Monday, April 27, 2009

Links for 04-27-2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Links for 04-24-2009

  • For many companies, client power management not yet a priority | GreenTech Pastures | - "Forrester Researcher has released some new data from a first quarter survey of IT professionals about power management policies, and the big aha is that only about 15 percent of them have adopted any kind of strategy that addresses energy waste for their client desktops or notebooks."
  • The Great Netflix-"Crash" Mystery - The Screengrab - " to make any broad assumptions about how many people have "seen" Crash based on how many people have rented Crash might be kind of a broad leap. Lots of people who had been barely cognizant of the movie's existence prior to the 2006 Academy Awards ceremony probably automatically stuck it in their queues as soon as it won the Oscar. And a lot of other people probably did the same thing at some point, not because they could barely contain their excitement at the prospect of having Thandie Newton and Don Cheadle demonstrate to them the folly of racism, but because they picked up some vague signs in the atmosphere that this was a worthy movie that they should see. It may be that one of the major advances in the culture for which Netflix can take a bow is that, rather than actually going to see such films, people can now stick them on their rental queues, and then, when the discs arrive, procrastinate for weeks and even months before returning them unseen."
  • Whatever Happened to the Top 15 Web Properties of April, 1999? | Technologizer - Good recap of how the top Web sites have shifted position.
  • When GeoCities Grabbed the Web’s Golden Ticket–A Trip Down Silicon-Valley-Has-No-Memory Lane | Kara Swisher | BoomTown | AllThingsD - "GeoCities was, in its way, the Facebook of its time. But, instead of “friends,” its users were “homesteaders,” since the Web then was a place to be pioneered and settled. As Cher so eloquently sings: Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end."
  • Why Time and Newsweek Will Never Be The Economist: Matt Pressman | Vanity Fair - "The Economist is like that exotic coffee that comes from beans that have been eaten and shat out undigested by an Indonesian civet cat, and Time and Newsweek are like Starbucks—millions of people enjoy them, but it’s not a point of pride."
  • Poynter Online - E-Media Tidbits - Sounds about right to me wrt the InDenver Times (attempted online newspaper).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Links for 04-23-2009

How and Why I Use Twitter

I confess that I am more than a little tired of Twitter meme in the mainstream media (aka MSM) and elsewhere at the moment. And I try my best to resist the siren call of making-my-opinion-known under such circumstances.

However, the MSM buzz has a variety of non-techie friends asking me about Twitter and why I find it useful. So here goes. This is not a generic "Why Twitter is God" but, rather, what I find particularly useful about it in my specific circumstances.

Thus, before getting into Twitter, what are those circumstances?

In a nutshell, I'm an IT industry analyst. This means that I write about and provide advice to companies that produce and consume enterprise technology such as servers, virtualization, cloud computing and so forth. Typical daily activities include researching the space, writing, doing advisory engagements, and attending conferences and the like. When I'm not traveling, I mostly work from home although my fairly small company does have an office about 45 minutes away.

With that as context, here's how I use Twitter:
  • I use it mostly, although not exclusively, for professionally-related matters--or at least topics connected to technology in some way.
  • I use it to monitor breaking news, links, opinion, and so forth in my professional areas of coverage.
  • Given that I'm often working by myself at home, it offers me a sort of "virtual watercooler" with professional colleagues and others. It thus offers some of the casual interchange that one gets in an office.
  • It helps me to maintain an ongoing relationship with and visibility to a variety of my clients.
  • I can promote links to pieces that I have written or that I otherwise would like to gain broader attention.
  • It offers a forum to do casual research.
  • I am reasonably selective about who I follow. I like to keep my feed to a manageable volume on a typical in-office day although I don't hesitate to turn things off if I need to go heads down. I eagerly await applications that do a better job of managing groups and otherwise help me to prioritize reading (as I do with RSS).
  • Of course, there's an element of fun as well and being exposed to serendipitous stuff that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with tech.

PSD hatred

(For those not familiar, PSD is the file format used by Adobe's Photoshop image editing program.)

The following rant (in a source code comment block) tells of one programmer's frustration:
At this point, I'd like to take a moment to speak to you about the Adobe PSD format. PSD is not a good format. PSD is not even a bad format. Calling it such would be an insult to other bad formats, such as PCX or JPEG. No, PSD is an abysmal format. Having worked on this code for several weeks now, my hate for PSD has grown to a raging fire that burns with the fierce passion of a million suns.

If there are two different ways of doing something, PSD will do both, in different places. It will then make up three more ways no sane human would think of, and do those too. PSD makes inconsistency an art form. Why, for instance, did it suddenly decide that *these* particular chunks should be aligned to four bytes, and that this alignement should *not* be included in the size? Other chunks in other places are either unaligned, or aligned with the alignment included in the size. Here, though, it is not included. Either one of these three behaviours would be fine. A sane format would pick one. PSD, of course, uses all three, and more.

Trying to get data out of a PSD file is like trying to find something in the attic of your eccentric old uncle who died in a freak freshwater shark attack on his 58th birthday. That last detail may not be important for the purposes of the simile, but at this point I am spending a lot of time imagining amusing fates for the people responsible for this Rube Goldberg of a file format.

Earlier, I tried to get a hold of the latest specs for the PSD file format. To do this, I had to apply to them for permission to apply to them to have them consider sending me this sacred tome. This would have involved faxing them a copy of some document or other, probably signed in blood. I can only imagine that they make this process so difficult because they are intensely ashamed of having created this abomination. I was naturally not gullible enough to go through with this procedure, but if I had done so, I would have printed out every single page of the spec, and set them all on fire. Were it within my power, I would gather every single copy of those specs, and launch them on a spaceship directly into the sun.

PSD is not my favourite file format.
[via @Photocritic]

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twittering as Distraction

From Andrew McAfee's The Good and Bad Kind of Crowds:

So I told them that class on the 20th would be an exception to HBS’s standard ’screens down’ policy (i.e. no use of digital devices during class), and that they could tweet using whatever device they preferred.

I’ll ask my students what they thought about the experience, but I thought it was miserable. Class discussion limped along at well below its normal levels of engagement, interest, and insight. I thought it was due to my bad class plan, a comparatively weak case, and/or the fact that the 20th was the last day before spring break.

Any or all of these could have been part of the explanation, but I’m quite sure that another part was the tweeting that went on. When I reviewed students’ tweets after class, I found that a lot of them remarked on how difficult it was to pay attention to what was going on in the room and on their screens. And it was very clear that the screens won.

Speaking to an audience that’s tweeting away is now a fact of life at most technology conferences (as clearly evidenced by this year’s South by Southwest). Laura says she likes it, and I’m eager to learn from her why this is and how I can turn live tweeting to my advantage when speaking. So far it feels to me like trying to talk to people who all have TVs in front of them. I realize that live tweeting might be beneficial to some constituencies (like the tweeters’ followers), but it feels to me like a pure negative for speakers. We’re now competing for attention with a very compelling interactive activity.

There's some good commentary in the comments section about some of the advantages and disadvantages to the speaker and audience of twittering. There's probably a distinction worth making between conference presentations and interactive discussions.

In the case of a typical presentation at a conference, I definitely get value out of the backchannel as a way to get the reaction of others in real-time. I find it often engages me more than merely being a passive observer.

And, if the speaker is really engaging with and connecting to me directly, I can just ignore the chatter. Of course, if the presentation is simply uninteresting, I can go off on the Web and do other things or simply snark on twitter.

On the other hand, in a participatory interactive discussion, I think it can indeed be a distraction--although to the degree I'm just using it to essentially record interesting snippets, it's really no different than taking notes. But, in general, if some number of a group is twittering or doing whatever on their laptops, it's pretty commonsensical that they're going to be distracted.

(I didn't know about HBS' 'screens down' policy though. Man, I can barely take usable notes by hand any longer.)

Links for 04-22-2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Recipe: Chicken Croquettes

This is a comfort food that I rather enjoy now and then and is also a great way to use up leftover roast chicken. It also lends itself to eating some and freezing some and therefore lets me stick one or two easy weeknight meals in the freezer.

Chicken Croquettes

2 cups finely diced cooked chicken (This is about half a roast chicken's worth)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup minced celery
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup minced onion
1 TBS minced parsley
1 cup thick Bechamel (follows)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup almonds, chopped (optional)

Mix the chicken, salt, celery, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, onion, parsley, cand bechamel sauce until wee blended. Cover, refrigerate until chilled, then form into balls or small cones, about 2 inches in diameter. Dip in beaten eggs and then roll in the crumbs. Set them to dry on a piece of wax paper.

Deep fry at about 360 degrees until brown. Drain. You can also do these in a skillet with a couple of inches of oil and turn them when one side is brown.

I serve these with a brown sauce. You can prepare from scratch or use a packaged sauce such as McCormick Hunter Sauce mix.

They freeze well; separate using wax paper.

Thick Bechamel (White) Sauce

2 TBS butter
3 TBS flour
1 cup milk, heated
Freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown—about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.

Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Links for 04-16-2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Links for 04-14-2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

Links for 04-13-2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Links for 04-10-2009

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Links for 04-09-2009

I've been busy with projects and/or traveling so I haven't been saving as many links of late. But here are a few from the past couple of weeks.