Things to do and eat in Silicon Valley

Summer is the time for family and friends to come and visit, so I took a little while and tried to think about things to do and places to eat.

Some things to do in Silicon Valley and nearby:

  • Sunday morning farmers’ market in Mountain View
  • Take a tour of Google (okay, you need to know someone who works there, probably)
  • Kitsch value: Intel Museum, Nickel City (arcade games are only a nickel, or even free!), San Jose flea market claims to be the world’s largest. There’s also an electronics flea market on the second Saturday of the summer months (e.g. Aug. 13, 2005) on the De Anza College campus parking lots. Meanwhile, De Anza has its own flea market on the first Saturday of the month (e.g. August 6, 2005).
  • Shopping: Santana Row/Valley Fair, Stanford Shopping Center, maybe University Ave or Castro St
  • San Jose: The Tech Museum, the Winchester Mystery House
  • Computer Geeks: Weird Stuff, Fry’s (I like the Sunnyvale store), Digital Guru (tech bookstore right near the Sunnyvale Fry’s), Microcenter, Best Buy, CompUsa, Surplus Computers
  • Pretty drives: Driving down Highway 1. Skyline Boulevard. Lick Observatory is only 20 miles away, but two hours of winding driving.
  • San Francisco: the painted ladies, then drive the Haight, and end up in Golden Gate Park to see the Japanese Tea Garden and the botanical gardens, continue on to rent a boat on the lake in the park, then drive by Cliff House before finishing at the Palace of Fine Arts and the Exploratorium. Or hit the Museum of Modern Art before walking to Union Square for shopping and walk in Macy’s and Tiffany’s before walking through Chinatown on the way to Pier 39 and Alcatraz (while looking up at the crookedest street) and looping over to Ghirardelli Square, then finish with a trolley car ride back to Union Square. Or get dim sum and then drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (stopping on the other side to look back at the city) before proceeding on to Muir Woods and hiking around.
  • Day trips: Santa Cruz (cold water, but nice boardwalk. Kitsch lovers might want to check out the Mystery Spot), Roaring Camp Railway, Carmel/Monterey (including the aquarium), or spend the day walking around Stanford and go up in the Hoover Tower, then check out the Stanford bookstore or the Rodin sculpture gardens.
  • Overnight trips: Healdsburg is a nice introduction to the edge of wine country. You can also go canoeing on the Russian River in Healdsburg. The Point Reyes lighthouse is really pretty; we haven’t found a favorite place to stay up there yet. Lake Tahoe can be nice.
  • Multiday trips: Yosemite is 5-6 hours away but is spectacular: rent a cabin in Camp Curry or stay in the Wawona hotel (their Sunday brunch is expensive but amazing). If you prefer to go up the coast, Eureka has a quaint downtown. If you make it up to Portland, be sure to spend some time in Powell’s bookstore.
  • Hikes: Borel Hill, Rancho San Antonio, the Stanford Dish, Eagle Rock Loop in Alum Rock City Park in San Jose

Places to eat:

  • Left at Albuquerque
  • Amarin Thai
  • Pho
  • Tomatina
  • Mexicali
  • all along University Avenue in Palo Alto
  • all along Castro St in Mountain View
  • In and Out Burger or Clarke’s
  • Chipotle in the Cherry Orchard (Ozzy Osbourne loves this food)
  • BJ’s Brewhouse in Cupertino
  • Benihana
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Mongolian BBQ (in Santa Clara, the one that is not Sue’s)
  • Evvia (Greek, Palo Alto)
  • Picasso’s (Tapas, San Jose)
  • Sushi Lovers or anything with a sushi boat, Seto Sushi (recommended by Linus Torvalds!), Miyake
  • Dim Sum (San Francisco or Ming’s in Palo Alto)
  • Original Pancake House in Los Altos, esp. for their coffee
  • Ethiopan place (maybe on Homestead?)
  • Banana Leaf in Milpitas
  • Amber India
  • Maybe Dave and Busters in Milpitas, just for the games ‘n’ stuff
  • Mexican: Bueno Bueno in Mountain View, Burrito Real, La Bamba, La Costena, Fiesta del Mar, that one place on the south side of El Camino between Rengstorff and Shoreline, Taqueria los Charros

Q: Why doesn’t my site show in SafeSearch?, or “Do you hate Metallica?”

We recently received a question about why www.metallica.com doesn’t show up in SafeSearch (e.g. note the results for [metallica] and then compare with adding the parameter “&safe=on”.

The answer is in their robots.txt. http://www.metallica.com/robots.txt has

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

This means that we have crawled zero pages from www.metallica.com. If you look carefully, we show a description of www.metallica.com from the Open Directory Project, not any snippet from their page. SafeSearch can’t return uncrawled/empty documents (unless they have been whitelisted), because the documents might turn out to be unsafe. Hopefully it makes sense that SafeSearch shouldn’t return a document to a user if we don’t know what that document actually has in it–what if the document had porn on it? So while we could whitelist metallica.com, the correct answer is for their webmaster to allow us to crawl their site.

It’s easy to see how this misunderstanding could happen. For example, if you do the search [Nissan Motors] you get back a pretty useful snippet: “Manufactures automobiles including passenger cars, buses, trucks and related parts and accessories. (Nasdaq: NSANY).” It almost looks like we’ve crawled the page–but we haven’t. Nissan also forbids all search engines from crawling their site with a robots.txt, so that snippet also comes from the Open Directory Project.

Several years ago, the Library of Congress had a robots.txt that didn’t allow any search engines (they do now), so it www.loc.gov wouldn’t show up in SafeSearch. So we changed it so a whitelist can trump an uncrawled document in SafeSearch. We studied the .gov domain and didn’t find any pornographic content (the closest we found was the Kenneth Starr report).

P.S. Metallica isn’t in my regular playlist, but I did watch Some Kind of Monster recently. It’s a much more nuanced view of the band than the Napster Bad Flash parody.

.htaccess 101: how to password protect a directory

What’s the easiest way to make an .htaccess file in Unix/Linux so that a directory is password protected? Suppose that your home directory is /home/matt and all your webstuff is in /home/matt/www/ . Follow these steps:

  1. Make an .htpasswd file. The htpasswd command in Unix does this. You should put the password file outside of your web directory. So a command like “htpasswd -bc /home/matt/.htpasswd review donotenter” will create a new file using a username of review and a password of donotenter into the file /home/matt/.htpasswd . If you were to run the command “cat /home/matt/.htpasswd” you might see a line like “review:M1OdtjdGiDn1Y”.
  2. Make an .htaccess file. In this case, the file would be located at /home/matt/www/.htaccess and it would look something like
    AuthUserFile /home/matt/.htpasswd
    AuthName EnterPassword
    AuthType Basic
    <Limit GET POST>
    require valid-user
    </Limit>

You might need to fiddle with file permissions a little bit. My .htaccess file was readable by all, and my .htpasswd file was readable by all as well.

Update: I edited the suggested .htaccess file a bit.

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