Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in March, 2003

Tim Bray is wondering if it would be better to drop the charging circuit from a laptop:

So if this laptop came with two batteries, and an external battery charger that charged faster than the computer ran the batteries down, I could routinely work without having anything plugged in. Also, the laptop wouldn’t have to include the battery-charge circuit, which might allow it to be simpler and lighter.

Anybody who has a small laptop is already carrying around one extra box, namely the power supply adapter, and most of us also carry around an extra battery. Why not make the two of these into a single extra box?

…Are there any Electrical Engineers out there with an educated opinion as to whether losing the charging circuit would make the laptop noticeably smaller and lighter?

In the past, I did some design of battery-charging circuits for portable embedded systems, and in the specific case of laptops I’d say there’d be no savings. My current iBook/600 has a built-in charging circuit but no extra battery to keep things working while swapping batteries. (Previous PowerBooks used to have such a battery.) In my opinion such a battery would be at least as expensive, and use up as much space and weight as the charging circuit. And I find it faster to just plug in a charger whenever my battery goes low, rather than put the laptop to sleep, take a battery out, and plug in a new one…

Other options would be to have the external power supply also have a socket for charging an extra battery (upside: one less box to carry; downside: larger & expensive charger, more connectors, wasted space for people who don’t have an extra battery) or to have parts of the charging circuit built into the battery itself so you can cascade several batteries (upside: more flexibility, simpler charger; downside: more expensive batteries, still need a backup battery inside the laptop).

I think we’ll see some better laptop solutions in a couple of years. Once OLED screens and better polymer batteries come onto the market, we’ll have thinner screens and smaller power requirements. The battery will be a thin slate mounted behind the screen; you’ll get better heat dissipation too and the ability to slap on several batteries if necessary.

M. at the excellent Whuffie website comments on my recent post:

Following a trackback, I found this post by mac software developer Rainer Brockerhoff…

It appears that he sees links as a form of Whuffie, “hey ‘huckleberry thats a mighty large blogroll your hefting theya”. His large list of links gets him a ranking of 108th most prolific linkers at The Blogging Ecosystem.

…To borrow from wordsmith Tim Oren at Due Diligence : I am not sure if blogrolls are “fungible”. Meaning it is not a goods or commodities that is freely exchangeable. Really anyone could just take an entire top 500 (of 101,617) links and blogroll them onto a page. This would likely build some traffic.

I hasten to add that my primary intent in publishing my blogroll wasn’t to attract traffic as such; after all, it’s the actual list of feeds I’m reading, and therefore of interest to whoever analyses such connections.. When I said:

In the neverending quest for whuffie… I was checking who’s linking to me…

this was partly tongue-in-cheek. Appearing on someone’s blogroll is of course flattering per se; readers are always welcome. But of course current link-counting schemes such as TechnoRati don’t yet map accurately to real Whuffie.

M. goes on to say:

But to me when I scope a blogs ‘linkum, I expect it to have some relevance to the content. I especially like when they categorize or define the hyperlinks. My blogroll is a small list of blogs that I regularly visit and that seem to share some of the interests that I have.

…While, I try not to blog about blogging as too many sites exercise this masturbatory behavior, I think the idea of social networking and it’s complex application in the blogosphere is worthy of study. Check out this cool graph and indepth study from Ross Mayfield’s Blog.

Although my NetNewsWire subscription list uses groups to further categorize the subscriptions, unfortunately this is not reflected in the exported .opml file, which I’m mechanically converting to the form seen on the left. It would be very interesting to define standard keywords to add such value judgments to .opml files, and have everybody’s site reference those files in a <link> tag.

Ross Mayfield’s article is indeed very interesting and I had skimmed it (and some related ones) previously when the “power law” discussion came up. He says that “not all links are created equal”. I agree; first of all, blogroll links are more valuable than casual one-off references, as they represent people who read me every day. Also if someone whose weblog I read regularly, and whose opinions I respect, links to me, I feel more flattered than if it’s some random unknown… and of course, a casual link may even express disapproval of whatever I wrote, which should count as negative, not positive, Whuffie.

If I understand Mayfield’s articles correctly, he’s saying that simple non-weighted link counts chart “political networks”, which have power-law behavior. On the other hand, if links are weighted to properly show the make-up of “social networks”, a bell-curve distribution should show up, with a maximum network size of 150 people (that being, supposedly, the maximum number of people one can interact with on a daily basis without frying one’s neurons). Meg speculates that weblogging tools may possibly help us to go beyond the 150-person limit. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, 150 people were invited to Joi Ito‘s recent weblog party, and he rebuilt his blogroll afterwards to reflect that.

The whole Whuffie, group-forming, reputation-rating, community-forming, socializing-at-a-distance thing is fascinating. Writing this post yielded dozens of interesting references, which I’ll read and analyze later…

Dave Pollard uses Steven Covey‘s Time Management Matrix to show why you never get anything important done… and why less important issues often get undue priority.

As soon as I find the time I’ll have to set up a matrix for my own stuff… especially since the Brazilian business year supposedly starts today, just after Carnaval. 😉

A sidenote: while looking at Covey’s site, I was very amused by the last paragraphs on his main page:

WARNING: Privacy Protection Software NOT DETECTED

Your Internet habits are being recorded.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PRIVACY PROTECTION SOFTWARE

Your ID: 2Cust108.tnt9.tco2.da.uu.net

Your computer: x86 family 6 Model 8 AT/AT compatible

Privacy Protection Software: NOT DETECTED

…as I’m definitely not on uu.net, and am writing this on an Apple iBook/600 – which I’m reasonably sure is not x86 AT compatible – it seems my built-in “privacy protection software” is already powerful enough.

Things to ponder

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In the neverending quest for whuffie (see also this), I was checking who’s linking to me according to TechnoRati. I was surprised to find the most recent link coming from the blogging ecosystem, listing me at rank #108 (of 501) in “Most Prolific Linkers”. Not sure yet whether to cry, commemorate, or ignore it… 😯

Update: not too coincidentally, this happened just after I posted the Links&Subscriptions column to the left… but I’ve seen people with larger blogrolls around… more things to ponder, all right.

Dim Copper

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Doc Searls ponders the metaphors of spectrum:

My hmm for the day is a bit of wondering about the term “spectrum.” Maybe what we’re talking about here – those qualities the Net takes on when users spill it out of the wires and out into the waves – isn’t spectrum at all. Maybe it’s more like an older noun: Ether.

…Anyway, what if Net’s wires and local ethers – what Bob Frankston perfectly calls “the first mile” – were most constructively conceived as nonmatters of infinite abundance? What then? And why not? Just because we’re accustomed to the conceptual crutchwork of transport and property? Hey, even if we are, why not try on another concept for size?

This is very important. The old metaphors of spectrum and the consequent “spectrum allocations”, bringing with them endless wrangling over what was thus declared a scarce and finite resource, must be reexamined. Modern UWB communications use a very wide swath of “spectrum” in a non-interfering, shareable manner.

At the end, Doc links to an even more interesting article: Dim Copper, by Bob Frankston.

We didn’t create the automobile by lashing a carriage to a mechanical horse but we were able to repurpose the roads designed for horses by paving them to create a smooth surface. The Internet isn’t just an upgrade to the phone network. It needs its own path. The existing copper infrastructure is a valuable resource that can be used as a native medium for Internet connectivity. We must take advantage of the opportunity to provide universal connectivity very quickly at a low cost, we get vastly improved telephony as a free bonus.

…Of course, there are many additional services that provide immediate economic value. These services are currently stymied by the ancient telephony paradigm which is built upon circuits that require exclusive use of a particular pair of copper wires while providing connectivity between only two end points at a time. The Internet shares these resources and connects everything to everything.

Just as we don’t treat the car as a horseless carriage, we should stop thinking of our copper infrastructure as the telephone network. It’s just a dimly lit neighborhood off the Internet waiting for the light to shine.

This is in line with the dumb network paradigm which has been discussed for years. Phone companies, cable networks, even some ISPs – all try to hang onto an obsolete finite-resource, controlled services metaphor, and they’ll suffer for that in the near future. The rising use of Voice over IP will (hopefully) put traditional telcos out of business before the decade is out.

Once everybody accepts that the smart thing is to build dumb networks, using the huge amount of dark fiber already installed, and let the market and the tinkerers discover what they can be used for, the Internet will finally fulfill its promises.

Hi Michael, thanks for dropping by!
Michael Tsai wrote:

My guess is that Feynman’s Samba School comments can be found in Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman.

You’re right, I found my copy yesterday while reorganizing my library, and there it was on page 185 (the Bantam Books ’86 edition). I could find no reference to this on the web, though.

Posted by Michael Tsai:
My guess is that Feynman’s Samba School comments can be found in Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman.

Suddenly, several people started linking to Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch‘ new weblog. At least new to me… welcome to the weblog world! I’ve met Jon at previous MacHack conferences, he’s very friendly and an up-and-coming WebObjects expert… and we’re about tied in number of published MacHack papers icon_wink.gif. This year he may get ahead of me, as I’ll probably won’t be able neither to write a paper nor to go to the conference.

Anyway, the first important article I saw on his site was the interview with Peter Sichel of Sustainable Softworks. Required reading for any software author. Coincidentally, “Sichel” means “crescent” in German, and “Rentzsch” is pronounced “wrench”… hence the title of this post. Haha. OK, I promise not to do that again soon.

Now it gets interesting. Jon wrote about a serious difference between the Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X Finders:

Finder X, unlike Finder 9, allows the user to overwrite a folder with a file and vice-versa. You can reproduce this:

* Create a new folder named “test”

* Elsewhere, create a file named “test”

* Drag file “test” over into folder “test”‘s container.

* Finder X will warn “A newer item named “test” already exists in this location. Do you want to replace it with the older one you are moving?” with [Stop] [Replace] buttons.

Finder 9 correctly would not allow the action at all. That is, it would put up a “stop” alert with one unconditional button: [OK].

He also filed a bug with Apple.

Subsequently, several people posted their opinions. Bill Bumgarner disagrees that this is a bug. So does Erik Barzeski. Olof Hellman agrees with Jon. John Gruber gives a great summary of the problem, and agrees somewhat with both sides, suggesting that the overwritten folder be moved to the Trash instead of being deleted outright. While I was pondering my own position, Michael Tsai agreed with Bill.

Everybody now agrees that the real bug is that, after the folder is overwritten, the Finder’s “Undo” command moves the overwriting file back to its old location but fails to restore to overwritten folder. Michael also writes:

I’m not an expert on this stuff, but it appears that the Finder could exchange the file references so that aliases point to the new item, not the one in the trash…

All this said, I’m not sure I’d like the Undo command to bring the original item out of the trash, because I doubt the Finder can guarantee that the restored item will be identical to the original.

No, that wouldn’t be a problem; indeed, if you move a folder to the Trash and then “Undo”, the folder is moved back with no untoward side-effects, since this also is done by swapping file-references. Also, no extra disk space is needed for this, as long as both items were on the same volume.

I find myself agreeing with Bill and Michael. Overwriting an item with another should move the first one to the Trash, in such a way to make this fully undoable. If the new item is copied from another volume, and space is so crowded as to make it necessary to remove the first item before copying, the Finder should put up a very carefully worded alert explaining this.

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