Monthly Archives: January 2008

Austin Bloggers

Been missing Montreal’s blogging community a bit but it sound like Austin also has something going on in terms of blogging.Met two local bloggers yesterday at the Austin Zealots‘ Roaming Happy Hour:  

 Not only am I able to add these guys’ blogs (and a few of their favorite blogs) to my own blogroll, but I get a better impression of what Austin’s blogging scene might be like.Of course, Austin has some Metrobloggers. It’s quite possible that these folks may meet occasionally, thereby providing the local blogger with a YulBlog-like experience. But it’s still more fun to meet bloggers with whom you share some interests (in this case, respect for craft beer).After all, it’s all part of the social butterfly effect.


Comportement dans le métro de Montréal

Quelques principes de base qui peuvent aider à diminuer le niveau de stress de tout le monde.Facebook | LES RÈGLES DU MÉTRO – “ÇA SE FAIT PAS, ÇA !”J’ai  partagé ce lien sur Facebook et un de mes amis m’a répond que cette liste de règles semblait assez agressive.Ma réponse à ce commentaire: 

Ça ressemble à de la frustration accumulée. Mon attitude est en général moins agressive mais je peux comprendre que quelqu’un soit réellement tanné.En fait, quand je voyais du monde adopter les comportements décriés dans cette liste, je souriais en me disant que le monde se donnait pas le tour pour être de bonne humeur.Par exemple, le coup du sac à dos. Ça m’est déjà arrivé d’être avec une personne que j’apprécie beaucoup et qui était enragée avec le monde du métro. Cette même personne portait un sac à dos et dérangeait le monde sans s’en rendre compte.Ou le truc de rentrer dans un wagon avec les autres soient sortis. Ceux qui le font ont souvent l’air tannés eux-mêmes. Mais s’ils attendaient trois secondes, ça prendrait moins de temps pour tout le monde.J’aurais des choses à ajouter à la liste mais comme je suis plus dans le réseau Montréal, je peux pas m’inscrire.Un de mes “pet peeves” c’est le fait qu’à Berri, dans l’escalier entre les directions Côte-Vertu et Angrignon (vers l’arrière de la trame), les gens prennent l’escalier à gauche comme à droite de la rampe, ce qui fait que ça prend beaucoup plus de temps pour tout le monde. Et c’est souvent du monde pressés, fatigués, tannés…Sinon, il y a ceux qui laissent leurs «poussettes de compétition» en plein milieu du wagon, en pleine heure de pointe. Ça m’a déjà fait écrire un “rant“.

Évidemment, ça me fait un peu drôle de penser à tout ça alors que je suis à 2000 miles de Montréal… 😉  


AT&T Yahoo Pro DSL to Belkin WiFi

Doh!
Was trying to set up my Belkin Wireless G Router (F5D7230-4) for use with our “Pro DSL” broadband connection from AT&T Yahoo (with a Motorola 2210 ADSL modem). It always stopped at authentication even though both of our computers (a MacBook and an eMachines H3070) could use the connection directly. Tried just about everything I could from doing a manual setup or resetting the router and the DSL modem, to updating the firmware or changing the connection’s password.
Most Web searches led me to irrelevant results. Nobody seemed to be having the same problem as I was. To be honest, my frustration was mounting. I almost called tech support!
 
Then, I noticed that the following forum post kept creeping up in search results, even though it didn’t have anything to do with AT&T.
It then dawned on me that the problem may be simpler than I thought. Maybe my assumption was wrong, that this connection was using PPPOE like Sympatico, my previous ISP.
So, pretty much on a whim, I tried changing the connection type from PPPOE to Dynamic IP. And everything worked flawlessly.
Apart from experience with Bell’s Sympatico service, I was probably misled by the fact that this AT&T DSL connection was configured for use with a special @att.net account and a password. AFAICT, this att.net account isn’t necessary for the connection (but is provided with the connection). 
 
After setting all of this up, I set up my Fonera WiFi router. “But you’re already using the Belkin Wireless G Router!,” you say? Well, yes. But I’m using the Fonera so I can easily share my connection with other Foneros. There’s already a few of us, Austin members of the Fon Movimiento. Not that we know each other. But we all share our broadband connection for free.
Why would we do such a thing?
Because we can. 

New/Old Media: NYT Groks It

As an obvious example of “Old Media” in the U.S., The New York Times is easy to criticize. But the paper and the media company have also been showing signs that maybe, just maybe, they are home to people who do understand what is happening online, these days.

Back in September 2007, for instance, the NYT decided to make its content freely available. While The Times wasn’t the first newspaper to free its content, the fact that the “newspaper of record” for the United States went from a closed model (TimesSelect) to an open one was quite consequential. In fact, this NYT move probably had an impact on the Wall Street Journal which might be heading in a similar direction.

The Times‘s website also seems to have progressively improved on the blogging efforts by some of its journalists, including composer and Apple-savvy columnist David Pogue.

Maybe this one is just my personal perception but I did start to read NYT bloggers on a more regular basis, recently. And this helped me notice that the Times wasn’t as “stuffy and old” as its avid readers make it to be.

Possibly the silliest detail which has been helping me change my perception of the New York Times was the fact that it added a button for a “Single Page” format for its articles. A single page format is much more manageable for both blogging and archiving purposes than the multiple page format inherited from print publications. Most online publications have a “printer-friendly” button which often achieves the same goal as the NYT’s “single page” button yet, quite frequently, the printer format makes a print dialogue appear or is missing important elements like pictures. Not only is the NYT’s “Single Page” button a technical improvement over these “printer-friendly” formats but it also seems to imply that people at the Times do understand something about their online readers.

This “Single Page” button is in a box, with other “article tools” called “Print,” “Reprints,” and “Share.” The “sharing” features are somewhat limited but well-integrated. They do make it easy for some social networkers and bloggers to link to New York Times content.

FWIW, my perception of this grande dame of print publications is greatly influenced by my perception of the newspaper’s blog-friendliness.

Speaking of blog-friendly… The major news item making the New York Times Company seem even more sympathetic to bloggers is the fact that it has contributed to a round of funding which provided WordPress.com’s parent company Automattic with 29.5 M$.

Unsurprisingly, Automattic’s founder Matt Mullenweg blogged about the funding round. Candidly recounting the history of his company, Mullenweg whets our appetites for what may be coming next in WordPress and in other Automattic projects:

Automattic is now positioned to execute on our vision of a better web not just in blogging, but expanding our investment in anti-spam, identity, wikis, forums, and more — small, open source pieces, loosely joined with the same approach and philosophy that has brought us this far.

While some of these comments sound more like a generic mission statement than like a clear plan for online development, they may give us a glimpse of what will be happening at that company in the near future.

After all, chances are that integrating technologies will be one of the Next Big Things. In fact, some other people have seen the “social networking” potential of WordPress.com, though this potential is conceived through a perspective different from my original comments about WordPress.com’s network effect. Guess I’ll have to write a wishlist for WordPress.com features (including support for ubiquitous social networking, podcasting, and learning management).Still, what the funding announcement means to me has more to do with the integration of “Old Media” (print publications like The New York Times) and “New Media” (online services like WordPress and WordPress.com). As luck would have it, I’m not the only blogger who thinks about the positive effects this Old/New Media integration may have.

As an aside, to this Austinite and long-time sax player, Matt Mullenweg’s Texas and saxophone connections are particularly endearing. Good thing I’m not an investor because I would probably follow my gut feeling and invest in Automattic for such irrational reasons.

Ah, well…


I Want It All: The Ultimate Handheld Device?

In a way, this is a short version of a couple of posts I’ve been planning. RERO‘s better than keeping drafts.

So, what do I want in the ultimate handheld device? Basically, everything. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the advantages of merging technologies.

At first, I was mostly thinking about “wireless” in general. Something which could bring together WiFi (802.11), WiMAX, and (3G) cellular networks. The idea being that you can get the advantages from all of these so that the device can be online pretty much all the time. It’s a pipedream, of course, but it’s a fun dream to have.

And then, the release of location services on the iPhone and iPod touch made me think about some kind of hybrid positioning system, using GPS, Google’s cellphone-based positioning, and Skyhook‘s Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS).

A recent article in USA Today explains Skyhook’s strategy:

Jobs, iPhone have Skyhook pointed in right direction – USATODAY.com

And the Skyhook site itself has some interesting scenarios for WPS use in navigation, social networking, content management, location-specific marketing, gaming, and tracking. It seems rather clear to me that positioning systems in general have a rather bright future. I also don’t really see a reason for one positioning system to exclude the others (apart from technological and financial issues).

Positioning will be especially useful if it ever becomes really commonplace. Part network effect, part glocalization.

Of course, there are still several issues to solve. Including privacy and safety concerns. But a good system would make it possible for the user to control her/his positioning information (when and where the user’s coordinates are made available, and how precise they are allowed to be). Even without positioning systems, many of us have been using online mapping services (including Google Maps) to reveal some details about our movements. Typically, we’re fine with even perfect strangers knowing that we’ve been through a public space in the past yet we may only provide precise and up-to-date location details to people we trust. There’s no reason a positioning system on a handheld device should only work in one situation.

Now, I’m not saying that positioning is the “ultimate handheld device’s killer app.” But positioning is the kind of feature which opens up all sorts of possibilities.

And, actually, I’ve been thinking about GPS devices for quite a while. Unfortunately, most of them are either quite expensive or meant almost exclusively for car navigation or for outdoor activities. As a non-wealthy compulsive pedestrian who hasn’t been doing much outdoors in recent years, a dedicated GPS device never seemed that reasonable a purchase.

But as a semi-nomadic ethnographer, I often wished I had an easy way to record where I was. In fact, a positioning-enabled handheld device could be quite useful in ethnographic fieldwork. Several things could be made easier if we were able to geotag field material (including fieldnotes, still pictures, and audio recordings). And, of course, colleagues in archeology have been using GPS and GIS for quite a while.

Of course, any smartphone with a positioning system could help. Apple’s iPhone is one and we already know that smartphones compatible with Google’s Android will be able to have location-based functionalities. Given Google’s lead in terms of maps and cellphone-based positioning, those Android devices do sound rather close to the ultimate handheld device.


BGRT: Beer Geek Roundtable

Woohoo!Tonight’s Craft Beer Radio’s Beer Geek Roundtable!Yay!Bought a few beers for the event:

Twittered much of the main show. The post-show was entertaining. The post-post-show was a learning experience.It was fun.


Homebrewing Knowledge-Base from HBD Archives?

Uh-oh!

Started thinking again. This time about a way to repurpose messages on the HomeBrew Digest into a kind of database of brewing knowledge. I can just see it. It’d be ah-some!

Anybody knows how to transform email messages from well-structured digests into database entries? Seems to me that it should be a trivial task, especially for someone well-versed in Perl and/or PHP. But what do I know?
That venerable HBD mailing-list contains a wealth of information about pretty much every single dimension of beer homebrewing. For a large number of reasons, content from the HBD.org site turns up quite often in Web searches for brewing terms.

One issue with the HBD, though, is that it’s a bit hard to search. There used to be a custom-built search feature on the site but we now need to rely on Google and AltaVista. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if not for the fact that those engines search complete digests instead of individual messages. So the co-occurrence of two terms in the same digest can be due to two messages on completely different subjects.

Another issue with the HBD (as with many other mailing-lists) is the relatively high redundancy in message content. Some topics came cyclically on the mailing-list and though some kind souls were gracious enough to respond to the same queries over and over again, the mailing-list often looks like an outlet for FAQs. Among HBD “perennials” (or cyclical topics) are discussions of the effects of HSA (hot-side aeration), decoction mashing, and batch sparging, to name but a few technical issues.

Unfortunately, it looks like the HBD might need to be retired at some point in the not-so-distant future, at least for lack of sponsorship. Also, Pat Babcock, the digest’s “janitor,” recently asked for mirror space and announced the retrieval of some of the older digests (from the late 1980s).

Of course, there are lots of other brewing resources out there. So many, in fact, that it can be overwhelming to the newbie brewer. One impact of having so much information so easily available about homebrewing (and commercial brewing, for that matter) is a “democratization of beer knowledge.” Contrary to brewing guilds of medieval times, brew groups are open and free. Yet a side-effect of this is that there isn’t a centralized authority to prevent disinformation. Also, because the accumulated knowledge is difficult to peruse, people tend to “reinvent the wheel.”

In Internet terms, the HBD is the closest equivalent to a historical source. Few other mailing-lists have been running continuously since 1986.

Luckily, all the digests since October 1988 are available as HTML files. And the digest format has remained almost unchanged since that time.
All of the content is in plain ASCII. Messages never exceed a certain
length. IIRC, line length is also controlled. And HTML was officially
not admitted. Apparently, some messages did contain a bit of HTML
code
, but that shouldn’t be an issue.

Here’s what I imagine could be done:

  1. “Burst” out digests into individual messages (with each message containing digest information)
  2. Put all the individual messages (350MB worth) into a Content Management System
  3. Host the archived messages in the form of a knowledge-base
  4. Process those entries for things like absolute links and line breaks
  5. Collect messages in threads
  6. Add relevant del.icio.us-like tags and slashdot- or digg-like ratings
  7. Use this knowledge-base for wiki-like collaborative editing
  8. Assess some key issues to be taken up by brewing communities
  9. Add to the brewing knowledge-base
  10. Build profiles for major contributors and major groups

Because I couldn’t help it, I started writing down some potential tags I might use to label messages on the HBD. It could be part “folksonomy,” part taxonomy. For one thing, it’d be useful to distinguish messages based on “type” (general queries about a brewing technique vs. recipe posted after a competition) since many of the same terms and tags would be found in radically different messages.