Thursday, June 25

Marti Hearst's Search User Interfaces Available

Marti Hearst just completed her new book Search User Interfaces. Additionally, you can read it online free! Marti is a professor at the UC Berkeley, and a leading expert on user interface design for search. To go with a book she's started a blog, SearchUpTicious.

I've been waiting for this book a long time. I remember talking with her about it back at SIGIR 2006. More to come, in the meantime go read it for yourself. Daniel also has an early review.

via Matthew Hurst.

Eclipse Galileo is here

The new version of Eclipse, Galileo (3.5) is here, don't miss this big upgrade.

Wednesday, June 24

Linux 64-bit Desktops Not Worth Your Time

Recently, I've gotten several new computers. They are nice 64-bit computers with 6 GB+ of RAM. I have Linux on both (Ubuntu 9.04 and Centos 5.3) and I'm regretting it.

Here are some 64-bit Linux desktop grievances:
  1. No cutting-edge browser. The following browsers would be acceptable: Firefox 3.5, Google Chrome, or Safari 4. No luck. The best you can do is Firefox 3.0, but at this point it's aging, unstable, and slow. (update: there are unsupported builds for 64-bit linux if you add the right repositories)

  2. Driver issues. I spent several hours fighting with X and the NVidia drivers to get my multiple monitor support to work correctly. In fact, I'm still fighting with the drivers on my new computer, see this thread.

  3. Limited 64-bit application support. Currently, this means no Acrobat Reader. There is limited Flash support with the version 10 Alpha. I also can't use my Cisco VPN client, at least not without significant hassle.
Of course the usual suspects haven't improved:
  1. Movie and Game support. Netflix and my other games depend on Windows-only software: DirectX. The people at Crossover/Wine are working on it, but it's still a ways away. I don't expect anything Microsoft to work on Linux properly within my lifetime.

  2. MS Office. Yes, again you can run Crossover, etc... but there are problems with stability and fonts. Granted, this isn't a 64-bit specific problem; it's inherent in all Linux desktop platforms. Don't get me started on Open Office. It's a good tool, but it has serious compatibility and usability problems.
Not to mention all the little annoyances that come with a Linux desktop install: the GPL java and flash versions shipped out of the box that you immediately have to rip out replace because they screw things up.

Why not Windows?
I connect to Linux/Unix environments all day and night for work and other projects. Some of the tools we use only run (well) on Linux. For example, don't even waste your time trying to run Hadoop on Windows. Trust me, it's a time sink.

The reality is that I have to compromise and run both. I live between two worlds at any given time.

One of my solutions is to dual-boot with Windows 7, which works well. However, even a 64-bit Windows platform has it's own compatibility problems. For example, my venerable Cisco VPN client doesn't support it, instead I had to go with a third-party NCP. My other solution is virtualization. My computers are now fast enough where I can run Linux inside VMWare (although not the other way around; there are still Direct3D and DirectX issues).

My punchline: install Windows and run Linux in a VM (or dual-boot as a backup-plan).

A throwback to the old days of 64-bit
I remember back in 2002 at IBM we had problems with 64-bit support on the Itaniums ("Itanics") we were testing. However, with 64-bit being mainstream for several years now I didn't expect as many issues as I ran into. I still love 64-bit for servers, but as a desktop it's annoying. I'm most disappointed with Firefox for their lack of support in 3.5, c'mon, really?

End Rant.

Tuesday, June 23

First Hadoop Summit videos available

Yahoo! posted the first two Hadoop Summit videos online. More will be coming later in the summer.

I definitely recommend Owen O'Malley and Eric Baldeschwieler's State of Hadoop talk.

Mobile search not as different as we thought

Greg highlights a recent WWW 2009 paper, Computers and iPhones and Mobile Phones, oh my!. The authors analyze a sample of 100,000 mobile queries from last summer. One interesting note:
Perhaps the most surprising finding is that there is only 1.7% more local queries issued from an iPhone than from a computer.... We believe that mobile users will continue to search for a higher proportion of local content than computer users, but may look for this information within an application that can provide a richer experience than what a browser can provide.
In short, mobile search queries look a lot like search queries from a desktop computer.