Tuesday, September 28, 2004

It’s refreshing to hear someone talk about the positive side of “price gouging”. Every change has two sides, and it’s common that you only hear half the story. For example you might hear (in the 70’s) about how cheap cars from Japan are making Americans lose their jobs, but you won’t hear about how American families are better off with all the extra money they saved by having a lower cost car. Usually you’ll only hear from the people who are worse off and you won’t hear from the people who are benefiting.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

I recently got a digital camera and have been playing with it. I’ve been interested in geology for many years now. Seeing things like the pictures below inspired me to work on SimBlob.

A river valley. Note that it’s all desert except for areas near the river, which are turned into farmland. That's the miracle of California’s central valley.

This is Mount Shasta.

A reservoir. You can see the water level is down from its maximum—the green is above the maximum level and the sand is below the maximum level.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Imagine waking up one day and finding that the street you live on has been transformed. It’s no longer open to vehicle traffic, and there are hundreds of tents and tens of thousands of people walking around. That’s what happened to me during the Mountain View Art and Wine Festival.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

How did people communicate before language? They pointed at things and made various grunting sounds. We’re much better off with language. We can talk about things not only as they are but as they might be. We can talk about past, present, and future. We can talk about relationships like containment. We can talk about patterns like numbers and repetition.

Working with Windows reduces me to the level of “point and grunt”. It’s very hard for me to say things like, “repeat this every Tuesday afternoon” or “keep trying to download from here until you have four files.” With Unix I have language: I can write simple commands (phrases) and combine them into larger commands (compound sentences, paragraphs, etc.).

It’s a lot of work to learn language. It takes many years for babies to learn how to talk and then later how to read and write. But you can express so much more with language than without. With computers it’s the same way. It takes a lot of investment to learn something like Unix, but it pays off when you can start expressing complex thoughts.

Yes, Windows has nice graphics. Graphics are pretty. They say that “a picture is a thousand words”, but there’s a lot that is hard to express with pictures. How do you express in a picture complex thoughts like “next week I expect three llamas to meditate in my back yard?” You might try using a whole series of pictures for this, but then you start approaching “a word is a thousand pictures.”

What I see at work is a lot of people using computers in a very primitive way. Computers are good at automating things. The people using Windows tend to perform more mindless repetitive tasks. The people using Unix tend to automate their tasks, so they can work on more interesting things. Windows makes things look easy. And they are, at first, because you’re only doing simple things at first. But complex things are harder. For people who spend a lot of time on the computer, it’s usually worth learning to automate the tedious and boring tasks. And that means you need language.


Monday, September 06, 2004

Some Firefox extensions I use:

  • Show Failed URL puts the URL in the location bar instead of the XUL error page. I still have trouble with the Back button when there are errors, though.
  • Tabbrowser Preferences lets me change some (but not all) new windows to open in new tabs instead. It has some other tab options as well. I also like Petite Tabbrowser Extensions, but it doesn’t seem to let me make external links in new tabs instead of new windows.
  • Flat Bookmark Editing is something I loved in Galeon and missed in Firefox. This extension gives me sane bookmark management in Firefox.
  • Target Alert is something I tried setting up manually (using userContent.css), but the extension is more polished.
  • DOM Inspector lets me look at the DOM tree of any page. I don’t use this very much.
Saturday, September 04, 2004

More geomag pictures (see the bottom of the page). I don’t play with my Supermags much anymore, but people in the office do.