James Tauber's Blog 2005/03

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Tiger Still on 8A series

I've expressed before an interest in Apple build number conventions.

The latest Mac OS X 1.4 "Tiger" build number is apparently 8A425.

What is unusual is that they are still on the "A" series unlike previous releases:

Interestingly, the middle letter has consistently been lower each major release.

I'd still love to know what triggers a change in the middle letter (and why that trigger never happened in Tiger).

by : Created on March 31, 2005 : Last modified March 31, 2005 : (permalink)

AppleScript and Python

A lot of my work on MorphGNT involves cleaning up and merging data from multiple sources. It's time consuming manual work and there's no instant gratification but it's worth it in the end.

I use a combination of Python scripts and manual editing in a text editor. Yesterday I thought I'd try AppleScript to automate some of the text editor work.

Unfortunately SubEthaEdit, which I've actually come to love as a standalone editor, even when not collaborating, doesn't seem to be scriptable. TextWrangler, however, is, so I downloaded that.

I've never written AppleScript before but fortunately, I was able to "record" myself performing the action and then bring up the resultant script and parameterize it.

So my script has lots of things like:

tell application "TextWrangler" to find bcv searching in text 1 of text document "ubs.txt"

The language is definitely optimized for doing little things (and the attempt to make it read like English is cute) and I'd hate to do anything too involved with it but I absolutely love the fact that I can automate applications (and even across applications) so easily.

What I really want now is the ability to kick off AppleScript from within Python and pass data from Python into a parameterized AppleScript.

Anyone done something like that before?

UPDATE (2005-03-30): There was a presentation at PyCon just a week ago on this sort of thing. See http://toys.jacobian.org/presentations/2005/appscript/. Looks very cool!

UPDATE (2005-04-03): Mark Nottingham pointed me to Scripting AppleScriptable Applications with Python.

by : Created on March 30, 2005 : Last modified April 3, 2005 : (permalink)

Blog Reading Prioritization: Attention and Bayesian Approaches

A post from Steve Gillmor on Attention prompted me to starting looking more into the attention.xml spec.

The problem area attention.xml fits in to (if I understand it properly) is improving blog (or really any feed content) reading efficiency by helping to prioritize entries and reduce duplicates.

Just under a year ago, I suggested Bayesian classification for blog reading prioritization. My idea then (resembling an idea I had ten years earlier for reading USENET) was that your reader would predict, on the basis or what you read (or marked as interesting) what other posts you are likely to be interested in and prioritize accordingly, using Bayesian classification much like spam filters. My idea was not that entries would be filtered out nor that new entries from unsubscribed feeds would suggested to you. The idea was just to help with prioritization.

It seems like there could be a lot of synergy between that idea and attention.xml. I need to think about it some more - watch this space!

I certainly think there are still massive opportunities for innovation in blog reading technologies.

And where might Leonardo fit in? Given that I see Leonardo as the "hub" of my online presence, a lot. The key will be how to better integrate my feed reader with Leonardo to enable support for things like attention.xml

Exciting times!

by : Created on March 28, 2005 : Last modified March 28, 2005 : (permalink)

Poincare and Leonardo

I sometimes get mail from people that have stubbled across the Poincaré Project posts and have wondered how they can easily get a full listing of them. I've now made such a list available on the Poincare Project page.

This is really just a temporary manual substitute for categories in Leonardo. The next version will support category-specific pages and feeds. It will also support comments and trackbacks.

by : Created on March 26, 2005 : Last modified March 26, 2005 : (permalink)

Poincare Project: Groups

Part of the Poincare Project.

Although we've already defined them as monoids with inverses, a group is such an important concept in pure mathematics that we'll summarise here.

A group is a set G of objects with some binary operation # that maps every pair of elements of G to an element in G such that:

As we've already seen, integers under addition form a group. Integers under multiplication do not form a group because the multiplicative inverse of an integer is not an integer (e.g. inverse of 2 would be 1/2). The rationals under multiplication do not form a group either because 0 does not have an inverse. However, the non-zero rationals under multiplication do form a group.

There are many sets outside of the numbers that form groups. For example, consider the different ways you can rotate an object. Consider G to be the set of all rotations. Now consider # to be the composition of two rotations, i.e. a # b is the single rotation that is equivalent to performing rotation a after you have performed rotation b. It turns out that (G, #) forms a group.

UPDATE: next post

by : Created on March 26, 2005 : Last modified March 26, 2005 : (permalink)

Simple Algorithm for Recurring Tasks

I previously mentioned the little tool for Mac OS X called Consistency from Sciral which is for managing flexibly recurring tasks.

The approach is very simple. For every task, you specify a minimum time and a maximum time between occurrences. The Sciral Consistency UI gives you a table with a row for each task and a column for each day and you simply mark when you've done the task for that day.

The squares are colour-coded as follows:

This works surprisingly well. However, I wanted a system with a couple of additions. Firstly, I wanted to prioritise tasks based on this approach with ordering within tasks of the same colour. Secondly, I wanted something that would handle tasks that can be done multiple times during a day (like reading blogs or email).

For prioritisation, the following seems to do the job:

score = max(0, (1 + interval_since_last - minimum) / (1 + maximum - minimum))

This maps to the colours as follows:

and you can sort the tasks relative to the actual score to prioritise within a colour band.

Handling tasks that can happen multiple times within a day turns out to be easy. Simply change the units that you use to measure interval_since_last, minimum and maximum to hours for that task and it just works.

One thing I observed implementing this in Python, though, is that interval_since_last should be an integer rounded down. Otherwise something with a minimum of 1 will start to have a score > 0 before that 1 interval is up.

I'll make my command-line Python implementation available soon.

by : Created on March 26, 2005 : Last modified March 26, 2005 : (permalink)

Licenses on Atom Entries

Henry Story suggested on the atom-syntax mailing list that it would be very helpful if there were a machine-readable way to express copyright policy on an Atom entry (e.g. via a Creative Commons URI)

This has come up before on this blog in the context of indicating whether one is happy to have an entry linkblogged.

Bob Wyman rightly points out that Creative Commons isn't about DRM in that CC licenses grant rather than restrict rights. A non-commerical CC license doesn't prohibit commercial use, it just grants non-commercial use.

Bob is worried that if Atom provides a way to link to a CC license, people will think that they can restrict the use of their content this way.

But I think not having a way to do this is worse.

Not having a way to restrict rights shouldn't preclude one from having a way to grant rights. As I've mentioned earlier, I don't mind people including the content of my blog in their link blogs with attribution. I don't see any problem with being able to declare that fact in a machine-readable in way my Atom feed. Should people that want to do this be dissuaded from doing so just because others (even the majority) may assume the mechanism allows rights to restricted rather than granted? I don't think so.

by : Created on March 25, 2005 : Last modified March 25, 2005 : (permalink)

Film Project Update: On IMDb Too

One of my long-time goals has been to get on IMDb, the Internet Movie Database. For a film from unknowns to get listed, you have to be able to prove that the film has been or will be released for public exhibition (and this includes festivals).

Now that PBIFF has made public that they are screening Alibi Phone Network, my submission to IMDb has been accepted.

You can see the IMDb title entry at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0450237/

The only odd thing is they omitted both my data and the actors' data. Everything else I submitted was included—even obscure things like the fact we reference Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

by : Created on March 24, 2005 : Last modified March 24, 2005 : (permalink)

Film Project Update: World Premiere at Palm Beach International Film Festival

I haven't been able to mention it until now, but the festival that Alibi Phone Network got in to is the Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF).

The world premiere will be on April 16th.

The festival has a page on the film with a number of errors I need to get corrected.

by : Created on March 24, 2005 : Last modified March 24, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: On Way Back to Boston

Well, South-by-Southwest is over for another year and I'm sitting in the Admirals Club at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport ready to head back to Boston.

Like last year, I didn't attend nearly as much as I could have. Like last year, I spent a lot of my time in my hotel coding. Like last year, I missed out on hanging out with a bunch of people I knew there. But like last year, I met a bunch of new people and made some great contacts. And like last year I had a great time.

I'll likely attend SxSW again next year. I just hope it doesn't clash with ETech again!

by : Created on March 20, 2005 : Last modified March 20, 2005 : (permalink)

Also Missing PyCon

I'm missing ETech. I'm also going to miss PyCon which is another conference I wanted to attend. In the case of PyCon, it's not a clash with another conference, it's just that I can't afford to be away from work any longer than I already have been.

by : Created on March 19, 2005 : Last modified March 19, 2005 : (permalink)

Poincare Project: Inverses

We've already seen that a set with the additional structure of a binary operation is called a semigroup if the operation is associative and that a semigroup with an identity is called a monoid.

The integers under addition is an example of such a monoid (with 0 as the identity) and so is the set of strings under string concatenation (with the empty string as the identity).

However, unlike the integers under addition, there is no notion of an inverse in string concatenation. For every integer a there is an integer b such that a + b = 0 (the identity element). b is said to be the inverse of a.

The monoid of strings under string concatenation has no such concept of inverses. You can't concatenate an arbitrary string with some other string to get back to the empty string.

Monoids with inverses effectively have a function which maps a to f(a) such that for all a in the set, the binary operation applied to a and f(a) results in the identity element. For integers under addition, f is such that f(x) = -x.

A monoid whose elements all have inverses is called a group.

So the integers under addition form a group. The strings under string concatenation do not.

UPDATE: next post

by : Created on March 19, 2005 : Last modified March 19, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Aussie Bands

Yesterday I went to the BBQ put on by the Australian Music Collective.

I was only there for a few hours (not the whole seven) but I did get to hear some good sets from Starky, Missy Higgins, Little Birdy, Old Man River and The Panda Band. Nothing that really blew me away but enjoyable stuff. I enjoyed what I heard more than at the Aussie BBQ last year. Less heavy and more melodic.

by : Created on March 19, 2005 : Last modified March 19, 2005 : (permalink)


It's 2am and I just ordered ice cream from room service. I felt like a rock star with my decadence right up until the lady asked "is it just you tonight?"

Guess I don't quite fit the mould.

by : Created on March 18, 2005 : Last modified March 18, 2005 : (permalink)

Little Python Scripts

In the last year, any time I've written a Python script that I think others might find interesting, I've posted it to this blog. I've finally got around to putting a list of them together on my Python page so anyone stumbling upon that page will find them without having to read through my blog.

I've included them here for your pleasure too:

Enjoy! And suggestions for improvements are always welcome.

by : Created on March 18, 2005 : Last modified March 19, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Music Opening Dinner

Last night was the opening dinner for the music festival. Like last year, it wasn't particularly well attended and the people I talked to today who were there last night thought it was a bit of a waste.

I had a different experience, though. I enjoy meeting people over dinner. I find you end up having much better discussions albeit with fewer people (call me an introvert but I like that).

Last night I met a some great people including Steve Turnidge (a mastering engineer and founder of Weed), Evan Blackstone (from Sarathan Records), Phyllis Dubinksy and Evie Silvers.

by : Created on March 17, 2005 : Last modified March 17, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Drinks at the Australian Stand

This afternoon I went for drinks with the other Australians here at SxSW (there are a lot of them). Made a lot of contacts. I really am quite out of touch with the local scene—it's funny I have to come to Austin, Texas to meet music industry people that live in the same city as me!

I won't list people I talked to for fear of offending someone by omission but it was a good mixture of artists and managers. There is so much more I could be doing to promote myself as a composer and producer. I think foremost I just need to get a CD done to act as a calling card - much like Alibi Phone Network will become from a filmmaking perspective. I've also decided I need to find a record producer to mentor me so I've started putting out feelers here.

by : Created on March 17, 2005 : Last modified March 17, 2005 : (permalink)

Poincare Project: Identities and Monoids

A set with an associative binary operation is called a semigroup. We'll learn what it takes to be a full group soon.

Consider a semigroup (S, #). If there is an element e in S such that:

e # x = x # e = x for all x in S

then e is referred to as an identity and the semigroup is called a monoid.

For example, the integers under addition is a monoid with identity 0. The integers under multiplication is a monoid with identity 1.

Note that our definition requires both e # x and x # e to be x even though we don't require x # y = y # x in general. It is possible to have so-called left-identities and right-identities for which only e # x = x or x # e = x respectively is required for all x. The unqualified term identity is taken to mean it is both a left-identity and right-identity and the definition of monoid requires this.

Note also that, because of our definition, the identity must be unique. The proof is straightforward. Imagine two identities e and f. Then e # f = f # e = e but also e # f = f # e = f. So e = f.

UPDATE: next post

by : Created on March 16, 2005 : Last modified Aug. 9, 2007 : (permalink)

SxSW: Music Starts Today

The music part of SxSW starts today. I've gone and collected my bag which is chock-full of magazines and CDs. Tonight is the welcome dinner.

by : Created on March 16, 2005 : Last modified March 16, 2005 : (permalink)

Missing ETech

Last year I decided that O'Reilly's ETech was one of the conferences I most wanted to attend in 2005.

It was after I'd registered for the full 10 days of SxSW that I found out ETech had been scheduled for the same time.

I'm really disappointed I can't be there.

Hopefully I can make ETech 2006.

by : Created on March 15, 2005 : Last modified March 15, 2005 : (permalink)

Change to Optima

I've recently fallen in love with Hermann Zapf's Optima font family again and so have decided to change the CSS for this site. If you don't have Optima, it will degrade to a mixture of Verdana and Arial but you'll be missing out :-)

by : Created on March 15, 2005 : Last modified March 16, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Southern Belles Party

After the film, I went to the Southern Belles party. Unlike the Hooligans party, the night before, this one was a lot smaller and so I got the chance to talk to most of the people there who were involved in the film. Many of them had just experienced the world premiere of their first feature film so it was a very exciting time for them. They were all extremely gracious and, although it sounds a little corny, I was really honoured to be able to share in their celebration.

I would love it if I could work with some of them on a film in the future.

by : Created on March 14, 2005 : Last modified March 14, 2005 : (permalink)

CGI Environment Bug Fixed in Python 2.4.1rc1

Looks like the CGI environment bug in Python 2.4 has been fixed for 2.4.1.

This bug prevented Leonardo's test server from working out of the box with Python 2.4 on Windows.

by : Created on March 14, 2005 : Last modified March 14, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Southern Belles

I went and saw Southern Belles largely on the strength of one of the producers, Zack Sanders, seeming like such a nice guy at the opening party. It turned out to be a wonderful film.

Belle and Bell are two lifelong friends in Georgia. Belle dreams of a better life and starts trying to raise enough money for her and Bell to move to Atlanta. Hopeless romantic (and Gone With the Wind fan) Bell, having ditched her loser boyfriend Hampton, is willing to go along with the plan until she falls for a local policeman by the name of Rhett Butler.

The film was a tremendous amount of fun and a great showcase for the comedic abilities of Anna Farris (who plays Belle) and Fred Weller (who plays Bell's ex-boyfriend Hampton). The real find was Laura Breckenridge, who plays Bell. Laura is definitely an actress to keep an eye on. The casting director, Jennifer McNamara deserves particular credit for putting together such a wonderful cast. Also deserving of credit is Eric Haase who shot the film beautifully on Super 16.

The script was a little uneven in parts but was overall a very warm comedy with just the right amount of odd-ball goofiness for my liking. The filmmakers should be very proud of what they have achieved. I certainly found their accomplishment inspirational for my own career.

by : Created on March 14, 2005 : Last modified March 14, 2005 : (permalink)

Poincare Project: Associativity

Previously, we introduced the concept of a set with a binary operation that takes as inputs two elements of the set and outputs an element of the set.

What about taking three inputs? After all, in the examples given of integers with the addition operation or strings with the concatenation operation, it isn't difficult to think of calculating a+b+c by applying the + operation twice. You just work out a+b and then apply the operation again to that and c.

In other words, a+b+c = (a+b)+c.

In fact, in the case of adding integers or concatenating strings, you could work from the right too and work out b+c first and then apply the operation to a and that.

In other words, a+b+c = a+(b+c)

The fact that you can work this out by successive applications of a binary operation working either from the left or right isn't true of all binary operations. For example, if our set is the integers and our operation is subtraction then we can get a different result depending on which pair we start this.

If we interpret 3-2-1 as (3-2)-1 we get 0. However, if we interpret 3-2-1 as 3-(2-1) we get 2.

Addition of integers has a property that subtraction on integers does not. This property is called associativity.

A binary operation # on a set is said to be associative if and only if (a#b)#c = a#(b#c) for all a, b and c in the set.

If a binary operation is associative, it doesn't matter which way we calculate a#b#c.

If a binary operation is non-associative, we have to decide, usually just as a convention, whether we calculate the left-most pair first or the right-most pair first. If we adopt a left-first convention, the operator is said to be left-associative and if we adopt a right-first convention, the operator is said to be right-associative.

Note that left-associative and right-associative mean that the operation is non-associative. In other words, a binary operation is either associative or not and if not, then (by convention) left-associative or right-associative.

Subtraction on the integers is left-associative by convention. 3-2-1 = 0 and not 2.

Exponentiation on the integers is taken to be right-associative. 3^3^2 = 3^(3^2) = 3^9 and not (3^3)^2 = 27^3.

UPDATE: next post

by : Created on March 14, 2005 : Last modified March 14, 2005 : (permalink)

Poincare Project: Binary Operations

To begin topology, we took a set and added some structure to it by designating certain subsets as open sets.

To begin algebra, we will start with a set and add some structure to it by defining a binary operation.

An operation is a rule that takes one or more objects from a set and results in another object. For example, the addition operation takes two numbers and results in another number.

If the result is always in the same set the inputs came from, the set is said to be closed under that operation.

If an operation takes two inputs, it is called a binary operation.

So addition is an example of a binary operation and the set of integers is closed under that operation.

String concatenation is another example where two strings are concatenated to form a third.

Note that as long as you can define the rule (if need be just by listing the result for each pair of inputs) you have an operation.

So there is nothing wrong with defining a set {A, B, C} and defining some rule # such that: A#A = A, A#B = C, A#C = B, B#A = A, B#B = B, B#C = C, C#A = A, C#B = A, C#C = A

In this example, don't try to look for any pattern. I just randomly picked some results. All we require to have a binary operation is that a result is defined for each pair of inputs.

UPDATE: next post

by : Created on March 14, 2005 : Last modified March 14, 2005 : (permalink)

Statistically Improbable Words in Python

I've noticed recently that Amazon has started listing some significantly improbably phrases for many of their books.

About a year ago, my sister Jenni and I wrote a Python script to do something similar (although only at the word level, not phrase).

Inspired by Amazon, I've now put our script up at http://jtauber.com/2005/03/z_value.py

I'll need to think a little more how to extend it to phrases. In the meantime, have fun with the script and let me know if you have any suggestions.

by : Created on March 14, 2005 : Last modified March 14, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Malcolm Gladwell Keynote

Wonderful keynote from Malcolm Gladwell—a sampling of some of the anecdotes and key observations in his latest book Blink about the snap decisions we make and why they are sometimes so wrong.

Some of the issues raised were not surprising if unfortunate (predominance of white males in symphony orchestras until auditions were done behind a screen) or even tragic (the shooting of Amadou Diallo).

Where Gladwell was most fascinating, though, was when he pointed out some of the less obvious prejudices which can "hijack" our snap decision making. For example, he talked about how poor doctors are at diagnosing whether chest pains are a heart attack or not when presented with a wealth of seemingly relevant information. Doctors who are presented with less information can make a much more accurate diagnosis.

He also related this "less information can help you make better decisions" to things like the intelligence community, suggesting that the intentions of the Japanese in 1941 were clearer to people reading only newspapers than to the intelligence community with the wealth of information that effectively overburdened their ability to judge the overall pattern.

One audience member asked a great question about how Gladwell does his research. His response was both humorous and insightful. He just made sure everyone he came into contact with knew exactly what he was interested in at that time and talked about nothing else. Many of the stories in the book, he said, came from chance conversations with people.

I'm looking forward to reading Blink (bought a copy after the talk which Malcolm signed). If you get a chance to hear Malcolm speak, jump at it. He is a great speaker.

by : Created on March 13, 2005 : Last modified March 13, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Hooligans Party

Had a great time at the Hooligans Party. SxSW volunteer Dave Dart and I played "isn't that guy in some film I once saw". People we unambiguously recognized included Elijah Wood (who spend much of the night DJing, Claire Forlani and Chris Masterson (who seemed like a really nice guy). I recognized David Krumholtz too but had to ask someone what his name was and what he'd been in. I didn't remember him from the films the person listed but a quick check of IMDb when I got back to the hotel revealed I know him from Freaks and Geeks.

Many of the people I talked to have films at the festival. Again it was nice to follow "no I don't have a film at SxSW" with "but I did make the XYZ film festival next month" and generally get the response "oh cool, that's a great festival".

It's always easy to ask filmmakers about their film. I never know what to say to an actor, especially a well known one. What would I have said to Elijah Wood? Maybe I'm not giving him enough credit. Chris Masterson was certainly approachable.

by : Created on March 13, 2005 : Last modified March 13, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Film Opening Party

Tonight was the opening party for the film stream. When asked if I was a filmmaker, it was nice to be able to say yes and name the festival we're in next month :-)

It was at this party last year that I met the guys behind I Am Stamos. This year I got talking to Zack Sanders, the producer of Southern Belles which is part of the official selection at SxSW. I'm looking forward to checking it out on Sunday night.

Saw Claire Forlani who's here for Hooligans which I plan to see tomorrow night.

Caught a glimpse of Stephen Tobolowsky.

I haven't fully planned tomorrow yet but there will certainly be conflicts between the film and interactive streams.

by : Created on March 12, 2005 : Last modified March 12, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Missed Hooligans

I left my hotel at 6.05pm to catch the 7pm premiere of Hooligans. I got to the theatre at around 6.15pm and joined the end of a very long line.

Unfortunately, they stopped letting people in about 20 in front of me. So I missed out on attending the premiere. I did, however, meet Nadine Takvorian in the line. Nadine is an illustrator whose short film Elegy made the official selection at SxSW.

by : Created on March 12, 2005 : Last modified March 12, 2005 : (permalink)

What Vacation?

Yesterday at work, people kept wishing me well for my vacation. It was strange because I don't feel like I'm going on vacation. I feel like I'm switching to one of my other careers full-time for a week. Attending all three streams of SxSW (film, music and interactive) for a total of ten days isn't what I'd call a vacation. At least as fun. But not "vacation".

by : Created on March 11, 2005 : Last modified March 11, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Tom Fulp and Alien Hominid

Just got back from an excellent talk by Tom Fulp opening the interactive stream. 26-year-old Fulp took us through how he co-founded the San Diego-based Behemoth indie game development studio to turn his hit Flash game Alien Hominid into the console game Alien Hominid.

Take aways:

by : Created on March 11, 2005 : Last modified March 11, 2005 : (permalink)

SxSW: Arrival

Got up at 3am to catch the early morning flight to Austin via Dallas Fort Worth. Boston is supposed to be hit with another round of snow. Austin weather couldn't be better (makes up for last year when it was raining).

Checked in to the Hilton right across from the convention center (it's the best place to stay if you're attending the conference parts of SxSW) and grabbed a bite to eat at the hotel grill before heading over to register.

Alas, the "computers were down", the line was hundreds long and not moving and I was told I should just come back later.

Crossing the street back to the Hilton, who should I bump into but Robert Scoble.

Was good to see you again after over four years, Robert!

by : Created on March 11, 2005 : Last modified March 11, 2005 : (permalink)

Atlanta Reality: Second Shift Editing

Last night, after my day job "shift", Tom and I did a work-day-length editing session on the Atlanta reality show concept.

It's coming together very nicely. Clips were reasonably well logged so it was fairly easy to find things when we wanted them.

We've put together a first cut of the first 3 minutes or so of a 5-10 minute demo. There were enough threads in the 12+ hours of footage to string together a story and weave in character intros and funny moments.

Lots of fun, although after a long editing session I have strange dreams - even when you're awake it's hard to stop some footage from playing in the back of your mind.

by : Created on March 10, 2005 : Last modified March 10, 2005 : (permalink)

Final Days before SxSW

I'm leaving for SxSW early Friday morning. I had hoped to spend this evening editing the Atlanta Reality TV footage but a snow storm hit and I needed to head back to my hotel (I don't have a car and am relying on the last colleague to leave each night to drive me back).

If you're going to be at SxSW, drop me a line (see contact information). Looking forward to catching up with lots of people!

by : Created on March 8, 2005 : Last modified March 8, 2005 : (permalink)

Bloglines Handling of Relative Links

Why is it that <a href="/leonardo">Leonardo</a> in Leonardo Mailing List Down is linked correctly to http://jtauber.com/leonardo when read in Bloglines but <a href="/nelson_james">Nelson James</a> in Blog of a Singer, Model and Actor is incorrectly linked to http://bloglines.com/nelson_james?

Is this a bug in Bloglines?

by : Created on March 6, 2005 : Last modified March 6, 2005 : (permalink)

Otiose Apostrophes and SG-1

Dorothea Salo raises a question I've been wondering about myself for a while: what is it about scifi/fantasy and its love of the meaningless apostrophe?

A few months ago, during an all-day D&D session, my sister Jenni (who is a linguistics student) pointed out some of the names on the map contained apostrophes with no apparent linguistic meaning whatsoever.

Jenni and I also observed that Stargate SG-1 is particularly guilty of using the otiose apostrophe (e.g. Teal'c and many others names).

One interesting exception in Stargate is Goa'uld where the apostrophe could legitimately exist to indicate that 'a' and 'u' are separate syllables and not the diphthong 'au'.

But what is strange is that Goa'uld seems to be completely mispronounced by Daniel Jackson who is supposed to be a linguist (or is it an archaeologist this week? Or an anthropologist?). In the first two seasons I'm watching on DVD, I've heard three distinct pronunciations:

Jackson always says the first, Teal'c always says the third. Others vary (I think General Hammond uses the second).

by : Created on March 6, 2005 : Last modified March 6, 2005 : (permalink)

Leonardo Mailing List Down

Looks like the Leonardo mailing list has been down for the last week. Apologies to people on the list. I've emailed support at python-hosting.com so hopefully it will get sorted soon.

It happened last month too, although last time mail was still making it into the archives (just not getting distributed). Now it's not even getting that far.

by : Created on March 6, 2005 : Last modified March 6, 2005 : (permalink)

Blog of a Singer, Model and Actor

If anyone is interested in following the very early career of a singer, model and actor, I recommend subscribing to my good friend (and Nelson James front man) Nelson Clemente's blog. You'll read about modelling classes, auditions, photo shoots, songwriting, theatre and the occasional bit of SCADA engineering (his day job). Oh, and don't miss his advice on using hair removal cream!

by : Created on March 6, 2005 : Last modified March 6, 2005 : (permalink)

Poincare Project: Switching from Analysis to Algebra

Previously, we defined the mathematical structure known as a manifold which is a topological space that is locally homeomorphic to R^n (and hence able to have the notion of a coordinate system or systems).

You may recall that when we started our journey, we began with the idea of adding structure to sets and took a step down the path of topology by introducing the notion of open sets which allowed us to, in turn, define the notion of continuity. That path led us to manifolds. If we continue down the path we'll get into analysis.

But at this point, we're going to go back to sets and take a different path; rather than take the path of continuity we'll take the path of discreteness. Where as topology took us from sets to topological spaces to manifolds and the gateway to analysis, we will now explore the beginnings of group theory which will take us from sets to groups and the beginnings of abstract algebra.

Once we've spent a little time on group theory, we'll be ready to talk about the Poincaré Conjecture itself and also start laying the foundation for differential geometry, which is the basis for recent work on the conjecture as well as for Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

UPDATE: next post

by : Created on March 6, 2005 : Last modified March 6, 2005 : (permalink)

Time Zones in Software

Because I spend a lot of time in different time zones, it affects me greatly how software deals with varying the time zone it is running in.

Previously when using a Windows-based laptop I always left the clock in one time zone. I didn't trust what Windows would do if I effectively wound back the clock 13 hours when travelling from Perth to Boston.

I've always liked the Linux approach of internally using UTC and making the particular time shown to the user a display issue. The means things should just work.

Now that I'm using a PowerBook with OS X, I figured I'd take the risk and I just changed the time zone from AWST to EST. The good news is that when I do an ls -l, the times have all changed which suggests that they are internally using UTC and just displaying in my local time zone.

So the filesystem does The Right Thing. The other big culprit tends to be calendar apps. In my experience, many calendar apps still do not take into account time zones. Terribly frustrating when the US team sends me an invite for a conference call when I'm in Australia. OS X's iCal looks like it does the right thing in changing the event times when one changes the time zone, but the problem seems to be that the original Outlook invite was assumed to be in local time.

So an invite for a 9am EST meeting appeared in iCal as a 9am meeting while I was in AWST but now that I'm in EST zone, it's appearing as an 8pm meeting. Not sure if that's iCal's fault or Outlook's. Either Outlook's invite didn't specify that the 9am start time of the meeting was EST or iCal ignored it.

I just noticed another aberration. Just after I changed my time zone, I noticed Entourage was saying it wouldn't be checking mail for another 692 minutes so clearly some part of Entourage is relying on local time rather than some fixed time like UTC.

by : Created on March 5, 2005 : Last modified March 5, 2005 : (permalink)

Why No Apple Pro Photo App?

For some creative software categories, Apple has three levels:

For example, there are the triples:

Sometimes the express level is missing:

It has long struck me as at least interesting that Apple doesn't have any more in the photo editing series:

There's nothing competing with Photoshop.

Actually, there's nothing competing with anything in Adobe's Creative Suite (which I just bought, incidentally):

What am I missing about either the Adobe-Apple relationship or the market for photo/graphics/print versus video/music?

UPDATE (2005-10-19): Now see Aperture

by : Created on March 5, 2005 : Last modified Oct. 19, 2005 : (permalink)

Busy Week

Busy week at work (for very positive reasons) so haven't had much time to do anything (including blogging). Expect more entries this weekend.

The only things I've really achieved besides work are organising the exhibition tape and press kit for the still unnameable film festival we got in to and capturing the Atlanta Reality Project footage on to disk.

Regarding the latter—which was done in the background while I coded Java in Eclipse—I now have 372 clips from 15 tapes. Next step is to annotate and organise the clips.

by : Created on March 4, 2005 : Last modified March 4, 2005 : (permalink)

Google Safari Maps

This morning I used Google Maps and it worked fine. Why is this so surprising? Well, I was using Safari.

Just a few days ago it didn't work on Safari. Now it does. Thanks Google!

by : Created on March 1, 2005 : Last modified March 1, 2005 : (permalink)

Film Project Update: Transferring to DigiBeta

The major film festival we got in to requires the exhibition "print" to either be Beta SP, DigiBeta or 35mm.

Given it would cost more to transfer to 35mm than the entire film cost to make and submit, it's out of the question.

DigiBeta is the highest quality option. I was all ready to pay a transfer house to go from DVD to DigiBeta when it was pointed out that DVD quality isn't actually as good as MiniDV.

I did a bit of research and here are the numbers. In all cases, we're dealing with Standard Definition 720x480 NTSC. The difference is in the colour subsampling and the amount of (lossy) compression.

DigiBeta is 4:2:2 (which means the colour resolution is half the luminance resolution) and has a data rate of 90Mbps.

MiniDV (in NTSC) is 4:1:1 (colour resolution is one quarter the luminance resolution) and has a data rate of 25Mbps.

The MPEG-2 codec used by DVDs is 4:2:0 (alternates between horizontal and vertical colour information with a resolution of half the luminance resolution—ultimate result is similar looking to 4:1:1) and has a data rate of 9.8Mbps on average, peaking to 15Mbps.

Now, the data rate isn't all the matters - a better codec will have a lower data rate for the same quality. However, I believe that the compression used by MiniDV and MPEG-2 is pretty similar and hence the doubling of the data rate in MiniDV is pretty indicative of an improvement in quality, even though from a colour point of view they both fall pretty much equally short of DigiBeta.

Now here's the challenge: I'm in the US with a DVD. The raw MiniDV-quality footage is on my computer at home.

To get the best possible DigiBeta transfer, I need to get the raw file, either as an AVI or an uncompressed Quicktime. At 25Mbps, it should take up 3G which would fit on a DVD-R.

So I'm going to have to get one (or both) of my sisters to make me a DVD-R of the 3G file and courier it as quickly as possible.

The kicker is: I had the 3G file in question on the laptop I'm using right now - but I deleted it the day I left for the US to make more room.

by : Created on March 1, 2005 : Last modified March 1, 2005 : (permalink)

Film Project Update: Success

Today I received an email to say that Alibi Phone Network has made the Official Selection at a major North American festival (it's considered top-25 but not top-10).

I can't say just yet who it is because they've asked me not to until the full program is official.

Suffice it to say, I am absolutely thrilled. If nothing else it means that a complete stranger who is into films liked this film.

Wow! I'm so excited.

Thanks to those people who've been following along on this blog and who have offered me encouragement along the way.

3 rejections; 1 selection; 18+ more to go!

by : Created on March 1, 2005 : Last modified March 1, 2005 : (permalink)