iPhone and iPad leave me mostly underwhelmed except when they're used as leisure-time information consumption devices).

Microsoft Pivot

I am a big fan of more visual forms of search. While I think Pivot is compelling, what the article shows is what one might call a "sexy" use case. If I were doing the demo I'm sure I would have picked the same use case: highly visual and flashy color magazine covers and photographs. What's not to like? But whenever I see a demo of a proof-of-concept software app, I feel compelled to ask, okay, show me the ugly demo too. Show me use cases that break your whole design model. Show me something that you'd never show at a conference, or in a product video released on the company website if and when the product shipped. Something "boring" but at the same time the "normal" use case. How how well does Pivot work with, say, a hundred thousand text documents (say, all-courier-font legal documents, or 100 years of memos & letters & monographs stored at a university archive), none of which have images or diagrams, and all, from a bird's eye view, look identical?

The article brings up Minority Report, but that actually nudges my skept-o-meter further into the red zone. The interfaces in Minority Report are pure eye candy -- literally pure visuals. It's basically VR meets Final Cut Pro. That might help one search YouTube, but what about text? How well, I keep wondering, would Pivot work for the "ugly" mundane use cases? I wonder whether the creators of Pivot are thinking beyond visually distinctive objects like photos and magazine covers, and are confident that it can be just as effective with all those legal documents, memos, letters, and monographs. And emails, and a hundred million books, and stuff like that.

One admission: I'm as guilty as anyone of flashy demos and prototypes and mockups that depict an ideal use case, typically gorgeous eye candy but that might not work so well for countless courier-font documents. Still, I try to remember to ask the tough question of how to break a design that "feels" perfect, because if it feels totally right, something's wrong.

Now, if only the Pivot demo ran on a Mac...

Ever noticed how often the current administration uses this phrase? I guarantee if you read this list, you will be attuned to hear the phrase from here on out. Every time someone in the administration is quoted by the media, it's this phrase that gets quoted. It's a good thing nobody's made a drinking game out of it -- might be dangerous.

Let's take a look (all quotes by the President unless otherwise noted).

  • (2010-07-02) Make no mistake. We are headed in the right direction.
  • (2010-06-28) Make no mistake. We are moving in the same direction.
  • (2010-06-23) Make no mistake. We have a clear goal.
  • (2010-06-15) Make no mistake. We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long as it takes.
  • (2010-06-15) Make no mistake. The United States of America has gone through tough times before and we always come out stronger.
  • (2010-06-07) There will be times where you make a mistake and you stray from the values that you hold most deeply.
  • (2010-05-27 ) Make no mistake: BP is operating at our direction.
  • (2010-05-27 ) Now, it's going to be entirely possible in a operation this large that mistakes are made, judgments prove to be wrong; that people say in retrospect, you know, if we culd have done that or we did that, this might have turned out differently -- although in a lot of cases it may be speculation.
  • (2010-05-27 ) It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to make mistakes. But there shouldn’t be any confusion here: The federal government is fully engaged, and I’m fully engaged.
  • (2010-05-08) Make no mistake about it, we understand this mission has required real sacrifice, especially from you and your families. (Joe Biden)
  • (2010-05-05) Make no mistake, our immigration system is broken.
  • (2010-05-04) Make no mistake: We cannot allow these reforms to be watered down.
  • (2010-04-23) Make no mistake: Those who are attacking the current bill before the Senate on financial reform are playing a game of distraction from the real choice in this debate – standing with the American families on Main Street or the status quo on Wall Street. (Jen Psaki, WH Deputy Comms Dir)
  • (2010-04-22) And make no mistake, that is exactly what will happen if we allow this moment to pass -- and that’s an outcome that is unacceptable to me and it’s unacceptable to you, the American people.
  • (2010-04-17) But make no mistake, under the bill, failed financial firms will be sold off, broken apart, or otherwise liquidated; culpable management will be fired, creditors will be allowed to suffer losses, and shareholders will be wiped out. (Jen Psaki, WH Deputy Comms Dir)
  • (2010-04-12) Make no mistake about it this administration is intent on reducing and continuing to reduce our nuclear weapons. (Joe Biden)
  • (2010-04-06) The markets didn’t make that mistake. And today, a New York Times editorial elaborates on why the critics have it wrong. (Dan Pfeiffer, WH Comms Dir)
  • (2010-03-28) Make no mistake, this fight matters to us.
  • (2010-03-18) Make no mistake: While this jobs bill is absolutely necessary, it’s by no means enough.
  • (2010-03-11) Make no mistake: it cannot be forever that the world’s greatest borrower stays the world’s greatest power. (Lawrence H Summers)
  • (2010-03-11) Make no mistake about America’s resolve. Make no mistake about America’s resolve. (Joe Biden)
  • (2010-02-26) Make no mistake about it: this bill is too important to fall prey to the political games of one person. (Dan Pfeiffer, WH Comms Dir)
  • (2010-02-18) But, you know, no one gets to where they are without a lot of mistakes, and I tell my kids that's the whole point. Now you make the mistakes. And be proud of those mistakes, you know. And if you don't know what's going on, make some -- make sure people explain things to you. (Mrs. Obama)
  • (2010-02-16) Make no mistake: Whether it’s nuclear energy, or solar or wind energy, if we fail to invest in the technologies of tomorrow, then we’re going to be importing those technologies instead of exporting them.
  • (2010-02-09) In the end, we know that solving our obesity challenge won’t be easy – and it certainly won’t be quick. But make no mistake about it, this problem can be solved. (Mrs. Obama)
  • (2010-02-09) So much of what we all want for our kids isn’t within our control. We want them to succeed in everything they do. We want to protect them from every hardship and spare them from every mistake. (Mrs. Obama)
  • (2010-02-01) One of the challenges is we need to get those deficits down in the future so that we don't choke off economic activity and job creation. But we don't -- we want to make sure we don't do that too quickly or we will repeat the mistakes of 1937. Remember what happened then -- when the economy was beginning to recover, the nation moved to consolidate the deficit too quickly, and you threw the economy back into recession. We don't want to do that. (OMB Director Peter Orszag)
  • (2010-01-27) Make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.
  • (2010-01-06) Make no mistake: Our future is on the line. The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow.
  • (2010-01-05) Make no mistake: We will close Guantanamo prison…
  • (2010-01-02) And make no mistake, that's exactly what we've been doing.
  • (2009-12-10) Make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world.
  • (2009-12-10) Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.
  • (2009-12-10) We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil.
  • (2009-12-04) And part of what our message to the banks is, the taxpayers were there for you to clean up your mistakes.
  • (2009-12-04) Well, you know what, if you’re that big, then you better have a whole bunch of safeguards so that we don’t have to bail you out if you make bad mistakes.
  • (2009-10-31) As I’ve said many times, it took years to dig our way into the crisis we’ve faced. It will take more than a few months to dig our way out. But make no mistake: that’s exactly what we will do.
  • (2009-10-22) But you're right, make no mistake, there are big special interest forces aligned against ensuring that consumers have the voice they need. (Robert Gibbs, WH Press Secretary)
  • (2009-10-20) But make no mistake -- these soldiers define the meaning of bravery and heroism.
  • (2009-09-29) And don't make any mistake – the normal discussion on the right approach should not be misinterpreted as lack of resolve. This Alliance will stand united and we will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to finish our job.
  • (2009-09-23) Some of our actions have yielded progress. Some have laid the groundwork for progress in the future. But make no mistake: This cannot solely be America's endeavor.
  • (2009-09-18) We will not make the mistake of prematurely declaring victory or withdrawing public support for the flow of credit. Such mistakes were made in the United States in 1937 and -8 and were made in Japan at several junctures during the 1990s, and they provide a cautionary tale. (Lawrence H Summers)
  • (2009-09-17) Make no mistake, health insurance reform is something every young person should care about for themselves. (Jesse Lee,
  • (2009-09-15) We won't make that mistake again. We will not pay for health insurance reform by adding to our deficits. I will not sign a bill that adds a dime to our deficits, either now or in the future.
  • (2009-09-14) Make no mistake, this administration is committed to pursuing expanded trade and new trade agreements. It is absolutely essential to our economic future.
  • (2009-09-08) I made some mistakes when I was in high school, wasn’t as focused as I should have been. But the fact that my parents -- that my mother and my grandparents had emphasized education allowed me to make up for some of those mistakes and still get into a good college. And when I got to college, I was then able to really bear down and focus on education.
  • (2009-09-08) On the other hand, I think that not having a dad in some ways forced me to grow up faster. It meant that I made more mistakes because I didn't have somebody to tell me, here's how you do this or here's how you do that.
  • (2009-09-08) Well, let me give you some very practical tips. (Laughter.) First of all, I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook -- (laughter) -- because in the YouTube age, whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life. And when you're young, you make mistakes and you do some stupid stuff. And I've been hearing a lot about young people who -- you know, they're posting stuff on Facebook, and then suddenly they go apply for a job and somebody has done a search and -- so that's some practical political advice for you right there. (Laughter.) That's number one.
  • (2009-09-08) And just remember that -- my only other piece of advice is stay focused, do well, apply yourself in school -- but also understand you're going to make some mistakes during your teenage years and you can recover from them. Just make sure that if you do make a mistake that you learn from it and you'll be fine.
  • (2009-09-07) Make no mistake, we're moving in the right direction. We're on the road to recovery, Ohio. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
  • (2009-09-02) But make no mistake, the benefits the government receives are equally as impressive – working with small businesses allows the federal government to work with some of the most innovative companies in America, often with direct contact with the CEO. (SBA Administrator Karen Mills)
  • (2009-08-17) The special interests, contractors, and entrenched lobbyists, they're invested in the status quo. And they're putting up a fight. But make no mistake, so are we.
  • (2009-08-06) When you make a mistake in your report, sometimes I e-mail you; occasionally I call; sometimes I just throw something against the wall. Occasionally it's all three. (Robert Gibbs)
  • (2009-07-27) Make no mistake: The more nations acquire these weapons, the more likely it is that they will be used.
  • (2009-07-22) There are still those who want to foment sectarian conflict. But make no mistake: Those efforts will fail.
  • (2009-07-22) Because make no mistake: rescue alone is not a recovery. (OMB Dir Peter Orszag)
  • (2009-07-21) But make no mistake: We are closer than ever before to the reform that the American people need, and we're going to get the job done.
  • (2009-07-17) Make no mistake, if we step back from this challenge at this moment, we are consigning our children to a future of skyrocketing premiums and crushing deficits.
  • (2009-07-17) But make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America.
  • (2009-07-16) So make no mistake about it: Health care reform is deficit reform.
  • (2009-07-13) So make no mistake: The status quo on health care is no longer an option for the United States of America.
  • (2009-07-11) This progress may lack the drama of 20th century liberation struggles, but make no mistake: It will ultimately be more significant. For just as it is important to emerge from the control of other nations, it is even more important to build one's own nation.
  • (2009-07-11) Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power.
  • (2009-07-09) But make no mistake, your government is taking every step to do its part and ensure we are prepared as possible. (Jesse Lee)
  • (2009-07-07) Make no mistake: Civil society -- civil groups hold their governments to high standards.
  • (2009-07-07) And then, within a few short years, the world as it was ceased to be. Now, make no mistake: This change did not come from any one nation

Make no mistake: that's just the past 12 months. And let me be clear: there are lots more.

tesla and louiseToday's Headlines: Tesla Shares [insert verb here].

Slump. Taken Down. Falls Back to Earth. Drop. Slip. Drop. Sinks. Skids. Fall. Down. Power Failure. Tanks. Freefall.

And the best one of the day goes to AllThingsD: Well, The Brakes Work.



I've been waiting for the return of morphing. Remember the morphing craze of the 1990s? Nice to see it has returned, only this time with video.

Here's Looking at You, Kid -- Casablanca

It's a YouTube video called Hill of Beans in This Crazy World that unfortunately can't be embedded. So click on the link or click on the image to see the video.

From ifitwasmyhome.com.

visualizing the oil spill

If you set it to Hawaii, you see that it it's wider than the entire Hawaiian island chain. if you set it to Lancaster, PA, you can see that it would extend from east of New York City (Bridgeport, CT area) all the way west to Akron, OH.

Honey, I'm going out for a spin . . . . of the propeller!

It's like an Aptera without its wings clipped.

More at http://terrafugia.com.



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