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Americas War - how is it in Iraq today?

That is a question that comes up to my mind from time to time. I try not to forget that on some other earthly spot people are suffering, people are getting murdered people have problems surviving. The mainstream press has found that the Tsunami was more interesting then the Iraq war and now that the Tsunami is not the theme of the day anymore (short attention span anyone?) it certainly does not seem to go back to Iraq as the new old government of the US of A is already waging a new information war that seems to be placed so that it will lead up to another war with weapons - Iran.
Iraq is not even close to normal and they are already putting options on the table for a new war.. I have no clue if they are clueless or if they are really wanting to nuke a country out of its existence (having contaminated fuel). This is something for future discussions. Today I thought "How is the day in Bagdad?" and I turned to one of my favorite Bagdad Blogs by Riverbend. Recently Riverbend has written less and less in her blog - not because she got lazy but because she has no power to turn on her Computer! Now today is Eid a Iraqi / Muslim (?) celebration that is something like spring cleaning here in germany (only that everyone over there seems to do it and there is a fixed date. This reminded me that over a year ago I also read Rivers Blog and she was talking about this festivity. They get together with their family and clean the house. Now this years entry is very very sad. There is not a single reason to celebrate. They could barely get some of their relatives together. But cleaning was not even a remote option as there is something vitally missing for cleaning: WATER. Yes you heard it right there is no water coming out of the faucets in central Bagdad. There is less then 3-4 hours a day electricity and people can not go onto the streets without the fear of beeing abducted, hit by a bomb, hit by a bullet, get robbed etc. The kerosine needed to get heating is not available - or only at horrific prices and there is no gas at the gas station to fill a car or have some extra fuel for the heater. Basically this country has been reverted back to the old age in less then a year. There is no hope that anything gets better soon and the elections seem to be a farce. If Allawi gets elected again that will be the total blow to the whole situation and then the guerillia war will intensify to levels not seen since Vietnam. For People like Riverbend I hope there is some light somewhere in the tunnel that will brighten up a very distant future - but as it seems now the US is to stupid and arrogant that anything will change for the better soon. Read her blog to get a personal feel on how it is in Bagdad today

New Keyboard Layout: Alphabetical?

That the QWERTZ(Y) layout of all keyboards that are connected to the computer is lacking in function might not be so abvious if you have never used anything else. I can only barely remember typing on a very shitty keyboard of some obscure all in one East German Computer (KC87?) that had alphabetical key layout and all I can think of is that it sucked bad. Now a company in the US is attempting to mass market a alphabetical layed out keyborad to newbie computer users. The keyboard is ergonomic and has a good feel to the keys. It has about HALF the number of keys then a normal QWERTZ(Y) (53:101) and is radically different. Will it catch on? I doubt it. The QWERTZ layout has so much lead time and about 99.9% of all computer users are used to this style. Newbies will take the route of the standard. Even though QWERTZ is no the best way to type at least after 10 years I can manage to type blind and that on all keyboard. Introducing new keyboard standards will only make matters worse when you are not at home. Imagine a seasoned programmer going to his uncles house and trying to fix his home PC that has a alphabetical layout with half the keys then he is used to. Maybe will implement it together with the stupidity of the One Button Mouse..


Cell processor part III -> The Apple Connection?

When Steve Jobs invited Kunitake Ando, president of Sony on stage for his annual January keynote every one who read or saw this had its head spinning. What was this? There could only be one more thing that is stranger and that would be inviting Bill Gates on this stage. Rumors and personal thoughts are rampant throughout the net. It would all have made sense when Sonys president would have unvieled some new ultra cool HDV gadget that only works with Mac (or at least works with Macs first). But there was no announcements. The only thing was the pretty cool HDV cam from Sony on stage - but this was about it. Instead the Sony president went into classic japanese philosophical talk about how wonderful the world is and that the cooperation between Apple and Sony - besides some rivalries - is wonderful and all. Happy sunshine... all is about money and market so this had to be something deeper and I could not figure it out.
Then yesterday I read Robert Xs I, Cringerly blog and it talks about how Apple might enter the Movie distribution bussiness with HD(T)V only. That this is the only way to go forward against cable company monopolies and all. And then I look at my lousy 768Down 128Up DSL line and I think download streaming a HDV movie is about as fast as driving to a VideoRentalStore on the other side of the globe. I already wait very very long for a Movie Trailer that is not even normal Video resolution and has only three minutes content. So I guess that is not it - or at least not the full story.
Then I stumble across an article today that desects the Cell processor developed by Sony, Toshiba and (manufactured by) IBM. And then it all falls together... Apple is on board even though through the nature of their secrecy regarding future products they have not made it public. Apple could benefit from the Cell processor tremendously. Its a processor build around distributed computing. So called Software Cells - or apulets - are sending themself around a home stuffed with hardware Cells (the actual processors in a multitude of machines ranging from HDTV sets to Playstation III, Server and PDAs, to Apples minis II or even the future iPods?) .
Now I would go even further. Apple is using a derative of the Cell in all future machines. The Cell is derivative of the Power5 architecture. Now Apples up coming "G6" processor will also be a derivative of the same Power5 architecture. Am I implying that the Cell and the G6 will basically be close to the same thing? Not exactly the same but I would suggest that they are fitting together so well that in an adhoc Cell network a G6 will also be recognized as a Cell and be used as a node.
There is another fitting too close to overlook and its the Vector Unit or APUs (Attached Processor Units) in the Cell Processor. A Cell processor will have 8 APUs (in addition to one Processor Unit (PU)) and they closely resemble what we know today as AltiVec. The difference is that each APU is an independent processor (while AltiVec is always dependent on its host) and it has 128 registers instead of Alitvecs 32 but its likely that the instruction set is very similar and both are clearly vector processing beasts.
Still not very convinced that Apple is going the Cell way the article points out this:

If I was to write Cell code on OS X the exact same Cell code would run on Windows, Linux or Zeta because in all cases it is the hardware Cells which execute it.

That goes that the Cell processor is absolutely abstraction layer free. That means programs that run on Cells are all the same as they run on the hardware and not on some obscure abstraction layer inside the OS. Of course that would mean all the OSīs have to be rewritten to run on the Cell. Now I do think that Apple is the vendor that is in the best position to write an OS for the Cell as the Cell is a derivative of the Power family and the G5/G6 are/will be also - but donīt count out Linux (with PPC Linux) and Microsoft (with XBox development on PPC and VirtualPC software).
Now another thing that connects the Cell with appearance of Sonys president: DRM. Yes we all hate it. Everyone would say no processor with build in DRM will ever get sold etc etc. The thing is the Cell might be THE processor that can establish DRM and free Apple, Sony and the others from ever thinking about bad marketing again. If Cell is very very fast as all specs suggest it will appeal to the geeks and the general market and the fact that there is DRM built in will just get accepted. I for one said once I would never buy a computer with a DRM chip - if the cell processor is as cool as all the specs suggest and Apple supports this platform I will be on board as this adds a whole new paradigm to realtime 3D rendering and HD(T)V video processing. DRM will get broken or circumvented sooner or later I am sure.

The Cell architecture is essentially a general purpose PowerPC CPU with a set of 8 very high performance vector processors and a fast memory and I / O system, this is coupled with a very clever task distribution system which allows ad-hoc clusters to be set up.

Great given the fact that Core Image that Apple develops is capable of running on the Graphic Board OR the main Processor when the graphic board is not fast enough or has not enough memory OR any other helper chip with fast enough interconnected memory the cell processor could elevate Core Image to a true realtime content creation machine.

The first Cell based desktop computer will be the fastest desktop computer in the industry by a very large margin. Even high end multi-core x86s will not get close. Companies who produce microprocessors or DSPs are going to have a very hard time fighting the power a Cell will deliver. We have never seen a leap in performance like this before and I don't expect we'll ever see one again, It'll send shock-waves through the entire industry and we'll see big changes as a result.

So now say Apple wouldnīt be interested to once and for all leave the rest of the pack behind. Get along with Sony who would produce the CONSUMER side of things and Apple fullfill the CREATORs need and soon you see a fit that is more then about iPods and HDCams (of course an iPod army with Cellprocessors to speed up that High Definition Ultra Big 3D rendering would be very welcomed ;)


pretty girls in pretty style

I was tipped by Marcel Magis - who I meet at AVIT^C3 - to a site with wonderful illustrations that blend the 1920s Jugendstil (art nouveau) with modern line art elements and a unique character style. Iris Luckhaus is the creator of this beautyland and I can only recommend looking at her site if you are into petite art or if you are in the need of some very special computer icons.



rel="nofollow" <- death to blogging?

Comment spam is something every blog owner hates as much as the neighboring dogs. We here at prototypen had very bad months last year with about 1000 comment spam messages per day. We took the matter seriously as it was really disrupting our blogs. Since we use a free old version of Six Aparts Movable Type we have not much tools available to us to fight the spam. In the beginning the blacklisting worked out quite well but with the massive onslaughter of comment spams the mt-blacklist broke down before our eyes, its database - full of phrases to look for- made the hosting computer go down to its knees - it seemed - processing mt-blacklists database with waiting times up to 10 minutes for a message delete page to load. So that was not the best way around to do this. What was always clear is that we wanted the comments open to everyone with the least amount of hassle for serious poster to let the voices be heard.
We have now a custom coded solution to the problem - a problem that came because of the hegemony of Movable Type in about 90% of all blogs active on the net. it must have been easy for the spammers to use bots given that the comment spam script is searchable with google and is easily executed externally outside of MT. Anyway our spam problem went away to 99% with some manual spammer coming across now and then but those can be deleted by hand rather easily. Our custom solution can not be applied to all blogs out there (and I already see the day that it gets "broken") and the comment spamming got so utterly bad that googles search algorithm freaked out and you get so many spams on top of so many search terms that this threatens to make google and other search engines unusable.
So they all United in Peace to free the world of the uterly bad. Google, MSN, Yahoo!, Manilla, Six Apart, Wordpress, Flickr, Blogger, Livejournal, Buzznet, Blojsom, Blosxom etc have all joined the efford and are now introducing a new tag to the html header. The syntax is very very easy just type rel="nofollow" and all links on the corresponding page are not attributed to the search engines page ranking anymore.
Great way to get rid of the problem BUT this effectively gives the spam war a clear long term winner - and the winner are the spammers because they successfully harmed our basis democratic blogoshpere that was using comments and blogs to express opinion. This interblog page ranking democracy is seriously crippled with this as now only links that the author of a blog posts are considered worthy and all disagreement or enhancements inside the blogs comment that gets funded with links is out of the loop and will not be considered worthy by Google and Microsoft. Needless to say that we will NOT incorporate this system - at least not as long as our hack works.
That gives room for a personal "conspiracy theory" of mine. The spammers are government funded agents that try everything they can to destabilise the free internet as we know it so the evil governments of the world can step in and - together with their corporate buddies - establish law and order slowly eating away the freedom and voices from otherwise powerless individuals around the world. The more of the "spam links" you click and there are not even corresponding pages on the other side the more this conspiracy makes sense and in a way it seems to be succeeding very nicely. Just put some more "antispamlaws" in place and control the internet a little more every day. Its happening and its creepy.
Donīt understand me wrong. I hate spam - I hate it A LOT but its better to stand up to the spam then crippling and jailing the net as I have learned to love it - free and anarchic - and spam is part of this anarchy side of things - the internet is not the clean shopping mall in the suburb and I hope it will never become such a boring place of mass consumption.


Apples New Year starts tomorrow

Its this time of the year again. All the mac fanatics do nothing else then clicking through numerous Apple rumor sites. The lawsuits are in the air and there seems to be only one god to worship. Well I am just watching the same rituals as every year with a lot of humor. It will be like always lots of hype lots of dissapointed people after the keynote - last hopes until the "one more thing" is done and in a week or two everyone will say how brilliant Apple is or how much they like the new expensive toys they just bought. Its actually the first year that I will make my personal projections public.
Is Apple really getting down low and offering TWO cheap products at the same event? If so that would clearly mean that Apple is after the market share and cares not much about anything else. In case you have not followed the rumors (and they are hard to overlook even if you surf to normal tech sites like heise or the FAZ - one of germanys biggest newspapers or the NewYorkTimes name it and it writes about big ol stevenotes rumors) the pipes are full of "confirmed" rumors of the flash based iPod and the sub $500 mac. It seems that these two items have now reached a state of the most confirmed rumor I have ever seen. I do believe Apple will come out with a "cheap" Flash based iPod. The price you hear is $149 and for that its pretty impressive but I do not see the market. If you shell out a lot of money you get a big iPod if you have no money you go for one of the really really cheap (less then $50) flash based MP3 sticks, but given Apples brand name with the iPod and the marketing power they will sell enough of these to justify R&D cost. So given that this is a go what about the "cheap" mac? I do not believe in that - it would nullify Apples very very long commitment to have high class premium priced hardware that is of certain quality but I would never say never only with a "but" - the "but" is if Apple indeed comes out with such a lowcost machine it will have some kind of killer Application in its bundle that noone knows about yet. Some UeberMediaManager that records radio, TV, plays DVD has a DVD library and makes Toast. I truly believe that if Apple comes out with such a beast it will be more then $499 something like $599 just to be more expensive but then in turn will add DVD burning capabilities realtime MPG2 encoding, Video Input and at least one big harddrive to store all the stuff. For such a machine the subsystem does not have to be totally high end. An older graphic card (if the MPG2 is on a seperate chip) a medium G4 (around 1 Ghz) and some 512 MB Ram would do nicely. It will then have Wavelan build in so because Steve hates cables (maybe the "one more thing" is something we call funkstrom ;).
Realistically I do see Jobs on stage saying "today all the pieces of our digital hub stragedy fall in place and this is the center piece". You know that setup/homeserver kind of thingy that does it all but not much more. I do not see him standing there telling the world "Oh we are entering the cheap PC market here is our beige box for $499" - it will not happen!
As for the other rumors - well Keynote v2 is a given - iLife 05 as well (otherwise they would have never started calling the packages in years rather then with version numbers - it looks old if its from last year you know) as with the wordprocessor well Appleworks needs an update even if its just so it does run under Tiger flawlessly and why not rewrite an app like this in cocoa rename it and release it as part of an office suit that gets its pieces in two year intervals. What about this mysterious firewire audio interface that is not so overly revolutionary but the whistle blower got slapped with a lawsuit. Personally I think Apple has something bigger to hide this year and most of the lawsuits given out try to detract us from the really missing link. I think the Audio Interface might also point to this but different then what people thought. I think it might be a series of Interfaces that will ship with this $499 Mac. Maybe you add the inputs through firewireinterface to your liking. Like want to record TV you buy this firewire interface, want to record radio or other audio you buy the other firewire interface and it all somehow connects beautifully to this mac casing without adding clutter. Could be or Apple is boring again this year and just release a firewire audio interface.
Powerbooks? No G5 Powerbooks for sure. If they indeed announce G5 Powerbooks it will be at least three month until the first person in Europe gets its hand on one and given that Apple got burned in the past for announcing products that it was not able to ship soon enough they rather not announce it at all. I guess a rather modest speed bump, updated graphic card some more memory and make it cheaper? If apple is going the way of introducing cheaper stuff then I think it will make all things across the line cheaper and the Powerbook could really get a little of of its current pricing.
G5 Towers? Noone is talking about them the XServe jsut got updated to 2.3 Ghz the largest Powermac is at 2.5 if there would be faster chips available Apple would have put them in the Xserve so again there will be no major announcement on this front.
So I predict a pretty boring consumer oriented keynote. Those that crave for power will be put off until WWDC in June/July. If you are a fan of the iPod you will have some fun and if you are in the dire need of a settop box or a cheap computer to surf on you might have fun as well.
I am just not sure what his one more thing will be this year. It could be the babyiPod maybe steve throws at least one bone to the pros during the keynote? Maybe the Pros for one time get a one more thing?
What will dominate the keynote will be how well Apple is doing financially and in raw numbers in the music store and mp3 player bussiness. Also what will take at least half an hour will be a Tiger Preview with all the things everyone already knows. There have been times when I was looking forward to the Stevenotes but since this event turned more and more into a consumer oriented show I can care less and less.


In the beginning was the command line update

The very interesting read about the curse and love of the command line interface - a text I based my theoretical work "the lego interface" on - has gotten an update - this time not by science fiction author Neal Stephenson but codemonkey Garrett Birkel. Since the original version is now five years old it was in dire need for an update. So if you are into user interfaces, computing metaphors or generally a computer geek of some sort this read is something you will enjoy. I have to get through it again on the weekend to comment on the comments but what I have skimmed so far sounds interesting.