Nat Friedman

Archive for September 2004

22 September 2004

Evolution 2.0 was released! With this release, we will finally be able to put Evolution on a six-month time-based release cycle. I’m excited for the coming 2.2 features, especially EPlugin, which should make Evo a lot easier for people to extend.

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Beagle now searches tomboy notes.

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We held a Beagle hackfest here in Bangalore yesterday. Jon posted some great photos, and I sent out a summary of the day’s events. Thanks to everyone who participated! It was a lot of fun.

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I’ve also posted an autogenerated FIXME list for beagle. Unfortunately, GNOME’s ViewCVS implementation doesn’t anchor line numbers, so the links don’t work very well. In the old days, we had a working bonsai installation, which *did* anchor all line numbers, and which was great. Oh how I miss it.

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There’s also a nice RSS feed of all Beagle CVS commits. You can view it in HTML here. I just discovered this thing, and it’s fucking awesome.

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And Ewen Cheslack-Postava has added Gphoto2 support to F-Spot, so it can scan/identify and import photos directly from your digital camera.

20 September 2004

The whirlwind world tour continues. Seven days in Barcelona passed quickly, then a night in Frankfurt, and now I’m in Bangalore. Photos from B’lona to come.

Waking up at 3am in Bangalore, my sleeping schedule is totally fucked.

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A few things to be aware of:

12 September 2004

In Munich airport, en route to Barcelona.

Foo Camp this year was, hard to believe, even better than last year. A quick recap of the last two days…

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Thursday night I landed in San Francisco, and spent the night on the floor of my sister Peach‘s living room in the Castro. Watson, a friend from MIT and another recent East Coast transplant, came out with us for pizza and a beer at a place called The Flying Elephant in Potrero.

The next morning, I went down to Menlo Park to chat with the guys at Sun about Evolution, OpenOffice, and the suchlike. Hans Muller and I ended up talking about robots for a while (it turns out his former life was in robotics). He sent me this oddity.

Then I picked Robert Love up at the airport. We went to REI to get Robert a tent, and that’s when Jon Trowbridge called with important news about Beagle: open queries now update automatically when files change on your filesystem. Take that, Spotlight!

Our long drive to Sebastapol, though fraught with heavy traffic, was punctuated by a bizarre incident involving three middle-aged women in strange disguises.

After xeroxing my face at a Kinko’s, we arrived just in time for dinner.

Tim O’Reilly led an intro session where everyone had to summarize their interests in a maximum of three words. Larry Wall brought down the house when he stood up and said “Larry Wall, cult leader.”

Scoble videotaped everything.

Not to wax too self-indulgent, but what’s rich about Foo Camp is when you’re sitting in the hacking room in a discussion about how people don’t trust PayPal, and then the head of the PayPal developer network comes over and everyone works out that PayPal could require email confirmation for charges above a user-configurable ceiling, and then the Google guys are running around upping people’s daily limits on their API keys so they can do more interesting search experiments, and someone in the corner is swiping everyone’s mag stripes and augmenting his card identification database, and then you wander outside just as a cardboard rocket shoots up 100 feet over the camp site … and so on.

The point is, I just felt really lucky to be there, among such creative and smart people. O’Reilly is at the center of an incredible universe of individuals, and Foo Camp manages to get bright people from all over the map, employed by companies in cut-throat competition with one another, to come together and actually share ideas. Two years in a row, Foo Camp really raises my spirits.

But of course, sooner than I wanted to leave, it was back to the airport and onwards to Barcelona.

10 September 2004

Last night after landing in California, on the phone with Miguel:

Me: Dude, did you hear Netflix and Tivo are partnering to deliver movies directly to your PVR?
Miguel: Dude! That is amazing! My life just got five percent better, and it is the important five percent!

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At Foo Camp. Too busy having fun to say much now, except to present you with this little gem:

Tim O’Reilly, Jeff Bezos, and idiot me.

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And Mark, I was totally joking yesterday. :-) I’ve never read that book and was just irritated this guy had a slightly better seat than I did. That was the joke, not meant to offend in any way.

9 September 2004


*tap tap tap*

Is this thing on?


Ah, we’re transmitting? Right. Let’s do this. is coming to you this evening from the lofty perch of seat 18A, wedged uncomfortably between armrests on Air Canada flight 759, hurtling westward from Toronto to San Francisco.

Seat 18A has little to distinguish it (besides the ordinary distinction of hosting me), except that it is directly behind seat 17A: one of those special exit row seats with extra leg room owing to the non-existence of a seat 16A. And 17A’s smug occupant is reading that awful book, The Alchemist, which I haven’t read but which I have seen recommended by Italian waitresses in Harvard Square dive bars as “life-changing,” and which is therefore only read by men whose lives are rich with manipulative, shallow women, and which is left unfinished by those to whom reading a book is something other than merely proving a point.

(Waitresses who, incidentally, tattoo a Chinese glyph for purity on their chests with no apparent trace of ironic deflection, and who claim birthright entitlement to your miniature statuette imitation of the Winged Victory of Samathrace: a prized memory of visiting museums in Paris with your heiress girlfriend of the time, now a Nun who won’t answer your emails, ferretted off by a spoiled bambina with a mother in Reno and wispy dreams of opening an art gallery in New York.)

Life is too short for bad books, or bad books are too long for short lives; either way, what I’m trying to say is that Seat 18A is the seat of muttering jealousy. That bastard. Taking the good seat and stinking up the place with crap like The Alchemist. Where does he get off?

Same place as me, most likely: San Francisco International Airport.

The last several days saw me in Provo, Utah (Thursday, Friday), Boston MA (Saturday, Sunday), Covington KY (Monday, Tuesday), Boston again (Wednesday), and today in Toronto with my dear friend JP Rosevear (chief monkey on Evolution). The plan was to post photos from each new city during September’s insane travel, to give you a sense of the pace & momentum, but obviously I’m off to a bumpy start, having left my Utah and Kentucky photos in Boston.

Well, better late than never!

It was awesome to see JP. I was headed west anyway, to California, and he and I hadn’t spent undistracted time working together in a very long time, so I stopped over and saw his kitchen-under-renovation and his wife Tara. JP and I worked most of the afternoon in a cool little restaurant down the street from his house, on the outskirts of Toronto.

But after 21 hours in Canada, enough was enough, right? Time to get back to an airport. Gotta keep moving.

A few months ago I was in New York, and in a bar they were playing Dave Mathew’s Band (which, by the way, started up in my home town of Charlottesville, $5 for a ticket to see DMB play at Trax, but I was always doing something with my computer: no time for sweaty music-halls), and it was a particular song — I don’t know the name — which I’d heard before in Cancun with Miguel in 1998, and in Brazil with Alex in January, and probably countless other places, and it seemed boring that the same music played in all the world’s cities. There was a time when you went to a new city and everything sounded different: the language, the music, the birds.

And I’ve been thinking this about airports too. I think the best way to approach a city is probably from the water. I wonder what it would be like to approach a vast, bustling city for the first time from its ocean-facing port? Yeah, that one’s going on the list.

But, probably not on a trip like this one, which will continue to expose the emblems of the Great Global Homogenization, not just a matter of music or airports, but also homogenization of ideas, of roles, of fears, of hopes. In computer networks, too much homogeneity can amplify the impact of a particular flaw in the system: a single virus in a uniform network can bring down every computer. This is true in biological systems too, which is one of the reasons the occasional mutation — and a consequent decrement in homogeneity — seems to work out pretty well in the long run.

And of course this applies to thought too. A monoculture of music, of news and of opinions makes us vulnerable to a bad idea. An entire country consumed by a monoculture can all make the same mistake, all at once, because it lacks the variety of points of view and ideas that might otherwise counteract the antigen. Bad ideas like hatred of other races, or, oh, maybe voting for Bush.

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This year has been pretty heavy on books, and I keep meaning to write up a bunch of reviews, but for now let me just recommend You Shall Know Our Velocity with vigor. I’m looking for suggestions for gripping histories of China and Africa, if anyone has them.

4 September 2004

Using some old code from Alex, a class to track window/app focus in X.

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Tuomas made some mockups of what a notification system might look like. He hasn’t blogged them yet, so I’m going to co-opt them:

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Two years in a row, September is the month of ridiculous travel. Prepare yourself for the coming onslaught of photos.

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