Ramblings & ephemera

Unix: An Oral History

From ‘s “Unix: An Oral History” (: ): Multics Gordon M. Brown … [Multics] was designed to include fault-free continuous operation capabilities, convenient remote terminal access and selective information sharing. One of the most important features of Multics was to follow the trend towards integrated multi-tasking and permit multiple programming environments and different human interfaces […]

The widespread corruption at the heart of Greek culture

From Michael Lewis’s “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds” (Vanity Fair: 1 October 2010): In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms—and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. […]

HDTV’s widely adopted by American households

From Alex Mindlin’s “Room to Grow as Homes Add HD TVs” (The New York Times: 21 November 2010): High-definition televisions have entered American homes with startling speed; 56 percent of households now have at least some HD channels and an HD set, according to Nielsen. Among consumer technologies, that speed of adoption is rivaled only […]

Shelby Foote on how the Civil War changed the gender of the teaching profession

From Carter Coleman, Donald Faulkner, & William Kennedy’s interview of Shelby Foote in “The Art of Fiction No. 158” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): About the time that war started I think roughly eighty-five or ninety percent of the teachers in this country were men. After the war was over something like eighty-five […]

My favorite iPhone apps

Someone on a mailing list asked for a list of our favorite iPhone apps. Here’s what I said: Reeder is the best RSS reader (tied to Google Reader, natch), bar none. Articles presents Wikipedia beautifully. Dropbox is an essential for the reasons Martin gave. Echofon is a great Twitter app, especially since it syncs with […]

Don DeLillo on how film has changed our society completely

From Adam Begley’s interview of Don DeLillo in “The Art of Fiction No. 135” (The Paris Review: Fall 1993, No. 128): Film allows us to examine ourselves in ways earlier societies could not—examine ourselves, imitate ourselves, extend ourselves, reshape our reality. It permeates our lives, this double vision, and also detaches us, turns some of […]

John Steinbeck on how Europe & America view poverty

From Nathaniel Benchley’s interview of John Steinbeck in “The Art of Fiction No. 45” (The Paris Review: Fall 1969, No. 48): I wonder whether you will remember one last piece of advice you gave me. It was during the exuberance of the rich and frantic twenties and I was going out into that world to […]

Evaluating software features

When developing software, it’s important to rank your features, as you can’t do everything, & not everything is worth doing. One way to rank features is to categorize them in order of importance using the following three categories: Required/Essential/Necessary: Mission critical features that must be present Preferred/Conditional: Important features & enhancements that bring better experience […]

Dan Ariely on irrational decision making

From Dan Ariely’s “Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our own decisions?” (TED: 24 June 2009): I’ll give you a couple of more examples on irrational decision making. Imagine I give you a choice. Do you want to go for a weekend to Rome? All expenses paid, hotel, transportation, food, breakfast, a continental […]

A vote for CrossOver

Let me recommend Codeweavers’ CrossOver, a commercial implementation of WINE that works on Linux & Mac OS X. It’s reasonably priced, & it makes setting up & configuring both WINE and the programs that run inside WINE much easier. Plus, the company is made up of good people, & they’re very upfront on their site […]

How the Madden NFL videogame was developed

From Patrick Hruby’s “The Franchise: The inside story of how Madden NFL became a video game dynasty” (ESPN: 22 July 2010): 1982 Harvard grad and former Apple employee Trip Hawkins founds video game maker Electronic Arts, in part to create a football game; one year later, the company releases “One-on-One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird,” […]

A summary of Galbraith’s The Affluent Society

From a summary of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (Abridge Me: 1 June 2010): The Concept of the Conventional Wisdom The paradigms on which society’s perception of reality are based are highly conservative. People invest heavily in these ideas, and so are heavily resistant to changing them. They are only finally overturned by new […]

Errol Morris on “investigative journalism”

From Errol Morris’s “Film Legend Errol Morris Salutes New Graduates At 2010 Commencement” (Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: 10 May 2010): I have often wondered why we need the phrase investigative journalism. Isn’t all journalism supposed to be investigative? Isn’t journalism without an investigative element little more than gossip? And isn’t there enough gossip around […]

Microsoft’s real customers

From James Fallow’s “Inside the Leviathan: A short and stimulating brush with Microsoft’s corporate culture” (The Atlantic: February 2000): Financial analysts have long recognized that Microsoft’s profit really comes from two sources. One is operating systems (Windows, in all its varieties), and the other is the Office suite of programs. Everything else — Flight Simulator, […]

Luther & Poe both complained about too many books

From Clay Shirky’s “Does The Internet Make You Smarter?” (The Wall Street Journal: 5 June 2010): In the history of print … complaints about distraction have been rampant; no less a beneficiary of the printing press than Martin Luther complained, “The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure of limit to […]

The dangers of loyalty based on personality, not policies

This quotation is directly about politics, but it’s about anyone – or even anything – we emotionally attach ourselves to. From Glenn Greenwald’s “My friend the president” (Salon: 8 December 2009): Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are […]

Lovely – Microsoft will let companies create ad-filled desktop themes

From Jeff Bertolucci’s “Windows 7 Ads: Microsoft Tarts Up the Desktop” (PC World: 13 November 2009): Microsoft has announced plans to peddle Windows 7 desktop space to advertisers, who’ll create Windows UI themes–customized backgrounds, audio clips, and other elements–that highlight their brand, Computerworld reports. In fact, some advertiser themes are already available in the Windows […]

Linux Phrasebook in Russian

My book, Linux Phrasebook, which is still selling well & still just as useful today as when it came out in 2006 (& will be for another decade or two, given how consistent the Linux command line is), has been translated into Russian. You can find it at this Russian website, where I found out […]

SMS gateways you can use to get around high texting charges

Tired of high SMS charges? Use these SMS gateways, which translate emails & IMs into SMS text messages … for free (well, to the sender, anyway – the recipient still has to pay). And when recipients reply, those replies come back to the sender in the same format; in other words, you email someone, they […]

David Foster Wallace on what’s wrong with memoirs, celebrity profiles, & academic writing

From Dwight Garner’s “We Are In a State of Three-Alarm Emergency” (The New York Times Paper Cuts Blog: 11 September 2007): In his brooding and kaleidoscopic introduction to the new “Best American Essays 2007” – a 5,000-word chunk of it is online – David Foster Wallace doesn’t write so much as shred (in the Jerry […]