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April 22, 2004

Censorship and fear

Wow. I first heard about this on Air America, but it's atrocious.

Yes, she broke the "rules". But she wasn't even a journalist, and it's not clear that such policies are realistic. But, then, I have a real beef with the way information rights (like the semi-implicit one that "if I see something, I can show others that, unless I had already promised not to") are bleeding away these days. How long until I get a notice from Coke for having a funny picture with a Mt. Dew in it on my website (link not included, and it's not even easy to find...)

Give me a break. Not another free-speech zone.

Gadget Guy teaser

Without much further ado, I give you the Gadget Guy teaser, featuring G^3 (Gadget Guy's Girlfriend)... or, at least, that's what we're calling her character for now.


(More site nav, character bios, and background on the project to be added soon)

April 18, 2004

Gmail "archive = delete" followups

Sounds like I need to better defend my position that "archive" = "delete" on Gmail.

First of all, the full translation of what I meant to say, but was apparently not getting across:

"archive" on Gmail is the same as "delete" on pre-Gmail e-mail systems.

At least, that's how it is for me. I've got nearly every message I've received in my personal e-mail since the fall of 1996. A simple procmail rule has created a monthly backup of inbound mail through my Linux server ever since I discovered I could. Even in 1996, disk space was so cheap that it didn't make sense to throw mail away. This has saved my butt dozens of times, when finding proof that someone made a promise, serial numbers of web-registered software, or just, generally, e-mail that I deleted.

The workflow was simple. My inbox was mail that I still cared to read, or remember I had to react to. A sort of todo-list of active discussions and items. When I was done with something, I deleted it from my inbox, totally assured that I still had a copy of it in my backup folders. If the message clung to some sort of theme or contact thread (in my case, groups by friend/family/work, and subgroups for each meme or person, depending on how general the discussion was), then I'd file the messages appropriately instead of deleting them. One of my coworkers has nearly every message she's received in 3.5 years of working here in her Inbox, for the opposite reason. If she deletes something, she might not be able to find it when she needs it. I just choose to use the "out of sight, out of mind" approach. She uses search a lot more than I do, I suspect.

(For those comparing how useful Gmail will be, my mail archives currently occupy 1428megs of disk space, of which 812 is the inbound stuff, and 6 are sent mail. Or, in other words, I'd have about 818megs of my Gmail account in use, had I gotten it in 1996. So, I expect Gmail will have a 8-15 year lifetime for me, at its current offered capacity).

Alright, so, why'd I say "archive"="delete"? 'cause that's what I do right now, and that's exactly the translation that is happening as I use Gmail more and more. When I'm through with a Gmail conversation, I hit "archive", just like the handy little gmail getting started guide tells you to. It just so happens, and the reason I was commenting, was that the "y" key, an apparently overloaded "archive/remove label" key, does exactly this, modulo the ability to apply several labels to a message. In effect, it does exactly the same thing as delete does on my current folders, assuming I ever copied a message to multiple folders, instead of moving it to one specific one.

So, yes, "archive"="delete". Gmail doesn't want you to ever delete a message, so you're supposed to shift your mindset to "archiving" mail that you want out of your attention threshold. If I'm in a label's conversation list, probably populated mostly by a Gmail filter, and I hit "y" while reading a conversation, it gets "deleted". Just like my existing e-mail system, it's not gone, merely forgotten. That's the way Gmail's designers assume you're going to use it, and that's exactly my point.

I've been using an inferior pre-pre-beta of a Gmail system for 8 years, and I have to retrain myself to use the beta release.

April 17, 2004

On car shopping and environmentalism...

Mostly a musing, but perhaps someone out there will read this and offer some commentary...

I greatly approve of the effort to reduce the emissions of cars, and to reduce their impact on the environment. And I agree that cars like the Prius would seem to go a long way that way..... but, there's something missing. What's the total affect of a Prius on the environment? It has to be built, right? Assuming most things are equal, the Prius and another mid-to-small sedan are going to cost about the same to the environment, right?

But wait, the Prius has an extra motor, some more complicated electronics, and a huge battery array which, though perhaps very sturdy, will eventually need to be replaced. And, before you argue that everything is recyclable, realize that I'm talking about total effect on the environment - if it was perfectly recyclable, but required 3 tankers full of oil to be burned to build, then there's still a net loss on the environment.

If you're going to get a new car, I'm pretty sure there's some sort of environmental advantage to the Prius. But, as we've recently seen, even small devices like computers can have an effect on the environment, perhaps we should wear-out our old cars first? What's the tradeoff in fossil fuels?

(Anyone have the link to the website a few of us saw a year or so ago that estimates how many acres of land the earth needs to support your individual lifestyle?)

April 14, 2004

Gmail thoughts...

Thanks to Jason Shellen's little Gmail article, that kwc pointed me to, I now have a gmail account of my very own.

The requisite comments:

  • Yeah, it's pretty darn fast. And keyboard shortcuts, though they're taking a bit of getting used to, will really make this service roll. I kind of wish they'd adopt a reliable set of keys (perhaps [ and ]) that scrolls between items in the current view (currently: j,k scroll message lists, n,p items within a conversation)

  • Archive really means delete... just don't stick it in the actual trash, in going with Google's approach of having your mail always searchable. If you archive something while reading from a "label" view, it gets its label stripped. This makes sense, now that I think of it, but took me by surprise. We'll see how that goes... I forwarded my last ~1 month of mail, both incoming and outgoing (how else to see conversations in their full form?), and I've already used up 9Mb. Let's just hope they decide to sell more space, if this ends up working out.

  • Minor quibble: I used bounce on Pine to move the old mail to gmail to have some stuff in place. Gmail, I guess since it focuses on conversations, records the date of a conversation as the date that something was last added to it. This means that, for all of the mail I bounced over that way, the dates are various times today. Once you open a conversation, it does display the correct date for each message, however.

Things that are missing: * Some way to combine/split conversations. This can never really be done totally automatically... someone replies to an old e-mail about a new thing, or changes too much of the message and it doesn't get globbed in correctly. It's probably a power-user feature, but it's going to drive me nuts if they don't put it in.

  • Multiple addresses recognized as one person, and the ability to search based on a person, rather than an e-mail address.

  • Safari support (who needs a nifty spell check, when you can just spell-check-as-you-go)

  • "Conversations" are cool... they definitely open quickly, and the system often catches when text has been quoted in subsequent messages and hides it by default. This is much better than the way my current preferred mail client, Apple's Mail.app groups things together in "threads". Same idea, just a little better in Gmail... if only because in Apple's Mail you have to consciously set it to browse Sent-Mail in addition to whichever mailbox you're browsing. Otherwise you don't see your side of the thread.

UPDATE: See the comments for some discussion of "Archive": it appears kwc and I were actually talking about different things. I was using the "y" keyboard shortcut, which does, in fact, act as I described (stripping the current label from a message, when in a Label view). kwc was comparing to the actions of the UI when choosing to perform an "Archive" operation.... which does just strip "Inbox" from a message that was still there.

Either this is a bug in the implementation of the "y" key, or it's mislabelled. I like it this way, though, so hopefully it will stay. Now, if only there were a keyboard-based way of applying labels. sigh

April 13, 2004

Wide-scale BSE testing not even allowed?

For all those who know I'm not eating beef right now because of the BSE controversy, you should know that something fishy is going on. According to this NYT article, a beef producer which wants to export its beef to Japan, can't, because the Department of Agriculture decided it "implies a consumer safety aspect that is not scientifically warranted." And, yeah, there's a law which stipulates that the Department of Agriculture can decide these things - to prevent producers from doing more than they're required.

Sheesh. Yeah, this is pretty scary. The beef lobby is definitely in control here...

Via Joi Ito via Plastic

April 08, 2004

Car shopping with my sister...

So, lately I've been car shopping with my sister. She's looking to replace her old car with a newer, safer, more fuel-efficient model. To that end, she's identified the following new car models of interest:

  • Toyota Prius

    Drives like a post-modern vehicle. There's not even an ignition anymore, just a "power" button. Very quiet. Fun in-dash touchscreen LCD (touchscreen? Why?) which shows things like power distribution, or a continuously updated histogram of efficiency for the last several periods of time. The newly re-styled 2004 has a huge hatch-back window, and a teensy little rear window. This is probably fine over time, but seems a little weird.

  • Honda Civic Hybrid

    Nice, drives just like a Civic, which I consider a very good car, if on the more modest-end. Consumer Reports always agrees. With the hybrid, you lose the ability to recline the rear seats, and there's a "hump" in the trunk for the batteries. It's a pretty solid car if you want one now, need a hybrid for the emotional or environmental benefit, etc. The analog-like "miles per gallon" display would probably help you train yourself to drive more mileage-efficiently. This is a feature missing on the Prius, but available on higher-end cars, like BMWs, that aren't even hybrids.

  • Honda IncyteInsight

    Dude, where's my car? Oh, sorry, that is actually the real reference. Well, the Incyte is tiny. Probably too tiny - it doesn't have much power, and it's really small inside. Putter-around-town kind of car, perhaps, but not of much wide use. I'd be afraid to get into an accident in it.... perhaps its very safe, but I'm skeptical.

  • Mazda 3/6

    The 3 is a re-labelled, updated version of the Protege/Protege5. I own a Protege from 2001, and the difference in drive/style is obvious. Consumer Reports still hasn't reviewed it for safety/reliability, but, assuming those look good, the Mazda3 looks like an awesome car. The Mazda6, which I guess is a replacement for the Mazda 626, is a pretty decent pseudo-midlife-crisis car, which still lets you fit in the family. A bit too cushy. I wouldn't want to own one of these if I was under 35.

  • Mini Cooper

    Very fun, and sporty. Pretty small, obviously, but it's also got tons of leg room, if you sacrifice the back seats. I can certainly see why it's popular. The biggest concern in my mind is how well it will hold up, and, given that its a boutique brand, how long (and, eventually, expensive) service on the thing will be available. If you're commuting a lot, or just only need a fun/status car, the mini would do an excellent job, and be a lot of fun to drive. Just not so good for hauling any serious volume of stuff, or driving to Tahoe.

  • Saturn Ion

    Cheap. Both in cost, but also in feel. And the sales guy was overselling the "easy sell" part of the Saturn buying process. But the care was pretty much ok. It's no wonder that most of their cars are sold to women, though.... it's not really very sporty.

  • VW Jetta/Bug

    I don't really know. The sales guy was a jerk. My sister and I arrived a few minutes after they closed, apparently. But, when we walked on the lot, we were told they were "open for a customer". That should have been the warning sign. Don't go to VW on Steven's Creek Blvd. More commentary if anyone wants to know, but it was absolutely completely unprofessional, and thoroughly frustrating. And we didn't get to test drive a thing...

That's it. Last I heard, my sister is probably going to get into the ~5month waiting list for the 2004 Prius. Anyone know a quicker way to get one?

Site URL reorganization

Thanks to ken's mentioning of this nice .htaccess trick, I finally got around to changing my old crappy URLs to these new much nicer ones. All your old links, were there any, should work fine. Well, at least until I write 10k blog posts or so. At my current rate, that's not much of a risk....

Oh, yeah, and I fixed the GadgetGuy icon too, to be a little less pink.

April 04, 2004

GadgetGuy - Poster Child of Geekdom.net

So, you may have noticed the new GadgetGuy banner at the top of the screen. This is an outgrowth of kwc mentioning last week that he'd found a comic character that looked just like meta. After asking him to let me know if he found any that looked like me, I mentioned it to J... who promptly drew up a character, "Gadget Guy". I guess the principle is he's what I'd be if I took my skills and tendencies to their natural conclusion... and became a superhero. :)

Anyway, it's gotten us both kind of inspired. Look for more fun stuff to come... we already have a teaser in progress. We'll see where this goes.

April 02, 2004

More personality testing....

Inspired by Meta....

I AM 45% GEEK!
45% GEEK
You probably work in computers, or a history deptartment at a college. You never really fit in with the "normal" crowd. But you have friends, and this is a good thing.
(I think they got geek confused with l337 h4ck0r...)
I could go either way. Deep into the madness of nights filled with coding CGI-Scripts and online role playing games, or I could become a normal user. Good luck!
(Fwew! Well, *that's* a relief!)