Monthly Archives: April 2007

Single Handed Typing with the Frogpad

With my left hand pretty useless at the moment, I decided to try out some one handed typing with my father-in-law’s Frogpad keyboard. After a little trouble getting the bluetooth part on the air with my Macbook, I was off and running.

As you might expect, retraining your brain to use just 20 keys when you’re used to 100+ keys is a challenge. But, it does felt strangely natural, due to the highly optimized layout. It’s taken me about 15 minutes to type this much; but I’m already getting appreciably smoother.

I’m trying desperately to keep my eyes on the paper cheat sheet that I printed out, rather than concentrating on the keyboard itself. Suddenly, I’m having flashbacks to my 11th grade typing class. Oh, the fond memories of Mr. Gaeta breaking a yardstick over the typewriter of another student who couldn’t keep their eyes off their hands.

Ack, that’s enough torture for now!

San Francisco Deja Vu

Was catching up on digg, and spotted this little post: unfortunate placement of yahoo ad. Har dee har, nerd humor (404 is the error code for a web page not found, for the non-techies out there.)

The image was hosted on flickr. The previous picture in the set caught my eye. Hmm, that looks like AT&T Park. Huh, I was just there! Wait a second, the photo was uploaded was 4/19. I wonder if they took the picture the same night… The was the same night I walked around the park taking my own pictures.  Spooky.

Scrolling back a little further in the other guy’s photostream, I can they were also at the Web 2.0 Expo. What are the odds?

Web 2.0 Expo 2007: Day 1

Web 2.0 Expo LogoHmm, figure that I really gotta start typing out my notes from the conference before I forget all the good details. So, here’s the blow by blow:

Monday, April 16th

Securing and Optimizing Web 2.0 Application Delivery

This was basically just big case study for using Citrix’s NetScaler content delivery controllers. The main point was the efficiency gained from rolling load balancing, SSL acceleration, and compression operations into a single appliance with provisions for scalability and reliability.

The company being examined was Foldera, a shared document library, which just came out of beta recently.

Building Web 2.0: Next-Generation Platforms

Concept: content scarcity. Data is being sourced from many independent (possibly small) providers. Examples: Joost and Bit Torrent.

Concept: parametric application development systems. Systems where end users have significant opportunities for customization via online interfaces or proprietary languages. Examples: Salesforce Apex and CogHead.

Challenges for parametric application development systems:

  1. Large Hardware Investment
  2. Dynamic Resource Allocation. Automatically provision infrastructure as application demand increases.
  3. Resource Equalization. Balancing I/O speed versus capacity, etc.
  4. New Application Model: 100% Automation. Restart, reimage, replace with minimal intervention.
  5. End of Gold Plated Server Room. Less big iron specialized servers, more commodity boxes.

Concept: data center abstraction. data centers are currently tuned to a specific purpose- going forward they will be more generic storage and message queuing systems.

Quote: “The most successful companies rely on others to run their data centers.”

Vulnerabilities 2.0 in Web 2.0: Next Generation Web Apps from a Hacker’s Perspective

Slides Available Here

This was the most well attended talk I sat in on. At first, I thought it was just gonna be big plug for the speaker’s company (iSec Partners), but after giving his background he zipped right into some good content, including an evolution attacks from parameter manipulation to cross-site scripting (XSS) to cross-site request forgery (CSRF).

Some attacks from the past are resurfacing again with Ajax. XSS checking needs to be done at more levels (dynamically generated arguments, in JSON data, etc.) He picked on Google Maps for a while because their Ajax style passes javascript functions back as data that are directly eval’d in the browser.

CSRF is a pretty ugly new attack style. It plays on open sessions. Say you log on to your online banking site and it uses a cookie to keep track your session. Say you leave the bank’s site without logging off. You happen across a malicious site with an Iframe that points to the bill pay form on your site. After the page loads in the Iframe, the form is autosubmitted by javascript with no user interaction or feedback. Yuck!

Random Site Mentioned: Redfin– a interesting real estate mapping mashup.

The Arrival of Web 2.0: The State of the Union on Browser Technology

Quote: “Web browsers have evolved from a life support system for plug-ins and helpers to a legitimate application development platform.”

Concepts:

  • Multiple Application Robustness- ideally multiple Ajax applications running concurrently in a single browser instance (ie, in tabs) should not interfere with each other. Similarly, multiple javascript frameworks should work concurrently in one document without causing problems.
  • Better Data and Code Integrity- coming in newer versions of Javascript.
  • Mozilla Firefox- recently made major improvements in Javascript memory handling, vastly increasing Ajax application stability.
  • Ajax Adoption Growing Rapidly- primary motivation is that the standard desktop release cycle is too slow.
  • SOAP- never got good traction because it was hard to use. Mashups are stepping up as a replacement in some cases because they are significantly easier to implement.

Keynotes

The keynote presentations were held in large hall were all the conference attendees (and some additional press folks) assembled en mass (I think somebody said there 3500 people there.) Production values were pretty good; decent sound system and tons of huge projection screens. Not a bad seat in the house.

Conference Welcome

Hello, and welcome to the conference… blah blah blah.

A Conversation with Jeff Bezos

Full text and audio available here.

Jeff Bezos is the Founder and CEO of Amazon. He talked about Amazon Web Services, which consist of:

  • Simple Queue Service (aka SQS) – I think I heard the name previously but didn’t really know what it was good for. After hearing more about S3 and EC2, its more obvious that the queue is used move data between your applications and within the Amazon Web Services.
  • Simple Storage Solution (aka S3) – Storage in the cloud. I’d heard of this previously and have been thinking about using it for backups myself.
  • Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – Computing capacity on demand. Using their vast network, they provide dynamically scalable virtual servers. You provide your own os images and configure performance characteristics and they add and remove servers automatically.
  • Mechanical Turk – a framework for outsourcing and monetizing human tasks. Jeff mentioned that is was recently used to have thousands of people examine satellite pictures of the Pacific Ocean near Baja California to find boat lost a sea.

Built to Last or Built to Sell: Is There a Difference?

The basic idea was trying figure out whether there’s a difference between building out a start up with the intent to keep running or for the specific intent to sell out. After circling around with some not so relevant lines of questioning, I think they ended up with the obvious conclusion that there isn’t really a difference.

High Order Bit: Introducing Apollo

Apollo, is Adobe’s new (cross platform: Windows/OSX now, Linux later, after 1.0 is out) framework building desktop applications using web based technologies (HTML, CSS, Flash, Ajax, etc.) They didn’t really go into any technology specifics, but showed a few token demos (a presentation tool, an a standalone Ebay interface with offline capability, and some others).

I wasn’t really wowed by what I saw; nothing that shouldn’t’ve be done in straight up in a browser. Agree with Jay’s comment from the last developer meeting that it might be more interesting if the Apollo runtime gets applications out of the browser sandbox (like being able read/write local files.)

New for Adobe is the fact that both the Apollo runtime and the SDK are free. I’m guessing that the technology will be XML based as they say you won’t need another IDE to build Apollo applications.

In my conference goodie bag, there was an Apollo Developer Preview CD. I haven’t had a chance to play around with it yet.

Launch Pad

Launch pad talks are short, five minute presentations complete with a buzzer when time is up. Folks used them to plug new products, services, books, and technologies. Here were the 3 from this keynote:

  1. inpowr
    A kinda new-agey approach to personal well being. A little too touchy feely for me.
  2. Webex Connect
    Webex’s answer to Salesforce Appexchange. Build and sell custom applications that piggyback on top of the Webex client.
  3. Spock
    A new search engine with a focus on people. Hard to describe, but very cool. Here’s screencast.

At the end, the audience can vote other favorite talk using SMS. They were supposed to be able to show the voting results in realtime, but ran into some technical difficulties. I think I heard the next day that Webex Connect took the trophy.

Web 2.0 Expo

After sitting around talks all day, have admit I wasn’t really into the mob scene at the expo. It was a crazy scramble for all the conference folks trying to vacuum up all the freebies. I got my Web 2.0 Expo shirt and some desk trinkets and that was about it. Some interesting observations:

  • The Microsoft Booth was pretty low rent. No custom furniture or even graphics. Hand outs were photocopies. Equally strange was the booth for tellme (a recent Microsoft acquisition, more on them next update). It looked like a little park with an English phone booth, but no staffers.
  • Google booth was cool. Google spelled out in 8 foot high letters. Not much going on there though.
  • Nokia had the most hands on booth. They had a ton new phones out that could mess around with. I was pretty impressed with the n800. Its basically an iPhone, but has a lot more hack potential with its Linux based operating system.
  • I checked out a few other new technology booths, like Vidoop and Kapow that were pretty interesting. These guys will be described further in my write-ups for talks on the following days.

Phew, that was just day 1!

De-cyst-ed…

My Fancy CastYesterday, I had a ganglion cyst removed from my left wrist. The picture the Wikipedia article was the spitting image of mine a few months ago; mine grew quite a bit bigger.

The procedure wasn’t nearly as nerve wracking as my hernia operation last year. I’m happy to report I didn’t almost pass out in the surgery center this time. The only part that was slightly uncomfortable was getting the IV started.

Sandy came in to wait with me prior to actual procedure. She especially enjoyed talking to the anesthesiologist and telling him about her love of buttons. He proceeded to give her a tutorial on who use the manual bed positioning controls. Up and down I went for ten minutes as she perfected her new skills.

A few minutes later they wheeled me into the OR. Man, they weren’t kidding about it being cold in there. I was pretty happy to have them throw another blanket on me. They put an oxygen tube under my nose squirted something into my IV tube and that’s all I remember pre-op.

I remember I bit of the ride out of the OR into stage 1 recovery. I pried my eyes open to someone asking me how I felt. I said pretty good and that I’d like sleep more and giggled a bit. A few minutes later, they took off the oxygen and wheeled me into recovery stage 2.

I was pretty much awake at that point and eagerly awaiting some toast and diet coke (as I hadn’t had anything to eat since dinner the night prior.) I took it kinda slow, because they warned that anesthesia can still make your stomach a little wonky. A few bites and sips later I was reasonable sure I was OK.

With my arm still a little numb from the local anesthetic, I didn’t pay much attention to my new 10 day fashion accessory. They gave a prescription for some pain pills, but said I’d probably be better served keeping the hand elevated above my heart for the first few days and using ibuprofin if it flared up. That’s been working well enough for the first 24 hours so I’m gonna stick to that plan.

I didn’t think the cast was gonna be as big as it turned out to be. Didn’t take long for shoulder to start getting annoyed about keeping the weight of the cast up. It doesn’t really hurt much on its own, but when I do some finger exercise to keep things from getting stiff, I get some soreness in the area.

I think I’ll survive, but next Friday (when they take the cast off) probably won’t arrive a minute too soon. Typing single hand driving me nuts already.

San Francisco Trip Pix

Finally got around to putting pictures from my recent trip to San Fran for the Web 2.0 Expo (full report on that coming soon) up on flickr. Have at ’em:

I’ll be adding some descriptions and geo tags over the next few days. Comments appreciated (you can add your comments right in flickr or here in the blog.)

I also upgraded my flickr account to pro. So, now you can see all the pictures I’ve ever posted, rather than just the last 200. I thought it was pretty much needed at this point since the two sets above comprise over 170 pictures!

Arrested!

Got a call from the local MDA office saying that they would like to arrest me to help raise some funds for their 2007 Lock-Up program. I said, sure, why not. So, they slapped a $1200 bail figure on me and said they’d be in to arrest me at work on May 15th.

Please give me hand and help bail me out. I set up a microsite (with an easy to remember URL) here:

http://getmeout.jasoncrowther.com

with more information about the program and a link to my donation page.

Jerry’s Kids count on your support. Please donate whatever you can. Its really easy and will only take a minute. Every little bit helps!

q1 2007 Running Update

Here we go again…

Yeah, pretty uninspiring title, I know. Hopefully, the content will be a little better. The main goals for the start of the year were to try to stick to the weights to keep the non-running related muscles in check and to start getting my average pace down a bit.

Pump It Up

In respect to the weights goal, I’ve been doing pretty OK. I’ve been able to run the circuit twice most weeks. I have a hard time getting motivated about weights. I think its a toss up between getting a little less stress relief and the fact that weights are more challenging. Most of the time, I can complete a daily running session without much trouble. With weights, on the other hand, there are days where I can barely get through a single set on some machines.

I like the routine of running the gamut of machines not concentrating on any particular area (otherwise known as a whole body work out, I guess). But, I think the benefits seem to be coming very slowly in my problem areas (chest and gut). Most of the other folks that at the alternate between different muscle groups daily. I’m not sure how well that would work with my two day a week plan. Have to do a little experimentation in that area, I guess.

Run Like Hell?

In terms of the other goal of speeding things up, I’m pretty pleased with some significant progress. The plan was to start working in some sprints in the mix. I started easy enough by sprinkling in some random quarter miles at about 75% of max speed. Based on my bodies previous experience (only sprinting the last bit of races), it was challenging to figure out how to slow down to a normal pace rather than stopping.

After the first few runs with the new sprints, I was starting to feel more comfortable with both the speed sections and the rests in between. So, I started working in fast sections are regular intervals; a quarter every mile, a half every other mile, etc. I kept the opening and closing miles of my daily 7 at regular pace.

Little by little, I worked my way up to speeding half each mile. Wow, I didn’t think I had that kinda of speed in me. I did notice that while I’m pretty comfortable during the run, it uses a lot more energy. I really feel it later in the day. On a whim, I tried sprinting on and off every quarter. At first, I thought it would be around the same as alternating halves, but it turns out to be a lot faster, because you don’t have as much time to slow down in during the breaks.

By the Numbers

What would a running update be without pretty charts?

Distance Vs. Date

Distance Vs. Time

Nothing too interesting. Mostly daily sevens, a few 10s on Saturdays, a few nice outdoor 7.5s, oddball 5.7s from Mountain Goat training runs. The oddball is the 4 miler on 2/9; right knee was super duper sore. Sore enough to bag out on the Chilly Chili the next day (which I had already registered for, doh!)

Weight Vs. Date

Weight Vs. Date

Hmm, the weight part ain’t going so great. I don’t think I’ve been eating any more than usual or working out any less, but the pounds have crept up just a little bit. I think its something stress related. I’m not too worried about it yet, hopefully things will begin to even out again.

Pace Vs. Date

Pace Vs. Date

Now, a chart with a little good progress in it. The downward trend is very welcome; but, I’m even happier to see that things are staying below the 8 minute mark (even with some of the long runs included!)

I think this is the first time I’ve hit the ground running (pun intended) coming out of winter and not like I’m starting from square one again. I’m not sure if it was more consistency in work outs in the off season, or the lure of some decent spring race results that seemed to make me a little more motivated than I’ve been in the past.

Wrapping It Up

I’m basically pretty happy with where things are at. There were a few times when a work out got put on hold and ended up not making up the time; I feel kinda guilty about those, but have to realize that sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

What’s On Tap?

After a long stretch of major mileage indoors, I’m looking forward to more miles out of doors as the weather improves. I’ve already been teased out a few times after work and for the chilly Mountain Goat training runs.

Next week 1st Marathon training starts. I’m pretty excited about that. Unfortunately, its gonna be a bit of a rocky start. I’ll be heading out of town for week for a conference, and right when I get back I’m having a little surgery (not running related, thankfully!) that will probably keep me off the road for another couple of weeks.

Also sacrificed by the surgery will be the Mountain Goat. Man, that’s gonna hurt. After missing it last year due to the hernia, and hitting up the first few training runs already, I was really looking forward to the hills again. Hopefully, I’ll be back together for the other May races (Race for the Cure, Hall of Fame Half Marathon, F’ville 10K). Keeping fingers crossed!

I Just Wanna Watch TV (part 34) ???

Eh? So, I’ve got the new TV and the old tube is long gone, right? Yep, that hasn’t changed. Thankfully, the new TV has been working like a champ.

But, the other day, this showed up in my mail slot:

Best Buy Envelope

Hmm, I did get the extended warranty on the new TV, but they shouldn’t have any reason to be bugging me now.

So, I tear into the envelope… wait for it…

Extended Warranty Renewal Form

Yep, you guessed it. Its a renewal form for the extended warranty plan on the old TV. Just to catch you up (if you’re joining the saga just now…) this TV was returned to Best Buy (who mostly likely wheeled it straight off to a landfill) after a few months wrangling with the extended warranty folks.

A couple of interesting things to note. Why is the brand Sony Computer A? Kinda strange for a TV. The extended warranty provider is no longer NEW, but AIGWG (still can’t find a website specifically for them) who provides the services I hope I’ll never need on the new TV.

After a few giggles and running the correspondence through the scanner for the caps above, I laughed manically as I shoved all the papers into my cross cut shredder.