Onno.Com is 15 jaar oud!

mrt 15, 2012 in Life

wpid-welcome-onno-com-2012-03-15-16-25.pngWe zijn een tiener!

Ik veroverde het domein op 3 maart 1997. De eerste webpagina’s gingen live een paar dagen later.

In het begin had ik een specifieke behoefte voor de site. En onno.com als adres was goed voor het ego. Maar terug naar het originele doel. Begin januari ’97 verhuisde ik van Engeland naar de VS om voor Apple in Cupertino, California te gaan werken. Mijn nieuwe positie was OpenDoc Product Marketing Manager – een technologie voor software-ontwikkelaars om applicaties uit kleinere onderdelen te bouwen die dan al naar gelang de behoefte van de gebruiker op verschillende manieren gecombineerd konden worden. Rond die tijd had Apple Next opgekocht (of zoals het grapje binnen Apple ging, Next had Apple gekocht). Vrij vlug na het landen en het in gebruik nemen van mijn nieuwe kantoor op de 4de etage met mooi uitzicht over Mount Hamilton waren twee dingen duidelijk:

– binnen een aantal weken zou er een substantiële reorganisatie met ontslagen zijn, en

– OpenDoc ging dat niet overleven.

Een teamlid en ik, ben de man’s naam vergeten, besloten om de tijd tot dat moment te gebruiken om ons voor te bereiden op de volgende stap in de carrière: we liepen naar de Computer Bookstore op de begane grond en kochten Java In A Nutshell en Symantec’s Visual Cafe. Om Java te leren schreef ik een damspel applet. Toen dat eenmaal redelijk werkte had ik een plek nodig om dat voor mijn beoogde nieuwe collega’s van Sun Microsystems ten toon te stellen zo dat zij ermee konden spelen en mijn Java kennis konden bewonderen. En dus: onno.com.

Daarna werd het een persoonlijke web site waar ik foto’s plaatste en schreef over de reisjes die ik deed, het fietsen en wat mij maar verder interesseerde. De eerste paar jaar was dit allemaal met de handgeschreven html. Stukje bij beetje verving ik dat met standaard hulpmiddelen: de foto’s gingen naar MobileME en van daar kortgeleden naar onno.smugmig.com, en de content wordt nu beheerd door wordpress op onno.com. De hosting ging van pacbell.net naar yahoo naar lunarpages.

Een paar keer per jaar informeert er iemand of onno.com te koop is. Een t-shirt bedrijf in Colorado probeerde het meerdere keren; het was nooit duidelijk wat de relevantie van “onno.com” voor hun bedrijf had. Verschillende andere Onno’s waaronder Onno Tijdgat die bekend was als hacker tijdens de tachtiger jaren en de Chaos Computer Club tijd. Het meest recente verzoek was een maand of wat geleden: een Pools bedrijf die een portal op onno.pl aan het bouwen is. Ik betreur het een beetje dat ik toentertijd niet ook de .nl en .org domeinen heb gepakt en dus wonen nu andere Onno’s op die adressen.

De site was thuis voor Rachel’s fotobedrijf voor een tijdje voor we dat naar z’n eigen thuis verhuisden: rachelgracie.com. Het heeft mijn consulting business ondersteunt gedurende het jaar dat dat actief was. Vorig jaar was onno.com gehackt en heb wat lange nachten besteed aan het checken van elk bestand om te controleren of die gecompromiseerd was.

Jammert genoeg heb ik geen backups van de eerste dagen van de site. De foto die je hierboven ziet toont de welkompagina zoals die in april 2002 was. Webcawlers hebben het domein regelmatig bezoekt en de ‘wayback machine’ het een paar leuke aardigheden in het archief. Zoals mijn december 2000 trip naar San Diego en Las Vegas: http://web.archive.org/web/20010216193812/http://www.onno.com/travel/newyearseve.html en de Thanksgiving 2000 treinreis met Amtrak naar Colorado en New Mexico: http://web.archive.org/web/20010422061814/http://www.onno.com/travel/allaboard.html. Ik pluk die en een paar andere verhalen misschien uit het archief en post ze opnieuw – er zitten lollige herinneren in die verhalen.

My Kindle: All the newspapers, all the books, all the time

jun 20, 2009 in Life

kindle.jpgI got mine a few weeks ago and I have to say I am terribly pleased with it. Loved that USPS delivered it two days before the estimated date. Loved the packaging and getting started process with details like the Kindle already registered to my Amazon.com account. Love that the screen saver consists of author portraits and other literary-related imagery.

So far I have two newspapers (New York Times and Frankfurter Allgemeine), a sci-fi magazine and six books on the device. And two days ago I finished reading my first Kindle book (Alan Furst, Kingdom of Shadows).

I suspect that Amazon had a very close look at Apple and its iTunes store. Both companies have made it delightfully easy to spend money with them. In the case of Amazon.com I can buy new content directly from the Kindle, or from my computer browsing Amazon.com and have it sent from there directly to the Kindle. For its free wireless connection the Kindle uses something called Whispernet. If I am correct that works via the same technology as one’s cell phone. I am a little curious how Amazon.com manages to provide this access for free while the cell phone service providers happily charge when you access their networks.

Just like my iPhone I am starting to carry my Kindle everywhere. As in the case with the iPhone regarding music, it is just very pleasant to have all your reading material with you all the time. No need to estimate beforehand whether after leaving the house I desire to read the newspaper, a spy novel, a biography or whatever. It’s all there. Immediate and continuous gratification.

In the few weeks I have not found anything that bugs me about the device but I wonder if that changes as over time the content collection will grow. It seems that all items are listed in order. Will I be wanting an ability to create folders and categorize books? I don’t know yet about backup strategies. I trust that Amazon.com keeps track of what’s on my Kindle. So if the device fails or is stolen, lost or needs to be replaced for any reason does all my content just come down from the cloud onto the new device?

A book I am reading now on my Kindle is The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel. The author writes about his love for libraries. Having a Kindle and reading this book by means of this device has some aspect of irony to it. Like the author I am very fond of libraries and bookstores as well. To walk around without too much of a plan and just let yourself be taken and interested by what you happen to encounter is delightful. When I came to California and discovered stores like Borders and Barnes&Noble that stay open late, have a cafe inside of them, well, that was just fantastic. I remember Chris Borton taking JC and me to an Ethiopian restaurant in Berkeley. We had to wait for our table to be ready. The hostess said: “You can wait at the bookstore next door. They serve tea. We’ll come and get you when your table is ready.” And it was a secondhand bookstore as well. “Take your time with preparing that table,” I was thinking while we happily hopped next door.

Secondhand bookstores may well be my favorite. The often random order in which the books are kept, the level of chaos. A very favorite one is Know Knew Books on California Ave in Palo Alto, and also the small bookstores in the pedestrian gate near the Universiteit van Amsterdam. I can easily spend hours just browsing.

In comes the Kindle. In a few decades where will the bookstores be?

The other day I read that it now happens that during signings authors are asked to sign someone’s Kindle. Understandable development butin the current state of affairs a little naughty of the Kindle owner. Book signing are a tool for the stores to get customers in the store and to buy books, to spend money there.

But this did bring up a thought: maybe there are collaborative opportunities between Amazon.com and brick bookstores: ability to buy Kindle versions of the books while I am browsing there? Of course I can do that now: Whispernet after all. But I am wondering whether there is a way – via promotions, coupons, branding – to make both sides benefit? But perhaps not and will brick bookstores be overtaken by human-technology evolution like recordshops.

A bit back in this story I admitted to having a German newspaper on the device. Why German, why not Dutch? Those are actually two different questions with separate answers. The German newspaper because I use it to help me practise that language somewhat frequently. No Dutch newspaper because there is no Dutch newspaper, or any Dutch content for that matter, for the Kindle. Yes, very disappointing. Since living aboard I have been disappointed in how poorly our culture travels or is promoted beyond the country’s physical borders. Would love to have De Volkskrant or Vrij Nederland magazine or Elsevier on my Kindle.

Tim Bray alerted me that one can add one’s blog to the collection of Kindle blogs. That means that someone can subscribe to the blog via the Kindle and have entries show up on the device as the blog is updated. As Tim writes this gives someone a choice between reading ongoing (Tim’s blog) for free via the world wide web, or pay $.99/$1.99 for the pleasure of reading it on your Kindle. Of course, quick to recognize an opportunity to get rich I signed up this blog as well!

Understand no matter what immediately aforesaid to you in any form of language

mrt 02, 2009 in Life

This afternoon I met up with Euan Morton at Boulder Coffee Company. At some point we got talking about languages and translations which reminded me of something I looked into many years ago when working for Apple: automatic translation. Back home I decided to redo the exercise and see if the technology is better now. Starting with an English text I run it through a few of the web-based translation engines, translate the text to Dutch and then that back to English. Does the outcome compare to the original?

The English text I am using is an excerpt from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where Arthur is introduced to the Babel fish:

‘The Babel fish,’ said The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quietly, ‘is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.’

Yahoo Babel Fish (English to Dutch):
‘ Babelfish, ‘ zei de Lifter ‘ s leidt stil aan de Melkweg, ‘ is klein, geel en bloedzuiger-als, en waarschijnlijk het meest oneven ding in het Heelal. Het voedt op brainwaveenergie die niet van zijn eigen drager maar van die rond het wordt ontvangen. Het absorbeert alle onbewuste geestelijke frequenties van deze brainwaveenergie om te voeden met. Het scheidt dan in de mening van zijn drager af een telepathische matrijs die door de bewuste gedachte frequenties met zenuwsignalen wordt gevormd te combineren die van de toespraak worden opgenomen van de hersenen centreert die hen hebben geleverd. Het praktische resultaat van dit alles is dat als u een Babelfish in uw oor plakt u om het even wat kunt onmiddellijk begrijpen bovengenoemd aan u in om het even welke vorm van taal. ‘

Yahoo Babel Fish (back to English):
‘ ‘ Babelfish, ‘ the hitchhiker ‘ said; s leads quietly to the galaxy, ‘ small, yellow and bloedzuiger-als are probably, and the most odd thing in the universe. It feeds on brainwaveenergie which are not received from its own bearer but of that around. It absorbs to all unconscious mental frequencies of these brainwaveenergie feed with. It separates then in the opinion from its bearer a telepathic matrix which is formed by the aware idea frequencies with nerve indicators to combine which are taken of the speech of the brain centre which has provided them. The practical result of all this is that if you stick Babelfish in your ear you can understand no matter what immediately aforesaid to you in any form of language. ‘

“What!?” I would guess the reaction of an English reader to be when confronted with the resulting English text without context. The reaction of the Dutch reader will be the same I assure you. The English to Dutch translation goes awry right at the beginning. “Oddest” is translated to “most uneven.”; “into the mind of its carrier” becomes “in the opinion of his carrier.” The Dutch sentence constructs are woolly and awkward.

Next I tried Google Translation:
‘De Babel Fish,’ zei de wandelaar Hitch’s Guide to the Galaxy rustig, “is
kleine, gele en bloedzuiger-achtig, en waarschijnlijk de oddest ding in het heelal.
Het voedt zich met brainwave energie ontvangen niet uit haar eigen luchtvaartmaatschappij, maar van die
eromheen. Het absorbeert alle onbewuste geestelijke frequenties van deze brainwave
energie te voeden zich met. Vervolgens excretes in de geest van de vervoerder
een telepathische matrix gevormd door het combineren van de bewuste gedachte frequenties
met zenuwen signalen opgepikt uit de toespraak centra van de hersenen die
geleverd zijn. Het praktische resultaat van dit alles is dat als je een stok Babel
vissen in uw oor kunt u meteen begrijpen wat zei u in ieder
vorm van taal. “

Google Translation (back to English):
”The Babel Fish, “said the Hitch hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quietly,” is
small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe.
It feeds on brain wave energy received not from its own carrier but from those
around. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies of the brain wave
energy to feed on. Then excretes into the mind of the carrier
a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies
with nerve signals picked up from the speech centers of the brains that
delivered. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel
fish in your ear, you can immediately understand what you said in any
form of language. ”

Now, this is a bit bizarre. The Dutch translation while different is equally complex and awkward as Yahoo’s but somehow the translation back to English is almost the same as the original. With one difference though: the working of the Babel fish has changed. It is now explained to help you understand what you said in any language rather than what others said to you. The Dutch translation is amusing: “carrier” is translated as “airline company” and so it says that the Babel fish feeds itself with brainwave energy received not from its own airline company but from those around it…

Then lastly WorldLingo:
De “vissen van Babel,” zeiden de Gids van de Lifter stil aan de Melkweg, ‘is klein, geel en leech-als, en waarschijnlijk het meest oneven ding in het Heelal. Het voedt op brainwaveenergie die niet van zijn eigen drager maar van die rond het wordt ontvangen. Het absorbeert alle onbewuste geestelijke frequenties van deze brainwaveenergie om te voeden met. Het scheidt dan in de mening van zijn drager af een telepathic matrijs die door de bewuste gedachte frequenties met zenuwsignalen wordt gevormd te combineren die van de toespraak worden opgenomen van de hersenen centreert die hen hebben geleverd. Het praktische resultaat van dit alles is dat als u een vis van Babel in uw oor plakt u om het even wat kunt onmiddellijk begrijpen bovengenoemd aan u in om het even welke vorm van taal.’

And back to English:
The fish of Babel, said the guide of the hitchhiker quietly to the galaxy, `are small, yellow and leech-als, and probably the most odd thing in the universe. It feeds on brainwaveenergie which are not received from its own drager but of that around. It absorbs to all unconscious mental frequencies of these brainwaveenergie feed with. It separates then in the opinion from its drager telepathic matrix which is formed by the aware idea frequencies with nerve indicators to combine which are taken of the speech of the brain centre which has provided them. The practical result of all this is that if you stick a fish of Babel in your ear you can understand no matter what immediately aforesaid to you in any form of language.

WorldLingo makes similar mistakes as Yahoo (is one derived from the other?).

In all three cases the Dutch translation is just not Dutch: ignoring some of the word for word translation errors (luchtvaartmaatschappij? mening?) the sentences are badly constructed making it very hard to read and understand. I hoped that maybe I could use one of these engines as a tool to quickly post Dutch versions of my blog entries for some of my elderly family members for whom English is a hurdle. Use the engine for the bulk translation and then clean up by hand. But the translation is so far off that one just ends up translating from scratch from the original text.

Social network here, there and everywhere

okt 20, 2008 in Life

dashboard21.jpgHow the world has progressed from mailing lists and bulletin board systems. Where is Compuserve?

I continue to find “social networking” fascinating. I put the term between quotes; it is not as if humans weren’t socially networking before the founding of MySpace or Facebook. All these nodes in the world wide web do underwrite that humans are social animals first. The success of the telephone a century ago, the ringtone explosion, Japanese teenagers sending each other grainy photographs on their mobile phones and so on.

Social networking intrigues me both personally and professionally. I live in Rochester, NY but most of my family and many of my friends are elsewhere – personal web sites, Facebook friends, twitter updates all help staying in touch with each other and so over a distance of thousands of miles and six time zones I still know that Gero is stuck in a 3 1/2 hour traffic jam due to a truck accident. I have to say though that much of my family is disappointedly cyberspace-inactive. Professionally it helps maintaining connections with peers in the industry while we all move positions, change jobs – and it adds to a manager’s ability to stay aware of the professional well-being of remote colleagues (Facebook status updates can give interesting hints on a colleague’s gearing up for a job change). In my usage I try to separate LinkedIn contacts and Facebook friends between professional, work-related and personal respectively although the line is rather blurry.

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter are all so successful also because they feed into the narcissistic tendencies of many of us allowing us, encouraging us to twirl our experiences, our virtues onto the world. I happily do. Yesterday I went on a bike ride. Before the ride I twitter that I am about to do this and I twitter upon return. The pictures from the ride need to be uploaded to my .Mac gallery, to Flickr, to Facebook and I need to write about the ride on this blog. The stats recorded by my bicycle computer are uploaded to BikeJournal. If I read something interesting on cycling or social networking then I need to bookmark that to del.icio.us. And in between I need to worry about my Technorati authority (only 2, what’s up with that?). All this easily takes much more time than the bike ride itself.

Am I profiling myself enough? How much would my personal brand gain if I also joined Friendster, Friendfeed, Plaxo, Livejournal? Heard the other day that World of Warcraft is becoming Golf of this millennium – the place where business deals get done. I never played golf so maybe I have a shortcut here?

At the same time email is still a key communication tool. With the 11066 unread emails I have as of this writing, keeping up with all the twitter messages, facebook status updates, flickr discussions etc etc how do you stay abreast of that deluge of information? How do you know what to pay attention to and when? How to avoid being interrupted by each incoming email during writing a paper or software? Last week I unfollowed someone because he was just twittering too much.

An MIT project now implemented at MovableType, Action Streams, can be useful. Action Streams allow you to aggregate and share your actions and profiles around the web in one place. Maybe that can optimize my “post ride”-workflow?Ambient information devices then help you assess the state of information waiting for you. There is the Chumby – love to get a few of those. There’s the glowing orb. The cute rabbit by Nabaztag.

For now I am starting in a cheap and simple way. Our Mac Mini is supposed to be our media server but actually spends a lot of its time on my desk. By keeping it in Dashboard mode I can have occasional glances at stock quotes, the weather, San Francisco web cams, IP addresses on our home network, Dutch headlines, Facebook and twitter updates, and a world clock.

Twitter fun

okt 15, 2008 in Life

My favorite app? Twitterrific
Want to see who is twittering on a particular subject? http://search.twitter.com
Want to get suggestions for people to follow on twitter? http://crazybob.org/twubble
Want to follow one of the Mars rovers? https://twitter.com/MarsPhoenix
Want to make sure a plant in New York City has enough water? http://twitter.com/pothos
If twitter had existed in the late 80-ies, early 90-ies then the web may never have happened and the scientists at CERN may have used twitter to check if the coffee was brewing…
One of your twitter friends talking too much? http://twittersnooze.com/
Who twitters the most? http://twitterholic.com/top100/updates/
Connecting twitter to facebook? http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php?ref=logo#/apps/application.php?id=2231777543
Connecting twitter to your wordpress blog? http://www.velvet.id.au/twitter-wordpress-sidebar-widget/
Teach your Chumby to twitter? http://www.chumby.com/guide/widget/Twitter
Easily check how many followers someone has? http://twittercounter.com/
Love, hare, think, believe, feel, wish? http://twistori.com/
Traffic and transit delays? http://www.commuterfeed.com/
Need a personal assistant? http://iwantsandy.com/
Anybody twittering in your neighborhood? http://twitterlocal.net
Connect to your Google Calendar? http://twittercal.com/
Must follow Apple on twitter? http://twitter.com/appleinc
Addicted to Heroes? http://twitter.com/heroespodcast or http://twitter.com/Heroescast
Want to hear a secret, or tell one? http://twitter.com/twittersecret
An admirer of His Pastafied Diety? http://twitter.com/FSM
Ehh, The While House? http://twitter.com/TheWhiteHouse
What’s the weather like in Toronto? http://twitter.com/wxtoronto
Twitter protecting the home? http://tech.shantanugoel.com/2008/05/14/keep-tab-on-home-security-with-a-webcam-and-twitter.html
See in real time where tweets are sent from? http://twittervision.com/
What’s the traffic like on the M5? https://twitter.com/UK_M5_Traffic
The telephone book for twitters? http://justtweetit.com/
Keep track of your favorite cat? http://twitter.com/morriscat
Which of your friends know each other? http://www.tweetwheel.com/
Be alerted when someone stops following you? http://twitterless.com/
The 2008 Twitties winners? http://twitties.com/
Dutch news? http://twitter.com/telegraaf
Can’t do without tweets in Second Life? http://ordinalmalaprop.com/twitter/

Mobile Warrior am I

aug 15, 2008 in Technology

So proud of myself. In between running some errands and visiting the Sun office in Fairport, Patrick and I did a video chat with me in my Mini Cooper parked outside Starbucks in Pittsford Village so I could connect to their T-Mobile Hotspot wireless network.

Afterwards I went in and got my usual Tall Vanilla Latte.

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