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Why I Won’t Be Seeing Snakes on a Plane

You’d have to be hiding under a rock this past weekend to avoid all the chatter in the blogosphere about “Snakes on a Plane”. People recounting how much fun they had at the show, all the fan participation, etc. But I didn’t go see the movie, and I won’t be doing so, and I wanted to say why.

Several years ago, while I was dating my (now) wife Rachel, I discovered that she had made a decision to not watch any Rated R movies. Rachel has always made me want to be a better person, and I look up to her in many areas. So, after some thought, I made the same decision, and I haven’t watched any Rated R movies since (about 6 years now).

Why the thing against Rated R movies? I think there’s just too much vulgar language, and inappropriate sexuality in movies (and entertainment in general), and I’m doing my small part to “vote with my wallet”. And you know what? My life hasn’t ended. There’s plenty of worthwhile entertainment out there.

The sad thing about Snakes on a Plane is that I was really looking forward to seeing it. It was originally going to be rated PG-13, but the studio actually went back and did a 5 day reshoot to add more foul language, nudity, and who knows what else, because people were apparently asking for it (beware some foul language on that IMDB page). I don’t know what is more dismaying – the fact that they went to the expense of doing a reshoot, or the fact that people were clamoring for it. πŸ™

Is there violence, vulgar language, and sexuality in PG-13 rated movies? Sure. In fact, it’s all over prime time broadcast TV, even. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and there have been PG-13 movies that I’ve avoided for the same reasons. Plus, there’s plenty of stuff out there that I consider to be mindless drivel (most pop music, lots of Disney TV shows targeted at kids, etc.) – I avoid that, too. πŸ™‚

I debated for a while about even posting this, but it’s been on my mind, and I wanted to say it. I don’t know if people are going to react with flames, or criticism, or what, but if nothing else, I hope it makes a few people think about how much undesireable stuff they’re swallowing in their TV and movie viewing. I’m not perfect, and I don’t think less of people who went to see SoaP or who make any other entertainment choice. But that kind of stuff is not for me, and it’s not for my family, either.

Want to watch something funny? Go check out “Happy Middle“, the new improv comedy video podcast from my friends Jason and Anna (of the Delta Park Project). They’ve got some SoaP parodies (and lots of other good stuff – subscribe to the feed!) that are hilarious, even without having seen the movie. See? Lots of good stuff to watch out there on the internets. πŸ™‚

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The Peer to Patent Project: What if the community reviewed patent applications on a wiki?

Bumped into my friend Matt in the elevator this morning, and he mentioned an interesting article he had read recently in Fortune, about the idea of opening up the patent application process in the U.S. and putting it on a wiki – letting the community review the patent ideas, cite prior art or areas that shouldn’t be patentable, etc. Given the dumb patents that have been granted in recent years (Friendster patented social networking, etc.), I think that more community review is a great idea.

I did some digging, and here is the page for the project: The Peer to Patent Project: Community Patent Review. There’s also a blog for the project, to keep up with updates. From their “About” page:

Sponsored by IBM, the Community Patent Project seeks to create a peer review system for patents that exploits network technology to enable innovation experts to inform the patent examination procedure. In every field of scientific endeavor, peer review is a critical quality control mechanism to improve innovation. Throughout the public sector both peer review and citizen consultation are either legally mandated or practiced as a way to inform policymaking.

I think this is a great idea, though I can see a lot of opposition, mostly on the part of the patent applicants. This is (ideally) going to make it harder to get a patent approved, but that should improve the quality of the ideas in the patents that do finally get granted. And I can see people freaking out about having their pre-patent ideas out in the open for peer review, but really, anyone can search the US Patent and Trademark Office database for applications, so this doesn’t represent a big change there.

What do you think? If you were going to apply for a patent, would the prospect of having it reviewed and picked over by the community at large have any impact on your idea?

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I refuse to pay $35 for a 6 foot Firewire cable

I misplaced my 6-pin to 4-pin Firewire/IEEE1394/i-Link cable, to get digital video from my camcorder into my computer. It was a cheap-but-sturdy-and-functional unit that I ordered from NewEgg last year. I paid maybe $6 for it, and it has worked like a champ.

I stopped by Fred Meyer on the way home to pick up a replacement, and I was given a sharp reminder of how freaking expensive they are! Fred Meyer had exactly one cable, and wanted $25 for it (6 foot, Belkin). I passed, and went across the street to Radio Shack, where again, I found exactly one cable, and this one was $35.

I told the guy at Radio Shack that I wouldn’t pay that much for a cable, and started to leave. He weakly protested that they were that expensive everywhere. In retail stores, maybe, but I pointed out that I could get one easily for less than $10 online, and the convenience of getting it “right now” wasn’t worth a 350% (or more) markup.

EDIT: Rick pointed out in a comment that a local computer parts shop, Iguana Micro, has the exact cable I was looking for. The price? $3.50. That’s three dollars and 50 cents, or one tenth of what Radio Shack/Belkin wanted. You know Iguana’s not selling these at a loss, so this illustrates the outrageous markup even more. I’m definitely going to Iguana Micro the next time I need a commodity component like a cable.

What’s wrong with cable companies that they charge so much for simple cables like Firewire and USB? I mean, I understand they’re out to make a profit, but how can they sleep at night when they’re selling a cable that costs them maybe a few bucks for $35 or more? What is the justification or rationale here?

/end rant

There’s a happy ending to the story, though. I got home, and looked around one more time in my desk, and found my trusty $6 cable. I’m using it right now to extract some video off of my camera. I won’t make the mistake of misplacing it again. πŸ™‚

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I recorded a Channel 9 style video interview with Intel CTO Justin Rattner today

Today was awesome. I shot a whole bunch of Channel 9-style video shorts for some upcoming technology showcases that Intel is going to be doing. More on that in a couple of weeks, after everything is ready. But I just had to post about one of the videos I did. Scoble would be proud…

We arranged to have a few minutes with Intel’s Chief Technology Officer, Justin Rattner (link goes to his intel.com bio). We talked about the “Country Fair” tech showcases that were going on, and about his experience in the last couple of months as Intel’s first blogging executive (his blog is hosted over on ZDNet at http://blogs.zdnet.com/OverTheHorizon/). The video is only a few minutes long, since his time was being managed pretty closely by his assistant, but it was very cool to meet him and talk to him, and even make him laugh in the video. He cracked a geeky joke about “The Matrix” and microphone wires while we were getting ready that I wish I had caught on camera. πŸ™‚

I’ll definitely be posting the video once its available, along with all the other cool stuff. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of Intel doing a lot more to establish a videoblogging community around its technologies and products, like I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Wish me luck! πŸ™‚

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Video: Entering Portland on the Fremont Bridge

You know how there’s a place when you’re driving back to your town after a trip when you just feel "this is home"? No? Maybe I’m the only one, but I love seeing Portland from this section of the Fremont bridge, coming from the north, on I-405. The bridge is beautiful, you can see forever in all directions, the river, etc.

I always love this video, so I shot a minute or so of video coming home from the airport on Saturday. I shot the video at 60 fps on my Canon SD700, but I transcoded the video the .MOV using iSquint, so I don’t know if it preserved the framerate.

Anyway, check out a glimpse of the town that I consider "home". πŸ™‚

What’s your favorite view/area of your favorite town? 

This video was originally shared on blip.tv by Josh Bancroft with a Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Video: Bomb Sniffing Dog Demonstration

On Saturday, we took the Cub Scouts to Young American Day at the Portland Air National Guard base, adjacent to PDX airport. They had all the planes out to walk around and look at, as well as lots of fire and police trucks for the kids to climb around and play on.

This was a demo of one of the Port of Portland’s bomb sniffing dogs. The officer explained how the dog is trained, and what she does, and then gave us this demo. The video is about a minute and a half long, and it’s pretty cool. The kids all loved it! :-)     

This video was originally shared on blip.tv by Josh Bancroft with a Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Josh’s Rule of Naming

I have a “rule” when it comes to picking a name for something – a domain name for a website, a product name, an email address, etc.

Never pick a name that you have to spell every time you speak it, and/or have to explain how to pronounce every time you write it.

I try to follow this for all of my blogs, web projects, etc. And I explain it to people when I’m helping them get started with a blog or a podcast or something. But it’s amazing how often this rule gets violated in the world today.

A couple of examples:

I’d pick on Flickr here, but they’ve become so popular that I only have to explain the “no e” thing to non-geeks. But I will pick on Zooomr. Besides the vowel atrophy, how many people have gone to “zoomr.com” (only two o’s, not three, but the natural way to try and spell it) by mistake? It’s not the photo sharing site you were looking for. You learn after the first few times to type it correctly, but every time I tell someone about Zooomr, I end up saying “zee oh oh oh em arr dot com”, or having to explain that there are three o’s instead of two. Zooomr breaks the rule!

Another example (just to pick on my employer a little bit! ;-)) is Intel’s “Viiv” technology. Almost invariably, when you see it written, it’s immediately followed by the text (“sounds like five”) or some other clue as to how to pronounce the word. And I often have to spell it out (“vee aye aye vee”) when I’m talking to someone about it. Nevermind the fact that most people don’t quite know what it means, anyway… Viiv breaks the rule, too.

If possible, you should avoid living on a street that you have to spell out, too, or you’ll be saying “Brynn road that’s bee arr why en en road…” every time you order pizza.

This should apply to naming your children, too, but far be it from me to try to tell people how they should or shouldn’t name their kids. If they want to use a “unique” spelling or name, who am I to stop them? Keighleigh? Sihndee? Whatever you want. Can you tell that Rachel and I have been talking about names for our soon-to-be-born baby?

Follow this naming rule, and you’ll save whole seconds every time you use the name, either written or spoken, by not having to spell it out. Over the course of your lifetime, this could add up to years that would have otherwise been wasted! Feel free to thank me any way you see fit – I take PayPal! πŸ˜‰

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Want to see who’s using Windows Live Writer?

Just do a search in your favorite blog search engine, like this one at Technorati, for the phrase “temporary post used for style detection”. That’s the name of the post that Windows Live Writer creates (and sometimes leaves behind, forcing manual deletion). Rick Segal has a great word/term for this – it leaves a turd on your blog. πŸ˜‰

Theorhetically, no one would ever see this little autogenerated style post, except when they do. You see, people who use an aggregator service that accepts pings (like Bloglines does) for updated posts will aggregate that “turd” post immediately, so it shows up when you’re reading feeds. I’ve seen dozens of them in the last 12 hours. Also, if you ping blog search engines, it will get indexed there, too, as evidenced by the 860 results for “temporary post used for style detection” in Technorati right now. I believe that WordPress is set up to ping http://rpc.pingomatic.com automatically for new posts (I know mine install of WordPress does), and Pingomatic will send out pings to other services, like Bloglines and Technorati.

So I guess the real question is, was this an unintended consquence of the “style detection” that Windows Live Writer does (a.k.a. the “turd” theory), or a clever way to track and measure how many people are using the tool? πŸ™‚

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Test post from Windows Live Writer

So Microsoft released a blog writing tool. Pretty slick. I’m using it to post this. Initial setup took longer than I thought it would – don’t know what exactly what it was doing “detecting styles”, etc.

I don’t know if this will displace my preferred blog editing tool, Performancing for Firefox, or even the WordPress web interface itself, but all the cool kids are playing with it, and I couldn’t be left out! πŸ™‚

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Catching up

I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth. Just been really busy catching up at work, and trying to take care of my sick wife (which mainly consists of entertaining our 3 year old daughter, so she can rest :-)). I still need to post my Wikimania day three notes and final impressions – I have a ton of stuff I want to talk about, plus some final photos. And lots of cool stuff going on at work this week, too.

Just wanted to let you know my status, and if you’re waiting on any of that stuff, that it will be coming soon!

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