05 June 2005

Zen and the Art of Laundry Folding

I spent a few hours this morning sorting and folding laundry in between trips to our fancy new washing machine and old but still running fine dryer. As it turns out, folding laundry gives my mind lots of time to wander and think about all sorts of interesting curiosities that are floating around in the back of it. I’m going to let some of this out of my head right now so I don’t lose it before more things come up. I’ll also round up some recent events that happened to have crossed my mind…

Back in the Saddle

I’ve started jumping again, or more specifically I’ve ridden horses that have jumped over small fences again. I’ve been out riding three times now in the past two weeks at the stable where Eileen has been taking her lessons. This marks the first time I’ve been out riding since I wrecked my knee and had surgery on it a year ago February. The knee joint was a little sore the first ride where there was still some left over scar tissue from the surgery, but is doing a lot better since then. The muscles used for riding and holding two point are definitely atrophied though. After 20 or 30 minutes of riding, my legs turn to jello and holding my heels down and legs in position becomes a real challenge. But I am out there again, and it feels good to get back. I need the exercise anyway.

New Washing Machine

We picked up a new washing machine in the past month. The old top-loading Maytag that we had previously had started leaking water on the floor a bit more often than it used to. It didn’t help its case that it had the energy efficiency of a Cadillac Escalade. We picked up a new Whirlpool washing machine from Sears while they were having an appliance sale in May. While the economics of a high-efficiency washer don’t always pan out for folks on municipal water, being on a well means that the more water used, the bigger the power bill at the end of the month. And well pumps can be pretty thirsty with the power, so it made a bit more sense for us. Front-loading washers are claimed to be a little easier on fabrics too, which would be a bonus as some of my shirts were left fairly thread-bare by the last washer.


There is a lot of useful information out in the wikis and blogs that populate the Internet nowadays. There is a lot of unuseful information as well. I find myself having to spend a lot of time sifting through links to find things that matter and have some value among the chaff. A lot of search engine searches nowadays (even on Google) for reviews or interoperability instructions for some item returns results consisting of 231 fly-by-night vendors offering the item or something related to it for sale.

I’ve recently found myself referring back to the c2.com software development pattern wiki or Wikipedia on a regular basis. In addition, I often wind up browsing other wikis associated with open-source projects I’m following or involved in. This of course doesn’t include the pages from WikityWidget or private wikis for employers and elsewhere.

Altogether it’s quite a fiasco trying to keep track of all these wikis and items that I’m interested in. What I need is a metawiki. I need my own personal copy of all these sources that can be updated on the fly, but still perfectly accessible when the internet is not available. I need to be able to make notes on the pages about things that I think warrant more research or investigation. I need to be able to make my own pages indepedent of these sources. I need to be able to share how I feel about the veracity of parts of wiki pages or whole wiki pages in a simple way (that would probably involve keypair cryptography).

Onion network for some information

While thinking more about the metawiki it became pretty clear that useful things from outside the “wikiverse” would want to be accessible as well. There are plenty of RSS feeds for news sources and blogs out there so those would be a pretty obvious source to start with. There are also those who clutter their feed with advertisements. And then there are organizations who think that they can successfully trade content for people’s demographic information. A lot of these entities get pretty angry when someone extracts just the useful information (like an article and its graphics, without 7 “click here to view the next page” pages) and throws away their advertising.

It would be pretty straightforward to import this information into the metawiki under a variety of headings and keep it in an onion network or similar device so that the providers of the information and the recipients don’t need to know who each other are. Without knowing who each other are this avoids unnecessary litigious issues with large less enlightened organizations. Being able to distribute this information across of a lot of potential sources would also have a lot of value.

High latency links for email

There are a lot of places (link syncing wikis) where the link latency is not a big deal. Present IP networks can generally get even the lowliest consumers to the far side of Earth in a few hundred milliseconds. In very many cases, that number could be 5 or 6 seconds and not really be a big problem for the communication involved. This is true of bulk communications like email or file downloads, that are time-sensitive only in the minutes sense. Since it’s going to take a while to get there anyway, there’s no expectation of immediacy and a longer, larger pipe would work just as well as a smaller one. There are now colocation facilities and network providers that will charge you more to have even less latency than normal. It remains to be seen if there will be a market for more latency for those that are willing to cope with it. Launching satellites is kind of expensive so the market would have to be built using cheap point-to-point links that use some wireless technology.

Futility of trying to control consumable information

All this noise being made over people illegally copying information is actually people waving their hands at a barndoor while the horse has made it into the next county. As soon as you let people see/hear/read the information your control over it is lost. At best the information sales companies could use key-pair cryptography to make sure that only your device at your home with your key can render the information. But once it has done so you can talk to your friends about it. You can wrestle the information out into a more portable form. You can invite your friends over to see the information. They can use a video camera, still camera, CD burner, etc. to copy the information and take it home for them. They could have a clone of your information viewer so it looked like it was you.

No, it’s a lost cause trying to get all those cows back in the barn. All these “media” outlets had better figure out a model that’s going to work for them. Hardback books and movies in the theaters do add some value that isn’t there when it’s just text or a movie on a computer screen. Many of us will pay extra for the value-add. On the other hand when that value add isn’t necessary or desirable, many people won’t pay extra and find that the inconvenience of waiting a few hours for a download is more rewarding than dealing with the restrictions of the information company and working through their convoluted access control schemes.

Waterfall Projects Considered Harmful

The “waterfall” development model is bad for software development. It may be good for making cars or TV sets or ceiling fans, but it is not good for making software, writing a book or painting a picture. It results in huge projects that wind up over-budget, ridiculously late, and largely unsuccessful in delivering what the customer needs. The more layers of indirection between the people making something and the people consuming it, the less likely that you’re going to get what the consumer wants. Being in constant communication about the work in progress and being able to show it, helps immensely.

Arly comes to visit

Arly, the cute little calico from across the street, has been visiting us the past few days. She still can’t operate the muscles to move the last 2 or 3 inches of her tail which affects her ability to keep her balance. I tried to help her off our deck railing before she wobbled and fell to the concrete below. I got bitten in the hand for my trouble.

Onboard computer for the TT

I thought some about the application of a mini-ITX or smaller custom computer system in the trunk of the Audi. It has pins that link to the stereo system, the power supply of the car, a small cellular band antenna on the roof and a RJ-45 jack in the passenger compartment. Using the cellular antenna as an antenna for 802.11a/b/g for data access on free wi-fi points driving around might work out if information could be bursted to it fast enough from a server somewhere and then trickled in as long as the connection lasts. It would be a similar set of protocol rules as used in deep space probes where critical information is sent early to make sure it gets there, and everything else is slowly streamed in while there’s a chance it can be received. There are a lot of ways it could be used, including access to the metawiki out in the field.

Reserved Parking for Verizon Cell Phones

It turns out my Verizon contract doesn’t run out until September. This is a little frustrating given a desire for a new Trēo 650 on a competing network. (Yet another tool to integrate into the metawiki somehow.) On the other hand, people have figured out how to workaround some of the ways that Verizon has gimped the Bluetooth features on that phone. As it comes from them, you can’t sync via Bluetooth, use your phones data connection to check mail on your laptop or send pictures via Bluetooth, because then you might be tempted to not pay Verizon Wireless 25¢ and 1 minute of airtime to move each image somewhere else.