Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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Today, the public version

It was very very busy at work. Lots of stuff going on, most of it stuff I really did not want to have to deal with. Some of it fun. And some neutral.

The neutral stuff included closing some cases where the customer had never replied, adding some paperwork/email to other cases, and some computer housekeeping. Bittersweet (or maybe it was sweet and sour) was closing down my old crappy slow and stupid built-from spare-parts Linux server named "jarjar" which I had set up about a year ago to learn one of the company's new products so I could support it. The company was too cheap to give me one of their own machines, and kept commandeering the support group's server to do engineering work. They finally got me a real server dedicated to support, which is now in the lab running the latest release, so jarjar has been shut down, and is now in the closet of my apartment's computer room. I will frag the drives and probably sell the pieces on eBay. I definitely will put the case in the dumpster where it should have gone years ago.

Bad stuff included a server in LA going down again the same way it died yesterday, and not being able to do anything till the tech went on site and re-booted it. Also bad is I probably will have to do a lot of work configuring their #3 server to take over from the old dying #1 server as soon as #1 gets enough service to keep it online. Also got a page of notes from another tech who fielded a call from one of my customers who is asking things of support which he should be asking sales. I hate when that happens.

But the worst bad is the COO insisted that I attend a conference call and do Sales Engineering work for a customer that has some pre-released software and hardware on site which I effing told him I would not have anything to do with if he allowed it to be installed. During the meeting he tried to blame the head of the SE department whose idea it was in the first place to do this stupid thing, but COO is really to blame. I got roped into doing a lot of stuff I didn't want to be doing.

The fun stuff was around the new product - one of the engineers showed me how to unleash a hidden feature he calls the "flying donkey" (because you never see one until it's too late) which parses RSS feeds, and displays them on TV. I hacked it so it would show my Flickr feed on TV. And I hacked it some more so it gave me tech news headlines from CNN. I tried to add The Onion's daily feed, but it's broken on their site. Boo hiss.

Lunchtime was spent with localinactivist who never reads this journal, so I can probably say anything I want about him. But instead I'll be honest and say it's always a pleasure, and the food at Thai Basil also helped.

After work I headed up 101 to what used to be the Hell hole armpit of East Palo Alto, but is now a posh circle of high-end office buildings, with a high-end Four Seasons Hotel at its focus. I got there with half an hour to kill, and ducked into Quattro for a snack. Warm seafood salad for $20 was worth it, but only when you added in the superb service and the amusement factor of sitting at the next table from a bona fide food critic. The fawning by the staff was so grovelicious that the only thing which kept me from spurting wine out of my nose was the fact that I did not order wine.

The real reason I was there is two doors down the circle was the SiliconValley NewTech Meetup Group's sometimes monthly meeting. This is a group which gets together regularly to see demos of new technology and to network for jobs and funding.

The organizer of the meeting was a charming young man named Vincent Lauria, who was late because when he stopped off to buy beer for the meeting the store would not accept his ID. No, he doesn't look that young, though he might to an elderly clerk with macular degeneration and cataracts. Anyhow, Vinnie is soft-spoken, but was able to get our attention easily enough and ran the presentation part of the meeting like a pro - he kept it on time without ruffling anyone's feathers. The presenters did well, setup time was minimal and they all were adept at not letting the usual demo glitches bog them down. Here, in order, is what we saw:

SwapThing  is a web site for bartering. They charge a "nominal" transaction fee, and their UI is no frills and a little amateurish, but it looks like a good alternative to eBay for people who like to "take it in trade". I like thier sleazy motto, "My thing for your thing". It was on the well-endowed presenter lady's T-shirt. During the QA session I somehow resisted asking what she would swap for that T-shirt.

Mycroft, a thesis project by a pair of Berkeley students, is not really up and running yet, but there is a demo here. The concept is vague, to use the power of a distributed mass of people's trivia knowledge to answer questions. It's been done (SETI's screensaver is one example, Yahoo Answers is another).

The guy from Fabrik had two things to show us, one interesting to me and the other not so much. The interesting item was a web server box retailing as Maxtor Fusion which is small enough to hold in one hand, but looks very sturdy. 500GB of storage -- turnkey, ready to be your personal web server, for about $800. The not so interesting thing was another web photo storage service, called MyFabrik, which is pretty much like all the others except it also can archive your video and audio files. It's in beta now, and I gave the nice man my card to be a beta tester. Should be fun to  beat it up.

Next up was the Flock browser. It's based on Mozilla (aka Netscape, Firefox, etc.) but the idea is to have everything play in the browser instead of needing external programs or plug-ins. This is something all the browser companies have been trying to do, but they keep butting up against little things like patent rights and format differences and the fact that most people don't want their browser to be smarter than them. Flock's got Flickr and Photo-something (I forgot) as partners. You can download the beta and see for yourself. The nice man pointed me to two bookmark sites which I had heard about but not known what they were: del.icio.us and shadows.

Last and definitely least was PictureCloud, a site as tacky as its name. Back at the turn of the century, I worked for a company, now deceased, called bamboo.com which did the same thing, only better. Take a series of photos around an object and turn them into a 360° animation of said object. The main customers were real estate agencies, who would set a bamboo.com Nikon Coolpix on a rotating tripod in the center of the room, and have it shoot a series of photos which would then show you a rotatable image of the room. They were bought by IPIX, which sold that bit of the company to Homes.com, which is also deceased. They called them Virtual Tours. PictureCloud uses Flash instead of motion JPEG, and it's a lot faster and cheaper, but it also looks it.

Exciting day tomorrow - I go see my Blue Cross doctor for the first time. No evening plans, maybe I'll watch Last Holiday on DVD.  

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