Apple now more evil
Mood: angry
Posted on 2010-04-10 15:23:00
Tags: rant essay gay
Words: 424

I've always been a kind of fan of Apple - back during my technology "coming of age" days (college), Microsoft was dominant and Apple was the little guy struggling to stay alive. They put out the iPod, which was cool, and Mac OS X was UNIX-based which was exciting. Since then I've owned three iPods and a MacBook Pro, all of which I've been happy with.

But, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, now that Apple has had a lot of success, they've started doing a lot of things that make me uncomfortable. The iPhone being such a closed environment should have been a bigger canary in the coal mine.

Apple announced the new features in iPhone OS 4, coming out this summer. Now they've got some sort of multitasking and some other neat stuff. But it turns out there are some seriously restricting changes to the license.

Exhibit A: Apple is requiring that iPhone (and iPad) applications be "originally written" in one of the languages that runs on the iPhone/iPad. Basically, they're saying that you can't use an intermediate layer (like, say, the iPhone compiler in Adobe CS5, which is going to release next week) to write your programs. I can understand why they might want to do this, but regardless it puts a lot of apps out of business and is a big restriction on how people can develop for the iPhone/iPad. Apple may think that apps are "better" that are developed with their tools, etc., but the market should decide this.

So I'm pretty much at the point where I'm rooting against Apple. It makes me sad, because they do make nice products, but the whole closed ecosystem is just too much to bear. Unfortunately, even developers leaving the iPhone platform in droves may not have any real impact on iPhone sales.

(obligatory: Palm's WebOS phones allow you to install even apps that Palm hasn't approved, pretty much the polar opposite of Apple. Go Palm!)

As long as I'm ranting: what the hell, Mississippi? A high school cancelled prom rather than let a lesbian couple attend. Then a judge ruled that the school was wrong, but didn't order them to put on the prom, so some parents organized something. Then something confusing, but the upshot is that the lesbian couple was invited to a fake prom (with only 5 other students, 2 of which are learning disabled) while the rest of the school was invited to the real prom.

Words fail me. I've never been prouder not to live in Mississippi!


Sucker-punch dream
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-04-08 08:06:00
Tags: dreams
Words: 201

I was very stressed last night about various things, so my brain decided to reward me with the following dream:

We were in DC for a pro-health care rally (which hadn't passed yet) and after some speeches we decided to explore the Capitol building. The way to get around was to take the automated boats (awesome, right?), so I did that a few times on my own to see different parts of the building.

Then we were all going to meet to talk to our representative (who was a woman, unlike in real life) and try to convince her to vote for health care, which we assumed would be futile but worth a shot. Right after taking the last boat and starting to walk to her office, I reached down and realized that my wallet was missing!

I freaked out and knew that it had probably fallen in the river and was panicking when I woke up, heart pounding. I had a very strong urge to check my shorts and make sure my wallet was still there, but after a few seconds common sense and the fact that it was cold outside the covers won out...

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


old-school 3D
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2010-04-06 15:52:00
Tags: palmpre wedding
Words: 174

We watched Coraline last night - the Blu-Ray disc included a 3D versions, and it came with four pairs of old-school 3D glasses (with red and green lenses), so we gave it a shot. It actually worked reasonably well - it took a little while for my eyes to adjust but you could definitely see the 3D effect! The colors did appear a little weird, though. I'm guessing they did red and green for the lenses instead of red and blue because Coraline's hair is blue. After it was over, looking out of one eye looked very different than the other - our eyes had compensated and now saw the opposite color they had been looking through.

We picked up our wedding album today! The binding is very elegant and the pictures turned out well. I also got a CD of lots of pictures which I'll post in the near future.

I'm going to Palm Developer Day in California! (as kind of a birthday present) Looking forward to meeting people and learning more about WebOS and such.


new external HD, project, life
Mood: excited
Posted on 2010-04-05 13:51:00
Tags: palmpre projects programming
Words: 433

My backup strategy as of last week was to copy the really important stuff onto my 16GB USB thumbdrive relatively frequently, and more infrequently copy everything onto an external hard drive. Feeling rather clever at the time, I bought an enclosure like this, so I could buy a cheaper SATA hard drive and stick it in there and plug it into my computer via USB. Then when I wanted to upgrade drives I could just buy another SATA drive.

This sounded good in theory, and indeed kinda worked, but it was very slow for some reason - copying 200GB over to the drive and then untarring the 200GB file took around 3 days. Because of this I backed up way less often than I should have.

As luck would have it, the SATA drive seemed to die last week, and so after doing a little research I bought a Western Digital Elements USB Hard Drive with 1TB of space for $90. It was easy to get it to mount on Linux, and took less than 24 hours to do the same copying/untarring procedure. And it doesn't look totally cobbled together! So I'd recommended it if you're looking for an easy backup solution. You can also get a version with fancy software and an e-ink label on the outside that was actually kind of tempting.

I've been working for a little while now on my next WebOS app, which is called FlightPredictor. (unless I decide to change the name :-) ) It's an interface to, which can predict airline delays ahead of time and generally has lots of interesting data. (see a sample report) They already have iPhone and BlackBerry apps, so I'm happy to bring a third platform into the mix. (and before Android, even!) I'm just putting the finishing touches on it and incorporating some API changes, but right now the best part is that it does WebOS notifications to let you know when the information has changed so you can always keep on top of things.

The last few weeks have been quite busy, and I'm starting to wear down a bit. Between squeezing any time I can to work on FlightPredictor, plus a lot of yardwork we've been doing (planting a few new trees, making a rock garden), plus the usual weekend errands, plus volunteering at the tax's getting to be a bit much. Hopefully things may quiet down soon but it's conceivable we/I'll start flaking on things to stay sane...

Baseball season has started! Here's a handy map to what parts of the country root for which teams. Go Astros!


I'm grown up?
Mood: amused
Posted on 2010-04-03 15:52:00
Words: 21

I took two showers today (one after doing some yardwork). The college version of me is shaking his head in disbelief!

1 comment

two sentence paragraphs!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-04-01 13:59:00
Words: 98

I'm very glad I married a man who can fix things around the house - he unclogged our sink last night, which meant we could run the dishwasher again! It's surprising how many dirty dishes we generate; if we don't run the dishwasher every day we're getting behind.

If you have a money market account, you might want to check the yield. Ours earned .3% last year and is on track to earn .0004% this year (annualized) - gonna switch that over to a savings account!

Queering the census - glad to know we filled ours out right! Umm...purple monkey dishwasher.


Mood: optimistic
Posted on 2010-03-30 13:31:00
Tags: links
Words: 155

Merton (who I mentioned last time) is back! Here's the original chatroulette piano improv thing, and here's a followup.

Why you need to be excited about SpyParty - a game under development that's kinda like a Turing test. But it's way more fun than that makes it sound :-)

Cool data amazon could gather about books read on the Kindle - the privacy side of me is not so happy, but the happy-about-lots-of-cool-data side of me is overjoyed.

Don't forget to send back your census form - apparently the response rate in Central Texas is lower than it was in 2000, which means they'll have to send more people out to do interviews, which means it costs us more money.

Attitudes on homosexuality vs. prostitution over time - fewer people say homosexuality is "never acceptable" over time, but for prostitution the rates are about the same. Also, only 4% of Swedes say homosexuality is "never acceptable" vs. 35% of Americans.


weekend at the park
Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-03-28 23:10:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 97

We went down to Houston for my Grandpa's 85th birthday party, which was fun. On Saturday we spent some time in Hermann Park, which was a good opportunity to put my new camera through its paces. I think the pictures turned out relatively well.

In the Japanese Garden we saw what really looked like a marriage proposal - on a blanket, a guy holding a girl's hand while she excitedly talked on the phone (and we overheard at least the word "wedding"). Would have taken a picture but I felt weird invading their privacy. They looked happy, though :-)

1 comment

cakes! and other stuff
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-03-26 09:59:00
Tags: links
Words: 153

My friend Jennifer Bolton makes amazing cakes like this one:

A few other favorites of mine:

but if you haven't taken a gander at the whole gallery, you really should. I'm not sure if she makes them for hire, but it couldn't hurt to ask... :-)

After Google pulled out of China, China issued these instructions to domestic news sites about how they are allowed to cover it. It's one thing to know that China practices censorship, but another to read the actual rules they issue - makes it much more creepy.

Ben Folds being awesome on chatroulette (NSFW language) - apparently doing tribute to Merton, who did it first. (and now is taken down from YouTube)

After a Mississippi high school cancelled a prom rather than allow a same-sex couple to attend, a Georgia high school did allow a same-sex couple to attend...and then the guy's parents kicked him out of the house. Sigh.


Our planted tree!
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2010-03-25 19:55:00
Tags: pictures house
Words: 0


don't mess with my machine!
Mood: confused
Posted on 2010-03-25 10:19:00
Tags: dreams
Words: 201

Dream last night: I had a bug I needed to fix by the end of the week, and I was having trouble figuring out what was going on. So I took a break to get up and send an email to some friends still in high school - the winners of the Fields Medal had been announced, and I knew 2 of the 21 winners (a fact that I was oddly proud of). So I sent a congratulatory email and went back to my computer...

...only to find that some coworkers had been messing with it! They knew I was having trouble with this bug and running out of time and so they upgraded my machine for me. Except it wasn't even on, they hadn't finished connecting all the parts. I couldn't believe they would be so dumb - I was just in the middle of debugging the problem and now I'd have to fix up this computer and get it back in that state and waste a bunch of time. I think I yelled a lot.

I woke up from this dream very very took me a few minutes to calm down. So I guess the lesson is: don't do that!


First picture with new camera!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2010-03-23 10:42:00
Tags: pictures house
Words: 42

...and it's of our new tree! I just set the camera to auto and it did a pretty good job in the darkness:

There are more new pictures in that gallery, too. Coming soon - a picture of the tree after being planted :-)


health care (basically) passed! and a local shoutout
Mood: ecstatic
Posted on 2010-03-22 14:28:00
Tags: lj for webos essay projects politics links
Words: 409

The health care bill passed the House! The plan is for the Senate to pass it this week and then Obama will sign it into law.

The bill: Here's some information on the final bill - it was confusing for a while with the House bill and the Senate bill, but this is the final one. It expands coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans. It prohibits lifetime limits on insurance coverage and denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions. Yes, it's not a perfect bill, and it's hard to predict how well the cost control measures will work, and there's no public option, but there's a lot of good stuff in the bill. And it will be easier to adjust this bill in the future than if we had started over or given up because it wasn't "good enough". As James Fallows said:

There are countless areas in which America does it one way and everyone else does it another, and I say: I prefer the American way. Our practice on medical coverage is not one of these. Despite everything that is wrong with this bill and the thousand adjustments that will be necessary in the years to come, this is a very important step.

The politics: A bunch of reactions. My thoughts: elections matter, and this is why. (why yes, there is a difference between the Republicans and Democrats!) It's certainly possible this will be a political loser for the Democrats (although I think it will be popular in the long term), but the point of having power isn't to maintain power, it's to get things like this done.

Other randomness:
After canvassing the house for my lost camera, I bought a new one today from Precision Camera and Video. I was happy there - they let me play with it a bit and even open a few cases to find one I liked, and I get a free basic photography class which I might actually take advantage of. Good service and good prices!

Today marks the 100th sale of LJ for WebOS - thanks to all who have purchased it! I have a few new features I'm planning on working on soon. Coincidentally, I just got my first PayPal deposit from Palm, so that's exciting :-) I put myself up on

Capital MetroRail opened today! Finally, commuter rail in Austin. Unfortunately, turnout wasn't great this morning, but I'd give it at least a few months to see how it goes.


Mood: stressed
Posted on 2010-03-19 13:14:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 155

It looks like the health care bill is going to have a vote on Sunday. TPM has constant updates. Nate Silver thinks things are looking relatively good for it to pass, although there's still time for it to fall apart. Firedoglake is keeping track of the whip count.

Remember that NY state senator who slashed his girlfriend in the face with a broken drinking glass? He got expelled from the state senate but was running for election again. Thankfully, he got crushed by another Democrat, who supports marriage equality to boot!

Wal-Mart is adding "MoneyCenters" to more of their stores, which offer check cashing at a much cheaper price than most other places. Neat!

It's official: the first Millennium Prize has been awarded to Grigoriy Perelman for solving the Poincaré Conjecture, although odds are he won't accept it. Who's up for proving the Riemann Hypothesis next?

Advice for filling out the Census for same-sex couples.

1 comment

One more LJ for WebOS sighting
Mood: happy
Posted on 2010-03-17 11:32:00
Tags: lj for webos palmpre projects
Words: 33

After it made the Palm homepage, Precentral reported on the new homepage and mentioned LJ for WebOS by name. Cool beans!

(and, yes, this will be the last of these for a while)


LJ for WebOS featured on palm homepage!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2010-03-16 17:22:00
Tags: lj for webos palmpre projects
Words: 20

LJ for WebOS is currently being featured on the Palm homepage! (it's the lower right of the 3x3 grid)



Mood: tired
Posted on 2010-03-15 09:48:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 73

Nate Silver now gives health care slightly more than a 50% chance of passing.

A map of South Austin that looks like an old Zelda map - he used some software to autodetect trees, roads, etc.

MST3K Haiku - I think this one's from Prince of Space!

(this post is mostly an excuse to show off my new userpic. Been using it at work for a while and people are geeky enough to recognize it :-) )


Rich Dad Poor Dad review
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2010-03-14 16:56:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 529

Rich Dad Poor Dad is a book that I've heard about for a while (partially because of the radio ads for seminars), so when I heard David's parents had a copy I wanted to borrow it.

I expected it to be about the usual stuff, like saving and not living beyond your means. It did include some of that, but it wasn't the book's main focus.

The author's (who grew up in Hawaii!) childhood friend's dad, who is a local enterpreneur is the "rich dad". His actual dad, who is a schoolteacher is the "poor dad". The book's main structure is that he and his friend want to be rich, so rich dad eventually gives them advice and shows them how he does it.

Here is the book's advice, in descending order of goodness:

- Assets vs. liabilities: An asset is something that makes you money (stocks, business, income-generating real estate); a liability is something that costs you money or loses value. (cars, a house, jewelry, golf clubs)  The main difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich spend money on assets and the poor spend money on liabilities. This is generally good advice.

- "Pay yourself first": Every month you should save/invest first, before paying bills and expenses. It's easier to do this if you're not in debt. I like this idea, but what are you supposed to do if you can't afford to do this? Apparently still pay yourself and then the pressure of not being able to pay your bills will inspire you to make more money. ?

- How to make money: The author's passion is real estate, specifically buying at depressed prices. He tells a story of buying a house worth $75K from a bankruptcy attorney for $20K, and then selling it quickly for $60K. Which is good and all, but I'd be bothered doing this for a living - you're not producing anything, you're just being a middleman. (yeah, yeah, "reduce market inefficiency" but come on)

- Taxes: Rich dad (and the author) hate taxes. A lot. So he recommends forming your own corporation and having it own your assets. Then the corporation buys stuff for you (a "company car", a vacation is a "board meeting in Hawaii"), and you don't pay taxes on the corporation's expenses. I suppose this legal, but it's ethically wrong as far as I'm concerned. Taxes pay for things we all benefit from, like roads and schools, and avoiding them by ignoring the spirit of the law makes me mad.

- Rich dad is kind of a jerk: He explains most people take a job out of fear, and then: "Some people say I exploit people because I don't pay as much as the sugar plantation or the government. I say the people exploit themselves. It's their fear, not mine." Also, it sounds like he was always so busy making money that he didn't spend much time with his family. (although, to be fair, I think he retired early)

Overall, the book has some good ideas, but to really follow it's advice I'd have to quit my job and become an enterpreneur. Which isn't totally unappealing,

Posted via LJ for WebOS.


Picture of our solar screens
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2010-03-13 12:38:00
Tags: pictures house
Words: 15

Here's a picture of the solar screens we got put up on our bedroom windows:


Someone is spreading a nasty rumor about
Mood: confused
Posted on 2010-03-12 12:06:00
Tags: essay
Words: 648

This article claims that was conceived as a phishing site, and is planning on releasing users' data on April 1.

I was ready to share the news with my friends who use formspring, when I had a look at the URL, which is hosted at, someone's personal website.

In short: I can't find this article anywhere else - tried searching Google, Google News, Bing, as well as the Associated Press (who the article says published it). Nothing.

The article looks very real - like an embedded Google News page, and the article at first glance looks like a real AP article. But given the above, I guess it's a fake. Very strange!

Edit: Another story about the rumor.

Edit: The article appears down; I've pasted the content under the lj-cut:

LA-based "" service to reveal identities of anonymous users

(AP) – 2 days ago

LOS ANGELES — Twelve administrators of the website, including CEO Mark Baxter were arrested on Monday for data phishing and misleading the public, when the site was revealed to be a "social experiment," which will culminate in the automatic revealing of users' private data on April 1, 2010.

Baxter, 28, was sentenced in Van Nuys Superior Court for the creation of said website, which allows users to "send and receive anonymous questions, and learn more about people you find interesting by following their answers."

Over 2 million people have used the site to communicate anonymously with other users since its creation in 2009.

"We allow users to sign up for an account and ask questions anonymously, but we still store their data next to the question. For legal purposes," said Baxter, in a January interview.

However, it was revealed, in a leaked personal email from Baxter to Anne Gralley, a friend, that the data was being stored for another reason.

"In less than a month, " Baxter wrote, "we'll be adding the name, email, and facebook account of each user next to all of their anonymous posts."

Gregory Deacon, a friend of Baxter's from college, remembers Baxter mentioning his idea for the this elaborate April Fool's Day prank.

"He was using that Facebook application, Honesty Box, and he got some real nasty stuff over it. So he said to me, 'Wouldn't it be great if someone made something like this, then showed everyone's names one day?"

More troubling still, it's almost perfectly legal.

The Terms of Service that all users, by their participation with the site, legally agree to

includes the following:

" reserves the right to change these Terms and Conditions at any time without notice, and your continued use of constitutes your consent to such changes."

Because of this disclaimer, the automatic revealing of registered users' names and information on April 1st will be completely legal.

However, it was discovered by investigators that the site also records the name and information of any anonymous users who are logged into at the time of their post.

"If they don't register for an account, the site can still grab their name and facbook URL from

a file that facebok [sic] stores on their computer," the email message reads.

It is because of this feature that the additional charges of data phishing have been added.

Although Baxter and several programmers have been apprehended, any data that had been stored before yesterday will still

be published automatically by the formspring server at 12:00 AM (GMT) on April 1.

The public is advised to delete their accounts and to warn others not to give away any private information on the website.

The company that funded has set up a support line for users who want to have their names removed from the site as soon as they appear.

Please send requests to

It is not known, at this time, whether a class-action lawsuit will be filed.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


links n' such
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2010-03-11 12:33:00
Tags: palmpre gay projects links
Words: 221

My Board Game Geek app for WebOS is now available in the Palm App Catalog!

What If Everybody in Canada Flushed At Once? - or, Canadians really like hockey.

A map of the most common fast food restaurants across the US, made by calculating the "burger force" (proportional to one over distance squared). McDonalds obviously reigns supreme, but Sonic makes a pretty good run in Texas!

LOST: Baywatch intro

The subscriber rates cable companies pay to carry each channel. ESPN and Fox Sports Net are by far the most expensive, and even the FOX Soccer Channel (which apparently exists) costs more than Comedy Central.

Florida (like many places) offers tax credits if you film a movie or TV show there. Now they're considering a bill that would deny these credits if the show has a gay character. (among other things)

As a Michigan fan, I'm not sure how to take the fact that Jim Tressel (the Ohio State football coach) answered questions from a local gay publication. (and said some very nice things) He's probably the first major coach to do so.

An interview with David Boies and Ted Olson about their Prop 8 case. Nothing earthshaking, but it's interesting to hear them talk about the trial and what they think their chances are. They're expecting a ruling by late April/early May.


A close shave
Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2010-03-10 13:32:00
Tags: health palmpre projects house
Words: 728

Yesterday, we were driving home from work as usual on the onramp to North Mopac just south of Duval when the car in front of me started slowing down and then came to a complete stop. On the onramp.

Luckily, I was watching and was able to stop in time. Even more luckily, the car behind me was barely able to stop in time as well. (David says he could hear them slam on their brakes, but I was focused on stuff in front of me) Then the crazy honking began, both from the car behind me and me, and the car pulled off into the shoulder. I'm guessing they stopped because the sun was just at the right angle so that you couldn't see anything in the side view mirror, which made getting on the freeway from a dead stop rather challenging. Luckily no one hit me.

I was pretty amped up from this and my heart was definitely beating faster than normal. Unfortunately, this continued for quite a while. Apparently reflux can present this way, and taking some antacids seemed to help for a while, but it made me jumpy all evening and made it hard to sleep...

I worked on a new WebOS app last night - this one's a quick interface to BoardGameGeek. To submit it, I had to make the decision again about where to put it. To review:
- To put it on the App Catalog costs $50 (one time fee)
- Not doing that is free, but then it's a lot harder to find without a direct link
I prefer putting my apps on the App Catalog for the widest exposure, but then I feel like I have to charge something to make my $50 back. (and it's not that I really begrudge the $50, I understand it takes Palm time to review the apps, etc.) So I did that and am charging .99, the lowest allowable. We'll see what happens1

Good lost episode last night: At this point my favorite episodes are Locke, Ben, and Sawyer ones. Michael Emerson (actor who plays Ben) is amazing and really sold me on the whole Machiavellian teacher bit. Lots of sweetness when he says "Because no one else will have me" and Ilana replies "I'll have you". Awww!

The excessive "winking" at the audience is getting to be a bit much. I'm fine with Hurley acting as a fan of the show and asking a question about something every once and a while, but asking if Richard was a cyborg seemed kinda silly.

A Lost encyclopedia is coming out in August! I know it makes sense to release it after the end of the show since then it can be "complete", but it would have been helpful earlier. Still, I'll probably pick it up.

Random note: Like Greek food? Try Pars Deli at the corner of 183 and Burnet. Delicious gyros, and it's clearly a family run place. They left the door open today and it was soooo nice :-)

House stuff: We had solar screens installed by Josh Hobbs a few weeks ago. The process was pretty easy (we didn't have to be there any of the time), the prices were reasonable and the screens look nice. (need to take a picture at some point) Haven't really been able to measure their effectiveness yet, but it's definitely darker, so presumably that will keep out heat too.

Next week we're getting a high efficiency A/C unit put in, as well as making it "multi-zone" so we can control the upstairs and downstairs temperature independently. After crunching the numbers it's not going to quite pay for itself in reduced electricity bills, but it will get pretty close and we get a new unit out of the deal. (we spend a fortune on cooling in the summer!) The $1500 tax credit helps, and Austin Energy has some nice rebates too.

Bought the Heavy Rain soundtrack from iTunes. (yay for DRM-free music!) I might try to transcribe the really pretty piano music (Painful Memories), if I feel inspired enough.

Final Fantasy 13 was bought and played yesterday. Even after just playing Heavy Rain, whose visuals were pretty impressive, it looks fantastic - definitely using the PS3 to its full potential. Also, does anyone know if the characters have such ridiculous names in Japanese too, or is that just a translation thing?


link drop
Mood: restless
Posted on 2010-03-05 10:55:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 227

In New York state, various churches are supporting an anti-gay State Senator. This particular State Senator (Hiram Monserrate) was convicted of slashing his girlfriend in the face with a broken drinking glass and expelled from the State Senate. But, you know, he's against gay marriage!

It looks like Valve is starting up some sort of Portal ARG which is a pretty good sign there will be a Portal 2. Looking forward to it!

Is Obamacare a Favorite to Pass? - Nate Silver thinks it's about 50/50.

I think Apple might be turning evil. (to clarify, "evil" in the sense of "winning by taking advantage of people instead of by doing good work") They sued HTC over some pretty questionable patents - these days the way things work is that companies try to patent anything they can, including blindly obvious "inventions", but just hold on to them as a defensive mechanism. That way if they're ever sued for infringement they can countersue and usually both companies are infringing and so a settlement will result. But actually suing another company is pretty aggressive...not to mention a lot of the patents seem like stuff that shouldn't be patentable in the first place.

Now apparently they're trying to stop music companies from participating in Amazon's MP3 Daily Deal, which is pretty anticompetitive.

Pictures of NYC and Las Vegas from above at night - pretty!


Palm and LJ for WebOS
Mood: thoughtful
Posted on 2010-03-04 13:14:00
Tags: lj for webos essay palmpre projects programming
Words: 747

I worry about Palm sometimes. They recently lowered their guidance for this quarter, analysts don't seem too upbeat, and their stock price for the last year looked promising when they released the Pre in July, but has dropped dramatically since then.

More concerning is the fact that, 9 months after releasing the first WebOS phone, Gartner estimates that 0.7% of smartphones are running WebOS. Hopefully this will improve now that they're on Verizon (and rumor is they'll be on AT&T sometime this year) and once they launch in more countries.

The good news is that the mobile phone market isn't quite like, say, the social networking website market, which has a very strong network effect. If all your friends are leaving Friendster for Facebook, then Friendster is less valuable to you, and you'll probably switch to Facebook. But I can still use the web just fine from my Palm Pre even if the rest of the world switches to iPhones and Droids and Nexus Ones. There is somewhat of a problem that if fewer people use WebOS, fewer people will write apps for it, but this is more of a slow process. Also, at least in the US, most people are under contract for their phones and so they only have an opportunity to switch cheaply every one or two years. I'm really hoping Palm can keep turning things around - just yesterday they released an update to the Facebook app that makes it much nicer.

Speaking of apps...

LJ for WebOS has been doing pretty well since my last update - as of this very moment I've sold 72 copies. It seems fairly random how many copies are sold a day - thanks to the new app My WebOS Apps I have a nifty graph on my phone with these totals for the last week: 5, 1, 1, 2, 4, 2, 0. So...who knows?

One of the frustrating parts has been seeing bad reviews indicating that it just isn't working for a few people. Most of these reviews came early and I'm pretty sure I've fixed the bugs since then, but most people don't go back and edit their review when problems get fixed, and I have no way of contacting them to ask them if it's working for them and to try to diagnose their problem if not. I've been trying to make it more and more obvious how to contact me to the point that if you can't load the posts a dialog comes up with a button to email me the problem. We'll see if this helps at all. Encouragingly, more of the recent reviews have been good than bad, bringing the average back up to 3.5/5 stars.

I spent a lot of last week working on a new feature that I really wanted to add: the ability to browse other people's journals. I even wrote the parsing code before I got stuck on a problem that I've gotten stuck on before - the inability to properly authenticate so that the client can load friends-only posts. The API way to do this is to call the sessiongenerate method - unfortunately LiveJournal's cookie scheme has changed because of some security holes, and no one's gone back and updated or added a new API.

Every time I run into this problem, I spent some time trying to "fake it" by POSTing the right thing to the login page, essentially pretending I'm a regular user signing in from a browser. As in the past, I can't get this to work and I'm not sure why, and it's really frustrating to try to debug because it's all guesswork.

So I was a little down about that, and the last release (made it to the App Catalog yesterday) only had a few small features like deleting posts. This week I took a stab at some random not-quite-featurey things that have been on my list for a while, and everything just kinda worked. The next release will use a lot less bandwidth on the initial request (66% less in my test case!), and it fixes a bug with comments not posting by showing the CAPTCHA dialog that LiveJournal was returning. I was amazed that both of these basically worked the first time, so that was a nice pick me up :-) I'll probably submit it to the App Catalog tonight after a bit more testing.

I'm running out of features to work on that are actually possible to do, so I'm very open to suggestions!


Heavy Rain review (no spoilers)
Mood: excited
Posted on 2010-03-01 10:23:00
Tags: reviews games
Words: 568

We picked up Heavy Rain on Tuesday (its launch day) and passed it on Sunday, which marks a personal record for passing a game, mostly because we don't buy many games on launch day :-) I liked it a lot - here's ars technica's spoiler-free review, and my thoughts are below.

The environment of the game is really striking. In the first scene you're at home on a nice day in a beautiful house, and although it was pretty clear the game wasn't going to be this way for very long, the calmness and beautiful music really hooked me early. (waiting for the soundtrack to come out...) Some have complained that the game takes a few hours to really get going, but I enjoyed even those first few hours.

The game itself is like an "interactive movie", in that there are a lot of cut scenes and a lot of "quicktime events" (i.e. "press X to do this action, and you better do it fast"). While I find quicktime events annoying in small doses, when used consistently throughout the game it made me feel a lot more engaged.

The control scheme is pretty interesting, too - it has you use the right analog stick for a lot of actions, some of which are ridiculously mundane. Different gestures are used at different times to do different things, so you don't have to remember them, but they always feel at least somewhat natural (pressing right and then clockwise to turn a door handle). These aren't usually too challenging, but again it contributes to the "I'm making this happen" feel.

The way you walk is sadly, a bit annoying - I consistently had trouble getting my characters going in the right direction, especially in close quarters where the view kept shifting. This wasn't too bad except for one scene in particular where I had to move fast...

You have choices throughout the game, and these choices affect how the story plays out. For a while, I was a little in disbelief about this, since I'm used to games forcing you to make the "right" choice, but after chatting with others playing the game I would often find that they had done something different, and something happened differently later. There are whole scenes that I haven't seen because of the choices I made. Handily, the game allows you to go back to any scene and play it again, either while saving changes (so you can continue the story from there) or just to see how that scene plays out if you make another choice. Now I'm eager to watch other people play to see what they do differently and how their story turns out.

The game is rated M and definitely earns it, especially for its dark storyline. This makes me glad we still have companies like Sony and Microsoft willing to publish more "adult" games - I can't imagine a game like this ever showing up on a Nintendo console.

Anyway, if you're a fan of games I'd definitely recommend picking up a copy and supporting an original game that tells a story and does a good job of it.

As an annoying epilogue, last night when Andrew was trying to play, some weird Playstation firmware bug (that seems to only affect the older "fat" PS3's) made it not launch, which is pretty terrible. Not Heavy Rain's fault, but here's hoping it gets fixed real soon.


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