Larry Hosken: New

That time I walked most of the way around the bay

I took eight days and walked most of the way around the bay. I wrote down some things that happened, took some photos. Let's hope I left out the tedious parts and included only the interesting parts.

I wasn't hugging the coastline of the bay. I don't like wetlands that much. And in some places you can't walk along the coast without trespassing. Instead, I let Foursquare pick out interesting places for me to visit along the way. Some of those were scenic spots on the coast. But others were taquerillas and stranger things, many of which I hadn't visited before.

Anyhow: You can read Around.

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Book Report: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Real-life Tech CEO worst case scenarios from Ben Horowitz. What to do when there's no clever fix for the company's problems. Choosing the least-bad of awful choices. Layoffs. Failures. Perhaps this book's most important lesson for someone who aspires to be a Tech Founder CEO for the glamour is: That's a terrible idea.

Another reason to read this book, if you're an ex-Geoworker, were the cameos by ex-Geoworkers.

…The fourth member of our team was In Sik Rhee, who had cofounded an application server company named Kiva Systems, which Netscape had acquired. He had been acting as CTO of the ex-commerce division that I ran and, in particular, worked closely with the partner companies in making sure that they could handle AOL scale.

As we discussed ideas, In Sik complained that every time we tried to connect an AOL partner on the AOL e-commerce platform, the partner's site would crash, because it couldn't handle the traffic load. Deploying software to scale to millions of users was totally different from making it work for thousands. And it was extremely complicated.

Still true, more than 10 years later, though I guess nowadays you could downgrade that "extremely" to "rather". Another cameo:
I turned to Jordan Breslow, my general counsel and said, "Do we have to disclose this to the acquirers right away?" Horrifyingly, he said, "Yes."
So maybe the lesson is: Hard things are hard. If you want to know of the existence of a hard thing in your organization, hang out with ex-Geoworkers, and eventually they'll mention one.

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Something to do in Austin:
You can, of course, bring your own desk with you to the Oval Office, as did Lyndon Johnson. The Johnson desk is now in the replica Oval Office at the LBJ museum in Austin, and, I am reliably told, the retired president sometimes sat at the desk to surprise unsuspecting museum visitors.
"What Now? The Oval Office," Stephen Hess

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Book Report: The Innovators

It's a book of mini-biographies and mini-histories from the history of computing. The angle: it's about people worked together to make things happen.

I wish I'd read this book a while ago. Mostly, I wish I'd read it before I'd read so many biographies and histories from the history of computing. As it was, I waded past plenty of material I'd already learned about. It was kind of interesting to keep going to see some insight about how these folks had worked together. But there was a lot of wading. If I hadn't already read about so much of this, it would have been more interesting. E.g., I'd recently read What the Dormose Said, and so I was pretty sure that the nightclub name "Big Ng's" was a typo, and a typo that was kind of a sad typo to think about.

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I finally tried a Detour audio tour. These tours are like a neighborhood audio tour that you listen to on headphones, but use your phone's geolocation to figure out if you're at the right place to hear the next bit. They work by means of an iPhone app; but for the Market Street Prototyping Festival (I love all of the undefineds on that page, little gaps in JS APIs reminding us of what we can expect of prototypes.), the kind Detour folks were loaning out iPhones, so Android users such as myself could try it out. (Though it took me a few minutes to figure out how to turn the phone on. The next person who tells me about elegant iPhone ease-of-use should brace for cussing.)

tl;dr: Detour's a cool app, but the wise content creator won't lean on the newfangled features too hard; rather, concentrate on creating some great audio and let the app features complement that.

I was curious how/if this app could work. Playing with Munzee and Ingress, I knew the frustration of an app that only worked right if it at least kinda knew where you were—because with geolocation nowadays, your phone is all-to-often a half-block off. This sample audio tour took place along Market Street, which is pretty bouncy, GPS-signal-wise. How could the audio-tour folks put together something that worked smoothly if it was only dimly aware of where I was?

Well, it didn't know exactly where I was. At one point, it told me to go stand next to a BART entrance. I did, and wondered why the app's narration didn't resume. I hauled the phone out of my pocket, looked at the app's wayfinding compass—and saw it was directing me 100m forward, crashing through a construction fence. Instead, I Brownian motioned around until the app un-confused itself and resumed telling me where to go.

But that only happened once. I doubt that's because the app always had a firm grasp of where I was. Rather, it's because the tour's content built in some "wiggle room" for geolocation. It told me where to go and gave me plenty of time to get there. It gave me so much time, I think I walked past its waypoints a few times. At one point, it told me to cross Market St. to Midtown Jewelry—which was behind me by a block.

(I may have walked even faster than my usual jumble hop. I think the distraction of the audio made me concentrate more on walking, concentrate more on dodging around people. Janet Cardiff's video walk in SFMOMA made my brain concentrate on dodging things that were no longer there. This audio tour got me similarly focused, but only on things that were there.)

Parts of the tour took place inside the Main Library. These didn't seem to use geolocation. (Obviously not GPS inside. Did it try to geo-locate? The app has permission to use bluetooth. Is there such a thing as a bluetooth beacon that you could put inside the library? IDK. Anyhow.) Instead, these relied on user pausing the narration if they fell behind.

It makes you think: Was this app with its fancy-pants geolocation easier or harder to use than a plain ol' audio player with a pause/resume button? I think it's easier. Not for me, not on this particular tour, but in general: this app is easier than a plain ol' audio player. This particular tour only sent me to places that I knew about. It was easy to get ahead of the narration; I never felt lost. But what if I'd been an out-of-towner? Or what if I'd been in some part of the city I didn't know? Then that built-in wayfinding compass, the built-in map—those would have been darned nice to have.

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Book Report: The Peripheral

Ages ago, probably back when I was a teenager, my dad told me some reasons why "time machine" stories in sci-fi movies/books/etc. don't work so well—that time machine also has to be a teleporter/momentum-rearranger since the earth's whirling around in the universe so quickly. He pointed out a variation on time travel stories that side-steps these problems (but still has other problems): what if the future could send information back to the past?

William Gibson wrote a novel based on the idea. (I don't think he stole the idea from my dad; this is a "great minds think alike" kind of thing.) In The Peripheral, near-future and far-future can communicate over the net. But his story isn't anything like what I thought of decades ago. Nowadays, communication is better, our networks are better, and we use them for more. Thus, the book's protagonists can videochat, pilot drones, use remote telepresence—uhm, yeah, lots of stuff.

The book's funny-sad. Much of its conflict is resolved by corrupting the state. In the near future, politicians and large parts of the US Government are pretty corrupt. It's funny to see how Homeland Security switches actions/sides depending on who's bought it off most recently; it's funny because that world doesn't seem that far away from our own.

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Copy photos from Android to Ubuntu

Connect w/USB cable. On the phone, choose PTP. On Linux machine, run Shotwell. Shotwell can then import the photos.

Yes, I'm basically jotting notes to myself on my blog. Sorry, here's a gratuitous phone photo to make it up to you:

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Twitch.TV channel idea: Like unboxing videos, but for people opening envelopes from the IRS tax folks, live. Hang on, why am I posting this here instead of on halfbakery?

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Going to the Doubleclicks Show Thursday night? Maybe get there early

One of my neighbors puts weir—uhm, thought-provoking stuff out in front of his apartment every so often, ephemera of the El Fornio Historical Society… e.g., fliers announcing Father Serra's heart in a jar. Now he's got a sign up saying that his art's going on display starting Thursday evening at Doc's Lab, which is hosting a Doubleclicks show later that evening. Assuming all that stuff is happening in the same room, which doesn't seem like that much of a stretch, right? Give it a look, especially if surreal takes on California history are your thing. Or one of your things. Or have potential to be one of your things if you'd ever encountered it before, which perhaps you haven't.

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While the tourist rubes gawk at Lombard Street's twisty stretch across the street, serious scholars Bob Wilhelm and Jerry Hosken look over the Osbourne-Stevenson house (a.k.a. Robert Louis Stevenson's widow's house), debating whether a glassed-in statue refers to The Bottle Imp.

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