Macworld 2011

I'll be delivering two Users Conference sessions at the Macworld 2011 conference! I wasn't able to make the timing work in 2010, an I missed the first "no Apple" version of the event, which sounded chummy and wonderful. On 27 January, I'll present a session on remote controlling your screens (an overview of the many tools for remote access and file transfer for machines under your control or those of friends and family for remote tech support); a second session, on 29 January, will cover remote video chatting with Facebook, iChat, Skype, and other programs.Macworld 2011 Click on the image above to get a 15-percent discount for conference registration, or use the code "speaker" when signing up. (It only applies to registration for a multi-day conference track.)

The Bug What Got Me: Personal Epidemiology

Lasvegas-1Lynn thinks it's a pretty tricky assignment to figure out where and when I received the bug that laid me up from Wednesday night until today. I agree. But it's fun to speculate.

I was on the road starting a week ago Friday, flying out from Seattle to Las Vegas. Jeff Carlson, officemate and friend, and I visited the Consumer Electronics Show Saturday and Sunday, then flew to his mom's in Dixon, Calif., near Sacramento. (We were warned that the Las Vegas airport, a place where the smoking lounge has no ventilation and open doors to the rest of the terminal, would be impossible to get through Sunday afternoon with 140,000 CES attendees departing. It took us an hour to get from the CES show to our hotel and then to the airport, where there were tiny lines and no wait. We wound up working for a few hours using the unreliable, not particularly high-speed but conveniently free Wi-Fi connection.)

From Dixon, Jeff's mom Susan drove us to SF where I stayed until Wednesday afternoon, when I flew back to Seattle. The flu or cold started grabbing me on Tuesday night with a upper bronchial yuck, made me tired and slightly lightheaded during the day on Wednesday, and then threw the chills at me (my body trying to kill it off, I know) on Wed. night. I decided to avoid most cold drugs on Thursday to see if I could shake it faster by succumbing. Some success perhaps there.

83716593 C04E568D5C MNow I know that I shared pastries baked by Jeff and my friend Neil Robertson, who cooks at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The three of us certainly exchanged spit. Jeff was sleeping 4 to 5 hours a night on the trip, working on four presentations he was to give at Macworld. If I was sick then, surely he would have gotten it via saliva, right? Maybe not. He's still well.

Thus, I would wager that some hand I shook, despite frequent hand washing and use of waterless cleaner during the trip, must have been disease-laden. I didn't know anyone well at CES, so there was no hugging, cheek to cheek, or kissing. Since Susan and Jeff aren't sick, it seems unlikely I picked it up or spread it in Dixon. I unfortunately, kissed, hug, and shook hands with tons of people at Macworld. I'm hoping they are not in the grips of the grippe.

Since I arrived home on Wed., we've been observing strict sanity and cleaning behavior. So far, so good. No sick Ben or Lynn. I'm hoping I either wasn't contagious by the time I got home or our prophylactic attitude took care of it. If they're still well tomorrow, we should be out of the woods.

There were points on Thursday night when this felt like the worst sickness I had ever had. Fortunately, it passed.

I Thought They Were Exaggerating about Las Vegas

I'm in L.V. for the Consumer Electronics Show right now, and I have to say that on my first visit here, I'm amazed that what I had heard and seen before about the city seemed before I arrived here to be exaggerated. Now I understand that images I have seen on TV and in magazines, and stories I've read are substantially understated. What a place. And I'm just walking along the Strip, not exploring downtown or seedier places. Woof.

We are staying at Circus Circus in their satellite rooms where I am paying the most I ever have for the worst room. That is, the room is fine, but it's Motel 6 outside Goshen, Oregon, standards, Actually, a Goshen Motel 6 is probably cleaner and less worn.

They are building new stuff by the acre here--the entire city is covered in cranes--but there's so much money pouring in, there is little motivation to renovate. Worst case, they put in a new carpet. Best case, they tear down the rooms we're in and build better rooms.

Going to CES in January

I've managed to avoid going to conferences for most of this year (just one in March), and I've missed CES (Consumer Electronics Show) forever. But there's too much Wi-Fi at the show for me to skip this year. In January, I'll be at CES on the Saturday and Sunday of the show, and then off to Macworld for the next Tuesday (keynote day) and Wednesday. And then home to collapse.

Well Met in Austin

The list is way too long, but I met a lot of folks in Austin that I have been looking forward to meeting for a while. (If I left you off, no offense! I met a ton of folks, and my memory isn't what it used to be.)

Esme Vos (, Rich MacKinnon (Austin Wireless), Craig Newmark (Craig's List), Eric Meyer (CSS god), Joshua Benton (we've met before, but nice to see him close to his Dallas home), David Isenberg (we've met before, but good to see him again), Jon Lebkowsky (all kinds of cool political activities), Dewayne Hendricks (met once before briefly), Molly Holzschlag (just as good looking as her Web site indicates--I'm talking about her CSS, people!), Cam Barrett (commiserated over hackers who had exploited both our systems), Adina Levin (, Mitch Ratcliffe, Jock Gill.

Most of the people I met were tired as was I. Something about jet lag, too much work, too much fun, and a conference knocked people out.

On my way back to Seattle, I think I spot Mitch, who lives about 40 minutes south of me, walking on the plane at Denver. Sure enough, I'm one of the last people to board and I spot him toward the back. I keep walking back, look at my ticket, look at how close I'm getting to his row, and see that we're seated window and aisle. We score an empty middle seat, one of a small handful on the plane. We have a conversation that lasts until we land, and it was great. An empty middle seat is an airline's gift to gab.

SXSW: Bram Cohen: "I don't care"

I'm at the South by Southwest interactive conference (SXSWi) and just went to my first session with Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent. Unfortunately, Bram appears to have very little joy in his life, as a colleague remarked to me after the session was over. He speaks in an affectless voice, offers terse and often somewhat offensive replies to many questions, and doesn't seem to have much interest in anything but certain aspects of network programming. (A colleague says I'm a jerk: Cohen has Asperger's Syndrome, which can result in this disconnect in social behavior.)

BitTorrent is a client-based peer-to-peer file sharing tool which splits up a file into many pieces and seeds it across all peers. Even as the first site offering a file is connected to from a remote BitTorrent client and starts transferring data, that second client has started to advertise the availability of the pieces it already has to others.

But he had some fairly hilarious things to say. He would prefer to program without a computer: that is, the irritations of particular hardware and software problems drive him nuts because he isn't interested in the interface or the experience of computing. He also wants to help facilitate a better cross-platform approach to opening and managing ports through firewalls and network address translation; fortunately, the guy who developed Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) was in the audience.

The interviewer for the panel said that although last summer BitTorrent traffic was measured as 35 percent of the Internet's bandwidth usage, it's now up to 50 percent. I believe this because BitTorrent is used for enormous files and it's enormously successful. The larger files you want to distribute, the more likely you switch to BitTorrent, which means the more likely you

His repeated comment for the half of the session I sat in on was, "I don't care." This was in response to a large universe of questions about content, rights, and money. Some of the more interesting aspects of BitTorrent he ignored questions about or refused to answer. His interviewer asked him to talk about the business of BitTorrent and he quietly said to her, "I don't want to talk about that." Someone asked a good question about integrating BitTorrent into programs, and he decided he didn't understand the question.

I have to ask: if you're so diffident you can barely bring yourself to answer questions, why do you fly thousands of miles to Austin, Texas, and sit in front of an audience for an hour? To feed your ego?

I hate attending sessions in which the person acts as though it's a giant inconvenience that they're even there. Do the crime, do the time.

I had the same reaction to the Famous Celebrity who was onboard a Geek Cruise I was lecturing as part of. In the Q&A that he offered to give, he was incredibly desultory and insulting. This was partly because he was put out that about 90 percent of the people on the cruise (mostly spouses of either gender of the attendee at the conference) had no idea who he was.

Update: Hey, it turns out Cohen has Asperger's Syndrome--at least according to this Wired magazine article that someone who thinks I'm a jerk pointed me to--so this explains his behavior. So I'm apparently an insensitive clod because I should be tracking neurological impairments (which some people with Asperger's would argue is not an impairment) of well-known people and factoring that into all of my judgments.

I'm of two minds here: first, sure, he has a condition that is well known to produce the kind of behavior I discuss above; but, second, does that mean I can't say that he was rude and it was a bad session? Do I need to censor myself, or say, "warning: criticism of someone with a neurological condition follows." Or should his session have a label on the outside: "Note: please don't criticize the speaker's politeness or humor as he cannot vouch for either of those."

I don't see how you work out this situation and still allow fair comment.

SXSWi: Hi-Fi CSS, Gladwell, Gillmor

Flickr photos of these sessions

Img 3699The Hi-Fi CSS session was extremely nuts and bolts from four leading CSS practitioners. (Eric Meyer is here, too, in other CSS sessions.) Cascading Style Sheets lets you separate content from structure, meaning that you can avoid hard coding the appearance of a Web page. Rather, you tag elements of content and then use CSS style sheets to control their appearance.

Note that all five panelists were using Macs. But then correlate that with the fact that when Molly Holzschlag asked, the audience volunteered that most of them were coding Web pages in text editors, as were all of the panelists. (I use Movable Type for most of my Web sites now, so I use MT templates which aren't per se viewable in a Web design program. So I combine hand-coding of CSS with some visual previewing and templates.)

General notes: Make sure that the names you choose for CSS has a meaning, but note that function could change over time, thus naming something with a meaning related to appearance could make CSS less readable later. Terrible bugs in browsers means that CSS is ugly. Let's make CSS more like the beauty of nature over time. So occasionally we make CSS where it's not the perfect solution, but it's elegant. And, a nifty trick for doing double rollovers in which one rollover triggers another action elsewhere on the page using CSS (a:hover selector).

Malcolm Gladwell's keynote was very entertaining, drawn largely from his book, Blink, which I haven't read yet. It was a very interesting talk, though, and the main thrust is that people make very important decisions about life and death based on snap decisions that are provably inaccurate or wrong. But, at the same time, it's possibly to refine the information coming into a snap decision to improve the outcome of that decision. I'm a big fan of The Tipping Point, so will have to read Blink now. (Gladwell bon mot: I don't want my obit to read, "Malcom Gladwell, 87, author of The Tipping Point..." which is why he wrote a book he thinks has unrelated ideas in it.)

Dan Gillmor gave a talk that I've heard different renditions of from and about the ideas in We the Media. I like it as always, but don't have anything new to extract from it that Dan doesn't already say well on his own site and in the book.