The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Outlook woes / ISO a single reading interface

Last week I switched back to Outllook email. It only took 4 days until Outlook corrupted an OST file, and hung sending mail. My hands and shoulders and wrists hurt, because of Outlook's lousy human interface design.

Also, I was reading USEnet news and email together in EMACS Gnus. Now, with Outlook, my USEnet newsgroup reading rate has fallen off. I am too lazy to use multiple interfaces.

Only saving grace is that I have moved personal stuff to Google Mail and Calendar.

Unfortunately, now I have more different interfaces - Google Mail, Outlook, USEnet.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I hate Microsoft Outlook (Calendar)!!!

Damn! For the umpteenth time I missed a meeting. Microsoft's Outlook Calendar did not notify me... Ironically, I was posting about Google Calendar at around the time.

Outlook Calendar might not be so bad if I could access it from my cell phone, or if it could text message me. But IT has decided that would be insecure.

Outlook Calendar might not be so bad if it delivered alarms on time. But I regularly receive alarms 10 minutes, an hour, sometimes days late. I begin to suspect that the alarm genrator can be locked out by other Outlook tools, such as spam filters.

Now that I am using Google Mail and Google Calendar, I can very easily imagine becoming Google centric. It is a hassle to have to deal with two email systems and two calendar systems, one for work and one for my personal life.

Apart from security, the only real advantage of Microsoft Outlook that I see is disconnectability: I have to be connected to the Internet to use Google Mail and Calendar, whereas I can use Microsoft Outlook on a plane. I hope that Google will remedy this.

I have begun to think about a generic tool for merging data from disconnected sessions. XML greatly facilitates this, since all data representations can be converted into XML. At the very least, one could replicate and version the diverged XML ... clauses. This is better than versioning at a file or document level. Specific merge tools can also be created.

Version control software is the fundamental tool for replicated and disconnectable, distributed, databases.

This is actually relevant to my job: if Google software supplants Microsoft, then there is much less need for heavyweight PCs or laptops. Thin clients may be encouraged. Although it is not clear whether a fancy Ajax application may not require a powerful PC.

Hierarchies for Google Calendar

This topic is what inspired me to get a Google Blogger site:

I just set myself and my wife up with Google Calendar.

We each have our own calendars, plus one for our daughter. I have also set up a Family calendar. Plus, I have set up "Possibilities" calendars, for things that I am interested in enough to want to be able to see on my calendar, but which I am not committed to going to.

And I have also subscribed to various public calendars, such as tides, events, etc.

After all this I end up having something like 20 calendars connected to my Google Calendar.

Some would say this is overkill. I take the viewpoint that it is reasonable to this, if Google Calendar had tools for managing such long lists of meta-calendars. Unfortunately, this is lacking.

Basic tools such as being able to select or deselect all calendars would be nice.

Going further, I would like to be able to group my calendar subscriptions in various ways. Hierarchically, but possibly overlapping.

E.g. I would like a button to be able to link my personal and family "Possibilities" calendars - so that I can easily see just commitments.

E.g. I want to be able to enable/disable viewing of all of my public calendar subscriptions.

E.g. I would like to group my public calendar subscriptions by topics, such as music, recreation, kid's activities.

In particular, I find it most annoying to see lots of events that I am not interested in in some of the local event public calendars. I can copy just the events that I am interested in to one of my calendars, but that doesn't help me the next time I want to look at new activites on this public calendar. I think that I want to create "subtractive" calendars - a personal calendar that is lnked to a public calendar, but where I have explicitly removed events that I am not interested in.

Similarly, I would like to be able to annotate events in a public calendar - e.g. with car pool arrangemens for a concert. Once again, making a local copy is a start - but onced that local copy is edited, the link to the original event, which may be rescheduled, may be lost (or at least confused).

Blog Topics

What can I blog about?

Unfortunately, I cannot blog about my work. Stuff that I am working on is company proprietary.

It is hard to blog about computer architecture given the above. Although I can discuss this in public, I usually tend to do so in the USEnet newsgroup comp.arch. Unfortunately, that is more transient that this blogsite.

I'd love to have all of my USEnet posts automatically saved to this blogsite...

As you can prbably see, collaboration tools and software are an interest only slightly below computer architecture. I guess that I am already blogging about this.

Wiki as a Bookmark Sharing System

See http://twiki.org/cgi-bin/view/Support/BookmarkSharingWithTWiki.
I am enjoying this quite a lot - I want to share it with others.

By now it may be renamed to http://twiki.org/cgi-bin/view/Sandbox/BookmarkSharingWithTWiki

Moral: twiki should use permanent URLs.

Backing up Google Blogger Content

If I understand Google Blogger's erms of Service, I own the content I post.
Am I allowed to use an automated tool to make a backup of such content on disks I own?

I am still not sure that I trust Google to never go away, or to not ever seek to privatize conent posted on their sites and stored on their disks.


Giving in to Google Blogger / wishing for Wiki

I suppose that I am giving in by creating a Google Blogger page. Giving in in two different ways:

(1) I would really prefer to have a publicly visible wiki site, rather than a blog.

(2) I really should be running my own public website, with both wiki and blog, rather than piggybacking on Google.

I've been running websites and wikisites inside the companies that I work for for a long time, on company intranets. I keep meaning to set up my own public website on the Internet. I have, from time-to-time exposed some of my servers (personaly servers, that is, not company servers). But I am lazy, and paranoid about security. Perhaps I should be using a web hosting service, one that supports wiki software such as twiki; but I am reluctant to spend money on this sort of vanity publishing.

As we say in Portand: "Free is a very good price". Hence Google.

I prefer wikis to blogs. Or, rather, wikis is a superset of blogs. I've written my own blogs using fairly vanilla twiki, mildly customized, for a while. I'm aware of quite fancy blog sites and systems built on top of wiki.

I've thought long about the differences between blogs and wikis. I've posted about this on my intranet wiki/blog; I may move some if that here, but not now. Just briefly, the main difference seems to be:
* wikis are oriented towards editing, revision, and eventually creating reference material
* blogs are transient - an article is typically written at a single point in time
* although blog articles may be revised, that is not the usual situation
* whereas revision at any time is the essence of wiki
* blogs are typically oriented around a primay author
* others may comment on a blog page, but such commens are typically distinct from the main posting
* wikis are oriented around collaboration
* although multiple users may comment on a wiki page, in "discussion mode"
* it is often the intention and hope of a wiki site that such comments may be folded into a consensus rewrite of the wiki page (although the separate commens should certainly be retained in revision history, and perhaps in a separate "flow of consciousness" wiki page)

This makes it sound like there should be no such thing as a single user wiki. That is wrong: I find a single user wiki (and, for that matter, a single user blog) very useful. Helps organize my thoughts. Plus, I hold sufficiently diverse opinions inside my head that I can frequently have a conversation with myself on a private wiki page or blog page.

Single user wikis are quite useful on devices such as PDA phones, as means of organizing information.