Around The Web

New York Songline

Want to kill an hour on a Friday evening? Check out A New York Songline. Walk down one of many NYC streets and learn a ton of trivia about each block. The history buff in me loves this stuff.

Web Development

Getting RSS Feeds For Twitter Users

Want an RSS feed for a particular Twitter user? This used to be linked off the profile page(s) but since disappeared. It’s still available if you know where it is:{username}

Replace {username} with a username (example).

You could also put a bunch of users into a list and query that using:{listName}&owner_screen_name={username}&include_entities=true

Replace {username} with the list owners username and {listName} with the list name (example). Strangely that’s only available in atom format.

I still find RSS handy for those accounts I don’t want in my stream but want to keep an eye on, as well as those I want to programmatically access or manipulate.


Jeff Bezos’s Team Found Apollo 11’s F-1 Engines

Saturn V F-1 Rockets

The Saturn V was perhaps the greatest rocket ever built. Quoting Wikipedia:

It remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and still holds the record for the heaviest launch vehicle payload.

The first stage (S-IC) was made of several F-1 rockets. Check out an old video to get an idea of how powerful they really were. The last launched in 1973, and there are a few (shell’s at least) as museum exhibits. We’ve got little left to remember them by. Unlike the Shuttle SRB’s they weren’t reusable. They just went to the bottom of the ocean. The most famous of them all are the ones that sent Apollo 11 on their way to the moon.

Jeff Bezos announced:

I’m excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we’re making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor. We don’t know yet what condition these engines might be in – they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see.

They are still property of NASA, so lets hope they are willing to let them go to a museum. If Bezos’s suggestion for The Museum of Flight isn’t suitable, perhaps The Smithsonian would be. They have the Command Module (CM) already in the National Air and Space Museum.


App Store Paid Upgrades

Wil Shipley from Delicious Monster wrote a great blog post on the need for paid upgrades. To compensate for this missing feature app developers tend to do one of three things:

  • Make it free – I presume this is what Apple is going for. Make it feel like a bargain.
  • New App, Pay again – The most notable example of this was Tweetie (now Twitter for iPhone) upgrading to 2.0 was a new App. Lots of users didn’t like this. I suspect paying the same money for an “upgrade” would have hurt less psychologically.
  • Temporary free/discounted new app – I’ve seen this a few times. The new app is priced low or free for a weekend so users can upgrade. Then the price goes up. Not a terrible strategy, but hardly great for any party.

I’m surprised Apple still hasn’t caved on this. It must be the #1 requested feature by developers. It would also be a huge revenue generator for Apple since they take a cut of every sale. I’m guessing Mac OS X 10.8 will be a new app and not an upgrade to 10.7 in the App Store.

Funny Tech (General)

Is That A Cell Phone Name Or A Condom Brand?

Des Traynor of Intercom came up with a great little infographic

Condom Or Android Phone Name

It’s worth a read beyond the infographic for the comments on that blog post alone.

In The News

James Cameron Reaches Mariana Trench

From National Geographic:

As of 5:52 p.m. ET Sunday (7:52 a.m. Monday, local time), James Cameron has arrived at the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep, members of the National Geographic expedition have confirmed.

His depth on arrival: 35,756 feet (10,898 meters)—a figure unattainable anywhere else in the ocean.

Reaching bottom, the National Geographic explorer and filmmaker typed out welcome words for the cheering support crew waiting at the surface: “All systems OK.”

Amazing. The second manned decent ever, the 4th overall. Even machines have had a hard time getting down there. Deepsea Challenger is loaded with equipment for photos and video including a RED Epic 5K camera. That’s 5K, not 1080p. Just imagine if Apollo missions had that kind of a camera on the moon.

Can’t wait to see the photos/video.

Apple Software

OTA Upgrades Speed iOS Upgrade Adoption

Some interesting graphs on iOS 5.1 upgrade stats. iOS 5.0.1 and 5.1 are notable because they are the first upgrades to be delivered OTA. Unless this data is a unique segment and not representative of the larger ecosystem (I don’t think that’s the case), this is pretty impressive.

This is why the upgrade process is so important to client side applications, especially when you manage a platform. After installation keeping a user running the latest and greatest is critical. It impacts your entire ecosystem, which in Apple’s case includes the web, iOS developers, tech support, and yes even wireless partners.

Google’s biggest mistake was leaving hardware vendors and wireless providers in charge of managing upgrades. They are carrying a lot of baggage from old Android devices that Apple doesn’t. This is only going to be more amplified in the next 12-24 months as Apple users stay more current and Android continues to fragment.

Around The Web Audio/Video

Giant Paper Airplane

Giant Paper Airplane

At 45 feet and 800 lbs this is one of the biggest paper airplanes ever made. It was lifted by helicopter. It traveled at up to 98 mph. Now that is one heck of a science experiment by Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona.

Apple Open Source

Linus Torvalds Said No To Steve Jobs

Wired has a great piece on Linus Torvalds. Linus is one of the most under appreciated people in the world. We all interact with his work daily, yet very few even know what his work is, much less him. Even Steve Jobs apparently realized that:

Torvalds has never met Bill Gates, but around 2000, when he was still working at Transmeta, he met Steve Jobs. Jobs invited him to Apple’s Cupertino campus and tried to hire him. “Unix for the biggest user base: that was the pitch,” says Torvalds. The condition: He’d have to drop Linux development. “He wanted me to work at Apple doing non-Linux things,” he said. That was a non-starter for Torvalds. Besides, he hated Mac OS’s Mach kernel.

“I said no,” Torvalds remembers.

Had he said “yes”, the world could be a very different place. Mac OS X surely would be different, same for iOS. Linux would also be different as the kernel would have likely lost some steam as different folks forked and went their separate ways. Linus is a driving force and a constant in the Linux world. Linux runs many of the most popular services in the world from Google to Facebook to the Android OS among others. It’s being free, open and a rock solid OS is part of what helped these companies grow.

It’s amazing to think how far that chain reaction would go.


A Day In The Life Of HR

An excerpt from the soon to be released Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ( A Mostly True Memoir):

As of today I’ve had to ask five separate men, “Is this your penis?” after their pictures got caught in the e-mail filter. (Side note: When I read this to people who don’t work in HR, they stop me here and say, “Really? People actually mail pictures of their penises at work?” And I explain that yes, it happens at least once a quarter. If it’s an HR person I’m read ing this to, they always say, “Really? You worked in HR for fifteen years and you only had to ask five men about their penises?” And I explain that no, I wrote this in my first few years in HR, and there’s another one in the very next paragraph. After that they just got so commonplace I stopped writing about them in my journal. I eventually got to where I could say, “Is this your penis?” without blushing or giggling. That’s how much practice I had at handing random men photos of their junk and asking them to identify their penis. I never once had to do it with a vagina. Probably because women are better at not getting their e-mails caught in the firewall, because they don’t use the subject line “Look at my penis.” Also, vaginas seem to have less personality than penises, so “Is this your vagina?” would probably be difficult to answer. If someone asked me to pick out my own vagina’s mug shot out of a lineup of vaginas, I’d be helpless. And probably concerned about what exactly my vagina had been doing that constituted a need for its own mug shot.

Yet another reason I don’t think I’d ever want to work in HR.