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October 04, 2004

 
[X Prize Logo]47 years to the day after Sputnik, SpaceShipOne touches down in Mojave and wins the X-Prize. Though the prize is no longer in contention, others, such as the Da Vinci Project, plan to follow, making the dream of regular, cheap non-government spaceflight many more steps closer to reality.

To place what has happened today in context, the Mercury missions in the early 60s cost $1.5 billion in 1994 dollars. SpaceShipOne's flight, on the other hand, cost just under $25 million.

On the X-Prize webcast, I'm listening to Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X-Prize Foundation who's talking about how one spaceship is not enough, how real space travel will depend on having a fleet of ships, each with competing designs offer the public increasingly lower costs. Right on. In fact, to keep the spirit of competition in space alive, the Foundation is planning an annual spaceflight grand prix called the X-Prize Cup that should become to space vehicles what the F1 Grand Prix circuit is to automobiles.

 

September 15, 2004

 
Indiatimes doesn't quite get blogging yet. While it's great that they've been linking to several of their blogs off their heavily-visited home page, the blogs (quality-of-writing arguments aside) remain anonymous, with most having only a post or two. IMO this is the wrong way to boot a thriving weblog community. Here are some of the things I'd be thinking about if I was running O3.

First: encourage readers to identify -- anonymous weblogs are about as interesting as random Usenet posts. Many users may wish to remain pseudo-anonymous, this is perfectly okay if like Belle de Jour they make clear who they are and what they're writing about. Of course, many of Indiatimes' visitors are net neophytes and unfamiliar with online etiquette, but this problem is likely to go away with time. Second: comment spam is a huge turn-off to would-be bloggers, so help them understand how they can crack down on comment spam. For example, the user who wrote this post hasn't posted again yet -- not surprising given the virulent reaction and comment spam he got. Third: use a "quiet period" to let bloggers "find their voice" and actually fill up those pages with something, instead of linking first-post weblogs from the front page merely because they have catchy titles.

That said, I think it's great that larger numbers of Indian netizens are getting their feet wet with blogs. In a country whose citizens have been talked down to for far too long (by just about anyone with authority, including their elders and rulers) blogs provide an excellent way to reverse the flow.

 

September 14, 2004

 
Firefox's support for feeds via Live Bookmarks is great, but it's support for the RSS 2.0 spec is wobbly, to say the least. For example, as of now (version 1.0PR), feeds without a link subelement within item will not load, with a message "Live Bookmark feed failed to load" that's as unhelpful to the user as it is to the feed author who's trying to figure out what's going wrong.

This bug makes it impossible to use Firefox to subscribe to heavily-subscribed feeds like, for example, the Scripting News feed. The Firefox community really needs to expand their testcases for this feature if it's to not look half-assed when 1.0 ships for real.

 

September 07, 2004

 
Packetyzer is a Windows-based packet analyzer based on Ethereal that's much easier to use.

 

September 01, 2004

 
Speaking of of girlie men... Detail from a potrait of King Louis XIV, by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701.

 

August 24, 2004

 
I'm not a huge fan of Indiatimes, however now that they've added weblogs to the roster of services offered, I applaud their using the .Text engine. Dottext and Wordpress have to be the best weblog engines out there, for free or pay. This automatically means Indiatimes bloggers have a far better tool (and far better blogs) than, say, Rediffblogs. I wish Indiatimes would go easy on the advertising, though.

The quality of writing on Indiatimes' weblogs isn't anything worth writing home about, though -- barring a few good ones, most are faux stream-of-consciousness textstreams.

 

 
It's sad to see Scripting News turn into a soundbite site for the Kerry Campaign. Weblogs are supposed to wear their biases on their sleeves (and Dave has laid his biases bare: this election has one and only one issue for him: Anyone But Bush); however, it is interesting to see which way a weblog turns when there's a conflict of interest.

Regular readers of Scripting News know that the relationship between webloggers and journalists is a fairly regular topic here. Because of that, the silence on Scripting News about the Swiftvets and their (non-)coverage in the media was mystifying. Here was a story where the weblogs were getting all the action, and I for one expected Dave to point to it and rebutt it vociferously. However, the position on Scripting News was radio silence. Now, this could be simply a result of Dave having too much on his plate, however, given the things he is likely to write about I have to wonder if the silence was a result of a battle between his politics and his professional work (as a thought-leader in weblogging), a battle which his politics won.

A great counterpoint is Scoble's point about who you should point to: to be an authority on the operating system industry and to become an authority you must point to ALL stuff, not just that that's friendly. Substitute 'integrity' for 'authority' and 'politics' for 'operating system' and there's a point the guru of weblogging could himself take to heart.

 

 
Victor David Hanson:
So insular had [Europe's] utopians become under the aegis of NATO's subsidized protection that it was increasingly convinced that the ubiquitous United States was the world's rogue nation, the last impediment to a 35-hour work week, cradle-to-grave subsidies, and wind power the world over. [...]

But this is no parlor game any more. Islamic fascism, scary former Soviet republics, rogue Middle Eastern nuclear states, an ever more proud and muscular China thirsty for oil ? these and more specters are all out there and waiting, waiting, waiting...

Welcome back to the world, Europe.

 

August 23, 2004

 
Gmail Notifier is Google's official Windows-based Gmail biff tool. It's in beta, but works well for me.

 

 
For this year's US Presidential Election, the graph to watch is the Iowa Electronic Markets Winner-takes-all market prices graph. Interestingly, it's been running close to a dead heat these past two weeks. What does the market know that we don't? (For those interested, the IEM's 2000 Elections markets have some fascinating data as well.)

 


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