2008-09-30

Tromsø olympics 2018

Turns out that arranging the olympic games in Tromsø is going to require a government guarantee of close to NOK 30 billion (NOK 28.5bn is the current estimate). This is considerably more than the previous estimate of about NOK 15.5 billion.

And I thought we in the software industry sucked at estimating cost.

Given that the olympics are mainly a national chest-thumping exercise I find this somewhat disgusting. It offends me that our politicians are even considering committing to that amount of cash to host the olympics. (Of course, that is only what the government needs to guarantee -- the actual cost of funding the olympics will be considerably higher when all is said and done).

I have no positive feelings towards the olympics. It is a despicable branding exercise where commercial interests are more important than the athletes. I didn't watch the coverage of the last olympics and I am not going to watch upcoming olympics. Not that I am what you would call a sports freak (I only watch motor sports), but this has nothing to do with sports.

I will be very disappointed if Norway does not pull out of the race to host the winter olympics in 2018.

2008-09-27

Adobe Updater tip

I run Leopard with my homedir on a FileVault'ed homedir. The infernal Adobe Updater gets utterly confused by this. My assumption is that it gets really confused when you don't have your home dir and your apps on the same file system.

If you have problems updating Photoshop CS3 and other Adobe Products because of this you can just do the following:
  • Add another account
  • Give it admin rights
  • Make sure it does NOT have a FileVault homedir
  • Start the Adobe Update app (you can do this from the Help meny in Photoshop if you like)
  • Perform the updates
  • Optionally log out and then remove the spare admin account
I sent a bug report to Adobe, so hopefully they'll fix it.

2008-09-26

Unsung hero.






Stefan Bellof, one of the great, unsung heroes of racing. Probably most known for approaching, being on and then smashing the limit repeatedly on the Nordschleife. Not so much known for his F1-driving. Sadly he died young and before achieving much in F1.
(Sorry about the cheesy music in the video)

The limit.

2008-09-23

Prediction: HD cams that can take SLR lenses.

The new thing in the dSLR world right now is dSLRs that can shoot video. Both Nikon and Canon have cameras on the market that can do this. A silly feature to have in a dSLR. After all, who would want to use an SLR for shooting video, right?

Except for one thing.

The resulting video is just absolutely gorgeous.

I predict that in 1-2 years, we might see proper HD video cams that can take SLR lenses.

Public transportation in Trondheim. FAIL!

One might wonder what the hell is up with the public transportation in Trondheim. We have among the most expensive bus tickets in Europe -- possibly the most expensive. Yet politicians pretend to promote public transportation. Their latest invention: in the middle of the city, we have a single block bus lane. If you don't know about this oddity, driving correctly through the inner city can be a bit...interesting. Especially since it is followed by a 30m stub of road where you have to get back onto the right lane in order to cross the next intersection. If you haven't driven through there before and you don't know about this brainfart, things are going to get a bit busy as you try to figure it out with people on all sides driving rather aggressively.

They're also hard at work to introduce an additional gas tax. You know, to save the environment and stuff.

The fact that they are counting on this gas tax making them more money is pretty much a dead giveaway: they are not doing this for the environment, and frankly I find it insulting that they even imply they are doing it for the environment. Most likely, they are just going to chuck this money into the gaping holes of their budget. Directly or by some deal in which the government matches their "environmental fees".

As for the politicians: the mayor of Trondheim when asked why she drove a car to work, she came up with an absolutely pathetic response: because she needed to haul her crap to work -- including an extra set of clothes for representation.

Oh, whoopee-doo, how unique.

Hey lady, get a bloody bicycle and a backpack or ride the bus to work just like you want everyone else to do. You're not the only one with a job and the need to haul crap to work. If other people can take their kids to school, kindergarten etc on the bus, you can bloody well use the public transportation that is supposed to be good enough for everyone else.

In fact, I think the mayor should be required to use public transportation to work. See it as an incentive to make public transportation suck less.

Oh, and today I read that the local cab company are going to charge extra for being on time. Yes, they are going to charge extra for delivering a level of service one should be able to expect from them. They are going to charge NOK 50,- extra to show up at the agreed upon time when you order a cab. As if their fees weren't exorbitant enough to begin with. What sort of message does that send? If the local politicians have any sort of decency left they'd take this as a huge hint that they need to grow a bloody clue about public transportation.

But first, I want to see the mayor on a bicycle. And I want the 18 free parking spaces for her and her staff revoked. Nothing is going to get done without proper incentive.

2008-09-18

A beverage and a dance.


Undecided from Zach Graves on Vimeo.

A beverage and a dance. That's entertainment AND refreshment.

2008-09-17

Here's a completely useless idea.

I am procrastinating. My mind is filling up with all sorts of silly ideas that seem more tempting than the mind-numbingly boring and painful task that lies before me. I need to write a truckload of performance reviews by the end of the week and I really do not feel like doing it.

So I got this idea. A completely useless idea that I will use my awesome, superhuman willpower to not do anything about.

A while ago, several text editors appeared that have a full-screen mode. It is supposed to help you focus on writing by removing all the visual clutter that you normally find on your screen. Just an empty screen and text. I've tried using editors that have this mode a few times. I have a license for WriteRoom, but although I think it does help a bit, I don't really use it that much because all in all, it is not a very good text editor.

Okay, so the last brain fart to pollute my neurons as I am trying to motivate myself to do tedious work is a text editor that emulates a typewriter. In the sense that what you see on screen is the paper roll, hammers that punch letters into paper and the glorious mechanical sound of an old typewriter as you write. One could even imagine having the option of choosing different types of typewriters. An ancient Remington, an old IBM with a ball head etc.

There is something deeply satisfying in the feel of writing something on an old-fashioned typewriter. The noise, the rustic look of the text. I doubt that you can capture all that in a piece of software, but it would be fun if someone tried.

Anyway, as I said: a completely useless idea that will not earn anyone a penny, but an amusing thought nonetheless.

Back to work. Ugh.

PS: the idea occurred to me while reading xkcd today.

2008-09-16

Photoshop and how the price tag encourages piracy.

I recently jotted down some thoughts on why I think Photoshop CS3 is priced wrong in the flickr forum that belongs to the This Week in Photography podcast. I'm not going to include the post here, but rather link to it so you can read it there.

The link is:
http://flickr.com/groups/twip/discuss/72157607317847597/#comment72157607324435798

2008-09-15

Time for change.

When I saw Will Wright's talk about Spore on the TED website I was looking forward to when the game was coming out. Then, when it did come out, the whole launch seemed to drown in reports of EA's draconian DRM-solution making life difficult for what seemed like a significant number of legitimate buyers.

This seems to be a recurring theme: software being laced with the poison that is DRM. A poison that only affects legitimate customers, while those who use pirated software enjoy not having to jump through all the hoops.

We also know that all software that is released is cracked sooner or later. Usually sooner than later. If something isn't cracked it is usually because nobody is interested in it.

Anyone with a browser and a bit of time can get hold of pirated software. It doesn't take long to figure out where and how to get your hands on a pirated copy of practically any piece of software. Once someone has figured this out once, the threshold for repeating the exercise is low. Both from a knowledge point of view and from a moral point of view.

Then, of course, you have people like me. People who don't mind paying for software, but who just doesn't want to waste time, attention and effort on a piece of software that suddenly stops working -- or never starts working. For me the solution is fairly easy: forget Spore. Not interested. Don't need the hassle.

So what should software companies do? Well, I think a lot of companies need to rethink what they are doing.

Simple licenses.
Most people have no idea what they are allowed to do and not allowed to do with the software. Nobody reads end user licence agreements, nobody understands the legalese in them and most of them are a complete overkill. An EULA should be at most one page and it should be understandable to a moderately intelligent 14 year old. No, really. It needs to be that simple.

Simple copy protection.
It's an arms race and the people on the defensive side, the software publishers, are losing, have always been losing and will keep losing to crackers in the forseeable future. I have yet to read about a DRM system that has not eventually been circumvented. Go back to simple license keys. Stop trying too hard; you are only hurting your legitimate users. Forget about any involved systems that require authorization etc.

It should be more important to you that it works for all legitimate users than delaying crackers by, at most, a day or two.

Besides, in the case of Spore, really "tough" DRM wasn't even needed. The aspect of Spore that makes it really cool is to interact with other users online. And for that you need an account. So EA could have put a more traditional flavor of copy protection on the game (to discourage casual copying), and then just solved the problem on the server side. No self-respecting gamer would want to lose out on the online experience anyway.

Pricing.
Software is too expensive. A good example is Photoshop CS3. I think I paid $600 for Photoshop in the USA. It costs about twice as much in Norway. Among the 50 or so Photoshop CS3 users I have met only two actually have a legitimate license. The rest had no problems getting a pirated copy and it works just fine for them. They have no incentive whatsoever to buy a license.

I seriously think a more suitable price tag for Photoshop CS3, for non-professional use, is somewhere in the $60 to $100 price range. (Yes I know about Photoshop Elements, yes it is over-priced and yes, it is most definitively a redundant and fairly pointless product. Its sheer existence is an artifact of the exorbitant pricing of CS3).

Given the number of pirated copies of Photoshop I've seen in use over the years I can't help but think that there's a big, fat slab of the market of consumers that Adobe is missing out on. Adobe make zero dollars on sales in this market (though it does serve as a great marketing tool since people do learn Photoshop).

For games the pricing is a bit trickier. They are usually not as perversely over-priced as Photoshop and often sit comfortably at the price point where people buy them even if they are not going to play them that much.

Finger on the pulse.
Executives and board members at most traditional software houses today are not paying that much attention to how the world has changed. Their ignorance is slowly eroding shareholder value by not seeing problems and opportunities -- and when they do see problems, not exhibiting any signs of intelligent behavior (ie. learning from their mistakes).

2008-09-14

Doubt

I came across this blog posting today on the fibonacci spiral and the nautilus. If nothing else it illustrates how important doubt is. How important it is to revisit statements of fact and ensure that they are indeed facts.

2008-09-12

Heat

These past days I have been trying out a bottle of Blair's Sudden Death Sauce. I brought the bottle to the office and left it in the fridge. Since we have fairly decent caterers now, most days I'll have something for lunch that goes well with really hot sauce.

I have to say that this sauce has a very pleasant taste. Having no adequate vocabulary for describing tastes, I'll use an engineer's term: broad spectrum. (A colleague thought I was talking about penicillin). Rather than just having a sharp, piercing sort of heat, the Sudden Death Sauce also offers a very pleasant taste.

I let our resident Hungarian have a taste. Coming from a country where they grow and consume hot peppers (or paprika), I consider him more suited to judge the heat of the sauce. His verdict: -"not as hot as Dave's Insanity Sauce". I'll take his word for it.

I spent some time trying to find some numeric values to describe the heat in various sauces, but haven't found any solid numbers online. Given that the Scoville scale is (at best) an inaccurate one and commercial entities are not in the habit of publishing ASTA pungency figures I doubt I'll find anything more reliable than comparisons made by experienced chili tasters. (Not that I doubt their competence, but using the human sensory system suggests a high margin of error -- especially when venturing out into the culinary extremes).

Unless any of you propellerheads out there have a high pressure liquid chromatography rig knocking about the lab and want to compile a list? :-)

PS: Check youtube for people who try out various sauces :-)

2008-09-07

Sports or lawyering?

Anyone watching the closing stages of the GP at Spa Francorchamps today is going to remember the closing stages of that race for a long time. Kimi and Lewis going at each other like crazy. Both driving dirtier and more recklessly than Robert Downey Jr on crack. Kimi overcooks it and ends up in a wall, Lewis makes it through and wins.

Then, after the race, the FIA pulls a 25 second penalty for Lewis out of their ass and takes away his win.

Now I happen to be a Ferrari fan, but I think Lewis deserved the win. Both Kimi and Lewis drove dirty. Pointy elbows all the way. They pretty much cancelled each other out.

Kimi lost his cool and crashed because he ... well, the lad can drive like his ass is on fire, but he isn't exactly what one would describe as the cunning, more cerebral type. So rather than securing the points and not tempt fate, he decided to gamble and pissed away a truckload of championship points.

As for Massa's win; it is a hollow one. Tainted by the FIA's men in suits who are utterly out of touch with racing. There is no fun in being handed a win by a bunch of anemic lawyers.

How about FIA get rid of the lawyer types. Let Max Mosley focus on chasing prostitutes and let someone more in touch with reality run the show.

2008-09-04

All Chromed up.

It is always somewhat amusing to read what people say about products that are released by the company you work for. It never ceases to surprise me what conspiracy theories people come up with and what aspect of a product that will get their panties in a bunch.

2008-09-02

Stephen Fry on Free Software

The only thing that is slightly worrying is that the GNU people got to Stephen Fry and sold him the whole GNU-centric view of Linux -- giving people the (false) impression that Linus Thorvalds somehow set out to provide a kernel for the GNU system.

He didn't.

He set out to make an OS that he could goof around with and he happened to like the GNU Public License and he happened to use some GNU tools, and as luck would have it, Linux happened to become popular.

To be honest, I think Richard Stallmann is being a bit of a bastard to, indirectly (if we're kind), claim credit for Linux. It is not the polite thing to do. I cringe with embarassment every time Stallmann does this.

2008-09-01

How hard can it be...

Just watched a bunch of talking heads veer off into a dozen different directions while discussing politicians in the wake of the pension fraud-scandal in Norway.

Look, halfwits, this is not hard.

We have a bunch of politicians who have accepted a lot more money in the form of pensions than they were supposed to. Of course they say they didn not know and they were not aware and all the standard excuses ordinary people would come up with yet would not get away with. These people are supposed to know. They do not have plausible deniability. And if they really didn't know: what the hell are they doing managing my hard earned tax money!? Let alone our precious oil money.

All we expect is that they be given the same treatment as anyone else in the same situation. If that means that we throw the former prime minister in jail for pension fraud, then so be it. If we, for a second, pretend that he is special or that he must obviously be innocent since he is a Man Of The Cloth, we can kiss any illusions of being a proper, well-functioning democracy under rule of law goodbye.