Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quick bit of YouTube drivel

What if real life meetings had the same politeness standards as comments on the Internet? YouTube has the answer (put on your headphones -- contains NSFW language).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Half way to a switch app

About two and a half years ago, I proposed that Apple create a tool to track what programs one runs and then reports on what alternatives are available under Mac OS X. Apple ignored me and never realized what a brilliant idea this is.

We're half way there now. Wakoopa provides a tool which tracks what you run. Register, download a small application and install. Wakoopa runs in the background and reports to Wakoopa's servers what you're running. I've installed this on my work machine (running XP Pro), go see what I use.

They don't provide the Windows to Mac switch recommendations, but you can see what other people are using and, perhaps, extrapolate from others what might work for you. If Wakoopa were to provide an API, then Apple could finish the job they never started.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Better Gmail

The editors at LifeHacker have compiled some of their favorite Firefox extensions for enhancing gmail and put them all together into a single extension called Better Gmail. Of those included, I've been using and loving Gmail Macros for a while.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Swimming the Atlantic

I learned today that Google Maps provides transatlantic driving directions. For example, if you choose to drive from Washington, DC to London, England, Google suggests driving to Boston. You navigate to downtown Boston and then:

20. Turn right at Long Wharf 0.1 mi
21. Swim across the Atlantic Ocean 3,462 miles

and then continue on through northern France, through the Chunnel and on to London. The whole trip will take 29 days, 14 hours.

Because I'm a geek, I wanted to know how fast I'd have to swim to achieve this. I've never considered swimming across an entire ocean before. Isolating this route to just the departure and arrival points for the swim (Boston to Le Havre, France), Google says it takes about 29 days.

Next pull up the handy unix/linux tool called units. It does all sorts of conversions, even converting such things as speeds.

You have: 3462 miles/29 days
You want: mph
        * 4.9741379
        / 0.20103986

That's almost five miles per hour. That sounds pretty fast. Is it reasonable? Ask wikipedia. The current world record for swimming 1500 m is 14:34.56.

You have: 1500 m / (14 min + 34.56 sec)
You want: mph
        * 3.8366772
        / 0.2606422

That's 3.8 miles per hour. So, even record holder Grant Hackett at his peak 5.5 years ago, couldn't swim across the Atlantic in 29 days even if he were to swim at his world record pace for 24 hours per day.

Update: Geoff Fox blogged about this also. In fact, Geoff's post was probably the origin of how I found out about this since the original link that was sent to me came from a relative who reads Geoff's blog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

March 21 is not the first day of Spring has a wonderful article explaining why the vernal equinox can shift and points out that from 1981-2102, Spring will begin no later than March 20. The myth that Spring starts on March 21 must be quashed. People who suggest that should be loudly corrected.

On a completely unrelated note, March 20 just happens to be my birthday.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Mixing iPod and Computer Sounds?

This is an exploration of solutions. I don't have my perfect solution yet, perhaps somebody will help.

The short question is "what's the best way to combine the sound from my ipod and the sounds from my computer into one set of headphones?"

Here's the situation:

I've got an iPod which I sync with my work computer. When I want to tune out the noise of the office, I currently listen via iTunes. Windows handles the business of delivering music, new mail alerts and other system sounds to my headphones, with the volume set appropriately. However, the disk on my laptop is getting full. My iTunes library takes up almost half of the used disk space. So, I'd like to move the music to my home computer and I can bring the iPod with me to work.

Now, how to listen to the music while still being able to hear the alert sounds from my computer? If I had two sets of speakers, I could connect the iPod to one set and the PC to the other. This solution fails when I want to use headphones.

Possible options:

  • External mixer - buy a small mixer and plug the ipod and the computer into its inputs, plug speakers or headphones into its output. The hardware volume controls for each input would be nice, but this solution requires a little desk space and an extra power outlet. There's also the matter of the "whoa, you're such a geek" factor when people see this extra box sitting on my desk. See what I mean by looking this Behringer model. That could be good or bad.
  • Attach ipod to computer via line-in port - it's a simple idea, but I'm on a laptop with only a mono-mic input, and, once it's connected, I'm not sure what I would run to get the sound piped to the speakers. The mono-mic input is a deal-breaker. If I'm using a more compatible machine in the future, I'll worry about how the sound gets through the machine. Rogue Amoeba's LineIn looks like it would work on a mac.
  • Fancy speakers - some speakers meant for computer use have two inputs and a headphone jack (such as these Bose speakers. Plug the computer into one, plug the ipod in the other. Seems pretty easy.
The speaker option is probably the best way to go, but I'm working on pure speculation as to how well this would work. This is why stores allow returns.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Geeky Friday: Shorter directory path in command prompt

Gina Trapani, editor over at, has been diving deep into cygwin and command line goodness for a while. Earlier this week, she posted an article about customizing the command prompt. I added a comment about my shorter directory path, but I'll replicate here, because I have better control over the formatting of the code (and, I guess, for the people who read me, but not lifehacker):

I sometimes find having the full directory path in the prompt to be overwhelming, so I've created this small bash function which shows just the last two parts of the path:

short_dir ()
    if [ "$PWD" = "$HOME" ]; then
        echo '~'
        the_dir=`dirname "$PWD"`;
        the_base=`basename "$PWD"`;
        the_dir_base=`basename "$the_dir"`;
        if [ "$the_dir_base" = '/' ]; then
        echo "$the_dir_base/$the_base"

Add a call to this to your prompt, don't forget to escape the backquotes:

export PS1="\`short_dir\`\$ "

So, if your current directory is /usr/local/man/man1, your prompt would look like:


You can, of course, sprinkle in other bash prompt special characters, such as "\h" for the hostname:

export PS1="(\h) \`short_dir\`\$ "

produces: (myhost) man/man1$

Monday, September 18, 2006

Anime for beginners

I think it's time to try anime. Based on various reviews and the fact that it won an Oscar a few years ago, Spirited Away has been in my list of movies to rent for a long time, but I've never gotten around to renting it. Now ranting tech blogger, Steve Yegge has written a long post about why he likes anime and gives some recommendations.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Diary of Ironman Preparation (no, not mine)

"A few days ago I was thinking about doing something good with my life. Instead I decided I would sign up for Wisconsin Ironman."

   -- Thus begins my cousin's new blog chronicling his year of preparation for the race on September 9, 2007.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Higher gas mileage (in the same car)

The Washington Post ran an article a couple weeks back on improving gas mileage. It's written from the point of view of a hybrid driver, but it says that these tips can be used in other vehicles as well.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Your Brains

It's been a while since I posted and even longer since I posted something just fun and not too techy. But this just cried out for propagation -- a new(-ish) song from Jonathan Coulton (the guy who covered "Baby Got Back" in a nice, easy, banjo-heavy acoustic style):
If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that being trapped in a mall surrounded by a million zombies would be really troublesome. But how much more annoying would it be if the head zombie used to be your co-worker, and he was kind of a prick even before he got infected? And now he’s right outside and he just keeps talking and talking - still the same jackass, only now he wants to eat your brains?
An mp3 file can be downloaded from Coulton's site or you can listen while you watch video game characters act it out (complete with a little air guitar and dancing).

Friday, June 30, 2006

Geeky Friday: Essentials for linux

Mark Pilgrim has updated his "essentials" list to reflect his recent switch from Mac to Ubuntu linux ("Ubuntu, which is an ancient African word meaning "can't install Debian".") This is a nice list of useful software (and links to each) for linux. His older list is for mac users.