I Really Don’t Think Lessing of Him…

Nice little mention of Larry Lessig’s work and the impact of peer-to-peer in Mediapost today. Of course, they did get a few points wrong, like his name, as I quickly pointed out to them: “The author of “Free Culture” is Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Stanford Law School, not “Laurence Lessing”. A published review (Sept 04) of his book has just been made available on the web”. Enjoy the article by Jim Meskauskas, ignoring the typos – it could happen to anyone.

First You Shoot the Movie, then You Sell the Movie, and then You Eat!

Well, there must be something in consumer-generated content after all. Brightcove, founded by former Macromedia CTO Jeremy Allaire, says they want to sell your movies (cartoons, shorts, jibjab imitations) on the Internet. “We don’t expect to see any significant Hollywood content” in the relatively near future. Our expectation is to not allow pornography”. “Expectations”? Don’t know what that quite means. But if you provide the movie, they’ll provide the site.

As Michael Kanellos of Cnet notes, “Is there a market for obscure content? While people differ in their opinions on that subject, Allaire asserts that at least there is a huge quantity of it…Brightcove’s presentation was one of the more crowded ones at the conference and drew, among others, Mitchell Kertzman of Hummer Winblad Ventures and Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.” Do you smell money yet?

Oh, Goodie! Another Academic on 386BSD…

Another paper handed to me, this one on “open source governance” (isn’t that a bit of a oxymoron?), with the usual “Isn’t this wrong about ?” attached to the email. With the John Adams philosophy that “facts are stubborn things” firmly in place, I perused it, leaving errors outside of for others to find.

Oh, boy. I found it to contain serious inaccuracies with respect to the history of – which is absolutely amazing for an academic paper since was extensively written about in one of the lead trade magazines of the time – Dr. Dobbs Journal – in a 17-part series Porting Unix to the 386 documenting it’s evolution, and also distributed through the magazine, and had multiple releases via the net per standard Berkeley Software Distribution methods. So it’s not as if one can’t find lots of source material from the authors. But this paper is riddled with errors with respect to release governance, intentions and motivations, and control – and that pretty much covers everything in “governance”, doesn’t it? So here’s the real story…

It’s a Camera! It’s a Phone! So Get Your Mouth Out of My Eye!

Cellphones with embedded cameras sound really neat to most people, just like combo fax/printer/copier/PCs. Since we already are tethered to the electronic beasties, why not carry one with a camera – then you can take pics while you chat?

The problem, like super-combo devices, is that you get something at the cost of another item – in this case picture quality, much less video quality. So while people are buying them in droves, Kodak CEO Dan Carp (yes, that’s his name) worries that people will find them too unusable – “Today, camera phones are imaging-capable but photographically disabled”, according to Ben Charny of Cnet.

Fun Friday: What If We Built an Operating System, and Nobody Came?

Well, Red Hat put lots of time and money into creating a professional developer version of Linux, put it on the market at $2,500 per “computer”, and in two weeks a clone of it called CentOS done by a squad of open source developers was put on the net for free. It’s hard to compete with “free”.

According to Stephen Shankland of Cnet “It’s clear, however, that many Red Hat clone users aren’t likely to embrace the original anytime soon. ‘I don’t pay for Linux, and I have absolutely no need for a Red Hat-style subscription (for) support,’ said Collins Richey, a Denver Linux enthusiast who uses CentOS on his personal computers to keep them compatible with work machines. ‘I’m considering recommending CentOS for limited use as a trial project…at work’.”

Red Hat tries to put a positive spin on it, saying “If they try versions that are not supported or supported inadequately, they will get a hint of the value propositions that are available for Linux and ultimately turn to a company that can support their businesses,” (Leigh Day, Red Hat spokeswoman). Some most assuredly will. But if my bit of experience in this area is any indicator, I believe that customers will wait until it is hacked, cudgeled, and otherwise moulded until it becomes good enough to be supported in-house. And still remains free. It may not be profitable to Red Hat, but it is “free enterprise” at its finest.

No, Photoshop is Not “real life”, Dave

Dave Pogue today reviews the Bushnell binoculars, and just can’t figure out why they’re so blurry. So I told him “it’s obvious”. Here’s why for the rest of you…:
1. They didn’t bother to adjust the focal plane focus of the sensor to coincide with the same focal point of the binocular eyepiece (e.g. a mfr defect).
2. To confirm this, adjust the binoculars slightly out of focus and take shots – I bet you’ll find that it gets better if it is not fixed focus.
3. If it doesn’t change at all, that means they have a fixed focus, and that the focus is set wrong. This is not adjustable by the user easily, but if you disassemble the binoculars and adjust the focus manually, you’d correct this problem.

But wait – there’s more. I have a long list of errata on digital cameras, most recently the Canon SD200-300 on-camera editing issues, for example, discovered by us at ExecProducer over the course of handling production issues. So I’m quite familiar with these and other annoying issues (light level problems, for example, and resolution issues) and how to find the best way of handling them. So another nit with Dave is a very basic one – using photoshop is not “real life”, as anyone in serious astrophotography will tell you.

If You Can’t Beat Em, Eat Em

Ah, in the “tanked” market of consumer video edit software, sometimes a meal is the better part of valour. So Avid Technology a maker of high-end video editing systems is buying low-end rival Pinnacle Systems Inc. for $462 million. Actually, it’s more a stock trade (I’ll give you part of mine for one of yours). Why did Avid do this? They have quite a blue-chip clientele, but Pinnacle and others are making inroads on the cheap, nibbling at their bottom end. So think of Pinnacle as protection for the soft underbelly of expensive custom video editing. No, it usually doesn’t work, but you gotta do something, right?

Women in the Newroom, Women in the Schoolroom, Where Will It all End?

Enjoyed Pati Poblete’s article today “Personal Perspective: Whither the Woman’s Viewpoint?” in the SF Chronicle. It is so true that getting up into management and calling the shots on a news story is rarely a woman’s choice. But this is also true, actually much worse, in industry trade press like the computer industry. It’s hard to have the dual tech and writers credentials, and keep them current given the levels of stress (work, family, finances) and demands of the business post-bubble. But, as the they said during the Blitz, “We’ll muddle through somehow”.

I also was asked today privately about an academic’s work who happens to also be a woman married to another technologist who does similiar work. The question in a nutshell was “Should she be considered part of his work, or is her work separate”?

Kind of an odd question, isn’t it? After all, I haven’t had anyone connected to me except for those nine-months (thrice) when I was pregnant. Amazingly enough, ever since my kids were born they have not been connected to me, let alone my husband. So assuming that a woman, just by marriage, must somehow be “part” of her husband’s work instead of a “co-worker” is really quite bizarre. But of course, this question is interlinked with Harvard, and we all know what’s been going on there. But if everyone is “enlightened” and “talking about it”, why does this question keep coming up? Perhaps it’s simply lack of disciplined thinking… so let’s practice a bit, shall we?

Dump the Java, Brush Up On Your Python -or- You Mean Cover Girl Doesn’t Work for HDTV?

Two amusing little items in media today. The first is a definite win for python (and like, why use Java?). DVD Jon has put together a little python script which intercepts the music file before they’re encapsulated in Apple’s DRM. What’s that mean? That means you still pay for the tune, but you now have the raw file, which means you can play it elsewhere… Of course, Apple’s service agreement doesn’t let you intercept the song and bypass their device protections, so perhaps this little script is moot. But I couldn’t help thinking “Look how far python has progressed”. We use it in-house, and personally I think it’s a lot better than java. Try it today, and see what you can do with it.

The second item is straight out of Gulliver’s Travels, to wit Brobdingnag. Thanks to the miracle of HDTV, pores, sores, and pimples galore can now be your viewing pleasure. And thanks to the Internet, there are critics only too happy to show you how bad it can get. “There is no escaping the naked lens of High-Definition TV. The picture is so clear that aging signs and skin imperfections are clearly visible”. So see if your favorite actor or actress is on their top-ten list. Yes, technology brings with it both pain and delight, sometimes in living color.

Fun Friday: A Tale of Two Women

I was struck by the contrast in reporting of two very different women in Silicon Valley. Matt Marshall writes of Joanna Rees-Gallanter, aka “Alley Cat”, as she goes through a tumultous rolling close of her new venture fund at VSP Capital. As Matt puts it “She’s got an interesting story, and it reveals the kind of grit it takes to get where she is. She told us about how people laughed at her idea of starting a venture firm, and how hard it was to transition from a non-traditional background. She even tried restaurants.” It really is hard in a very male-dominated industry like investment to make inroads. My take to Matt: Rolling closes and last minute sells. Been there, done that. Stress city. I’m glad to see a positive story about a woman VC who’s put together the team and closed the fund. Can’t wait to see what she does with it. Keep these stories coming”.

A very different view on Richard Koman’s piece about Analee Newitz, who thinks the only reason people worked on TCP/IP or open source projects like or Apache was to facilitate access to porn. Figures she’s booked with O’Reilly – I suspect this reflects their inside view on women in technology loud and clear. As I put it to Richard: “Hey, so the open source movement has finally got a woman speaker – but instead of a real woman developer or researcher they’ve got a girl talking dirty. Wow! How enlightened they are… However, this strange exhortation to love porn has nothing to do with the real reasons for why new architectures and design in technology are developed, nor does it speak to the motivations of the developers. Just because pimps and johns are ready to exploit any technology at any opportunity doesn’t mean it has anything to do with innovation, provides any value to society, or has any lasting impact.”

“I doubt we’ll soon see porn queens getting Nobel prizes, writing books of merit, or developing new solutions to problems of hunger, poverty, and injustice. But we will see lots of opportunists jump on the bandwagon as technology changes our society, proclaiming themselves as the “true” innovators as they gull the rubes. This hucksterism has always gone on. After ten thousand years of civilization, it’s amazing anyone sees this for anything less than some oddball carnival sideshow – briefly entertaining, somewhat freaky, and definitely unimportant.”

And that’s why it’s tough to be a woman in Silicon Valley. For every serious woman in business, technology, and investment, there are fools ready to say and do anything for their 30 seconds of Internet fame, and a huckster ready and willing to exploit them. While the Analee’s of the world come and go, it’s time we showed how annoyed we are – using our money – drop a line to O’Reilly telling them you didn’t buy the Perl book and come to an open source conference to hear a woman talk about porn. You bought the book and came to the talks because you want to hear about the tech. Man or woman, demand they book real technologists who love open source. Don’t settle for anything less.