Aug 2006

Dumb Money

I love this phrase. Dumb Money. As in:

a lot of “dumb money” will be pumped into the MMOG market by investors hoping to cash in on the next big thing…

The next time I have the chance to berate some obviously stupid business idea, I can just say “dumb money”. Schweet.

(The quote’s from a short news article by Inside Mac Games, if you’re really interested.)


Los Angeles and New York

After the inspiration and buzz experienced at WWDC in San Francisco, chilling out in Los Angeles and New York was a welcome (and much needed) change! I stayed with my cousins in Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, and was thus exposed to the privileged, the luxurious, and the affluent. I’m not exaggerating when I say that practically every car you see is a Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley, Lamborghini, or something equally upmarket, expensive, and very sexy. Even the humble Ben Sherman’s presence in the Beverly Center is quite a bit more styled than what you would find in Sydney. I had a taste of the Ermenegildo Zegna and Prada stores along Rodeo Drive and Beverly Drive, the former of which had a beautiful suede jacket for the mere price of USD$4600. Driving up Coldwater Canyon in Bel Air revealed enormous houses, each of which is at least as majestic as the biggest properties in Rose Bay and Bellevue Hill in Sydney; all of them are replete with lush gardens and fountains that they look like miniature ecosystems from the outside. It’s another world over there.

So, Los Angeles turned out to be a wonderful unreality of luxury, and seeing my cousins and family again after the intense week of San Francisco was great! I did my usual shopping rounds, dropping by Banana Republic, Borders, Barnes and Nobles, Club Monaco, Baby Gap (for my two cute nephews, not me!), Fry’s Electronics, the Apple Store, Best Buy, and more. Thanks to me being in holiday mode, I am now the proud owner of:

… amongst other goodies that I probably shouldn’t reveal in public. (No, nothing from Victoria’s Secret…)

The one thing that struck me on this trip was the sheer amount of stuff the USA offers, from clothes to gadgets to media content. Australia certainly offers a reasonable amount of variety and choice in its shops, but it’s nothing compared to the USA. You are simply overwhelmed the first time you walk into a Borders that occupies the entire building; it’s six floors full of nothing but books. I looked around for a long time in Australia for a book on the history of mathematics and found one or two; in a single Borders or Barnes and Nobles in the USA, I was spoiled for choice, having found no less than a dozen at every store. Fry’s Electronics features more than sixty cash register checkouts; the CDs at Amoeba Music in San Francisco has shelves and shelves of just movie soundtracks, and it’s mind-boggling to browse just the TV Shows section of any large store that sells DVDs and wonder where the section actually ends. Every satellite city in Los Angeles will have a mammoth shopping centre bristling with mini-economies, and every block in New York will be home to one or two major brand label stores, stacked full of Yet More Stuff.

And then, of course, there’s the crazy-go-nuts 24-hour Apple Store in New York, which I visited with Isaac at the excellent time of 1am. The culture that Apple have managed to create at this place is amazing: the store was full at 1am. It wasn’t like a can of sardines, but it was full enough that almost every single iPod, MacBook and iMac stand was being used by someone, and you had to avoid bumping into other people when you were browsing the shelves. I’m sure the live DJ playing reasonable dance music was part of the reason people flocked to the store at 1am, but there were also a ton of people who were just there sitting around just to be there and wanting to be seen there (in somewhat typical New York fashion). The Genius Bar, where people go to for support and service, really is like a bar: people sit down and start chatting up their neighbour, and since there’s no beer in the way, it actually is easier to start conversations with strangers. It’s all a slightly surreal experience if you haven’t been there before. (I was most amazed that I actually left there without buying a single thing…)

Outside of shopping, that week was time well spent indeed: I got to catch up with my cousins in Los Angeles very well (though spending three days there was far from enough), and my time in New York staying with Manuel and Gabi was wonderful: I managed to catch up with them a lot, found some to finish some projects I’ve had in the works for months since I finally had some time to myself, caught up with a few other friends in the two cities, and even babysat for them for the first time ever so they could have a night off. One highlight of the trip was visiting the absolutely spectacular New York City Museum of Natural History, which I highly recommend for any visitors: you could spend more than two days in there, and it’s one of those shrines that has been constructed with such thought and love that it really does inspire you to become a marine biologist, astronaut or geologist. In a time when the world is increasingly perceiving the USA as a country that’s somewhat fallen from grace, the Museum is a smiling reminder that the United States has also contributed so greatly to the advance of science and human civilisation.

As a small aside, I find it quite interesting that all the progressive cities and states tend to reside on the coast of the USA, with the inland states all being conservative (sometimes to a rather scary extent). Apparently the coastal folks like to distinguish between “America” and “Central America”. I dunno, maybe seeing chicks in bikinis swimming at oceanic beaches makes people more progressive or something. That sounds all good to me.

So now I’m back in the land of take-away instead of to-gos; back in a land where you can actually distinguish a $50 from a $5 by its colour (thank God), and back in a land where I can walk into most coffee shops and expect a good coffee instead of hunting around for Illy logos. The R&R in Los Angeles and New York has been wonderful, and a great wind-down to an intense week in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to getting back to reality and normality now that I’ve had my fair share of excessive consumerism and opulence!

(Go to my WWDC 2006 gallery to find all my photos from Los Angeles and New York).

Los Angeles to New York Playlist

  • Zauron: Lovelight
  • Thievery Corporation: Marching The Hate Machines Into The Sun (Featuring The Flaming Lips)
  • Way Out West: Mindcircus
  • Queens Of The Stone Age: No one knows (U.N.K.L.E. reconstruction)
  • Necros: Orchard Street
  • Chuck Biscuits: Outlands
  • Chicane: Overture
  • Tool: Parabol
  • Tool: Parabola
  • Underworld: Pearl’s Girl
  • Cass and Slide: Perception (New Vocal Mix)
  • Layo and Bushwacka!: Ladies & Gentlemen
  • Baby D: Let Me Be Your Fantasy
  • Radiohead: Karma Police
  • Bedrock: Heaven Scent
  • Faithless: God Is A DJ
  • Tool: Forty Six and Two
  • Badmarsh & Shri: Day By Day
  • Sunscreem: Change (Angelic Remix)
  • New Order: Blue Monday (Hardfloor mix edit)
  • The Seatbelts: Butterfly
  • Massive Attack: A Prayer For England
  • Itch-E & Scratch-E: Transit
  • Vision 4/5: Stormtrooper

Everybody Loves Eric Raymond

A web comic about everybody’s favourite open-source evangelists: Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, and, of course, Eric Raymond. (Occasionally even starring John Dvorak).

(Kudos to Chuck for the heads-up.)


Sexlessness in Movies

David Poland writes about the lack of sex in recent movies:

The Devil Wear Prada is the poster child for the sexlessness of Summer 2006. Here is a movie about women who want are obsessed with their bodies, about men who are obsessed with these women, and the things people do under stress. Directed by a Sex & The City director, starring the rare lead actress who isn’t shy about showing her stuff, who is “living with” Entourage’s Adrian Grenier, who still ends up sleeping with Simon Baker in ParisÖ and yet the film is a chaste as Monster House (less than Monster House in 3D).

Note to USA censors: hey you guys, how about you introduce this brilliant new idea named having an MA-15 rating, so you don’t have to tone down the fun stuff so much that you’re forcing your movie to be PG-13?

(To all the anti-censorship zealots out there, please don’t take this as a statement that I’m in favour of legally restricted censorship.)


How to Coordinate a War

If you had to run a war and wished to communicate something to your generals, why not just use PowerPoint slides with bullet points? It does save you from writing all those pesky “report” things, after all.


WWDC 2006

Right, I believe I have found a no-frills formula for how to make your body think it’s going to self-destruct in an imminent fashion:

  1. Attend Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) thing
  2. Attempt to socialise and meet up with as many people as possible
  3. Attempt to keep up with all the latest and greatest tech news and world news whilst at WWDC
  4. Have three to four coffees per day thanks to the surprisingly excellent (and free) espresso service at WWDC
  5. Combine said three or four coffees per day with beer, wine, and beer (in that order — yes, ouch, me dumb dumb) at night.
  6. After having coffee, coffee, coffee, beer, wine, and beer, we then attempt to stay up at night to:
    • catch up on the deluge of urgent email (as opposed to merely the important emails, which I can deal with later),
    • install beta Apple operating systems,
    • attempt to actually do some coding (ha ha ha),
    • catch up with the folks back home, and
    • rip those 15 new CDs you bought at Amoeba records to your bling iPod (fo sheezy, yo)
  7. Repeat everything the next day

It has been a full-on week indeed. This is the third World Wide Developer Conference that I’ve attended, and it’s by far the best one I’ve been to so far. It was interesting seeing the Internet’s lukewarm response to Steve Jobs’s keynote on Monday morning, although the excellent Presentation Zen site gave it some credit. As the Macintosh developers who attended the conference know, there’s actually a monstrous number of changes under the hood not spoken of in Jobs’s keynote that are really cool (which would be all that “top secret” stuff in the keynote); Mac OS X is truly coming into its own, both as a user experience and a developer’s haven. Apple’s confidence is starting to shine; let’s just hope that it doesn’t turn into arrogance. (I’m praying that Windows Vista doesn’t suck too much and actually gives Mac OS X some serious competition.)

And, of course, it wasn’t just the daytime that providing intellectual nourishment: I met up and chatted to dozens of people outside the conference, from successful Mac shareware developers, to low-level Darwin guys, folks from the LLVM and gcc compiler teams, other Australian students from the AUC, passionate open-source developers, visual effects industry folks, a ton of Apple engineers, oldskool NeXTSTEP folks, and even second cousins.

While the food at WWDC wasn’t particularly stellar this year, they did have a ton of these things:

Yeah baby, bananas! $12/kg back at home? How about take-as-many-as-you-frigging-stuff-into-your-backpack over here. I’m sure it was the Australians that were responsible for the entire table of bananas vanishing in around 90 seconds. (Not to mention the free Ghirardelli chocholate :).

There was something to keep me occupied every night of the week: even before WWDC started, there were Australia and New Zealand drinks organised on Sunday night, where I met up with a huge host of other Australian students and professional developers (some of whom got really, really drunk, and weren’t representing Australiasia particularly well in the international arena, I might add). On Monday I headed out to have the best burritos ever at La Taqueria on 25th and Mission with Dominic and Zoe, headed to the Apple Store and Virgin Megastore (oh dear Lord they are such evil shops to have in such near proximity to the conference centre), and met up with the one and only Chuck Biscuits from my old demogroup along with the Darbat crew to catch up on old times. Tuesday and Wednesday night was spent heading to dinner with some fellow RapidWeaver developers that featured some bloody good steak, and Thursday was the big-ass Apple Campus Bash, where I had wine, bananas and chocolate for dinner, and then proceeded to raid the Apple Mothership Store of far too many goods. (Put it this way: I travelled to the USA with one half-full bag, and now, uhh, I have two bags that are kinda full… oops.)

During the week I ended up discovering the totally awesome Samovar Tea Lounge in the Yerba Buena gardens thanks to Isaiah, where I not only had some Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy tea (seriously, how freakin’ awesome is that name?), but also snarfed up a handful of Scharffen Berger chocolate. (Hey RSR/RSP folks back home, have you guys finished those damn chocolate blocks on my office desk yet? Of course you have!) Amit Singh of Mac OS X Internals fame was also at the Apple Store at Thursday lunchtime giving a talk about his excellent 3kg 1600-page book, which I briefly attended before deciding that an afternoon of live true American jazz with Dominic was a much more tasty option on the platter.

And, just as I thought the outings were about to calm down when the conference finished on Friday at midday, I end up meeting a like-minded video metadata fellow in the lobby of the W Hotel San Francisco of all places (swanky as hell lobby, by the way), and ended up hanging out of a cablecar on the way to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, where a bunch of NeXTSTEP folks were having dinner. I seriously don’t understand how my body’s managed to cope with all the activity so far. But hey, at least I managed to avoid San Francisco’s rather dodgy Tenderloin district (warning: highly amusing but possibly offensive image on that page) :).

So, now that the week’s over, I currently have 31 draft emails that I need to finish writing: time to get cracking (sorry friends and enemies, I’ll get to you shortly!). Of course, clever me managed to get an entire hour of sleep before heading off to SFO airport for the next stop in my trip: Los Angeles. Stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel…


Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack

Holy crap, this is excellent music. It’s up there with Yoko Kanno’s fantastic work for Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, and as interesting as Cliff Martinez’s movie soundtracks for Solaris, Narc, and others. No cheesy John Williams stuff here. (Seriously, the themes from Star Wars, Superman and Indiana Jones could all blend into each other and you just wouldn’t notice.)

The Battlestar Galactica soundtrack has also made me fall in love with baroque music again. Oooh, those sweet sweet violas and reeds…


Ejecting a stuck CD

If your CD won’t eject from your Mac (for example, say, if you’re running the Leopard developer preview and the stupid mdimport process is locking files inappropriately…), the good ol’ -f (force) flag on umount will be your saviour:

  • sudo umount -f /Volumes/"AUDIO CD" (or whatever the volume name is)
  • Press the Eject key

Welcome to UTC -7

Ah, Berkeley: the quintessential American student town, where the young gather on the road’s median strip to sit on the grass (in cheery violation of the “Keep off the median strip” signs). Berkeley’s also home to Dominic and Zoe Glynn, my dear friends who I haven’t seen in far too long and have had an excellent time re-acquanting myself with again. It’s been a perfect warmup to the intense and crazy week that will be the Apple World Wide Developer Conference.

So, Friday was spent re-exploring Berkeley with Dom: for those who remember, I was here at the start of 2004, and it brought back good, good memories seeing the University of California at Berkeley, and the intersection of Bancroft Ave and Telegraph where all the froody 60s peace-out stalls are. Mahreen, if you’re reading this, you’ll be pleased to know that everything was pretty much exactly like we remember, except it’s a bit warmer right now!

After grabbing some lunch at Saul’s where I was reintroduced to American-size portions in the form of a West End Massive Corned Beef Sandwich, we stopped by the very dangerous and evil Amoeba records on Trafalgar, where I picked up no less than 15 CDs:

  • Propellerheads: Propellerheads (the prequel to Decksanddrumsandrockandroll: a collector’s item, and I got it for an entire $1)
  • Propellerheads: Spybreak!
  • Sasha and John Digweed: Communicate
  • James Lavelle: Fabriclive 01
  • Future Sound of London: Lifeforms EP
  • Future Sound of London: Lifeforms
  • Photek: Modus Operandi
  • Rˆyksopp: Melody A.M.
  • Thievery Corporation: Babylon Rewound
  • Monk and Canatella: Do Community Service
  • Lamb: Remixed
  • DJ Shadow: Preemptive Strike
  • U.N.K.L.E.: Never Never Land
  • Battlestar Galactica Season 1 soundtrack
  • Battlestar Galactica Season 2 soundtrack

See, despite spending $150, I actually ended up saving money because for the price of those fifteen CDs, I could have bought a mere five CDs back at home. YA RLY! Hey music industry: price your stuff reasonably and people will buy them! Screw this $35 for an album crap back in Australia; I quite like the $8 I pay for a CD at Amoeba. I should add that I only looked at the Electronica section too; the damage to Dinga would have been far worse if I had bothered to wander through the House section, not to mention all the DVDs.

For dinner, we dropped in to none other than Pho Hoa, the famous Vietnamese Pho Bo shop on Shattuck St. Mahreen, no doubt your memory will be triggered by this as well: you’ll be pleased to know that I did, in fact, get the crazy-big serve of Pho Bo and finished all of it, and I of course had to have some Taro Bubble Tea. After that it was time for some beer and a good catch-up chat with Zoe and her cousin Andrew, which ended up going until about 5:30am when we all reluctantly crashed.

Saturday was even better: we had a cruisy late morning double-falafel for breakfast at the Fertile Grounds cafe in conjunction with some genuine Illy coffee. This was followed by an afternoon consisting of insanely great Cheeseboard Pizza, white wine, and hours of conversation up at Indian Rock, which provides a beautiful scenic view of Berkeley and the Bay Area. I love summer.

Meanwhile, Dom and Zoe’s place here rocks. The rent they’re paying is unbelievable good considering how nice the place is, and they even have the same comfortable futon that I slept on while I was staying with them in Toronto. Dom’s love for gadgetry shows: their Robot vacuum cleaner means they never bother vacuuming the house normally, and their little Prius automobile is awesome. I am so getting one of those as my next car: any car that has a Power button, voice recognise for GPS and telephone dialling, and does 5 litres per 100 kilometres has my vote.

Later today I’ll be meeting up with Yannis and Violette for Yum Cha, and after that it’ll be time to check in to the Courtyard Marriott at San Francisco, where I’ll be heading off to the Australia and New Zealand pre-WWDC drinks. Oh yeah, life is good right now!

(You can find all the photos from the first few days of my Berkeley expedition in the gallery.)

Sydney to San Francisco and Berkeley Playlist

  • James Brown: Ain’t it Funky Now
  • Massive Attack: Angel
  • Seal: Crazy
  • Rˆyksopp: Eple
  • Tears for Fears: Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  • U.N.K.L.E.: Lonely Soul
  • Tool: Stinkfist
  • Yoko Kanno: Fish-Silent Cruise Part 2
  • The Wallflowers: One Headlight
  • U2: All I Want Is You
  • Vogue: Ambient Energy
  • Freeland: Big Wednesday
  • Yoko Kanno, The Seatbelts and Steve Conte: Call Me Call Me
  • Faithless: Bring my Family Back
  • Propellerheads: Cominagetcha
  • Sunscreem: Cover Me (Trouser Enthusiasts mix)
  • Yoko Kanno: Dujurido
  • Decoder Ring: Escape Pod
  • Tool: Eulogy
  • Jazzanova: Fedimes Flight (Kyoto Jazz Massive remix)
  • Starsailor: Four to the Floor (Thin White Duke mix)
  • Lamb: Gabriel
  • Handel: Lascia Ch’io Pianga (performed by Single Gun Theory)
  • Cliff Martinez: Helicopter
  • Mono: Hello Cleveland!
  • Radiohead: Where I End and You Begin
  • Thievery Corporation: Warning Shots
  • U.N.K.L.E.: Unreal
  • Depeche Mode: Useless (Kruder and Dorfmeister mix)
  • Radiohead: Planet Telex
  • Shpongle: …But Nothing is Lost
  • Zauron: Lovelight
  • NuBreed: One Day
  • Way Out West: Pulse of Life
  • Leftfield: Release the Pressure
  • Sting: Shape of my Heart
  • Yoko Kanno: Some Other Time
  • Barakka: Song to the Siren
  • Lamb: Trans Fatty Acid (Kruder and Dorfmeister remix)

Erlang and Concurrency

Here, you can download the slides for a talk I presented to the Sydney Linux Users’ Group on the 28th of July 2006, named “Erlang and Concurrency”. Note that the PDF file I’ve linked to here is quite large, since there’s a lot of images in there.

Download: Adobe Acrobat PDF (~7MB)

Some things to note about the presentation:

  • There were two short videos presented: a tech demo of the Unreal Engine 3, and snippets from the totally groovy Erlang the Movie, which has also been transcoded to the Ogg Theora video format thanks to Silvia Pfeiffer. These movies didn’t make it to the PDF intact.
  • I’m very proud that there wasn’t a single slide there with bullet points :).

There’s an excellent blog by Garr Reynolds named Presentation Zen that led me to doing it in the style that I did. In particular, check out the Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates comparison that Reynolds did; no prizes for guessing who Reynolds prefers as a presenter.

There’s a number of resources you can check out on Erlang:

Update: I found another Erlang tutorial named Erlang in Real Time. There’s also a good Erlang FAQ.

Update: Jay Nelson also has some great material on his Erlang web site, including some presentations at ICFP.