Pay-as-you-go PCs?

This strikes me as one of the stupidest ideas Microsoft has come up
with yet:


I guess this could be OK for my grandma, who just does email and a bit
of web surfing. But for anyone who seriously uses their PC, it's a
total waste of money. Microsoft admits this in their application, but
says that the upgraded hardware should make up for it. I did the
numbers: if I used my PC 5 hours a day, 365 days a year for three
years, I'd pay about $6500. Considering that the lifetime of a $6500
machine should be at least 3 years, there is no reason to opt for this
new plan. And it makes my $1000 Macbook a steal.

The only interesting thing would be hacking it to run at full power.
Maybe under Linux. And that would be 'illegal'.

Sorry Microsoft, but I don't see it coming anytime soon. Glad to see
that it was you who was responsible for this...


The hairy case of iPhone private APIs

John Gruber wrote a piece that covers the events and stuff related to
Apple's private APIs very well:


My opinion on the topic is that you are free to go ahead and call the
APIs, if you make sure they won't break the app on launch. However,
maybe the iPhone developer community should write LGPL versions if
some of Apple's private stuff, like CoverFlow.


A dual-screen laptop?

Man, this is worse than that Dell XPS thing with a built-in handle:


Here's my question: why on earth would you opt for this over a desktop?
I mean, it's not like you're going anywhere with it.


gOS Cloud - From zero to web browser in just a few seconds

This looks like an indescribably sweet OS to stick on lightweight PCs
and have them sitting around your house.


OSX 10.5.6 breaks Jailbreak!

This is mixed news: the updated USB drivers in OS X break DFU mode for
iPhones and iPod touches. The good thing is that it can be fixed by


I also hear (through the rumor mill) that you can plug your iPhone
into a USB hub and avoid the trouble. I'm waiting for someone to
confirm this first, though.

I suppose I'll be sticking with 10.5.5 until this gets worked out.

The thing I don't understand is why Apple would do this--DFU mode is
good for other thing besides jailbreaking. It seems to be a direct
attack, but it may be an unnoticed bug. After all, I don't suppose
that the folks at Apple checked DFU mode; it doesn't seem to be one of
the things I'd check. Until now, of course.

Apple's reaction in the next couple of days will show us how the cards
really lie.

[edit] It also appears that they took away the ability to switch power modes via the battery menu. I now have two reasons to wait. Yay! I mean, not yay. I shouldn't have to stick with older software because it gives me more features. That's just wrong.

[edit 2] The iPhone Dev Team thinks it's because of a kernel bug, not Apple breaking jailbreak. They've got instructions on how to fix the drivers by rolling them back to the 10.5.5 ones, and they also list using an USB hub as another solution. You can read more on the iPhone Dev Blog

[edit 3] It seems there's been other problems installing it as well...search the Apple discussion boards for more info. This us looking like a bad update, to me. I may just wait for 10.5.7!



I went caroling today with a bunch of people from my church. We went through part of a neighborhood and sang and gave out little gift bags. I actually enjoyed it; the weather was amazing, and I enjoyed singing.

I had started out with a song book, but when we got there Mom took it from me and handed me the container of hot chocolate. I never saw the songbook again, but that was fine because I knew most of the words anyway.

It was pretty awesome to walk around the neighborhood and see people actually excited to see us. I guess it was kind of a testament to our heritage--one that I'd like to see more often.


Hurry up with that iPhone Linux kernel, already!

I'm really itching for a device running Android. It doesn'teven need to be a phone--just something like an iPod Touch. Which is why I want to see the iPhone Linux project keep going. I totallywant to run Android on my iPod.

That being said, I wonder if there's some way to get Android to run on the iPhone's BSD subsystem...

Oh, and if any of you want to buy me one of those Android phones, that's fine by me. =]


I'm glad to see that someone else agrees...

From Cnet: you get better sound quality from buying a nice pair of
stereo speakers rather than a bunch of single-cone surround sound


I've written about them before, but I'd like to point out how much I
like my Pioneer CS-G403 speakers. Three cones each, 30Hz - 20 kHz
response. Can't get much better for free...and in fact, probably not
for $40 either.

3G to WiFi modem

This just looks like a cool idea. Imagine throwing one in your
backpack--which seems like a rather feasible use for it:


Windows 7 benchmarked against Vista

I have little hope left for Microsoft, and all of that lies in Windows
7. I think that if 7 fails like Vista did (or maybe not even that
badly) they will find themselves in a not-so-good spot. Especially
with Linux getting more and more improvements.

That being said, it's looking good for Microsoft:



DNA evolution simulation

Here's the latest in DNA evolution simulation:


One of the things that frustrated me with these DNA simulations is
that they always have an original to compare off of. And they pick
which mutations are kept by how well they comply with that standard.
Doesn't that sound a little unrealistic? Or maybe I missed Nature's
ability to pick things based on their goodness? But wait, doesn't that
make Nature and the "goodness" standard similar to God?

Or did I really miss something?

A pretty awesome Christmas card idea

I've always been intrigued by the properties of clear plastic and edge
lighting. But I've never managed to come up with something to do with
it. Until now:


Teacher confiscates Linux CDs, claims no software is free

This story is disturbing. She's obviously a luser.


Make sure to read the article linked in the beginning...she seriously thinks Linux is LESS useful than an old version of Windows. I suppose that the Linux community is going to make her eat her words.

Woah! Did you see that pig?

Microsoft released an open-source web page/blog tool:


On closer look, it's not all that it seems. It's built on ASP.net,
which is windows-only tech, IIRC. And it appears that they're still
thinking that this will eventually become a product for them.


I just realized

how damaging revisionist history can be. I can say that my high school history has been very accurate, but I still find myself fighting impressions I picked up from not-so-great elementary history classes. It's frustrating, especially as I've had those ideas pounded into my head because I read voraciously.

Just my thought for the day.

How to publish blog posts with URLs in them from an iPhone

You may have noticed that I published a post recently with a link in it. I did that from my iPod Touch. How did I do it?

I typed it in by hand, of course.

That's it!

Not. =] There's a much better way, of course. Go into the settings on your blog and set up an email address under the email tab. I set mine to save as a draft. Then visit the page you want to link to in Safari. Click the '+' button on the toolbar and email a link of that page to the email you set up earlier. Let it send, and in a few minutes you'll have a post in your list! One catch: if you want to use Blogger to edit your post, you have to use the Edit HTML tab. The other doesn't work. However, Blogger should be able to automatically codeyour paragraphs and stuff.

An Apple in your kitchen

I ran across this and thought it was an interesting look into where computers should be headed.


Out of curiosity, are there any projects out there like this already? I'm thinking this could be done with a Mac mini, a wall-mount display, a webcam, and a microphone. And a fair amount of code-fu.


Libronix update

I recieved a comment on my previous Libronix post from the Libronix company. The fallout from that is that I get a free copy of the Mac software. Rest assured, I still intend to try to make a GPL'd Libronix reader. But I have to wonder, why did they give me a free copy of their software? I'd like to think that it's because they're a nice company. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to assign other motives.

As far as the software goes, I opened a data file, and it looks like line noise. So I may or may not be successful. It's not gzipped, but K haven't tried anything else. There is a slim chance it might be Huffman....


Logos Bible Software

I've been using Logos Bible software for a while and have to say that it's my favorite non-open-source piece of software, short of OS X.  (Leastwise, nothing else comes to mind right now =]).  For a while they've been developing a Mac version and have given away betas for free.  Unfortunately, those betas expire...and mine just did.  Oh, and they're not offering a free beta anymore; instead I have to pay $60 to 'crossgrade' my engine.  And, did I mention that I need it by tonight?

So yeah, I'm kinda mad.  It seems that this company, which is at least nominally Christian, seems to be charging me $60 to use software I already bought FROM THEM.  To me, that's stupid--and sounds a lot like something Microsoft would do.  I was under the impression that 'crossgrade' meant a discount you'd get by switching from some OTHER company's product.  Apparently Logos thinks that it's Windows and Mac divisons are competing against each other.  Yeah...

So, I'm thinking I'm going to investigate the feasability of someone like me starting up an opensource project to replace Logos Reader.  I like that solution better than a) paying $60, or b) finding a lawyer to start a class-action lawsuit over Logos' use of 'crossgrade', and any other loophole he can find.

I'll give you an update later.


You know you're a geek....

...when you laugh at this cartoon:


What I want for Christmas

I ran across this:


All I can say is that I'd love to have a Scope clock.  It looks awesome. 

But it's $999 =[


Linux on the iPhone/iPod touch

Some amazing hacker has gotten Linux onto the iPhone...


It's useful because you could run, say, Android on your iPhone, eventually.  Maybe even dual-boot?


The Rice Computer

I ran across this article recently:


and learned a few things.  First, this machine ran at about 1 MHz.  ONE Megahertz.  And they were using this to develop speech recognition software?
Second, the memory was originally built with CRT tubes.
And third, they had pointers!  In the hardware specs!  Hello, Object-oriented programming abou 40 years before it came into vogue!

It's a neat article to skim, at least.


FoxGLove on OS X

I recently ran across FoxGLove:


And I liked the idea, and wanted to try it out.  But I have a Mac.  No small difficulty--I decided to hack it =]

Here's the screenshot:

I started with Firefox Portable for OS X:

I had to mod it to open while other versions of Firefox are running.  After much experimentation, I discovered that you do this by editing the script.  Right click on Portable Firefox, click Show Package Contents, open Contents, then Resources, then edit 'script'.  Scroll down to the very bottom and you should see a line that says 'quitapp'.  Put a hash (#) in front of that line, save the file, and you should be good.

Then I started to install all the plugins and stuff from Alex (the maker of FoxGLove).  I had to Google for a couple of them.

I couldn't see how he got Google Talk, Calendar, and Notebook to show up in the sidebar...I didn't see the buttons.  So I caved and opened his version in Wine.  Three tries later, I had it up and running....and found out that the bookmarks were stuck in the Menu toolbar.  Not having one of those on OS X, I improvised and instead put the buttons over the sidebar...where I think they should be anyway.  I downloaded the icons from Google and set them up.

Then, I set up Gears to run portably...I installed it in Firefox, then copied the extension over to FoxGLove.   It didn't occur to me until afterwards to try to install it regularly....

I downloaded Iconverter to convert Alex's icon to an .icns so I could brand Firefox.  I changed the Portable version's icon, and then opened the package and changed Firefox's icon as well....now it just shows Alex's icon, even in the Dock!

The only other thing I would like to do would be to change some more of the Firefox branding to FoxGLove...maybe I'll hack it some more sometime.

You can dowload it right now from http://linuxmercedes.homelinux.com/FoxGLove/index.html.

[edit] Added screenshot.  Bonus points to whoever first names the comic on my desktop =]


How to update your 1st gen iPod to firmware 2.0 for free...

So I recently opened up my iPod Touch, and much to my suprise and dismay, I discovered that even though I had bought the iPod AFTER the 2.0 firmware came out, I still had to pay Apple another $10 for the 2.0 firmware.  Considering the reason why I decided to open it was to make apps for it, I was frustrated.

And so I set out to find out how to update it for free.  I would have paid Apple for it if they had told me before I bought it that I was getting the 1.5 firmware, and that it would cost more to update it to 2.0.  But, since at least in my view they violated the truth-in-advertising laws and didn't tell me that, I decided that they didn't deserve my $10...IMHO.

Anyhow, here are some instructions:


Basically, you download the firmware restore file (which will restore your iPod, so kiss your music goodbye unless you have it backed up on your computer).  You can either download from RapidShare, which is fast, but reqires you to download three files and use a program to combine them into the firmware, or you can dowload from Uploaded.to, which is SLOW (~14 kbps) but doesn't require you to combine three files together.  I used RapidShare and combined the files together.

Once you have your firmware update, go into iTunes, plug in your iPod, let it sync (just to be safe =]), then hold down Shift if you're using a PC or Alt if you're using a Mac and click the restore button.   A dialog will pop up asking you where the firmware file is.  Point it to the one you downloaded. 

Let it do it's thing, and once it's done, you're good to go!  You then can update for free to the 2.2 firmware via iTunes, so you're running legit code, if that matters to you. 

One note: When I did mine I got an error (1403, IIRC).  This means that the firmware is corrupted.  Download it again.  If you used RapidShare, you can try recombining the files first (which is what I did, and it worked). 

Note: I'm aware that this falls into a grey area (probably dark grey...).  If you're not cool with it, let me know!


One nifty feature of the iPod touch...

So I finally caved and opened my iPod touch (I was planning on selling it, and may still do so...).  I promise I'll write a review of it sometime, but I did want to mention this one feature that I thought was awesome...

So I went out tonight to my sister's piano recital, and, of course, stuck my iPod in my pocket.  I forgot to turn the WiFi off.  After the recital we went out to get something to eat, and I got out my touch and noticed that I had five unread emails...that weren't there when I was home!  Apparently it found a free wifi connection, connected, and downloaded my emails automatically.  That, I find, is totally awesome.

[edit] One of my friends pointed out that you have to turn on Push and set Fetch to 15 minutes for this to work. Actually you can set Fetch to whatever you want, but 15 minutes works the best.


Surfacesque idea

I stumbled across Microsoft's Surface again...apparently now it's a viable product.  Unfortunately, only companies can buy it =]. 

It reminded me of an idea I had a long time ago about tablet computers.  I imagined an app that could run akin to the Surface UI on a tablet computer.  Devices would line up along the edges where they were plugged in.  The cool thing was that if your friend brought over his computer and ran the app on his machine, the two would connect over the network and you would literally be able to drag files between machines--drag a file to the edge of your desktop nearest your friend, and it would show up on his desktop.  Nifty, eh?

So now I'm thinking.  Would this be possible to implement on any computer?  Sit down next to your friend and be able to drag files back and forth...you could even do windows and stuff, to be totally awesome. 

Anyone know anything about this?  Frameworks, locating devices, etc?  I'm thinking OS X might be the best starting point as it has Bonjour and all that stuff...but, then again, there is a PC version of Bonjour too.  Any OSS bonjour alternatives?

Or am I crazy?


Some of my favorite groovy Mac apps and tweaks

I've decided that, for the edification of everyone who reads my blog and has a mac (I think that might be one person =]), I'd put together a list of my favorite apps and tips for Mac.  All free, too, so you don't have to pay for cool stuff =]

Firefox: Duh.  Favorite browser of all time.  It's cross-platform, OSS, fast, and has extensions.  I personally use AdBlock Plus (a must-have for browsing), NoScript (ditto, although this one is probably not for your grandma), Web developer toolbar, Firebug (both essential for web development), TrackMeNot (which searches Google with random things to keep them from being able to track what I actually searched), CustomizeGoogle (more security stuff), and, lastly, Cooliris--a must-have for eye-candy lovers and people who need to browse images fast.  Get it and try it out--there's nothing like it.

Speaking of web development, TextWrangler (http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/) is my programmer's editor of choice.  It's a free dumbed-down version of BBEdit, but it does everything I need it to (syntax highlighting, multiple files, find-and-replace) and lots more (execute a file from the editor, find-and-replace across multiple files, etc.).

The other app I use for web development is Macfusion (http://www.macfusionapp.org/).  This lets you mount SSH and FTP shares as volumes on your Mac and interact with them with the Finder.  It makes copying and stuff really easy.  And if you need to make some quick change to a file, it's fast, too.

NeoOffice (www.neooffice.com) is a port of OpenOffice to OS X.  It's a bit faster, and a lot fancier, than OpenOffice, but it's only up to version 2 of OO right now.  I use it as a substitute for Word.

I also use the Visor add-on for Terminal that I wrote about a few posts ago.  It's nifty to the extreme.

Another add-on I just discovered is GeekTool: http://projects.tynsoe.org/en/geektool/  It lets you run scripts and a lot of other things at certain intervals.  Currently I just have it running 'uptime' on a window on my desktop, but I can imagine all the nifty things you can do with it.  Like using curl and grep (or perl) to download a webpage and pull something out of it (e.g. sale of the day, etc.) and display that on your desktop.

And, finally, there's WhatsOpen (http://www.agasupport.com/?page_id=72), which displays all your open files.  You can set it to display only a particular volume, so you can see which apps need to quit so you can eject a disk.  If you don't like the command line, this is a nice tool.  (For the command line junkies, try lsof and pipe it through grep.  For example, lsof | grep WhatsOpen). 

Hopefully someone will get something out of this =]


Review of Windows 7

Review of Windows 7, courtesy The Register:


And here's my take on parts of the article:

"The first thing you notice is the revamped taskbar, with chunky thumbnail icons, full-screen application preview on mouse hover, and "jump lists" - pop-up menus that expose key features directly from the taskbar, provided that the application was coded to support them, and recently opened documents for any application."

Why would I want this?  From the looks of it, now it takes me TWO clicks to switch applications via the taskbar.  And if I'm working on two projects simultaneously, I've got windows--say Word windows--from each project glommed into one button.  Can you say disorganization?

OS X does have some of the same problems as Vista with this, but it makes up for it by not requiring people to use app-switch methods to switch windows--for example, expose or the minimized dock windows.  Both are app-independent.

"The system tray area now has a customize option that allows the user to suppress notifications, annoying for developers but empowering for users. It is all about making Windows quieter and less annoying. The same principle is at play in the revised User Account Control (UAC), which offers a simple slider bar that lets the user decide the level of prompting it enforces."

I'm fine with the Taskbar thing--it never really bothered me in the first place.  But UAC?  I thought that was for security!  Basically, it's allowing people to turn off security features.  That is not a good idea, because it could let programs change things behind the user's back--what UAC was created for--and not notify them.  As well, now that there's an option to turn it down, what would prevent some application finding a way to hack that?  Especially given the propensity of users to not read messages but just click OK, it would only take one malicious program to take out this security feature. 

"In Windows 7 device vendors can customize what happens on connection, through the new Device Stage, a control center tailored for a specific device. Some Device Stage links can be advertising for add-ons and supplies, so there is a commercial aspect that may not always be welcome. The Device Stage is populated via a Windows metadata service, which means it can be updated at any time."

Sounds neat...until you consider your el-cheapo chinese KIRF.  Would you plug that in and risk getting some weird webpage from the manufacturer?  And would this be possible to download viruses from?  Hmm...

Well...hopefully it will be better than Vista.  Although that's not much of a challenge...


My Other Blog

Alright folks, time for some shameless self-promotion:

I have a new blog! 


Basically, I got a job, and decided to write stories about what happens there.  Yeah.  Just don't tell anyone else there that there are stories about them on the internet =]

So, you should all go check it out, because it's totally awesome.  Really.  Believe me on this one, OK?

P.S. I appear to have a knack for picking blog names already in use...


The Story of Alice and Bob

When people discuss cryptography, they usually give names to parties A and B--Alice and Bob.  This makes the explanations somewhat more readable.

Someone wrote down some information about Alice, Bob, and cryptography in general.  It's worth a read:



"Your Perfect Man Quiz"--a possible exploit of a security hole in Facebook?

I recently started to recieve a ton of invites to the "Your Perfect Man Quiz" on Facebook.  This application apparently invites all your friends to take the quiz when you activate it.  (I took it because I assumed that it was actually thoughtfully sent to me...FWIW, I'm apparently looking for a guy who is rich and mysterious =])

But here's the thing.  Twice it asks you if you want to invite friends.  I skipped the invites BOTH TIMES.  So it invited everyone without my permission.  I didn't think apps could do that. 

So, Facebook, tell me.  Is this a flaw in your app framework?  I suppose it's a query to get the friend list, then a command to invite each person in that list...simple, once you have access.  So maybe it's not a hole, but a misuse of the system.  But apps shouldn''t do this, because it makes the invite system meaningless; invites become spam. 

Here's my solution:  Only allow apps to invite people using Facebook's Select Friends dialog.  Don't allow apps to randomly invite whosoever they choose; just allow them to show a list of friends and have the user pick who they'll acutally invite.  Maybe a little limiting, but that will kill spam fast.

There's my 2 cents.


First Android phone!

Not sure how long this has been out there, but here it is:


Let's hear it for open-source software!

iTunes' Sound Enhancer

If you're like me, you always peruse the preferences for every program you own.  I remember when I first did that with iTunes and found the Sound Enhancer.  And turned it on and liked the sound I got through my pedestrinan Maxwell headphones.  And so I turned it up all the way.   And left it on for about a year or so. 

About 9 months after I turned on the Sound Enhancer, I bought a new pair of headphones: a set of AKG K-44's.  They're not expensive (~$30 if you shop around) and sound good enough to do cheap mixes by (although I can hear the nonlinearites, especially if I listen for a while).  I was listening to music with these, and after a few weeks decided that there was something muddy in all the music I was hearing.  So I wandered back through iTunes' preferences and for kicks turned off the Sound Enhancer.  The music was quieter, but cleaner.  A LOT cleaner. 

Fast forward another year.  My old laptop dies, I buy a MacBook.  And today I decide to find out exactly what the Sound Enhancer is doing.  So I turn on some music (Grateful Dead's Althea, FWIW--a concert recording, so no mastering/compression applied to it, but I also tested with Pink Floyd's Money, which does have those goodies) and turned on Sound Enhancer.  I was first listening through the built-in speakers and noticed that the music became much louder--which is good, since the MacBook's speakers don't have amazing volume.  But listening on my headphones, I heard that what Sound Enhancer really does is boosts the frequencies that have the 'important' parts of the mix in them--the vocals, guitars, cymbals, and keyboard melody.  It probably also does some compression.  However, it leaves the mix entirely out of whack, especially if you're listening on headphones. 

My guess is that they tailored it for the built-in speakers, as it's hard to hear any flaws listening through them.  (One noticable point: in Money it seemed to over-emphasize some frequencies and gave me a headache, even through the built-in speakers.) 

So, the point is: if you've got el-cheapo speakers, and you don't care about what the mix was supposed to sound like, go ahead and turn it on.  It will probably make it 'feel' better.  However, if you've got anything near hi-fi speakers and actually care about the days of work that went into making that recording sound exactly how it should, TURN IT OFF. 


A totally awesome program for OSX

For all the one mac user who reads this blog, I have a major software recommendation for you: Visor.

It's a must-have if you have the slightest inkling about using the Terminal. It lets you assign a key combination to a drop-down terminal window.  Press a key and your terminal shows up.  Press it again and it disappears.  Press it again and it shows up right where you left off before you hid it.

And it also has cool eyecandy effects =]



A very well planned credit card fraud

Here's an article about an international credit card fraud:


Basically, the thieves somehow managed to insert bugs into the Chinese-made credit card readers, then used those bugs to capture credit card numbers and PINs, then transmit them to a server in Pakistan.  Quite impressive.

And another proof that you can't have security and a life.

Note to terrorists: do not wash your laundry in a laundromat.

Here's a well-executed terrorist trap used by the UK once:


So, what do we learn from this?

First, having a sense of humor will get you a long way in catching terrorists.  "I propose we operate a laundromat.  That will catch them!"

Second, everything you say and do can be used against you.  The disconcerting thing is that this did not require a warrant to determine where the terrorists were.  The reason why it worked is that the terrorists were releasing data--their laundry--with the intent of it being used only in the way they intended.  It's similar to the cell-phone story I posted earlier.  We hand out our data, not expecting strange things to be done to it.  We put our lives on Facebook.  We blog.  We send emails with all kinds of confidential data in them--reference Sarah Palin's email account getting attacked, or the Nikon camera sold on eBay with tons of top-secret UK government data on it.  And we expect that other companies and governments will respect our privacy and not misuse our data.  And they don't.

I'm becoming more and more cynical about privacy every day. 

New Macbooks

I don't know how I didn't hear about this, although I have deliberately stayed away from mac rumors after getting my macbook =], but yesterday Apple released a new laptop lineup.

MacBook Pro:
SSD option=meh.
User-accessible hard drive=Yay!
New design--whatever.  Some people complain that the design is old.  I liked the old design =]
MiniDisplay Port--whatever.  It's the same thing the MacBooks have had.  Another $20 for users who want an external screen.  Face it, Apple: no one else uses your display port.
New NVidia chips--cool.  Wish you would put these in the MacBook =]

MacBook Air:
Faster CPU--good.  Always need more speed
128 GB SSD--Ok, more space.  Now it makes sense to pay the extra $$ for an SSD

Metal case--well, if they fix the wifi range problems, I guess it's a good thing.
Lowered price--well, I paid $999 for my MacBook, so it doesn't bother me that much.  Another $100 off when I decide to upgrade, though =]

One thing I still didn't see--multitouch on the MacBook.  Although I would be saddened if I did see it, because I would have a shiny old piece of obsolete junk.  The thing is, there isn't going to be any major developer support for multi-touch until Apple puts it in their mainstream notebook--the MacBook.

[Edit] They DID put multitouch on it! YEAH!  I think Apple's getting it...but they took firewire out.  BOO!  For all the aspiring video and audio folks who can't afford a MacBook Pro, Apple has just removed themselves from the lineup.  I'm kinda liking my MacBook =]

[Edit 2] You can get firewire on a MacBook....the $999 one!  That's because it's a last-gen 'book.  Still, you'd think they'd do something about this disparity in the product line =]

Clickjacking. Yeah. Hijacking the interwebz!

Here's an article on Clickjacking, a newly discovered security problem in the internet:


Basically, an attacker hides their own page behind code from a legit page.  Then when you click a button on the legit page, you also click the button on the attacker's page behind it.  Sneaky. 

So, what can you do?  First, COMMON SENSE.  Check where you are at and if it looks OK.

Second, use Firefox and NoScript:


NoScript, however, is not for your grandma, unfortunately.  But, it's not THAT hard to learn how to use, and it will speed up the internet as well =]

Cell Phone (and other) data harvesting

Crypto-Gram came in today, so I'll have some articles from it =]

I ran across this one about how the NSA can legally (in the letter, not spirit, of the law) use off-the-shelf products to get data about cell phone usage.  It's pretty comprehensive data, too--location, tracking people across multiple sim cards, etc. 


I also found this story about the Pentagon thinking that World of Warcraft could be a vector for terrorists to plan attacks:


I like Bruce's analysis of this:
"My guess is still that some clever Pentagon researchers have figured out how to play World of Warcraft on the job, and they're not giving that perk up anytime soon."

The way these two articles are related: if the NSA can harvest all kinds of data legally, and the Pentagon wants all kinds of data, then our privacy is pretty much gone.  Unless something changes.

I kinda like my friend's perspective on privacy:


Isn't life great?


Fixing USB Audio Static on Mac OSX

(My sincere apologies for the lack of posts...almost a month! =[  I guess I have reasons...I got a job, and a MacBook.  I'm not totally slacking off; I've got some articles planned which I hope to write soon.)

(NB 2...This is a nerdy post.  Regular readers don't have to read this =])

On Mac OSX (particularly 10.5) occasionally there will be horrible static in recordings and playback from a USB audio device.

I may have found a solution. (Leopard 10.5.5, fwiw)

The problem, according to some people in a different forum, may be related to the clock source of the USB box.

To fix this, I went into Apps/Utilities/Audio Midi Setup. In the Audio menu there is an entry "Open Aggregate Device Editor". Click that.
In the dialog, click the + button at the bottom of the list, which was empty on my machine.
It will add a new device and in the bottom pane all the sound devices in your computer will show up. Only check the ones you want to use (USB audio). Then use the Clock radio button and select one of the USB devices as the clock source (I used the output).
Click Done.

Now set your default input and output to "Aggregate Device".

In the output options on the Aggregate Device (lower pane of the main window in Audio MIDI Setup) I set the output rate from 8 bits to 16. I don't know why it would default to 8 bits unless Apple lives in 1986. Go figure.

That fixed it for me. YMMV, as always.


How Crazy Can It Get?

Recently, a woman in Britain was arrested as a terrorist for walking along a cycling path:


Do you have to show up for your life?

This is an interesting idea from Bruce Schneier:


Basically, he conceptualizes that we could create identities for people that don't exist and live their lives for them.


Here is some interesting commentary on the paper:


And here is an example of something similar happening in WWII:


How To Erase a Hard Drive

For all of you worried about data protection, I have a solution for securely erasing a hard drive:


Yup.  I guess that would do it.


The Truth can sometimes sound mean

Last night I went to see Chistopher Hitchens debate Dinesh D'Souza at Powell Symphony Hall.  I used my wicked awesome Rhetoric debate-notetaking skills to take 8.5 pages of notes, so expect a few more posts on the debate, including a link to the digitized version of the notes.

Anyhow, the debate was on the topic, "Is it good to believe in the Christian God?"  Hitchens is the atheist who wrote the book titled, "god is Not Great".  D'Souza is a Christiand and wrote the book, "What's so Great About Christianity?"

I was struck by something Hitchens said towards the end of the debate to D'Souza.  D'Souza had explained that Christianity did offer a choice: you could go to hell or you could accept that Christ paid for your sins and go to heaven.  Hitchens responded, "I want you to realize, Mr. D'Souza, how mean you como across to so many people in this room.  You are saying that we can either burn in hell for eternity, or we can spend our lives groveling before a cold tyrant."

This interested me.  I had a desire (which I supressed) to stand up and tell Mr. Hitchens, "Mr. Hitchens, I understand that you do not like mean things, even if they are true.  Therefore, when you are ill and go to a doctor and he determines that you are terminal, I will let the doctor know that Mr. Hitchens does not like mean things, even if they are true, and so therefore you should not tell him he's going to die, but soften it up some, or maybe don't mention it at all."

Meanness is not a measure of truth; just because something is mean does not imply that it is false.  Just that you don't like it. But to reject the truth because you do not like it or it makes you uncomfortable or it does nto fit with your plans is utter stupidity.  I am reminded of II Timothy 4:3: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires..." 

Please remember to evaluate the truth, not by how it makes you feel, but by what you know. 


Oh Yeah: Chrome makes JavaScript a major competitor to Silverlight

Google's Chrome browser, which I covered earlier, offers major speed improvements to JavaScript. 


Microsoft developers think that this may make Javascript a bigger competitor to Silverlight than Flash.  This is a good thing--JavaScript is at least an open standard, whereas Silverlight isn't. 

Nice Lord of the Rings Macbook

This guy did something with his macbook that I've never seen done before:


It's pretty sweet, although it does lose points for being in English and not real Elvish or something =]


Google Chrome

Google is starting to develop their own web browser:



Basically, it moves each part of the browser into it's own process, with it's own memory allocation. A crash on one web page will not crash the browser, just that tab. And it should not have all the memory leak problems that Firefox has.

Looks neat--hopefully it will be able to take some of the good features of Firefox and integrate them as well.

My only problem? Why oh why did they make the first beta Windows only? I would have thought the Linux community a better place to put a first beta/alpha. Somewhere where people don't dismiss something because it's in development. Oh well.

I forgot to point out that the system structure of Chrome reminds me of the structure of Android--except here it's tabs instead of programs. Interesting.


RFC 1149: A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers

An RFC, for those who don't know, stands for Request For Comments, and is a way for standardizing computer communication stuff and other things.

RFC 1149 is a way to transmit IP packets using carrier pigeons.

And, this has actually been implemented by a Linux user group in Norway. You can download the software from their site:



Here's a neat grammar tidbit:

Yahweh, the Hebrew word for God, is actually an archaic imperfect form of 'to be' (at least in Hebrew). Imperfect here means imperfect tense, not flawed. The imperfect tense is used to signify action that started in the past and has or has not been completed, e.g. I have been running or I have not finished bagging the groceries.

What's so neat about that is that Yahweh then takes on a whole different meaning. Not only does it mean, 'I AM', but means, 'I HAVE BEEN, AND AM, AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE', thereby capturing not only the present existence of God, but His existence in our past and His presence in our future. It captures the timelessness of God.


Das Blinkenlights

Some more hacker humor, this time courtesy Wikipedia. I now know how to refer to lights on computers =]


Happy 100th post!


Howto: Cross-Compile stuff in Linux for Windows

So, I've learned something else nerdy (regular readers can skip this if they want =]): how to set up Linux to cross-compile to a Windows target. In less geek-speak that means to make Linux make programs that run on Windows.

This is really really easy. However, it took me about 3 google searches before I found out how to do it.

If you have Debian, all you have to do is install all the mingw packages. Either look them up in Synaptic or run ap-get install mingw32. That should catch all the dependencies.

Once this is done, you are good to go! Congratulations!

Alright, so now you need to know how to actually use the tools. Well, if you're a wimp and use an IDE, you can just set your IDE up to use the compiler (which I'll mention in a minute). If you're a hard-core programmer who uses just ed and gcc, it's a little harder. (But not much.)

Anyhow, the actual compiler executable is in /usr/bin. It's called something like i586-mingw32msvc-c++. Now, you could just use it like this, and type in that really long name whenever you want to compile. (IDE users: this is the executable to set your compiler up with.)

Or, you could cheat, and set up a symbolic link (ln -s, to get you started =]) with a name like mingw-c++, which is what I did.

You're good! Mingw syntax is pretty much the same as gcc, so you don't have to learn a bunch of new tricks.

Oh, you might want to install Wine to test your windows executables, now that you can make them.


Tips for selling a house

Ever want to know what not to take pictures of in your house? Look here:



Magic/More Magic

Today I ran across a story about hackers 'back in the day' at MIT, and a switch labeled 'Magic/More Magic'. It's pretty humorous:



Jimmy Moves to Utah: Part 4

This is, unfortunately, the last in the series, and may be a surprise to some as not even all the authors know this story exists. So, without further ado, Part 4:

Mail User Trasaction Terminal! Jimmy couldn't keep reading, or else he'd laugh--and that would make him nervous, even though he knew they were moving again. To New City in Utah. You couldn't find it on Google Earth yet because Google was too busy documenting the results of a nucular bomb in Russia at the moment. But soon you'd be able to see every Denny's in New city. At least Denny's didn't call their egg McMuffins egg McMuffins even though you could ask for one. The really nice waitress had gone down the street and bought Jimmy one from McDonalds with a side of chicken McNuggets made with artificial white meat. It was almost as good as at Ihop when he had asked for a Lincoln Continental breakfast. The waitress said that he shouldn't believe everything he sees in a movie. So maybe it was a good thing they weren't moving to Canada. Or Cuba, even though orchestrating that would have been difficult even with the bribes that Jimmy had arranged everything with. They had taken up most of the cash he had left from his settlement with Sony. It was a good thing they were now offering to recycle their PS2's and walkmans instead of letting them litter the dumps. Really, we all have to pitch in and help with the global warming issue. That was why Jimmy was moving to Utah. He hoped that among all the Mormons no one would take it amiss that he didn't have solar panels on his roof or walk to Washington DC to take part in riots against the established order. After all, what do you want to riot against an established order for? Jimmy walked out of his room and down the hall, where he unexpectedly ran into Max carrying a stack of boxes. "What are you carring those boxes in for? Were moving out." "Yes, but I'm moving in to practice yoga and headbanging." Jimmy wondered why Max wasn't coming to Utah. "After all, Linux is a good choice for those pursuing mainstream lifestyles." Oh. Well out in the street there were some handballs. Jimmy wanted to run over them, but his mom had laughed so hard that Jimmy freaked out and took three mailboxes with him. But that was when they were moving to Canada. Now they were on their way to Utah, stopped in a rest stop in Kansas City, Missourrii. Jimmy looked for other contradictions in the city, but then decided that it was so backwards even its contradictions were backwards and therefore forwards out of the city. A man driving next to Jimmy was engaged deep in a simulation of North Norwegian healthcare and so Jimmy wasn't sure if he was looking at reality through Google or not. Max pulled up alongside Jimmy in a hotrod using a RAZR V8 running Linux to do his web serving. He had even hacked it so that he had 250 GB of space instead of the standard 2. Jimmy yelled out: "Why do you keep using that evil PSP even after I sued Sony?" Max yelled back, "What PSP? That's your subconscious mind telling you that my RAZR is a PSP because you have been so damaged by Sony you can't tell an Apple from a Dell!" Jimmy was cut off by a jacknifed truck and didn't get to tell Max about the dangers of PSP addiction. Kansas would have been worse, but only if the road hadn't been paved and thus fit into the landscape better, even though he did ride a tractor for a while to generate extra greenhouse gases because he had purchased too many carbon credits. Jimmy was shocked that nothing had been done to enliven the Kansas roads except for adding new billboards concerning Mike Tyson running the "Deal or No Deal" game show in place of John Kerry because he was busy writing sermons for Reverend Jesse Jackson. Sermons aside, Max pulled back up and helped a hijacker tie Jimmy to the hood of a passing semi. The rest of the ride to Utah was exhilarating, but Jimmy ended up getting off a few hundred miles off-course. This could only be solved by riding the strawberry car with the illegals up to New City. When he arrived there, Al Sharpton was conducting a mystic purification of his dwelling so his soul could abide in semi-eternal peace. So long as Sony left him alone, he could be happy.

The moral of the story: The more you write, the weirder it gets...


Jimmy Was Walking to the Road to Hitchike: Part 3

And now for the third part in the series:

Jimmy was walking to the road to hitchhike. It was snowing. He saw a big tree and decided to climb it. When he was halfway up, he realized that he had no reason to climb the tree, so he decided to use it to look for Max, even though he wasn’t supposed to be there. When he got to the top, he looked around, but instead of finding Max, he found National Geographic filming an episode on maps. Suddenly the wind whipped up, and Jimmy was tossed. He fell out and landed on a water buffalo. The buffalo took off at a gallop, with Jimmy hanging on. He was riding on the buffalo and an antelope came and asked him why he was sitting in his cantaloupes. Jimmy got down off the buffalo and started looking for Hidden Valley Ski Resort, where his car was parked. He kept walking, but when he reached the road, he didn’t see Hidden Valley. So Jimmy pulled out his PSP to listen to some music, and his DS to send a wireless message to Max, who was at McDonald’s. He sent Max the message, “Where is Hidden Valley Ski Resort?” A friendly motorist pulled over and pulled out a gun. He fired, but the bullet didn’t land. Jimmy thought this was strange, and it also reminded him of a TV show that his parents used to watch. Max sent a message back, asking Jimmy to play chess. Jimmy worked hard, but Max beat him. Then Max said, “You would have won if you didn’t have that useless Sony piece of junk. It is emitting hazardous radiation that is destructive to your Logical Facilities.” Jimmy decided to sue Sony for making such defective products, but he still hadn’t found his car or Hidden Valley. So he messaged Max, “You still haven’t told me where Hidden Valley is!” Max told him, “What does it matter to you? Besides, you still have that defective PSP!” Jimmy figured out that there were two ways to find Hidden Valley. First, he could walk back the way he had come. Secondly, he could ask the National Geographic crew. He got on the road, and while dodging cars, played Halo with a guy named “550ktrsAMA”. 550ktrsAMA was much worse than Jimmy at Halo, but he knew how to hack the system. Therefore, the game ended on a stalemate, with 550ktrsAMA winning. Jimmy decided he would retrace his steps, hoping to find Hidden Valley. As he walked along, he found a cantaloupe lying on the ground. This must have been one of the cantaloupes that the antelope was talking about. He suddenly picked up the cantaloupe and threw it. It disappeared—landed without a crash. Then Johnny Appleseed came out of the forest and asked Jimmy if he knew of a place that wasn’t snowing. Jimmy asked if he was still planting the apple seeds. Johnny replied that there were enough apple trees, so he had begun planting peach trees. Jimmy asked him if he knew where Hidden Valley Ranch was. Johnny said no. Then Max showed up and drove Jimmy to his lawyer.

The moral of the story is: Don’t ski in places that imply secrecy in their name.


Random Story 2: Part 2

Continuing in our series, today we have Random Story 2 by Gonkzz:

Jimmy was on his way to E3 ’09. He wanted to go there so he could find out the future of the video game industry so as to be better educated on which companies to invest in. On his way, he almost walked into a bar, but he wasn’t quite tall enough to hit it. Jimmy then decided he would take the long way home which led him to an apple tree. The tree was about 40 meters tall and 3 meters in circumference, but that’s not really important to the story. What is important, however, is that on the tree grew red, green, and golden apples of the sort that you often see on Christmas Trees as ornaments. In other words, they were plastic.
Jimmy, wishing to do a random noble deed, decided he would make a sign warning everyone not to eat the plastic apples. He decided the best way would to do this would be to project a hologram saying: “Do Not Eat the Apples, They Are Plastic,” in front of the tree. But that would be far too expensive! He needed to save his money for deluxe accommodations in Los Angeles when he went to E3. So instead, he built a wood sign. While nailing the sign to the signpost, Jimmy unfortunately got a splinter. This reminded him of a movie he once saw, but he couldn’t remember the name of it. Jimmy decided that the only thing left to do was to chop down the apple tree which had indirectly caused him this pain! So he left to go borrow a chainsaw. When he returned, the tree was gone!
Jimmy cried out in desperation, “You tree! You may have escaped this time, but I’ll find you and chop you down!”
One month later, Jimmy was on an airplane bound for Jordan. The in-flight movie was terrible. It was about an aspirin carver falling in love with an optometrist. By the end of the movie, the aspirin carver’s dog had died forcing him to sell his home, his car, and his Pulitzer prize that he had won after writing his little-know masterpiece, “The Walrus and the Cynic,” and he moved to Siberia where he lived in a cave with the Yeti who was a terribly messy roommate.
Jimmy was so appalled by the movie’s horribleness—the writing, the directing, the acting—that he threw himself out the window of the plane. Fortunately, he had a jetpack and a parachute. But which to use? To decide, Jimmy whipped out his Nintendo DS and started playing chess via wireless network. Unfortunately, Jimmy was paired against someone with the screen name, “dennis_weredana.” “dennis_weredana,” actually turned out to be the long-lost Bobby Fischer, who was once the best chess player in the world. The game ended in a stalemate, so Jimmy still had no idea whether to use the jetpack or the parachute.
Abhorring indecisiveness, Jimmy decided upon the jetpack.

The moral of this story is: don’t measure trees using the metric system.


Max's novel: Part 1

So, for your entertainment, I've decided to publish a series written by my friends and I once each Saturday in July. So, without further ado, Max's Novel:

It was a cold day in August. Jimmy went to the local market and ordered a philly cheese steak Thickburger. His total was $7.85. He didn’t like the green bell peppers, but other than that it was ok. He bought it from a strange immigrant who called himself Emilio. Emilio asked him if he wanted any stereo equipment. Jimmy had a woofer with a side of CD’s to go. He paid another $200. The strange immigrant vanished in front of his eyes. Later that night, Jimmy went back to his hotel room and saw Emilio watching TV. He was watching Wheel of Fortune, and Regis Philbin usurped Pat Sajak by skewering him on the wheel. The first contestant spun $550. He guessed “T.” To which Regis replied, “Would you like to use a lifeline?” I beamed an equivalent frequency at Jimmy’s TV from my hotel window across the freeway. I changed it to American Gladiators. Emilio was competing on this show, so I knew it was a rerun. But I was wrong. Jimmy looked at Emilio, and he pulled of his skin. It was Mike Tyson. And he proceeded to chase his ear(he has this rare disease where people have strange nicotine-like cravings for ears, but Jimmy left his at GenCon ’05. Mike was crying, begging for an ear. Jimmy called room service and ordered 1432 chicken wings. When the room service lady came up to deliver the grub, Tyson had a snack, and Jimmy had some wings. Jimmy went to the bathroom and took a shower. When he was about to dry his hair, he realized that the hairdryer was also a .50 caliber magnum – a hotel safety device. He took it and fired at Tyson. But Tyson was unharmed. Then Jimmy realized – he was in a Marriott. Mike pulled out The Pearl of Great Price with ‘a bullet hole in it. “You!” Jimmy exclaimed, “taking advantage of free LDS literature! Tyson screamed, “This crap is LDS? Forgive me, Allah!!!” Allah summoned the “ring girl” out of Jimmy’s TV via HBO and she ate Mike Tyson. Then, I came into the room and ate the remainder of Jimmy’s chicken wings.

The moral of the story is – NEVER stay at Mormon hotels. They’re really creepy…


Bruce Schneier and the crabs

Here's a tall tale if I ever heard one:


Bruce Schneier, for those of you who don't know, is one of the leading security analysts out there.  He blogs and publishes a monthly e-newsletter to which I am subscribed.  Maybe I should republish it on my blog, for your entertainment.  Seriously.  The TSA does some pretty amusing things.

The DMCA is issuing many false positive takedown notices

Surprise, surprise.  The DMCA can't accurately tell who is downloading illegal content from Bittorrent sites. 

The University of Washington did some research on this, and managed to get over 400 takedown notices without uploading or downloading anything from a bittorrent network.  Also, they managed to frame several printers and a wireless access point as illegal downloaders. 


Enjoy =]


Walking. Where are you walking, little girl?

I walked down the stairs, last in a line of people making for the door.  We walked across the hall and down the side to the exit.  The girl in front of me stopped and held the door very briefly for me.  Mentally, I slapped myself.  I should have been walking a little faster at least.  But I was tired.  Holding the door for her would have been awkward, trust me.  She was tall and blond.  I walked through the door and let it close behind me.  I paused to look out the window as the tall girl walked out the second door so she wouldn't have to hold the door for me.  I looked out over the small valley filled with shrubbery, flowers, and a few trees.  I reached in my pocket and touched the granola bar in it.  Then I realized that it would probably be wise to eat it out on the concrete patio in front of the school, instead of inside where I would spill crumbs all over the floor and people would care. 
    I opened the door and walked out onto the concrete patio.  It curved in a semicircle around the front part of the building, and was partly covered by an overhang.  Sitting in the uncovered part were several bright blue wire mesh picnic tables, which didn't seem to match the current color scheme.  Maybe it was just me, but they seemed leftovers from a previous decor that had been too expensive to replace when the school redecorated.  Around the edge of the patio ran a blue rail--a darker blue.  At the front of the patio the rail broke and a bridge spanned the gap over the small valley between the building and its parking lot.  The tall girl and a couple others were sitting on the benches.  As I walked over near the fence to look over the valley and eat, one of the girls got up from the bench at the far end and walked the step and a half to the fence to look over it as well.  She was shorter--maybe 5'6"--and had short blond hair as well.  She was wearing blue jeans and a navy t-shirt.  She looked past me and I noticed that her face remarkably resembled that of Edmund's from Chronicles of Narnia--the close-set eyes, freckles.  I pulled out my granola bar and started to eat as I looked out across the valley.  The valley wasn't very wide; probably only 30 feet at its widest.  I couldn't tell how deep it was; my eyesight is bad on normal days and was totally out of whack after five hours of testing.  Directly opposite me in the valley was a large evergreen tree that stuck up above the edge of the rail.  It was surrounded by several smaller trees and shrubs.  The valley was flecked with flowers among the tall plants (which were most likely weeds).  The third girl, sitting about two benches away from me, picked up her cell phone and called someone, probably her parents.  Whoever it was, she had a long conversation with them.  I looked back down the rail to where "Edmund" was standing.  A moment later she turned, walked back to the picnic bench where she had left her purse, picked up her cell phone, and proceeded to call someone as well.  About thirty seconds into the call, she walked off under the overhang and back into the building.  The tall girl, who was still sitting on the bench where "Edmund"'s purse was, was also engaged in a conversation on her phone. 
    I looked back across the valley. The midday sun illuminated it well.  I had finished my granola bar and stuffed the wrapper back into my pocket.  I took a drink and stopped to listen to what was going on.  I saw a couple of birds fly out from under another bridge past the tree I was standing opposite of.  Some crickets were chirping in the distance.  I stared across the valley, looking at it and mentally listening to "Uncle John's Band" (by the Grateful Dead).  A few minutes elapsed
    The door opened again and an older woman came by and spoke to the girl sitting closest to me.  The two of them had a conversation of which I heard little.  What little I heard suggested that the girl's name was Annie and that the other lady had thought she had gotten sick, like a few other students.  (This did not surprise me; I would expect to find epidemics of flu break out after standardized testing.)  Annie was a little taller than "Edmund" and was wearing a reddish-orange plain t-shirt and a long skirt.  A few seconds later the older lady walked back into the building. 
    I turned back to the valley again--it was the only thing to look at except for the people, and it would be rude to stare.  About a minute later "Edmund" came walking back out of the door, still on the phone.  She stopped and sat on the bench next to her purse and spoke for a little while, then got up and walked down, across the bridge, and over to a set of concrete stairs that cut through a retaining wall.  She sat down on top of the retaining wall and carried on her conversation. 
    I returned to my study of the valley.  It didn't appear all that deep, yet I knew it was deeper because of the height of the retaining wall on the other side.  It was just that I was ignoring all the clues from the sizes of the bricks and the height of the trees.  I looked down.  Directly over the edge of the fence were the cap bricks for the retaining wall on my side of the valley.  What was intriguing about them was that they were not square; instead, some tapered out and some tapered in.  It kept individual bricks from falling off into the valley, which would have made retrieval difficult.  I was surprised that a high school would have such a distinct land feature on it; normally high schools are run-of-the-mill buildings and unique landscaping is reserved for colleges. 
    Several cars pulled past the end of the bridge.  Minutes passed.  Then another car pulled up, and stopped.  No one got out.  I felt compelled to ask, "Whose car?" since both Annie and Tall Girl were reading and had not noticed.  About a minute elapsed before someone from the car called, "Hannah!"  The tall girl suddenly closed her book, hurriedly placed it in her purse, and walked briskly across the bridge and climbed into the waiting car, which pulled away.
    I looked back at the other girl--"Edmund".  She was now lying along the top of the retaining wall, still talking on her phone.  Another car pulled around the lot and parked by the sidewalk.  A lady got out and pulled some large posts wrapped in cloth, presumably a banner of sorts, out of her car.  She set off across the lot.  At about the same time the other girl sat up, climbed off the wall, and walked across the lot towards the other woman.  They passed each other.  The girl walked up onto the sidewalk by the car, then along the sidewalk in front of it.  A red minivan pulled up in front of the bridge.  Annie closed her cell phone, picked up her purse, and walked towards the van.  When she had reached it, the driver nudged the car forwards a bit.  She banged on the side and quickly opened the door and climbed in.  It pulled away. 
    I laughed to myself and finished off my water.  Then I looked across the parking lot to see the girl walking along the sidewalk.  I could just barely see her head above the cars in the distance. 

    "Walking.  Where are you going, little girl?"

    A pause.

    "You're walking a long way."

    "Why are you walking?"

    A horn honked.  I jerked out of my thoughts and looked across the parking lot to see my ride arriving.

    I walked along the rail and threw my empty water bottle in the trash can. 
    Dad's car drove through a puddle and splashed water onto the sidewalk. 

    I walked across the bridge.

    I walked over the sidewalk, and climbed into Dad's car.  We drove off. 

    And we passed the girl on the side of the parking lot.



    What?  This story has an epilogue?  How can it have an epilogue?  It's not even long enough to make a short novel!
    Okay, okay, so it's not really an epilogue.  It's rather an explanation of the story.

    The point of the story is not to show you how much of a creeper I am.  (I'll let you decide that one.)  Nor is it to show you that I'm special because things like this happen in my life.  The point is to tell you about what I saw today while I was people-watching.  It's fascinating to catch a glimpse into the lives of other people, even if only for a few minutes (in this case, about 15).  Sometimes you remember these people and think about them later.  They become characters in some imagined story, or their faces become the faces of a character in a book.  Sometimes you get to know them, in a very weird way, enough to write a short story about them. 


I'll give you a million dollars...

Ok, so I'm not really giving you a million dollars.  But, I have a contest.  The winner will get, umm, an honorable mention on my blog in a future post, and the respect of me and my readers, forever...maybe =].  Ok, so there really isn't a whole lot of a prize, but I know you all are SO competitive, you'll try to win anyway. 

So, the contest.  Download and listen to the "Amazing Grace" mp3 available behind a link at this site:


(I'll let my astute readers guess at which link it is.  For the not-so-astute readers, it's the last one =])

The rules are pretty simple.  The first person to comment, either here or on Facebook, and tell me which instruments I used to record this, wins.  Pretty simple, eh?

Yes, the song was inspired by Jimi Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner". 

Here's a hint: I, unlike Jimi, do not play either electric or acoustic guitar.  In fact, I don't even have one.

Good luck!

(And for the lawyers out there: If you're a writer of this blog, you can't post the answer until the end of the contest.  When does it end?  When I tell you how I did it, or someone guesses, whichever comes first. If you don't like the rules, deal with it.  Since there's no material prize, I guess you can be under 18 to play.  If you want to sue me, let me know before my pocket is empty, otherwise I might need to win my contest...)


Video Games

The army is a video game now? That bodes ill.


How to fix a failed initramfs update with do-release-upgrade

(All my regular readers could probably ignore this post; it's here to present newly learned information to the interwebs)

I was recently upgrading my Ubuntu 7.10 server to 8.04 using do-release-upgrade.  Everything was going fine until it spewed this unsightly verbage:

Processing triggers for initramfs-tools ... update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-16-server dpkg: subprocess post-installation script killed by signal (Interrupt)  Could not install the upgrades  The upgrade aborts now. Your system could be in an unusable state. A recovery will run now (dpkg --configure -a).  Please report this bug against the 'update-manager' package and include the files in /var/log/dist-upgrade/ in the bugreport. E:Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (2)  Setting up initramfs-tools (0.85eubuntu36) ... update-initramfs: deferring update (trigger activated)  Processing triggers for initramfs-tools ... update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-16-server ^[[13~ Could not install the upgrades  The upgrade aborts now. Your system could be in an unusable state. A recovery will run now (dpkg --configure -a).  Please report this bug against the 'update-manager' package and include the files in /var/log/dist-upgrade/ in the bugreport. installArchives() failed

Pretty, eh?  Well, I hunted all over the wide wide interwebs and asked around in ##linux, #ubuntu, and #debian on FreeNode.  No one really knew; the best advice I got was to format and reinstall--not something I felt like doing at the time.  I finally found the solution browsing a page not even related to it: run update-initramfs -u

That's it.  I checked (and double and triple-checked) to see if anything else seemed broken, but it didn't.  Rebooted, and ended up running 8.04, just as pretty as you please. 


Prince Caspian review

Warning: This contains spoilers for those of you who have not read the book and/or seen the movie. Read on at your own risk after consulting your lawyer (and mine).

First off, in general I'd say it's a good movie. There's some parts that made me dislike it, there's some places where they strayed pretty severely from the book, and there's some parts where it was dead amazing. Overall, I ranked it an 'A' on the survey I took.

The cons:

The movie strays from the book in a few places, most notably in the beginning and later on in a made-up scene and a few other additions. The beginning begins with the actual enactment of the birth of Miraz's son and the flight of Caspian, instead of the landing of the Pevensies on the island of Cair Paravel and Trumpkin retelling the story. In general I do not think this was a bad idea, as it makes more sense (and a more suspenseful beginning) with a third-person omniscient film rather than the book, which follows the actions of the Pevensies. However, they severely played up the pressure behind Caspian's leaving; in the book everyone stops to celebrate, and Caspian makes it out. In the movie, Caspian is only 3 feet from his would-be murderers.

One of the problems with the film is they seemed to play up the suspense when it wasn't that important in the book, and played it down when it was a bigger part of the book. This can be seen when the Pevensies land in Narnia. It takes them all of fifteen minutes to figure out that they're in Cair Paravel and that it's about a thousand years later. As well, the treasure room was, to put it lightly, unimpressive. It showed nothing of the riches of Narnia of earlier times. Instead, it held four chests, one for each of the Pevensies, and that's it. Austere would be a good description.

Another scene they totally made up was a storming of Miraz's castle. It seemed like a quick idea Peter had and wasn't planned that well. There was some suspense, but I felt apathetic to it because I knew that the Narnians would be defeated and have to retreat. They did a nice job with it, and managed to lose Edmund's torch there instead of at Cair Paravel, but it felt rather out-of-place with the rest of the story. There were also some definite Lord of the Rings steals in this scene, most notably when Edmund falls out of the tower a.l.a. Gandalf on the top of Isengard.

After they return again to Aslan's how, I never really felt the urgency to do something. It seemed (to me) that they were still pretty well off. There was never a definite count of their troops, nor a comparison with those of Miraz. They also made the stone table seem small and almost insignificant (Lucy even sits on it). The room is also very well lit; much better than if they had been running low on everything.

The final battle made some diversions from the story as well. Most notable is the partial destruction of the How, and the caving in of the ground under the plain to entrap soldiers. As well, there was an absence of Wimbleweather, the giant, and the battle seemed to still be pretty good on Caspian's side until he nearly gets himself killed and the trees step in. Again, a lack of suspense.

The makers also threw in another subplot (taking out a few original subplots, but I didn't expect them to keep them): a love story of sorts involving Susan. It starts out with a guy in London approaching her. She pretty much avoids him, and then ends up in Narnia. I picked up on the Caspian-Susan thing pretty early, as that's how my life tends to be (very very very subtle indications of feeling...), but didn't expect it to end with a kiss and all. Anyhow, I don't think it's totally worthless, as it underscores the fact that Susan's not the girl of previous books. At the end you see her as a young woman, which is kinda neat. (After all, she is 1300 years older than Caspian...) And I suppose it makes it a movie good for a date as well (not that I'd know, but making a guess...).

The pros:

The Pevensie's exit to Narnia was a pretty sweet sequence. It transitioned much smoother than, say, chimes and fairy music =]. As well, the animators got to show off their chops at animating live sets (if I'm correct in assuming that was CG).

Overall, the animation was amazing. It's gotten to the point where it's difficult to tell live action from animation, which is pretty sweet. I can't wait to see some future work from them.

As well, I enjoyed the bagpipes played by the mice when they bring Reepicheep before Aslan. It occurred to me that if the mice were men (haha), they would be Scottish. And Trumpkin was Trumpkin, all the way through.

But, the best part of the film was when Nikabrik brings in the hag and werewolf and the hag actually summons the White Witch. The whole sequence is amazing, but I was particularly blown away by the part "Just one drop of Adam's blood..." I felt that it extended the story in a very congruous fashion. In fact, I'd watch it again to see that scene again, it was that good.

Final thoughts:

This is the first film I've watched since doing a 10-minute film for Rhetoric in a weekend. I was walking out of the theater and it occurred to me just how much work postproduction would be for a film of that size. I definitely have an appreciation for everyone involved in that.

As well, it was a nice touch (to me) that Dr. Cornelius looked strikingly similar to Jerry Garcia. Glasses, hair, beard, build, face, it was all there, except for the guitar. I definitely would not have been surprised to see him pick up Wolf and play some =]

Overall, I'd watch it again. Yeah, it strays from the book, but it's a great story in it's own standing. If nothing else, you should watch it for the bewitchment scene.

[Edit:] After thinking it over and reading another review, I've rated it at 3.5 out of 5. The problem is they took and chopped up Lewis' book and tried to 'modernize' it, and failed miserably.


My parents are in Israel

And so, for their long-awaited and much celebrated 25th wedding anniversary, my parents went to Israel with Precept Ministries and a bunch of people from my church.  You can read about their adventures here:


As well, I'm proud of my dad for figuring out this whole blogging thing.  It seems that more and more non-nerds blog, something I attribute mainly to blogger.com. 

Our next president

I've been kinda thinking about this for about a week, but was waiting for one of my other friends to say it first so I could blame it on them if I was wrong.  Well, they have:


So here's my idea: Obama is going to be our next president.  He's the most well known of any presidential candidate by far.  Hillary runs a fair second, and McCain a distant third.  Hillary should be embarrassed; after all, she's a former first lady of one of our, ahem, better known presidents.  And she's a woman.  Two nice publicity cards to play.  McCain is a nobody: he has nothing "special" going for him that would gain him media coverage.  Obama has a few cards as well: he's young and a motivational speaker. 

As well, he's black.  Apparently racism is a hotter topic than feminism (or lack thereof) nowadays.  He seems to be garnering all the limelight because he's black.  And he has a black pastor who's been saying controversial, if not outright wrong things.  Two more cards for media attention.

McCain is a nobody.  He's kinda the "last man standing", that is, the Republican with the guts to tough out an election.  Not saying that Romney, Huckabee, and Paul didn't; just that they left, whereas he missed his chance to get out. He was pretty much a nonentity even when there were more candidates.  He's too liberal for many Republicans.  And he never made a big stir about anything.  Huckabee and Romney at least seemed to be causing somewhat of a ruckus what with the religion and Mormonism cards.  Not McCain.

And that's the problem.  McCain is a half-decent candidate, but no one knows who he is.  Hillary has lost the card battle to Obama; as well, I think her dead horse of universal health care might have been beaten a little too much. 

As well, Hillary is a weak candidate for other reasons.  I had to analyze some political standpoints for each candidate, and browsing through the answers for topics such as the war and Internet security I noticed Hillary seemed to be unusually skilled in giving nonanswers.  When asked for her general plan for the war, her response, stripped of political-ese and boiled down, was this: In about 3 months after I'm instated (that's April or May, for those of us counting), I'll get together a bunch of people who know about the war and see if maybe we should do something.  Oh, and I'll be giving all the soldiers universal health care.  Because, we all know their job is so, um, dangerous. 

Obama, instead, at least seemed to have plans for most stuff, even if I didn't agree with him.  McCain I noticed had answered a few questions with an "I've done x, y, and z about this in the past."

So, as much as I dislike it, here's to Obama as the next president.  Wishing not, but, well, what can I do...


Another web exploit

This time it's on those stupid link pages that you get when you type in a bad web address (like, say, http://male.google.com). 


Basically, hackers can make stuff look like it's from trusted domains, like google or paypal, and put whatever they want up there by just hacking the ad page servers, which aren't well known for their security. Watch those links and install NoScript if you're paranoid, like me =]


This should be a poem, but I'm not a poet =[

You sit at your computer, home from school.  You open your mail program and click the Get New Mail button.  "Downloading message 34 of 112," the status reads.  You scroll through your folders, hoping that at least one of those 112 emails was written for you. You watch the Facebook folder, glancing occasionally at the download counter as the mail comes in, hoping that someone took the time to notice you.  It's done getting mail.  Not one of the 112 emails were written to you.  Just standard mail list traffic.  You open your iTunes, hoping that there's something there for you to listen to.  You switch back to your email and start reading mail lists. 

You switch over to your browser and open Facebook.  There's nothing going on there, either.  Just one friend is online, and there's a moon by her name. Then you type in the Facebook search box the name of someone special to you, but only you know.  You open up her profile and skim it.  You see the wall, but pass it by.  Nothing.  You click "home" and switch back to your mail and keep reading.  There's nothing to do.

An hour later, you're done reading everything that came in.  You look around.  There's still nothing going on on Facebook.  You click the "get new mail" button again, hoping that there's something waiting to come in to keep your mind off your situation for a precious few seconds.  Nothing. 

There's nothing to do, so you change into pajamas and go to bed early.  You lay there in the dark, thinking of everything that happened that day, everything you saw, all the things your friends and acquaintances did. 

You feel separated.  You have few friends, and you don't know them very well.  You feel separated from almost everything that is going on around you.

Your problem?  You're too shy.


Free music

Coldplay is running a promo this week offering a free download of a track from their new album. 


Only catch is you have to give them your email address...not sure if this could be a source of spam, but hopefully not (and anyhow, I have a gmail, which catches all of the spam I currently get). 

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Archive.org has a great collection of Grateful Dead concert recordings.  You can stream both soundboard and audience recordings and download the audience ones.


I'd particularly recommend April 6, 1985:


Oh, and if you're downloading, I'd download the VBR as I'm starting to wonder if low-bitrate mp3 encoding damages your hearing...my ears definitely ring more after listening to a 64kbps mp3 than a 192.


The story of Helmer

Ran across this guy online who used an Ikea cabinet as a case for a massively parallel computer:


Actually, I'm pretty jealous as I've been thinking about setting up something like a Beowulf cluster for a video project I have at school.  Any ideas as to how much of an improvement this would be?

Apple ][gs laptop

The amazing Ben Heckendorn has been working again on an Apple ][gs laptop, and what can I say?  It's beautiful. 


The man is amazing.


Sin as Economics

So many times I find myself thinking of sin economically.  Not necessarily "how much money can I make off doing this sin?" (in fact, I don't have trouble with stealing =]) but more in the sense of sin vs. punishment.  Keep in mind that economics is the study of choices.  

In economics there's these imaginary units called utils that are used to measure satisfaction.  If you purchase something, that means that you think that you will get more utils out of the purchase than either keeping the money or spending it on something else.  

Carry this over to sin.  How often do we think of sin--breaking the law--in this fashion: "Well, how bad is the punishment?  Oh, just that.  That's nothing, so I'll go ahead and commit the crime"?  Take, for example, tax night.  My dad drives up to the post office at ~10:30 PM and finds that if he wants to turn in his taxes on time, he'll have to drive all the way downtown.  There's a few other guys there, and one of them asks just how big the late fine is.  See?  Not, "Well, I guess I'll be driving downtown because I'm a law-abiding citizen and it's the right thing to do," but rather, "Well, the fine isn't that bad, so I'll break the law, pay the fine, and be done with it."

The fundamental problem is a lack of fear of sin.  We often don't realize just how serious sin is, and think of it more in terms of how bad the punishment will be.  If we get more utils from committing the sin (minus the lost utils from the punishment) than we would if we did not sin, that sin suddenly becomes 'ok'.  Whereas we should respect sin for what it is: deserving of eternal damnation.  "The blood of Christ is made cheap" as one commentator put it.  

As well, punishments are not intended primarily as deterrents.  This may sound odd, but think about it for a minute.  If law's punishments were primarily deterrents, the law would become draconian very quickly.  Hang the bank robber.  No one will ever rob a bank again, because they don't get any utils from it.  The problem with that is that the punishment does not fit the crime.  

Punishment fitting the crime is a Biblical concept that goes back a long time.  It attempts to set aright what was done wrong on earth, but does nothing related to what was done wrong in heaven.  That's left to Christ.

Let us not make Christ's blood cheap.


Apple's big mistake with multitouch

I remember when I posted about the new MacBooks and MacBookPros here a while ago.  I remember being excited, but slightly confused, that there was multi-touch in the new MacBookPros ONLY.  But I was satisfied for the time; after all, multitouch is a pro feature, so Apple just doesn't want to give it to everyone, because that makes the machines more expensive, right?

Well, yes.  But it's shooting yourself in the foot all the same. 

Multitouch sounds like an awesome idea.  I'm sure there are API's that let third-party software interact with it.  And this is the problem.

How many people would justify spending ~$1000 more for a laptop to get multitouch functionality when, say, a base MacBook would work for them?  Not many!

So here's the problem.  Apple puts multitouch in the MBA and MBP, but not the MB, which is their most popular laptop.  Developers look at this and say, "Why bother writing all the code for multitouch when only a small subset of my users will actually use it?  After all, it's only on Apple's less common laptops."  I just can't see a lot of developers saying, "Well, multitouch only works on the MBP's and MBA's.  Sorry, you lowly MB user, but you can't use all that wonderful code I wrote for multitouch because of Apple."

Sure, pro software packages might add multitouch support.  But your average developer?  Probably not. 

And that's the problem.  Without a large dev base, multitouch won't catch on, and Apple will have something cool but practically useless. 

If it's the wave of the future (or something like that), why not focus on getting it in the hands of the masses?


Registry Woes

I just backed up my registry.  That was eye-opening.  It's 114 MB!  That's huge.  And yes, I have cleaned it with CCleaner (which is absolutely amazing).   And I wonder why I don't switch to Linux.  Hah.  No registry to corrupt there.  

Coincidentally, I remember a friend who had a really messed up registry.  The computer would check it when it started up, and he had to quit the check application via CTRL-ALT-DEL.  I eventually became a hero for fixing it (had to use a bit of DOS chops to get it done), but by then he'd gotten a new machine.  I should ask him for his old laptop.  Not a shabby machine to mess around with...but I digress.

Microsoft, why oh why did you make the registry in the first place?

To Linux or not to Linux?

I've been reading some of the copious (and sometimes almost unrelated) documentation of emacs, and I'm now considering switching entirely to a GNU/Linux setup as well as releasing iKalk under the GPL (maybe after I clean some of the source up; it's really ugly =]).  I like the idea of GNU, and I've used Linux before.  In fact, I've been very pleased by both Linux and the programs for it.  It's been stable and fairly easy-to-use.  And I'm in love with BASH; it's so much more powerful than CMD.  I mainly use FLOSS software: OpenOffice, the Mozilla suite, Eclipse, Audacity.  The one thing that really has me worried is those few Windows-only apps.  For instance, I need to be able to run Microsoft Publisher, and I'm loathe to leave PowerPoint behind.  It's just more powerful than OO Impress.  And there's ReBirth, a software synth that's available free.  I've only got 30 GB of space on my hard drive, so dual-boot is pretty much out of the question.  And at 1.2 GHz, virtualizing anything is horrible.  Anyone want to contribute to the pot for a new laptop for me?  I'm aware of Wine, just not sure how well it runs those programs (need to check Wine HQ; someone want to do this for me, please?).  And then there's C and C++.  I know Linux is an excellent platform for learning those languages, but most books will expect you to have all the Windows APIs, right?  

Any advice/ideas/derision will be appreciated.

Default: goto(hell);

It's fairly common to hear people say that they're good enough to get into heaven.  Most of them would argue that their good works are what gets them into heaven; however, their main problem is that they think of heaven as the default case.  

"Default case" is a programmer's term used to describe, well, the default case.  In programming there's a thing in most languages called "select case".  It is basically a big IF-THEN structure. I'll show you an example:

IF-THEN structure:
if a = b then
    do THIS
    if a = c then
        do THAT
        if a = d then
            do THEOTHER
            do WHATEVER

Select Case structure:
select case a
case b:
    do THIS
case c:
    do THAT
case d:
end select

("break" tells the program to skip the rest of the stuff in the select.  If I didn't put the breaks in, and a = b, then the computer would do THIS, THAT, THEOTHER, and WHATEVER.  Yeah, it's kinda dumb, but it's useful.)

See?  People think that if they just live life and aren't mean very much, and do some good stuff, they'll go to heaven.  If they do bad stuff, like murder, then maybe they've been bad enough to go to hell.  Their idea of life is something like this:

select case Me
case Murdered:
case Embezzled:
    if AmountEmbezzled > 1000000 then
end select

Whereas reality is:

select case Me
case Elect:
end select

Big difference, eh?

(yeah, I admit, as I have before, to being a nerd =])

Emacs devel mailing list humor

I recently got emacs set up on my computer, and ran across DEVEL.HUMOR, a file of humorous exchanges on the emacs devel list.  I thought I'd share:

  "In order to bring the user's attention to the minibuffer when an item such as 'Edit -> Search' is activated from the menu, I was just thinking that we could draw a big rectangle around the minibuffer, blinking (or zooming in-and-out) until some input is typed in."
  "How about dancing elephants?"
  "They don't fit in my office."
  "Well once the elephants are done, your office will be much... bigger."
                  -- Stefan Monnier, Miles Bader and Kai Grossjohann

I remember these versions as yard-rocks (is that between inch-pebbles and mile-stones?).
                  -- Kai Grossjohann

  "Aren't user-defined constants useful in other languages?"   "The only user-defined constant is ignorance.  (With programmers, this is a variable concept ;-)"
                  -- Juanma Barranquero and Thien-Thi Nguyen

  "Uh, 'archaic' and 'alive' is not a contradiction."
  "Yes it is.  'Archaic' does not mean 'old' or 'early'.  It means 'obsolete'."
  "'He arche' in Greek means 'the beginning'.  John 1 starts off with 'En arche en ho Logos': in the beginning, there was the word.  Now of course we all know that Emacs was there before Word, but this might have escaped John's notice."
                  -- David Kastrup and RMS

  "[T]here may be a good reason since the code explicitly checks for this; see keyboard.c:789 [...]"
  "I think I understand, but I can't find the code in keyboard.c.  Do you really mean 'line 789'?  Of which revision?"
  "Sorry; by 789, I mean 3262 :-P"
                  -- Chong Yidong and Stefan Monnier

  "Despite being a maths graduate, I can't think of any other such constants with anything like the universality of e and pi."
                                -- Alan Mackenzie and David Hansen