Generally, I've felt that raising fuel prices are mostly a good thing.
The higher price makes fuel closer in cost to the actual environmental
cost, which does more for decreasing usage than any international
agreement on greenhouse gases. There are downsides, of course, in terms
of cost pressure on those least able to absorb it, or even food
problems... though those may be more due to stupid government subsidies
for idiotic things like corn-based ethanol.
But in the back of my mind, there has been one big fear of high fuel
prices: the end of air travel. No one likes flying on commercial
airlines, but people do love what air travel does give them: far flung
vacations, trips back home for the holidays, trips far from home for the
holidays, face to face business meetings, Amazon prime and other
next-day shipping.... The New Republic has
an article on The End of Aviation, which discusses this very possibility.
The author seems to think that greenhouse/carbon taxes are more likely
to harm airlines than fuel prices, but anything like this is such a
radical change to our way of life that who knows how it would actually
shake out. If kerosene based fuels are really the only way to
economically fly, would jets be the last thing we'd spend our "limited"
fuel on? If we do succeed in creating cheap alternative energy, and use
that for the majority of our transportation and other needs, would that
actually cause the price of oil to drop as our need for it dried up?
I'm sure that think tanks and policy houses can create scenarios and
studies of whether these are possible.... I'm generally an optimist,
usually in the "ingenuity" and "technology" category mentioned at the
end of the article, so I'm not too worried about it happening.
I will say this, there is a very big opening for some real video
So, there's a couple standards for tagging photos, IPTC and XMP. The
benefits of the standards is that many photo sites and software support
them. They work by storing the data in the photo (usually jpeg/exif).
This is good, because then the data is stored with the photo, they can't
But... it violates one of the other precepts I like to have, which is
don't modify the photo. Manipulating a photo file may break something,
may lose existing data, make the photo not compatible with some
software, etc. It also make the synchronization problem harder, by
which I mean I have multiple computers, with my photos spread out amoung
them. My wife and I routinely both upload the pictures from our phones,
cameras, etc to our computers, and I try to maintain a central
repository of our photos, backups, etc. Some of this is based on the
photos keeping the same names, but names collide with multiple cameras
from the same company, reseting camera counters, etc. The other thing
that stays the same is the file size/checksum. Changing data in the
file makes that more challenging, it means I have to do checksums or
fingerprints based on the actual image data, and not the raw file data.
I could do a compromise, I could keep an archive of "original" files,
and then have a separate or connected archive of "modified" files, that
would allow me to keep the write once data, and the "updated" stuff, but
that does double disk space... which is cheap, I guess, but our photo
data is over 30GB now, its already getting a bit big for having a full
copy on our everyday laptops... though maybe that's just an excuse to
I need a better solution to the synchronization problem anyways...
Yes, the food here in San Francisco is really good, but I have a
complaint. San Francisco is also known for sourdough bread, and I'm
sick of it. I don't really like it, I don't know why its so famous, I
just don't get it. I go to a good restaurant in SF... and they serve
Apparently, Supervisor Chris Daly, whom I rarely agree with, has
proposed closing Market St. to cars
Its somewhat odd that his proposal is to do so all the way to Octavia.
I would have though Van Ness was the obvious choice, or even 10th St.
Blocking off the section that turns onto Franklin seems like a bad idea.
I've mentioned this to friends in the past, mostly because there is
almost never a good reason to drive on that part of Market St. Its two
lanes in each direction, you can't turn left anywhere, and the interior
lane is supposed to be for Muni only, and the right lane is often
blocked by people attempting to turn right... who are held up by
pedestrians. And then there are the delivery trucks/vans, and the cabs,
which can block part of the right lane (or just pull up onto the
sidewalk, even more fun).
I figure most of the cars on that section of Market are tourists or
other people who just don't know any better, and then they're stuck on
it, unable to get off.
Of course, closing it down presents problems, probably the largest is
with deliveries to businesses along Market. I wonder if you could solve
most of the problems just with signage, ie "No turns except
Muni/Cabs/Deliveries" or somesuch. That would be helpful to those who
don't know any better, though they'll probably just go WTF? It wouldn't
allow you to transform the street, however... imagine turning it into
just a single lane in each direction for Muni, for example.
Anyways, here's hoping that whatever comes out of this isn't a really
bad idea... I'm guessing there's an 80% chance that nothing comes of
this, and a 20% chance that something bad comes of this, that's about
how politics in SF goes...
I was downloading putty while using my Mom's laptop, and of course just
did a Google search for it. I wondered if other types of putty made the
first page of search results, so I scanned down the page... and stumbled
upon Putty Tray
weirdly named fork of the putty code base, named after a feature where
you can minimize putty to the icon tray in windows... but it also
finally supports hyperlinkikng of URLs. This has been a feature of
various xterms and clones for years that I've come to depend on,
especially since I use a console mail
. I use it often in gnome-terminal, but often have fun
cutting and pasting urls in putty, especially multi-line ones. Its been
on the wishlist
for putty for years, marked as tricky and oddly behind adding scripting support. In any case, my first url click worked great, I might just be updating all of my putty installations to putty tray.
Oh, and there's only one non-putty ssh client related link on the first
page of search results, for Putty World. This could be because I prefer
putty the ssh client (I search for the download link probably a dozen
times a year at least) and the "personalization"... but usually its from
a new computer without being logged in, so maybe not. It could also be
because the URL for putty is so non-memorable.. if it was just
www.putty.org or something, I'd never search for it.
I'm a pretty big fan of Penn &s; Teller's Bullshit on Showtime. I
don't always agree with them, sometimes they even change my mind.
Sometimes, I think they're rather dickish to those representing the
opposite viewpoint... ok, often, that's kind of the point. Sometimes,
they seem to go too far. I'm just making my way through season 5... and
the episode Nukes,
Hybrids &s; Lesbians
... it didn't even seem like they were
trying. The "lesbians" angle was just silly and pointless. The nukes
part.. sure, nuclear power has been given the shaft in the US... but the
hybrids segment? Ugh.
Current hybrid cars are amoung the most fuel efficient cars available,
but a good diesel can generally do as well or better. They do cost more
to make, and they often won't make back that cost in fuel savings. They
involve more parts, and some eco-challenged materials like batteries.
The batteries themselves are expensive and need to be replaced more
often than similarly priced parts of the car. All of these are good
reasons to think that hybrids are not the answer to the oil supply and
global warming problems.
Instead, we get a Prius raced against a Corvette in the 0-60, and a
packing challenge which makes it "clear" that a Prius can't handle a
family of four for a driving vacation. A Prius is a compact car.
Comparing its acceleration against other compact cars would be more
reasonable. A Toyota Matrix, which is somewhat similar in size, has a
0-60 time of 9.5s, which is a full second faster than the Prius... but
that's only about 10% faster. It only gets 26/32 MPG though, compares
to the Prius 48/45 MPG. 80% better fuel economy for a 10% hit. I saw
a review of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid where they actually "drag
raced" against the non-hybrid version, and they both had almost
identical times. This review
shows the Toyota Camry hybrid with a 0-60 time of 8.6s, better than the
4 cylinder Camry (10.3s), slower than the V-6 Camry XLE (6.5s). Still,
in an acceptable range.
As for the family of four vacation... its a compact car. In the US, a
family of four has two cars: if they need to fit for vacation, it'd
probably be the other one. Or they could rent something bigger. The
shows an average annual hybrid gas savings in the $500-$600 range, which
would pay for a $75 rental for a week. Of course, then you won't make
up the extra cost of the hybrid.
They do cost more, of course. Edmunds has an article on how long it
takes the extra cost of a hybrid
to break even. For a hybrid Toyota Camry (my personal choice if I
was in the market for a sedan), its only 1.6 years at 15k miles per year
(that's probably a little higher than average, so maybe 2 years). For
other cars... 7, 12, 16 or even 69 years. Granted, the 69 year Lexus LS
sedan is one of the "performance" hybrids, the point of the hybrid is
better performance, not fuel efficiency.
So, unless you're an early adopter, or buying one of the cars at the top
of the list, you're probably better off choosing a better mileage
non-hybrid, smaller cars/suvs like the Civic, Golf, or even Rav-4.
Now that I'm using a Mac Mini and FrontRow as my media center, there was
one last thing I'd love to be able to do. I wrote a quick script
automate some backups of data off my Tivo, and it would be great to be
able to play them from FrontRow. With tivodecode, you can quickly
convert the .tivo files to an MPEG2 stream... but one that Quicktime
can't play, even with the MPEG2 plugin. My efforts to convert them to a
format that Quicktime can handle met with the same annoyance as with the
DVDs, lots of time and effort, and all for crappy results. Maybe ffmpeg
just does a crappy job of encoding, after all the conversion to iPod
portable quality mpeg4's by the Tivo Desktop software was pretty decent.
9 months and nearly 3TB later, I've finished ripping my DVD movie
collection. For storage, I used 2 Infrant ReadyNAS NV+
probably have fit on 1 4TB unit, which is about 3TB after RAID, but it
wasn't out yet when I started). For ripping, I used Slysoft's AnyDVD
desktop box happened to come with both a DVD and HD-DVD drive, so I
could rip two discs at once. I just used the built-in "Copy DVD to
Drive" function for one drive, and Vista's file explorer to copy the
other. Some discs needed to be ripped by "Copy" to work, and it has the
nice property of stripping the "no forward" and other DVD annoyances,
but it was slower than the simple copy. I initially tried a couple
others, but AnyDVD was the best and worth the money. There were still
about 4 movies that wouldn't copy, a fairly random selection (not the
biggest blockbusters, or even the newest discs).
I had initially figured I would convert the discs to H.264. I spent a
lot of time playing around with settings for HandBrake, trying to get a
"good" conversion. Basically, video conversion sucks. The setting
options are amazingly complicated, and greatly effect how long the
encoding takes... but the output almost always looks like crap. Another
consideration is that a lot depends on the quality of the player. I
found that VLC usually did a good
job, even on "ipod quality" videos up-rezed to HD. On the other hand,
the Quicktime players in both the AppleTV and MacOS were pretty crappy.
I eventually settled on a "hi-res ipod" level that at least would be
portable... but neglected to test it. I let my linux box churn for
about 3 weeks converting around 100 DVDs, and would up with files
playable by my AppleTV, but not by the ipod. I think newer HandBrake
versions have an easy setting that should work, but I haven't decided to
burn the processing time yet. I just decided to keep the DVDs online
I haven't decided whether I'm going to rip all of my wife's TV show DVDs
or not. A lot of space, and I'm not sure we'd ever watch them a second
I hate web properties which ask for my zip code before showing me what
I'm looking for. Big offenders here are the cell phone companies, the
cable companies (Comcast at least), and the various car websites.
Cell phones and cable might be at least partially specific to zip code,
though Sprint (which prompted this rant) has always claimed to have a
Nationwide network that I would assume is pretty uniform. Perhaps their
rate plans aren't exactly the same across the country? Why don't these
companies just use geo-ip data? Its available, it might not be as
accurate all the time, but I'm betting a bunch of people just flat out
lie when prompted anyways (90210 anyone?).
But the biggest offenders are the various car research sites that all
want your zip code so they can try and shove you into a specific dealer.
Yes, I'm sure you get a lot of money for lead generation, but I don't
want to give you my zip code.
These types of sites lead to a more generic class of problems with
sites: when its easier to find information on a specific site by doing a
site based search on Google then by navigating/searching on the specific
site. If this is the case, you're failing the #1 point of the web: if
you said marketing and making money, you've failed. Its finding
information, the point of your site is information, you make your site
easy to use, contain useful information, and make it easy to find that
information, and boom, you have users ... which is the biggest step
Or maybe I'm mis-using these car sites, perhaps they exist more form
comparison shopping of cars by "exact" value, and comparison shopping
deals for one car from multiple places.. but I'm always using them for
information way before I care about the price. They should be helping
me investigate cars, and when I've made my decision on which car I want,
then maybe I'll be interested in finding the best deal on that car.
Forcing me up-front to think about actually buying isn't going to help.
Oh, and on a semi-related rant, why is it that Car websites make it so
hard to investigate the interior of their cars? Its easier for me to go
to a local Automall and take in all of the available cars in a class
then to try and one-by-one figure out what the interior space is like
Poor brits, first Ford bought Jaguar and Land Rover, now they're going to
India's Tata Motors
Or should the be the "passing" of the colonies from the old
to the new or somesuch?
Too bad for the Ford execs, back to buying Lincolns I guess.