I like Norton AntiVirus. The UI is OK, the protection is strong, and it doesn't get in my way. But its worm blocking doesn't play nice with FileZilla, the FTP client. When I'm uploading thousands of little files via FTP the worm blocker goes nuts.

I think the problem is that FTP still uses the awful non-PASV mode, where the server opens a socket back to my FTP client. Dumb, but that's the way FTP works. The worm blocker sees the incoming connections and assumes we're under attack. Fortunately it's easy to disable on a per-program basis with "Program Control" in "Internet Worm Protection". I see I've also disabled the checking for Half Life 2 and my X server. Guess this worm blocker doesn't like anyone opening connections to it.

The blocker is slow too. After I disabled it my FTP upload of lots of little files was 10x faster.

  2005-03-27 19:33 Z
While I've admired Flickr for awhile, I wasn't much of a user. Until now. Now I'm totally addicted, checking it eight times a day. What's so great about Flickr?

The most compelling part of Flickr is the social network. Flickr is not just photo hosting, it's a whole community system. And it's not just a social network site, it's a photo site. I share my photos with friends, they share theirs with me. I join groups. I look at strangers' photos and comment on them. I see what photos my friends like, and the photos of my friends' friends. There's always something new and a social context for what we're sharing.

Another key innovation of Flickr is the tasteful use of metadata. Flickr tags are awesome. And thanks to the Creative Commons licensing Flickr is full of photos ready for reuse. Very handy.

The technical execution of Flickr is excellent. The UI is clean and fun, if a bit like a maze of twisty passages. There are RSS feeds everywhere. They have a great API; see Clay's notes for more. There's blog integration with badges and automated blog posting. And something I overlooked at first: updates happen instantly. You upload a new photo and it is immediately visible on every tag, group, and contacts page where it should be. It's not easy to make real time updates work at this scale.

Here's the addictive part. Flickr is a game, an MMOG * . There's the explicitly playful aspect, groups like squared circle and clock works. There's also an exploratory aspect to being on Flickr, where you go from photo to tag to photo to person to group to tag to photo, picking up images along the way and sharing them with your friends. And there's lots of interaction to keep you coming back, your recent activity and the group discussion boards. It's all quite compelling.

  2005-03-27 18:35 Z
Want to know how many people are reading your blog from the hosted feed readers BlogLines, Yahoo, LiveJournal, NewsIsFree, and NewsGator Online? They're all kind enough to put some stats in their User-Agent string when they fetch your blog. I wrote some code to scrape the data out of Apache logs. Here, take it.
I had plans to do fancy graphs like I did awhile ago for BlogLines, but the data isn't very interesting. BlogLines blows everyone away with 290 readers. Pretty much no one reads my blog via Yahoo, LiveJournal, or NewsIsFree. NewsGator Online has about 30 readers.
Thanks to Marc for some info on this topic
  2005-03-26 23:28 Z
My new car yielded a nice surprise; Bluetooth phone support. Basically the car is one giant hands-free headset. I just step into the car with the phone in my pocket and I can make calls from the dashboard. It even synced up my phonebook. I feel like 1985 James Bond.

When I was at the Media Lab I used to mock Bluetooth. 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, they kept saying "cheap low power wireless is just on the horizon" and it never happened. But it finally happened. Bluetooth is to wireless what USB is to wired connections; simple, autoconfiguring device interaction. Now if I could just play music to my car stereo via a Bluetooth MP3 player and if I could get a Bluetooth camera to sync photos to my PC, I'd be set. Oh yeah, and I need wireless power.

  2005-03-23 16:45 Z
Now that the news is finally out, congratulations to both Flickr and Bloglines on being acquired! They are the best web startups I've seen in the last year. Great products, well executed, plugged into the blogosphere publicity engine without pandering to it. They both showed that a small company with the right people can build out a major service in a year. And if you believe the rumours, they built a lot of value quickly. I think it's interesting they chose to be acquired instead of going the venture capital route.

Two of the best talks at ETech were Stewart on Flickr and Mark on Bloglines. Both of them gave direct, honest descriptions of how they built their companies and what social and technical challenges they faced. Great information if you're of a mind to start your own business, along with Marc's VC funding for geeks.

  2005-03-22 16:24 Z
On the heels of ETech, Ken and I spent a few days in Santa Monica. Ken's a pilot so it's easy to pop up and down the west coast. Particularly around LA where the municipal airports are so convenient.

We stayed at the Fairmont Miramar, a nice big hotel. Too expensive for what it was, but you can't beat the location right next to the beach and the Third Street Promenade. Santa Monica in general is pretty nice. A bit scungy on the edges like all beach towns, but lots of mellow good feel and a compact enough center you don't really need a car.

We had a fantastic dinner at Michael's, one of Santa Monica's oldest top tier restaurants. Great service, good wine list, very nicely made food, and a comfortable outdoor patio. It was only about a third full on a Friday night, a bad sign, but the food was terrific. We also had a good dinner at Rocca, an achingly authentic upscale Italian place. I had beautiful tagliatelle with pheasant.

The ostensible reason to go to Santa Monica was to visit the Getty. It's a pretty amazing museum. Not so much for the collection on display, which I found sort of pedestrian except for the impressionists. But the architecture is fantastic. Brand new, luminous yellow limestone, views from every angle and a huge complex. Also very friendly. Well worth a visit. If you drive, do yourself a favour and stay off 405; take Sunset Blvd instead.

See also some Santa Monica photos.

  2005-03-21 01:56 Z
The phrase the long tail is now officially overexposed.
  2005-03-16 16:52 Z
I'm a sucker. I show up for my flight an hour and a half early, as ordered, even if the flight is only an hour and I know that SJC security takes three minutes. But I'm on my way to ETech, and I've got a beer and wireless, so life is good.

The wireless is $7 at San Jose airport. Someone should really fund this for free, you know? Still, cheaper than the "special juror rate" of $9 that the San Francisco courthouse tries to press on its citizen-juror-volunteers. And it's money well spent.

I love how airport bathrooms are designed so you never have to touch a surface.

  2005-03-15 00:48 Z
The fooferall around AIM's recent change in terms of service reminds me how the cypherpunks movement has failed. Email is still not encrypted.

It's been at least twelve years since the gauntlet was thrown down. Untrusted networks and servers gives individuals the need to protect their privacy. Cryptography gives us the means. And yet despite the efforts of projects like PGP/GPG email is still unencrypted. Ashcroft knows who all is reading your email.

The problem is the cryptonerds have always focussed too hard on getting things exactly correct at the expense of usability. A big part of the problem is key exchange. PGP deliberately exposes the details of key exchange. This protects you against man in the middle attacks, but at the cost of no one ever using PGP. Contrast to Trillian or Skype which gloss over key exchange niceties. You may be vulnerable to a man in the middle attack, but on the other hand at least you're using some crypto.

I think the thing that will force an email crypto solution is spam. Authenticated senders are strong spam protection. Once you have the infrastructure for authentication the encryption is easy. But that infrastructure is going to be too centralized for my tastes.

  2005-03-13 23:49 Z
Car buying is a crazy process. The salesmen are unpleasant, the negotiation process is at best shady, you can't get the car you want, and a lot of money is involved. Why isn't buying cars more like buying groceries, clothes, or consumer electronics?

This is the third car I've bought and this time I used a broker: Hammer Auto. I was going to buy direct from the dealer but the salesman didn't seem particularly interested in helping me find what I want. So I called the broker, paid them a fee of a few hundred bucks, and let them find me a car and negotiate a price.

I ended up with the car I wanted at a better price than I would have gotten myself, even got a better deal on the trade-in than I hoped for. But the best thing was the convenience. No strong-arm negotiation tactics, no bait and switch, no "let me talk to my manager" crap. There was a bit of weirdness with the broker, but in the end I think it was all an honest mistake. Basically the broker's working for you, not the car company. It's a good thing.

  2005-03-10 01:53 Z
The APC Back-UPS ES 500 is good hardware. It's a $60 uninterruptible power supply, quick battery backup for when the power dips or dies. Think of it like a better surge protector, good when you're in a neighbourhood with flaky power.

The battery is small. I've plugged in way more than I probably should, so I only get two minutes of battery life. But that's about one minute and fifty-five seconds more than I really need. It's nice to have the "smart" UPS: plug the USB cable into your Windows or Linux box and you get a log of outages, automatic shutdown on power failure, etc For Linux, you need apcupsd to do the work.

APC makes a huge variety of UPS products from these cheapo power strips to megawatt scale datacenter power units. The ES line is nice for home use because of the power strip form factor. If I were buying another one, I'd pay the extra $20 for the beefier battery in the ES 725.

  2005-03-06 02:14 Z