New Year's Resolutions for Geeks

I'm going to spend New Year's Eve in Berlin with a large group of hackers gathered by the venerable Chaos Computer Club. Something about the idea of going to a foreign country to celebrate the new year has made me want to do the traditional thing and make a list of resolutions. Just to be sure I follow through on them, I'm presenting to you the unexpurgated list of my top eight geeky resolutions for 2007.

Relearn French. I took French classes from eighth grade all the way through graduate school, and at one (triumphant) point I was actually able to read André Gide's "L'Immoraliste" entirely in French. It probably helped that the novel was full of gay sex, which has always been one of my favorite topics. But sadly, my French has withered away -- much to the chagrin of my sweetie, who speaks with an enviable accent. Next year I will relearn and go to Paris. J'ai envie de manger le brie et les baguettes à côté de la Seine! Plus, every geek should be fluent in at least two natural languages.

Share more media. I've got a terabyte RAID array full of music. I've got DVDs full of TV shows I've downloaded from the Interwebs. I've got movies and games and a disgustingly huge book collection. Next year, I'm going to create more opportunities to share them with friends, acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, whatever. Set the media free, I say.

Watch out for videomining. Now that Google owns YouTube and everybody is freaking out over video archives, I'm looking out for the ultimate videomining software. Ideally, I'd like a program that could find items in a video archive by genre (e.g., "look up all horror films") or search through them for sequences of images (e.g., "find scenes featuring dragons"). I'd also like a program that could search an individual movie for a scene or phrase (e.g., "find me a scene where Captain Kirk says, 'Boo!'").

Protest the Schumer-McCain privacy-reaming bill. Senators Charles Schumer and John McCain have promised to introduce legislation next year aimed at stopping child porn and sex offenders from traipsing online. It would involve the creation of an "e-mail registry" for sex offenders and would force online service providers to police content on their sites, looking for the aliases of sex offenders and images of child porn. Not only is there a potential here for squelching free speech but also for invading privacy. Keep an eye on this one.

Laugh more frequently at the comments on my blogs. I get bizarrely bent out of shape when people make stupid comments about blog posts I've written. Despite the fact that blog comments as a genre are characterized by assholishness and snark, I continue to feel inexplicably wronged by them. This has got to stop. It's time to view blog comments for what they are: comedies of the human condition.

Install Ubuntu on my desktop. I miss Linux. It just so happens that the two computers I use most are both running Windows XP, and neither is suitable for a Vista upgrade. My cute Vaio laptop has a laughable sticker that says "Vista capable," which roughly translated means "Screw you, hippie." When a friend of mine asked some of the Vista geeks at Microsoft if they'd tried the new OS on my laptop model, they apparently giggled uncontrollably. So it's back to Linux for me, and I welcome the return of my open-source overlord.

Kill people in Halo. In my living room, nestled beneath my 50-inch plasma screen TV, are an Xbox and an Xbox 360. And yet I rarely use them to kill people. What the hell is wrong with me? Am I insane? The entire purpose of these devices is to turn myself into a cyberkiller and shoot the crap out of 13-year-olds in Singapore or Texas or some other exotic locale. Next year I will spend at least one weekend doing nothing but sitting in front of the TV and practicing my death moves. Watch out for me on Xbox Live -- I'm going to hunt you down and blow your guts out. Then I'll share some of my media collection with you to make up for it. But I will not buy a Wii. Do not try to make me buy one.

Hang out with mechanical engineers. Unlike electrical engineers and computer scientists, mechanical engineers know how to do useful postapocalyptic stuff like build bridges and generators and engines. They study extremely concrete things like, well, concrete. But they also study the way concrete shatters when hit by bombs. I want to know more about the mysterious ways of physical objects. Take me to your mechanical engineering lab.


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