22 August 200422 August 2004
Alright, alright, here it is, my triumphant return.
. . .
Larry, Trow and I did some F-Spot hacking this
week, and built a super-cool quick preview feature. Hold down
ALT as you move over the photos and a little preview window
appears. This is great for me, because I can never tell if a picture
is any good from the tiny thumbnails, but big thumbnails mean you get
fewer pictures on the screen and double-clicking the image to switch
into single-image mode takes too much time.
"Get it out! Get it
F-Spot in general is really coming along. It now
has a timeline widget and can publish directly to gallery. Larry finally
started hacking on it full-time a couple weeks ago.
. . .
I wrote a
systray applet that uses XRANDR to change your screen resolution.
Especially handy when you need to use a shitty projector that
only supports 1024x768, which is most of them.
. . .
And of course Joe and Robert's netapplet is a god-send for laptop
users like myself. Two clicks to switch between ethernet and
wireless, or to change wireless networks.
Earlier this week I made the little icon at the top show signal
strength when you're on a wireless network.
. . .
And in other hacking news, today I spent some time on my
activity-tracking tool, timeline. People
laughed at me for writing it in shell originally, so I redid it all in
C# and built a systray applet that displays how long you've
been running the current application, and can show you a pie chart of
your application use patterns. Trow wrote the PieChart widget.
The sampled data is much richer than what's shown; you could conceivably do
things like watch quick-switches between windows and figure out that
someone is using two different windows for the same task
(e.g. consulting a web page while writing a document). All of the
observed activity is logged into a file; we might try to use it for
some usability studies at some point.
. . .
This week I held most of my meetings using Skype and VNC.
. . .
In January I spent a couple of weeks in
Rio, as part of my first vacation in almost two years. I have this
whole CDC-be-damned attitude when it
comes to prohibitions on using third-world icecubes, drinking
third-world water, or eating third-world street food, which usually
makes me a daring stud, but in January it made me violently ill and
that illness lingered for
months after I got home.
The physical drama of Rio is pretty unique: you turn a street corner
downtown and three blocks ahead a steep mountainside rises out of the
urban maze, lush jungle green against the grey-beige city. The
beaches are crowded, and little islands dot the shoreline along the
coast. And as you've probably heard, people walk around with no
clothes on. Not just the beautiful people; I watched a mass of skin
and rippling fat spill out of a bus wearing only a speedo, and
thought: where does he keep his money? or his keys?
And machismo and sex are in the air. A guy in my hostel got his
face broken by a roving gang of drunken Brazilians during New Year's,
near Copacabana beach.
My friend Costin says that northern Brazil is "America Squared." He's
got a point: the store shelves are piled high with Red Bull and
bleach-front jeans. Energy drinks seemed especially appropriate
there, but I couldn't find a sedative stronger than chamomile in the
whole city. Save, of course, the Caipirinha.
I only spent 12 days in Brazil, so though I may have impressions, I
can't claim any real understanding or deep insight. And mainly I was
just convalescing and admiring what an incredible city Brazil has.
But I did do one interesting thing while I was there.
Built up on the hillsides that surround the city are intricate and
crowded slums called favelas. The best-known favela in Rio is
Cidade de Deus, made famous by that fabulous movie of
the same name.
In our hostel, there was a guy who took small groups into Rocinha, the
largest favela in Rio, with about 250,000 inhabitants. You ride a
motorcycle taxi up to the top of the hill and then walk back down
through the favela's twisty, shoulder-width streets. My friends and I
had serious reservations about going — it seemed exploitative to
tour someone's neighborhood, especially if that someone has much less
money than you, notably not a feeling I have about walking around the
wealthy neighborhoods in Boston or taking the 9-mile drive in
Monterrey — but curiosity eventually got the better of us and we
And it was fascinating. First off, it was visually intense: the tiny
houses and crazy vertical separation from one street to the next made
the whole place feel like an ewok village, and ensured that every
rooftop had a stunning view of Copacabana beach, Corcovado, and the
rest of Rocinha curving up and around the mountain.
From the top of Rocinha.
And whether or not we were exploiting them, people were very friendly,
and little kids ran out of their houses excited to see us. I let them
use my camera, and showed them pictures of themselves on the LCD, and
they'd laugh and call their friends over.
As we're nearing the bottom of the hill and starting to head home, I
was thinking about how much the kids enjoyed using my camera, and
wouldn't it be interesting to see what they photographed on their own,
if they had their own cameras.
And so The Plan was formed.
A few of us from the hostel spent the next several hours buying out
the disposable camera inventory of every street-side camera store we
could find. Prices varied widely, though film and developing were
very expensive in Rio, so there was much talk of "volume discounts"
and we had to buy a few underwater cameras that would never be used
underwater because stores were closing and our mission was Urgent.
The next morning, we went back into the favela and started passing out
cameras. We were mobbed. It was sad not to have enough cameras for
everyone, but we tried to encourage people to share.
The main logistical trick, should you ever want to do this yourself,
is to take a picture of the recipient with the camera before giving it
to him. Then, after the roll is developed, you'll know which prints
belong to which person. Unfortunately, the first shot on a disposable
camera is sometimes a little bit overexposed, and so we didn't get
scans of two of the first photos. I still have the negatives, so I'll
fill those in at some point.
The return rate was pretty good; many of the kids were waiting in the
street from 7am to noon for us to pick up their cameras. We got 26
back out of maybe 32 we handed out. This amounted to 632 photos.
Many of them are excellent, especially for someone who's probably
never used a camera before, and with a cheap disposable. Some are
sad, some are funny.
After I got back and started telling this story to people, I read a
newspaper article about some Kodak marketing team that hands cameras
out to starving kids in Kenya and posts their photos on kodak.com
somewhere, and it made me sick. So I don't know if my project will
disgust you. We did our best to explain the project to everyone who
got a camera, some people declined, and everyone who got prints was
thrilled to have them.
At this point I'll just let the images speak for themselves.
Click on the photographer to see their pictures. If you want a
high-resolution version of one of these, let me know and I'll send you one.
30 August 200430 August 2004
Sony may be offering the QRIO
for sale later this year. Check that thing out; it is mindblowing.
If anyone in Tokyo (or elsewhere) can get one early, let me know.
. . .
This is a personal web page. Things said here do not represent the position of my employer.