Monday, January 31, 2005
Sunday, January 30, 2005
An "open letter" to Microsoft...
Once again, commenters everywhere are espousing opinions on Microsoft's latest statements regarding the company's plans to disallow updates for pirated copies of Windows (and other software).
We all know taking that position results in one primary problem: Unpatched computers get infected or overrun and then bombard computers of others - making victims of people with valid, paid-for copies of Windows.
I understand Microsoft's position, I disagree with it, and I have a solution.
Patch the pirated computers, "update" the pirated computer's firewall to control two-way traffic, then turn that firewall on. Turn it on all the way. Like as in "nothing-in, nothing-out." Stop all the network traffic on those machines. And put "PIRATED" in all four corners of the screen, like you do with Safe Mode. Heck, for that matter, only allow users to boot into safe mode if it's pirated.
Of course, you could leave open connections to, say, a Microsoft site where people could be allowed something like, oh maybe 30 days to register their software. Give 'em a reduced registration rate maybe. Or maybe not. That's up to you.
Seriously - A significant portion of my job is protecting my company from all those unpatched and out-of-date computers. My time is valuable, and so is the time of many others like me. The ball belongs in your court - Where thousands of people have to spend hours and hours defending networks, you can fix it for all of us in one fell-swoop.
Microsoft's failure to patch problem computers makes for a less-secure Internet. It makes for higher operating costs for my company. It means I am focusing my time on things I need not deal with. It means I'm not focused on more important things that deserve my individual time.
Revenues are important, sure, but so are your customers, and so is wide area network security. This is the one area where revenues might just need to take a back seat. Think about it. Do the right thing.
Drastic? Sure, but healthier than leaving security holes all over the planet.
By not helping your enemies, you hurt your friends. You can't win, but you can make sure the people who are already on your side are taken care of.
Patch that software. Then get 'em with the firewall. Do it. We need you.
And thanks for listening.
P.S. - Is this a little tongue in cheek? Sure it is, somewhat. The idea is to discuss all the options and possibilities, and I think people need to talk more about the option of making it harder for software thiefs, regardless of the PR impact. Talking about it and actually doing it are two very different things, and often useful ideas come out of the conversations about the "fringe" options.
Already several emails and opinions are coming in (keep 'em coming, and you can also use the comments link below), so let me point out a few things...
- First, I don't think Microsoft is "evil" - and that was not my point. Not even close.
- Second, I know automatic updates would still work for pirated software under the proposed plan. That's not my concern - apparently there are some idiots who steal software that just don't have the brains or desire to turn it on, for whatever reasons.
- Third, I'm not freaking out over something that hasn't happened yet. Rather, I am thinking about and commenting on something that's being discussed and in which I have professional interest and experience. Part of my experience is that if you offer opinions before Microsoft takes action, you're more likely to have your opinion count for something, however small. Come to think of it, that's more about the way the world works in general than it is about Microsoft...
- Fourth, my thoughts are more about Microsoft asserting itself from both the "security-custodian" and "software-seller" roles. Two statements (drastic ones, granted) in one brush stroke.
Mitch Wagner at Security Pipeline has his own opinions on the matter, too. See what other people are writing about the subject with Feedster.
Interesting conversation. What do you think?
Today was a real win for - and by - the people of Iraq. Today was a great day.
Read reports direct from Iraq here, and see more photos here.
Atheer Almudhafer, from Falls Church, Va., gives the Iraqi sign of victory after casting his absentee ballot at the New Carrollton, Md., voting station, Jan. 28, 2005. His finger is marked with indelible blue ink, intended to prevent double voting. "I give the sign of peace and voting. Together it is victory," Almudhafer said. Defense Dept. photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, U.S. Air Force.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Microsoft has opened up the Office document formats and made them available for the world to see.
The Schemas provide developers and representatives of business and government a standard way to store and exchange data stored in documents. The download contains documentation on a number of XML schemas for Microsoft® Office 2003 Editions including:
- Microsoft Office Word 2003
- Microsoft Office Excel 2003
- Microsoft Office InfoPath® 2003
- and Microsoft Office Visio® 2003
It also includes schema information for:
- Microsoft Office OneNote® 2003
- Microsoft Office Project 2003
- and Microsoft Office Research Services
Download the schemas and documentation and read the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas Frequently Asked Questions.
News coverage from TechWorld:
"The move puts Microsoft on a better footing to compete against open-source applications and non-proprietary document formats. Governments around the world have begun to reconsider the use of proprietary formats, which usually lock them into using particular applications and may hinder archiving efforts.
"Microsoft Office formats have become a de facto standard, one of the factors making it difficult for organisations to use alternative applications."
(via Robert Scoble)
Friday, January 28, 2005
My employer, Corillian Corporation, has a few openings, including one for an employee to work on the IT Department's Help Desk. Maybe you'd be interested, or maybe someone you know would fit the bill?
Corillian is a Portland, Oregon-area software company, and IMHO it's a pretty darn nice place to work. Great challenges, great opportunity, and great people.
The IT Help Desk job is an entry-level or early-career position, working in the corporate IT department. The employee in this position acts as the point person for the company's internal help desk. Managing requests for service and basic Windows computer and network troubleshooting are the primary day-to-day job tasks. Excellent customer service skills and a customer-oriented, confident, on-your-game personality are critical. The company is looking for someone who can hit the ground running from a customer-service standpoint.
If you or someone you know is interested, time is of the essence - So email or call me and I will put you in touch with the hiring manager. My email is email@example.com and my office phone is 503-629-3771.
QA and Software Developer Positions: I am told that Corillian is also looking for QA and Software Engineers, so if you are what a leading-edge software company would consider a top performer in either of those areas, email or call me about those positions, too, and I will make sure you are put in touch with the right people. It'll be competitive, I can tell you that, so be prepared, but don't hold back.
Note: This post is my own, and is not a communication by or for my employer. I am just trying to make people aware of some opportunities that I happen to know about. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that if you get hired, depending on the position they might spot me a small bonus that would probably pay for a nice lunch or dinner for you and me. But don't count on it - and the help desk job reports under me in the organizational scheme, so I am not eligible for any bonus on that position. Phew!
Nikon has announced that their cool new D2X digital SLR camera will be available on February 25th, and that it will sell for a "suggested" street price of $4999.00. Hook up a GPS device to record location data. Transmit data via WiFi. Remote control the camera. Instant-on and fast shutter response time of 37ms - great improvements for low-lag operation. Flash sync at 1/250th of a second. Awesome metering. Fast continuous shooting. All nice stuff.
But there's one thing that will keep me from even considering buying this camera. And it's not the price.
It's this bit of info, gleaned from the fine print in the spec sheet:
- Approx. 1.5x focal length in 35mm  format equivalent
Argh, no! I have to say, I was pretty darned surprised to find this hidden in the back of the specs list, especially since they are marketing the D2X as being capable of "5fps continuous shooting mode full size or 8fps in a 6.8MP cropped mode." Turns out the "cropped mode" means a 2x multiplier over 35mm equivalent, as opposed to non-cropped mode, which has a 1.5x multiplier.
Very sneaky. Very sucky.
At 12.4 megapixels and $5000, someone tell me why in the world camera manufacturers can't put a chip in the thing that will make it act like a real 35mm camera from the field-of-view/coverage perspective. I'd take lower effective resolution (say 8 megapixels or so?) and no multiplier at this point.
Believe it or not, to someone who was a film photographer for several years, this actually matters to me. Nothing aggravates me more about digital SLR cameras than an image that has a telephoto-style crop and a short-lens depth of field. I hate that. I have a D70 that does that. Don't get me wrong, for $1000 I like the D70 just fine. It's a consumer-grade camera, and sure I'd like it a heck of a lot more if it had a chip that would use the lens the way it was built to be used. But this camera is more than the D70 can dream of being.
So, if I am going to pay five times the cost for a better camera, put in a full-sized chip that uses the full field the lens was built to cover. Seriously.
Hey Nikon - Just so you know, I was actually ready to seriously consider spending $5000 on your new camera - but now I guess I'll just wait. Again.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
John Pultorak decided to build a real, working replica of the Apollo Guidance Computer - the ones that were used in the actual Apollo spacecraft.
"This report describes my successful project to build a working reproduction of the 1964 prototype for the Block I Apollo Guidance Computer. The AGC is the flight computer for the Apollo moon landings, with one unit in the command module and one in the LEM.
"I built it in my basement. It took me 4 years."
What a great project. Building one of these looks to provide useful insight into the entire computer system, from top to bottom and beginning to end.
This is the computer that got the first people to the moon and back. And you can make one yourself. Now that's cool.
"Louis is here with the weather..."
The painful, awful, terrible weather.
"Maybe Louis, you can tell us what we can expect for the rest of the week..."
If you're ever having one of those days where you feel like the clumsiest person on the face of the planet, just click the link above, and find comfort in the fact that someone, somewhere has almost certainly had a harder day than you.
(I recall my time in journalism school, which is almost certainly where this tape came from, and it could be brutal at times. Broadcast news performance is an art, and artists are few and far between).
The other day I decided to change to using passphrases instead of single passwords on my Windows accounts. Aside from the minor headache of having to remember I made the change at all, it's been a good thing.
That is, until today.
This afternoon I decided re-enable my wireless sync with my Exchange server on my Windows Mobile 2003 smart phone (Audiovox 5600). I had disabled it when I changed the password the other day, with plans to set it back up when I had time. So I went to enter the new passphrase on the mobile device, but no workie... Apparently, while Windows and Outlook and Exchange-HTTPS and pretty much everything else in the Windows world supports passphrases that include spaces, not so on Windows Mobile 2003.
Apparently you simply can't enter spaces in the password box on the smart phone.
So, I have a choice to make: I can either change back to using passwords in order to allow my Windows Mobile device to sync with Exchange (one step forward, two steps back), or I can stay with passphrases and leave my Windows Mobile device crippled (don't even get me started on that one).
Needless to say, I am not very happy with either option...
Anyone have a solution? Am I missing something here? Seems to me when you create a password interface, you'd support what the back end system allows you to use?
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
National Geographic: Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy
"Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras—a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal..."
Makes me uncomfortable when I think about it for more than ten seconds. Anyone else feel the same?
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Johan van Rooyen's Really Learn Spanish weblog includes a series of MP3 podcasts geared toward people who want to learn the Spanish language in the real world. I've just subscribed.
"A series of podcasts aimed at helping you in your efforts to learn Spanish using unconventional techniques I developed during the seven years I spent in Spain teaching English and learning Spanish."
Interviews, pronunciation explanations, and suggestions for how to learn all combine to help you grow in your acquisition of the language.
Very cool use of the delivery mechanism, and great content to boot. It will be interesting to listen to this new series over time. As of the time of this writing, Johan had released three installments in the podcast series.
Mt. St. Helens continues to rumble and spew steam and ash, and Portland, Oregon radio station 1190 KEX posted a news story today with audio from the instrumentation used to monitor and listen to the mountain as it continues it's activity.
Presenting to a group? Always disable your Instant Messenger client before you start with your desktop on the projection screen. (via Mitch Ratcliffe)
Another useful tip: Never, ever use your live email client on the screen during a presentation. That XXX Porn Superstore spam email will almost certainly be the first thing on the screen when you bring it up in front of the whole company during your demo... (I know this from personal experience)
Google has launched their Google Video Search, which lets you search through what appear to be transcripts from television shows for any terminology you woudl typically use in your Google searches.
For example, click here to search for "blogosphere" and you can click through and see where the term was used on television in recent weeks.
Cool stuff, especially if you're looking for coverage and use of key terms or names:
You get the idea.
Monday, January 24, 2005
I had to change one of my passwords today (good security practices and all that), and with the recent discussions around the 'net concerning using passphrases in place of passwords, I decided to go full tilt and start using passphrases on this account rather than passwords.
One of the great things about passphrases is that they can be quite long and secure, yet easy to type and remember. For example, I could use either of these as a secure passphrase that more than meets all the security requirements of a Windows standard password-complexity template:
Is this my nifty-difty passphrase?
- or -
Wow yo thats a really cool Red Radio you have there!
Of course, I could also be more paranoid (and in real life I am) by using something like "Is this my nyftie-dyftie passphraze?" but even with the standard dictionary words, the combination of having to determine the number of words, case, punctuation, order and spacing is a pretty darn complicated task. For more information about effectiveness of passphrases and their complexity, read what Jesper Johanssen wrote on the topic.
I can included spaces and everything - they're part of the passphrase, and the fact that I am using dictionary words works in the case of a passphrase, where they don't really pass muster when using 8-character-minimum passwords.
Passphrases use multiple words or variations, can be out of place and odd, easy to remember and easy to type quickly. The only problem I have had since changing to my new passphrase is remembering that I changed my password at all - I keep typing the old one... It's like writing "2004" on checks, I guess... This, too, shall pass.
Anyhow, I can type my passphrase accurately every single time, very quickly and reliably, so I am happy with that. If I choose a phrase that means something to me at the time, it will be easy to work with until I have to change it again in several weeks. I think it's a good thing - all in all better from a user standpoint than convoluted and hard-to-type passwords.
More on passwords vs. passphrases can be found here. Also, Susan Bradley, who blogs about Small Business Server quite a bit, has some thoughts on the subject and some policy configuration information (via Adam Field).
Last year, a company called MailFrontier produced their Phishing IQ test. Phishing is a form of fraud, where the bad guys set up web sites to collect personal data and then send out emails to get you to visit the web sites. More often than not, the web sites look at least semi-official, and at times they look like the real thing. While financial institutions are the most frequent targets (emails and web sites that look like they came from a bank, but did not), insurance companies ad other online merchants are also often spoofed in these phishing scams.
Now MailFrontier has a new Phishing IQ Test:
Ready for more? Over 225,000 people took the first MailFrontier Phishing IQ Test, successfully raising "phishing" awareness to an all-time high in both the industry and consumer media. But with phishing emails increasing daily—and the online holiday shopping season officially open--it's time for a whole new challenge: the MailFrontier Phishing IQ Test II.
We're back with 10 new suspect "phish" fresh from our collection – all actually received by real people like you. Whether you're brand new or a repeat tester, the question is the same: If you received one of these emails in your inbox – what would you do?
Take the Phishing IQ Test II
Friday, January 21, 2005
Now on eBay - You can bid to purchase absolutely nothing. Bidding started at £1.00 and is now (at the time of this post) up to £1,000,100.00, which means if the bidding progresses at a constant rate until the auction closes is 8 days, 18 hours, the closing price will be something like, ohhhh maybe £9,000,100.00... What a bargain!
From the auction listing:
This is a fantastic, once in a lifetime opportunity to buy absolutely nothing! The successful bidder will receive absolutely nothing direct from me.
- The perfect gift for the person who has everything.
- Takes up no space. Easy to store.
- Helps fight capitalism. Possibly.
- No postage required.
- Environmentally friendly, 100% organic and edible.
(Note. It is not recommended that you eat absolutely nothing for prolonged periods.)
Bid now on this once in a lifetime opportunity!
Please note. This is a genuine auction, and the successful bidder will receive absolutely nothing.
Also note the Photo of Absolutely Nothing at http://www.fotothing.com/dom/photo/ea67a03a320c1f80a5a3ca95dd975952/
Wow. I'm in!
Jeremy Zawodny points out the Blogger's Bill of Rights and gives his opinion on the matter. He doesn't like it. Neither do I. It's just another example of people making something out of nothing, and trying to avoid personal responsibility in the good name of free speech. Here's where I speak up and say why I think it's crap, too...
Now, I'm a fairly outspoken person. I've also had a tendency in the past to open my big mouth, say exactly what I think, and then go into another room to extract my foot from my esophagus. But when I stick my foot in my mouth, I am keenly aware that it's my foot, it's my mouth and it's my choice - regardless of whether or not I thought it through ahead of time. Whether or not I was correct isn't relevant. You can be correct every time, but that doesn't necessarily make you right.
People, this is all about responsibility and ownership. You want to say something? Fine, but ya gotta own it, like it or not.
Let's define a couple of terms for the purposes of the discussion:
- Consequences: The results of something one chooses to do, or not to do. All choices have results, both good and bad. Some of those results impact the chooser, some impact others.
- Speech: Pretty much any form of communication - collective, individual or otherwise - in a variety of forms. In this context, we'll keep it somewhat simple (since we are talking about individual weblogs) and say it's an individual's written or spoken words.
Okay so - Right up front I'll say this: There is no special, magical set of rights that bloggers can (or should) expect, not with regard to employers, husbands/wives, boyfriends/girlfriends, coworkers, friends, family members, governments, or anyone else. The idea that blogs are somehow special or different and should be treated differently is arrogant and probably and indicator of the root of the problem - people think they are entitled to say whatever they want, however they want, with no consequences. Sorry, Charlie. Ain't happening.
- Your right to free speech does not apply to the specific medium in which you exercise it. Speech is protected in certain circumstances, in certain locations, regardless of the form that speech takes. You have no more right to expect protection on a blog than anywhere else. Your rights are reasonable to expect, but when your exercising of your rights infringes upon the rights of another, you're crossing a line.
- If you shoot off your mouth on your weblog, it's not an ollie-ollie-oxen-free home-base super-top-secret say-anything-I-want kind of thing. You are responsible for what you say, at the time you say it.
- Speech is behavior. In a previous career I was always amazed at the idiots who thought if they could just get their car into the driveway, they were safe, regardless of the level of alcohol in their blood while there were on the street that got them to their driveways. It's not where you land, it's who and what you affect along the way.
- Your speech is your speech, and with it come consequences. If you choose to say or write something on a weblog, keep in mind, it's speech in a public place and you are making a choice, and with that choice comes certain consequences. Your choices may impact others (coworkers and employers), and as a result, the very second you post your words, you choose to accept all of the consequences of that speech, regardless of whether or not you have taken the time to think about said consequences.
- Your employer can hire and fire based on the quality of your behavior and how it impacts business, your performance, personalities, coworkers, morale, anything. You should remember this before you post on your weblog for everyone to read. And comment on. And quote. And read again. And copy/paste/email to your coworkers and your boss and his/her boss. And to end up on the Wayback Machine.
It's not about who yells the loudest or who thinks/knows they're right. What it is about is being responsible for oneself and thinking ahead about the impact of exercising one's right to free speech.
One important aspect of thinking ahead is considering the consequences and weighing the risks. Preferably before speaking. But if you don't take the time to do that, it shouldn't be (and isn't) someone else's problem.
Anyhow, that's about all I have to say about that.
According to a part-time tutor at Cardiff University, Monday will be the crappiest day of the year. He even has a formula used to determine that fact.
It might be a good day to sleep in, says the BBC.
JANUARY BLUES DAY FORMULA:
1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA
- W: Weather
- D: Debt
- d: Money due in January pay
- T: Time since Christmas
- Q: Time since failed quit attempt
- M: General motivational levels
- NA: The need to take action
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Stan Lee dreamed up Spiderman way, way, way back when. Until today, he's never really gotten his due. People don't realize that he's never really been compensated, other than as an employee, for the Spiderman franchise's income.
He sued, and a judge has ruled that Stan the Man should get 10% of Marvel Comics' earning from Spiderman sales since 1998.
Marvel, of course, says they'll appeal. Hmmm... Can anyone say DC?
"The ruling is a long time coming. Lee began with Marvel in 1939, and served as writer, editor, art director, head writer and publisher for the company before effectively retiring from active duty and becoming chairman emeritus. He filed the lawsuit in November 2002, pointing out a clause in his contract that entitled him to 10 percent of TV, movie and merchandising deals, an amount he thought was significantly higher than the $1 million-per-year salary he currently receives. Marvel tried to find a loophole in the wording...
"...Lee's lawyer says the victory is bittersweet.
"The foundation of [Marvel] was based on characters he created, and to have to ultimately sue to enforce an agreement under which they were supposed to give him his fair share was very disturbing," Graff told the Hollywood Reporter. "We're certainly hoping that Marvel, after they recover from the sting of this decision, will determine that it's time to own up to its obligations to Mr. Lee."
(from Yahoo News)
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Finally!!! I have been struggling with the fact that there has never been an IFilter available for CHM (Microsoft compiled help) files. But now there is!
UPDATED INFO: Apparently there is another relatively new freeware CHM IFilter avalable in addition to the commercial one mentioned below. I have not had a chance to check it out, and documentation is pretty much non-existant on the web site, but check out Citeknet. They have a CHM IFilter, a tool called IFilter Explorer that you can use to examine your system's IFilters, and a bunch of other IFilters (CAB, CHM, HLP, MHT, ZIP) on their web site. Thanks to Sean for the comment and the pointer - I stand corrected. I think IFilters in general deserve another post here (click to read the followup), especially with the genesis of these new desktop search applications and new activity/interest in IFilters in general.
If you use a system that can leverage IFilters to index or discover the content inside of proprietary files (systems like SharePoint or Windows built-in search, for example), this is for you. There are IFilters for all kinds of binary formats, such as PDF, TIFF files with optical character recognition (OCR), etc... And now, CHM!
In fact, IFilterShop has a whole slew of filters for sale:
- CHM IFilter
- MindManager IFilter
- Inventor IFilter
- WMV/WMA IFilter
- SHTML IFilter
- WF IFilter
- Msg IFilter
- PDF+ IFilter
- Zip IFilter
- XMP IFilter
- StarOffice IFilter
- OpenOffice IFilter
- vCard IFilter
There are also a whole bunch of free IFilters available on the Internet.
Here is the official announcement:
IFilterShop releases CHM IFilter 1.0
IFilterShop is pleased to announce the release of new product CHM IFilter.
CHM IFilter extends Microsoft Indexing Service to extract content from Compiled HTML Help (CHM) documents. Microsoft HTML Help is Microsoft's online Help authoring system. It is designed for use by authors or developers who create Help for software programs, multimedia titles, intranets, extranets, or the Internet. CHM IFilter makes Microsoft HTML Help files instantly searchable in all products built on Microsoft Search technology.
For more information, please visit our website at:
(ED: removed direct reference to .exe file)
Microsoft Expert Zone WebCast: How to listen to digital music in your car
Wednesday January 19th, 10:00am Pacific Time
I have a project pending where I plan to do some serious computer-in-the-car stuff. So, I took note of the fact that Microsoft is putting on a live webcast in their Expert Zone Wednesday morning at 10am Pacific Time about that very topic: Digital music and spoken word and podcast or whatever.
"...But you need a way to connect your digital audio to your car stereo. The topic of this WebCast is how to find digital audio to listen to, how to connect a portable audio player to your car stereo, and how to support and power it while you drive. This presentation also discusses how to replace your car stereo, how to add a hard disk-based audio player, how to burn custom CDs with digital audio, and where to turn in the online community when you need help and have more questions about digital audio."
The PowerPoint deck can be downloaded prior to the event, as well.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
The Jib Jab crew has been hard at work again - and here's their most recent funny film:
Check out "Second Term" from the creators of "Good to be in D.C." and "This Land." This latest cartoon pokes fun at President Bush, conservatives, liberals, and just about anyone else vying for political power.
5.8MB of fun and jest. Gotta love those Jib Jab guys. It's humorous - maybe not as funny as some of their past videos, but a good one.
Note that when you get to the end and the credits appear on the screen, some of the names in the credits are links to each person's web site - an interesting and fun diversion.
Scott and Omar have announced the release of dasBlog Community Edition v1.7. There's lots of new features and improvements in this version, and best of all, it's open source and free of charge. I have had the privilege of running it in various dev stages over the past few weeks, and yesterday one of my blogs running the v1.7 pre-release software got Slashdotted without as much as a hiccup, so I think it will hold up just fine under pressure.
In fact, this weblog was Slashdotted last year while running v1.6 (with a super-heavy traffic load that day), and it help up quite well - the slashdot traffic overran the NIC well before the app ever had a chance to choke. Considering that dasBlogCE v1.7 has a slew of big-time performance enhancements over v1.6, you can pretty well rest assured it's built to handle a serious load.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Hey - it’s a worth a few minutes of our collective time for the chance at a free computer. Freeminimacs.com is from the same people who ran the free iPod promotion. You do have to agree to one offer, but they are all free - minus of course a touch of your marketing info.
Go ahead let’s help each other out… freeminimacs.com
From the people who brought you the Free iPod, here's your chance to get (and this is for real) a free Mac Mini - and it's the 80GB version, too.
- You have to sign up for one offer or service on a marketing web site. The marketing is what pays for the computers [Note: I signed up for an offer for Blockbuster's online rentals (unlimited rentals for $9.95 first month and $14.95 per month after that) and I'm dumping NetFlix, since the Blockbuster service costs a little less each month and adds two free in-store rentals a month - it's a perfect deal for me].
- Then you have to have 10 people do the same thing.
- Once 10 people have signed up under your referral, you get shipped you new Mac Mini.
So there you go - CLICK HERE to get started! And thanks for helping - your sign-up via a link on this page will help me get mine. Get on-board early!
The Brand New Apple Mac mini (80GB)
- Fast G4 processor
- Comes with 80GB harddrive
- iLife ’05, Mac OS X v10.3 “Panther,” Quicken 2005 for Mac, Nanosaur 2, Marble Blast Gold
- Built-in Ethernet and modem
- Slot-loading Combo drive
- DVI connector, VGA adapter
- Just 6.5 inches wide and 2 inches tall
- Weighs only 2.9 lbs
Picasa v2.0 has been released, and for people looking for a powerful desktop photo organizing and tweaking tool, this is the real deal. It's free, it's from Google, and it does great things with the photos on your Windows computer.
New editing features, CD burning, slideshows, tagging/labeling, captioning, enlarge for posters, send to TiVo Series 2, turn photos into a movie - lots of new and improved stuff.
Blue Collar TV is hilarious - it's a great show on Comedy Central.
They have a new feature that you can participate in: Redneck Yard of the Week.
Know someone with 15 cars in their yard? Wanna get back at them or need a good way to give a friend a hard time? Grab your camera and start shootin', and send it in. Put' em on the TV.
Here ya go: http://www.redneckyard.com/
Dumm deee dumm dee dahhhh...
Seems like I need some "switch" background/theme music or something...
(oh, and don't read *too* much into this, heheh)
The Cops on Top web site and weblog - where a group of mountaineering expedition team members currently climbing Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro are calling in via Satellite phone to record instant audio blog posts - got slashdotted a little while ago. That, of course, means the web server (which is the same one this web site runs on) may be under heavy load for a while.
And by the way - the expedition team made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro today!
You know, I used to blame Rory for everything. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should be blaming Scott instead...
Luckily it's the middle of the night here in the states, but we'll see what happens when people wake up in the US and start checking out their /. and getting their geek/nerd fix after a weekend of dealing with their girlfriends/wives. Heh.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Ok, so I can't help but post this one...
Every now and then you see Flash movies and apps that are actually worth the effort put into them. You also see a lot of useless junk. And then you have those occasional truly awesome little uses of the technology - the ones where you know Macromedia just stands back and says, "Now that's why we spent zilions of dollars on the product."
Now, if you're like really easily offended, stop reading and just go somewhere else for a while. You probably shouldn't be in the Internet anyhow. But I mean, what the heck, ya gotta admit this is kinda cool - even cooler if you have a Tablet PC, but still lots-o-fun if you don't. Now, this really is intended for the guys out there, so... uhh, never mind.
Anyhow, already: Go write your name in the snow. Yeah, I mean that way. You know you want to. And all from the warmth of your home or office. Wow. So go do it.
(via Jeremy Zawodny, who calls it Calligrapee)
Dave Barry has been writing hilarious stuff for the Miami Herald for years and years. I read his column all the time. He still makes me laugh out loud. Well, Dave's decided to hang up his hat on his regular column, at least for now:
"There comes a time in the life of every writer when he asks himself -- as Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Hemingway all surely asked themselves -- if he has any booger jokes left in him...
"...So this is a great job. And yet I'm quitting it, at least for now. I want to stop before I join the horde of people who think I used to be funnier. And I want to work on some other stuff.
"So for the next year, I won't be writing regular columns, though I hope to weigh in from time to time if something really important happens, such as a cow exploding in a boat toilet.
"At some point in the next year, I hope to figure out whether I want to resume the column. Right now, I truly don't know.
"So in case I don't get to say this later: Thanks to all you editors for printing my column, and thanks especially to all you readers for reading it. You've given me the most wonderful career an English major could hope to have. I am very grateful.
"And I'm not making that up."
For the record, I think he's just as funny today as he was when I started reading him more than 20 years ago. Thanks, Dave!
Thursday, January 13, 2005
I’ve been an audioblog.com customer for some time, and have always liked their product. I have not used it much in the past, but recently I found a perfect use for their service.
Cops on Top has a team of 13 climbers – police officers and a couple civilians – in Africa on Mt. Kilimanjaro, making a climb to the summit of Africa’s biggest mountain in memory of fallen Officer Isaac Espinoza of the San Francisco Police Department.
They have a satellite phone with them, and are calling in audio blog updates using the sat phone. As soon as they call in an update, it’s posted instantly to the Cops on Top web site’s climbers weblog.
Imagine that – technology now allows a group of people in the furthest corners of the world to instantly file an audio recording update to a web site, so people everywhere can know what’s happening, right now.
I had a configuration problem the other day as I was trying to get the service running for the Cops in Top site, and Eric over at audioblog.com helped out and made a quick fix that allowed us to solve the issue and get the service working. Righ then, right there, solved the problem and made sure it was working for me. True service. Nice.
If you’re geeky and have a blog, give audioblog.com a try – it’s nifty stuff and works well.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Forgive the non-tech post, but it’s a pretty good day today and apparently there are a large number of people who are keeping an eye out to see how I am doing after my back surgery last month. I have not posted much about it here, preferring to suffer in private, but for the first time today I feel like I am turning a corner, and it’s a great relief.
I’ve spent the past three weeks fighting what at times has been extreme pain, quite debilitating and agonizing. I had surgery on my L5–S1 disc, which was herniated and pushing pretty hard on the sciatic nerve roots in that joint. The condition made for chronic pain and occasional agonizingly painful periods where I would be left effectively non-functioning. It needed to be fixed.
I had the procedure done three days before Christmas, which was an interesting decision in and of itself, one that had more to do with insurance and coverage before the end of the year than anything. At any rate, after a couple days of feeling pretty good post-op, things got terribly painful the day after Christmas.
Apparently that’s not too unusual. It tends to get worse before it gets better, they say. But that doesn’t help me feel any better. And it got a lot worse for a while.
I have spent the past few weeks with friends living at my house to take care of me and carry me around, followed by dragging myself out now and then to do something like buy food or go to work for a little while. Last week I decided to work from home the last half of the week. I found I could do most (not all) of my work in bed, and that as long as the pain was reasonable I could be fairly productive. But staying at home all the time makes me a little stir crazy.
I went to work the past two days, found a couch to lie on with my laptop instead of sitting in a chair, and confirmed that taking it easy was – in fact – a good thing to do. Today I decided to stay home again and work from here (conference calls, VPNs, remote desktops, instant messaging and email are all amazing tools), and to go to my physical therapy appointment this afternoon.
Today is the first day in three weeks that I can say my pain level is below a 5 on a 10 point scale, all morning. That’s progress. Not to mention relief. There’s nothing quite like living in fear the pain will never go away, especially when you’re not sleeping and can’t put on your own clothes.
But the fact is it’s more about progress than about perfection here. And God willing, if today is an indicator, things are starting to look up – slow improvement, but looking up.
Of course, I have physical therapy in an hour or two, and who knows how I’ll feel after that. Probably worse, but if it means things get better down the road, I will just continue to suffer. With a smile on my face, of course.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
NOTE: Want to get a free Mac mini? Click here and you can sign up for a marketing program that lets you sign up (under my referral) for a program that you can use to get one for free. Check it out.
Steve Jobs and Apple Computers did the big message thing today, and rolled out some wow-wow stuff. Among the new announcements are the confirmation of the rumored $500 Mac and an even-smaller, simpler and less-expensive iPod Shuffle MP3 player.
The Mac mini is nifty, very mini, and the base model is $499. By the time you outfit it with more RAM, and if you want to be able to burn DVDs or have wireless or Bluetooth capability, you’ll pay more – and it adds up pretty quickly.
A $599 base model includes 40GB more hard drive and a faster G4 processor than the $499 model.
You have to add the keyboard, monitor and mouse on your own. If you already have those items ready to use, that might be a good deal. I’ve done the math, and once you add on what I’d probably want, it leaves me wondering if I should just go with the 17” iMac. This is a lot smaller case, but hey the iMac is basically a monitor with everything built in, and a more powerful processor (the iMac has a 1.6GHz G5 in the base model) so…
The 17” iMac G5 looks like this and sells for $1299 with everything you need (monitor, keyboard, mouse):
17-inch widescreen LCD
1.6GHz PowerPC G5
512K L2 cache
533MHz frontside bus
256MB DDR400 SDRAM
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra
64MB DDR video memory
80GB Serial ATA hard drive
Slot-load Combo Drive
The better-equipped Mac mini looks like this for $599 base, but it’ll end up costing about $1000–$1100 by the time you equip it the same way, but it’s important to keep in mind you’ll get a slower frontside bus, slower RAM, and a less-powerful G4 proc:
1.42GHz PowerPC G4
256MB DDR333 SDRAM
ATI Radeon 9200 with 32MB DDR video memory
80GB Ultra ATA hard drive
DVI or VGA video output
AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth optional
And $499–$599 doesn’t give you what you need to fire it up and make it work. Add the needed keyboard and mouse (decent ones, assuming you don’t already have what you’d need) and you’re up another $50–$100. An off-brand widescreen 17–inch LCD display will run you $390 or more. An Apple-branded display costs significantly more than that.
If it was a G5 machine, I’d be all over the mini right now, just for size reasons. As it stands, I think I will wait for performance reports from the field. Sure, $500 is a much less expensive entry price, but when you stack the two above models next to each other, well… $500 is still $500, ya know? It’s still important to spend smart.
I’m going to buy a Mac – some kind of Mac. Will it be a mini? Time will tell. But I’ll let someone else do the early-adoption on this one.
Microsoft today released three security bulletins, two of which are classified as “Critical” severity, and related patches to resolve the issues described in each bulletin:
|Jan 11, 2005
||Vulnerability in HTML Help Could Allow Code Execution (890175): MS05-001
Affected Software: Windows NT Server 4.0, Windows NT Server 4.0, Enterprise Edition, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2003 for Small Business Server, Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition, Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition, Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, Windows Server 2003, Web Edition, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows Me, Internet Explorer 6
|Windows NT4 Service Pack 6a, Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows XP Service Pack 1, Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003 Gold, Windows 98 Gold, Windows 98 SE Gold, Windows 98 SP1, Windows Me Gold, Internet Explorer 6 SP1
|Jan 11, 2005
||Vulnerability in Cursor and Icon Format Handling Could Allow Remote Code Execution (891711): MS05-002
Affected Software: Windows NT Server 4.0, Windows NT Server 4.0, Enterprise Edition, Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2003 for Small Business Server, Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition, Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition, Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, Windows Server 2003, Web Edition, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows Me
|Windows NT4 Service Pack 6a, Windows NT4 Terminal Server Service Pack 6, Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows XP Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 Gold, Windows 98 Gold, Windows 98 SE Gold, Windows 98 SP1, Windows Me Gold
|Jan 11, 2005
||Vulnerability in the Indexing Service Could Allow Remote Code Execution (871250): MS05-003
Affected Software: Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2003 for Small Business Server, Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition, Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition, Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, Windows Server 2003, Web Edition
|Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows XP Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 Gold
I was wide awake at about 4am today, looking around for a fast way to get live syndicated content (need it to always be up-to-date) from a weblog’s RSS feed to the home page of a web site I am maintaining for non-profit organization. Cops on Top has climbers in Africa this week for a memorial mountain climbing expedition to Kilimanjaro, and they are sending electronic communications from the field via email and phone calls. The messages can show up on the weblog in real time, without anyone else’s intervention. So, I wanted to be able to show the latest weblog posts on the org’s home page.
I did a quick Google for what I needed, and came up with a gem of a tool: Feed2JS.
You can even download the original PHP scripts (which are provided under an open source license) and run Feed2JS on your own server, which could speed up the feed-to-web proxy function if you have scalability concerns due to very large volume, or if you want to modify the RSS cache to update more frequently than every 60 minutes. That is the default cache time for feeds being gathered and serviced by the Feed2JS system. At any rate, download your own copy and run it yourself, and you get complete control.
Another slightly less-elegant (but quite useful) method using server-side ASP is called RSS in ASP. It works, as well.
Monday, January 10, 2005
I have been testing development and release builds of dasBlog 1.7 for the past week or so. There are a few of us running it on our live sites to make sure everything’s working as expected and to provide real-world feedback.
This version – spearheaded by developers Omar and Scott and incorporating the work of several others – simply rocks.
There are a large number of performance improvements (it’s a lot faster and uses less resources on the server) and feature additions/enhancements. You can read about all the changes on the dasBlog wiki page for v1.7. Some of my favorites are the ability to post drafts without actually publishing to the live site, RSS 2.0 enclosures, referral spam protection,
One thing that I just added to this site with the latest build is live support for the Movable Type Blacklist, which is another mechanism to kill referral spam before it happens. There’s also the ability to block referrers from being listed by keyword. It’s all pretty cool.
It’ll be done soon, and when it is you’ll want to check it out, regardless of whether you currently use dasBlog.
Here is a point of view I tend to agree with, with regard to business and blogging… It’s not just what you say at work that can get you fired, and companies can employ (or not) based on a number of aspects of a person’s life. If you’re a blogger, these thoughts over at the Blog Your Way weblog are worth reading and taking into account:
Blog Your Way » My thoughts on being fired for blogging
There have been a lot of posts lately about being dooced (fired for blogging). Dooce (Heather) was the first to be fired almost three years ago and thousands have been fired since then. It seems that many more will follow. What was the common denominator in the majority of them? Discretion…and not thinking about the possible reaction to their posts.
From MS MVP Jerry Bryant comes news about the new malicious software combat tools that will launch on Tuesday this week from Microsoft:
Announcement of Upcoming Release of Malicious Software Removal Tools
Starting from January 11th, 2005, Microsoft will provide Windows customers with Malicious Software Removal Tools. New versions of these tools will be available monthly (second Tuesday of every month on the same schedule that Microsoft already delivers other security updates) or more frequently if necessary…
…Microsoft will provide new versions of this tool updated to remove malicious software that is found to be prevalent for that month. The first version of the tool available in January will be able to remove Blaster, Sasser, MyDoom, DoomJuice, Zindos, Berweb (also known as Download.Ject), Gailbot and Nachi viruses / worms.
These removal tools will be made available to customers through the following delivery vehicles:
- As a download through the Microsoft Download Center
- As a critical update through Windows Update and through Auto Update for those customers who have Auto Update turned on
- As an ActiveX control also available at www.microsoft.com/malwareremove
Friday, January 07, 2005
To make creating weblog entries simple, fast and easy, I use a tool called BlogJet. Dmitri (the author) has just released v1.5 of the program:
BlogJet 1.5 Final Release
Great news – BlogJet 1.5 is available now. It’s a huge improvement over previous versions – it has slightly better user interface, more features, support for more blog services and CMS and it’s more stable.
BlogJet 1.5 is the free update for registered users.
Download it now!
Full release notes are here.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
My gnome friend Brandon Watts jumped on the proverbial horse and rode straight out the barn on his first PodCast earlier today. And all in all, he did a fine job.
If you have not heard about Brandon before, here's a little info:
- He wrote his own programming language for beginners, called Leopard, a couple years ago.
- He's 18 years old now.
- He's wicked smart.
- He writes for Lockergnome and has had his writing featured in a variety of print and online media.
- He has a pretty darn good radio voice.
- He has a blog.
Check out his podacst (for the uninitiated, podcasting's this new thing that all the kids are doing with MP3 files and easy-to-use-and-distribute audio shows). Let him know what you think.
Chris Pirillo is a well-known geek and all around goofy (and smart and good) guy. He founded Lockergnome and did a show for TechTV back before that network went straight to crap.
He’s starting his new weekly audio broadcast today, two-and-a-half hours of live talk from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). His show’s new website is online and the live broadcast starts at 11:30am Pacific Time, but the stream is already running so jump in now. Replays available if you miss(ed) the live show, and RSS feeds are on the site for subscribing – I did.
I am working form home today, and so I will be listening to it in the background whilst editing papers and organizing stuff. Good to see you back on the air, friend!
The other day I was discussing the differences between geeks and nerds with someone. I said that I thought I was probably more of a geek than a nerd, and had to try to explain why there’s a difference and what those differences are.
I started to wonder if I was wrong, that maybe they’re the same, but today I think I can safely say that’s simply not true.
Hypothesis: I am a fairly prolific geek. I am not much of a nerd.
I just took this online test because Mark Orchant (theofficeweblog) was surprised at his results. He’s obviously a smart person, and came out with a pretty darn nerdy score and I was wondering what mine would be.
This test is very nerd specific – meaning it addresses things like Star Trek, graphing calculators, the periodic table, pictures of really old guys nerds would know about, and stuff like that. On a scale of 1–100, I scored 31. Click the graphic to find your score
So there you have it – Greg is not nerdy.
What about the Geek Factor? Exactly one year ago today (hmmmm that’s kinda weird, isn’t it?), I took another online test – the “Digital IQ” test at MSNBC. I scored way off the top of the scale on that one. I also took it again this morning to refresh my memory of the questions and to see if my score had changed – it was exactly the same. In this one they use the word “nerd” in their description of “digital ace,” but I think it’s misplaced based on the questions they ask. Geek would be a better term, IMO. It’s still available online – click the image below to find out your score there.
“Meet Your Computer’s New Bodyguards” is one of the taglines you’ll see when installing the new Microsoft AntiSpyware beta software. Microsoft today launched its public beta of the software, which is available to download from the company’s web site.
A lot has been said recently about Microsoft’s acquisition of Giant, a company that makes anti-spyware software used to protect computers from prying eyes and privacy leaches.
After installing it and running it, it’s interesting that its flagging things that AdAware and SpyBot S&D don’t alert on. That’s good. In my case, it didn’t hit on anything I wanted to change or remove (I have a few tools on my computer that it sees as potentially problematic, if someone else had put them there, for example.
The UI is nice and clean, and I like the automatic updates (already working). It’s pretty darn IO intensive, so don’t plan to do any disk-related work while it’s performing a check. By default it schedules a scan to happen at 2am each day (you can change this) and it sets up a real-time protection service that works a lot like an anti-virus program does, watching for known spyware and prompting the user for certain types of system changes as they happen.
I really have only one complaint. If I am running a scan and click on any menu item or button in the user interface to to go to another page, my current scan aborts without warning. This is really very frustrating and will likely cause many people to skip completing a full scan because they’d just killed a scan after 10 minutes and would have to start over again.
Overall, great start and I already like the interface and approach better than the other options out there today. Look out, here comes Microsoft – again. This is one area they’ll have to get right, for sure.
(found via NeoWin)
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
This always seems to happens to me. It’s part of being an early adopter, I guess:
From Engadget: Vonage is partnering with VTech on the next best thing: a cordless phone that comes with Vonage’s broadband Voice over IP service built-in. The has a VoIP gateway chipset built right into its base station, which you just connect right up to your router. Besides letting us toss out that bulky analog telephone adapter we’re still using, the ip8100-2 also operates on the 5.8GHz frequency, which means it won’t interfere with our WiFi.
Well, darn it… I bought a set of identical phones just a couple weeks ago, only without the Vonage service built in. I got them because my old 2.4GHz phone was worn out ad was messing up my WiFi big time. The phones look a little weird in pictures, but they have a really decent speakerphone built in, ringers that don't sound like an 80's alarm clock, and generally work very well. And these are the *same* phones, which I brought home and – get this – plugged straight into my Vonage IP phone adapter device. Argh.
I also saw a combination unit this weekend at a big big big gadget warehouse store that was a combination of the Linksys 802.11G router and a Vonage IP phone adapter. Again - I have both already. I am tempted to buy that one though, because simplifying the voice QOS configuration and compatibility there would certainly improve my call quality at times. My current setup gets glitchy at times.
Scoble on blogging at Microsoft and assumptions that might be made by people on the outside:
They think someone has "spun" Bill Gates into believing blogging is good for Microsoft.
“Please, if you're gonna say something like that, warn me not to be drinking water when it comes online.
“I wish I could tell you why that made me laugh. Let's just say the skepticism is misplaced. You don't get 1300 to 1500 people doing ANYTHING at a company without some very explicit decisions made at the very top of the company. Think about that one for a while.”
Monday, January 03, 2005
I serve on the board of directors for a non-profit called Cops on Top. It’s an organization that performs mountain climbing expeditions to the world’s biggest and most respected mountains in memory of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. The organization and its efforts are funded 100% by sponsorship donations.
Cops on Top is undertaking a memorial expedition to Kilimanjaro in Africa in just a couple of weeks, and is in need of a donated Pocket PC device, preferably an HP model, which the team intends to attempt to use in order to transfer data and images from the mountain via satellite telephone to the organizations weblog.
If you or someone you know is able to quickly donate the Pocket PC or funds needed to buy one, please contact me by commenting here or by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can also be reached by calling 503–970–1753. Donations are tax-deductible and we would gladly recognize the donation on the Cops on Top web site should the donor wish.
Thanks – Hopefully someone out there will be able to help!
Sunday, January 02, 2005
In The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine, Richard Seven writes – quite eloquently and well – about a professor at the University of Washington and his study of the connection between the information age, overload and extreme stress
Those of us caught in this world would do well to read it. I can definitely relate. I just spent a week in pretty extreme pain and without a Blackberry. I think if I can talk my boss into it, I may trade it for another device, one that’s maybe still cool and connected but less in-my-face. Besides, there are a few new ones that we need to test, so
From the PNW Mag article:
Some are concerned that the need for speed is shrinking our attention spans, prompting our search for answers to take the mile-wide-but-inch-deep route and settling us into a rhythm of constant interruption in which deadlines are relentless and tasks are never quite finished.
“Scientists call this phenomenon ‘cognitive overload,’ and say it encompasses the modern-day angst of stress, multitasking, distraction and data flurries
(via Jason deFillippo)
Comment here if you want them, I now have ONE more to give away.
Sorry - all gone! :)
First four comments get ‘em. Leave your first name, last name and email address.
Idiots and A**holes. They’re everywhere, unfortunately. People who run a company that sells cool stuff to people might occasionally have to sit down and have a conversation with, oh say the FBI. Hey, at least you can blog about it!
Apparently, a not-so-naturally-select number of people are taking green handheld laser pointers (which are quite bright out of the box ), increasing their power, and (like complete idiots) pointing them into aircraft that are flying overhead. Of course, common sense tells us if you’re aiming a laser into an aircraft, it’s probably close to the ground and chances are the light scatter through the glass is going to be intense. Not to mention I seem to recall that when I was a kid growing up in a national laboratory town, there being a warning label on every laser ever made about not shining it in a person’s eyes…
In a blog entry called “Jasper Green Lasers: useful tool or terrorist weapon?” (hey look Scoble – A corporation with a blog, heh!), Bigha Sales and Marketing guy Noah Acres (dude, nice web site, seriously) talks about a little visit he was paid by the FBI, duly (and correctly) chastises any of his customers who might be using the devices illegally, and let’s those people know that some (very interesting-sounding) technology can and will be used to hunt anyone doing this down, at which point they could be quickly taken to jail. Nice! We need more of this kind of law enforcement! [EDIT: In the comments for this post, Noah points out that the secret technology is – once again - a common sense approach: The pilot or observer can jook where the super bright green beam of light is coming from on the ground, and radio in the location. Ahhh – GPS/LORAN/etc! Hey, works for me – technology doesn’t have to be very complicated to work!]
But anyhow, about the laser, because this is a tech blog after all, and these things are pretty cool… Maybe you’ve heard of the Jasper Laser (or any one of a number of similar handheld pointers of lower quality). It’s a very bright green laser, running at 5mw, which is the highest power at which a class IIIa laser can legally operate. Class IIIa is also the highest power laser you can operate without a permit.
Unfortunately, there are places that modify this laser and others like it and then sell them on the Internet. There are videos of modified lasers cutting through plastic cups.
Bigha is a company in Corvallis, Oregon that makes cool bicycles. They also happen to sell Jasper handheld lasers, which are perfectly legal and kinda cool.
In their Jasper Laser FAQ, they tell potential purchasers…
“When used with common sense, Jasper is completely safe.”
They also offer these safety tips on the web site:
1. Don't allow children to use Jasper without close adult supervision.
2. Don't shine Jasper into:
- passing cars, airplanes or other vehicles
- windows of houses
- around the eyes of any person or animal
- mirrors or other highly reflective surfaces — the beam might bounce into someone's area of vision
- any optical instrument that might focus Jasper's energy into someone's eyes
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who have no notion or concept of common sense. It is these dolts that don’t think about what they are doing and end up hurting people. It’s also these dolts that read the first two sentences in this paragraph and think it’s not talking about them.
More from the FAQ pages on the Bigha web site:
“… as the beam gets brighter it also contains more energy and can cause harm to eyesight. The beam can even burn if brought to too high a level. It is illegal to modify a Class IIIa laser to output more than 5mw. Anything stronger becomes a Class IIIb device and requires a safety interlock and a mechanical shutter. It is also illegal to use a Class IIIb laser in a public place without special permission … 5mw lasers are quite adequate for everyday use, indoors and out. More power than that increases the health risk to others and shortens the life of the laser itself.”
Good for Noah and Bigha. “Subscribed” the the blog [hey guys, put a nifty RSS icon on your web page ], and I only wish more companies would have the cojones to yell at their customers and others who are making it hard for them to do business or who are putting other people at risk. Nail ‘em, man. None of us need dolts and idiots running around pulling crap like that.
And I think I want a green laser now. Heh.
When I make lists, I sometimes like to include things I’ve recently accomplished, so I can have some items already crossed off the list to start. If I do that, I’m at least a little more likely to accomplish what makes up the rest of the list. Except that there will almost always be one or two things that end up uncompleted, because there’s something about finishing everything that kinda freaks me out and leaves me wondering if I’ll end up in trouble for being too efficient.
So – to that end – he’s my list for the new year, in no particular order. Resolutions, things to accomplish, wishes, self-absorbed thoughts – whatever you want to call them, I don’t care. In the end, it’s just a list (with a few things crossed off and a couple things that can safely remain undone, for good measure)
- Become a True Security Geek – like in an “I grok security” kind of way. Involves certifications and some formal training as well as a demonstrated bloggarific slant toward this area. I have the title, and I have some good experience to apply, now it’s time to really, really fit the bill.
- Dump Dish Network and flush them down the toilet – I am all about HDTV now, and even though I recently acquired Dish Network's HD-PVR receiver, and it’s better than the older receivers in some ways, Dish has regularly screwed its customers with promised made and not kept. For example, in mid-2004 they promised the receiver I just bought would support record-by-name in a future software update, by the end of 2004. Then right after I bought mine they announced it would not be supported. So much for the single reason I bought this receiver. Plus their HD channels are way too few. VOOM is my best guess at where I’ll end up moving (no cable TV out here in The Middle of Nowhere), but not until something, somewhere becomes truly viable for the rural TV watcher in HD mode. Dish Network doesn’t keep its resolutions, so I am making one to dump them straight on their asses, unless something drastically changes.
- Media-Center the crap out of my house – This ties into the Dump Dish Network line item
I <3 the Media Center concept, with networked media and one centralized place for everything to “live.” I especially like the fact that it is supposed to happen relatively seamlessly. I appreciate the Media Center PC for lots of reasons, and I am quite encouraged by Microsoft’s latest MCE beta survey questions (no details will be shared here, sorry) and the categories of questions they asked – It’s going to be a fascinating area of the industry to watch in 2005, without a doubt.
- Buy a Mac – I have written about this before, and more and more I am still leaning that direction
Probably a notebook model, but we’ll see. It’s the cash outlay that’s held me back thus far, and the possibility of a headless desktop model is intriguing. Besides, my mom just told me that they plan to buy one for Jack, her husband, so (she tells me) I “really need to get one” so I can support theirs. Hmmm, something a bit sideways about this thought process
- Pod-/Audio-/Video-Cast stuff that matters – In keeping with the rest of my multimedia resolutions, I will blog in forms other than (but not in place of) the written word.
- Get Married – Because I have to have at least one completely unrealistic (yet on my list of things I would like to have happen in life) thing remain unaccomplished at the end of the year. Heh.
- Take care of my back – I ended 2004 with lower back surgery and a subsequent recovery that became extremely painful a few days after the surgery. I’ve dealt with this pain for so long, I am willing to do almost anything to make sure it goes away and stays away.
- Remember My Friends (ongoing, done once so far - not bad for the first day!) – I have experienced so many great examples in 2004 of how terrific my friends are. From the two friends who just stayed at home with me 24/7 after my surgery and an unexpectedly painful recovery to my terrific neighbors - who can only be accurately described as a God-send, as well as a bunch of others from work, church and elsewhere who make my day on a regular basis, I have so much to be grateful for, and so much to give back.
- Update the Cops on Top Web Site (done, woo-hoo!) – so it works the way its supposed to and doesn’t rely on broken java menus. Cops on Top is a non-profit organization of volunteers, mostly law enforcement officers, who undertake mountaineering expeditions to the most respected and greatest mountains in the world, with each expedition made in the memory of an officer killed in the line of duty. It’s an amazing organization that I have had the privilege of serving for the past few years, and I now serve on the board of directors of the non-profit corporation. I’m also resolving to improve the site and its ability to be easily updated by climbers in the field via text message, camera/mobile phone, email, or satellite telephone. Can anyone say “blog?” Yeah, man.
- Climb a Mountain – I hope to climb Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe, as part of a team with Cops on Top that is mounting an expedition in late summer 2005. I used to work as a cop, back in the day, and while I have worked with the organization for some time, I have never participated in an expedition with them. Once my back is healed I hope to be able to do this.
- Help Others (done, but not finished) – ‘Tis better to give than to receive
and I will continue to do my part to support organizations and people in need, and to encourage others to do the same. I put it on this list only because I hope that one other person will also makes this resolution.
The 2005 List of Banished Words has been released.
Sadly/Happily (depending on your personal opinion/position), among the words formally banished this year by Lake Superior State University is “Blog.” LSSU’s 30th annual list describes the term and its reasons for banishment as folows:
BLOG – and its variations, including blogger, blogged, blogging, blogosphere. Many who nominated it were unsure of the meaning. Sounds like something your mother would slap you for saying.
- “Sounds like a Viking’s drink that’s better than grog, or a technique to kill a frog.” Teri Vaughn, Anaheim, Calif.
- “Maybe it’s something that would be stuck in my toilet.” – Adrian Whittaker, Dundalk, Ontario.
- “I think the words ‘journal’ and ‘diary’ need to come back.” – T. J. Allen, Shreveport, La.
Also banned – and I have to agree with this one, it just bugs the crap outa me every time I hear it – is “Webinar,” which is described on the list this way:
WEBINAR – for ‘seminar on the web.’
- “It’s silly. Next we’ll have a Dutch ‘dunch’
bring your own lunch for a digital lunch meeting.” – Karen Nolan, Charlotte, NC.
AMEN Karen! But better watch out what you say in public, someone will hear it and the next thing you know, instant mareting-speak
Dutch dunch. Heh
LSSU has been compiling the list since 1976, choosing from nominations sent from around the world. This year, words and phrases were pulled from more than 2,000 nominations. Most were sent through the school’s website: www.lssu.edu/banished. LSSU accepts nominations for the List of Banished Words throughout the year. To submit your nomination for the 2006 list, go to www.lssu.edu/banished.
(found via Doc Searls, Über blogger extraorinaire)
Gavi has created a Google-Suggest-like dictionary. He also wrote a “how does it work” section that includes the source code, so others can roll their own versions.
It’s pretty darn nifty. He used an older, early-1900’s classical dictionary, so some of the definitions are kinda funny to read. Also added recently (new for 2005, heh
) is the Free Online Dictionary of Computing (click FOLDOC on the Dictionary page to search that publication).
There are zillions of possibilities. Cool stuff!
© Copyright 2014 Greg Hughes
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