An ugly hack
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An ugly hack

How do auto makers deal with problems where a parts on a car vibrate noisily? In some cases, they just add some weight to the part that vibrates. This is sort of a sneak preview of a post I’m working on about good hacks versus bad hacks, and how to tell them apart. And maybe another post on what a pain it is to lay out HTML forms using semantic markup in a fashion that works in all of the popular browsers.

One of the biggest challenges for software developers, I think, is figuring out which hacks are good, and which hacks are bad. In the meantime, I put adding weight to car parts to keep them from shaking in the same category as rebooting your application server every night to dampen the effects of a memory link in your code. It may be a necessary hack for the short term, but it doesn’t really cut it as a long term solution.

Update: Be sure to read the comments. What seemed to me to be a hack is actually a pretty elegant solution.

Josh Marshall wins a Polk Award
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Josh Marshall wins a Polk Award

Talking Points Memo has won a Polk Award for legal reporting, specifically for breaking the story of the Bush administration’s purge of US Attorneys. The revelation that the Bush administration was firing US attorneys for political reasons ultimately led to the resignation of much of the senior staff of the Justice Department, including the Attorney General, and the reporters at TPM dug up the story by noticing a couple of anomalies and pulling the threads.

TPM is one of the few sites that the purge of political blogs from my newsreader after the 2004 election, and I’m glad to see them earn this recognition.

What if we give it away?
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What if we give it away?

I’ve seen many mentions of the fact that there were over a million downloads of Suze Orman’s new book Women & Money while it was available free of charge at oprah.com. What I haven’t seen is how that affected sales of the book. Wired editor Chris Anderson has posted a graph showing that since it was available from Oprah’s Web site, it has topped the charts at Amazon.com. Some of that is attributable to the fact that Orman had just gotten the exposure of being featured on Oprah, but the free download certainly didn’t hurt her sales.

Bad day for good government
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Bad day for good government

A federal judge in California has ordered that WikiLeaks be taken offline at the behest of a Swiss bank whose practices in support of white collar crime were leaked. Because WikiLeaks’ servers are located all of the world, the injunction was imposed on their DNS provider. The site is still up but it is now only reachable via its IP address — 88.80.13.160. It seems to me that there are lots of first amendment issues in play here.

In other news, President Bush has been complaining for weeks about the administration’s inability to protect America if the wiretapping bill currently being held up by House Democrats does not pass. The Director of National Intelligence has come out and admitted that the problem is not that the White House is losing powers it requires (not that I believe it requires those powers in the first place), but rather that private telecommunications firms will not be guaranteed immunity from legal liability if they break the law in assisting the government in spying. Everybody knew that was the case, but it’s nice for the government to admit it.

Update: Michael Froomkin has more on the rulings in the WikiLeaks case.

Two phones for every pocket?
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Two phones for every pocket?

Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser says that in the future, mobile phone penetration will approach 200% because nobody will be able to find one device that does everything they need it to. I think he’s completely wrong about the reasons, but I do think many people have multiple mobile phones in their future. Most people don’t use any of the features of their mobile phones beyond voice calling, and in the meantime phones are gaining lots of new capabilities. I don’t know anyone who carries multiple mobile phones right now, even in an age where phones are still pretty limited.

I do think, however, that we’ll see people carrying multiple devices in the future because there are advantages to separating their employer-issued phone from their own phone. I was talking to someone a few months ago about their Blackberry, and they told me that they hadn’t yet activated the email access because it connects to their corporate mail server, and as soon as that happened they wouldn’t be able to use it to text their friends. (This person worked for a brokerage firm, and some regulatory requirements required the firm to monitor all employee communications on company-owned devices.)

The Blackberry 8800 doesn’t have a camera, and it’s a feature. A friend who’s an attorney can’t carry a phone with a camera because they’re banned in the federal courthouse, so he’s buying the 8800. So if he wants a camera phone, it’ll have to be on his personal account.

More people are going to want personal mobile phones so that when they’re off the job they’re really off the job. As more and more functions of our work life become portable, we’ll find people going to extra lengths to separate them. When webmail became common, people who used their work email addresses for everything started separating their personal email from their work email. Work-specific instant messaging accounts are becoming increasingly common. You may not want to give the AIM ID you could be using for the next 20 years to a customer you have to collaborate with on a three month project.

As mobile phones become increasingly integrated into our professional lives, we probably will see more people with multiple mobile devices, but mainly so that we can leave work at the office and still call people from the grocery store.

Flags as infographics
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Flags as infographics

FP Passport links to an project by Brazilian artist Icaro Doria in which he uses flags as infographics simply by applying a legend to the colors. The United States flag made me chuckle, but some of the African flags hit me right in the gut, the way few other infographics have. If you’re a designer of any kind, don’t skip this link.

President Bush on the Olympics
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President Bush on the Olympics

Here’s the leader of the free world on attending the summer Olympics this year in Beijing:

I’m going to the Olympics. I view the Olympics as a sporting event.[…] There’s a lot of issues that I suspect people are gonna, you know, opine, about during the Olympics. I mean, you got the Dali Lama crowd. You’ve got global warming folks. You’ve got, you know, Darfur and… I am not gonna you know, go and use the Olympics as an opportunity to express my opinions to the Chinese people in a public way ’cause I do it all the time with the president.

He’s only got 11 more months left, folks, enjoy it while you can.