So the big news isn’t

So the big news isn’t all that big right now, but I hope it becomes something major someday.

The Creative Commons site is now online, mostly in a preview, informational form for now.

I mention it because it’s what I’ve been working on for the past couple months, as a member of a distributed team. I’ll have more to say later today, for now it’s time for a few hours sleep and a big day tomorrow/today.

I’m spending all week at

I’m spending all week at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference, and it’s been great so far. When comparing it to my previous experiences at the Web99/2000/2001 conferences, and the SXSW conferences, this one is quite a bit different. While the South by Southwest conference frequently looks at the past and dips its toe in the future, web conferences like the Web99/00/01 series were firmly planted in the here and now (“Here’s what we do about web browsers today, and how we build web servers and services for today’s needs.”).

The Emerging Tech conference is a breath of fresh air because for the most part the speakers are all looking fairly far off into the future. I probably heard the word “terabyte” spoken more times today than I have in my entire life. Storage and processing power is getting very cheap these days, and in the far off future, archiving every email you’ve ever received, every web page you’ve ever looked at, and every application you’ve ever used will be trivial. So will instantly searching any word in any of that content, given the power of desktop computers. Applications and operating systems that create connections between data and learn from your behavior will also be the norm.

Even though the current funding climate is still pretty bad, there is a good sense of optimism among those gathered. There are still many interesting computer science problems worth attacking and things will get better tomorrow, as we grow closer to solving them. You can sense and feel the optimism that the future will be better, and brighter. The bulk of presentations I saw today were about solving problems years down the road, for situations that haven’t quite happened yet. The crowd is an interesting mix between visionaries you read about, and open source hackers that can see beyond the end of their noses. Overall, a great gathering of the minds and a fun conference to be at.

Oh, I’ll be announcing some big news on Thursday.

“People seem to misinterpret complexity

“People seem to misinterpret complexity as sophistication”
Niklaus Wirth

A great quote that is rather apt begins a couple articles (1,2) in the New York Times on the new BMW 7 series model that features the iDrive interface. While aiming to simplify the cockpit controls, it sounds like the least intuitive thing imaginable. This gigantic knob, a small stick, and a couple buttons control things like shifting, climate controls, cruise control, the radio, and releasing the parking brake. Some options, buried in multiple submenus require the driver to read from a screen, selecting the proper options all while driving a large, heavy car at speed. If this is the future of the “ultimate driving experience,” I can’t see anyone wanting to be a part of it.

I suppose it’s time I

I suppose it’s time I should come clean and mention I’m almost wrapped up working on another book. Jason noticed the dichotomy between the secrecy around book publishing and the usually open and honest writers of weblogs, and I’ve had the same conflicted experience with this and a few other things.

Books are old media, as are newspapers and magazines. Printing something on dead trees requires long lead times for writing and editing, then printing and physical delivery to eventual sales centers. Dead tree printing is also mired in old thinking, that of contracts and paychecks and witholding stories until specific launch dates. It goes against every fiber of the average weblogger’s personality, but when you are are invited to participate in old media, like being invited to a traditional dinner, you usually do what your host asks.

Last year, I was interviewed for a few newspaper articles, a couple of which didn’t get printed for months after I spoke with reporters. At the time close friends and the reporter said I should hold off saying anything about it until it went to print. The same thing held true for the magazine interviews I did last year. I actually got to travel and have wonderful adventures while participating in one interview, but I couldn’t say a peep until it was on the newsstands. Books seem to be the same way. You’ve got contracts that allow you or the publisher to back out at any time. I have friends that poured a year of effort into a book that was killed right before it went to print, when it was already listed at Amazon. When I’ve asked about it, old media people have told me it’s not a good idea to announce something before it hits print, and that’s an unfortunate and hopefully dying idea.

For this blog book, we wondered if announcing early was beneficial given the problems that could arise. We planned to announce it early on, as early as January of this year, but held off until we had a website ready for it. We’re still in the process of getting that up, but it should be up very soon. So yeah, I’ll be hawking a new book soon, and I’m actually involved with a third book, which should also be out soon.

Meg wrote a great piece

Meg wrote a great piece on Macromedia’s recent foray into blogging.

It looks like Macromedia is seemingly picking and choosing what parts of the Cluetrain Manifesto to follow. “Talk in a language customers understand” would be a good way to support blogs for the company, but to not put them on their own corporate server seems like they don’t trust their employees to be human in a corporate setting. The bit about not writing about what you ate for breakfast is similar. I don’t want to read a fake personal blog filled with press releases. When I found out that John Dowdell was running a blog a month ago or so (saw it on his sig), I thought it was a great idea. I’ve met John and he’s a really eccentric and interesting guy, so I was looking forward to hearing what he really thinks about stuff that isn’t Macromedia related, but his blog is pretty heavy on MX-release stuff and not much more, and I was concerned that he didn’t disclose his connection prominently on the site.

Meg’s points all ring true because Macromedia is in effect saying:
“You guys can take advantage of that blog trend thing so we look good, but don’t say anything except the company line, and do it outside of work.”

which isn’t exactly what blogging is all about (on the bright side, it seems like a few choices were made by accident and they are learning).

As much as OS X

As much as OS X and macs are generally easy to use, there are a few major features that are well-hidden. I’m usually a fan of hidden information spaces when they are supplimental or simply serve as shortcuts, but booting into another OS is a fairly big deal that shouldn’t be obscured.

I boot into OS 9 once in a blue moon, so seldom that I forget the secret keystroke to access my OS 9 partition. It seems silly that I have to look it up every time, why can’t I choose “restart into the alternate partition” from the main apple drop down?

The Klez virus is easily

The Klez virus is easily the worst email-based virus to date. It does everything the typical Outlook Express-exploiting virus does, it looks like a almost normal email, you run the cloaked attachment then it emails everyone in your address book with more viruses, but it does one extra thing: it randomly changes the From field to anyone in the address book.

This small change means big things. Email is the killer app but suffers from a big problem that is internet-wide in scale. Email is inherently insecure, and I think we’ve coasted pretty far without addressing that. I can send an email as if I was anyone, and unless you know how to read email headers, you might not know it was faked. The other thing the internet is particularly bad at is reputation management. While sci-fi authors envisioned avatar-infested worlds with all sorts of metadata available on everyone, by and large there isn’t a central point to measure anyone’s reputation on, so we have to go with things like past history. I’ve avoided using Outlook or any of its variants for years, and I’m happy to say I’ve never gotten infected with an email virus to date. It’s no small task to successfully avoid contracting any viruses for years while getting upwards of 100 messages a day the whole time.

Imagine my surprise when I started getting bounced messages saying my messages couldn’t be sent and realizing I never sent them. Then imagine seeing that the messages all came from an account I haven’t sent any email from in 3 years. When several messages starting showing up from email servers saying I sent viruses to a law firm and then actual people asking me if they should open the attachment they received, I knew something was really wrong.

For someone that has never fell for a virus message or been infected, this is the equivalent of trying to buy a car and hearing that the credit check showed you were attempting to pass bad checks in Long Beach under your name, or that your name was on a credit card used to buy jewels in Kuala Lumpur (both things have actually happened to my wife and I). The only problem with this virus is there is no way to verify that someone sent a message, or for someone to look up my track record of being virus free and knowing this message was a fake.