Wednesday, 12 January 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.



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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories
Wednesday, 12 January 2005 13:16:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Gizmodo has posted a tutorial showing impatient iPod owners how to make their existing iPods into an iPod Shuffle. With the new Mac mini announcement, we know a bunch of you will be wanting to reuse existing equipment, so why buy a new iPod Shuffle (or wait for it to ship) when you can have one today?

Pictures available at Gizmodo

(thanks to Travis, who also pointed out these funny links)



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Humor | Tech
Wednesday, 12 January 2005 10:27:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 11 January 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
Combo 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.



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Tech
Tuesday, 11 January 2005 22:16:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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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 Critical
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 Critical
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 Important



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IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, 11 January 2005 11:45:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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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.

What Feed2JS does is to provide an interface where you can specify the URI to a RSS feed, click a few boxes and buttons on a web page to specify your options, and generate a Javascript output that you can stick straight into your web page, ready to go and immediately syndicating content from the specified feed. In addition, there’s a stylesheet generator on the site that lets you customize the look and feel of the feed as it’s displayed on your web page.

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.

The results are quite good. Sure, the end user has to have jscript/Javascript enabled on the client, but that works for this purpose, so I am happy. Recommended.

Another slightly less-elegant (but quite useful) method using server-side ASP is called RSS in ASP. It works, as well.



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RSS Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, 11 January 2005 06:25:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 10 January 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.



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Blogging | Tech
Monday, 10 January 2005 20:52:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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