Thursday, September 27, 2001

Over at The Onion, they've somehow managed to write funny, yet not-too-offensive, stories about recent events. Snippets:

From American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie:

"I always thought terrorists blowing shit up would be cool," Martin continued. "Like, if the Pentagon was bombed, I figured they'd mobilize a special elite squadron of secret-agent ninjas, and half of them would be hot babes. How could I ever think that? This is actually happening, and it's just not cool at all."
From God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule
"I don't care how holy somebody claims to be," God said. "If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time: No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."
There are lots of sick hoaxes related to the WTC disaster out there. I just received email of a photo that purportedly shows a tourist on top of the WTC with the first airplane about to hit right behind him. It's a fake, dammit! See more at this page at snopes.com. For information about other WTC hoaxes, see pages at snopes.com or csicop.org.

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

From htmlhelp.com, an article about misuse of the alt attribute in img tags. Included are some egregious examples of what not to do.
15-yard Penalty for Unnecessary Use of PDF: There's a mailing list that a very dedicated member of my neighborhood sends out every week or so. It contains information about crime, recommendations for plumbers, electricians, etc., news about our schools and more. However, unlike most modern email mailing lists, the moderator is doing this completely by hand -- subscription management, distribution, and archiving. This is silly when free resources like Yahoo groups are freely available which do all that and searchable archives, too. But, now the most pointless "feature" of this list is that the archives are available in PDF format. Take a look at a recent edition. Does this gain anything from conversion to PDF?

I'll stop ranting now. The content still more than makes up for the list's technical quirkiness.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Everytime I see somebody wearing a red, white and blue ribbon, I can't help but think of Tony Orlando and Dawn. This has been driving me crazy. The way I remember the origin of the ribbons was the Yellow Ribbons during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-81 and that was all from Tony Orlando and Dawn's song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon".

A little research turned up this article from therepublic.com about ribbons. It mentions the Tony Orlando theory but says that "news stories credit Penelope Laingen, wife of Iranian hostage L. Bruce Laingen, with starting the yellow ribbon-tying craze at her Maryland home." That doesn't seem to refute the theory since Ms. Laingen may have been inspired by the Mr. Orlando and the Misses Dawn. The article also cites a woman who did ribbon research: "Virtually every culture and society, Wolos said, has used ribbons in a show of allegiance or support, from black mourning bands and wreaths with bows used at funerals, to red, white and blue bunting in the French Revolution, to red ribbons worn in the 1970s to bring attention to POW-MIA issues."

Very interesting, but I'm still sticking to the Tony Orlando theory for the lapel ribbons.

Monday, September 17, 2001

Pure, unmitigated silliness
When I first saw google's report on Sept. 11 searches, my first thought was "Why would people need to ask google for CNN's web address?" But I think a better explanation is that they tried cnn.com and couldn't get through... next step? "Gee, I must not know CNN's address, I'll ask a search engine."
Bartleby has a daily mailing now. FDR provided the quotation of the day over the weekend: "More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars."

Friday, September 14, 2001

I'm still living in a 56k world at home. However here in my office, I've got a screaming fast internet connection and a machine with a CD burner. Seems like a relatively painless way to upgrade to newer versions of bloatware such as Internet Explorer. Naturally, Microsoft has found a way to make the easy difficult.

When you download IE, you get just a small executable which relies on an internet connection to pull down the rest of the package. If I weren't using Microsoft's flagship OS, Windows 2000, the installer would give me an option to download only. But, the readme file advises users of Win2k to read this article so that you can run the installer with extra args like this:

"C:\Windows Update Setup Files\ie5setup.exe" /c:"ie5wzd.exe /d /s:""#E"

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Seen on goodexperience.com, "A Brief History of @".
In the slashdot discussion of the "Good Easy" article mentioned previously, a reader pointed me to HTML Tidy utility to clean up HTML. This is of particular interest to me since I'm currently working with some HTML that originated from MS Front Page and sometimes modified by other users using MS Studio.
Being a unix weenie, I appreciated this article at wired.com describing a way to configure and use a mac or windows box for maximum efficiency by minimizing the bloat created by MS Office and its ilk. The author points to the GoodEasy environment specifically for MacOS.

Also of note in this article is the author's reference to "The Paradox of the Active User":

In this study of how non-technical people use computers, they observed that people don't read manuals. And once they figure out how to achieve something, they will not change their protocol even if doing things a different way is quicker.
I haven't yet read this study. It's rather lengthy; probably subway reading for another day.
Over at borklog is a link to an Canadian editorial from 1973 which praises the US for our foreign aid and encourages other countries to support the US in return. 18 years old and yet still relevant. Yet, even in this time of distress in the US, the Federal Reserve is "making $50 billion available to stabilize European banking systems".

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

What to say that hasn't already been said?

Karen's family lives in NYC and they're all safe. We had trouble reaching them by phone, but we were able to communicate via AIM. I guess that's something else useful that AOL has given me. According to this article at internetnews.com, we weren't the only ones to use instant messaging

Somebody wrote into slashdot saying that "The [internet] backbone is, according to [network watchers], at about 80% utilization -- they've never seen it above 40% before."

Monday, September 10, 2001

I received a free copy of AOL 6 this weekend. What makes this exciting is that it was sent in a nice little tin which can be used for safely transporting cds around. This is the first time that AOL has given me something useful since they stopped sending out (erasable) floppy disks.

Friday, September 07, 2001

The people who did the wireless network sniffing in the article below used software called netstumbler. What's even more cool is that their software can export sites found and their website collects reports from users. Currently it seems only to have a non-searchable list of access points found and a big map of the U.S. with little dots where points were found.
Seen on slashdot, Exploiting and Protecting 802.11b Wireless Networks, in which crafty techies drive around NYC, NJ, New England and Silicon Valley and discover many, many unsecured wireless networks. If they drive past my house, they'll discover another one. Yes, this is an invitation to anybody who wants to steal free bandwidth from me. Come on over and use your high-tech wireless card to surf on my 56k dial-up connection. Feel free to browse my computers. The most interesting thing you'll find is the originals of the photos seen here.

Monday, September 03, 2001

The latest Style Invitational in the Washington Post asked readers "to supply items for an underachiever's midlife list of goals." Such as...
  • Memorize the capitals of all the letters.
  • Prevent the resurgence of the Whig party.
  • Run behind the bulls at Pamplona.
  • Invent a better placebo.
  • Climb to the top of the Vietnam Memorial.
  • Teach an illiterate child to do the Macarena.