Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The 70s are back!

The Pop Shoppe is making a comback, at least in Canada.

An article about the Pop Shoppe's "Rise, Fall, and Ressurection" [sic]

Monday, December 26, 2005

More flight tracking

Back in October I posted some sites for tracking commercial airline flights. I found an even better one since it shows your flight's history for about the past week in addition to the current information.

The animated videos of nationwide traffic are amazing.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


I've been thinking about over-the-air (OTA, i.e., antenna) television. AntennaWeb has this great thing where you put in address information (zipcode at minimum, all the way up to street address) and it tells you the channels you can receive (both analog and digital) and the compass heading (magnetic north!) and a map.

I haven't tried this yet, but there's supposedly a law? FCC regulation? that cable providers must give you a set top box with firewire output? Here is a forum about hooking up a Mac.

I also want to try this: MPEG Streamclip to "open most movie formats including MPEG files or transport streams; play them at full screen; edit them with Cut, Copy, Paste, and Trim; set In/Out points and convert them into muxed or demuxed files, or export them to QuickTime, AVI, DV and MPEG-4 files with more than professional quality, so you can easily import them in Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Toast 6 or 7, and used with many other applications or devices."

And if you decide to start your own TV station someday and need programming, here are some "classic" public domain shows that you can usuall buy for a dollar or so at Target or Dollar Tree :) Also, don't forget archive.org for your programming needs.

Church or business?

The December 2005 issue of Baseline magazine has articles about "what companies can learn about managing customer relationships" from churches.

I don't think these are churches I'd be attracted to, but since one of them is in Visalia I thought I would post the links:

automobile user interfaces

The Mercedes S-class dashboard is interesting -- you can change it from analog-looking dials to night vision television.

If you are interested in such things, one of Jakob Nielsen's alertbox columns talks about VW and BMW user interface problems. The BMW idrive interface took a lot of heat.

These folks did a three-way usability test: BMW idrive, Audi MMI, and the Jaguar touch screen.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Peer review

Simone Santini has an amusing column in the December 2005 Computer about peer reviewing and refereeing. It is probably something only a researcher would find amusing, but his underlying question is a good one: "How much damage could be caused by a peer reviewer having a bad day?"

He goes on to write ficticious reviews of Dijkstra's "goto considered harmful", Codd's "relational model of data", Turing, Shannon, Hoare, and Rivest-Shamir-Adelman's famous public key paper.

It looks like the Computer Society has it available without charge, but who knows for how long:

"We are sorry to inform you ..."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Goals for 2006

My goal for 2006 is to hear Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas L. Friedman talk.

Gladwell is speaking at the Blackboard conference (Bb world) at the end of February, and Friedman at the Campus of the Future conference in July, and Educause in October.

If you go back to my September posts, you can listen to talks by Gladwell and Friedman. I still like listening to Friedman better than reading his stuff.

There is a nice video of Friedman at lecturing at MIT in May 2005.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Home decorating ideas.

Turn those tires into furniture.

Or, do an Adam West impersonation: To the bat poles!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sandia robot saves the day

I'm not a big robotics person, but this story of a robot un-sticking a can of nasty radioactive stuff at White Sands is interesting.


If you've taken CSci291T at Fresno State or ICS 664 at the University of Hawaii (both graduate human-computer interaction classes) from me, you might want to compare it to an MIT User Interface Design and Implementation class.

In general, you can find "open courseware" from many places here.

You can also use MERLOT to search for material in your discipline.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

4 or 2 engines when flying over the ocean?

Do you feel safer on a four-engine plane than you do on a twin? Since losing an engine usually means diverting, you might be more likely to have your trip interrupted on a 4- than a 2-engine plane.

Check out the graph at the end of this article (there's also good information about ETOPS).

Here's a fun great-circle mapper that also shows non-ETOPS areas. For example, here is HNL-LON.

"For want of a comma, the meaning was lost"

Jef Raskin wrote a response to Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It's interesting to see what a bright computer scientist and user interface designer says about Truss' (and Lyn Dupre's) book.

Raskin's open letter to Truss appears in the July/August 2004 ACM Queue.

Some of Raskin's work is available on line: his one-page solar system, and his explanation of the Coanda Effect. The news release of his February 2005 death is online.

Common errors in English

Pretty amusing site about misspellings, mis-hearings, and general mistakes. Interesting and painless to read :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More Linus on UI

Linus posted a very telling message about his approach (or not) to usability and users, here.

Note the topic now seems to be evolving into configurability.

Linus on Linux user interfaces & windows managers

Gnome vs. KDE is getting hot.

Linus urges folks to use KDE instead of Gnome, here.

Here is the link to the Slashdot discussion.

Linus goes off on a guy (warning -- contains offensive language) here.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

More Escher-in-Legos

These folks build Lego models of Escher's works. Here is Ascending and Descending and Relativity.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A new hotel in the Bahamas

Sleep with the fishes!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I am a little behind posting URLs

Here's a few interesting URLS:

And finally, since I am at LAX right now and people trying to get to Chicago are stranded, you can easily find operational information about commercial airports. For example,


gives you the infromation about Chicago O'Hare (ORD), and you can substitute your favorite airport codes in the URL. If you aren't up on your airport codes, here is a list.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Software cluster regional jobs initiative

The regional jobs initiative "software cluster" was briefly profiled in the local business journal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gödel and Turing

You don't see much about Kurt Gödel or Alan Turning on TV, but last weekend at the Miami Book Fair both were mentioned:

  • Alan Lightman, "The Discoveries: Great Breakthroughs in 20th-century Science, Including the Original Papers"
  • Rebecca Goldstein, "Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel"
  • David Leavitt, "The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer"

You can watch the replay on booktv.org. Scroll down to the bottom to the last session of the day.

ACM and IEEE-CS formats

People writing research papers ask me about the ACM's and IEEE Computer Society's formats, and I never remember the exact URLs. So I end up searching everytime.

Those days are over! Here are the links:

IEEE Computer Society Style Guide (click on "Special Sections" near the top)

ACM Style Guide

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Understanding mission and vision statements

I'm not a big fan of spending a lot of time on mission and vision statements. Using Steve McConnell's ideas from his Chapter 11 of his book Rapid Development, maybe it's because I'm more of a developer than a manager. McConnell says (emphasis in the original):

If you'a a manager and you try to motivate your developers the same way that you would like to be motivated, you're likely to fail. ...

If you're a developer, be aware that your manager might have your interests at heart more than you think. The phony-sounding "attaboy" or hokey award might be your manager's sincere attempt to motivate you in the way that your manager likes to be motivated.

McConnell's Table 11-1 is "Comparison of motivations for programmer analysts vs. managers and the general population". I highly recommend spending some time with that table. You can see it by going to Amazon, looking up the book, and doing a "search inside" for "Fitz". This link should take you straight to the book. I think this link will take you straight to Table 11-1, but Amazon might move it (I'm not sure if the URLs for Amazon searches are static).

Back to mission statements. One of the most famous is from the original Star Trek TV series (and updated for The Next Generation):

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

In his amusing book All I really need to know I learned from watching Star Trek, Dave Marinaccio explains mission statements (you can Seach Inside for "mission statement" on Amazon):

Crew members of the Starship Enterprise know exactly what they are supposed to do. Suppose you are the dumbest person on the ship. How long do you think the mission will last? Five years? Very good. And suppose you encountered a strange new world? What should you do? Expore it, perhaps. There is even an emotion telling you how you should go about exploring it. Boldly.

He goes on to relate that to corporate/organization mission statements.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Slate magazine's college week

Slate has some interesting articles about college life. Here's one about laptops in class: "The rules of distraction: Hey, you - with the laptop! Ignore your professor and read this instead."

Sony BMG's failed DRM fiasco

The best quote I've read so far is by Phil Leigh in an article by Associated Press reporter Brian Bergstein:

"The biggest mistake the labels are making is, they're letting their lawyers make technical decisions. Lawyers don't have any better understanding of technology than a cow does algebra," Leigh said. "They insist on chasing this white whale."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Number stations

If you've played with a shortwave radio receiver you've probably heard these weird voices reading random numbers.

You can listen to a BBC Radio show about them here and read an article from Salon.

Or, let your mind wander and listen to digit after digit on archive.org, here or here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Software defects, part 3

After all these years, why are we still having buffer overruns?? Pretty interesting article, and one of the clearer explanations of the run-time stack I've seen.

Kuperman, B. A., Brodley, C. E., Ozdoganoglu, H., Vijaykumar, T. N., and Jalote, A. 2005. Detection and prevention of stack buffer overflow attacks. Commun. ACM 48, 11 (Nov. 2005), 50-56. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1096000.1096004

Books, comedians, and great americans

Bob Colwell. "Books Engineers Should Read," Computer, vol. 38, no. 11, pp. 7-10, November, 2005. If you can't access the article, try this link for a free copy. (Note to Fresno State students: you have access to all the IEEE publications through the library's electronic subscription to IEEE Xplore, just find it on the list and click on Connect.)

Colwell also has an amusing article about giving presenations: Bob Colwell. "Presentation Lessons from Comedians," Computer, vol. 38, no. 9, pp. 10-13, September, 2005. If you can't access the article click on this link for a free copy. (Same note applies for Fresno State students).

Mark R. Hamilton writes about why is it that the people immediately above us in the org chart are idiots? Are they really? See "Two rules for communication."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Nixon and Elvis

I recommend these black and white photos to students who need to test their image processing projects.

Neil Armstrong

CBS's 60 Minutes had a very rare interview with Neil Armstrong. You can see a photo gallery and watch the interview if you go to the main 60 Minutes site and search for the video. If you search on "Armstrong" you get both Neil and Lance videos :)

If you decide you want to own some space artifacts, collectSpace is for you.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The subconscious mind and HCI?

Interesting to think about what business folks are doing and how it relatest to HCI. In particular, that people "do" differently than they "say" isn't a surprise to usability testers.

"The subconscious mind of the consumer (and how to reach it)"

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Software defects, part 2

I forgot to add this one to my recent post about software defects:

"Why software fails", from the September 2005 issue of IEEE Spectrum. Take a look at their software hall of shame.

You can also read the last article in Simson Garfinkel's series in Wired. This one is "Microsoft's secret bug squasher" about using model checking and formal methods. For more about formal methods, see "The exterminators" in the September 2005 issue of IEEE Spectrum.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Odd website

This is one of the oddest uses of the web I've seen. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, not all of it runs on a Mac: http://www.cheerioke.com/

Software defects

Both Wired and IEEE Software have interesting articles this month about software defects and failures. The Wired articles even include animations of race conditions and buffer overruns.

Wired articles:

IEEE Software article: "High-tech Disasters" about Katrina and New Orleans.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Open source stuff

In addition to the previously mentioned Open Office here's another interesting open source system: Zimbra.

Zimbra is "an open source server and client technology for next-generation enterprise messaging and collaboration." That means it knows about POP, IMAP, iCal, and stuff like contacts lists. Their approach to mail reminds me of gmail.

If you are looking to replace your campus financial system you should watch the Kuali project.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

readability and grade level

The "reading level" or "grade level" of text is an interesting idea.
Take a look at the table "Grade Level and Circulation of Current
Periodicals" in


The "grade level" numbers refer to US school years, so 12 = last year of
high school, 16 = last year of college.

Microsoft Word will compute readability scores for you. This article
about website accessibility describes some of the pluses and minues of
the MS Word readability function.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Test your geographic knowledge

for chances to win a prize from Conde Nast Traveler's monthly "Where are you?" contest.


The September issue of Computing Research News has an interesting artcle "Anywhere, anytime - or just where is your office anyhow?" about telecommuting at Sun Micro.

The official Fresno State policy on telecommuting is here.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Stanford, IEEE Spectrum -- More stuff to listen to

Stanford U has many free things to listen to on itunes. IEEE Spectrum publishes Spectrum Radio each month. October's issue includes story about Sudoku and computers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

BayCHI podcasts

The San Francisco bay area chapter of ACM SIGCHI (computer-human interaction) group podcasts their meetings. Some interesting presentations, including talks about podcasting and video conferencing.

Speaking of webcasting, ePresence is an open source system that look a lot like commericial system such as Breeze.

Tufte, visualization, and PowerPoint

Here's an article about Tufte in Wired called "PowerPoint Is Evil". His more recent stuff is on his website. Here's a link directly to "PowerPoint Does Rocket Science".

Last Titan IV launch tomorrow

The final Title IV launch from Vandenberg AFB has been declassified and is scheduled for just after 11am Wednesday 19 October:


more information is on


Monday, October 17, 2005

Free, collaborative web based software

Two free, web-based programs are available to support group writing, commenting, and collaboration. Very useful:

Writeboard from 37signals.com, and QuickTopic.

More interesting videos to watch

The Open University in the UK archives presentations and talks.

The topics vary, from climbing Everest to end user programming to this one on the Sakai project to this one on cargo cult computer science.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Somebody's watching

I find this a little creepy, but images of the entire California coast, except for the restricted area of Vandenburg AFB, are online.

Here is downtown Cayucos.

There are also surprising things in the satellite pictures you can get on the web.

I can't really see it, but supposedly this is a man and a dog in a park in Boston. This U2 is much easier to see.

Here is google's picture of Camp Keola. You can see the camp's boat docks very clearly in this picture from MSN.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Need a private jet on a budget?

Charter a private jet without breaking the bank. Search the "return legs" of flights chartered by someone else.

Or for a slower pace, be a passenger on a freighter.

Or, try some zero-G parabolas.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

MSN and Google for university email?

It looks like both MSN and Google want to provide email for your university...

Bb buys WebCT

The two biggies of the LMS (learning management system) world, Blackboard and WebCT, are becoming one.

News of the Bb acquisition of WebCT caused enthusiastic postings on Slashdot, EdTechPost, Infocult, and others.

Real-time flight tracking

You probably already know that you can go to google and type in the airline and flight number, and google will usually give you three links to click for real-time flight information.

But, if you want to go directly to some of the most popular flight tracking sites, try

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Free viewers for Microsoft products

Students sometimes need to view MS Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents, but they don't want to buy Office.

Microsoft has free viewers for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint: click here for Windows and here for Mac versions.

If you want to create documents, consider the free OpenOffice package. It runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Unix.

Joel on Software

If you're a software developer you should probably scan Joel's postings. He gets a little out there sometimes, so his stuff is usually interesting :)

Monday, October 10, 2005


I encourage you to check out FirstMile.US. It is a nonprofit started by one of my long-time colleague from CERFnet days, Susan Estrada. It's sort of related to the now defunct One Gigabit Or Bust initiative.

Here's what FirstMile does:

Our mission: To educate, advocate and focus the debate on the power and promise of big broadband in the United States.
Our vision: Every member of the American public has access to big broadband, the 21st century pathway to a better overall quality of life.

Monday, October 03, 2005

State of California travel stuff

I can never remember where to find this stuff, so I am blogging it.

The general page for state-negotiated rates for air travel and rental cars is


The link straight to the airfares is:


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Huntington Lake weather conditions

You can get almost real-time temperature and snow (actually water content) from a sensor near Camp Keola at Huntington Lake:


Also take a look at the Sierra Summit cam. One of the usual views is of the lake. Or, look at a webcam at Shaver Lake.

Or check Sierra Summit's current snow conditions.

A few miles south is the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park webcam, and the Hume Lake cams.

Health Dept inspections of your favorite Fresno County establishments

Going out to eat, or spending some time at an "organized camp", or swimming in a public pool? Look up the reports of their health department inspections.

The interface is a buggy Java applet, sometimes the pages don't load, but the information is pretty interesting :)


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Wired words

"Impersonal computer screens invite no-holds-barred communication that is, paradoxically, very personal."


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell

I thought some of The tipping point and Blink were interesting, but I prefer listening to Malcolm Gladwell. You can listen to his talk at the 2004 Pop!Tech, or listen to his talk to the Commonwealth Club, or listen to his talk to SXSW2005. Or read an interview with him on espn.com.


You should be reading the monthly Harper's Index. If that's not enough, take a look at fun facts from the US Census Bureau.

More? How about statistical reports about the California State University system.

Thomas Friedman on Comedy Central

I think he talks better than he writes (The World Is Flat is too long :), but I like listening to Thomas Friedman. You can watch his interview on The Daily Show, or listen to his talk on Science Friday.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Tom Hanks is at it again

Apollo 13, then From the Earth to the Moon, now Magnificent Desolation, an IMAX 3-D movie. You can enter a not-very-difficult trvia contest to win swag:


Some techie stuff to listen to or watch

Here's some stuff you can have playing in the background...

  • In 2001 SDM had a conference of software engineering pioneers (Wirth, Parnas, Fagan, Guttag, and more). You can watch streaming video for most of the talks. All are in English except for Parnas' talk!
  • Dr. Dobb's has archived webcasts (audio and video) of talks by famous people such as Don Knuth, Marvin Minksky, ...
  • Terry Winograd's HCI Seminar at Stanford has a talk every Friday. Here is the course homepage.
  • It looks like the stuff that used to be on the Multi-University Research Laboratory (MURL) Seminar Series website is now on the the Research Channel.
  • Listen to three experts on usability being interviewed on NPR's Science Friday. Don Norman and Henry Petroski and Michael Graves discuss the design of computers and potato peelers.
  • An interesting and amusing article on building Apple's first computer mice. Some video clips of Douglas Engelbart demonstrating video conferencing and shared workspaces back in 1968. More Engelbart and mouse pictures
    and information.
  • Some talks from the 2005 Usenix Technical Conference. Here's a link directly to the mp3s.

"Battling Google, Microsoft Changes How It Builds Software"

An article from the on-line Wall Street Journal.

Some things to listen to or watch

Here's some things to have going in the background. These are mostly non-techie stuff:

  • Clay Jenkinson does the weekly Thomas Jefferson
  • The University of California has UCTV on line.
  • The Commonwealth Club has
    speakers from politics, entertainment, and lots of other areas.
  • I'm not a big Prairie Home Companion fan but sometimes I listen to the archives of their annual "joke shows".
  • NPR lets you listen to All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Science Friday sometimes has Computer Science and technology people as guests.
  • You can also listen to NPR's Justice Talking and stay up on current events.

Friday, September 23, 2005

If you've lost a spacecraft,

check the field guide.

You can also read the transcripts of all the communications from the surface of the moon.

Rocket launch last night

We watched a satellite launch last night just after sunset.

The LA Times has a nice picture gallery.

Sokal and Snow

I was skimming http://compiling.blogspot.com and
was reminded of the postmodern essay generator:


At the end of that page it takes about
Alan Sokal's hoax article that was published.
In the one and only end-of-semester "convocation"
(like graduation) speech I've done I
referred to that. I also cited C.P. Snow's "two cultures".

Nominate a classic computer science book!

"ACM is launching a new initiative to revive classic, out-of-print, computer science books and make them available to members"

USGS earthquake maps


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Open source usability and misc links

Election usability

From the Bush-Gore election:


Norman, Petroski, and Graves

You can isten to three experts on usability being interviewed on NPR's Science Friday. Don Norman and Henry Petroski and ` Michael Graves discuss the design of computers and potato peelers. Since the interview, Michael Graves was paralyzed and uses a wheelchair. WIll this change the way he designs?

Interfaces for household appliances

Consumer products: when software bugs bite.

Informal usability test

This amusing video shows examples of usability tests. Click on "View the video".

Fisheye menus

This video shows the design and use of fisheye menus.

Celebrating 20 years of the Mac

Audio archive of a NPR story:


Emotional design

Don Norman was interviewed on The Screen Savers show on TechTv (now called G4TV). High and low bandwidth version of the video are available. Click hereto see Don Norman talking about "Emotional Design".

You can also listen to an audio interview of Don Norman discussing "emotional design".

Alan Kay interview

Alan Kay was interviewed in February 2004 on NPR's Science Friday after receiving the Draper Prize:


Knowledge Navigator

Alan Kay is the "father of the Dynabook". While Kay was an Apple Fellow and John Scully was CEO, Apple produced a video showing what could be done with a Dynabook-inspired "Knowledge Navigator".

You can watch two brief clips from the video at http://www.billzarchy.com/clips/clips_apple_nav.htm.

I believe this was done in 1987 (pre-WWW) so it is remarkable.

Doing with images makes symbols

Alan Kay uses tennis lessons as an example of a human-computer interface. You can watch the entire 97 minute video at www.archive.org (Part 1 and Part2),

Usability and elections

The Department of Elections in San Francisco has usability as one of its goals. Note also their definition of usability, at the top of the page:


Programmers are people too!

The latest edition of ACM's Queue magazine contains a very interesting article about using human factors and HCI techniques in the design of programming languages and APIs:



archive.org includes way to go back in the past through the Wayback Machine. Lots of images (still and moving) and audio to legally download. I found out about this site at a meeting where someone told me they'd watched a movie from 1927 teaching people in Fresno how to dial a telephone.

iCal (internet calendar) and WebDAV specifications

Two RFCs: about the internet calendar iCal specification, and about the WebDAV specification for "Distributed Authoring and Versioning".

Treemap interfaces

Interesting user interfaces at flickr and SmartMoney (click on Map of the Market). Both are examples of "treemaps".

clocks that tick very slowly

The Long Now Foundation (which includes several famous computer scientists) are building a clock to last 10,000 years. It "ticks" once per year.

They also have an interesting speaker series for you to listen to.

Tufte on Powerpoint

Edward Tufte is an expert at displaying information. He's legendary in the computer graphics and human-computer interface world. In a recent Q&A section he talks about PowerPoint and how it can degrade the quality of decisions. His example are slides from NASA briefings related to space shuttle problems.

Flying Linux

The talk is called "Flying Linux" and was an invited presentation at the latest USENIX.org conference. The talk is wide-ranging (from real-time operating systems to digital fly by wire to ...) and is sure to include something that you will disagree with or be offended by. Nevertheless, the URLs are below.

One thing that I found interesting was his discussion of interfaces to vehicles like segways (http://www.segway.com/). Note that Segways don't have steering wheels (like cars) or reins (like horses -- or the Phelps tractor!). Here are the slides and movies and the talk.

CSci department chair interviewed on TV

Our CSci department chair, Dr.Walter Read, was interviewed on local TV news about whether someone can "listen" to you keyboard and figure out what you are typing.

Here is a link to the story and video:


The academic paper that started this discussion is: