Friday, September 30

Geena Davis is 'Commander' of the Tuesday night schedule (UPDATE)

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.

Thursday, September 29

Esquire wikis article on Wikipedia

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.

Apple responds to iPod nano screen concerns

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.

Tuesday, September 27

Palm does Windows


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.

Everybody won't hate this

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.

Problems surfacing with iPod Nano screen | CNET

Well, based on the stories in this CNET article (which points to, 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.

Saturday, September 24

Funny Office Slang

If you've ever been at a meeting or an office and wondered what people mean when they talk about an "Idea Hamster," look no further than this hilarious page of office slang. My favorites are "Generica" and "Seagull Manager."

Thursday, September 22

'Chris' is Rock solid and a riot on UPN

"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.

Wednesday, September 21

Top Ten Reasons to Switch to Firefox - from Lifehacker

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).

Opera sets its browser free

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.)

Tuesday, September 20

Ideas to ramp up New Orleans' technology during the rebuild

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.

Schwarzenegger Endorses Union Dues Measure

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.

New angle on trigonometry

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.

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.

The evolving state of the Web

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 (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, 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!)

Sunday, September 18

How to Go From Introvert to Extrovert

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.

Saturday, September 17

IPod's Law: The Impossible Is Possible

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.

Thursday, September 15

Google Blog Search

Google now has a new Blog Search page. It probably won't be as robust or quickly-updated as Technorati, at least at first, but there's hope...

How to control your home computer from anywhere

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!

Wednesday, September 14

A $79.95 Opportunity to Breeze Through Security

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.

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.

Mozilla Firefox Project (Firefox 1.5 Beta 1)

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:

user_pref("", 1);

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 "extensions" tag.

Sunday, September 11

iPod Nano Gutted

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).

Stevie's Little Wonder

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.

Friday, September 9

Kick procrastination's [patootie]: Run a dash

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!

Mozilla Firefox 1.5 (Beta 1) available for download

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?

Thursday, September 8

Schwarzenegger to veto historic 'gay marriage' bill

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.)

Sunday, September 4

Nerd, Geek or Dork?

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


Saturday, September 3

MA proposal puts Microsoft on defensive

Well, what do you know... this Massachusetts policy to migrate to the OpenDocument format is making Microsoft officials, well, a bit upset. Well, M$, QUIT YER BELLY-ACHIN'!

DNA Music

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).

Friday, September 2

Massachusetts to adopt 'open' desktop

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?

Thursday, September 1

With 25-Song Cap, ITunes Phone May Underwhelm

Hah! 25 songs?!? Now I'm even less-inclined to say that this gadget is a good idea.

Tech World Awaits Apple's Latest 'Surprise'

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.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by emailing the author (use the link above).

The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

Version: 3.12
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+

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.