How Do Brains Filter Data?

July 04, 2006
How Do Brains Filter Data? "'Synapses, by their nature, are probabilistic little devices, [and] don't transfer every type of information they receive.' In fact, only 10 to 25% of the signals that a neuron receives will be transmitted across the synapse; the rest are 'dropped' much like a cell phone call."

How not to write an e-mail

July 04, 2006

I reply to 99.9% of the e-mails I receive; it might take me a while to get back to some of them, but I eventually make the rounds. I received the following e-mail earlier today and can't make heads or tails of it. I initially thought it was spam because there doesn't seem to be a single coherent thought, much less a coherent sentence, throughout the entire message, but the subject matter made me do a double-take (I've written quite a bit about Sony Ericsson phones on this site, especially the K700i). If you can figure out what this guy is asking, please let me know so that I can reply to him.

Subject: Complaint about K700i or K500i


We are facing this problems continuesly till now. We bought our set before 1 year and we face problems 3 time in our sets. we are very dispointed. We've k700i or K500i. First problem we occurred in my cell in it's joystick which is occured in 5 months when we bought our cell and after some time K700i set again problem face it's display problem after repaired it sony service center and also k500i we face problem it's souds system or it's battery system. we have also some other phone in sony ericsson set which have many problems in different set.

Now we both are very dispointed about sony set. How this is possible if customer is not satisfied to your set. Why I am buy your set and In my knowledge in practicaly there is no benefit in sony ericsson set. It's waste of money because there is so many customer who are not satisfied with ur product. That's not a good business for sony.

So pls. give us a satisfied answer about sony set. What should we do. Thanx

Real DJs code live

July 04, 2006
Real DJs code live. "'Livecoding' practitioners improvise using Perl or homemade programming architectures to build compositions from the ground up, replacing instruments and samples with raw code authoring before a live audience."

To do: release to-do script

June 30, 2006

After having played around with Lifehacker's reader-written, task-tracking shell script, I think I'm going to release to the public my tried and true homegrown script of the same function. Mine is very similar and is something I've been using for years. Unlike theirs though, my effort doesn't include prioritization (I've never needed such a thing), but it does allow for sorting by project/type (e.g., school, website, etc.), while removing those identifiers when presenting the list back to you. Also different from theirs, I pad the task number with a zero when needed (it has to line up!) and sort by task number, not alpha.

This list is getting awfully long

While there is no shortage of task-monitoring programs out there, I've seen very few that actually allow you to easily delete or modify a task (I'm referring to mouse-less apps here, the only way to implement this sort of thing if you ask me). Huh? How can you have a to-do manager that makes deleting a task so much different from adding one? To wit, the majority of shell-based solutions (or, much more recently, those involving Quicksilver) simply append to a text file and then grep through it; this is all well and good, but when you want to delete/change something you have to actually open the file, find what you're looking for, and then edit/delete it. Counter-productive? You bet.


As you guys are well aware, I'm stupid busy and surely won't have this out for at least a couple of months. Given that I've been using and honing it for years, there's not too much to change, though I do need to add quite a few comments, explain the available options, and probably throw in some error-checking for good measure (and to cut down on the amount of support e-mail I'd otherwise have to field).

Back into hell I go.

Jabra knows how to treat its customers

June 26, 2006

A couple of months ago I wrote about my Jabra JX10 Bluetooth headset, and overall, had some very nice things to say about it. However, one thing I failed to mention was the fragility of the earhook. As a whole, it didn't feel weak or anything, but the way in which it was coupled to the headset made you wonder.

A few days ago I was removing the headset from my ear and thought that the earhook felt a bit loose. I checked, and sure enough one of the two tiny hooks that connects the earhook to the headset had snapped. Needless to say, I was a bit perturbed given the fact that this headset was $180 (ridiculous!) and knowing that I, the guy that treats his gadgets like gold, didn't cause the problem.

Jabra made it right, and quickly

I went to Jabra's site, found the support page, and entered my information into a form. With my allotted 500 characters I explained the problem as best I could and expressed my disappointment that such an expensive device could give way to gentle day-to-day use so easily.

Just 12 hours later I received this response from a human:

Thank you for contacting JABRA North America!

Please forward your mailing information and manufacturing code of the JX10, and we will be happy to send some complimentary replacement earhooks. The manufacturing code is 2 numbers followed by a letter, and is located on the speaker, under the ear gel.

Should you have any questions, or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us at Product Support.

Yah, I couldn't believe it either. I was floored. No arguing, no sending my device in, no out-of-pocket expenses? All you want is my address?

Still in disbelief, I immediately e-mailed the information requested, and not one hour later got this in return:


Your ear hooks are on there way by USPS. You should see the ear hooks in about 5-7 business days.

And that, readers, is how you do business. Don't blame me. Fix the problem and make me happy. I'll come back again and again.

Hell is bar prep

June 22, 2006

Studying for the California Bar is pretty much the worst thing I've ever been made to do, rivaled only by, well, nothing (the Patent Bar comes close, but that's history :). Earlier today, midway through our lecture on Remedies, I had half a mind to take the honorable, way-of-the-samurai exit and drop my head onto my pen, aiming, of course, for an eye socket. It's UNBEARABLE.

UPDATE: From a friend via e-mail, a quote from Winston Churchill: "When you're going through hell, keep going."

Everybody upgrades

June 19, 2006

Earlier today John Gruber knocked out his theory on Why Apple Won't Open Source Its Apps. While I usually agree with most of the arguments Gruber makes,1 though not always the way in which he makes them, I have to take issue with his position here. He posits that Apple's upgrade-the-OS-every-year strategy is the impetus behind keeping its well-known apps closed-source:

The role these apps play isn't just to make Mac OS X look good compared to Windows or Linux, but also to help make each new version of Mac OS X look better than the previous one; i.e. to convince Mac users that it's worth paying for the latest upgrade.

If the source code to these apps were made available, the best features from new versions of these apps could be ported back to previous versions, lessening the incentive for users to upgrade.

I would argue that those who would consider modifying the source to these apps, or even those who would simply consider using others' modifications, are the exact same people who are going to upgrade blindly anyway.

In other words, the hackers dissecting these programs will be the first in line to buy the new OS. I think John would be hard-pressed to find someone within his circle who doesn't upgrade immediately (or as soon as it's agreed that the upgrade is "safe") each year when there's a new point release; I know I can't -- we look foward to the release date. I don't see how opening up the code would change that. More to the point, I think it's safe to say that most of the people itching to upgrade each year don't use Apple's bundled apps anyway.

So, with John and I's crowd out of the way, we are left only with Joe EndUser who isn't going to use any "iSoftware" unless it comes from or through Software Update, especially if he bought a Mac specifically for these applications. Apple is still free to market to this guy, and because he doesn't know or care that better software options are available (and certainly hasn't used any of these non-Apple apps in lieu of Apple's offerings), he'll still want to upgrade for all the same reasons he's upgraded in the past.

John uses iChat as an example application to make his case. He points out that there's a hack for it that will give you tabs, and argues that if the app was open-sourced, the hack wouldn't feel so "hacky" because it would be a lot easier for the coder to get it 'right,' which would subsequently marginalize Apple's ability to market the feature (i.e., it would already be out there). Point taken. However, my view is that Joe EndUser is not even going to become aware of tabs until Apple tries to sell him on them. I think my position here is driven home by the fact that it's 2006 and we are talking about adding tabs to a chat application (i.e., they aren't already there and Joe is none the wiser); Joe doesn't even know he needs tabs and he's certainly not actively seeking out an application that has them.2 Moreover, were Joe to look for and find such an application, I'm far from convinced that this would deter him from upgrading, unless, of course, I'm misinformed and people do in fact pay ~$130/year for slight upgrades to these apps without taking into consideration that the OS itself has usually undergone some major changes (security, speed, etc). Granted, Joe EndUser might not care about the under-the-hood goings-on, but I have to think that they play at least some part in his decision to upgrade, if not a major part, and are perhaps a bigger draw than tabbed iChat.

Note that I'm not taking a position either way on whether Apple should open its applications up (if I were Apple, I probably wouldn't), I'm merely pointing out that I'm not entirely sold on John's conclusion that open-sourcing the apps would likely cause Apple's upgrade program to suffer.

  1. I'm a card-carrying member of Daring Fireball. Really, he sends you a card along with your t-shirt (and I love him for it :).   

  2. One needs to look no further than IE, the world's most popular browser by far, and the fact that it doesn't yet have native tabs to see this point made ridiculously clear. It's 2000-fucking-6 people! Not only does it not have them, but MS is talking up the tabs in IE7 as if it's the new thing, and you know what, the majority of the world buys it. Nevermind that some of us have been using tabbed browsers for ~5 years and couldn't imagine the web experience without them.