Change Displayed Text SizeGrow Displayed Text SizeShrink Displayed Text Size


Thursday, April 29, 2004

North Korean Blast Overheads has posted pre- and post- accident photos of [Ryongchon, North Korea].

To get some idea of the damage, look at the buildings before and after. The fact that some of the other blast damage has been covered up by the DPRK is disturbing, since what they have concealed would only be visible to satellites.

4/29/2004 01:41:02 AM ] [  ]


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

GMail: First Impressions

Replies are part of viewing a message.
When you hit the "Reply" link in a GMail message, it opens a pane underneath the original message for writing a reply (in MacOS X this would be implemented as a drawer, which I hate, but you get the point). This is "inline reply", something I've been working on (managing the screen space a single message takes up gets challenging for a number of reasons related to how the AppKit SUCKS). [Screenshot...]

"Conversation"-centered design.
Every view is a threaded view- I've never seen an email interface with more pervasive (and well thought out) threading. Some parts of GMail's threading have me rethinking the design of EvilToaster.[Screenshot...]

A surprise: no folders/mailboxes.
Currently in GMail, you have your Inbox and the Archive..... nothing else. I set up a filter (which works much like in most mail clients) today for a mailing list, and would have put that list in it's own mailbox. That's when I stumbled onto the lack of folders/mailboxes! [Screenshot...]

As realtime as a desktop application
Many users have noticed that GMail doesn't yet support Safari as a browser, and a few minutes of using GMail made it obvious why that is (supporting Safari is one of their high priorities, according to a recent [interview]). A lot of the behind-the-scenes functionality in GMail is implemented in CSS and Javascript. The webmail app is very obviously designed to work not like Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail, but like Eudora or Outlook - there is no "Check mail" button, because you are instantly aware of new mail as it comes in. For example, last night I closed up the PowerBook and put it to sleep with GMail open. When the PowerBook woke today, GMail had updated with all of my new mail in the browser window that had been open. As a result of the CSS, Javascript, and sever side interaction going on though, sometimes the GMail UI is sluggish, at least in Mozilla-based browsers. I haven't yet tried to fake the user-agent string with Safari to see what does or does not work.

No saved searches
While the search features are powerful, you can't save a search. A saved or live search mechanism would be a welcome addition.[Screenshot...]

Related Web Sites panel
Beside your mail message or "conversation" (thread), you'll see a "What's Related" type of function: a panel that shows related links. Similar conceptually to the Google AdSense panels you see on sites, but with useful, relevant links. I have been working on making linked content an integral part of Evil Toaster for some time - Toaster will index links separately and even prefetch and index the content at a link - but I could never touch the kind of functionality that Google can put here with their uberindex. When I noticed this feature while reading a mail message from the cocoa-dev list, it was giving me something relevant and helpful there.[Screenshot...]

4/28/2004 09:36:56 PM ] [  ]


Do your homework.

I caught this today linked from [] : [Our Hidden WMD Program - Why Bush is spending so much on nuclear weapons.]

This is just another instance of the "reporter" not doing his homework. The author mentions conventional earth penetrating weapons, but seems to think that the Air Force does not have unconventional (nuclear) penetrating weapons. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the case of the [B61-11] is entirely the reverse of the portrait the Slate author tries to paint.

Currently it is not U.S. policy to develop new nuclear weapons. This has a number of consequences: from the slimming of the [nuclear "brain trust"] of weapons designers to the shrinking stockpiles of weapons-grade tritium. In the case of the [B61-11 nuclear penetrator], a new weapon was developed around an existing warhead. The [need for a penetrating nuclear weapon] was discovered in the early 1990s as Libya and other countries drove their WMD programs literally underground to avoid detection and interdiction. North Korea, for example, has most of it's nuclear infrastructure underground in hardened shelters that would survive both attacks with convention penetrators and non-penetrating nuclear weapons. The United States felt it had to [hold such targets at risk] - to keep the North Koreans from using and expanding their WMD programs, the US needed to be able to threaten them. The US also had to do it with existing nuclear warheads: thus the B61-11 is a radical rebuilding of an existing, proven nuclear weapon to take on a new role. The original B61 bomb was nothing like the B61-11, but the core nuclear warhead is unchanged.

All of the author's comments come from a very flawed Natural Resources Defense Council report on nuclear policy that not only "bends" physical law to present the numbers it wants to, but seems unmindful of current U.S. law regarding nuclear weapons development. The line "But Paine calculates that the current U.S. stockpile doesn't require any new tritium until at least 2012" is out of line with reality. Tritium has a half life of 12.3 years. For the author of the NRDC report to make any assessment of US DOE/DOD tritium needs, he would have to have intimate knowledge of the tritium fueling schedules for the US nuclear stockpile.
Yeah, fat fucking chance of that! The figure of 2012 would have assumed that all US nuclear weapons had been topped off with tritium during or after the year 2000, which is very unlikely. The NRDC report also claims "If the stockpile is reduced to the level required under the terms of the most recent strategic arms treaty, none is needed until 2022.". That's just out of line with physical law.

The simple truth is that all of this money being spent on "nuclear weapons development" is for keeping the existing weapons safe and operable. Currently there is a test ban, which means we have to spend money on simulating the effect of age and storage on the existing weapons. Since no production-levels of fissile material are being produced, tritium production has suffered greatly (tritium is largely a "bonus" of operating a production reactor). The accelerator-based tritium production facility means that the DOD/DOE are far less dependent on the reactors at Hanford - you would think that this would have the NDRC rejoicing, not complaining.

4/28/2004 08:33:33 PM ] [  ]


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

On Open Source

A few days ago, I was talking with a colleague about a new system being tested by the company for internal use.
OK, calling him that is giving him far too much credit, but that's another story.
Anyway, I had some more knowledge of how the testing was going than he did and I brought him up to speed. After I mentioned some pretty predictable snags that had been found, he blurted out "Well, I don't know about 'open source'. I don't trust it.".
Let me point out that not only is this particular viewpoint a major exception where I work, but this is the MCSE poster boy talking.
I prodded him to explain, and his justification was that he didn't trust something that was done for free. Ironically enough, the very project we were talking about was both open source and commercial, a product of In fact, most successful open source projects I know of are actually commercialized in a similar fashion (MySQL is an example here).

The open source project I was [most involved with] was created to replicate a product that had been discontinued, but which a number of developers depended on. Each person that worked on it had a stake in it's success - it was easier to write a part of API we were replacing than it was to change their work to use something else. It's hard to say that we worked on it for free - we all profited from it in some way.

Personally, I see "open source" as something very different from "free software". Open source means the source is viewable from the public. That's very different from the idea of "free software", which to me is more a world of licenses and blind zealotry. While I read Slashdot almost every day, I still don't get the "free as in beer" thing, nor do I understand people like "ESR" or Richard Stallman. If I write something for myself and post it someplace so others can benefit, in the "free software" mindset I'd spend weeks researching which license to put it under.
It's code. Not a car or a machine gun.
Projects like the Apache foundation and NetBSD give open source software a good name. Somehow it doesn't surprise me that Mr. MCSE didn't get that.

yes, this is not too coherent, and either am i.... nyquil poisoned a good post

4/27/2004 10:36:55 PM ] [  ]