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Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Things I wrote thirty-one years ago are still preserved – for now

I am less than a month from the ten-year anniversary of my blogging career. I haven’t really said anything about it much yet, but a recent Louis Gray post has caused me to start thinking about it.

Gray’s post is entitled “Our Fragile Web of Dead Domains and Lapsing Links.” Anyone who has been blogging for a while has encountered this – and if you haven’t, Gray explains the problem:

[I]t’s not too uncommon for entire sites and bookmarks to vanish from the Web, with only Archive.org and other clever cachers left to tell the tale.

For additional thoughts and some examples, read Gray’s post.

With very few exceptions (this tymshft blog being one of them), all of the blogs that I have created have been on the Blogger platform – originally an independent platform, later hosted by Google. But what happens if, someday, Google goes away? Don’t laugh – it could happen. No one thought Montgomery Ward would disappear, so it’s quite possible that my grandchildren will have never heard of Google.

Well, if Google were to disappear, then my very first blog post, written on Tuesday, October 14, 2003, could be lost forever. Since WordPress is not part of Google – yet – I’m going to employ a little bit of redundancy by reposting my first blog post, in its entirety, right here.

Why did synthetica start with fake bluegrass sounds? Why not? This is the Ontario Empoblog, or the blog for Ontario Emperor, which has nothing and everything to do with Canada, New Mexico, and Texas, but also California, which is a location in California. It exists in cyberspace, which is also synthetic.

The Ontario Empoblog may or may not touch on a variety of subjects, including music, poetry, poker, the supposed familial relationship between Brian Eno and Slim Whitman, the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (1,121 – I checked), various comments about frogs, and the nature of nature.

Imagine the tragedy if this cultural artifact were to disappear forever. Luckily, I’ve preserved it. Unfortunately, I haven’t preserved the significance about comments about frogs.

For the record, my second post (written ten days later, on October 24) was better:

When Patti Smith married Fred Smith, did she take her husband’s last name, or keep her maiden name?

Which brings me to the topic of something else salted away in Google’s servers – something much older.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I was an early participant in Usenet back in the early 1980s. Back then, you’d get onto Usenet by typing such in a terminal that was attached to a minicomputer (in my case, a DEC PDP/11-70). Over a decade later, people would access Usenet via a service called Dejanews. Google eventually bought Dejanews and its data, and merged it all into Google Groups.

On January 3, 2012, I wrote a post in my Empoprise-BI business blog called (empo-tymshft) A little more on Usenet. As you can probably tell from the title, this was a “tymshft” post that was written before the tymshft blog came into existence. That post quoted from something that I wrote back on Noember 14, 1982 – almost thirty-one years ago. I accessed this text from going to the link https://groups.google.com/group/net.records/msg/f726733bb7eea278?dmode=source&output=gplain&noredirect – a Google Groups link to something from the old Dejanews archive that came from archives of Usenet postings. Again, if Google goes away, perhaps my 2012 blog post AND the Google Groups archive of the 1982 Usenet post may go away. So again, I’m going to preserve this important historical artifact here on WordPress:

Newsgroups: net.records
Path: utzoo!decvax!cca!hplabs!hao!menlo70!sytek!zehntel!teklabs!reed!bred@sri-unix
X-Path: utzoo!decvax!cca!hplabs!hao!menlo70!sytek!zehntel!teklabs!reed!bred@sri-unix
From: bred@sri-unix
Date: Thu Nov 18 10:19:00 1982
Subject: Wall of Voodoo album
Posted: Sun Nov 14 23:46:25 1982
Received: Thu Nov 18 10:19:00 1982

Just bought Wall of Voodoo’s latest album “Call of the West”
(I.R.S.) a few weeks ago. The group uses synthesizers, etc.
while still maintaining a western American feel both in music and
lyrics (such as the lyrics in “Lost Weekend”, about a couple who
just lost their life savings in Las Vegas, and “Factory”, about a
factory worker). I’m not sure whether the album’s being played
on many radio stations, having only heard it on Reed College’s
(Portland OR) radio station KRRC. Wall of Voodoo has recorded at
least one other album, “Dark Continent”, but I haven’t listened
to it yet.

Questions: has anyone else heard this album or the previous one?
Opinions? How long has Wall of Voodoo been around?

John Bredehoft (…!teklabs!reed!bred)

P.S. At least one other person likes this album; the KRRC copy
has mysteriously disappeared…

This isn’t the first time that I discussed this particular 1982 post. Several years ago, I gave a presentation in which I talked about the changes between 1982 and 2007. In the space of a quarter century, we went from talking about Wall of Voodoo on Usenet to talking about Wall of Voodoo on MySpace (they had a MySpace page at the time). In fact, I talked about it on my MySpace blog. Today, if you go to https://myspace.com/oemperor/blog/317516134, you can see…well, you can see this.


This is only part of the image. The entire image uses artist pictures to spell out the number “404.”

Cute, MySpace.

P.S. Just in case the story about Google’s acquisition of Dejanews becomes a dead link, here is the meat of the story:

February 12, 2001 11:30 AM PST
Google buys remaining Deja.com business
By Paul Festa
Staff Writer, CNET News

Internet veteran Deja.com sold off the last of its parts to relative newcomer Google, ending a long and troubled run as an advertising-supported also-ran….

Despite closing out the final chapter in a six-year saga, Deja.com executives sounded upbeat about the acquisition.
“We think Google is a great home for this service,” said Richard Gorelick, chief strategy officer. “Our service and their service work very well together.”

Deja.com originated as Dejanews, a site for searching and participating in discussion groups carried on the Internet’s Usenet network. It changed its name to Deja.com when it decided to focus on product reviews by consumers. The company subsequently added information on consumer products, making it a competitor to sites such as mySimon, which is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of News.com.

Yes, CNET and news.com – the people who brought you the com.com that Louis Gray was talking about in his post.

Things I wrote four years ago are already outdated

In the process of writing a music post that referenced a tymshft post, I linked to a business post that was one of the posts that inspired me to create the tymshft blog.

Or, to put it more succinctly, I recently read a post that I wrote four years ago.

And I laughed.

The post started as follows:

Recently my Google Reader feed was flooded with items regarding new things from Amazon.

Yes, at one time Google Reader was one of my primary information-gathering tools. Now it no longer exists.

But the real funny part occurred later in the post.

Now many of us still primarily think of Amazon as that place from which you can get CDs.

What’s a CD? Even I don’t buy CDs any more.

The basic point of the post, by the way, still rings true. We will still continue to alternate between two models of computing, a “benevolent model” with centralized services, and a “rugged individualist model” in which you do everything yourself. Right now we’re on the benevolent cloud side of the pendulum, but within a few short years people will “take control” and the pendulum will shift.

But you won’t find an announcement of the latest Rugged Individualists CD in your Google Reader.

Those scandalous musicians today…

My name’s Dale. I’m a junior at the local private college in town.

This morning my pa bailed me out of jail.

He wasn’t saying anything as we walked to his car, but once we were safely in the car he asked the question. “Dale,” he asked, “why did I just have to bail you out of jail? You were just going to a concert – a Miley Cyrus concert, of all things – and next thing I know you’re under arrest?”

I guess I should backtrack a bit and explain how I ended up at a Miley Cyrus concert in the first place. My pa makes good money, so I was able to get into the fraternity at college. There’s a guy named George in the fraternity also. While my pa makes good money, George’s pa makes REALLY good money. So even though George was only a freshman, and a bit of a jerk at that, we let him into the fraternity anyway. He’s happy because he gets all the beer he can drink even though he’s underage, and the rest of us are happy because George gets all these goodies from his pa.

One day George came into the house and announced that his pa had tickets to the Miley Cyrus concert. Initially I wasn’t impressed because I didn’t want to hear Disney music. But my friend Mick pointed out that Miley Cyrus had gone beyond that, and that she did sexy dances at some TV awards show and did her videos naked. Well, that perked me up, so we all planned to go to the show.

On the day of the concert, we all gathered in the house to wait for the limos. George’s pa owned a limo service. We had a beer while we were waiting. OK, maybe we had a few beers.

The limos took us to the concert, and we discovered that George’s pa had gotten us front row seats. Well, when you consider that George’s pa’s company is on the name of the new sports arena, it stands to reason that he’d be able to score good seats for his youngest son and his friends.

So we were sitting in the front row, laughing, having a good time and ignoring the opening act. After a while, the Miley Cyrus part of the concert started. And maybe I had a few, but to me she looked really good. She started singing some ridiculous song, but Mick and George and I were waiting for the REAL show to start. Mick had sworn that Miley was going to dance naked, and she was doing nothing of the sort yet.

Like I said, I had drank a few beers before the show – well, maybe more than a few – so apparently I began loudly demanding that Miley get on with the show. Or, as the subsequent police report phrased it, “Mr. Smith loudly demanded that Ms. Cyrus disrobe, disrupting other concert attendees.” Well, that’s what the police report said. I don’t really remember. Mick and George said that I was standing up and screaming, and that people began throwing things at me. Like I say, I can’t remember.

Well, according to the police report, the next thing that I did was to try to get onstage to air my demands that Ms. Cyrus take her clothes off like she did in the video.

That’s when I was arrested.

That’s the story that I told to my pa – the whole thing – and I waited to see what would happen next. My head was throbbing, so I wanted to get the whole thing over with.

To my surprise, my pa started laughing.

“Dale,” he said to me with a grin on his face, “did I ever tell you the story about how I got banned from the OLD sports arena for life after the 1992 Madonna concert? You know, back when she had that sex book and all that?”

Drop that calamari, you terrorist!

Security consists of a series of competitive advances, in which someone comes up with a new advanced technology, and then someone else figures out a way to defeat that technology.

One of those technologies is infrared technology.

Soldiers spent centuries figuring out the best way to see enemies at night without being seen. Early methods, like carrying torches, were more dangerous for the torch-carrier than his target….

Advancing without seeing is pretty difficult, however, which means a technological solution is the way around it. Night vision goggles, the ones with that famous green filter, amplify available light, which can turn low visibility into high visibility. The problem comes with regular light sources, which night vision also amplifies to a blinding extreme.

Infrared, instead, focuses on a different part of the visual spectrum, and so is less affected by sudden changes in visible light.

And now some people have come up with a way to defeat infrared technology, by making things invisible to an infrared device.

However, they didn’t invent anything new. Instead, they looked to nature:

What can the U.S. military learn from a common squid? A lot about how to hide from enemies, according to researchers at UC Irvine’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

As detailed in a study published online in Advanced Materials, they have created a biomimetic infrared camouflage coating inspired by Loliginidae, also known as pencil squids or your everyday calamari.

Led by Alon Gorodetsky, an assistant professor of chemical engineering & materials science, the team produced reflectin – a structural protein essential in the squid’s ability to change color and reflect light – in common bacteria and used it to make thin, optically active films that mimic the skin of a squid.

With the appropriate chemical stimuli, the films’ coloration and reflectance can shift back and forth, giving them a dynamic configurability that allows the films to disappear and reappear when visualized with an infrared camera.

For more information, see the UC Irvine press release.

Is this the end of standalone wireless phone manufacturers?

As I noted roughly four years ago, the wireless phone business is cyclical. When I started at Motorola in 2000, the common message was that Motorola was uncool, and that Nokia was cool. Then RAZR hit, and the perceptions were reversed…for a time. But soon enough, the message was that Motorola was uncool and that Nokia was cool. If you fast forward to the time that I wrote my post in 2009, one analyst was noting that Nokia’s smartphone share was declining “in the face of competition from Apple and BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion.”

Yeah, Research in Motion.

Times certainly do change.

But the bigger change that goes beyond the current fads or trends is the change in wireless phone manufacturer organization. Take Motorola. My former employer split in two, so that the police radio business (that used to include automated fingerprint identification systems) and the mobile phone business were two separate firms. The latter firm ended up getting snapped up by Google.

And now Nokia’s mobile phone business has been snapped up by Microsoft.

Both of these are examples of vertical integration, where the same company provides both the software (the wireless device operating system) and the hardware (the wireless device itself). (Apple, of course, has followed this model throughout its history.)

Nokia had adopted such a strategy just three years ago – successfully – but wasn’t able to maintain Symbian’s OS lead. So Symbian was outsourced, and Nokia got closer to Microsoft. And now they’re closer.

But what of other manufacturers? Will Samsung stick with Google’s Android, or will it transition everything over to Tizen?

Mail room continued – what will happen at William Morris?

I’m getting perilously close to hitting the blogging “three strikes” rule.

What is worse than an Inland Empire blogger writing about Australia and failing to mention Mildura?

A Southern California blogger writing about the mailroom and failing to mention Hollywood.

You see, it’s a pretty safe bet that more people care about Hollywood than care about Mildura – despite the fact that Hollywood Boulevard doesn’t have an impressive median.

Of course, mailrooms and Hollywood have been connected for some time:

There are plenty of stories about the Hollywood mailroom, and many of them are true. But nothing has captured the popular imagination like the story of the mailroom-clerk-turned-media-mogul — so much so that at most agencies, starting in the mailroom is now official policy. No more the fabled first stop for a scrappy immigrant with big dreams. Today’s Hollywood mailroom is an incubator for new college graduates with good pedigrees and even better connections.

But one would think that technological change would hit Hollywood just like everywhere else, and that people would start sending their scripts via e-mail. What will William Morris Endeavor, United Talent Agency, and Creative Artists Agency do when there is no mail to deliver? It turns out that mailroom staff have other duties:

Yes, clerks actually deliver mail, making the rounds of the agency’s floors at least every hour to pick up scripts, contracts and DVDs that need to be whisked away to stars’ mansions in Malibu. But former mailroom workers also tell of doing lunch runs, walking agents’ dogs, washing agents’ cars, picking out Valentine’s Day cards for their wives, or photocopying an entire book.

Now even if the mail and the books go electronic, people will still need lunch, dogs will still need to be walked (I don’t think dogs will respond to Roombas), and cars will still need to be washed (even if they drive themselves).

Of course, Hollywood will still refer to the mailroom as the “mailroom,” even when there is no mail. Because.

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