2012-05-05_2110-35_0507
Stanford, Technology

Symbolic Systems Program 25th Anniversary

This weekend, Rae and I had the pleasure to attend the Symbolic Systems Program 25th Anniversary event in the Huang Engineering Center at Stanford. I owe a great deal of my success to the program and the lifelong friends I’ve made in classes such as Philosophy 160A. When I arrived at Stanford, my plan was to become a Chemistry major, but Chem 321 threw those plans out the window after just one quarter. In Winter quarter my freshman year, I was taking CS 106A and was introduced to the Symbolic Systems through my TA. He too was a SymSys major who had just returned from a quarter abroad in Paris, France. As a junior in high school, I had lived in France for three weeks, and I always wanted to do a study abroad program while at Stanford. He planted the seed in my impressionable frosh mind that if I were to be a SymSys major, I could go to France too (look at that logic working there!). He also had long hair. It’s clear looking back that Symbolic Systems and I were a perfect match!

Notable graduates of the program who spoke on Saturday included Marissa Mayer (Google), Scott Forstall (Apple), Matt Flannery (Kiva), James Rucker (MoveOn), Srinija Srinivasan (Yahoo), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), and Mike Krieger (Instagram). Lest people think that all SymSys grads go into the tech industry, we had several academics speak, including Nadeem Hussain (Stanford), Tania Lombrozo (UC Berkeley), and Erica Robles-Anderson (NYU). It was great to meet with my former SymSys and Philosophy 160A classmates too; this year is our 15-year reunion, and I’m really looking forward to October!

The weekend was a good opportunity for Rae to better understand where I came from. A common question that I always get asked is, “What is Symbolic Systems?” At our Autumn Gem screenings, I usually say something to the effect of, “I studied Symbolic Systems, a major similar to Computer Science.” The real answer is much more complicated and nuanced, so the next time you see me, ask me, “What is Symbolic Systems?”

Here are a few photos from the anniversary event this weekend.


1 No offense to Chem 32, but after taking the class, I realized that being a Chem researcher just wasn’t in the cards for me longterm.

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Journal, Musings, Rants, Technology

Bye Bye GoDaddy, Hello Hover: An Ode to a Dead Elephant

It may come as a surprise to some, but I can be unusually resistant to certain kinds of changes. For the longest time, I have used and recommended GoDaddy for domain registration services. When it first appeared on the scene, GoDaddy was a viable and affordable alternative to Network Solutions. Over the years, I’ve found myself biting my tongue whenever it came time to renew. The dozens of advertisements for “additional services” had become too in your face and annoying. I had become programmed to scroll down to the bottom of the page, looking for the “No Thanks, Continue” text link that would take me one step closer to the Checkout page. Nevertheless, the inertia to change (i.e. laziness) was too great, and I found myself renewing my domains every few years and continuing to use GoDaddy for my new registrations.

That processed ended for the most part today after I read the tweets and articles about GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons shooting an elephant in Africa. Since its racy Super Bowl ads, GoDaddy has never shied away from the public spotlight, and I’m not sure which way the pendulum will swing as a result of this incident. While Eric tweeted that people are abandoning GoDaddy in droves, it remains to be seen if people aren’t just raising a stink about leaving. Domain transfers involves time, money, and multiple steps to complete. For people who have dozens of domains like myself, even the plight of the now dead elephant might not be enough to overcome this inertia.

For me, however, the elephant story forced me to say, “Enough!” This afternoon while in Hawaii, I transferred 14 out of my 16 domains over from GoDaddy to Hover, a domain registrar owned by TUCOWS, a long-time player in the Internet scene. I found a 10% off coupon for Hover, and the company itself is offering domain transfers for only $10. Hover has a good tutorial which walks one over the multi-step process to go from GoDaddy over to its service.

As for the other two domains, I have to wait until a 60-day grace period is over before I can transfer one of them. I’m just going to let lapse the other when it comes time to renew. So with that said, goodbye GoDaddy and hello to Hover!

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Drobo, Tech, Technology

Backup Strategy 2010

It’s the end of the year, and I’ve been cleaning up my digital clutter and revisiting my backup strategy. Since I last wrote about the subject, my storage requirements have grown. My 1.5TB Photos partition has turned into a 2TB partition, while my video projects span 1.5TB and 1TB drives.

Here’s what’s changed over the past two years.

  • SSD
  • Separate Data Partition
  • Time Machine
  • Dropbox
  • Hard Drive Consolidation

240GB SSD

I purchased an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD to function as my boot drive in my desktop and laptop computers. I’ve long known about the benefits of SSD, but was waiting for the exorbitant prices to come down before making the plunge. The prices are still high, but I figured the extra productivity I’d get would help offset things (famous last words of mine).

Continue reading

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Apple, Reviews, Technology

11.6-inch MacBook Air Thoughts

The new 11.6-inch MacBook Air on top of the 12-inch PowerBook G4 and the original PowerBook 100.Since the Apple Event announcing the new MacBook Airs, I’ve been using a loaner unit of the 11.6-inch Air. I won’t bore you with yet another standard review of the Air; instead, I’ll share some thoughts from the historical perspective of a longtime Apple laptop owner.

Steve Jobs called the new Airs as the future of laptops. No doubt, but these seeds were planted many years ago by previous laptops and mobile devices.

Read the rest of this post and see the photos »

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Apple, Journal, Rants, Technology

Can You Connect To The Internet Now? Verizon, iPad and the MiFi

Update November 23, 2010: Updating the MiFi to firmware 7.3.11 appears to resolve these problems for me. The updater is currently available only for PCs, so Mac users will need to borrow a friend’s computer or use Fusion or Parallels to install the firmware onto their MiFi. Daniel Odio has additional details on his blog.


The following post was written using the MiFi with firmware 7.1.6. The problems listed below manifested itself for me and several other people. Read the update above on how to upgrade your MiFi to the latest firmware which has resolved the problem thus far for me.

So, Verizon is now selling the iPad bundled with the MiFi wireless 3G hotspot. Unless Verizon and Novatel (makers the MiFi firmware) have solved MiFi WiFi disconnect problem, there are going to be a lot of unhappy customers.

Many users of this setup for the past year have experienced random disconnects with the MiFi when used in WiFi mode. As I pointed out in my post on the subject back in April, the device works fine in tethered mode, but fails horribly — disconnecting sometimes every minute — in WiFi mode. To my knowledge there hasn’t been any acknowledgement of this problem on the part of Verizon nor Novatel, nor has there been any firmware update to rectify the issue.

Verizon MiFi Problem

Now that more customers will be “enjoying” this problem, perhaps a solution is not far down the road!

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AllThingsD, Apple, Journal, Technology

At the D8 Conference in Rancho Palos Verde

D8 If you love technology, you’ll want to tune into the D8 Conference, where I’ll be for the week in beautiful Rancho Palos Verdes, California. We have a terrific slate of speakers being interviewed by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, including Apple’s Steve Jobs, on Tuesday evening. Check out the complete list of speakers and visit conference web site for live blogs, photos and video highlights from every session!

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Apple, Autumn Gem, iPhone, iPhoneDevCamp, Technology

iPad Meetup

Last night, I attended the The Silicon Valley iPhone and iPad Developers’ Meetup at Bistro 412 in Palo Alto. The venue used to be called Fanny and Alexander (or F&A for short) for as long as I could remember. I photographed several events at F&A, including a Smurfy Brown performance back in 2002. Eight years ago! The iPad and the iPhone were just pie in the sky ideas at that time; look how far we’ve progressed since then!

SVIPHONE Meetup organizer, Tim Burks, ran a great event last night, with tons of demos, giveaways and networking. He had several iPad developers come up to show off their latest creations and was gracious to allow me a few minutes to speak at the end (as I was a late RSVP to the event). I demoed the Autumn Gem application for the iPad that we developed this past weekend at iPadDevCamp. Dom, one of the organizers for iPadDevCamp, also gave a brief shout-out to the crowd that we had won the Future of Publishing award; they accidentally forgot to mention that during the awards ceremony on Sunday, so it was nice to get some recognition of our achievement!

People came up to me after the event finished to say that they thought the app was great; one person even said that out of all the demos, she thought ours was the most impressive. Thanks! We’re getting lots of great feedback and will be releasing the app soon through the App Store.

For those of you interested, we’re having a screening of Autumn Gem (the full-length documentary, not the app) on May 2, at the Saratoga Public Library. Come watch the film, buy a DVD, and talk to the filmmakers! More information can be found at the Autumn Gem screenings page.

Here are some photos from last night’s event:

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Apple, Journal, Technology

Autumn Gem for the iPad Wins at iPadDevCamp!

Autumn Gem for the iPad

Our Autumn Gem application for the iPad won the Future of Publishing Award at iPadDevCamp! We developed this application to show the potential marriage between film and iPad. Going beyond a normal movie, we bring the story of Modern China’s first feminist, Qiu Jin, to life with interactive elements, historical information and movie clips from our film.

Unfortunately, we only heard about the award after the event was over. The judges created several new awards categories during the judging process, and they accidentally forgot to mention our application! No worries, we’re happy that our app was recognized by the selection committee!

The free iPad which is part of the award will be going to Ivan and Dominic from XBureau, who assisted us in developing the application; we couldn’t have done it without them! It was a completely random encounter that caused us to meet. On Friday night, I was standing in line waiting to talk to Chris Allen, one of the organizers of iPadDevCamp. I was holding my 5D Mark II, which was mounted onto my Zacuto Tactical Shooter. Ivan noticed my rig and asked me some questions about it. During our conversation, I told him about the film and my app idea; later on in the evening, he came up to me with Dominic and said they were interested in working on the app. Two days of furious coding, Photoshop, Final Cut, and After Effects later, here we are with a now award-winning app!

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