Monthly Archives: October 2003

Socialtext 1.0 release

Socialtext announced today a 1.0 release. I’m tremendously happy with how far we have come since the first ideas came to mind about building a new workspace tool and a company around those ideas, and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to do the work. Wikis are amazingly useful ways to get a group of people all working together on a project to have a collective memory and to swarm on tasks, and it’s been a boon to my inbox not to have to coordinate a far-flung company by email.

A lot of this reminds me of the enthusiasm of the net from 1993 or so – you know that there’s something to be built, there’s not a ton of money flying around so you have to focus on the simplest thing that gets the job done. In 1993 that task for me was building an internet for the public at large, at $20/user/mo (at MSEN). I’m back at roughly the same price range, aiming at roughly the same users, but the problem now 10 years later is that your inbox is full of nonsense and you still need to get work done.

Preserve farmland, pick more raspberries

We did our part to preserve local farmland yesterday by picking 5 quarts of raspberries at Makielski’s berry farm on Platt Rd. in Ypsilanti south of US 12. Most notable were the yellow raspberries, which as one nursery says are “Large, conical, non-crumbling, very sweet, somewhat soft, golden berries. Excellent for processing and fresh eating”. Look for them in field 4 on the north side. Got a couple of pumpkins too and some squash.

The Ann Arbor paper is full of discussion about a proposed greenbelt ordinance which will have city and township taxes go towards buying up development rights in surrounding townships from farmers who will be allowed to keep farming their land but who won’t be able to subdivide for McMansions or build dense townhomes or mobile home parks. The paper notes that this will probably drive up property values in the city.

Wireless VOIP

I’ve started the work to get my telephone setup to be more suitable to my current working environment. The hard part about what I have now is two big phone bills, lots of time spent on conference calls, and a real need to have a flexible configuration that accomodates moving between two offices and a coffee shop.

What I’ve found so far is pretty good luck using the X-Lite softphone with Jeff Pulver’s Free World Dialup, with a headset plugged into my laptop that has a wifi connection back to a DSL line. Voice quality was good enough that I did a 30 minute call and didn’t have appreciable comments about it being horrible. I’m assuming that there will be periodic glitches depending on what else is going on over the DSL line at the time but it’s worth the try.

The next things to try out are a block of SIP to real phone minutes from Telesthetic, and one of the analog telephony adapters (ATAs) that either Cisco or Grandstream sells or is about to start selling. That would end up with something more like “cordless VOIP” since it would let me use a regular desk telephone for IP calls.

A last bit I haven’t figured out is how to get a VOIP bridge line that can also be called into from land and cell lines, so that I can do hour-long conference calls for less. Conference call quality has to be good enough, but honestly if it’s $0/minute I might be able to just stay on a bridge all day and wait for discusssion to pick up around me.

Most of the links in this page go back to the voip-info wiki, which is a handy reference source.

Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver

I saw author Neal Stephenson do a question and answer session at Borders in Ann Arbor tonight. He ostensibly was there to read from his new book Quicksilver, but he noted that based on the previous 9 events in this series people were mostly interested in the Q & A, so he headed straight into that.

The event was well attended – based on how they were handing out slips to people to stay in line I’d say Borders moved 150 to 200 copies of the book that night, of course some people there didn’t buy the book.

One very neat part of this new work (it’s historical science fiction) is that there’s a wiki for readers to comment on, ask questions about, and dig into references made in the text. Metaweb is up and running now for a few days with a couple of hundred pages of annotations and references. I’m only one chapter in so far but the ability to read a chapter and then page through notes online afterwards is pretty neat and deserves to be repeated.

Where’s Otto?

My son Saul (age 3) has a favorite stuffed animal, a toy dog Otto who goes with him everywhere. Literally. We go to a wedding, Otto get introduced to all the wedding guests. At farmer’s market, the farmers know Saul’s name and Otto’s name. You know how a puppy is supposed to be an icebreaker in conversation, and Saul has that down pat.

Otto is a Rottweiler puppy, not very big, small enough to fit into a parent’s pocket or to leave behind on a table. This is proving to be a bit trying sometimes, whenever Saul decides to momentarily give Otto a resting place so he can pursue something else. There is an ever-present risk of leaving poor Otto behind or stashing him somewhere non-obvious thus resulting in a long search for the dog before we can move on.

There has to be technology to the rescue! Thinking about the various options. A GPS implant, for tracking (though it would have to be accurate to within a few meters). Some kind of RFID tag/scanner combo so we get an alert whenever Otto is too far away from Saul. A wifi pinger so Otto can phone home whenever he’s near a wireless connection. A USB keychain dog tag with vital information. They have chips for dogs, right? Why not a chip for a stuffed dog?

(hm, looking. Steve Wozniak’s Wheels of Zeus is a likely candidate in some future world.)

Pedometer

When I was a kid, I had a 20 inch Schwinn Typhoon bike (handed down from the Clancey family, so I was like the 4th or 5th or ride it) equipped with a Western Auto odometer. On a summer’s day I would ride my bike around and around my neighborhood (the Eighth Addition in Ishpeming, MI) and rack up the miles. One notable day I totally 20 miles. This all in an area only a few blocks square, since I wasn’t allowed to cross any major roads and the neighborhood was surrounded on two sides by woods.

I’ve always been attracted to unambiguous numerical indicators of progress, I guess. And that’s why I’m happy to have a good pedometer to keep track of how much I’m walking. Rather than sit flat on my butt and type all day and night, I’ve been taking walks and trying to get in some much needed exercise. My goal is 10,000 steps per day, and the stretch goal is 100,000 steps per week. So far the results have been pretty good – one day I hit 20,000 steps, and I’ve been steadily in the 80-90k steps/week range.

I’m not doing this to lose weight or to build cardiovascular fitness, though I understand that it’s probably good for both. Walking where I happen to live is actually pretty reasonable transportation, given the alternatives (driving a car takes 8 minutes to downtown plus a dollar an hour to park; the bus is about 10 minutes, but only runs once every 15 minutes, and not late at night; and I can get to a downtown cafe in 22 to 30 minutes). Mostly I like to walk, and I like to see progress measured out somewhat predictably.

The gear is a New Lifestyles NL-2000, recommended by John Hritz for its 7 day automatic memory, its metal clip, and general ruggedness. Your basic happy meal pedometer has a plastic clip which means in active use the plastic stress builds up and the clip breaks off.


More pedometer ideas – someone had the bright idea to suggest a pedometer built into a cell phone. That would be useful, one less thing to strap the the belt.