Buzz!I’ve only had Google Buzz now for about 24 hours, but I already feel that it has the potential to revolutionize the way people communicate with friends and family.  It’s easy to look at Buzz as being Google’s too-little-too-late competitor to Facebook, with a bit of Foursquare and a dash of Twitter thrown in.  But in my mind, Google took everything that is right about those services and threw out the crap.

Facebook is all about ego

If your Facebook home page is anything like mine, it is filled with junk.  Farmville this, Mafia Wars that, Joe has joined the Save the Manatees Group, Sarah is now friends with Fred.


I’ve filtered out most of this stuff with Facebook’s “hide” settings, yet still, Facebook feels like High School to me.  From the way your friends are so prominently enumerated and displayed on your profile, to the endless lists of causes people join, all of it just reminds me of the ego-centric days of yore when all most people cared about was looking cool.

You see, Facebook’s main focus, the page at it’s core, is the profile page.  Your online persona.  Everything you do adds to that page like some sort of shiny bauble to be shown off.  If you’re tagged in a photo, it shows up on your wall, if you become friends with someone, it shows up on your wall, people write directly on your wall, and all this in turn gets pushed out to your friends’ feeds.  Too much noise, not enough signal.

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook can be fun, and it does have it’s occasional value.  Sometimes I actually see stuff on there that I care about from my friends and family.  It’s just buried under tons of garbage.

Buzz is all about communication

Buzz takes Facebook and flips it around.  While your Google Profile, like your Facebook profile, does make up a part of the Buzz ecosystem, it’s only ancillary.  This makes the mindset completely different.  Buzz doesn’t bother telling me when someone starts following someone else, or if their relationship status has changed, or if they got a high score in some new game.  Buzz just makes it easy for people to communicate those things to me if they so choose.  This gives the whole service a different feel than Facebook.  Think more “I want to show this to people,” rather than “look at me.”

My email inbox is already where I go to communicate.  It makes perfect sense to make it easier for people to aggregate content into that space.  That is Buzz’s true promise: help me share content and keep in touch.

Facebook can keep the posturing.

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Inauguration Day Road Closures

These days in the DC area, a lot of people are talking about the upcoming Inauguration, and just how bad the traffic is going to be.  Some predictions I’ve heard from Virginia State transportation officials have said that traffic will be backed-up all the way to Richmond.  To make matters worse, there are a ton of road closures and other restrictions that have just been announced in the past week.  Most of the information I’ve seen about these closures has come in the form of long lists of streets, which are hard enough to wrap your head around when you’re a DC native – I can’t imagine how hard it is for the out-of-towners who are going to be driving in for the inauguration.  To try to make things a little easier to navigate, I’ve thrown together some interactive maps of the road closures and access routes.  Hopefully it’s easier to understand than a bulleted list of 100 streets.


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Give me my tabbed browsing back!I’d argue that browser tabs are the biggest innovation in web browsing in the last 5 years.  I’m constantly middle-clicking to open things to read later, or to make it easier to compare between multiple pages. I think a lot of other people are too.

Perhaps then, someone can explain why Google’s web applications have been slowly making it harder and harder to open things in multiple tabs.  First it was Gmail.  No more middle-clicking a bunch of unread messages to open them all in different tabs.  No more having multiple labels open at once.  Try opening in a new tab, and Google either pretends you left-clicked, or breaks completely. They destroyed tabbed browsing in Gmail.  Luckily, I don’t use their interface that much.  

Now, one thing I do use all the time is Google Reader.  That’s why I was horrified to notice today that they’ve begun crippling it too.  They only seem to have repurposed the middle-click for a few small features, but I worry that it’s just the beginning.

A lot of people talk about how great Google is at making user interfaces. However, they seem to be drifting more and more towards the dumbed-down, crap-ass interfaces that Apple puts on iTunes and their iPods.  But that rant is for another day.

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Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

It’s been over a year since the tragic collapse of the westbound span of the I-35 Mississippi River Bridge, and the NTSB has issued its final report.  At the time of the collapse, there was wide speculation that corrosion and a lack of maintenance had prompted the failure.  However, in its report, the NTSB describes a fatal flaw dating back to the orignal design of the bridge.  The collapse was primarily caused by the fact that the steel gusset plates (pictured below) were undersized, and insufficient to support the bridge.  In addition, 2 inches of concrete had been added to the road’s surface over the years increasing the dead load by 20%.  Finally, at the time of the collapse, 578,000 pounds of construction equipment and materials had been resting just above the bridge’s weakest point.  The rest, as they say, is history.

failed gusset plate


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Hawaii Beach

I absolutely hate it when a blog I read goes quiet for a while, and then the author writes some lame post about why he’s been absent for so long. Usually, I think to myself that I could care less about his excuses and explanations, and how I really only want more good content.

Well here’s my excuse: I just got married on Saturday, and am headed to Hawaii for the next 2 weeks for my honeymoon.

In an attempt to defray the lameness of this post, here are a few cool links that I would be posting, if I were not going to be lying on a beach instead.

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Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A380 Luxury Suite

On October 15th, Singapore Airlines became the first to accept delivery of the Airbus A380, the largest airliner in the world. In its most cramped configuration, carriers have the option of packing 555 people into the A380. But Singapore Airlines is taking a different tack. Beginning with their first flight, scheduled for tomorrow, SA will offer three cabin classes: coach, business, and a new super-first class called Singapore Airlines Suites.

This new class is meant to be the pinnacle of airline travel, and hearken back to the golden days of flying boats in the 30s and 40s.  Singapore Airlines hired famed yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste to design the suites.  Each fully-enclosed private cabin features a leather recliner, upholstered by the world-renowned Poltrona Frau, a plush double bed, and flat-screen television.

Take a video tour of all three classes and check out the link to the Singapore Airlines Virtual Cabin Experience after the break…

Continue Reading »

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Sony PlayStation 3

It seems that both Sony and Microsoft are trying to take a piece of the “casual gaming” pie from Nintendo, by positioning themselves as close as they can to the Wii’s $250 price tag. The Wii’s accessibility and low-price have propelled it to the top of the sales charts thus far.

In response, Sony has announced a new 40GB PlayStation 3, to be available November 2nd for $399. To cut costs they’ve dropped their backwards compatibility chip, known as the Emotion Engine, but have left in the Blue-Ray player. The high-end 80GB PS3 will also be getting a price reduction, dropping to $499. While these prices are still well above the Wii’s, the sticker-shock is tempered by the fact that the PlayStation 3 is the only console with a built-in next-generation DVD player.

The most exciting news is coming from Redmond. Microsoft hasn’t officially announced their strategy, but a mysterious new XBox 360 “Arcade” has been spotted in stores, for only $279 (that’s not even $30 more than the Wii). Strangely, Microsoft has yet to issue a press release, but this bold move puts the XBox 360 squarely in the Wii’s price range. This will really mark the first time the Wii has had a serious competitor in its class. While, the base unit doesn’t ship with a hard drive or HDMI cable, those can be purchased later, allowing you to effectively upgrade your ultra-cheap XBox 360 Arcade to full-on Elite status. I can almost hear Steve Ballmer in his office right now, and he’s shouting “Eat that, Nintendo.”

Sony and Microsoft have made their opening moves for the holiday season, it will be interesting to see if either them can knock Nintendo from its perch.

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This cool video shows the view from inside a four-stroke internal combustion engine. It was taken using a tiny camera shooting at 1000 frames-per-second. You can see the piston moving at the bottom, with the intake valve on the right, the exhaust valve on the left, and the spark plug in between them at the top.

Embedded Video

If you’re unfamiliar with the basics of a four-stroke internal combustion engine, this animation describes what you’re seeing in the video above.

4 Stroke Engine


  1. Intake stroke – Air and vaporised fuel are drawn in.
  2. Compression stroke – Fuel and air are compressed and ignited.
  3. Power stroke – Fuel combusts and piston is pushed downwards.
  4. Exhaust stroke – Exhaust gas is driven out.

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Is the Wii Just a Fad?

Nintendo Wii

In an interesting analysis, Gadget blog Crave asks the seemingly unlikely question, is the Nintendo Wii just a fad? It’s hard to imagine, given that it’s been the best-selling console worldwide this generation, and it’s still difficult to find one in stores almost a year after its release. However, according to an article in The Nikkei Business Daily, third-party developers are concerned about the poor sales of their titles. The vast majority of popular games for the Wii have been developed in-house, and the head of one unnamed design firm even went so far as to say “…the bubble is about to burst.” The Business Daily also points out that sales of the Wii have been slowing in Japan.

The Wii is great fun at first, and it’s $250 price tag makes it an easy purchase for buyers to justify, but does it have staying power? Will people keep shelling out money for new games, or will it be relegated to the backs of closets once the novelty wears off? Ultimately, it may not matter for Nintendo, considering the Wii is the only next-generation console whose hardware is actually profitable. But given the amount of hype surrounding the Wii, it will be interesting to see if it maintains it’s popularity, the way Sony’s Playstation 2 has over the 7 years since it’s release.

What do you think?


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You may not be planning any trips right now, but this is one site you’ll definitely want to bookmark for the future. New web service TripIt makes it incredibly easy to gather all the information about a pending trip in one centralized place. You don’t even have to sign up for an account first. All you do is forward your travel confirmation emails to, and they automatically organize your info into a master itinerary, adding Google Maps, weather information, Wikipedia articles, and more along the way. Then, you can easily print the information to take with you, or share your itinerary with friends and family.

This is one of those ideas that are so useful, you wonder why nobody thought of it sooner. I’ve been using this site to help plan my honeymoon, and it has been a real time saver. Last time I took a long trip, I had to manually enter all my destinations, car rental information, and hotel contact info into Outlook, just so I could print it out in a nice calendar format. This time around, all I had to do was forward TripIt a couple emails, make a few corrections, and I was ready to go.

Lavish praise aside, TripIt is still a work in progress.  They could stand to add a few more viewing options, and they’re continuously tweaking their email scraping for accuracy.  But overall, it is shaping up to be an incredibly useful site.


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