Well, I'm finally using Firefox 1.5... Hit-a-Hint has been updated, an extension called MenuX will suffice for text enlargement until TextZoom is updated, and Mihai recently updated all those fancy-schmancy Greasemonkey user scripts for the new version.
Finally! I can use this nifty new browser, since my customizations are now all available. Whew...
Saturday, December 31
Well, I'm finally using Firefox 1.5... Hit-a-Hint has been updated, an extension called MenuX will suffice for text enlargement until TextZoom is updated, and Mihai recently updated all those fancy-schmancy Greasemonkey user scripts for the new version.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 5:20 PM
Friday, December 30
Thursday, December 29
This article (linked below) by John C. Dvorak details his thoughts about Microsoft's new idea to consider moving to a subscription-based model for software purchases. I think he's right for consumer-level users, but a subscription service could be great for corporate users.
See the latest episode of Inside the Net to hear a discussion of subscription-based software models. Microsoft couldn't switch to this for consumers who are used to flat-fee installed software, but the constant security updates of a Web-based subscription service could definitely help corporations stay on top of the latest version of Office... Microsoft could even sell a version that the corporation could host on their own server rather than jack into the main M$ mainframe.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 1:40 PM
Wednesday, December 28
I read C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia three times as a kid (well, the first time I was 8 or so and quit partway into The Last Battle because I didn't understand it). Each time, I went through the series in the order the books were published - Wardrobe, Caspian, Voyage, Chair, Horse, Nephew, Battle. This was the order in which "full sets" came at the time, and I think it makes a lot of sense. After all, this was the order in which Lewis thought of and created the world of Narnia. (Well, that's not quite true: The Horse and His Boy was actually composed slightly before The Silver Chair.)
I noticed, when visiting my neighborhood Barnes and Noble about six months ago, that full sets are now being ordered semi-chronologically according to the order of events - Nephew, Wardrobe, Horse, Prince, Voyage, Chair, Battle. I say semi-chronologically because the events of The Horse and His Boy actually take place between the penultimate and final chapters of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
You'll notice, in the essay I've linked to below, that these two reading orders sharply divide fans of the series. I won't go into any detail here since it is so plainly laid out in the essay I'm referencing, but suffice it to say that I agree wholeheartedly with the philosophical points raised by the author. The series is neither fantastical history nor allegory (in the strict senses of the words); so an attempt to use reading order to apply either of those descriptions loses the idea of the whole thing.
In any case, the next time I read the Chronicles, I will read them in the order in which they were actually penned (publication order, with Horse and Chair switched), in order to see them more closely through the eyes of their author.
By the way, the BBC recently aired dramatizations of Nephew, Wardrobe, Horse, and Caspian, which are still available to be listened to until next Sunday by visiting this BBC7 Listen Again page.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:57 PM
Thursday, December 22
Wednesday, December 21
My wife put this up on her blog, and it seems she'd like me to do it as well, so here goes...
7 Things I Hope To do Before God Calls Me Home
- Visit Europe
- Sit in the audience for a recording of BBC4's "Just a Minute"
- Figure out what career God has in store for me
- Become fluent in German
- Learn a programming language other than BASIC
- Own a home
- Figure out the Question for the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything
7 Things I cannot Do
- Touch my nose with my tongue
- Push-ups from my toes
- Drive a stick-shift automobile
- Watch my wife be upset without trying to help
- Drink a gallon of milk in one sitting
- Tolerate injustice
- Satisfy my quest for knowledge
7 Things that Attracted Me to My Wife (and still do!)
- Beautiful smile
- Infectious laugh (and how I can bring it out of her fairly easily)
- Thirst for knowledge
- Passion for the Truth
- Godly lifestyle
- Ability to share herself and her thoughts through writing
- Knowing just what I need, when I need it
7 Things I say Most Often
- No problem.
- You got it.
- Yes, Dear.
- (to Lauren) Slow down; get some rest.
- (to Lauren) I love you.
- (When asked what I want for dinner) Food.
7 Books or Series That I Like Most
- C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia (I want to read them again after I read Mere Christianity)
- J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Trilogy
- Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic
- Isaac Asimov, Robot Novels (incl. Robots & Empire)
- Peter Kreeft, A Refutation of Moral Relativism
- John Grisham, The Firm
7 Movies I Watch Repeatedly
- The Saint
- The Shawshank Redemption
- 10 Things I Hate About You
- That Thing You Do
- The Matrix
- The Thomas Crown Affair
7 People I'd Like to See Make Similar Lists
- Lauren (but I already did)
Posted by augmentedfourth at 5:17 PM
Tuesday, December 20
I wrote this post yesterday, but somehow it was lost in the ether of the Internet. So now here I am again to rewrite it...
I listen to podcasts. I use iTunes and have an iPod nano (2GB, black). iTunes works pretty well as a podcatcher-- much better than any of the standalone apps, even-- but I have a few gripes/feature requests that could make it even better.
1) Separate podcast subscriptions into groups
This would work like playlist folders, and allow the user to create groups of podcasts instead of needing to view all shows and episodes in one big conglomeration. For instance, I would use this feature to put all of my video podcasts in one group, all of the Radio Leo podcasts in another group, etc.
2) Convert Podcast MP3s to regular MP3s
I'd love to be able to remove episodes from the Podcast view, but keep them in the Library still for future reference. This way, I'm only seeing new podcasts in the Podcast view, but still have access to past shows I've downloaded.
3) More options for episode longevity
I currently have iTunes set to keep "all unplayed episodes." It would be great if iTunes could leave the episodes in the Library after they're played instead of deleting the files entirely (see #2 above). Also, it would be great if the episodes could be set to automtically be deleted or moved out of the Podcasts section after a certain amount of time has passed since either the episode release or the time of download.
4) Longevity options for individual shows
I'd like to be able to set the options discussed in #3 for each individual podcast. Maybe I want the episodes from Channel Frederator to be moved out of the Podcast section after one full play, but completely delete all episodes of Jawbone Radio after they've been on my iPod for two weeks whether they've been listened to or not.
I think these enhancements would make iTunes the perfect podcast client. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 9:44 AM
Friday, December 2
I suppose I would be remiss not mention the fact that Firefox 1.5 is now available at mozilla.com. However, I'm still not using it.
It runs really well on my Mac. The speed is great, and it feels much more integrated into OSX than its previous counterparts. However, it doesn't yet support my browsing habits. My most important extensions, TextZoom and Hit-a-Hint, don't work just yet (though momokatte has poked his head out after a five-month hibernation to let us know that TextZoom is presumably being worked on). Also, the app loses keyboard focus when hitting command-W to close a tab. This is horrible for me, since I basically do all my browsing with the keyboard and it's very annoying to have to keep reaching for the mouse to click into a window and regain focus.
It looks like a really great product, but unfortunately I won't be able to make it my primary browser for a while.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 8:42 AM
Thursday, December 1
Anybody who looks at this blog (and who gets here from somewhere other than a search engine) has probably noticed that the entire month of November only produced 10 posts from me.
This is not an apology.
I do this blog for myself, and because I like to make comments about tech developments. Without ripping entire pages from Greg Dean's I'll-update-when-I-choose-to-update playbook, I'd just like to say that I do plan on continuing to update this blog when I have the time and/or inclination.
If you want to read something that's updated more regularly, go to Google News or something :).
Posted by augmentedfourth at 11:21 AM
Tuesday, November 15
Monday, November 14
A new study by food scientists at Brigham Young University proves that many food can be healthfully and edibly stored nearly indefinitely at room temperature or below.
This is interesting, but it's not news to me. My dad works for Frito Lay as a route salesman; he delivers and creates displays for Lays, Doritos, and Ruffles in a number of stores. Once the chips go past their marked "sell by" date, he can no longer sell them, so he can mark them on his report as "stales" and bring them home. I don't think I ate a fresh Cheeto during my entire childhood.
But that doesn't diminish their edibility. Snack products, like those with the Frito brand name, are simply swimming in preservatives. They can still taste good months after they've gone "out of code" (as they say in the biz). I'm certainly not surprised that packaged foods remain passably edible far longer than that.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 8:21 PM
Wednesday, November 9
I now loathe the above image. The Google Reader interface is cool-looking, and the keyboard navigation is excellent (I even figured out how to open items in background tabs via the keyboard with the Hit-a-Hint Firefox extension), but it just doesn't fit my style of feed-reading. And the unending waits for that "Loading..." graphic to go away are literally starting to hurt.
My style is much like that described in this blog post at tanglebones.com. The comments in that post do give me hope for the future of Google Reader, but the current state of its stream-of-consciousness interface just doesn't help me at all. I tried keeping it as my main feed reader for a couple of days, and it nearly drove me insane.
So I'll *try* to stop posting about it. No guarantees, though.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:23 AM
Tuesday, November 8
(Part One of this post)
From the news story in The Australian, linked below:
His statements were interpreted in Italy as a rejection of the 'intelligent design' view, which says the universe is so complex that some higher being must have designed every detail.
Say what?!? Intelligent Design points to a designer/creator, and of course Cardinal Paul Poupard still stands for the Biblical truth that God is the creator of the Universe. His aggregate of Creationism and Evolution still falls under the umbrella of Intelligent Design, since the church will never so much as imply that God is not a divine Creator.
The only thing Poupard is saying is that Evolution could be accepted as the manner God chose to use when creating the universe. He is in no way denying Intelligent Design. ID can mean either Special Creation (the "Poof!" theory) or directed evolution, and all he's proposing is that Theistic Evolution is a viable theory, which still is an endorsement of ID.
Whoever "interpreted" his comments as a rejection of ID obviously does not understand the theory of Intelligent Design. Too many people have believed the lie that ID and Special Creationism are one and the same, which is in no way the case. Please get your facts right before making blatant assumptions, people!
Posted by augmentedfourth at 1:43 PM
(Part Two of this post)
Cardinal Paul Poupard is calling for an end to the "mutual prejudice" between science and faith, citing the church's incrimination of Galileo in the 17th century as an example of an unnecessary clash between the two groups. In 1992, Pope John Paul II declared the Galileo incident an error of "tragic mutual incomprehension," and Cardinal Poupard is trying to bridge the gap between science and religion to prevent such a tragdy from ocurring again.
I thoroughly support this effort; I feel that the truth will be found, like Aristotle's description of virtue, at "the mean between extremes." Radicals on either side are sure to have it at least partly wrong, but cooperation will provide a way to move forward productively.
The evidence provided by science has become too persuasive for the church to ignore. What must be done, as in the case of the Intelligent Design theory, is to propose a new interpretation of that evidence that fits within the faith-based paradigm. After all, evolution is only an interpretation of the findings of science despite its rigid following. For scientists to completely disregard other interpretations is inherently unscientific.
I know I've just opened a can of worms here, but my morning break is just about over so I'll finish with this thought: Hard-line evolutionists are just as closed-minded as they accuse fundamentalists of being. The essence of scientific thinking is being open to new discoveries and ideas, and refusing to incorporate (or even listen to) new lines of thought runs counter to the whole premise of scientific exploration.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:32 AM
Monday, November 7
I saw this show, which is a biography of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons that includes a lot of their famous songs, when it was first introduced at the La Jolla Playhouse here in San Diego. I loved it, and when there was talk of it possibly hitting Broadway I wasn't surprised. Now that the show has actually made it into the big leagues of theater arts, I feel proud to have participated in its very first run.
The cast is even the same as the La Jolla production, with the exception of David Norona, who played Valli. According to an article in the North [San Diego] County Times, Norona withdrew from the role because the high falsetto notes he was required to continually sing eventually wore out his voice. He even used a chalkboard to communicate between shows rather than running the risk posed by merely speaking.
The show is great, and while I'm not a big Seasons fan (I wasn't even born until almost two decades past their heyday) I recognized most of the tunes and was able to appreciate the acting and musical talents of the players. I heartily recommend "Jersey Boys" to anybody seeking some good old-time entertainment. Even the portions of the band's story that take on a darker demeanor take on the pace and peppiness of the rest of the show, though I wouldn't recommend taking children to see this play as there is a smattering of coarseness.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 11:50 AM
Wednesday, November 2
Intelligent Design is a hot-button issue right now (especially in Dover, PA), and I just wanted to add my thoughts to the ongoing discussion.
Firstly, Intelligent Design does NOT specifically mean Special Creationism. Special Creationism is the theory that God spoke all things into existence from nothing in a "Poof! There it is!" sort of way. It doesn't mean that this isn't the case, but all it realistically implies is that there was some sort of guiding force (not necessarily even God) that brought rise to the complex system we see around us today.
I'm not fully convinced by every argument on GotQuestions.org, which is where the linked article comes from, but the definition they give of ID is the clearest and most succint I've seen. Reading some of the other articles on the site I can tell that those at GotQuestions definitely are Special Creationists, and I happen to espouse the theory of Theistic Evolution (which they supposedly refute).
They also say there are only two versions of Theistic Evolution:
1) God set everything up just so, and then he set it into motion and just watches (deism, or the "Blind Watchmaker" theory)
2) God is intimately involved in every physical process, and He has taken all forms of life step by step
I disagree with both of those. My theory of Theistic Evolution is that God did set everything up "just so" (for instance, so that planets would align in the night sky to look exactly as it did in order to lead the Magi to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus), but that He is intimately involved in His creation... not to the point of the physical manipulation of all living things, but as a maintainer and protector. Also, that He is much more involved in the spiritual lives of humans than He is in the minutiae of the physical world (though he is aware of it all).
This is still a fledgling theory, and I am not an expert (but my wife, an environmental scientist, is), but it makes sense to me... at least for now. I'll deal with the "problem" of death existing before Adam, GotQuestions's main argument against Theistic Evolution, later.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 1:31 PM
Tuesday, November 1
Google Reader has had a bit of an update. I really like it now, but it needs two things:
1. A "Mark All As Read" button for viewing feed items by tag
2. The ability for the "V" keyboard shortcut to open items in a new background tab in Firefox (like all the rest of my links) rather than opening a whole new window.
However, I have to congratulate the Google guys on creating a useful tool. Even though it's not useful for my particular working style just yet, I can see that a lot of thought and skill were present in its design and coding.
By the way, is it at all possible to delete the Reader service from my Google account so I can start fresh without all of the crud I've collected while I try it out (Read items, etc.)? I've even noticed that importing a new OPML into my account on which everything has been unsubscribed (fewer feeds are present than were in my first OPML import) causes a bunch of items from previously-subscribed feeds to show up again as "new," even though I don't have those feeds in my Subscriptions list.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:11 PM
Tuesday, October 25
Saturday, October 22
An interesting article speculating on Apple's future in the Media Center PC business.
For what it's worth, my first reaction when I saw the new iMac was that they should put FrontRow into a Mac Mini with video-out ports. If they market it as a DVD player with a hard drive (which, by the way, also runs OSX), I think it could be a huge winner.
Since I'm pontificating on products I think Apple should make, let me also add that a Powerbook tablet would be awesome. Tablets are the computers that are basically just a touch-sensitive screen, but the ones that exist only run Windows thus far. There are also convertibles, which are basically laptops whose screens swivel around to become Tablet PCs. I'm not sure if the Apple tablet should be a convertible (John C. Dvorak thinks convertibles negate all the coolness of the tablet idea, anyway), but I'd really love to be able to view PDF documents on a screen rotated to Portrait orientation... especially if I had a PDF viewer application that I could use to make notes that are saved with the PDF itself (for example, by saving an additional graphic layer that is superimposed onto the PDF). If I had this, I could cut the number of pages I actually print at work by at least 50%... most of my printing is because I need to look at proofs and scribble edits on them, just to make the edits to the file and print them out again. The MusicPad Pro by Freehand Systems does basically this very thing, but it runs a customized and stripped-down Linux distro. I'd really like to be able to use a tablet that had the full power of OSX on it in addition to viewing and note-taking capabilities.
So, the media center Mini, the tablet Mac, and... the iPod PDA. There are actually very few changes Apple would have to make in order to flesh the iPod out as more of a PDA. Fore example, using only the controls they've implemented already, it should be simple to add a feature that lets you check and uncheck to-do items (as mentioned in the first comment on the iPod nano review to which I linked earlier. It would be very cool if they could somehow include a slide-out QWERTY keyboard or something as well, but any minor ability to perform any sort of input or edit actions on calendar, todo, or contact data would be awesome.
So, Steve-O, if you're listening... I want:
1. an iPod PDA (nano would be even cooler than full-size)
2. an OSX tablet (and a PDF reader that allows recordable edits via the touch-screen)
3. a Mac media center (but this is nowhere near as useful as the other two; it's just cool)
Posted by augmentedfourth at 2:39 PM
Wednesday, October 19
Monday, October 17
There are a bunch of misspellings in product titles and descriptions on eBay. Since it's hard to find them due to the nearly infinite number of ways to screw up words, they usually have lower prices than "mainstream" auctions since many people haven't found them.
Then comes Fat Fingers, a Web service that will search eBay for misspellings of whatever term you want. It will search delete each letter one by one (axopone, sxophone, saophone, etc.), duplicate each letter one by one (ssaxophone, saaxophone, saxxophone, etc.) and even swap consonants with others that may accidentally have been used (saxophome, saxophobe, etc.).
The upshot is that you get to see some auctions that are "hidden in the cracks" at eBay. Happy hunting!
Posted by augmentedfourth at 2:10 PM
Sunday, October 16
Thursday, October 13
La Espada de la noche (linked above), by Ted Nash and his band Odeon, is rapidly becoming my favorite album. Occasion, by Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis is vying for the top spot as well, but I'll leave a discussion of that one for another day.
Odeon is an awesome jazz quintet. Well, not exactly jazz... but the group is shaped much like the quintets made famous by Horace Silver. Silver's quintets contain:
- Tenor sax
- Piano (Silver himself)
- Drum set
- Comping instrument
- Bass line
Odeon is no different in the basic structure, but (get this!) the instruments chose to play the fixed roles are these:
- Tenor Sax/Clarinet
- Tuba/Trombone/Baritone Horn
- Drum set
And it works! It's not exactly what some call "jazz," but the instrumentation creates a really neat feel of a tango/klezmer ensemble with a brass band influence. You can click this post's link, above, to go to Amazon and hear some clips from the CD.
It's great stuff, and all the better because it's unusual. Those who know me best are aware that the thing I value most in music is unpredictability, and this novel ensemble are about as unpredictable as it gets without straying into some sort of Schoenbergian serialism. There's even a rendition of "Night in Tunisia" on the album for the jazz devotees, but it's played in a style you've never heard before. I highly recommend it, both as an intellectual exercise in broadening your musical horizons and as a piece of art that's just really good.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 12:57 PM
The linked article, over at Daring Fireball, describes in more detail some of the cool new features of the new products that Steve Jobs unveiled yesterday.
I have two main comments:
1. Yes, I agree that this FrontRow technology should somehow be hooked up to a television. Maybe a Mac Mini that's styled a bit more like a DVD player, with Front Row and a TV-out ports?
2. The whole $1.99-per-episode TV thing is cool, but I think it's way over-priced. For instance, each season of the TV show Friends has 23-25 episodes, and they currently sell in boxed sets for $20-30 (depending on how old the season is). That's only about a dollar an episode, plus it's in DVD format with full-screen resolution (not measly QVGA) and the whole "collector's item" stigma since they're in the boxed set. People will think that this "legal TV download" thing is cool for a while, but eventually they'll realize what a bum deal they're getting price-wise.
Granted, the downloadable shows are available the day after the original broadcast, so the speed in delivery (as opposed to a year or two for full-season DVDs to be produced) might make it worth it for some people. I know that, if ABC had put Commander in Chief up on the iTunes Video Store, I would have downloaded the second episode (which I missed for the actual TV broadcast) right away.
Also, another mitigating factor is that the full-season Friends DVDs were $35-40 when they were first released, about $1.50 per episode. Since the iTunes TV shows are immediately available they might be worth it... *if* they had high enough resolution to play on a proper television and not on a 320x240 video iPod screen. But making high-res video available would increase the download time significantly, and in our current gotta-have-it-now culture that might decrease the attraction quite a bit.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 8:38 AM
Wednesday, October 12
Summary from today's Apple announcement:
New iMac G5:
- built-in iSight camera
- FrontRow remote control
- Photobooth software (takes pictures via iSight)
- Mighty Mouse comes with it
- 17-inch: $1299. 20-inch: $1699.
- larger screen (320x240=quarter-VGA)
- more HD space
- plays video
- black and white models, like nano
- 30GB: $299. 60GB: $399.
- Version 6.0
- Download music videos for $1.99 apiece
- TV Shows available as well: Desperate Housewives, and 3 (maybe 4) other ABC shows
- Videos are QVGA native resolution
available now for download (not in Software Update yet)
- Oh yeah, and you can also now give songs and videos as gifts via the iTMS
UPDATE: I've got iTunes 6.0 installed now, but the Videos aren't coming. I can see the page for Pixar's shorts, but clicking on the "Preview" button doesn't yet produce a preview of the short film.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 11:34 AM
So, it looks like they've picked a new Bond: some blond guy I've never heard of named Daniel Craig. It seems he's often played the villain (most notably in the original Tomb Raider movie), so I wonder if he'll be able to play the suave, debonair, devil-may-care hero with enough panache to be distinguished from the next Bond nemesis.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 8:21 AM
Tuesday, October 11
OK, the Google Reader is completely broken for me. I can't see any feed items, and it crashes Firefox when I wait too long hoping that it loads.
Basically, since I decided that I wasn't going to fully "switch," I unsubscribed from all my feeds except one that is infrequently updated. (This way, I figured, going back to check on the interface will mean that I won't have a ton of unread items that I'll have to mark, individually, as read.)
Well, Google Reader didn't respond very well to me unsubscribing from 24 feeds in the space of 2-3 minutes, and now I can't see anything at all. I can see the stuff at the top, and the "Loading" bit with the bubbling beaker, but the browsing interface never comes up.
I know the Reader team are checking the Google Blog Search feed for items that talk about their new product; if any of you sees this, can you see what the problem is? If you need to get more info from me, post a comment to this blog entry and I'll get back to you. Or if it's Mihai that reads this, you've already got my email address... I'm the one you helped to customize your Gmail Tweaks userscript back in March so that messages and the Compose pane always show up with fixed-width fonts.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:02 PM
Monday, October 10
It's big news, supposedly, since all the blogs and news sites mention it.
I, for one, answer with a great big *yawn*. Odeo eats it for breakfast, especially since it has the ability to turn all of your subscriptions into a single RSS feed that can be accessed from anywhere and only includes the items you haven't yet downloaded.
I'd rather use Bloglines for a podcast client than tie up my podcast browsing/listening in this new POS from Yahoo!.
UPDATE: OK, there is *one* cool thing about it. You can speed up the podcast (up to 2x the recorded speed!) without making the voices sound like chipmunks. You can also slow it down to 0.5x, but who wants to do that?!? But his feature has major caveats that bring it way down on the "cool" scale... you have to be using Yahoo!'s Web podcast player (which means you actually have to be sitting at a computer), and you must be using Internet Explorer on Windows for the feature to work.
This is pretty neat, so you can speed up talk shows a bit, spend less time listening, and still understand what you're hearing. But it's difficult to find enough power for a DESKTOP WINDOWS MACHINE in your CAR...
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:59 PM
Google just launched a new online product, a web-based RSS and Atom feed-reader. If you don't care enough to read the rest of this article, here's my synopsis: Great idea, with absolutely horrible execution. For those who are actually, interested, let's see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
First of all, the idea of "tagging" is cool. Also, Google Reader was able to import my OPML-formatted subscription list from Bloglines without so much as a hiccup. It even applied tags to the feeds based on the folders in which I'd categorized them in Bloglines.
That's where the coolness ends. Once you get your feeds into Google Reader, you have almost no customization about how they are displayed. Your feeds all get thrown into one box, stirred up, and spit back out at you semi-randomly. Even telling the interface to sort items by date doesn't even really work: it seems to display items in the order that Google recognized them, so if the feed is polled and there are 4 new items, they all get clumped together in the interface and not interleaved with items from other feeds.
Secondly, it's not particularly smart about noticing whether items are "new" or not. For some reason, it seemed to always see every item in my local newspaper's feed as "new," so I saw 5 or 6 copies of every feed item (and they were all clumped together, I assume by polling interval, in the manner described above).
But I don't even *want* to view items from all feeds in chronological order. I want to look at feeds from one label at a time (and I wouldn't mind if these were interleaved chronologically, as long as it was by posting date). I know you can do this, but it involves clicking on "Your Subscriptions" and waiting for the page to load, whereas Bloglines's "myblogs" interface allows this by default.
And what's with the backwards feed list? I want to view items oldest first, but there's no option for that. The whole reason for blogs showing up anti-chronologically was so that you could easily see above-the-fold that the page had new items. Now, with feed-readers, we are able to see only unread items, so we should at least be able to see them in their proper order. Sure, some people got used to the backwards order, but there should at least be an option to make it display the other way.
And I don't know how my personal feeds are being cached (for example, Library ELF, Odeo, and My Comic Alert!). A system of viewing other people's reading lists has apparently been unearthed, though it's not operational yet. (The link goes to a conversation on the Google Blogoscoped forums about Google Reader). I don't want people having access to those sorts of things. What about people who view their unread gmail messages via RSS? I'm sure they don't want to share their account details if they've put them right in the feed address.
Also, aside from these usability issues, there's a pretty bad bug (which is sort of a usability issue in and of itself). Items can only be marked as unread if you move from that item to another, like in Outlook's "mark as read when viewing another item" capability. This means that, if only one item is displayed onscreen, there is no way to mark it as read because there are no other feeds items to "move to."
So, the upshot of all this is a set of feature requests:
1. Show labels on the mainpage.
2. If you're going to pretend to sort items by date, interleave the items in multiple feeds by their posting date.
3. Tell us how the polling works, and learn to distinguish items you've seen from ones you haven't. Also, let us choose how to treat updated feed items (like the Ignore/Display as New option for individual feeds in Bloglines).
4. Include an option to show items oldest-first.
5. Tell us how items are cached, and allow some sort of option to remove personal feeds from the globally-accessible cache (like the designation of public/private in Bloglines).
6. Fix the "stays unread when only one item" bug. I suppose you could start the page with no items showing at all, and mark an item as read when the user selects it (the "j" keystroke could automatically select the first item in the list).
7. The "V" keystroke, to view the source article of the current feed item, is an awesome idea. However, it forces a new window to open in Firefox when it's used. Make the method it uses to call the link more standardized so that I can set the browser to automatically pull the source in as a tab in the background.
In general, I love the idea. The system of displaying feeds and allowing keyboard navigation is superb. It's also great that the aspect ratios of images don't get screwed up in blog posts, which is one of Bloglines's great problems. However, there aren't enough customizablity options, and the preferences we're stuck with just don't float my boat. I'll keep using Bloglines for now, but I'll check back often to see when (because I know it's not an "if") the Reader gets better.
You know how you always think of more things to say as soon as you hang up the phone? Well, I just published this entry, but there are another couple of things I forgot to say.
1. You can't unsubscribe from a feed unless an item from that feed is in the viewing pane. (Also, what happens when you unsubscribe? If it was cached, and you were the only subscriber, does that feed URL stay in Google's cache to be found by some other Reader user?
2. Changing the size of the text in the window (i.e., through the TextZoom extension in Firefox), borks the display a little bit. The text wraps wierdly, and the vertical space gets all misaligned. This should be more like Gmail, in that an increase in font size keeps the screen pretty much like it was, just a bit larger.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:33 AM
Saturday, October 8
My goodness, this guy is great. I didn't know much about him until I started listening to Leo Laporte's This WEEK in TECH podcast (where John C. Dvorak is one of the regular panelists), but I got intrigued by his intelligent and slightly offbeat look at technology and the world in general.
The link in this post goes to the page on PC Magazine's website that lists all of John's recent columns. I recently ran across one of his pieces via Google News, and I was hooked. On the podcast he's kind of the guy who sits in the corner and doesn't say a whole lot until he's pontificated a bit and worked up a really awesome way to hit the audience with pith and wisdom, but reading an entire article by this guy is a hoot. He's smart, funny, and a bit sarcastic (my wife compared my description of him to Kelsey Grammer's inimitable Frasier Crane, which gets the idea across pretty nicely).
I've got five of his recent PC Magazine articles that I found particularly poignant, but rather than link to them all as separate blog posts I figured that I would have just one "Mega-Dvorak" post this time. First off, an August column entitled "Knowing Too Much," which is about the information Web sites can find out about us just through our casual browsing. By the way, this site can get about the same information as Dvorak says he gets. However, since joining Blog Explosion, I get so many hits I don't ever even look at individual entries in my log anymore. I just look to see where my visitors come from and what links they click on from my blog.
Next, an article from September 6th entitled "Podcasting: The Next Big Thing. This is about the recent emergence of podcasts as a news and entertainment media, and about how they will eventually eclipse major broadcasters. Leo Laporte describes podcasting as "TiVo for radio," and in fact many radio stations are releasing podcast feeds of their shows. Of course, he also mentions how the TWiT podcast will likely take over the world one day. Interestingly, he mentions that it seems that many, many people are getting into podcasting in some way, but they all seem to think that nobody else knows about it.
Another column, entitled "Microsoft Should Confuse The Market More," is just pure entertainment. This is like stand-up comedy for nerds. Since Microsoft has announced that it will publish seven different enigmatic editions of Windows Vista (the successor to Windows XP due out next year), Dvorak riffs on the marketing opportunities that Microsoft could have by tailoring a different edition of the new OS to every niche segment of the population. You just have to read it.
"The Hard Drive and Human Behavior" waxes a bit philosophical. In it, Dvorak muses about how the proliferation of hard drive space in today's computers (which renders the maintaining of a neat and tidy desktop computer unnecessary) is partly to blame for the mess on his physical office desktop.
Finally, a column from this past Monday is called ""The Future of Advertising." In it, he describes Google's targeted ads and how beneficial they are. For instance, when he enters a search query about DVD media, he gets ads in the right-hand column detailing where he can buy blank DVD discs. This is, as he says, a useful feature. However, the developers of Interactive TV who want to provide you with targeted ads based on your viewing preferences are creating an intrusion... because, when you sit down to watch a TV show, "YOU'RE NOT SHOPPING." Read it. It's hilarious, and it's insightful.
John C. Dvorak also has a blog at dvorak.org/blog (if you've heard even one episode of TWiT, you know this already). It's titled "Dvorak Uncensored," and it's just a tad too "uncensored" for me. He goes off on weird tangents, sometimes, gets a bit political, and pretty much just rants about whatever is annoying him. I like his writing a whole lot better when he's got his "journalist hat" on for PC Magazine. He also writes a column entitled "John Dvorak's Second Opinion" for MarketWatch. That link goes to an RSS feed of his MarketWatch columns, because I couldn't find a page dedicated to his stories like PC Magazine has for him.
In any case, read this guy's work. It's great stuff.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 8:36 AM
Friday, October 7
Firefox 1.5 Beta 2 has been released (see above link).
The TextZoom extension seems to work a little better in 1.5b2, but it's still erratic. However, I found a version of the TextZoom extension that seems to work well with FF 1.5. It's a French translation which must have been slightly updated when the language was changed. You can find it here.
There's another extension called zoompersist that's supposed to change the text zoom level on a site-by-site basis, but I can't get it to install (the code that defines the extension as a unique program is invalid).
UPDATE: I was able to install zoompersist, and it's basically the same thing as TextZoom without the ability to fine-tune the zoom ratio. So I think I'm going to stick with the French TZ until momokatte makes an official update.
Now all I need is an update of the Gmail Tweaks script for Greasemonkey and I'll be able to run FF1.5 full-time!
Posted by augmentedfourth at 12:02 PM
Wednesday, October 5
According to an article from CNET, Dell has begun to sell a true "white-box" PC. "White-box" refers to the computers that were once called "IBM-compatible," then became known as merely "PCs" (which should really be called "Windows PCs," since a Mac is still a Personal Computer), and now include all the build-it-yourself machines that run Windows, Unix, and the brazillion flavors of Linux that are around these days.
So this new PC from Dell is shipping with a Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM, a 128MB ATI Radeon video card, and a *completely blank* 80GB hard drive. This is awesome... and a genuine "first" for computer sellers. Rather than forcing people to pay for an operating system (Windows), which many power users are deleting from their machines as soon as they're unpacked, it's a true plain-vanilla machine. It comes with a CD copy of the open-source operating system FreeDOS, but users are free to download any of a number of free operating systems for installation on their new Dell Dimension E510n.
Rock on, Dell!
Posted by augmentedfourth at 11:04 AM
Monday, October 3
This is awesome. I've been dreaming of wireless power for quite some time. Splashpower has done it by creating a "SplashPad" that you can place devices on and they will receive power without being physically plugged in.
Of course, my dream of wireless power is for more than cellular phones and digital cameras, and it's for greater distances. I'd love, one day, to be receiving power from the wall wirelessly from anywhere in the house (and powering devices as large, hopefully, as my Powerbook). I think that one day outlets will be rendered obsolete, and wireless power will be so good that you just have to bring a device into your "powered" home and it will immediately attach to the available wireless power source. Just like computers can automatically connect to wireless information networks.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 12:39 PM
Saturday, October 1
I just tried Firefox 1.5 beta 1 again, and I'm really impressed. A lot of extensions have been updated, but I'm still not quite ready to make the switch (I downgraded back to 1.0.7 to write this post).
I can get almost everything I want out of the new browser, except for a few Greasemonkey scripts. TextZoom isn't yet updated for FF1.5 (because momokatte, the extension's author is notorious for dropping off the face of the planet for extended periods of time and hasn't yet gotten around to it). It's possible to install TZ by either modifying the extension's install.rdf file (which I mentioned previously) or by a new method I'll explain later on in this post. Well, it's new to me, anyway.
In any case, TZ still works only erratically. Pages accessed via the https:// protocol don't follow your zomm percentages. However, I found that telling the browser to keep its minimum text size to 15 point (accessible by clicking "Advenced..." in the Font preferences) helps to make all text readable. This has the added benefit of leaving sites alone if their text is already big enough.
There is a new version of Greasemonkey for FF1.5b1 (v0.6.2) at the greaseblog, but it changes the way scripts work and breaks many of them. The Secure Gmail, Gmail Tweaks, and Gmail Smart-Delete Button are all broken with the new version of Greasemonkey. Secure Gmail makes sure that you're always running gmail via the encrypted https:// protocol, Gmail Tweaks adds a "persistent searches" similar to OSX10.4's "Smart Folders," and Gmail Smart-Delete adds a "delete" button to the interface that is grayed out except when email is selected or opened. Gmail Tweaks also includes a feature that allows you to switch between variable-width and fixed-width fonts; I have modified the script to make fixed-width the default.
Installing most other extensions is a lot easier than I thought. You don't have to unpack the extension, rename a file, and repack it. It's much easier to just go to about:config from the address bar and add in a new preference value. Right-click inside the window and add a String value called "app.extensions.version." Initially make its value 1.0, buy you'll probably play around with it while you're installing extensions. What this does is change the value that extensions look at to see if they're compatible with the browser. So if you're installing an extension that only installs on versions 0.7+ to 1.0, just give app.extensions.version the value "1.0" and it'll install without a hitch even though the browser is actually version 1.5. One of the extensions I use would only install on versions 1.0+ through 1.0+ (which seemed pretty silly to me), but changing the value to "1.0+" made it work perfectly.
Firefox 1.5 is *almost there* for me. I'm not sure if the "minimum font size" will be an acceptable solution, so it may take until TextZoom is updated for me to be fully comfortable with it. Also, I'm going to get in touch with the authors of the Greasemonkey scripts that break to see if new versions can be issued. The Greasemonkey extension developers say it shouldn't be much of a change to the scripts themselves, so hopefully that goes smoothly and quickly.
Oh yeah, and one other thing. FF1.5 changes the default behavior when you click on the location bar. 1.0.7 and below all select the entire text of the bar when it is single-clicked, while 1.5 just inserts a cursor. I like the old way (it makes it easy to just select all and type in a new destination address), so I searched around in about:config and found a way to change it back. If you change "browser.urlbar.clickSelectsAll" to "true" (just double-click it), it will go back to the earlier method.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 9:02 AM
Friday, September 30
I watched 'Commander in Chief' on Tuesday night, because ABC is one of the two stations that actually come in over the air at my apartment. Also, it was on right after 'According to Jim,' a sitcom my wife and I enjoy, so it was easy to just keep sitting there for the next show.
In general, I liked the pilot of the new show. I found the premise incredibly interesting, though I didn't quite enjoy the politics it embodied. Her first act as President is to completely overrule the established traditions of a foreign country? I think that's a bit over-pompous. I agree that, from a humanitarian perspective, it was the decent thing to do. However, her title as newly sworn in President is not 'Humanitarian in Chief.' She is supposed to be the political leader of the world's most powerful nation, and her little feminist ideals have no place behind a desk in the Oval Office.
But I found it interesting primarily as a political thought experiment. I'll probably keep watching it to see where the writers take story, but I don't know that the political stances taken by one Mackenzie Allen will appeal to me. (Of course, I once dated a girl named McKenzie, so the name itself inspired a small bit of loathing right from the start.)
One of the more clever things the creators of the show did was to create a fake political blog on the ABC website to track the events of the show in the newest style of political reporting. The greatest part is the "reader comments" at the bottom, that include slang and slight grammatical errors to make it seem more like the communities inspired around real poliblogs. Its formatting and grammar is still much more correct than an actual Web community, though.
UPDATE 9/30/05: The other really interesting thing I forgot to mention in my original post is that this show's premise would really be the only way to have a president who is not beholden to either of the parties in our political system. I really like the idea of having an Independent president (or governor, or anything powerful for that matter) who does not stiffly bow to the wishes of either group. I feel that the Republicans and the Democrats, as political units, have lost touch with the people they purport to govern. California has come close with our Governator, but the Democrat legislators (not to mention the unions and special interests) are keeping his hands tied and dampening his efficiency.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:29 AM
Thursday, September 29
This is a great idea: use Wikipedia to write an article. The CNET News article I've linked to explains the process of how the army of Wikipedia editors/contributors turned this (intentionally) error-laden and poorly-written article into a refined and concise description of the history and functionality of the Wikipedia service.
So if you're stuck on a term paper, upload your rough draft to Wikipedia and see if they can fix and fact-check it for you.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 9:04 PM
Well, whaddaya know? Steve Jobs has set up a replacement program for iPods with defective screens. This always happens for widely-known problems, but I doubt that the "serial number list" that Apple has deemed "defective" will cover every single one of the affected iPod nanos.
However, I think the problem is greatly overblown. I trust Apple, as a rule, even though they've made a few mistakes. I think the old adage "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" is applicable here, and the squeaky wheel of nano owners is probably a very small portion of the total purchases.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 8:19 PM
Tuesday, September 27
If anybody (who has the position to make a difference) is listening, please don't let this be the beginning of the end for PalmOS!
I've been using PalmOS handhelds since 2000, and I've become really attached to the interface and design. I've found a bunch of free programs that I like, including a really great Backgammon game and an awesome encrypted password-storage application, and I don't want to be forced to switch OS's one day and spend time re-creating a comfortable user experience.
I know this announcement is only of a Windows-Mobile-based Treo, but I kind of see this infestation of the Microsoft OS into a perfectly good system as a sort of death knell for the future of PalmOS. I'm mostly a Mac guy these days, and since Palm's operating system is desktop-platform-agnostic I have no trouble integrating my Tungsten into OSX. I fear that Windows Mobile will not offer the same compatibility level with macintosh if one day the Windows menace spreads to the rest of Palm's handheld line.
Only one quote from the linked article held out any ray of hope for me: "Palm for some time had been entertaining the notion of a Windows-based device to woo corporate customers who are accustomed to Microsoft products and have been reluctant to buy Palm OS-based gadgets." It seems that this is mainly intended as a corporate device, so I'm really hoping that they leave the consumer devices alone.
But then again, I wouldn't mind the demise of PalmOS so much if Apple made a full-function handheld computer with some form of its OSX platform as its base. I think that the iPod could easily evolve into such a device, if they just incorporated some sort of method for data entry and menipulation right from the music player itself. Since it can already view calendars and contacts from OSX's iCal and Address Book, including a slide-out keyboard or Graffiti-style entry method to enable editing of the information would make it the perfect handheld computer.
The onlt problem is that Apple prides itself on being sleek and easy-to-use. Even though I'm pretty darn good at writing with PalmOS's "Graffiti" handwriting recognition, it's still not flawless and easy, even after five years. Steve Jobs would have to find something so sleek and natural that it will seem like it just belongs on the iPod, like every other innovation Apple has produced in connection with the music player.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 12:46 PM
From the official google blog. Google Video is distributing an Internet-only streaming copy of the pilot for "Everybody Hates Chris," the new sitcom adapted from Chris Rock's teen years. (There's also an AP story about this offering from Google.)
I watched it, and I liked it. Not an I-gotta-watch-every-episode sort of "liked it" (though if future episodes are also available on-demand from Google Video I might take a peek), but it was good TV. Like I suspected, it's Chris Rock's comedic insight that has had a "vulgar-ectomy" from the network censors, so I found it much more palatable than his stand-up routines.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 11:39 AM
Well, based on the stories in this CNET article (which points to flawedmusicplayer.com), I think I'll definitely be getting some sort of protection for the iPod nano when I get around to purchasing one. Maybe those "nano tubes" Apple is selling.
I probably won't have enough discretionary money until Christmas, though. Hopefully I'll get enough gift cash to make one of these spiffy new devices within my economic grasp.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 11:32 AM
Saturday, September 24
Thursday, September 22
"Everybody Hates Chris" looks to be an awesome new comedy. I love Chris Rock's standup, though I find it a bit raucous and overly vulgar. Toning it down for TV will, I'm sure, make it the perfect blend of humor and thought-provoking handling of the issues of class and race.
I get only broadcast television, and live next to a giant hill, so CBS and ABC are all that come through clearly. However, the reviews I've read so far of this series really make me wish I could watch UPN.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 3:24 PM
Wednesday, September 21
Well, these are Erica Sadun's reasons for switching. But they're all valid, and I recommend using the latest stable version of Firefox (which, as of today, is FF 1.0.7).
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:29 PM
Opera is now free.
It still sucks.
(In comparison to Firefox, anyway. It's still better than IE, and it was my first introduction to alternative browsers, so there's a soft spot in my heart for it. But I never use it anymore.)
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:27 PM
Tuesday, September 20
Aside from the fact that the picture caption in this article misspells Senator Joseph Lieberman's last name, I think these are all great ideas. Since the city is going to be rebuilt essentially from the ground up, this is a great opportunity to add in some high-tech infrastructure while New Orleans is "on the table with its guts out," so to speak.
The only thing I disagree with is picking only one type of cellular network for the new city. If they want to be the tourist attraction they were before, they will have to make sure that cell phones from all over the country will be able to operate. That means installing both CDMA and GSM towers so that all phones will work in the area.
I understand that getting a working infrastructure quickly is important, so if they have to install GSM only at first just to throw together a wireless communications network that would be OK as long as there are plans to add in CDMA later.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:37 AM
I'm totally in favor of this measure to put all political union spending to a vote from the members. I'm sure that my mother, a teacher, wouldn't approve of most of the things the California Teachers' Union seems to be endorsing these days. (She doesn't watch TV, so she may not know what kinds of rubbish they're spewing in their ads, but as a Republican I'm sure she wouldn't be proud to know that her dues are being put to such "imaginative" uses.)
Teachers are not getting ignored, like their commercials attempt to say. Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for next year is by no means as restrictive as they're claiming. I haven't read up on this lately so I'll refrain from commenting any further, but in general I'm glad that this proposal would cause union dues to be spent in ways approved by the members and not the union officials alone.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:28 AM
This is interesting: an Australian mathematician has redefined trigonometry to work entirely as a system of rational proportions (or at least, that what I've seemed to glean from the article). In any case, he claims that trig functions will be able to be executed without a calculator or table of sines, cosines, and tangents.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:21 AM
Monday, September 19
Google Maps is one of the great Web 2.0 applications. It's a Web page, but the speed and ease-of-use it offers makes it operate like something you've installed to your hard drive. The best part about it is that it's so hackable. myGmaps (in this post's link, above) allows you to plot multiple points on a Google map. I recently used this to display all of the nearby locations of a particular business to visually gauge which was closest to my home.
There are a ton of Google Maps hacks, though, from sites that use Gmaps to display locations of homes to buy or rent with listings on craigslist to pages detailing current traffic status all across the US by combining data with Yahoo! Traffic.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 2:35 PM
A new utilization of the World Wide Web is coming into play, and it's embodied in the following two articles:
It's a Whole New Web, from BusinessWeek, describes it in fairly plain English
What is Web 2.0?, from the Web 2.0 Explorer blog on ZDNet, is a bit more "techie"
Basically, the Web as it's currently understood is the part of the Internet that you get to through a browser like Firefox, Safari, or (God forbid) Internet Explorer. It's comprised of the sites that are transmitted via the HyperText Transfer Protocol and therefore are prepended with "http://" (or "https://" for the secure, encrypted version). In its original incarnation, the World Wide Web was comprised entirely of pages that were largely unchangeable, and most sites still conform to this static ideal.
However, in recent months and years, the Web has become an interactive experience. Blogs, wikis, RSS, and webmail have all begun to adopt this new format, and mew Web services are popping up almost daily to exploit the powers of Web 2.0.
At its core, Web 2.0 represents a whole development platform that can be used to provide interactive services to end-users. This means that Web 2.0 users are no longer bound by the Mac/Windows/Linux debate, because entire applications exist in the ether of the Internet. Wikipedia, one of the most well-known and oldest applictions of this new paradigm of Internet usage, allows users themselves to create and edit entries in a collaborative knowledge-base. Other Web 2.0 apps are more personal, such as gmail, which is an entire email interface programmed as a Web site.
There are countless other applications of the Web 2.0 paradigm, from Bloglines (an online customizable information gatherer) to del.icio.us (which saves bookmarks and cross-references the selections of all its users). My favorite part of Web 2.0, though, is the fact that all of these things exist on the Internet instead of on a particular computer's hard drive. I use up to 4 computers on any given day since I have both Windows and Mac platforms both at home and at work, so it's awesome that all of my most-used info is available to me no matter which machine I'm using. My email is in gmail, my bookmarks are in del.icio.us, my RSS feeds (which include news, comics, and blogs) are in Bloglines, my podcasts are in Odeo... basically, I can view all of this information from any computer I happen to be using. The library, the office, even a friends' house can easily become my portal to my own Internet services.
I really like the direction the World Wide Web is headed, and I'm excited to see where it goes next. (I haven't checked it out yet, but there's now even a Web-based word processor!)
Posted by augmentedfourth at 2:19 PM
Sunday, September 18
This post, from Steve Pavlina's blog entitled "Personal Development for Smart People," is an interesting thought-provoker for those (like myself) who are introverted but desire to become a bit more social. I actually decided, not long before reading this post, that I wanted to develop more personal relationships.
I'm not saying that I agree with everything in the post, but it's interesting food for thought. The follow-up posts linked at the bottom, as well as the comments (which range from asinine to enlightened), provide more intellectual fodder for the socially bewildered.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 3:11 PM
Saturday, September 17
I know, I know... I've already blogged on the iPod nano. But I really like what David Pogue has to say about it, in addition to the amusing video he's got attached to this (blog post | column).
By the way, I'm not sure exactly what this is: it's published by the New York Times, but it's got the informal and jaunty tone of a tech-blog. Take your pick; it's as informal as you want it to be.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 3:46 PM
Thursday, September 15
The link goes to a special article on Lifehacker that explains how to use VNC (an open-source remote desktop application) to control any computer from elsewhere on the 'Net. I've never been able to get VNC to work properly before this, so this article that actually got me using VNC to control another computer goes in the "permanent collection," as they say.
Of course, I just used VNC to view and manipulate the Windows computer in my office from the Mac in my office, so I didn't have to try to circumvent any firewalls or anything. I'll see if I can use VNC to operate my home computer from work, but I really doubt that I'll be able to. A new ultra-strict firewall was recently installed at work, so the necessary port is probably not open to the outside world. I even had to get special permission in order to open the port for IRC on my work computer.
Anyway, this was my fun technology foray for the day. I'm glad I finally was able to see VNC in operation!
Posted by augmentedfourth at 12:50 PM
Wednesday, September 14
This is just stupid. Compiling all biometric security into one card means that there's a *super-card* that can now be forged. There may be safeguards against such forgery, but you know it's still going to happen at least once.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 8:33 AM
Monday, September 12
Just kidding... I decided not to go with Firefox 1.5. It was quicker, but the interface isn't ironed out quite yet (plus, I missed Greasemonkey). For some reason, I couldn't even use ctrl+tab to switch between tabs! Anyway, I'm back at 1.0.6 for the time being.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:42 PM
I've done a bit more testing of Firefox 1.5 beta (in fact, I'm writing this blog entry in it). It's more useful than I thought at first. I just had to take the time to re-engineer a few extensions to work with the new version. As many people already know, .xpi files are really .zip files in disguise, and there is a text file called install.rdf inside then that includes a minimum and maximum version on which the extension will work. Some extensions can be made to work by modifying this file and re-compressing the extension. Here are the results of my tests with the extensions I commonly use.
The following extensions are unnecessary in 1.5 (their functionality is now a part of Firefox's core, or can be duplicated easily with a user.js file):
x (Paranoia) - Firefox now has a customizable "Clear Private Data" item in the Tools menu that can be invoked by hitting shift-command-delete (Mac) if desired.
miniT - Firefox can reorder tabs through dragging by default.
QuickTabPrefToggle - The "force links that open new windows to open in new tabs" is now available by default in the preferences. Also, "open new windows for requested resized popups" can be invoked by placing the following in your user.js file:
These extensions worked (as far as I can tell) with a modified install.rdf file. I changed the maxVersion to 1.5+ to make these work in 1.5 Beta 1. I'm not the extension author, so I make no guarantees, but they seem to work for me:
Super DragandDrop - Open searches and plaintext URLs with "throws."
BlankLast - Make last tab blank when issuing a "close tab" command instead of discarding the whole window.
CookieCuller - Whitelist individual cookies and get rid of unprotected cookies in one click (or automatically on browser startup).
Ook - Add your bookmarks to the right-click context menu.
Stop_and_Reload Button - Combines Stop and Reload into one button, depending on context.
TextZoom - Enlarges all text by a custom percentage. This one seemed to work once the install.rdf was modified, but after restarting the browser I'm not sure if it still had any effect. This one's a "well, maybe it worked..."
LinkToolbar - Sets up page navigation (forward, backward, up, etc.) in a toolbar and provides keyboard shortcuts. This one installed even without a modified install.rdf, but it didn't add the toolbar once it was installed. I figured out that it was just that the latest version was actually newer than the one I had had, and it installs the buttons individually in the "Customize..." section of the toolbar and not all at once in the status bar like it used to.
These extensions didn't work, even with a modified install.rdf:
Bookmarks Synchronizer - Sync your bookmarks to a central FTP server so they are available to Firefox on every machine you use.
Greasemonkey - My most-used extension; allows individual pages to be modified by using "user scripts."
LiveLines - Subscribe to RSS feeds via online (Bloglines) or offline (NewNewsWire) news aggregators by bypassing the Firefox Live Bookmarks.
LinkToolbar - Sets up page navigation (forward, backward, up, etc.) in a toolbar and provides keyboard shortcuts. This one appeared to install even without a modified install.rdf, but it didn't add the toolbar once it was installed.
I think I'm going to stick with 1.5, because it renders a lot faster than previous versions and apparently the OSX version has a lot of under-the-hood Mac-flavored enhancements.
My the way, you can find download/install links for all of these extensions (and even a couple more) at my del.icio.us "extensions" tag.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 1:29 PM
Sunday, September 11
And, as if the nano couldn't get any cooler, there's a set of pictures online that show it being gutted to its constituent parts. Whenever new technology comes around, somebody always buys one just to take it apart (and, if they're benevolent, to distribute the pictures on the Internet for geeks who don't have $200 lying around just to exercise our curiosity).
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:39 PM
Steve Jobs has done it again... he's wowed us with the engineering, the style, and the panache of his new digital music device: the iPod nano. (And yes, he's insisting that we spell it with a lowercase "n.")
I want it. At this point, I don't have an iPod, but as I get deeper into the tech phenomenon known as podcasting, I realize how useful one could be. Not to mention carting around a bunch of tunes in addition to the play-'em-when-I-want-'em "radio" of podcasts. I know that my handheld (a Palm Tungsten E2) can play MP3 files, and that's what I've been using for podcasting thus far, but it's just so unwieldy to transfer the files to the device: I download the audio, take the memory card out of the E2, insert it (via USB card reader) into the computer, copy the file from iTunes to a specified folder on the card, unmount the card from the computer, remove it from the reader, and put it back in the E2. An iPod can be connected to the computer via USB or Firewire and have the audio synchronized in seconds. No fumbling around with memory cards required.
Even the 2GB one would be fine (in white, of course). It could hold a few days' worth of audio as well as all of the podcast episodes to which I haven't yet listened. Someday, somehow... the iPod nano will be mine.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:31 PM
Friday, September 9
The 43folders blog has a great post about combating procrastination. The method is simple: set an amount of time or a given number of "work units" (pages to be written, emails that need response, etc.) and just "dash" fo that goal. Sounds like a good idea to me; I'll have to try it out.
Gotta love the productivity-focused mind of Merlin Mann!
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:11 PM
It looks cool, but I only tried it out for about 10 minutes because none of the extensions I use are compatible with it. It seems odd that, of 11 extensions, none are yet operable with 1.5. Not even Greasemonkey!
So, while 1.5 seems to have a cool interface, only even think about using it if you donn't rely too heavily on the extension system. I'll stick with 1.0.6 until my extensions get updated compatibility.
Why does this have to happen every time there's a major Firefox version change? Can't they just create an extension API layer or something, so that the individual extension writers aren't all required to modify their code every time MozCorp makes a change to the browser?
Posted by augmentedfourth at 11:10 AM
Thursday, September 8
Now, class, please take into account the following points (disregarding the whole 'gay marriage' issue, at least for now):
A) The state legislature was created as a body whose members are 'representative' of the people.
B) The people passed Proposition 22 in 2000.
C) The governor refuses to enact a bill passed in the legislature because it goes directly against Proposition 22.
Whether he says it outright or not, the point Schwarzenegger is making here is that our Assembly and Senate are no longer representative of the people who elected them. Hence, the need for fair redistricting and the removal of all these gerrymandered constituencies.
(By the way, I'm in no way against the state legalizing gay marriage. If the state issues a marriage license to two people in a same-sex relationship it doesn't cheapen, or even affect, my relationship with my wife. I'm a Republican and a Christian, but I don't get all of the 'family advocates' grousing about how gay marriages will be a death blow to marriage as an institution.)
Posted by augmentedfourth at 1:21 PM
Sunday, September 4
| Outcast Genius |
73 % Nerd, 56% Geek, 56% Dork
| For The Record:|
A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
I scored better than half in all three, earning me the title of: Outcast Genius.
Outcast geniuses usually are bright enough to understand what society
wants of them, and they just don't care! They are highly intelligent
and passionate about the things they know are *truly* important in the
world. Typically, this does not include sports, cars or make-up, but it
can on occassion (and if it does then they know more than all of their
friends combined in that subject).
Outcast geniuses can be very lonely, due to their being
outcast from most normal groups and too smart for the room among many
other types of dorks and geeks, but they can also be the types to
eventually rule the world, ala Bill Gates, the prototypical Outcast
Posted by augmentedfourth at 3:28 PM
Saturday, September 3
This page details some research and composition in which Peter Gena hs created some music based on DNA sequences. Very interesting stuff, including some Chopin work based on the mutation of the gene that causes cystic fibrosis (recent research has shown that he likely had cystic fibrosis, as opposed to the previous belief that he died of consumption).
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:24 PM
Friday, September 2
It's a big day for open source fans here in the U.S. of A., where an area known to be a hotbed of rebels (remember the Boston Tea Party?) has taken aim at the world's dominant data-processing software suite and formally eschewed its use. That's right: Massachusetts has given Microsoft the boot; opting instead to use OpenOffice, a free suite designed to be interoperable with Office programs but based on a file format which is publicly available and not proprietarry to any one individual company.
The government offices will still use the Windows operating system, but they will install OpenOffice and distribute public-record documents in its so-called "open" data structure. This change will remove the commonwealth's (yeah, it's one of Those Four that aren't actually "states") dependence on Microsoft software, in addition to removing the requirement that citizens possess the Office suite in order to access and view public records.
So when will they all go to Linux as an OS?
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:41 AM
Thursday, September 1
So... all speculation about next week's announcement from Apple seems to point to the creation of a new Motorola/Apple device that functions as both a cell phone and an iPod.
As I previously mentioned, an iPod is the only gadget I still desire. However, I don't think I'd like it with a phone in it. This trend toward consolidating gadgets is cool for those whose pants pockets bulge from the vast quantity of electronic devices we stick in them, but I'm wary of actually using such doodads. I passed on a Treo earlier this year, partly because it was too expensive, but also because I like my gadgets to be separate. If one function of such a device goes bad (for instance, the Treo's PDA), you're stuck with the rest of the device not working either (such as the Treo's phone capability).
Then there's the issue of replacement. I usually replace my cell phone every 2 years or so; if I buy this Moto/Apple thingamajig, will I need or even want to replace the iPod at the same rate? I like being able to replace functions individually; when my PDA's battery wore out and wouldn't hold a charge, I was glad that I just had to buy a new Tungsten instead of springing for a new combo device (or, worse yet, deciding to buy a new handheld computer and another new gadget).
The iPod phone sounds cool, but I think we need to have each component near-infallible on its own before they can be successfully melded. Batteries aren't perfect, on phones or iPods... do you want to have one battery whose malfunctioning can take out your mobile communications and your mobile music player?
I think not.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:26 PM
Wednesday, August 31
Well, what's up with it is that Google wants to take over the Internet wholesale (in my opinion, anyway). In many ways, the Internet is where everything computer-related is heading. Actual, physical computers are becoming merely portals to the Internet. If Google owns and/or controls the Internet, from wireless access points to browsers to web services like email, they hold the reins for nearly all of technology.
Google has the capability of becoming bigger than Microsoft, because Google reaches every single machine in the world. Microsoft only has a major foothold on Windows PCs, since they make the OS. Admittedly they have a minor foothold on OSX PCs, since their Office suite for Mac allows Apple users to collaborate with what has become the de facto standard for word processing. spreadsheets, and databases. (MS also has an indirect foothold on Linux OS's, since OpenOffice was created solely to be compatible with Office.)
Anyway, where I'm going with all that rambling is that Google has a direct impact on nearly every computer user... meaning that they have an even greater opportunity to rule the world than Microsoft does. And, on the plus side, people actually like Google!
Posted by augmentedfourth at 12:52 PM
Tuesday, August 30
You can now sign up for a Gmail address without an invitation! You just need to have Google send you a text message and they'll send you a confirmation code for a free account.
Or, if you know my email address, I'd be happy to send you a free invitation... I've got 50 right now.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:05 PM
Saturday, August 27
First, a course with all the same holes as Mini-Putt 1, but in a different order and with an updated interface:
Mini-Putt 3 Classic
Second, another game with the same interface but with new holes (and more dinosaurs!):
Mini-Putt 3: Jurassic Putt
(the link above goes to Psycho Goldfish: a site with a bunch of Flash games, including the Mini-Putt series)
Posted by augmentedfourth at 3:30 PM
Apparently, the portion of the brain that fails when afflicted with Alzheimer's disease is the same portion that younger people use when daydreaming, remembering, or utilizing other non-active unfocused parts of our minds.
So, apparently, overuse of the faculties of critical thinking, problem solving, and task resolution can lead to atrophy of the latent areas of the mind and possibly Alzheimer's. However, this article in The Australian is very cursory; I'd love to read something more in-depth once it gets published.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 11:04 AM
Thursday, August 25
According to this article, "Forty-nine percent of U.S. and Canadian households say they have all the gadgets they want."
This pretty much describes me. I'm very happy with all of the gadgets I've currently got (whoa. did I actually say that?), and I don't really need anything in addition. However, while market saturation is causing a dip in growth for sales of electronics, there is no way that this will cause any sizable dent in the amount of such purchases.
But electronics manufacturers and retailers will have to get money from someone else-- I'm pretty satisfied. Well, mostly. An iPod might be nice (eventually)... ;-)
Posted by augmentedfourth at 8:47 PM
A DHS chief who is proactive about stemming the tide of illegal immigration. And-- surprisingly enough-- this NYT article actually calls these breakers of US law "illegal immigrants" instead of pandering to socialist Democrats who insist that the term is demeaning. "Undocumented," my eye.
As usual, there's somebody to complain... even when things are going right. The criticism is that not all of the "holes" are going to be plugged by Michael Chertoff's new plan. But hey, it's at least a step in the right direction. Do these people actually think that, unless a plan is PERFECT and INFALLIBLE, we should sit idly by and do NOTHING? I think that the critic cited in the article, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, is just afraid that he'll have nothing to study (and, therefore, no livelihood) if plans like this actually work.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:35 AM
These are not my words (they were contained in a global IRC mesage from Brain over at ChatSpike), but I'm not at all surprised that Google has adopted such a hearty information-gathering approach to its IM software.
I don't use IM all that often, so I'll probably just stick with AOL's protocol (though not their client - AdiumX is all I'll ever use) instead of laying my life out on the line for Google. I do use gmail, but I'm comfortable with having computers scan my email to present targeted ads. I don't know how much I'd enjoy knowing that my real-time conversations were being recorded by the service provider-- even if they only record the fact that the conversation took place and not the messages themselves.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:25 AM
Wednesday, August 24
This is a cool article about the various (and, until today, unkown to me) "remixed" versions of Windows XP there are; from tiny install packages to those with Service Pack 2 already added. I wonder if these modified versions are legal for legit license owners to install, if they are desired only for the pared-down features? Do they leave the "insert your CD key here" screen in the install process, so I could keep it legal?
Until I know that, I won't explore this "option" any further.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 12:11 PM
Tuesday, August 23
Well, "Last week in wireless," now that I've finally gotten around to putting this CNET News article on my blog.
The article talks about Intel's plan to blanket cities with free or inexpensive Wi-Fi coverage. I'm all for it, and I wish San Diego was on Intel's list of "Digital Communities." However, our city has bigger things to worry about than Internet connectivity right now...
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:13 AM
Monday, August 22
Friday, August 19
This is a great idea. It was started in England, but EMTs and hospitals are recommending that the technique be used here in America as well. Many accident victims, even if they have ID on them, have no information about whom to contact in case of emergency. The solution is this: create a new contact in your cell phone's contact list called "ICE - Mom" or "ICE - Joe" or the name of whatever person you would like to be contacted In Case of Emergency.
This is a great idea... and it will save time for hospital administrators. Instead of trying to use the info on your license to search for relatives, you can provide the number to them right away.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 12:11 PM
Thursday, August 18
Wednesday, August 17
Sunday, August 14
I didn't even know that California was doing this. Last I heard, only vehicles which used no petroleum-based fuels at all were permitted in the HOV lanes. It seems that drivers of two Honda gas/electric hybrids-- the Civic and the Insight-- as well as one from Toyota-- the Prius-- are being given the opportunity to drive in carpool lanes even when traveling alone.
Makers of other hybrid vehicles, such as Ford (which makes hybrid Escape pick-up), are upset that their products are not on the list. However, I trust the researchers who made the rules and I'm pretty sure that making a truck (like the Escape) or an SUV (like the Toyota Highlander) operate on a hybrid motor will increase its fuel economy enough to warrant special treatment.
Of course, I own a Prius, so that might account for my agreement with the government on this point. Now my wife (the primary driver) can sneer at drivers of hybrid Accords, Escapes, Highlanders, and Lexus RX's from the carpool lane.
Of course, I don't really mean that. She's not really a sneering kind of person... more of a Shakespearean thumb-biter.
Now there's a fun mental image...
Posted by augmentedfourth at 2:32 PM
How cool is this? A memory card with a fold-out USB dongle. You don't even need a card reader anymore... the card itself will plug right into the computer!
I'm not going to look for one of these, though. I've already got a Lexmark USB Key that's actually an SD reader instead of having embedded Flash memory. Giving USB connectivity to the little cards directly is pretty nifty, but ultimately unnecessary with tools we've already got at our disposal. I see this becoming the SD card of the future, though...
Posted by augmentedfourth at 2:22 PM
Tuesday, August 9
President Bush is expected to sign a bill on Monday that will extend Daylight Saving Time by three weeks in spring and one week in the fall. This is intended to be an energy saver, by allowing Americans to make use of natural light later in the evening so that they musn't turn to the electric alternatives.
Problems are expected to arise when older technological devices with automatic DST correction are no longer changing the clocks on the right date. As Windows users have probably seen, when the clocks must be adjusted your computer tells you on startup that the time has been changed. The programming for this auto-modification is hardwired to the current system of DST changes (first Sunday in April and last Sunday in October), and it will require a software update to work according to the new standard.
VCRs, online calendars, and computers will all be affected by this issue, and they will likely have to be manually modified to stay in step. My favorite quote from the article is this:
"We get up and change the time on the VCR ourselves," Tzur said. "These things come with directions."
If only things were actually that simple for the vast majority of Americans these days.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 1:40 PM
Google News has added RSS feeds for its news service. I'll probably be switching to Google News from Yahoo! News now, but I'll be looking at the feeds from both for a few days just to compare.
And yes, I realize the irony in linking to a Yahoo! News story to point this out...
Posted by augmentedfourth at 12:26 PM
Monday, August 8
This article from CNET details the emerging trend toward digitizing reference books. Of course there will be major problems with intellectual property and copyright issues, but I have every hope that they will get worked out satisfactorily for all parties.
I have even started reading some things digitally. Any text file can be converted, using Plucker, into a Palm database that cen be read on my Tungsten E2. Most texts I can get this way are public domain works from Project Gutenberg, but many people who release their writings on the Web include plaintext versions (like this amazing essay on the evolution of computer use called "In the Beginning was the Command Line").
Books in print may never die, but increased access to material, portability, and searchability of digitized texts will definitely make them the publishing wave of the future.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:33 AM
Tuesday, July 26
Konfabulator is the shareware application that Apple ripped off when they made the Dashboard for OSX 10.4 "Tiger." Apple's incarnation is doubtless a bit more refined, but now that Yahoo! bought Konfab they've made it free. There goes my only reason to even think about upgrading to Tiger.
Konfabulator 2.1 is now freely downloadable at konfabulator.com, and all of Konfab's existing widgets run with the new free version. By the way, Konfabulator runs in both Mac and Windows, and (even though the application was Mac-only to begin with) a good number of the widgets are cross-platform as well.
Check it out on both Mac and Windows! It's a great way to have a bunch of useful tools tucked away and easily accessible with just a keypress.
(Here's Yahoo!'s announcement of the buyout)
Posted by augmentedfourth at 3:51 PM
Monday, July 25
This is an interesting report from PC World on the ease-of-use in contacting and receiving responses from a dozen of the Web's most-visited sites and services. Netflix won hands-down on response time, with craigslist and Yahoo! never actually sending a response.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:27 AM
Tuesday, July 19
These "Ways to Win an Argument" are apparently condensed and translated from Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophical tome on "The Art of Controversy." The original, of course, was originally written in German during the first half of the nineteenth century.
I find the propositions it advances amusing, but not particularly insightful. For instance, point twenty-one includes the phrase: "it is with victory that you are concerned, not with truth." This seems to me to hardly be a valid philosophical objective. Truth, to some degree of certainty, has always been the final aim of philosophy. To attempt only to prove your own conclusions acceptable has nothing to do with accepting and synthesizing new information, which is the goal of the truly learned.
But as a humorous bit of historical thought, I find this interesting; worth a quick read, but a set of ideas to which no deep investigation or lasting importance should be ascribed.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 2:01 PM
Monday, July 18
Oh. My. Goodness.
I am drooling *ALL OVER* this keyboard. Or, the prototype photos at least. This thing doesn't actually exist yet, but I am very intrigued by the possibilities. Every key has an OLED screen, and the markings thereon can be manipulated globally or even application by application. You really have to look at the pictures on the site to get the full effect.
There is a software application that allows you to customize the keys' function and appearance. As shown in the images on the linked page, you can change the keys to display pictures indicating their purpose (like the various tools in Photoshop, etc.) and even to assign macro functions to a few extra keys that have been added to the traditional layout for the purpose of providing more functionality.
I think the best things that could be added to this design include:
1) an embedded USB flash drive to store the various custom layouts so that the keyboard can be moved from machine to machine without needing to reprogram the customization. The current model is to have a software program installed on the host computer to store the customizations, but I think it would be a great idea to make the device more mobile.
2) I'm not sure if this is already included, but I think it would be an AWESOME feature to manipulate the keyboard based on the mod-keys that are pressed. For instance, to have the keyboard display all lower-case letters but switch to capitals when the
The only problem with number 1 is that the storage of layouts would have to be accessed differently depending on the OS to which the keyboard is connected. I'm sure the developers could make it work, anyway.
Also, there is an interview with the designer on the Primotech site here.
Posted by augmentedfourth at 10:19 AM
Sunday, July 10
This article is a good synopsis of the history of Amazon and its rise to the top of online commerce. The article claims that, according to independent analysts, "Amazon has won over the masses with its vast selection, a brand name everyone knows, a site that's easy to navigate and a reputation for reliability."
That's certainly true in my case. I was recently looking for a few computer-related things (a sync/charge cable for my cell phone, a sync/charge cable for my handheld, and a copy of the PC game Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb), and I looked all around the Web for them. I checked out Shopzilla, I looked at Yahoo! Shopping, I even looked at brick-and-mortar retailers' sites like those of Best Buy and CompUSA. None of these places did what I wanted.
Best Buy and CompUSA's selections were very limited, and when I did find one or two of the things on my list they turned out to be pretty expensive. Shopzilla and Yahoo! Shopping are each only lists of retailers' wares, and I would have had to visit these individual online stores individually to purchase my items... no merchant (they're all pretty specialized) stocked all three of my desired items.
But Amazon came through. I did end up getting all of my items through individual sellers who provide their items via Amazon's "Used and New" service (is there an official name for that?), but I was able to purchase my goodies with one credit-card entry and minimal hassle. The charges all came to my credit card as "Amazon," so I assume that they are the only ones to saw my card number... and that makes me feel incredibly safe.
I trust Amazon. Why I ever shop anywhere else online is beyond me. These days, they've got everything from rollerblades to electric shavers, so why would I need to?
Posted by augmentedfourth at 4:21 PM
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-
The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):
-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------
If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.