September 2011

(Archive index.)

Why use an Amiga in 2011?
Why use Amiga in 2011? (AmigaOS 4, MorphOS, AROS, AmigaOS 3.9)

See also follow-up links:

Historians Politely Remind Nation To Check What's Happened In Past Before Making Any Big Decisions.

“The finest pianos in the world were built about a hundred years ago. Due to evolution in engineering, exhaustion of raw materials, and flagging business standards, we will never see their like again. Some people may build very good pianos; new forms of the instrument may exceed (in narrow ways) the magnificent machines built a few decades either side of the year 1900. But, from a musical perspective, there will never be a “better” piano than the typical concert grand of a century ago.”

See also Kendall Ross Bean’s Guide to the Piano World, linked from the article:

Piano Quality « Nexcerpt.

Google’s an open source V8-based JS testing framework.

Introducing Google JS Test - Google Open Source Blog.

Ward Cunningham is working on a new kind of wiki. Federated, with built-in visualization. Watch the videos.

Smallest Federated Wiki Videos.

From DeWitt Clinton:

Amazon Silk (cloud-enhanced web browser) launch video.

This direction has long had potential, and we've seen technology in the past to aggregate and compress and down-rez assets via a proxy, but in this case they seem to be doing some of the rendering and js processing on remote compute clusters, and pushing the results down to the client. Promising.

Very much looking forward to learning more. Add pointers to additional information in the comments, please.

Typewriter drink mixer:

'Quixote,' Colbert and the Reality of Fiction.

Using projection mapping to illustrate a computer motherboard.

Draw a Stickman.

From Gina Trapani:

Spent the weekend building a Google+ plugin for ThinkUp. Here's a screenshot. So far it charts comment and +1 counts over time, lists posts by most discussed, and most +1'ed, and filters posts that contain questions.

The API is extremely limited, but I like starting small and simple, and this was just enough to tackle in a day and a half. The OAuth implementation was easy-peasy, and beside a significant database migration to accomodate G+'s ginormous user ID's and alphanumeric post ID's, it was smooth sailing.

Hopefully we'll have a release of some sort, even if it's dev-only, very soon.

Oh right, link to ThinkUp:

Arduino announcements at Maker Faire NYC: Arduino 1.0 (finalized design and software); Arduino Leonardo (simple low-cost Uno with new USB drivers); Arduino Due, a new board with a 32-bit ARM processor; and an Arduino Wifi shield, with software that makes it largely compatible with the Ethernet Shield.

Arduino Blog » Blog Archive » Breakfast at Arduino.

Two Google launch announcements of personal importance: the first version of the Google+ API, and the new Google Developers website.

Google Developers has been my full-time project for the past 10 months, and a part-time effort for long before that. This launch, in concert with the Google+ API launch, is the first step of many towards building a new experience for developers using Google products. I’m excited about what we’ve accomplished so far, but I’m especially excited about what’s to come.

And yes, Google Developers runs on App Engine.

Google Developers.

A Boing Boing comment thread on programming with kids.

I had some success with Python’s built-in turtle mode (import turtle) and the 7-year-old. Also wrote a simple game with the 5-year-old on the Apple IIc in BASIC.

From Mark Frauenfelder:

The comments are a gold mine!

Programming options for kids – Boing Boing.

Jason Scott is at it again with a project to make three new documentaries about the history of computing: one on the 6502 processor, one on the medium of tape, and one on video arcades. He’s attempting to raise the money for all three documentaries at once, to be completed over three years. Go kick in as much as you feel it’s worth.

The Jason Scott Documentary Three Pack.

"Of course it sucks. It's made of software." • The Unofficial Google App Engine Price Change FAQ.

From Max Ross:

App Engine 1.5.4 buzzer beater feature: displaying write ops in the SDK dev console. Hopefully this will help people understand the new (datastore) pricing a bit better. Don't look for it in the pre-release SDK, it's not there.

I wrote Programming Google App Engine for O’Reilly using Scrivener, the long-form prose drafting app from Literature & Latte. I built my own method and tool to export DocBook XML from Scrivener, so I could do Rough Cuts releases while maintaining the book as a Scrivener project.

Since I’ve started the 2nd edition, I took the opportunity to clean up the tool, extend it with an import feature, and release it to the public. Check it out!

Fair warning: This isn’t for everybody. Scrivener is not an XML editor, and Scriv2DocBook does not make Scrivener into a WYSIWYG DocBook editor—though the automatic paragraph features makes it close enough for my taste. This is probably a bad idea. But I like it. :)
Uh, now back to writing…

Programming Google App Engine.

From Emlyn O’Regan:

Here's the concluding post in my series on optimising my AppEngine app (Syyncc) for the new AppEngine billing. It contains data, graphs, and nerdish ranting. Geek out on it!

AppEngine Tuning – Schlemiel, you’re fired!.

Google App Engine Blog: A few adjustments to App Engine’s upcoming pricing changes.

From Peter Magnusson:

TL;DR: New pricing postponed to Nov 1, instance hour discount extended to Dec 1, Python 2.7 expected by Dec 1, your bill is likely to go up but less than you fear, plus an analysis of why App Engine is still a great deal.

I’m the Engineering Director at Google responsible for App Engine. Nice to meet you!

We’re excited about coming out of preview and becoming a fully supported Google product. Besides new features, a 99.95% SLA, new Terms of Service, paid support, and monthly invoicing, we’re also changing the pricing model. We rolled out “side-by-side” billing last week to all App Engine developers, and sent an email with accompanying information, showing the predicted effects of the new pricing on all applications.

This has created a bit of consternation. I’d like to take the opportunity to provide some commentary on two topics: the timeline, and the price increase per se.

First topic, the timeline.

Many developers feel that they are being given too little time to make adjustments. We announced the new prices in May, and we thought the side-by-side billing would be just the next phase; instead, for many (arguably most) developers the side-by-side billing is just the start of their adjustment.

It’s clear we were wrong: expecting developers to figure out their future costs from information in the admin console was simply too obtuse. We made a classic error: we’re too familiar with our own product.

So I apologize: we should have realized this and put out a version of side-by-side billing much sooner. But this is easy enough to fix: we’ll just give you more time. So instead of turning on the billing in the second half of September, we are giving developers more time to fine tune their application by moving that date to November 1st.

Another aspect of the timeline that has caused concern is the uncertainty about the availability of Python 2.7, which will bring concurrent request support to our Python developers (it’s already in place for Java). We added a 50% instance price discount to compensate for the delay, and said we would remove that discount on November 20th. We’ve decided that we’ll extend that discount to December 1st, by which time we expect to have Python 2.7 available.

Second topic, the pricing increase per se.

The vision for Google App Engine is to provide a development environment for cloud applications to run on Google’s infrastructure. In particular, if you build on App Engine, it should be:

* free to get started and easy to use
* simple to make it scalable
* trivial to maintain it

App Engine is a classical case of platform computing trade-offs. What would you like? High scalability, ease of use, low maintenance, high reliability, security? Pick any two and somebody can make it super cheap. But if you want three or four, or all five, things become a little more dicey. With App Engine we are targeting doing all five at the same time, because we think that’s what cloud application developers ultimately want, and we think that’s what the future of cloud computing entails. And we’ve decided to package that offering into a free tier and two paid tiers:

* The generous free tier that App Engine has been offering has remained unique in the industry. We will continue to offer a free tier: a small web application with low traffic should not cost anything to run on App Engine. The new free quota levels are lower than before, so many pre-existing free applications will require tuning, however the principle will remain: App Engine is the only major platform to offer a free tier that’s not time-limited. If you have a small app that you can’t get under the free quotas, post in our forums and we’ll try to help. (But please try to tune it first.)
* The paid tier will charge for resource usage, with a minimum $9/month to enable the 99.95% SLA. And that SLA does not carve-out time for maintenance windows: App Engine can be upgraded without planned downtime for your app. The pricing in the paid tier is structured so that the vast majority of applications will find their total cost of ownership (TCO) to be lower than the competition. If you find that this is not the case for you, then feel free to share your calculations with us. The second paid tier, premier accounts, adds operational support and monthly invoicing.

Our goal is to make the best possible cloud application platform for developers. The feedback we’ve received over the years is that people want things like great reliability, more features, quicker bug fixes, fewer restrictions, etc. We can deliver all these things but it requires App Engine to become a sustainable product for Google. To be clear, we’re not in the business of selling cycles. The vast majority of our costs are in the talented engineers that develop, maintain, operate, and support the overall App Engine service. And they’re not just any engineers, they’re some of the most talented and dedicated individuals I’ve had the honor to work with. They care passionately about the platform and the developer experience. And that’s where we want to invest.

But even if we look at just the cycles - then no, not all cycles are created equal. This is one of the reasons we want to change our resource concept from “CPU” to “Instance”. App Engine instance hours are fully managed, fully provisioned, run in the context of a set of fully-maintained services, and there are no hidden costs. Just the consumer cost of electricity for running a single server in your home will cost you more than running most apps on App Engine.

And our instances are fully redundant, and we take care of switching between redundant data centers for you. We have over 100% capacity provisioning: we can lose not just one but more than one data centers and still run the entire workload, without applications being impacted. And we have full provisioning for spikes: in the week following the Japanese earthquake, our traffic to Japan doubled. Japan is our second largest country in terms of App Engine traffic after the US, so this amounted to adding capacity for a whole 100M population country in a just a few days. App Engine is so well provisioned that we didn’t need to add more capacity or intervene in any way.

App Engine instances run on Google’s own infrastructure in our own data centers, with the same security and monitoring as services like Gmail and Docs: Google employs a large team of security experts. And our extremely talented reliability engineers are on pagers 24/7 across global time zones: when subsystems have problems, we’re on the case, so you don’t have to be. The high replication datastore (HRD) that we rolled out in January has had no outages since launch.

That said, the new App Engine prices are higher. In fact I expect many large applications after optimizing will end up paying 2-5x more than before. Many small applications will no longer fit into the free quota without optimization or performance tradeoffs. And many applications that only had to pay a little bit above free quota now have to pay more.

But I believe that for the vast majority of applications, a reasonable total cost analysis will find that App Engine is a great deal. And it’s only going to get better. We have a ton of cool improvements in the pipeline.

Thank you for your attention, and feel free to email me directly at And if you come to Thirsty Bear in San Francisco tonight, I’ll buy you a beer.

Google App Engine Blog: The Year Ahead for Google App Engine!.

From Siegfried Hirsch:

Before dropping Google AppEngine think about Tricking the new price list of App Engine

Dropping the price by a factor of 50 is possible. A lot depends on the code and how you use App Engine for the better.

You remember +Russell Beattie rant about the new price structure of App Engine. He has taken down because of the tremendous price increase and a lot of people have shared this feelings.

After some time I decided to optimize the code, cause it was obvicious how the code make better use of App Engine's features. I don't think this is always as easy as this time - see the postings of +Emlyn O'Regan who is optimizing his own code.

Find the old and new listings of (optimized with red markings) and the old and compare for yourself.

I have also included a charts for the last two days to show how many instances are used to do the workload of

As you can see, plusfeed2 now uses between 2 and 4 instances - but most of the time it were just 2 instances. Compare this to the about 35 instances before and you see, where the higher costs came from.

I hope this gives other programmers some insights, that it is possible to optimize for the new price structure of App Engine. I don't say, that it is always possible, but a better algorythm or other solutions could help a lot.

App Engine is often compared to running lamp servers by yourself, but scaling and maintenance are a lot of work and if your app needs more resources App Engine just grows, where on other platforms you need to think about new servers and system admins. And sometime there are only slashdot or techcrunch/mashable peeks, that your app has to handle. So automatic scaling, no admins and much less baby sitting of your app are the main plus points for me to stay on App Engine.

This is a little pointless, but it’s fun to watch. The video gets points for not jumping to conclusions about what people believe based on what they watch on TV, or at least they don’t say it out loud (cuz it’s a “study”).

From Dan Gillmor:

How the "War on Terror" and "War on Drugs" have been warped through our TV screens.

From Chris Messina:

This looks awesome! I totally want to play!

/cc +Siobhan Quinn+Dennis Crowley

I don’t have a strong opinion about TechCrunch as a whole (and scandal is borne of public apathy), but I love the way TC has responded to the CrunchFund deal and the— inevitable and justified— criticism: with honesty, anger, and uncensored criticism of their supposed bosses. If the situation were more complicated, TC’s attacking AOL management might look like a cover-up (respond to criticism of bias with angry anti-bias until it blows over), but it clearly isn’t. Factual and emotional transparency may or may not save TechCrunch, but it’s the best way to try, and the best way to go out.

TechCrunch | TechCrunch As We Know It May Be Over.

From Guido van Rossum:

Good post on how to reduce your App Engine bill:

The Amazing Story Of AppEngine And The Two Orders Of Magnitude.

Google honors Freddie Mercury with an animated musical doodle that defies description. Also, don’t miss Brian May’s guest post on the official Google blog:

From Romain Guy:

The new Google Doodle is amazing! If it's not Monday in your timezone yet, head over to and click the "Play" button in the Google logo.


From Dan Gillmor:

Must read: A stunning dissection of America's utterly rotten political system by former Republican staffer. If this doesn't make you fear for the country's future, nothing will.

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult | Truthout.

Draw - Google Correlate.

/fyi +こんにちはザンナ

App Store - Jetpack Joyride.

From Timothy McClanahan:

University Book Store presents: NEAL STEPHENSON.

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