Quick Roundup 237

Friday, September 07, 2007

Eran Dror on Google GrandCentral

Back in the mid eighties, as a college freshman, I watched my roommate spend a whole day tracking down some show-stopper of a problem he had in some computer code he was writing.

It turned out to be a parenthesis. One lousy parenthesis. *

I distinctly remember deciding then that I'd wait for guys like him -- the ones who enjoyed such things -- to get computers a little closer to being worth the trouble before I'd take the plunge myself. I have been a somewhat late adopter of new technology ever since, and have probably avoided more than my share of technology-related stress that way.

But on the flip side, I know I'm sometimes missing out on the fun of seeing where technology is about to take us, as Eran Dror shows us with his interesting post on Google's recently-acquired GrandCentral, an Internet phone service.

Besides allowing you to use one phone number for the rest of your life, it offers a wide array of great improvements on traditional telephone service, including the ability to allow people able to call you from the web without having to reveal your phone number.

It's in beta and I don't exactly spend all day on the phone, but even I am tempted to try this -- although I would prefer to be able to simply import my cell phone number to it rather than acquire a completely new number. Dror notes that this capability does not (yet?) exist.

Fascinating reading. Go there now. (And find his interesting blog on my sidebar in the future as well.)


* Yes. This is programming, but this was also when you had to write a program to get a computer to do anything useful -- and this program didn't really do too much.

"Comcastic" Defined

One company I wish would get swallowed whole by the likes of Google is Comcast, which recently took over cable and ISP services in Houston from Time Warner, heralding the change with an annoying astronaut-centered ad campaign, to be commemorated within weeks by a rate hike announcement.

One evening, I even got my own personal "welcome" in the form of a three hour outage starting for no discernable reason at just the moment I was about to blog.

Certainly, Comcast has the right to charge what the traffic will bear, and I don't always expect transitions like the one I just described to go smoothly, which I why I held my tongue. But after this news, I feel compelled to say that Comcast is a lousy ISP:

The rapid growth of online videos, music and games has created a new Internet sin: using it too much.

Comcast has punished some transgressors by cutting off their Internet service, arguing that excessive downloaders hog Internet capacity and slow down the network for other customers. The company declines to reveal its download limits.

"You have no way of knowing how much is too much," said Sandra Spalletta of Rockville, whose Internet service was suspended in March after Comcast sent her a letter warning that she and her teenage son were using too much bandwidth. They cut back on downloads but were still disconnected. She said the company would not tell her how to monitor their bandwidth use in order to comply with the limits. [bold added]
I fully support Comcast's right to alienate its customers. There will be cries of "There ought to be a law," but none of them will be coming from me. In a fully free market, this is what a gang of idiots writing its own death warrant looks like.

I'm already itching to change the land line over to another phone provider, and I think the one we're considering offers DSL. Thank goodness for capitalism.

She Draws, too!

I enjoyed looking at the sketches of characters from her role-paying game that Jennifer Snow posted over at her blog. The one at upper left would have served well for a half-orc fighter-assassin I played in one D&D campaign back in the day.

Humor in Philosophy

Two days in a row have led me to interesting blogs I'd never heard of before. Yesterday, I was delighted to find WoPSR.net. Today, I draw your attention to Anja, Philosopher, by a graduate student in political theory. Try to read this post, which quotes a lengthy passage by Sigmund Freud about controlling fire, without laughing out loud. This blog is also now also listed in the 'roll.

-- CAV


: Corrected spelling of "Anja".


Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "Try to read this post, which quotes a lengthy passage by Sigmund Freud about controlling fire, without laughing out loud." You know, a few years ago I decided to try some Freud and Civilization and Its Discontents was the book I chose. I stuck with it to the end after reading that footnote, but I didn't even try to take him seriously. Trouble is, no one believes me when I tell them about that footnote! They think I'm slandering the guy. You know, trying to put out his flame, if you will, by proving him right.

Gus Van Horn said...


Jennifer Snow said...

Thanks for plugging my sketches. They're really nothing much, but I've been drawing for years and I think I got carried away when I realized I didn't have to go through that bizarre rigamorole with Hello! to post pictures on Google any more.

Yes, I realize it took me a while.

Gus Van Horn said...


I thought that of the three, Barak was the best.

Darren said...

Don't tell me that, as I write this I'm currently waiting for the Comcast installers to arrive!

Gus Van Horn said...

My condolences.

And, that reminds me....

If our previous company (which had some sort of partnership with Comcast and is the same people anyway) is any indication, you will see nobody arrive today, and you will be at home without service and looking forward to another day-long wait a week later.

Their service is "Comcastic" from top to bottom.

Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "It turned out to be a parenthesis. One lousy parenthesis." Thank you ever so much for not saying "a parenthesee." I've also heard matricee. It's an indicee of the fact that some people should have a grammar editricee-dominatricee whip those various and varied plurals into their heads--and this thesee sure as hell shouldn't be shunted off into some appendicee. Leastwise, that's the basee of my analysee, but some might say I just have a neurosee on the subject.

Gus Van Horn said...

Be glad you don't follow sports. Any time something to do with a biceps, atriceps, or a quadriceps comes up, you'd have to brace yourself to hear "bicep", "tricep", or "quadricep" since we all know that a singular noun can never end in the letter "s".

Darren said...

The cable installers arrived on Friday, and I'm back online with a solid cable connection.

The funny thing is, I went back to Comcast because of customer service. I had been a Comcast subscriber for almost two years, and my wife a couple years on top of that. When we planned to move to a new hour in the same general neighborhood, I was annoyed at the fees Comcast was going to charge me to transfer our services. I thought it would be a good opportunity to try something new, especially if it was cheaper, so I switched to AT&T DSL and Dish. After three weeks of higher costs, (after taxes and unmentioned fees), horrible upload speeds and AT&T's Monday-through-Friday 8-5 office hours, I swallowed my pride and called Comcast.

Gus Van Horn said...

Good. Perhaps Comcast has better people up in KC.

Amusingly, I was thinking about AT&T's DSL. Your comments underscore the fact that the decision I made already -- to talk to people who have that DSL already -- is a good one that I should stick to.

Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "The one at upper left would have served well for a half-orc fighter-assassin I played in one D&D campaign back in the day." Umm, uh, half-orc half-what? How was your half-orc created? Please say magic, because I really don't care to think about the alternatives.

Gus Van Horn said...

As in Tolkien's novels, orcs could, in the AD&D "multiverse", interbreed with humans.

The advantage of this character "race" was that, as with other non-humans, I was able to use skills from two classes (professions), the fighter and assassin I cited.

So: not magic. And his behavior was consonant with his unsavory background and profession. For example, I decided that he had the habit of licking his weapons clean after battle or other use.

Since he also used poison when he could get it, I simulated carelessness on his part by rolling a die to see whether, in such situations, he forgot about the poison and "cleaned" his weapons in the "usual" way, forcing him to also make another die role to "save vs. poison" or ingest enough poison to suffer from its effects himself.

But enough of that -- um -- colorful product of my adolescent imagination.... Suffice it to say that we were bored and decided to play evil characters for a few sessions one summer.

Jim May said...

Thank you ever so much for not saying "a parenthesee.

Adrian, you better stay out of anything related to computer graphics, then. If I had a nickel for every time a producer or lead artist told me something like "move those vertices, but not that verticee there", I could move out to the country and retire, with a Siberian Husky for company. ;)

As for the parenthesis, that is precisely the reason I got out of programming and got into visual effects. I never understood, and still dion't understand, how we can have software that parses human speech, but compilers and/or code editors can't figure out to close the damn parenthesis itself, or at least flag it (and let's not get into syntax design).

Funny thing about it, though, is that scripting & programming are in big demand in my profession, and I'll have to get into those if I don't want to stop at the level I'm at now...

Gus Van Horn said...

"Vericee", eh? That's even more annoying since "vertex" is a much more commonly-known singular, given that the word is not seen almost exclusively as a plural!

Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, you wrote: "It turned out to be a parenthesis. One lousy parenthesis." Then by sheer coincidence I stumbled across this.

And, "As in Tolkien's novels, orcs could, in the AD&D 'multiverse', interbreed with humans." I was afraid of that. One wonders at the types who'd do so willingly. Who knows--perhaps when young enough orcs are quite fetching...

And Jim May wrote, "If I had a nickel for every time a producer or lead artist told me something like 'move those vertices, but not that verticee there', I could move out to the country and retire, with a Siberian Husky for company." Ugh. But regardless of the amount, would those be ill-(be)gotten gains or chump change?

Gus Van Horn said...

Adrian, I never really gave that much thought. I guess one could say that you're putting an "F" in fantasy role-playing! (That gets points for being a pun, initially unintended though it was!)

(And speaking of language gaffes, ever notice how people will usually write "a F" even though the a/an rule is phonetic rather than based solely on letter type?)

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