RottenBrains

… brains …

Archive for May, 2006

Midas Touch

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

I found a new beer from Dogfish Head at CM this week. It’s called Midas Touch. This one fits Adam’s definition of “beer he doesn’t like”. That is, it is very fruity, and moderately hoppy. That being said, I challenge him to try one–he might change his tune on this one. It reminds me of some of the sweeter barleywines I have gotten into. Or maybe a west coast pale mixed in equal parts with mead and a fairly sweet muscat wine.

The story of this one is that the University of Pensylvania excavated a tomb in Turkey, which they think may be the tomb of the mythical King Midas. They found a set of drinking vessels with residue containing barley beer, honey, grapes, and saffron. Dogfish Head created a recipe inspired by this combination, and Midas Touch is the result. They call it a “Handcrafted Ancient Ale”. And it’s good. _Really_ good.

Now, I suspect that the residue of all those different things does not prove they were all in the mug at the same time. It may be that Midas had a sloppy dishwasher, and these were from different beverages. No matter; they are still good mixed together.

By the way, this is 9% ABV. That’s up there the low-middle end of wine territory, and you get 12 to 16 oz. at a time. It can sneak up on you pretty fast.

Another Weapon for MRSA

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

The antibiotic/superbug battle has always struck me a bit like the antipiracy-measure/pirate situation. Sure, the anti-piracy crowd can keep coming up with new mechanisms, but it’s just a matter of time before the pirates find a way around them.

This puts humans on the losing side of a very long battle. I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime, but I strongly suspect we’ll return to 18th-century levels of mortality from infection within the next couple of hundred years, as we continually train bacteria to become resistant to more and more attacks. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that the relatively short-lived “age of antibiotics” will form a quaint footnote in human history.

In any case, it appears that the humans may have bought a little more time yet again. The discovery of a new substance, dubbed “platensimycin,” has given us another tool against methylcillin-resistant staph (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci, and potentially a large number of other developing superbugs.

Edit: For what it’s worth, I beat Slashdot to this story by about 15 hours.

Commodity Battle: AOL vs. Skype

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Its not uncommon for technology companies to choose a complement to their core technology and try to make it a commodity. This can be a very successful approach: Microsoft’s OS market share has doubtless been aided by cheap, commodity-class PCs.

Sometimes when you’re developing two complementary bits of technology, it makes sense to commoditize one of them to aid the other — this is the traditional “give away the razor, sell the razor blades” model. Printer manufacturers have embraced this model with such gusto that some have even started using crytpographic handshakes between the printer and toner cartridges in an attempt to prevent the manufacture of third-party toner cartridges. (For what it’s worth, Lexmark’s use of the DMCA to make compatibility not just difficult but actually illegal seems to have been rejected by the courts).

For a long time, several companies — such as Skype and Yahoo — have offered voice clients free for download; this commodity complemented their profit-earning PSTN interwork services (e.g. SkypeOut). AOL has been slow to enter this market, in part due to an agreement they made with the FTC as part of their merger with Time Warner (they agreed to open up their AIM network to interoperability before deploying VoIP). Earlier this month, AOL announced a VoIP service to accompany their AIM software. The big splash from this announcement, however, is that AOL is offering free phone numbers and free inbound calls. Outbound calls still cost money.

In apparent response, Skype has announced that, through December of this year, all outbound calls using their Skype client are free.

As long as they’re willing to sign up for two services and run two clients, potential customers can now have a completely free inbound and outbound phone service. It will be interesting to see what happens when you have one company giving away the razors, and another giving away the razorblades.

A New Brew from Austin

Monday, May 15th, 2006

I’m not exactly what you’d call a beer snob, but there’s a lot of stuff out there that I don’t like. On the other hand, there’s a lot of beers that I’ll happily drink that would give me “social pariah” status if I ever owned up to drinking them.

In any case, I’m partial to dark, German style beers — bocks and doppelbocks in particular. I stay away from anything ever described as “hoppy” or “fruity,” and strongly beleive that the brewer who invented IPA (George Hodgson, for what it’s worth) should have died an unnatural death. (Yes, I know the story: they were brewing beer to ship to India, and wanted to make it as foul tasting as humanly possible so that the thorough heat skunking it received on its journey wouldn’t make a difference — but I digress).

Recently, I discovered Bootlegger Brown Ale, made by Independence Brewing Company out of Austin; I think it’s really good. It has much more of the sweet malty taste that I associate with dark German beers. While it’s a bit heavier, the taste is similar to a Warsteiner Dunkel. In Dallas, you can find six-packs at Central market for about $7.00.

Google Trends

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Google labs has a tool that draws trend graphs of search terms.  You can even graph two terms together.  Here’s one I found interesting.

T-Mobile bans VoIP and IM from new UK 3G Data Service

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

(Apologies for violating my policy of not repeating stuff on slashdot. Also for basing a US-centric rant on a UK story.)

It seems that T-Mobile has released a new 3G data service in the UK. Sounds pretty neat, except their terms of service explicitly ban the use of VoIP or IM applications. The referenced article speculates that they plan to offer their own VoIP service.

If they are banning such applications because they think their network can’t deal with it, that is bad enough. But if they are banning them because they don’t want competition with their own service, then that is a real problem.

Believe it or not, I tend towards a laissez faire business philosophy, and really do believe the market will solve this sort of thing, if it is allowed to do so. I’m perfectly happy to let T-Mobile, or anyone else, have whatever network policies they like, under the condition that I am allowed to select a network provider that has policies that I like. The problem is, there are real barriers to entry for access network services, most of which are created by some regulatory regime in the first place. Whether it is regulation of spectrum, regulation of who can run a wire to my house, or regulation of who can provide service in my community, it’s still regulation.

Let’s not protect network providers from competition with one hand while freeing them to restrict access with the other.

Texas Goats Don’t Faint

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

A Plano, Texas school had an unexpected intruder. When they checked the security footage to see how it got in, they found the goat had repeatedly butted a glass door. After defeating it’s own reflection, it explored the halls.

For those unfamiliar with the D/FW area, Plano is not exactly rural.

Open Source SigComp Project Launched

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

SigComp, an IETF-developed technology for compression of signalling messages, is considered important for certain wireless SIP applications (notably push-to-talk, although its application to other applications is getting some attention as well).

The Open SigComp project web site launched last week. The purpose of this project is to produce and maintain an open source SigComp stack. Not only will this assist in research and prototyping work around the SigComp protocol, but it should also help in the continued development of the SigComp protocol within the IETF.

What Not To Do On The Trading Floor

Monday, May 1st, 2006

It seems that Ben Bernanke has a bit to learn about speaking the most carefully analyzed words in the financial universe. The visual image painted by the Financial Times is just priceless; I wish I had a video clip of this…

“I asked [Bernanke] whether the markets got it right after his congressional testimony and he said, flatly, no,” [CNBC Anchor] Bartiromo said. She was reporting live from floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the resulting trading roar almost drowned out the rest of her remarks.

(Thanks for Ron for bringing the FT article to my attention)