SheevaPlug Has So Much Potential In A Small Package

One of the coolest things I’ve seen announced this year so far is the Marvell SheevaPlug.

There are so many things about it that are impressive. It’s size, it’s 1.2 GHz processor, only drawing 5 watts, it’s open design, it’s low cost. At $99 for the development kit, that’s a pretty cool device. I suspect we’ll see a lot of interesting hacks take advantage of the low cost hardware. Oh and it not only supports Linux, it’s trying to improve Linux support.

This little gadget is so tempting. I can see this being a hobbyist’s best friend.

Federal Support For RSS

An interesting little note going around the web today is the push for RSS/Atom feeds by the new administration. For example in the Initial Implementing Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 [PDF] it specifically dictates that feeds are “required”:

For each of the near term reporting requirements (major communications, formula block grant
allocations, weekly reports) agencies are required to provide a feed (preferred: Atom 1.0,
acceptable: RSS) of the information so that content can be delivered via subscription. Note that
the required information can be supplied in the feed or the feed can point to a file at the agency
using the convention noted below. If an agency is immediately unable to publish feeds, the
agency should post each near term information flow (major communications, formula block
grant allocations, weekly reports) to a URL directory convention suggested below:
www.agency.gov/recovery/year/month/date/reporttype.
It is expected that the information files
will be posted at the following URLs:

  • Major Communications: www.HUD.gov/recovery/2009/02/16/comms
  • Formula Block Grant Allocation: www.HUD.gov/recovery/2009/02/16/fbga
  • Weekly Report: www.HUD.gov/recovery/2009/03/01/weekly

I predicted a few months ago there would be slow growth of feeds in the future. This is just another example of what will be fueling that growth. While I won’t debate RSS vs. Atom here, it’s still interesting to see. It seems whitehouse.gov also prefers Atom using it throughout it’s feeds.

Interestingly a year ago when I profiled all the candidate websites only Hilary Clinton (D), Tom Tancredo (R) and Ron Paul (R) preferred Atom. Everyone else used RSS. I couldn’t even find a feed on Barack Obama’s site.

I wonder if the federal government will ever have a syndication standard, either RSS or Atom. I’m guessing that decision comes down to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) who I don’t think has any standard for syndication. They themselves use RSS. So does NASA among other government agencies with websites. Considering Atom has come closer to IETF standardization it might have an edge over RSS.

Locking The Front Door But Leaving The Back Open

Here is an amusing yet failing attempt at security available in the App Store called Spaghetti Pad. Here’s the description from the app developer:

Is somebody always looking over your shoulder, snooping on your iPhone? Sure, we know. That’s why we built Spaghetti Pad. It’s a semi-private notepad which obfuscates your notes so they’re more difficult for others to read — without login screens to slow you down.

How does it work?
Spaghetti Pad takes advantage of the amazing power of the mind to read words with mixed up letters. As long as the first and last letters are in the correct place you can still read the word. Just type in your note normally and Spaghetti Pad will mix the letters up for you. When you view the note later it’s all spaghetti text, slow for others to read but easy for you.

The Technique Is Real

The technique used is actually true, research is showing that we read at least partially the shape of the word rather than the individual letters. Take the following example:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

This may be slightly more difficult for people whom English isn’t their native language, but most will read it nearly as quick as if it were all spelled out correctly. More research can be found here. I should note this was an Internet meme sometime around 2003.

The Use Case Fails

Now ask yourself: what allows me to read the text, but prevents someone next to me from doing the same? Does your brain hurt yet? Virtually all of us can read it because we all read the same way. It doesn’t even slow down reading very much. As a result it appears like security through obscurity, but in reality it’s less effective than Pig Latin or Ubbi dubbi. With Pig Latin, there is at least a little bit of knowledge required before decrypting it becomes natural (though you can sometimes guess). Igpay Atinlay isway otnay ecuritysay.

Your better off getting one of these privacy screens.

Super Soaker 50 Retro Revival

According to Gizmodo the original Super Soaker 50 is back! Apparently the only real change they made is the reservoir is no longer removable (the original screwed in). Perhaps that avoids the inevitable leaky gasket that caused problems in the original guns. That limited the pressure that you could build up in the older gun once it got past a certain age. I guess it’s similar to the M16A2 upgrade to the M16A1.

I think the most surprising thing (than the original being 20 years old) is that it’s supposedly going to be available for $15. That’s not to terrible in the world of overpriced “retro” toys.

Woz Is The Dancing Queen

Steve Wozniak Dancing With StarsHere’s something I’m really not sure I want to see. Steve Wozniak on Dancing With The Stars.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of The Woz. I’ve even got an autographed copy of iWoz.

I even know trivia like how ADB is likely the lastWoz designed technology technology to be replaced on Apple products since keyboards and trackpads in laptops still used ADB (and even ADB emulation from what I understand) until about 2004. That makes ADB about 18 years.

But I’m not sure what to expect here.

At least Woz is rather charismatic and a well known prankster. Who knows what he’s going to say or do. He’s a good storyteller (interesting rambler) but not sure if how much of that will show.

Despite the ugly images running through my mind, I’m still hoping he wins, since it would be by far the most amusing. I suspect he could easily become a fan favorite thanks to sites like Digg and Slashdot and Twitter which could drum up some audience votes. This could be interesting to see how social media can impact audience participation on TV shows.

I think Steve-O should be entertaining too. He generally is, for better or worse.

This should be fun. Who knows maybe this is going to pave the way for other tech celebrities like Bill Gates 😉 .

UNIX Apocalypse

Apparently Unix time/POSIX time will hit a rather impressive 1234567890 in the next few days. What is even more interesting is that this is happening on Friday the 13th, 2009. You can find out when it will happen in your local time by running perl -e 'print scalar localtime(1234567890),"\n";'. Just another milestone on the way to Y2K38.

As a sidenote, on Friday April 13, 2029 99942 Apophis will have a close encounter with earth.

Yea it’s superstition, but it sure is fun 😉 .

[Via Slashdot]

Printable Stylesheets To Save The Environment

Printing is a really wasteful process. The obvious waste is paper, ink, and of course money. The less obvious waste is the carbon footprint of printers and making paper/ink.

The internet is a notorious waste of paper. One could argue there’s no need for printing online content since you could easily save it either as text, the entire page, or print to a PDF file (my personal preference). The main source of waste is due to the design of the page resulting in sometimes several useless pages and 1 page of useful content. The rest of them simply go in the recycling bin, or worse the trash. Some clever users preview first and only print the pages they want. Most just print.

There are a few software products out there that try and reduce the amount of wasted printing such as GreenPrint, though it requires installation, companies hate buying site licenses for this type of stuff, etc. Personally I think they are a pain and prefer to do it myself.

If every site were to include a printable stylesheet, the number of wasted pages would drop dramatically.

Without a printable stylesheet a short post on this blog would take 3 pages to print out, 2 of which were worthless navigational elements. The pages are also awkward to read. With a printable stylesheet the output not only looks nicer but is reduced to 1. That saves ink, paper and sanity.

Separate printable pages suck. They are so 1999. Nobody goes there anymore and they often drop content such as images which you may want to have.

When you look at some of GreenPrint’s statistics you can’t help but wonder how much would be saved if more sites had printable stylesheets that tried to reduce the amount of unnecessary printing is done. I’d guesstimate just getting rid of some useless design elements in printable output could likely reduce the amount of ink consumed by 30-50%.

For developers looking to get started A List Apart has a great tutorial on them. Most developers know how to do it, but printable stylesheets become an afterthought in the development process.

Apple Needs a 15″ Version Of The 17″ MacBook Pro

Dear Apple,

Your MacBook Pro lineup is just downright annoying. Your 17″ model (MB604LL/A) is absolutely awesome with it’s optional matte display which any sane person prefers over its eye torturing glossy cousin. The ability to add up to 8GB RAM is also far superior to the 4GB cap on the 15″ model. This thing rocks.

Your 15″ model (MB471LL/A) however has the advantage of a smaller form factor and lower cost due to 2″ less LCD one must pay for. The removable battery is just another plus. For whatever reason, despite the fact that NVIDIA says the chipset will support 8GB, these laptops only support up to 4GB. Why? There’s also no option for a matte display. Insanity.

From what I understand the 17″ uses the same NVIDIA 9400 chipset as the 15″ making this more of a software limitation than a hardware one. I personally wouldn’t ship it with any more than 4GB RAM, but I sure would like the option to upgrade it later.

I want a 64 bit, 15″ laptop with a matte display whose manufacturer states that it is tested and known to work well with 8GB RAM.

As for the lack of a matte display option, that’s just totally not cool. While some people don’t care, others like myself are quite particular with our hardware especially the part that we stare at endlessly for hours.

Your favorite customer,
Robert

P.S: Push notification for the iPhone would be a spiffy too.