07 December 2021
I am kind of loving Wombo Dream. Endlessly fascinating. I asked it to create some Windows 95 inspired images, using the various styles, and the results just get trippier and trippier:
07 December 2021
I am kind of loving Wombo Dream. Endlessly fascinating. I asked it to create some Windows 95 inspired images, using the various styles, and the results just get trippier and trippier:
30 November 2021
Holidays, birthdays, family activities. Omicron! In the midst of moving houses. I am just scattered all over the place right now. Hence a total grab bag of things.
Covid simulation. Fascinating
An accelerator for fine art. Super interesting idea.
I’m only 20 years behind, time to jump into Processing.
Penpot — open source design and proto platform
Decentralized woo hoo. Yep.
22 emerging technologies to watch in 2022 – too bad all the web3 brains are not working on these problems
Some super smart software people have gone to work at Stoke. Wishing them the best, I hope to get out for a visit in December.
Boy, howdy. I was once a consultant to F500 companies and it felt like being a carrion bird.
Great counsel — replace pitch decks with teaching decks.
From Debt: The First 5000 Years — “The one thing we can be confident of is that history is not over, and that wherever the most exciting new ideas of the next century come from, it will almost certainly be from someplace we don’t expect.”
Eradicate medical debt for pennies on the dollar — RIP Medical Debt. Need to read more about, but I like that the debtholders take a haircut – there is no way all this pain should accrue to consumers.
ResearchRabbit looks awesome
I don’t know why, but I feel like I need an electric scooter.
How to play Paperback. Count me in!
15 November 2021
09 November 2021
I came of age and started my career in the early stages of the PC revolution. And my gosh was this exciting — the wresting of computer power away from controlled impersonal computer centers and delivery into the hands of free individuals. An explosion of creativity followed. It was thrilling. I went to work at Microsoft not because of the financial potential — I didn’t even know what a stock option was. I went to Microsoft because I had to be part of this revolution.
I felt this excitment again during the web revolution — letting anyone create a website and making it dramatically easier to reach audiences. The web was empowering and freeing. And then the mobile revolution — pushing computing off the desk and into the hands and pockets of people, freeing and empowering again.
The greatest technology revolutions all share this sense of freedom and empowerment. And during these times, mission-driven orgs pop into existence, and people commit to missions, creating career highlights.
There are smarter people than me who have articulated the problems with web3/crypto. Complexity, unnecessary technology, scams, criminality, etc.
But ignore all the problems for a moment. The web3 folks are articulating a vision of freedom and empowerment — freedom from giant corporate walled gardens of identity and content, freedom, to take your data anywhere. These are good things. I get why people are excited about freedom.
Is anyone else articulating a vision of freedom, empowerment, opportunity?
Meta is at least talking about the metaverse, but it is all locked up in Meta’s hands. But there might be something there.
What bright future are Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple talking about? They are are incrementalling their current tech, but what breakthrough are they driving in freedom and opportunity? No one gets excited about the 723rd AWS service, or Windows/Office/Teams version 27, or iOS version 19. Drudgery.
What are web3/crypto critics presenting as an alternative? It is not sufficient to say “web3/crypto sucks”.
Some of the smartest people I know are moving towards space startups, which has a great mission, but it doesn’t have the freedom and opportunity vibe.
We have to articulate an alternative vision that leads to more freedom and opportunity. Or people will continue to go down the web3 rabbithole.
07 November 2021
I keep trying to learn about web3 and crypto, some days I wonder why, and then I am reminded “…be careful about being too quick to filter out topics because you quickly judge them as boring. Don’t have a fixed mindset about it. There’s interesting stuff everywhere…”
First explore, then exploit. I am definitely in exploration mode these days.
A good reminder to not limit exploration to current media, much of which will be forgotten, but to dive deep into writing from the past and material off the beaten path.
I am not sure what the Internet of Bio-Inspired Things or the Internet of Biological Things are, but I am intrigued.
Write more often, and write more succinctly. Good advice, writing is an integral part of exploring and learning.
I still haven’t found the best tool to document my explorations for myself and for sharing. I am using a rube goldberg arrangement of markdown editors, cloud storage, and github pages for publishing. Some more good ideas here about capturing hunches.
Delian Asparouh, a VC at Founder Fund, says it well: “a tragic misallocation of talent”. That is my general feel at the moment, web3 is to tech as the CDO spree of the 2000s was to finance.
Anil Dash makes the point that much of the existing web started out with a very open sharing model, but commercial entities drove it in a different direction for commercial reasons, and a bunch of new protocols and technologies won’t change the commercial motivations and behaviors. Web3, if it succeeds, will end up with a bunch of new dominant players (who may just be the old dominant players).
Seth Godin is pushing a DAO for voting in the broadest sense. There does seem to be something in the web3 idea of open and programmatic governance, tho the web3 adherents need to dramatically simplify the stack of concepts.
So Microsoft is a metaverse company. I recall in the mid-90s when Microsoft started talking about the IAYF vision. In about 42 nanoseconds the word was coopted by everyone, the Microsoft corporate library announced an IAYF app internally which was just a vb frontend on some db. The grand vision became meaningless. If you are going to invest a lot of corporate energy into a word, you should probably make sure the word is distinctive and can be owned by your corporation.
Let the Market Worry for You — espouses the view that there are a ton of people thinking about risks, and that this is therefore all priced into equities, and therefore you shouldn’t let risk concerns keep you from participating in the market. An interesting view, tho largely formed during an era of sustained market growth.
I did not know that the Wizard of Oz may have been a comment on monetary policy.
Quitters get raises. Long known in the tech industry, interesting to see the broader data.
McDonald’s Theory. Great brainstorming hack.
01 November 2021
November already! It’s voting season again, and a big thanks to the Washington State vote by mail system this week, it is really wonderful. Hard to understand why every state doesn’t learn from, it has certainly driven up my participation and engagement level. It’s no surprise Washington is in the top 5 states by participation rate — and I hope we learn from the top 4 and improve.
I took a spin thru software for interactive art installs this week. I used to do some large scale halloween decorating and used DMX control software at that time, software has improved a lot sicne then. I am particularly interested in video projection mapping, gosh there are a lof of nice choices. I could just roll something by hand but using one of these seems smart, they all seem to handle multiple projectors mapping onto arbitrary geometries:
I intend to try a small experiment with one of these.
These additional projects may have promise but they seem limited in some substantial way
I largely stayed away from web3 this week, but I did read a few things. Haseeb is a bit more rational than some of the adherents — for example Why decentralization is a bit of a red herring. And then Packy McCormick on sc3nius, worth reading.
And then there is this primer on DAOs. I want to like DAOs, there is something interesting about software for new organizational models. But when you have to understand 87 new concepts and 123 projects to wrap your head around the simplest DAO – well, radical transparency loses its meaning when it is wrapped up in obtuse complexity.
I’d like to build out an astrophotography pc and setup. tho living amidst the light pollution and mirk of seattle is not really conducive to great astrophotography.
And a macrophotography setup — adaptalux.
Tough tech investing landscape 2021 – kind of the antidote to web3.
May December collaboration – nice to see new artists embracing great work of the past, and older artists embracing the art of today. Enriching for all.
Every job has a signficant sales and marketing component. Engineering is no exception. You have to communicate what you are doing regularly and emphatically (and also listen to the response you get, and adapt accordingly).
Ryan Petersen of Flexport on the container issue – I love this guy. Not focused on blame or grand policy. Just digs in, identifies issues, and proposes an array of common sense and direct solutions. We need more of this kind of leadership.
A standard approach to startup cap tables – seems useful and overdue. I spent so much time in excel as both an investor and then as a startup founder. Would be good to regularize this.
Great thread and data on startup exits. I’m surprised at the number of earnouts and I wonder if these are all really earnouts (certain business goals must be hit to get the comp) vs time vesting (employees must stay a certain length of time).
I’ve been mostly looking at using web3 as a developer. I decided to try from a different direction and use web3 as a user. The top game seems to be the Axie Infinity game.
You need to jump quite a few hurdles to try out Axie Infinity.
First observation — such a jumble of brands and organizations. The general web3 approach of “we will replace monolithic commerical offerings with a mishmash of micro offerings from orgs you have never heard of” doesn’t really fly.
Second, the cost to play is ridiculous. No thanks, I am not putting $380 into this. A smart observer compared it to a pyramid scheme, and later arrivers like me have to dump a lot of cash in to support the earlier adopters.
There are easier and cheaper ways to have fun or to speculate.
I get that new platforms might be cruftier and clumsier than the mature solutions of the preceding generation but there has to be something positive about web3.
20 October 2021
Kept on trying to learn about web3 this week,taking a random walk thru services. dfinity.org is complicated to grok, the “hello world” app for a hosted app is a little byzantine. fleek.co was a little easier to use tho i seem to have lost my app. I am still trying to understand what ipfs is good for. polkadot and substrate seem like ingredients, not solutions. Everyone introduces a bunch of new unique terminology, I am awash in concepts.
I am bullish on the idea that there is some application use for web3 infrastructure, tho nothing I am finding is really compelling yet, and the complexity of using them is orders of magnitude too high. The cost to use any of these services is a complicated mystery; there is a lot of value in a publicly maintained, clear price list for services as is provided by AWS or Azure or GCS — I can have a “hello world” lambda up and running in minutes with a very clear cost expectation and a lot of cost and scale controls.
It would be great if someone made it trivially easy to move s3 storage to ipfs, and demonstrated exactly how that would be substantially cheaper. Cloudflare is attempting to move s3 usage to r2 — full s3 compatibility at a much lower cost – they are making it trivial to understand – I get that. If some IPFS offering would do the same, I would get that.
One thing I am quite sure about — the “Goodbye AWS!” sentiment on various web3 sites — how running an app on the blockchain will free apps from the tyranny of AWS (and Azure and Google…) — this is false. The blockchain operates on hardware that some organization is hosting and operating. There will be organizations that are better at operating hardware at scale, and they will aggregate up a bunch of blockchain processing traffic and then they will have the new Amazon (which might be the same as the old Amazon). This is just the nature of industries, every industry since the beginning of time has behaved this way – “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. I suspect a lot of vendors and investors understand this dynamic very well and are being disingenuous.
I also keep reading “crypto currency is different, we need a different regulatory regime.” Regulatory structures are in place, in part, to moderate the behaviour of the powerful and to protect the individual investors (and yes are abused by established players to achieve regulatory capture, but that is not a reason to drop them). When I hear a new entrant claiming we need a whole new regulatory regime, they are either naive about how this will play out — or they are disingenuous, they want to be a dominant player in the new regime and capture outsize rewards. THey are not acting on the behalf of the individual investor.
A variant of this is “The SEC’s posture towards crypto in the US is definitely hurting innovation”. Well yes it may be slowing innovation and this seems like a feature, not a bug. Maintaining a market that protects small investors and encourages them to participate in the market is a very good thing. Financial “innovators” often do not protect small investors.
The burden is on the crytpocurrency innovators to fully embrace the protections provided by the SEC and demonstrate how they can operate within those strictures.
I’m a sucker for shaders.
I need a Mini hologram portal.
Dave Winer continues to innovate and build. Inspiring.
Nature conservancy 2021 photo winners – the cenote one is awesome.
Kintsugi is beautiful.
Mortgage debt service at all time low. Stunning.
13 October 2021
We have always used “consumer grade” networking gear in our house. Cable modems off of Amazon, Eero wifi access points (and apple wifi access points before that). The Eeros have a great mobile app and have generally been easy to setup and largely bulletproof.
But I don’t love being the IT guy for the house. So against my better judgement, in our current house I was talked into mid-market “var friendly” devices — Araknis routers and Ruckus access points with professional install. It has not been very clean. These vendors have crap mobile apps and the gear isn’t designed for users to manage. Our installer is not able to debug as he is busy doing installs. There is no consumer support path.
Our WiFi networks kept dropping a couple times a day. We complained about and got no answers besides “have you tried rebooting”. So I wrote a python script to monitor our connection every 10 seconds, and discovered that our connections were dropping every 12 hours exactly. I put my macbook on the wired network and ran the same script, no drops. So it seemed access point specific.
After weeks of badgering my installer, I finally got login admin access to both the Araknis routers and the Ruckus access points. The Araknis system logs show no problems. The Ruckus access points all reported connectivity problems every 12 hours. Ding ding. Back to the Araknis UI, and guess what the DHCP lease length is set to? 12 hours. Ding ding ding. I set it to 72 hours and all has been relatively good since then.
There are so many problems here.
I am probably never going to get to step out of the role of home IT guy. All I can do is buy products that automate a lot of the problems away or give me easy self service solutions.
When I am not in the router weeds, I am trying to keep up with the new hotness. This is a good explanation of cap tables for crypto companies.
Historically when an entity issues a financial instrument, it is backed by some guarantee of financial value. The government issues currency, backed by the taxing power of the government. Municipalities issue bonds, backed by their taxing power. Corporations issue bonds, backed by their ability to generate cash to cover the bonds. Companies issue equity, which is a claim on the cash flow and earnings of the company. Etc.
What exactly are tokens backed by? They aren’t a claim on the issuing company’s cash flow or equity. (And why not?) The company could create an arbitrary number of new distinct token offerings. A token is just a claim on the part of the token pool it is in, and there is no economic value associated with that, except for whatever the token holders decide, or what the tokens can be traded for. They seem pretty vacuous.
The tech industry has always had an affinity for hucksterism. FUD and vaporware were big deals when I started in the industry. (And it is not like the tech industry originated these practices – go read the history of Edison, or the various trading companies during the mercantile era. I am sure these practices span all of human commercial activity and will continue to do so.)
But you tire of it. And as I try to keep up with crypto and NFTs, I find myself more and more aligned with some of the harsh critics – NFT criticism by Dan Olson, more NFT criticism, crypto critic Stephen Diehl.
I could just sit back and be a critic. But maybe I should just be done with the tech industry for a while. I will always be an enthusiastic user of tech. But the industry machinations and hype cycle is just not fun or interesting right now.
The day you quit embracing change and quit learning is the day you die, or at least that is what my grandfather said. Seth Godin on embracing change – “We can choose to live behind the curve or ahead of it.”
I have a slightly different formulation of this. Technology change, and change of any sort, is constantly sweeping through our society, largely uncontrolled by any of us, crashing like waves.
And the wave metaphor is good — you can deal with these waves in a couple ways. You can twist your feet into the sand, anchoring yourself, and try to fight off the waves. Or — you can grab a board and surf them.
Something big is changing in our society about employment. I don’t really understand it yet. I am listening and learning. When the generation before ours went to work, they dedicated themselves to a company for a lifetime, and the company dedicated itself to them. My generation still had a lot of that, tho 5-10 years at a job was considered an ok amount of time, and company pensions started to disappear. The commitment level on both sides has continued to drift down. It is going to be interesting to see how this evolves.
I was playing around the neopixel LED strips and posted a little code i wrote to control one via MQTT. Might be helpful to someone playing around with.
The yayagram — a physical device for interacting via Telegram.
National Book Award Finalists – always good choices
When I was a kid, we visited the cereal factories in Kellogg, Michigan. I love a good factory tour, but the smell of millions of pounds of grain cooking was enough to turn me off cereal for a long time. I can’t imagine working there.
I used to make my own tombstones for Halloween.
10 October 2021
Many people have told their Steve Jobs stories this year on the 10th anniversary of his passing. Mine is just a small story.
In about 1981, when I was a junior at The Ohio State University, I was trying to figure out what was next for me – job, graduate school, what kind of graduate school (business, EE). I was fortunate to have a good family friend, Jim Dutton, who was CEO of a startup, Caere Corporation, out in Los Gatos. He offered to host me on a tour of Silicon Valley to help me make up my mind. Just the opportunity to fly to California and to visit Silicon Valley seemed like an amazing adventure to me.
I flew out and stayed with Jim, Joan, and his family. I didn’t understand exactly how connected Jim was. Over the next 3 days I was able to visit a lot of companies, and I got the chance to talk personally with Gene Amdahl at Amdahl Corp, Bob Noyce at Intel, and Steve Jobs at Apple. They were all a little intimidating, but Steve especially so, he was intense and excited about his work. He was in his full beard days. He pressed me hard on why I was considering various paths.
I only realized later in life what a great gift this trip had been. I thanked Jim a lot at the time but probably didn’t thank him enough. And I never really appreciated the time that these people gave me until later. They took time out of their busy days to meet some nobody kid from Ohio, that was incredibly nice. I probably could have fought my way into a job at one of their companies at that time if I had been savvy enough, I might have missed a great adventure and a great financial windfall, but my career turned out ok.
Steve and these other leaders taught me that we always have the time to reach out and help people entering their careers, we always have the time to be helpful and gracious to young people. I try to live up to that.
09 October 2021
Jalopnik has the automaker-sympathetic view of the chip shortage; contrast with Gelsinger’s advice to get moving to new chip technologies. As noted in Stratechery, “In the long run it is the car companies that will have to give in: there simply is no good economic reason for TSMC or anyone else to build new “old” fabs”. There is no fighting this wave.
In the early days of Hotmail (and other web properties), the team addressed scale and reliability by buying ever more expensive Sun servers that were “enterprise grade”, hardened, reliable. This approach to web scale reliability finally gave way to new system architectures built on replicated and distributed designs running on commodity hardware.
Some equivalent transformation is going to need to take place in auto systems design. It is inevitable that during the production and operating life of a car, the chips available at reasonable price and volume will change. How might this affect system design? Chips will have to be encapsulated in pluggable modules that are easily testable, easily changeable. It probably argues for consolidating chips into fewer places in the car, and increases the importance of software and hardware design for these systems.
Some automaker will figure this out (perhaps Tesla, Rivian, and others already have), and it will deliver them large economic and flexibility benefits.
Good article in The Atlantic about how Boeing destroyed its engineering culture. Sam says this may be a maxim – “Every successful creative culture is eventually absorbed by bureaucrats” – call it McKelvie’s law.
I was fortunate to spend a lot of my career at Microsoft during a time when the management chain had developer background and fully supported developers. Not that this meant the company was some tech-mad customer-aloof circus – everyone was pretty focused on market success, and were able to think clearly and creatively about technology.
I spend a bit of every week trying to wrap my head around NFTs, Crypto, Web3. I totally get the desire to break content and services free from large corporate ownership. Services like Radicle and Gitcoin seem interesting maybe (although I can’t find anyone using radicle).
For instance: “NFTs give users the ability to own objects, which can be art, photos, code, music, text, game objects, credentials, governance rights, access passes, and whatever else people dream up next.”
The NFT concept of ownership seems closest to the notion of owning a meal you purchased. No one else can own that instance, tho the restauranteur retains the right to create and sell infinitely more instances. My own purchased meal has utility to me, but over a long time I can’t really resell it or expect it to grow in value.
Or owning an NFT is like owning a copy of a music track. I get value out if owning the track copy, but no one is ever going to pay me much for my specific copy of “Custard Pie” by Led Zeppelin, and Led Zeppelin retains the rights to sell as many copies of this track as they can, or create new and different versions.
This is very different than owning a unique piece of art or owning all the rights to some piece of code or to some piece of music. Certainly someone could contractually commit to sell some deeper piece of ownership along with an NFT, but a token itself doesn’t magically solve this ownership issue, nor are tokens required to sell these rights.
Another instance: “Ethereum is a decentralized global computer that is owned and operated by its users. Blockchains are special computers that anyone can access but no one owns.”
The industry has a pretty good definition of what a “computer” is, and there is a giant economy of Intel instruction set and ARM instruction set computers and tools — chips, SOCs, cloud instances, vms, dev toolchains, management tools, virtualization tools, etc etc etc.
My puny brain has a hard time understanding how blockchain compares to what we normally call computers. If I want to write some program that does some arbitrary task, how do I host that on a blockchain? If a blockchain is just a special computer that can only do one special kind of task, how is that useful?
Or: “Ethereum is powered by a fungible token, ETH, which is used to incentivize the physical computers that underlie the system.”
How does a token power anything? Or incentivize physical computers? You can’t incentivize code or semiconductors.
Words and definitions matter. This breezy use of well understood terms does not help to build understanding. It damages the arguments of the web3 proponents as it seems like they are trying to purposefully obfuscate.
Interesting that low cost wifi chipsets are emerging, putting wifi at/near zigbee/zwave power budgets, if I understand the specs. Suspect zigbee and zwave don’t survive this assault.
Brandi Carlile’s cover of Madman Across the Water is awesome. Of course Brandi’s cover of almost anything would be awesome.
An argument agains the notion of general intelligence. Hear, hear. I’ve met a ton of smart people and they are all uniquely smart in different ways.
01 October 2021
I’ve spent some time over the last 3 months trying to build a smart home app. I wanted to yoke together all the embedded technology in my home — lights, sensors, cameras, various controllers, etc — and do something entertaining and fun with them. Most smart home apps are booooring — no one really wants to be the operations manager for their house. I wanted to create something a lot more fun, using all the smart home gear, maybe something like an Escape Room kind of game. or Hide the Thimble.
I largely failed.
The smart home space is a confusing welter of devices, oses, physical networks, protocols, apis, apps, services, very few of which work together. Getting devices to talk to services, even from the same vendor, is arcane — don’t take only my word for it — Mat Velloso tried to do some simple home automation work and realized what a can of worms smart homes are. I have Google, Apple, Amazon, Lutron, Zigbee, Zwave, Philips, Samsung, and every other kind of device you can imagine. I have tried many ways to hook them all together, having the most success with Hubitat. I really wanted to create a programmable substrate that I could use for apps in the home.
I got to a limping instance of a game with some invaluable help from Sam and Vlad. But it all fell apart repeatedly. The devices are unreliable, sometimes responding, sometimes not. Networks and protocols are unreliable. The object models for devices are wildly inconsistent, even within a single brand. Heterogeneous networks are a mess of differing transaction models, discovery mechanisms, etc. The various packages and libraries to program against smart home devices are not well supported, many have been abandoned or are stale. Naming and discovery of devices is, well, not even primitive.
At this point, it is not worthwhile to keep on tinkering. I’ve dumped most my gear into a box and into storage. There is no viable targetable smart home market. The PC software market and the mobile software market exploded because a high volume of homogenous (interconnected) targetable devices existed. No such state exists in the smart home market.
I have also tried to move upstream a little and dig into the tools for IOT development. I haven’t really found what I want there either. I’d like to write an app that I can easily move across different IOT devices.
Platformio has some promise and they have a big VSCode plugin, they have certainly aggregated a lot of devices in their tools. But they don’t really solve my problems. Their tool early binds you to a specific hardware platform and libraries, this isn’t what I want. And I had hoped that a great VSCode plugin would be appealing, but the plugin feels pretty heavy – a bunch of decorations added to VSCode, a whole new hierarchy. And if you want to target RPIs, you have to run the whole dev environment on an RPI – yuck.
There are almost no RPI plugins for vscode which I find surprising. Raspberry Pi Sync is just some lipstick on rsync (tho the developer’s name is KingWampy, have to like that). There is no plugin for Balena tho Balena separately has a pretty nice onboarding experience in the browser which I will be digging into further.
Microsoft has a suite of extensions for AWS IOT but they don’t seem to be actively maintained.
Overall the tool situation is not great — which is another comment on the market; with no volume targettable hardware, there just is not much point to great tools.
I’ve previously written about the problems in auto software. Not shocked to see the chip industry is frustrated with the auto industry as well – “It just makes no economic or strategic sense,” said Gelsinger, who came to the auto show to convince carmakers they need to let go of the distant past. “Rather than spending billions on new ‘old’ fabs, let’s spend millions to help migrate designs to modern ones.”
A nice examination of housing affordability. As nutballs as the housing market is, this analysis suggests it is sustainable.
Seth Godin on change and the status quo. I really like his thought exercise around milk or solar power – imagine that the new idea is the status quo, how would that change your view of the change?
A perfume truck. If trucks work great for food, why not other retail categories?
The future of big cities as predicted in 1922 — very prescient
The best software for every need — a good list to start from.
Making the workplace work for moms (and all parents and kids, which pretty much covers everyone)
World tour of mustards – I do like a good mustard.