Blog Author: John Boreczky

Painted on a cathedral ceiling or it didn’t happen

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My kids are home-schooled.  One of the many consequences is that they are sheltered from bureaucracy more than the average kid.

One of my teenagers is involved with a not-quite-local high school, because, well, why should the public school community be denied the joy of sharing in his perceived infallibility?  In order for me to volunteer to drive him and some classmates to an event, I needed to fill out a Form.  A teenager is not the best communication medium, but it only took a week of back-and-forth to determine that no electronic version existed, and to actually get the Form in to my hands.  His last text about it was “I have the forms”.   And indeed, when he handed it to me, he said, “You have to fill it out in Quadruplicate!”

The Form, of course, was a carbonless paper form, with a white, orange, pink and yellow sheet.   I replied, “It’s okay.  It’s like carbon paper.  You just fill out the top.”   His whiny cry of “But how do you Know?”, was less a doubting of my knowledge than a complaint that there was no “About this form” link at the bottom of the paper.  Though I still doubt it, he claimed to never have seen the like (remember that infallibility?).   (I also find it amusing that although Zingerman’s has gone digital and gotten rid of the carbonless ordering forms, they still say “Yellow copy” and “Pink copy” on the interim white receipts.)

A bit more questioning and discussion with my colleagues revealed that our kids really believe that there are only 3 generations of a technology:  What they and their peers use, what their parents use (now, not in their youth), and the original invention.

Thus text documents are either shared in the cloud, stored locally on a laptop/desktop, or painstakingly hand-duplicated by monastic scribes.  Personal music is streamed, parents listen to satellite radio and MP3s that came from old CDs, and people used to listen to rocks and sticks played around the communal cooking fire pit.   Vinyl LPs aren’t music at all.  As my kids said at a friend’s party a few years ago, “Why do you have those plastic things we make art bowls out of in your closet?”   We found a 20+ year old AAA Triptik for a cross-country drive and one of the kids asked how we updated that.  Might as well have been runes on dragon skin.

There are lots of other examples, and I’m resisting the urge to write about them.  But I’m thinking of all those intermediate technologies that are disappearing like so many 5 1/4″ floppies.

P.S. This post sat as a draft for about a year, and I’m only putting it out because I hear Gene’s voice asking me to put out content.  Which I intend to do.


Remembering Gene


We are very sorry to report that Gene Golovchinsky passed away on August 15, 2013.

His friends have created an online remembrances forum at

Gene was the heart and soul of this blog, he wrote 3/4 of the posts, and it exists solely because he pushed this admin to create it and do occasional maintenance.  It cannot be the same without him, but I hope it will not stop.

What’s in your database?

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If you work for a small or medium business, someone in your office needs to buy things.   Paperclips, computers, mailing envelopes, office furniture, etc.   If you work for a small or medium research lab, someone in your office needs to buy these same things, but someone also needs to buy more unusual stuff.   Twenty pounds of modeling clay.   A Sony Aibo.  Make that two.   Lots of different types of video encoding software and hardware.  Stuff like that.

At our research lab, I am often the person who does the actual purchasing of the strange items.   If I’m buying a computer from HP, I expect the process to be pretty straightforward.   If I’m buying industrial laser elements from Bob’s House-o’-Lasers, I expect complications.  Reality is often the other way around.  Since I’ve been doing this since the mid 1990’s, I’ve seen how technology has often made it easier and sometimes much harder to buy things, use things, and deal with problems.   I’m going to describe a few examples in this and later posts.  Just a warning that my bias is somewhat anti-technology – I joke that I’m a neo-luddite.

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Oops. Offline for a day.


Sorry for being AWOP (away without posts).   We upgraded the underlying OS on this server, and in the process we made the machine non-bootable.  It was booting from a logical volume, which is illogical.  And after the upgrade, not a valid drive.   And since this isn’t “mission critical”, we didn’t have a hot spare.   So, this is now the backup of WordPress restored to a wiped-clean and re-installed machine.   I think it is close to back-to-normal.  Never upgrade a machine if you don’t remember exactly how and why it was set up the way it was (random chance or old poor decisions?).  Thanks to my anonymous colleagues for fixing it.

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Larry Rowe wins ACM SIGMM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award 2009

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The 2009 winner of the prestigious ACM Special Interest Group on Multimedia Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement is our own Dr. Lawrence Rowe.    I have seen this award referred in a number of different ways (even on the ACM SIGMM website), but the above, and “Outstanding Technical Contributions to Multimedia Computing, Communications and Applications” seem to be the most common.  It is only the second year of the award, so we have to wait a while before a cute nickname arises.  (The Mummy award?)

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Spam comments

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I was going to wait until we hit 100 legitimate comments to make the math easier, but we are close, and many of our usual posters are at CHI, so I’ll report now.

Along with the 89 real comments we’ve gotten 2537 spam comments.   I’ll be generous and call that 3.4% real comments.

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Kumo – searching for a name?

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A while back, I saw some reports that Microsoft was using Kumo as the name for an experimental search system.  Recently there have been more reports that this is the case, or that perhaps the name will be used for some other product.  It has been my experience that the deployment of Kumos, whether they be clouds or spiders, needs to be carefully planned.

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