Whatever comes to mind, and then the interesting directions that thought will take you on the web.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Philip M Parker

I came across Philip M Parker while digging into the "amazon oddities" tag on Amazon.com

What Philip M Parker has done is find a way to generate books based on databases. The books are targeted at the long-tail, and include irresistible titles like:

The 2009-2014 Outlook for Wood Toilet Seats in Greater China

He has 107,000 titles on Amazon.com - I would be fascinated to see how many sales he makes.

What about The 2007-2012 Outlook for Smoothies in the United States - that sounds fascinating! Have executives at Jamba Juice bought that one?

This mashup approach seems to be similar to what blockshopper.com is doing with press releases. Taking a feed of rel estate transactions, and concocting a press release by adding in information from linkedin, and other sites.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How much fuel is consumed on a flight?

How can you work out the amount of fuel consumption that you are responsible for when you take a flight? This is very significant - does all the fuel you saved driving the Prius to the airport get used up on your flight coast to coast?

Here's the methodology.

Let's take the paying WEIGHT that a plane transports from A to B.

The paying weight is made up of passengers, their baggage, and any cargo that the plane carries.

As an example, let's take an Airbus A320.

Typical 2 class configuration is 150 passengers. Take a load factor of 86.6%, so 130 passengers

Consider a trip of the maximum range (3,700 miles), uses maximum 6,400 US Gallons of fuel.


Empty Weight of A320 94,000
Weight of 6,400 US Gallons of Jet Fuel 42,624
Weight of 130 passengers plus their baggage 26,000
Weight of cargo (subtract above from Max Take off Weight of 170,000) 7,376

So, each passenger consumes approximately (200/(26000+7376)*6,400=38 US Gallons to travel 3,700 Miles. (not bad!)

The Secret Origin of Windows

I enjoyed reading this article about the early days of Microsoft Windows Development.

In my first job out of college, I worked for Logica, and was involved in writing an application that plotted lightning strikes. The Met Office in the UK had a feed over a modem that provided lightning strike locations, and this application would plot them on a map of the UK, allowing the user to zoom in, and see the exact location. This app was aimed at Electric Companies to help them find downed power lines.

The first version was built using Windows 1.x (don't remember the value of x). I do remember that it did not support overlapping Windows - I think that was due to litigation with Apple.

Relatedly, I really like this article about the Skunk Works project that made Windows 3.0 run programs in protected mode.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spell checking in Google Wave

I remember in the demo of Wave at Google IO, I was very impressed with the spell checker.

Its statistical approach meant that a word that was a valid dictionary word could be signalled as a spell error because statistically it didn't fit into the context.

The example that was shown at Google IO was "Icland is an icland"

The spell checker was smart enough to recognize that the first "Icland" should be "Iceland", and the second "icland" should be "island"

Interestingly, the spell checker is not highlighting any word in "Icland is an icland". I'm guessing that "Icland is an icland" has now appeared in so many blogs, that statistically it is a valid phrase.

"Icland is cold" correctly gives "Iceland" as the suggested correction.