nullstream weblog - July 2005

A Long Lost Friend Returns


July 27, 2005 11:54 PM PST

One of the things I looked forward to when I moved the the U.S. back in 1999 was that the Mountain Dew there had caffeine, and lots of it. Canadian Mountain Dew does not, for some strange reason. My pet theory is that kids tend to drink "colourful" sodas more than colas, and the hyper-caffeinated Dew would blow their energy levels through the roof come Saturday morning.

But, after long coding sessions ("5 in 3", or "how long would it take to have a functional QuickTime failover demo? You have 1 week...") my body was building up resistance to the effects of caffeine from my ever increasing intake of coffee. I needed, as Huey Lewis would say, a new drug.

I found one. While shopping at Larry's Market in Bellevue, I found the wonder drug: Guarana Chai Tea. This stuff is waaay more potent than coffee, without "The Shakes" (you know what I'm talking about) and with a really nice, smooth taste. I wrote a lot of DMS code powered by this stuff, and hence this post's category.

After a few months of drinking this stuff, Larry's decided to stop carrying it. I couldn't find it anywhere, so back to alternating between coffee and Diet Coke. Alas.

Years pass.

Last weekend, shopping at a one of those "upscale" grocery stores in SOMA, I found it again. I can feel my heart skip a beat.

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A Mobile Phone Even Paul Could Love

Mobile Tech

July 26, 2005 11:19 PM PST

I'm not a huge fan of cell phones. Their displays are pitifully small, their input mechanisms make my ancient Timex-Sinclair 2000 look like a model of ergonomic excellence, and they don't seem to be great for anything, even voice. I'd like to carry around only one device, not an iPod, camera, phone, PDA, etc.

Well, this phone is pretty close. It still has a small screen and low resolution camera, but the qwerty keyboard is a step in the right direction. You actually have a hope of writing an email or SMS message with it without accidentally dialling 911.

Add some 802.11 goodness and CF/SD expansion, and it might be able to replace some of the gear I'm packing.

The above photo is from Phone Scoop, and further coverage from Engadget is here and here.

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Delicious Code

Cool Tech

July 23, 2005 11:06 PM PST

Yesterday, I bought a copy of Delicious Library, which is a program for managing collections of your stuff. Delicious Library Icon.jpg

I can use my iSight camera to scan in bar codes of books, DVDs, software, CDs and they appear in the library as icons. It loads all kinds of information about each item via the internet, probably from Amazon, and also has a suggestion feature that shows you similar items.

Continue reading "Delicious Code"...

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Can't... Resist... Much... Longer...

Cool Tech

July 23, 2005 09:47 PM PST

Someone please tell me why I shouldn't get one of these:

Sony PSP 21.jpg

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Windows Vista

Cool Tech

July 22, 2005 11:03 AM PST

Windows Vista
Press pass site

Oh and in other news my XP 64bit finally shipped.

Comments (18)



July 19, 2005 12:31 AM PST

apue.gifW. Richard Stevens wrote the definitive books on Unix and network programming. Probably an entire generation of programmers, regardless of their preferred operating system, have educated themselves from these books.

However, they were getting a little long in the tooth since his unfortunate passing in 1999. Recently, several Unix gurus have stepped up and updated these books, including for Mac OS X.

Especially note the Dilbert comic on the cover.

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New Friend Blogs

Nullstream Site

July 15, 2005 02:48 PM PST

I've added two new blogs in the "friend blogs" section to the right. The first is my sister's travel/photo blog from Central America.

The second is a friend's site with a lively debate forum (that is not yet linked from the home page). If you want to debate politics or celebrity gossip - it's the place to be. There's a decent balance of liberal and conservative over there, although the liberal tends to be more outspoken (and bitter - LOL)!

Rounding it out, we've got Chizzy and Bryan, aka "9 hours ahead"; an interesting blog by expats in Switzerland, and Metrotronic, who posts deep insights into the human condition, and the occasional beautiful photo. Both are great when they actually do updates (ok, ok, we don't update that often either, and we have three authors!).

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July 15, 2005 02:33 PM PST

SkypeI've been using Skype for a while now with a $6 headset from It's a free p2p phone service that includes IM and file transfer features. You can also make calls from your computer to a regular phone number using a feature called SkypeOut. The per-minute rates to most countries are extremely low, and the sound quality is quite good.

The three issues I found were the first time I installed the software, I got an incoming ring while I was going through the install wizard. My CPU pegged to 100% and it took several minutes just to get task manager up to kill it. Since then it's been fine. In general, though, it takes a lot of cpu, maybe a minimum of 450mhz if you're doing nothing else. The second issue is that Skype often shows your friends as offline, when they are actually online. It's so bad that I just use messenger to see if people are online and then ring them up on skype (which still works if they appear offline). They can send voice data halfway around the world, but apparently can't synchronize presence data. The third annoyance is that they seem to come out with at least one new version a week, and some break compatibility with users who arent up-to-the-minute. It makes me nervous they have to update the code so often.

A tip: the voice quality (especially for multi-person conference calls) depends on who initiates and adds people to the call. The conference initiator should have the highest (upstream) bandwidth.

Overall Skype has better quality than older solutions such as Roger Wilco, or XBox Live, and it traverses NAT and firewalls well. I have yet to try it while playing an online game, but for voice chat it works really well. Also, I should mention that although it's by the developers of KaZaA, it does not contain spyware (seems they've found a viable business model that doesn't revolve around that junk).

Here's an interesting article on Skype which also has choice words from their main competitor, Vonage:

Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron says the pricing models are different because the products themselves are different. In fact, Citron labels Skype an “ancillary service” and not a direct competitor. “Skype says it themselves, they are not a replacement for your home telephone -- they are an ancillary communication service.
Basically Vonage is just pissed because someone came along and developed a very attractive free version of their product. Vonage wants to charge $25 per month minimum, just like your local phone company. If anything, I'd say that a company getting into home phone service is ancilliary to what's really happening - people replacing their land lines with cellular. Finally, Skype is working with hardware vendors on phones, and is currently betaing their SkypeIn service where you can get one or more physical phone numbers for your account, to allow incoming as well as outoging calls through the phone system. So they are competing directly with Vonage - and winning.

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Frank Zappa's iTunes in 1983

Kult of kewl

July 15, 2005 01:51 PM PST

I ran across this a while back, and thought it would be an interesting post. By Frank Zappa, it's a quick read, humorous, and very ahead of its time: A PROPOSAL FOR A SYSTEM TO REPLACE ORDINARY RECORD MERCHANDISING.

We require a LARGE quantity of money and the services of a team of mega-hackers to write the software for this system. Most of the hardware devices are, even as you read this, available as off-the-shelf items, just waiting to be plugged into each other so they can put an end to "THE RECORD BUSINESS" as we now know it.

Comments (3)

RSS Golden Hammer


July 9, 2005 11:44 AM PST

RSS Golden HammerAlthough the year is only half over, I hereby announce that RSS has won the Nullstream Golden Hammer of the year award. This goes out to the technology that is the most overhyped, and proclaims to solve every major problem out there. "When you have a golden hammer, everything starts looking like a nail".

Furrygoat's Law mentioned it early on. We've seen a a growing number of RSS related stories over the past few months. Even the announcment of a $100 million VC fund for RSS technologies wasn't quite enough to hand out the award. No, it was this post about Seattle Public Library RSS feeds that kind of sums it up.

On first glance, it doesn't sound like a bad idea. But wait a minute - we already have a great, non-polling way to be notified when a book is available or overdue it's called email. Are you really going to have 20 RSS feeds that you're constantly polling to see when your books are overdue? The Delicious Monster integration is a decent idea, but this is at best just "Web services", and really it's just "the Internets". My Web API for the library app:

Continue reading "RSS Golden Hammer"...

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Google Toolbar for Firefox


July 7, 2005 01:54 PM PST


I don't normally announce every Google release here, but this one is different 'cause I worked on the PageRank feature in my 20% time. You can get it here.

[ Works on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux ]

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D-Link DSM-320 Media Player


July 6, 2005 09:36 PM PST

I've been using the D-Link DSM-320 Network Media Player for a few months now and am quite happy with it. It's basically a box the size of a dvd player that exclusively plays content from a PC, including images, music and video (yes, Jimmy; including divx).

D-Link DSM-320
Continue reading "D-Link DSM-320 Media Player"...

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Stoners of the world: unite and take over


July 5, 2005 10:44 PM PST


Llamasoft is one of those game companies started by a computer nerd that grew up with computers in the 70's and 80's, like most of us. Check out his (6 part) history. Sound familiar?

Microsoft is baking Llamasoft's lightsynth, Neon, into Xbox 360 and I really can't wait to see it. All you need to do is put on some Marley, smoke up a bowl, and chill out to the sweet FX.

There's an article in the The Guardian here.

Now, what I'd really like to do, is have an EyeToy connected to the Xbox 360, conduct it like a Theremin and save the results to disk.

Comments (4)

Wide or Not Wide?

Cool Tech

July 5, 2005 02:35 PM PST

Furrygoat has a recent entry on widescreen vs. dual monitors. We have been having similar discussions here. Currently my debate has really been about dual wide vs dual standard, but Furrygoat makes a good point about being able to replace your desktop with a laptop. Hard to do with dual monitors. My preference has always been to have nearly the same setup between work and home (monitors, keyboards, mice etc.) The major drawback I have to this scheme however is that XP remote desktop doesn't support dual monitors. So I'm forced to a single monitor when working from home regardless. When I switch to laptop all bets are off, I have a different keyboard, mouse, and monitor size / form factor.

As for monitors: the Dell 2405 is pretty sweet, but for that price you can get two 2001FPs. So you can have one monitor at 1920x1200 or two with 3200 x 1200 res. But admittedly resolution alone isn't always the deciding factor.

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iPaul, iPod, iPredict


July 3, 2005 11:15 PM PST

Some interesting things happened recently with Apple, and I thought that I'd have a Cringely-like attempt at predicting the future. (Note: I do not have any inside knowledge about any of this stuff, I'm just wondering out loud and randomly connecting dots that may or may not exist based on publicly available information. YMMV).

Apple has updated their line of iPods to have colour screens (no more monochrome Chicago font) and added podcasting support to iTunes, but where is this going?

Continue reading "iPaul, iPod, iPredict"...

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Google Earth Addiction


July 2, 2005 02:19 AM PST

If you can't tell from the post time, I'm totally addicted to Google Earth. Google recently expanded to include sattelite images of the entire world. Last week they released a free version of Google Earth, an application that renders the entire earth, and is zoomable down to the level of individual cars on a street!

If you have a computer with decent speed and a 3D card, download this app. Not only are images rendered, but full earth topography, streets, and many other map elements are visible. Currently, the only drawback is that some parts of the world are mapped at a much higher resolution than others, but since the areas are loaded dynamically, I assume Google will be improving the high res areas going forward.

So let's start out by playing a little "where in the world". The theme here is islands. An easy one:
A metropolitan island.

Continue reading "Google Earth Addiction"...

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