Friday, December 12, 2003

Open Source Myths

ONLamp.com, a site run by publisher O'Reilly & Assoc., is running an article "Myths Open Source Developers Tell Ourselves". The title is a little scarier than the reality described by the author, but it raises some good points. The discussion at slashdot has a pretty good signal-to-noise ratio. I liked the suggestions made in this post.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Guadalcanal Diary

KSLU just played "Watusi Rodeo" by Guadalcanal Diary -- a song I have on cassette somewhere but haven't listened to for a long time. Flush with nostalgia, Google and Amazon helped me find out that a couple other albums were recently rereleased on CD. A comment from Amazon says it well:
Friends don't understand why I still have casettes and when I explain that it is so I can listen to these albums, they inevitably respond "Who?"
When I tell them to think what REM could've been if they let themselves get liquored up before playing, I get their interest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Wimpy disclaimer

I sent a message with a receipt request to some colleagues. The receipt returned by a colleague using the Mozilla project's Thunderbird email programcontains this disclaimer:
Note: This Return Receipt only acknowledges that the message was displayed on the recipient's computer. There is no guarantee that the recipient has read or understood the message contents.
I think that part of Microsoft's grand plan for world domination includes the ability not only to get any data from your computer, but also to tap into your brain to guarantee that you understand a message. Wimpy open source projects like Mozilla will never achieve this.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Campaign '04

The 2004 Presidential election is less than a year away. While I normally feel as queasy about early campaigning as I do about Christmas muzak before Thanksgiving, George W. Bush makes me even queasier. There are just so many ways to dislike what he is doing to this country and to the world in which we also live. He's an easy target on environmental issues, but there's so much more. Here are two readable pieces about Bush's policies in the name of national security.

Al Gore speaks about Freedom and Security and how the Bush administration is decimating civil liberties through the Patriot Act and other measures in the name of greater national security. Gore made this speech on behalf of moveon.org. Their site also has a video, but I haven't watched it.

It is important to remember that throughout history, the loss of civil liberties by individuals and the aggregation of too much unchecked power in the executive go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin.

Financier and philanthropist George Soros writes on The Bubble of American Supremacy in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly.

Admittedly, the terrorist attack was historic in its own right. ... Even so, September 11 could not have changed the course of history to the extent that it has if President Bush had not responded to it the way he did. He declared war on terrorism, and under that guise implemented a radical foreign-policy agenda whose underlying principles predated the tragedy. Those principles can be summed up as follows: International relations are relations of power, not law; power prevails and law legitimizes what prevails.

In effect, the doctrine establishes two classes of sovereignty: the sovereignty of the United States, which takes precedence over international treaties and obligations; and the sovereignty of all other states, which is subject to the will of the United States. This is reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm: all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Another good reason to adhere to standards

Mandrake Linux has yet to release CD images of their latest release because of problems with certain LG Electronics CD-ROM drives. As fully explained by Mandrake, these drives don't properly implement the ATAPI protocol, specifically, their implementation of the FLUSH_CACHE command is incorrect. It'd be better if they simply didn't implement it at all. Instead, they implemented it to do something different. When issued, this command overwrites the drive's firmware. That's just wrong.

Quiet PCs

Sometimes I post a link here that's a little interesting, but more so that I'll know where to find it when I need it. End PC Noise is such a site. When I find the time to upgrade one or more home computer, this will be a good resource for making it quieter. Thank you for your indulgence.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Why I still like tcl

As in many programming languages, tcl represents a moment in time as the number of seconds since some fixed point (typically January 1, 1970 00:00 GMT/UTC). From this one can create a more readable version with flexible format options. For example using the clock commands,
clock format [clock seconds] -format "%A %B %d, %Y %I:%M %p"
produces "Wednesday November 05, 2003 03:48 PM".

Today I was writing code to run only on Sunday. Again as with most languages, one of the format options is to represent the day of the week as an integer. Languages vary somewhat on this, sometimes Sunday=0 and sometimes Sunday=1. This is all well documented and good programmers will put helpful comments to remind future readers of their code.

Tcl has a very powerful command "clock scan" that lets you create new dates using a wide variety of date formats, e.g. "2003-11-05", "tomorrow", "2 days ago"... or "Sunday". So, rather than hoping that I properly remember that Sunday is 0 or 1, I did the following:

    set weekday [clock format [clock seconds] -format "%w"]
    set sunday [clock format [clock scan "Sunday"] -format "%w"]
    if {$weekday == $sunday} {
        puts "yes, it's Sunday"
    } else {
        puts "no, it isn't Sunday"
    }
Internally, tcl will turn [clock scan "Sunday"] into a date representing midnight next Sunday which is a reasonable guess as to what somebody would want. For my use here, I don't really care if it's last Sunday, next Sunday or Super Bowl Sunday. I just care that it's a Sunday.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Logo under kde!

My daughter is only 2 1/2 but somehow she launched icq and sent a message yesterday. It was a message of unintelligible punctuation. Maybe it meant something in perl.

Anyway, it won't be long before I can start her with something like KLogo-Turtle. When I was in ninth or tenth grade, I taught logo to elementary school kids. I remember the difficulty I had introducing the concept of variables to fourth graders who had yet to encounter algebra.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Idea pooling

Today's New York times ran a story, "Ideas Unlimited. Built to Order.", in which they asked a variety of people (including Scott Adams, Donald Trump, and Martina Navratilova) for ideas for new inventions. I haven't actually read the article yet, but it's an interesting idea.

Not only is it an interesting idea, it's not new. The story was posted to slashdot and readers offered websites that solicit ideas from anybody. ShouldExist doesn't seem to have a lot. Why Not? has much more, but I could only see the list by way of Google's cache (if that link doesn't work search google for "whynot" and then click on the "Cached" link on the first result).

Finally, more outrageous ideas seem to migrate to Half Bakery. Start with the ten highest rated suggestions for a sampling. "Film Noir Home" is my favorite of those.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Groklaw - SCO Scoop

Another useful site for keeping up with the SCO lawsuits is the Groklaw weblog written by a paralegal. She says "IANAL. I am a paralegal, so if you have a legal problem and want advice, this isn't the place. Hire an attorney instead. Research is, however, what paras do, so here I am sharing things I have found in my research."

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

90.9 FM KSLU

My new favorite online radio station is KSLU. Reasons to like it:
  • It's a public radio station (i.e. no commercials).
  • It plays adult album alternative music.
  • It has an mp3 stream, so that I can use xmms (or winamp) rather than RealPlayer or Windows Media Player (which is difficult under linux).
  • I can get the news I was missing from Southeastern Louisiana.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Frank & Ernest

Today's Frank & Ernest comic reinforces the pervasiveness of Google. As a wise man told me, "Google makes me look a lot smarter than I actually am".

(I've learned that the above link will create a lot of popups if you're using the world's most popular browser. Fight the power, install and use a browser which can block popups such as Mozilla Firebird (win, linux, mac), MyIE2 (win), Opera (win, linux, mac), konqueror (linux). Mac users can also use the standard Safari browser. Even the new google toolbar can help you block popups.)

Catching up on the SCO mess

Until today, most of what I've known about the SCO lawsuits has come from the headlines on slashdot and that's never a good place to get the whole story. I bounced around a bit and eventually found the SCO Controversy Timeline at linux.org. Full of information and external links, this is a great starting point. My only complaint is that to catch up on what has happened so far, you need to start at the bottom and read up. Following one link lead me to a hysterical bit I might've found if I'd read some of the comments on slashdot.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Info for programmers about character sets

I had been thinking about writing a nice introductory article for programmers about the history of character sets and unicode but Joel, of Joel On Software, has done the dirty work for me in his latest article The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!). A site I work on is currently available in more than 12 languages with some more coming up soon. We'll soon support Georgian, which leaves the two bytes per character realm of unicode and jumps to four bytes per character. The article covers well much of what I've learned in the past two years about getting characters to look correctly in web browsers.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Switching from Linux to Windows

Slashdot editor Robin 'Roblimo' Miller writes A Week of Windows describing the rude surprise in store for somebody who tries Windows XP after five years of Linux.
All I can say to people in the process of moving from Windows to Linux and struggling to change their near-instinctive finger motion patterns is, "At least you're going from Windows to Linux, not the other way around."

A Linux Distro for Barbie?

From cow-orkers... A Linux Distro for Barbie? "targeted specifically at toddler through preteen girls who are currently Windows users but may be seeking alternatives, possibly due to increasing licensing fees or out of a desire to break free of vendor lock-in." "If Barbie were a career-focused woman working in the IT industry in 2003, she would support open standards.... [She] would also be tired of Microsoft's licensing bullshit."

And from a link on that site, Windows vs. Linux on the Server and the Desktop. It's not your standard comparison.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Jabber, anyone?

My preferred IM client, gaim, is having trouble connecting to Yahoo's and MSN's IM servers. I'm also annoyed with the general obnoxiousness of AOL (AIM & icq), Yahoo, and Microsoft over holding tightly to their proprietary protocols that all basically do the same thing and refuse to play nicely with each other. Because of this, I'm announcing now that I'm going to try to make Jabber my preferred protocol. It's open source and open standards based. It may not do voice or video chat, but that's not what I need.

The one remaining problem is that I don't know if any of my buddies on other protocols are on Jabber, too.

So, if you want to join my revolt, contact me on one of the unfriendly protocols or by email to get my jabber id then download a jabber client by following a link from one of the client lists at jabber.org.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

One Unwired Day

It reeks of an Intel marketing campaign with a name like "One Unwired Day", but tomorrow, September 25, 2003, you can borrow some bandwidth from a local Starbucks or another participating wireless location without the usual fees.

I may not take part since I have high speed connection at my desk and wireless + broadband at home. Maybe I'll bring my laptop to work and find a nice quiet wifi location where I can work with fewer interruptions than I get in my office.

This also seems like an opportunity for devious minds to probe for weaknesses in these for-pay services. I'll be watching /. and other news sources for reports of such.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Google WML converter

For the past two months, I've been experimenting with web surfing on a low-bandwidth, small screen device with HTTP/HTML and WAP/WML support. HTML has problems with table formatting, images that are too large and awkward horizontal scrolling. WAP/WML is faster and cleaner, but good sites are hard to find.

Google to the rescue again. Google has a search which only returns WAP sites, but even better they have a service which searches their whole index but the resulting pages are filtered through a HTML to WML converter. Point your own WAP device to http://wap.google.com/wml (Note that this won't work in a standard browser, only on a WAP device like a cell phone-based browser).

Monday, September 08, 2003

Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19

My parents always told me that one can learn a lot by reading the newspaper. Just yesterday, for example, I learned that September 19 is Talk Like A Pirate Day. I imagine you could even learn by reading those parts of the paper which aren't written by Dave Barry.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

More Than You Need to Know About Manufacturing

Stanford's Alliance for Innovative Manufacturing provides educational flash/video site explaining various manufacturing processes. So far I've only watched the videos on airplane and motorcycle manufacturing (provided by Boeing and Harley-Davidson, respectively), but if these are representative, then the site is a good way to waste time learn more about how this stuff works. It's like on-demand Discovery Channel videos. Hmmm, maybe the Discovery Channel's site already provides that.

I found this from Lockergnome.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Auto-delete Subject Lines

Every few months, the Washington Post's Style Invitational runs a contest that generates some wonderful entries. It has happened again. In this contest, they "asked you to come up with Subject lines guaranteed to cause a person to delete an e-mail, unread." For example:
  • Teach your pet monkey to yodel
  • An important message for you from Lyndon LaRouche's nephew.
  • First time ever, the 1936 Republican Convention on CD!
  • Please help me check my computer: Is this attachment a virus?
(The two entries that mention colorectal cancer neckties refer to the prize for this contest as described in the contest announcement some weeks earlier.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Calculations with Google

Google has added calculator functionality to their array of services. Or course it'll do simple math, but it also knows how to do conversions such as "how many kilograms is 32 lbs?" (my daughter's approximate weight) or even more complex calculations using standard constants like, "what is the speed of light in furlongs per fortnight?"

My guess is that they've used code from the units program that has been around for a long time. Before you download from there, check your distribution (of linux, *BSD, OS X, etc.) for a prepackaged version. It's pretty common, but I've been surprised by the number of old-time un*x people who have never seen this before.

Friday, August 15, 2003

RSS feed now available

Thanks to the free services provided by BlogStreet, I've added an RSS feed to Cognitive Overflow. To make this all look a little better in aggregators, I've enabled Blogger's title field and added the standard orange XML icon on the left side of the page. [Note: this feed seems to be held in cache for a while, I'm trying to figure out exactly how often it reloads.... more info when I find it.]

Enjoy!

...or don't. This service is not really ready for use. I can't figure out how often it updates (if it updates). A friend gave up on the feed saying "it kept reposting all of your messages...fooled my aggregator".

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Silly Clothes for Kids

In an unrelated discussion on slashdot, a reader linked to a shop selling many silly outfits for very small children. The shopkeeper politely divides the clothes into three degrees of offensiveness. There are only a few of these that I'd consider putting on my kid (e.g. "You're just jealous that I can still crap in my pants" or "") and lots more that are funny (e.g. "Living proof: Tequila works", "I'm VERY special because birth control is 99.5% effective").

Monday, August 11, 2003

Via Slashdot, two interesting articles by Grant Barrett about doing freelance technical support successfully. In the first article the author "basically cheer-leaded the dispirited by trying to convince them that there was an opportunity to be had, that, with only slightly better-than-average computer skills, out-of-work folks could take a shot at building a freelance technical support business.

The second article delves more into "knowing if this work is right for you, marketing yourself, learning on the job, handling and educating clients, managing the business, the temperament required, and the negative aspects of the work." This article also addresses some questions and concerns raised in slashdot discussions of the first article. If you want more commentary, see the slashdot discussions of the second article.

While I think that doing technical support full time might just be my definition of hell, I still recommend these articles. In addition to being quite readable and occasionally hysterical, he has a very good perspective on client relations and business building which can be useful for any sort of freelancer.

Monday, August 04, 2003

It's been nearly a month since my last post. Here's a quick summary of what I've been up to:
  • Working way too much as we prepared for a major rollout of new hardware for our database servers and the first rollout of a part of our site in our new Java framework.

    This was all happening as I was...

  • Preparing our house for some major remodeling. This preparation included packing up the entire contents of our kitchen, dining room, and coat closet, moving these contents to various places (e.g. storage area, adjacent rooms on the same floor, non-adjacent rooms on different floors, the (detached) garage), and moving some of the bigger things that we wanted to save (like moving the refrigerator to the basement).

    This had to be done in a speedy fashion because I was also...

  • Preparing to go on vacation in Spring Lake, NJ. See the archive from this time last year for links about this lovely beach-side town. We've been here about a week now and I'll be here for another week.
In the meantime... shortly before I left town, I heard a truly hysterical bit on an episode of "Prairie Home Companion". This page is the run down of the full show. The funny bit I heard is the Bassoon Orchestra script (RealAudio link). I can't vouch for the rest of the show.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Seen in a post on the dclug mailing list, mod_msff "Microsoft Free Fridays", a simple little module for Apache which prohibits visits from MS Internet Explorer on Fridays, in the interest of promoting open standards and protesting sites that don't work with any browser but IE. The original idea for this came from Dave Winer.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

From email sent by a colleague...

Go to google home page, type "weapons of mass destruction" and hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button (or click here).

Now, READ THE ERROR MESSAGES VERY CAREFULLY.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Slashdot ran a story about the rumors of a new Indiana Jones movie coming in 2005. I waded through the comments for my readers and found the gem... follow a link to a link and get to this story about a group of kids who created a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark over six years starting at age 12.

Friday, June 27, 2003

I want this t-shirt. I showed this to a friend who then pointed me to the Propaganda Remix Project which has posters with similar sentiments.

Monday, June 23, 2003

My nephews visited this weekend (along with their parents). The 4 yr old introduced us to a phrase that we should all try to use in conversation:
Checkerboard pizza! Oh my gosh, I'm going to poop on my shoes!
I may have to create a new "away" message with this phrase.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I'd heard that last month's earthquake in Algeria affected internet connectivity in Turkey, but I didn't really comprehend how this could happen until I found this map of the undersea cable that provides Turkey's main connection to the 'net. (For those, like me, who are a little undereducated about North African geography, here's another map which shows where Algeria is relative to Morocco.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Here's a brief example of how my mind wanders...

I received a weekly email from O'Reilly with short blurbs about new content on their site including a link to a story about an Old School unix adventure game... which reminded my of the Infocom "interactive fiction" games I used to play on my Commodore 64.

A quick google search later and I've found a site about interactive fiction games for the Palm platform, including winning entries from the annual interactive fiction competition. Another google search found a site for downloading actual Infocom game files, along with links to executables for playing these games on Win32, java, linux, and palm platforms. (Disclaimer: I'm not sure of the legal status of these games.)

This is certainly more than I needed to know. I don't have much free time as it is.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

At lunch yesterday with some co-workers, these otherwise bright technical people insisted that 802.11b networking is very secure. There is ample evidence available which disproves this, even for those networks using 128-bit encryption. For their benefit, I offer this article from wired.com, links to AirSnort and WEPCrack utilities for testing the security of a network, and this entry and this entry from the AirSnort FAQ (hold your mouse over the links to see the the subject of each FAQ entry).

Thursday, June 12, 2003

I saw SeatGuru.com mentioned in this month's issue of Consumer Reports. It shows the configuration of seating in the different types of airplanes for the six largest US airlines. The seats are color coded -- from green for a very good seat to red for a bad seat. Hold your mouse over a seat and they tell you what the seat is like.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

I'm just appalled and I'm surprised at how surprised and appalled I am.

It seems that during last month's walkout by Democrats in the Texas legislature, the Republicans talked to some of their friends in Washington and got some help tracking down the Democrats from federal agencies including the Dept. of Homeland Security, the FAA, and the FBI. Didn't John Ashcroft assure us that the extended investigative powers would never be used against private citizens?

See this story and this story from the Washington Post.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Notes for a future project for my home network: set up a pseudo-printer via Samba to generate pdf documents. See this article from Linux Magazine and this thread from comp.os.linux.admin (via google groups).
Put on your headphones if you don't want your co-workers to hear Gollum's foul mouth, close your door if you don't want your co-workers to hear you laughing, but watch Gollum's acceptance speech for his award for "Best Virtual Performance" at MTV's Movie Awards.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I find that the tenets of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development ring true in my software development experience:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
Scott Ambler's site agilemodeling.com has a few good introductory articles. The Agile Alliance site has links to many more articles from different sources.

I seem to recall seeing an article when I found these pages in which the author promoted the idea of writing as few test cases as possible before writing code (contrary to standard extreme programming practice). Instead, he emphasized writing a test case for each debugging session/bug fix and saving each of those. Three weeks later, I can't find this reference. Please let me know if you see it.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Build your own safety sign. If I had my own server or were using a image hosting service, I'd post an example... instead you can see some on the blog where I found this.

Friday, May 09, 2003

A former cow-orker has posted an article over at his weblog discussing meta-weblog issues. It's a pretty good read and even though I usually try to keep the navel-gazing to a minimum here, after encouragement from the author here are a couple comments regarding this...

First, while I agree that RSS/RDF has potential for helping create a semantic web, I'm still a little skeptical about the predictions of massive impact of syndicated blog content. Speaking purely about my own habits, I don't have the interest or time to scan even RSS summaries of many blogs. I don't see people caring much about the idle ramblings of random bloggers.

I haven't yet read the story linked from this article concerning blog reporting on Presidential primaries, but it's an intriguing idea.

The other issue I have with the current state of weblogging is what Moveable Type, Blogger, and other blog frameworks have done (or more accurately, not done) to encourage printable versions of their content. For example, this review of blogging APIs appeared on a major blog. But look at it... two wide columns of fluff bordering a narrow column of content. This is an important issue for me because I tend to do a lot of reading on the subway and I like something printable. In such cases, I tend to copy the text to a document in a word processor where I can make it more usable for subway reading.

One way to fix this at the blog level can be accomplished with the help of modern implementations of CSS have the ability to specify different stylesheets for different media... e.g. look at the source of a news story on wired.com and you'll see a line like this:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="print"  href="http://blahblah/wnPrint.css" />
This stylesheet does nice print-version friendly things like hiding the menu bars and ads and switching from the screen-friendly font verdana to a more readable serif font. (No, I haven't added such a stylesheet to this site... new css for this site is in the works.) Of course this doesn't address the issue of reversing the order of blog entries -- a problem which I addressed with the one-off hack shown in my recent entry.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Are you worried that some dumpster diver might find your bank account numbers on your discarded hard drive? Then you need Darik's Boot and Nuke "a self-contained boot floppy that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers".

Incidentally, I found this one via the monthly newsletter from tinyapps.org. If you have to use Windows, look for your utilities on tinyapps. From the tinyapps FAQ:

To qualify for TinyApps, a program must:

  1. Not exceed 1.44mb
  2. Not be adware
  3. Work under at least Windows 9x (this does not apply to non-Windows apps, of course).
  4. Not require the VB/MFC/.NET runtimes. Also, preference is given to apps which are 100% self-contained, requiring no installation, registry changes, etc.
  5. Preferably be free, and ideally offer source code. Shareware will only be listed if there is no freeware alternative.
(n.b. the hyperlink on the word "free" is from the original. I haven't read the target page in its entirety, but it looks pretty good.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

There's lots of talk about a weblog allegedly written by a very wealthy heiress on the run. I first saw mention of it over at memepool and now wired.com is running a story about it, too.

Hoax or not, it's a story that has me hooked. I tried reading in backwards order, but it isn't easy. So, for those, like me, who joined the story late, here's some help.

The following tcl script will reverse the order of the entries. Copy the HTML of the main content (i.e. not the menu bar, not the title bars) into a file. Edit the script to find your saved file and run it. Don't expect tech support.

    #!/usr/local/bin/tclsh

    set input_file "flight-risk.html"
    set output_file "out.html"
    set open_tag "<blockquote>"
    set close_tag "</blockquote>"

    set ip [open $input_file]
    set input [read $ip]
    close $ip

    set index 0
    set length [string length $input]
    set quote_count 0
    puts "starting... length is $length"

    set outl [list]

    while {$index < $length && \
               [set this_one [string first $open_tag $input $index]] != -1} {
        set this_one [expr $this_one + [string length $open_tag]]
        set this_end [string first $close_tag $input $this_one]
        set this_end [expr $this_end - 1]

        incr quote_count
        set index [expr $this_end + [string length $close_tag]]

        set this_chunk [string range $input $this_one $this_end]
        append this_chunk "\n"
        set outl [linsert $outl 0 $this_chunk]
    }

    puts "found $quote_count total"

    set op [open $output_file "w"]
    foreach chunk $outl {
        puts $op $chunk
    }
    close $op
Now you can print and read at your leisure.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Here's a nifty laptop stand called the Oyster which brings the monitor of your laptop up to eye level, easing the strain on your neck and shoulders. I think that this photo how it works. It requires an external keyboard and mouse, but I think it'd be well worthwhile if a laptop was my primary work station.

Here's another stand with this configuration. None of the dealers seem to list prices for this, though... hopefully it's less than the $179 amazon is asking for the oyster.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

from the sage wisdom of the *nix fortune program:
God grant me the senility to accept the things I cannot change,
The frustration to try to change things I cannot affect,
and the wisdom to tell the difference.

Monday, March 24, 2003

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.

Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.

The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

  -- by William Shakespeare

...and other "banal instructions in the style of some famous writer" from this week's Style Invitational

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Get up off your video-playing ass and grab a new Garmin GPS unit which has games that make you move:
In its version of Whack-A-Mole, called GekoSmak, the player has to smack a virtual lizard before it disappears. That means walking or running to the nearby coordinates displayed on the device and hitting the OK key. Other games involve finding your way out of a virtual maze and navigating point-to-point without crossing your tracks.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Yet another online museum of old computers... including the NorthStar Advantage I used in seventh grade, the Timex Sinclair 1000 I borrowed from a friend of my father, and, of course, the first computer I actually owned, the Commodore 64.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

In case you're not actively reading slashdot, here's a nice rant from a random geek on The Tyranny of Email.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

This could be all sorts of fun, open source home automation with MisterHouse. You can even demo the product with a little monitoring of the creator's house (sadly with only limited access).

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Here is a person who is big on lists... What I Have Read Since 1974. From his FAQ:
Q: Waaaaay too much time on your hands to be keeping those kinds of stats on the number of goddamned pages you've read and how many books you've devoured. Don't you care about content? How the book impacts you personally? Is it a mere stats race for you? A mere ego game, where you can prove to your friends how many books you own? I congratulate you on your literacy. I wonder if your favourite authors would be impressed that you finished the whole thing? (geeksrus@interlynx.net)

A: Yes. Yes. No. No. Thanks. Probably not.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Roll call!

The tracking tool I once used to let me know that people occasionally read this is now off-line. Before I pester the previous hoster to add it to his new site, please let me who is listening.

Do you like the stuff I post here? Is it different enough that I should continue? Is there some stuff that I post that you'd like to see more of? More narcissistic stories about my cute daughter? More tech tips (like my recent discovery about ncftp)?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Slashdot posted an article that I submitted (and my slashdot karma is now "excellent") - Why (FM, Not XM) Radio Sucks. Having actually read the article and then reading the comments, it gives me a sense of how many slashdot readers never bother to read the article.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

ncftp is just the best way to do big ftp transfers. I've used this for a while and I already knew that it knows how to do wildcards and filename completion. Last night I wanted to download ISO images of Red Hat 8.0. I was working on my laptop with an ssh connection to a desktop machine with oodles of disk storage, but I didn't want to leave my laptop on for the download of three cd images, each >600MB, so I read the ncftp manual. It turns out you can use a command bgget to place downloads in a queue. Then, when you're ready for it all to start, use bgstart which starts the downloads in the background. Exit your ncftp session, close ssh and laptop. Go to sleep. Wake up in the morning to find that everything downloaded successfully!

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Via memepool... HELLO, my name is Scott!, a site run by a chipper young man who thinks he is making the world a friendlier place because he always wears a nametag. I think he's right.