The Invisible Web

Waiting for Superman
Davis Guggenheim, Director and co-writer

This documentary stakes a basic premise – that for all the problems the US’s public schools have, they are fixable, and the solution is to have great, high-paid teachers.

The teacher’s union, however, clings to the past and wants to remain the same – meaning most teachers get tenure after two years. So even if they are terrible teachers, they stay.

And the kids suffer.

While the movie did speak to parents getting involved with their kid’s schoolwork and so on, that was the main take-away.

It’d be interesting to have discussion about this with a teacher. Get the other side of the story – because the movie did show charter schools that didn’t have union contracts (or different ones; not sure) that allowed a bad teacher to be replaced. So it’s not like this is just a theory; there are schools in poor areas like Harlem that are turning out huge number of college-bound graduates.

Very interesting flick; almost two hours long and I really didn’t want it to end. Watch; discuss; do something about it.

All movies

I was updating my Portfolio page – which lists some work I’ve done behind firewalls and so on – and I was struck by how many sites I’ve worked on that have either totally changed (different language, but still ecommerce…) or are just gone.


I did a quick site for a friend of a friend several years ago – just your basic “I exist” site (home page, about us, contact us, what I do etc), and I now see that the woman has turned the site into a WordPress blog (not a bad idea) that hasn’t been updated for almost two years. Even if she was still blogging, my work on the site is gone. Down the rabbit hole.

I realize I’ve been building web sites for over a decade, and have worked at a couple of start-ups (one that’s out of business), so that’s to be expected, but still…

To be fair, I’ve contributed to this web rot – my site moved from Cold Fusion to PHP, so those old pages don’t even exist anymore (on a different host). Ditto with this blog – was on Blogger, but when Blogger took away FTP publishing (which I used to host the pages on my own site), I installed WordPress and now the pages are served up dynamically – and are .php, not .html.

Again, Google confusion.

Dylan – Aged to 70 (years old)

DylanBob Dylan – aka Robert Zimmerman – is 70 years old today. This has generated some press, especially the “top X songs” or whatever lists.

I rise to the challenge!

Here is CNN’s list of the Top 10 Dylan songs.

Here are my top Dylan songs, in no particular order, and I’m certain I’ve missed some. These are, to me, the best Dylan songs, not necessarily my favorites.

Whatever; lists are always fun/controversial.

Here we go:

  • “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – Best version (to me) is Live From the Gaslight: 1962. Live, when he was trying to get it right. (To me, he nails it.)
  • “Like a Rolling Stone” – awesome electric Dylan, with lyrics that can cut glass:

    You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
    But you know you only used to get juiced in it
    And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
    And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it
    You said you’d never compromise
    With the mystery tramp, but know you realize
    He’s not selling any alibis
    As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
    And say do you want to make a deal?

  • “Positively Fourth Street” – again, electric poetry.

    Yes, I wish that for just one time
    You could stand inside my shoes
    You’d know what a drag it is
    To see you

  • “Idiot Wind” – Yes, I like Blood on the Track‘s “Tangled Up in Blue” best, but “Idiot Wind” is an extension of “Like a Rolling Stone.” And that’s not a bad thing.
  • “All Along the Watchtower” – so good that when Jimi Hendrix cut the definitive version of same, Dylan began mimicking Hendrix.
  • “Blowing in the Wind” – not the greatest, but was on the lips of every folk singer in the 60s or 70s. Hell, it’s the anthem of a generation.
  • “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding”) – when Dylan really got Kant/poetry into his recordings.
  • “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” – Early political song; great apocalyptic poetry. Nuclear rain is going to fall.
  • “Song to Woody” – From his first album, this song – that I’ve never heard on the radio – is important in that it really sets up where Dylan was at the time (moved from his native Minnesota to New York) and what he was trying to do (make it as a folk singer). It’s a nod to Woody Guthrie, as well as the other folk heroes that help shape Dylan.

    I’m out here a thousand miles from my home
    Walking a road other men have gone down
    I’m seeing a new world of people and things
    Hear paupers and peasants and princes and kings.
    Here’s to Cisco and Sonny and Leadbelly too
    And to all the good people that traveled with you
    Here’s to the hearts and the hands of the men
    That come with the dust and are gone with the wind.

  • “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” – Remember, rock and roll can be fun

    Well, they’ll stone you when you walk all alone.
    They’ll stone you when you are walking home.
    They’ll stone you and then say you are brave.
    They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave.
    But I would not feel so all alone,
    Everybody must get stoned.

Flash Be Gone

I finally bit the bullet and installed Flashblock on my Firefox.


I’ll miss it a bit – you miss a bit of the Zeitgeist when you don’t see the ads and so on, but I won’t miss the speed hit I was taking.

Between the upgrade to Firefox 4 (very nice, except for memory management) and iTunes, some nights it’s a pain to keep things stable. No crashes, but iTunes would stutter all the the time.

Turning off Flash solved 95% of the problems. And – at the same time – when I go to sites I’m familiar with, no issues. HTML 5 and jQuery (especially) are removing the need for Flash in most cases. (One notable exception: Nick Denton’s sites: Gawker, Lifehacker and so on. Killing JavaScript would kill the site; it appears nuking Flash does the same. The sites – beyond the framework – never load any content. Awesome redesign, guys!)

Once again, Steve Jobs was right…or the success of the iPhone/iPad made people scramble to de-Flash sites so iOS devices could view same. Whatever.

Works for me!

Beginning the second decade of Apple stores

Apple StoreWell, today marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the first Apple store. (Read the CNN story.)

It’s hard to believe today, but when the first Apple store opened, there were no iPods. No iPhones. Certainly no iPads.

The store just sold desktops and laptops, which now lag in sales behind the iEverythings.

Like much of what Steve Jobs does, this was dismissed by many at the outset. Why? Gateway was actually in the process of trimming down their stores (and heading for eventual bankruptcy). Why a store just for Apple products (and a few select 3rd party products)? How could such a venture possibly be feasible?

Critics piled on the iPhone, and – more recently – the iPad when each arrived.

But Steve was right.

He certainly seems right about the stores, as well. Apple has opened more than 300 stores in the US and abroad, and is just starting a push into some very juicy markets – think India and China; think Brazil.

And the Genius Bar is just that – genius. I don’t know how many computers I’ve had to save for people (I was the genius bar, but I came to them), but if they have a Mac, it’s like, “Take it to the store.” While I have run across some very arrogant employees at the stores (a common swipe at the stores), they have been in the very small minority. For the most part, it’s a great experience – and what other store can you say that about?

FYI – I’m not a Mac fanboy. I have a Mac, but my primary computer is a Windows box, simply because I’m a web developer, and the majority of people currently access the web with Windows. I need to develop for them, and then test on other platforms. If I had another occupation, I’d almost certainly be on a Mac of some sort (my servers would still run Linux, however).

The stores were a somewhat out of left field concept, had a very good chance to tank in a spectacular manner, but … they didn’t.

The future is still a bit mixed. Hell, Dell got everyone conditioned to buying computers online, and now – with Amazon and the rise of ecommerce – there is less reason each day to actually go into a store. Any store.

As I mentioned, the Genius Bar alone could keep the stores open, but it’ll be interesting to see the staying power of these stores. Yes, at least one has been around for a decade, but does it – or the others – have the legs to last another 10 years?

I honestly don’t know.

Changing of the guard at

Groklaw, the site that famously chronicled – and researched the absurdity of – the years-long saga of SCO’s attempt to “own” Linux, is changing leadership today.

Pamela Jones – aka “PJ”, the site founder – will keep the servers running but will no longer be writing for this important blog. She’s handing the reins over to Mark Webbink, a law professor and open-source fan. I’m not familiar with Webbink, but I trust PJ’s judgement.


I just want to give a shout-out to PJ; I’ve been a fan since virtually the beginning, especially during the crazy SCO days. We’ve exchanged emails; I’ve donated code. Groklaw was a very interesting – and bold – experiment at the beginning (essentially crowd-sourcing the research/reporting/investigation of intellectual property issues); it has blossomed into a powerful tool that I hope will continue to do the OSS community proud.

Thanks for everything, PJ!

Privacy vs … what?


OK, Apple and Google (smartphone OS makers) hauled in front of the US Senate this week to ‘splain their collecting user data (BAD!), and then there’s a Justice Department official arguing that mobile phone operators should store more data (to make it easier for law enforcement to use data to catch bad guys).

Huh! Bad you collected this data, but, by the way…collect/retain more…

TechDirt has a good (short) shot at this dichotomy, but, basically, this is something we are going to be dealing with for a long time – the battle of open vs. closed; access vs. not; privacy vs. not-so-much.

It’s been an ongoing battle; this latest kerfuffle was just a exclamation point on the matter.

And why is the Senate concerned with this? It reminds me of when the Senate did all those hearings on steroids in professional baseball.

Huh? (both cases)