Nov. 9th, 2010

dagoski: Emperor Norton I of the Bear State Republic (Default)
I often have a dismissive view of many of the so called new information technologies.  Often they're just applications of technologies rather than new ones in and of themselves.  Much of the time, I fail to see the dramatic new vistas these techs offer because I know and understand the foundations too well.  They're just trivial database applications.  Geospatial metadata?  Bah.  I've been dealing with that since 1992 when I worked in ground control.  Unfortunately, that attitude misses the Big Deal that's changing the world.  True enough the tech is old and old hat for an application developer and all around info geek like myself.  However, due to spending years administering systems, I fail to see what people with vision do with them.  Case in point today.  I'm beginning the great LA apartment hunt.  I found a good locator service.  Once of the nice features they have is a Google Street view of all their advertised properties.  This is nice because it lets me eliminate lodgings in bad neighborhoods.  Being an LA native, I can determine badness by architecture and the overall look of the street.  Besides, after living in Philly, I have mad skills in neighborhood determination.  The real coolness, however, is that Google Street View moves.  You can virtually drive down the street.  I spent this morning looking at the commute to UCLA from various likely candidates.  This is so, amazingly cool!  I could check out the area surrounding the property and was able to make quick determination as to the viability of cycling from various points.  What astounds me after having lived away from LA for the bulk of my adult life is how much room there is on all the streets.  Many of the streets from Culver City/Palms/Mar Vista are arterial by most cities standards.  However, in LA, many of these are neighborhood streets.  They all have light traffic, generous shoulder and long expanses of sidewalk when either condition fails.  The only tricky bit is the transition form Overland Ave to Santa Monica Blvd.  Overland Ave seems to be the common denominator in many of these neighborhoods.  In previous years, there was simply no way I could find this stuff out without knowing someone familiar with the area.  The wealth of information available to me for a trivial cost in terms of connection dramatically shortened my apartment search and helped me make decisions I would only be able to make by actually going to the site.  This means that my Feb. Trip to LA is probably just going a formality to check the physical structure and sign a lease, leaving me with a goodly amount of down time.

This experience is an example of what Alberts called Power to the Edge.  In an age of cheap bandwidth and storage, the center of gravity for information exchanges has shifted to the edges of organizations and societies.  While this information was created and is stored in a central place, a Google data center, it is no longer actively distributed by an infrastructure which filters and packages the information.  That's left to a variety of entrepreneurs, activists, organizations and crafty individuals.  The invent new applications, draw independent conclusions and create their own insights.  This is a radical departure from previous, Industrial Age, paradigms of information distribution.  Even though it's a old and focused on military issues, David Alberts' Power to the Edge should be required reading for all information professionals.  He saw where we were headed very clearly back in 2001.

dagoski: Emperor Norton I of the Bear State Republic (Default)
My computer is dieing right now. Not quickly, but I need to shop for a replacement in the coming months. The dilemma I face is whether to get a new Mac or go PC with Ubuntu Linux. I like Ubuntu a lot, it's Linux distro that's pretty much ready for prime time. However, I cannot run a great many commercial applicatio...ns directly on it. I'd have to install a Virtual Machine with Window and then install stuff like Adobe's Creative Suite on that. Meanwhile, I directly install what I want on the Mac. The issue here is price. System76 has a line of powerful laptops for half the comparable Mac. What d'yall think? Since this laptop is likely to become my primary professional machine, I'll do a lot of development on it, and that argues for Linux and VMWare on its own.

My current machine is one of the last pre-ban Hemis. Actually it's an genuine PowerPC based PowerBook that I bought for grad school just before the great chip switchover. The hard drive's probably iffy and the DVD drive now jams a bit. I already had to open 'er up and change the keyboard. I will never do that DIY repair again! I will, however, keep the thing and install ginormous SSD drive and a replacement dvd drive. This gives me a backup system and an experimental platform for deviant OS installs. I can achieve geek fame by porting BeOS to PowerPC architecture. Wonder if the OS2 Warp codebase is in the public domain. The fun I can have with a spare system...

The finalists for my replacement candidates are:

System76 Pangolin:
  • Core i7-640M Processor ( 32nm, 4MB L3 Cache, 2.80GHz / 3.46GHz Turbo Mode )
  • 15.6" HD+ LED (1600 x 900) display
  • GB - DDR3 1333 MHz - 2 DIMMs
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 Graphics with 512MB GDDR2 Memory
  • 160 GB Intel X25-M Solid State Drive
  • CD-RW / DVD-RW
  • Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 - 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module
Price: $1681 + VMWare $189 and a Windows 7 disc that I can borrow or obtain through work or school


Macbook Pro
  • Intel Core i5 2.53 Ghz processor
  • 1440-by-900-pixel LED-backlit glossy display
  • 15.6 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB
  • 256GB Solid State Drive
  • Mac standard wireless etc...
Price: $2649

So far, the only compatibility issue I can think of is I-Tunes. Still it exists for windows and I have VMWare or Wine to handle that.


dagoski: Emperor Norton I of the Bear State Republic (Default)

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