I’ve been a subscriber to the San Francisco Chronicle for almost 13 years, the entire time I’ve lived in the city. I started that subscription because I was used to living in a household where newspapers were a daily staple, and because I wanted to support local journalism. I also felt that major cities should have newspapers and I should thus support the city paper.
And now I’m ending my subscription.
The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset, with one screen per eye and covering that blocks other vision.
It’s not available yet, but a co-worker has one of the development kits and brought that into the office this week for us to play with.
I mentioned last week that I wanted to work on “better bookmarking” as my next coding project, basing my approach off of my own thoughts and recent Mozilla research. Now I want to examine what that project might be like.
Given how often I’ve stressed the need to back up your stuff, it may seem odd for me to claim that it’s possible to have too many of them. But in some senses it is, which is why I’m writing this post as I’m copying files to my main hard drive from a virtual machine running Ubuntu that’s mounting an OpenBSD drive via a USB-SATA adapter.
Since my primary server died in February this year, I’ve been running tadhg.com on a cheap virtual machine. That’s worked fine, but the original server came back to life quite some time ago, and today I finally completed the process of moving tadhg.com back to it. The move is now complete, and hopefully you’re not seeing anything unexpected. This post is about what’s involved in that move and what I’ve tried to improve along the way.
I switched to writing in reStructuredText in mid-2009, and to writing in Vim in early 2010. Since then I’ve made a lot of tweaks to improve editing efficiency, and eventually collected these in a Vim plugin (and a Python script). The following discussion of that plugin might be of interest to anyone concerned with writing efficiency and/or editor customization.
I use plain text formats for all of my writing, and you should at least consider doing the same.
By “plain text” I mean not only a text (as opposed to binary) file format, but also something that is plainly readable when simply listing the contents of the file—that is, a format you don’t necessarily need a specific tool to read. Such formats are more flexible, more robust, more malleable, and more future-proof than more complicated alternatives.
I’ve been experimenting with using terminal Vim in a tmux environment recently. I like it as a programming setup, primarily because of the ease with which I can set up new workspaces and switch between them—without, of course, having to move my hands off the keyboard. I did encounter some annoyances along the way, and my solutions for them are included below.
I haven’t written about how I configure a new machine since mid-2007, so this will be both about the new setup and about how it compares to that one.
The new machine is a Mac laptop running Mountain Lion, as opposed to the Windows desktop I set up five years ago.
The death of my old MacBook Pro this evening has caused the loss (hopefully only temporary) of the blog post I was working on today (on androids in Alien and Prometheus), which I will try to recover and finish next week.
In the meantime, here are some interesting things I encountered on the internet this week.
In the time since I bought a Kindle, I’ve been extremely happy with it. But the rise of the ebook has brought with it questions about my relationship with books, specifically about book ownership and the notion of a personal library. I’m still trying to cut down on the physical books in my possession—the limited physical space that partly prompted acquiring a Kindle in the first place is still the same—and am finding it difficult to do so.
A discussion of common and custom blog features, and candidate applications that might provide them.
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Last week I went through a data loss scenario similar to last year’s, but with a less happy outcome—no miraculous recovery of the data this time. I screwed up some things in my backup infrastructure, so I did lose some data—and this should serve as a warning to you all. Backup your stuff, do it well, do it often, and don’t leave any holes.
The effect of AI on a setting is similar to the effect of sentient alien beings, in that it helps to define the limits of “humanity”. By AI here I mean strong AI, the ability to create sentient machines, and particularly sentient machines of vastly greater intelligence than humans.
While it’s certainly possible to include AI created by non-human civilizations, that’s really the realm of “sentient aliens” rather than what I have in mind here, which is strong AI created by the human race. The interplay/tension between those two groups is critical a lot of space opera, e.g. Iain M. Banks’ Culture series and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos—not to mention Battlestar Galactica and critical aspects of the background of the Dune setting.
I wasn’t a big Steve Jobs fan; despite my working almost exclusively on Mac hardware for the last several years, I disagreed strongly with the direction I thought he was moving computing in. I was surprised to find myself feeling very sad at the news of his passing.
I’m not entirely sure what drove the extent of that sadness.
Google+ has come under fire recently for banning users who don’t have usernames conforming to the service’s rules about what usernames should be like. Google’s policies on the matter are wrong, and the reasons why they’re wrong, as well as the potential implications of their policy, are important.
I often come across unwieldy select elements, and it’d be awesome if every site used Chosen to make them more usable. In fact, I should probably look into using GreaseMonkey to make Chosen ubiquitous for me.
Observant readers may have noticed that tadhg.com was unavailable for much of last week, from Sunday 17 July to yesterday, 23 July. This affected my email as well as my blog, so if you sent me email in that period, it’s entirely possible that I didn’t get it (and, therefore, you should send it to me again if you haven’t heard from me).
At time of writing, the server hosting my blog and email is down, and the possibility data recovery is uncertain. This makes me feel a little dumb, as I don’t have everything backed up. Not good, especially since I’m highly aware of the need for backups. But this server is where I generally back things up to, and having backups of it is something I was once better at but have lost the habit of. So if the data isn’t recoverable, I’m missing quite a lot, and it would be, at the least, a significant headache to get it back.
This afternoon, a conversation at work centered on the fact that it’s possible to “teach” text analysis software with a corpus of a user’s instant messages such that when presented with a new message, the software can identify which of the user’s contacts sent that message—without any other data, just the body of the message. Which is interesting, but I was more interested in whether or not the software could learn what the user’s responses to the individual contacts were like, and from that point learn to effectively feign being the user. Essentially, whether one could successfully train a bot to conduct IM conversations in your stead.
So I was quite intrigued to see this post from JWZ tonight discussion more or less that same idea, although apparently without some of the learning aspects. Apparently the implementation isn’t too good, but it’s definitely an interesting concept, and I wonder if we’ll eventually get to the point where bots (or “smart agents”) handle this kind of thing for some significant number of people.
Before, there were Orkut, Wave, and Buzz; now, there’s Google+, Google’s latest foray into social networking. I don’t have an account (if any of my Googly friends want to help me out there, I’d be happy to try it out), and most of my info comes from the intro, the announcement, and Stephen Levy’s piece.
Everything is a Remix Part 3. Definitely worth watching, particularly because the ideas discussed are presented effectively, and because the concepts of “originality” that govern our ethics and laws are definitely in need of major revision (a subject that will apparently be tackled in Part 3…)