Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Guggenheim Museum in New York

Posted in Art, NYC by Elliott Back on May 22nd, 2011.

I stopped by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum yesterday for the first time. While not as large as the nearby Met or MoMA, its unique Frank Lloyd Wright designed architecture and internal spiral-staircase layout make it worth a visit if you’re in the Upper-West side neighborhood. Internally, the artworks is arranged in chronological order, winding up the spiral structure from oldest to newest, bottom to top. A tip for visitors is to take the elevator to the very top, and walk down to view the art.

The Guggenheim Museum

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

The exterior features a winding helix stack, part of the original Frank Lloyd Wright design in 1959, and a square atrium expansion which was added in 1992 by the museum’s foundation. A massive exterior renovation occurred from 2005 to 2008, removing the original paint, laser/echo mapping cracks in the concrete structure and repairing them after determining that the superstructure was structurally sound.

The interior’s main feature is the winding spiral, housing galleries affixed the walls, terminating in a twelve-paned skylight that allows natural light to fall on the pieces contained within. The curved walls the museum make hanging paintings flush with the walls impossible.

The museum does not allow internal photography, but I jotted down the names of some of my favorite pieces. Here’s a brief sampler of the art you can see in the Guggenheim museum. In spirit of presentation, I’ve arranged it chronologically as well:

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Why the TechCrunch Crunchpad Tablet is Doomed

Posted in Browsers, Hardware, Interface by Elliott Back on January 19th, 2009.

TechCrunch just released new photos and specs of their internet Tablet prototype B, which for $299 features a 12″ 1024×768 touchscreen, Via Nano processor, 1GB of RAM, 4GB flash drive, wifi, accelerometer, camera, four cell battery, and Ubuntu with a custom WebKit browser. Arrington says the 12.5″ x 9.7″ x 1.3″ device weighs three pounds.

What TechCrunch is trying to do is create a 4x larger version of the iPhone centered around the browsing experience. To do this they need three things: a good price point, intuitive user interface, and beautiful industrial design. They’ve made good progress, but they are clearly not there yet; $299 is extremely close to the full-featured HP 2133-KX869AT 8.9-inch Mini-Note PC (C7-M 1.2 GHz Processor, 1 GB RAM, 120 GB Hard Drive, Linux) for $350. Consumers would probably rather buy a netbook–miniature notebook–than a browser-tablet at the $300 price point.

To improve their price, the TechCrunch team needs to throw away all components adding cost–the external ports, the webcam, and anything else that gets in the way. They’ll have to aggressively negotiate manufacturing contracts. But, if they can hit their original $200 target, they’ll have a winner.

The next ingredient is the killer UI. That’s what made the iPhone into an overnight hit, something Gizmodo reader KVirtanen noted:

Simply think through everything. Make it look and work like it’s worth over 300$ and people will be all over it. Listen to your potential customers when making decisions. Make it so that it almost slips on to your hands and your fingers just automatically finds the on-screen buttons (and maybe also some physical ones). Let people with good eye comment on the design.

This way it’ll be a long-lasting tool, not something you’ll end up replacing after you get fed up with the way it works or after it breaks.

Finally, the design of the case in prototype B sucks. It’s thick and unwieldy. Mike says that “It’s about twice as thick as is needs to be without further engineering – we just built in a safety thickness in case of heat or other issues.” Getting it down to .7″ thick and removing much of the unnecessary border around the screen will go a long way to making it consumer friendly. From the screens, it also looks like the bezel rides quite a bit higher than the screen surface. The iPhone face is one smooth surface, something that make it feel like a quality product a person would want to own.

If prototype C can be profitable at $200, throws away all the components not central to the TC Tablet’s mission, has a great user interface, and looks 100000x sexier than prototype B, I’ll be willing to revisit this headline. Otherwise, competing with the netbooks, it’s doomed.

Update: Sad to hear that due to an intellectual property dispute with their partners, the CrunchPad is dead. I was looking forward to seeing it compete in the marketplace, and die a more noble death.

WP Super Cache Benchmark

Posted in Blogging, Performance, Plugins, Scalability, WP, Wordpress by Elliott Back on September 28th, 2008.

If you’ve thought about whether upgrading from WP Cache 2.0 to WP Super Cache is a good idea, hopefully this benchmark will convince you. I followed my instructions on benchmarking Wordpress with Apache Bench on four configurations of this blog’s main page to measure performance:

  1. Without any caching plugins
  2. With WP Cache 2.0
  3. With WP Super Cache (no compression)
  4. With WP Super Cache (compression enabled)

wp-caching-plugins.png

The results show that WP Super Cache is a clear winner, performing 225% better than the older WP Cache. Here is the raw data I gathered during the test:

No caching:
Requests per second: 22.81 [#/sec] (mean)
Time per request: 4383.559 [ms] (mean)
Time per request: 43.836 [ms] (mean, across all concurrent requests)
Transfer rate: 613.75 [Kbytes/sec] received

WP cache:
Requests per second: 872.30 [#/sec] (mean)
Time per request: 114.640 [ms] (mean)
Time per request: 1.146 [ms] (mean, across all concurrent requests)
Transfer rate: 23549.46 [Kbytes/sec] received

Super cache (no compression):
Requests per second: 1518.90 [#/sec] (mean)
Time per request: 65.837 [ms] (mean)
Time per request: 0.658 [ms] (mean, across all concurrent requests)
Transfer rate: 41150.81 [Kbytes/sec] received

Super cache (compression):
Requests per second: 1960.39 [#/sec] (mean)
Time per request: 51.010 [ms] (mean)
Time per request: 0.510 [ms] (mean, across all concurrent requests)
Transfer rate: 53108.70 [Kbytes/sec] received

For more tips on how to improve your Wordpress performance, check out Wordpress Performance: Why My Site Is So Much Faster Than Yours. Another interesting WP caching plugin is Batcache, which uses the memcached backend to serve requests out of a cluster of machines’ RAM memory.

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