May 2008

I don't often feel the need to rave about software. That's partly because I rarely find software I'm that excited about, and partly because I often find other people's raves annoying. So I'll try to keep this one short.

Get DropBox. Do it now. This is software that just works, and I can't believe it took someone this long to come up with it.

DropBox Logo

Here's the deal. I install DropBox on my laptop, on my desktop, on my work computer. Each computer gets a folder called 'My DropBox' that acts like any other folder in my file system. Now here it is, and it's easy to understand: the folder is the same on every computer, all the time, effortlessly. I put a file in the folder on my laptop, it's instantly sync'd with the other two machines liked to my account. I change it on another computer, and the changes are sync'd back too. And it backs up the files to a remote server. And it keeps a revision history so I can go back anytime. And it's all encrypted with a key that I can choose (if I want to).

Holy hell. These features should have been in Windows 95. There's lots of other solutions to the problem of cross-computer file sync, like Groove, SVN, etc. None are as seamless and painless as DropBox.

They're in Beta, but sign up now. I have a few invites I can give away if you're desperate.

Yesterday Oscar Pistorious was approved to run in Olympic qualifying events and go to Beijing if he can make the qualifying time. Oscar had his legs amputated at the knee when he was 11 months old, and uses carbon fiber prosthetic "Cheetah" blades.

Oscar Pistorius

This is a random topic, but I was reading through the comments on, and I'm torn about this so I thought I'd share. Here's the thing: apparently reasonable people (and scientific experts) disagree about whether Oscar gains an advantage over able-bodied runners with his prosthetics, and therefore whether he should be allowed to run. An MIT professor says no, a German professor says yes. Who's right? Who knows.

But here's what bothers me, and why I think I'm leaning towards thinking he shouldn't be allowed to run. While every other runner is stuck with muscles, Oscar gets to choose his equipment. Now, to be fair, I'm sure if he had a choice Oscar would choose muscles over carbon fiber. But, as it is he gets the benefits of materials science and engineering. He gets to decide which legs he puts on. If we had conclusive evidence that his chosen equipment mimicked legs perfectly, or provided no advantage whatsoever, then fine. But we don't have that. And I'm not sure we ever will. My hack scientific view on biomechanics is that the Cheetahs operate on fundamentally different principles, and what might be an advantage for one body type would not be for another.

I realize this is controversial. I don't think what I'm saying is discriminatory, or at least I don't mean for it to be. I just think this is a dangerous precendent for sport. Thoughts?