January 1, 2005
January 31, 2005
Students: The first amendment is overrated
Study shows American teenagers indifferent to freedoms
100,000 high school students were interviewed by researchers at the Univeristy of Connecticuit about the first amendment. The findings: flag burning is illegal, the government can restrict indecent material on the internet, and publishers should get government permission before publishing stories.
“These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous. .. Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation’s future.”
More info here on Plastic.com
January 30, 2005
It all started with this Mastercard parody (Windows Media file) that someone posted on Metafilter last week. People weren’t too kind becasue the clip has been around the internets for years. Then scarabic posted the following:
The only thing better than a girl whose father has a sense of humor is a girl who’s MOM is READY TO GO.
Homebase.asf – half as old, twice as funny, and made in the EAST BAY.
I can’t tell you how many time’s I’ve watched this the past week or how many people I’ve showed it to. It’s just unbelievable.
Posted by Michael at 01:56 PM
January 28, 2005
Punishment for train derailer
By now I’m sure you’ve heard of Juan Manuel Alvarez, the man who parked his SUV on a pair of train tracks before slashing his wrists and chest and finally fleeing the scene as the train approached, causing a derailment that killed 11 and injured dozens more. Listening to the reports on the radio yesterday how prosecutors may persue the death penalty I thought he should try again and save the state a lot of time. Dave Lindorff of Counterpunch .org makes the observation in Killing Killers that Want to Die that while Alvarez probably wants to die even more now after the wreck, perhaps justice would best be served in this case by keeping him alive “without so much as a rope to hang [himself] with”. While death penalty advocates may be screaming for execution, Lindorff states that doing so may encourage weak willed people to kill others as “suicide by execution”. Compare that to “suicide by cop,” where someone will usually brandish a weapon at police so that they shoot and kill the perp.
Scientists change stem cells into neurons
Su-Chun Zhang at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his associates have found a way to make stem cells turn into human motor neurons. These cells transmit messages from the brain to the spinal column. The next step in the research is to transplant the cells into chickens. Human trails may be several years away.
January 27, 2005
I feel GREAT!!
This Nutra-grain commercial is just too great to ever get on TV.
404’s and more
I had to reconfigure some web services today to allow some clients to access thier webmail. I didn’t want anyone poking around that might randomly stumble across the default MS ‘Under Construction’ page, so I went looking for funny 404 pages. For those of you that don’t know, a 404 is the error message that you get when you request a page that doesn’t exist from a website. Some of them are funny, some let you play games, some are just creepy.
January 26, 2005
Virginia to try and ban low rider pants
Not quite as serious as the Miscarriage law that was the subject of controversy last month, Norfolk representative Algie T. Howell Jr wants to prohibit people from wearing pants that expose thier underwear in an offensive manner, prevent people from driving with thier seats reclined, from watching thier in dash DVD players and from playing loud music while driving. Low riders beware. While I’m all for banning obscenely loud bass cabinets in the car next to me while I’m at a traffic light, I see all kinds of problems with banning a style of dress.
Posted by Michael at 12:16 PM
January 20, 2005
Encrypted and singed email for the masses.
transparently signs and encrypts email between users to allow for
sender verification and also to prevent the email from being
intercepted and read. This is very important. Right now I could
change my email from options and send you an email that would come
from firstname.lastname@example.org or whatever I choose. Most viruses use
this from field to fool you into thinking that this important .zip
file is coming from your uncle Bob or whoever. Having verified email
senders is something that Yahoo, Microsoft and others have been
working on for some time, but can’t agree on standards. And making
sure that only the person you want to read your email is the only one
that can read your email is always a good idea also.
I have not personally tried this out yet, as I use PGP when I need to
do such things.
Say I give you a block of text like this:
—–BEGIN PGP MESSAGE—–
Version: PGP 8.0.3
—–END PGP MESSAGE—–
which, having my public
key, you can use to decrypt to the original message. Also, a
block of text or file can also be signed in such a way you know that
it was not changed after it was sent. For example, if I send you an email and someone intercepts it and changes some of the info and sends it to you, when you verify the signature it will fail.
Such messages using strong encryption of this type are thought to be
secure for the next decade or so because it would take today’s
computers something like a hundred years to find the factors of a
note to self: read ‘Do You Want to Live Forever’ from TechnologyReview.com, about an engineer who is redefining the science of aging. Aubrey de Grey published his paper “A Proposed Refinement of the Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging” after teaching hisself the subject. He’s broken aging down into 7 precise problems, which he believes could be solved in the next 25 years and give humans an indefinate lifespan.
note to you, dear reader: The average lifespan of a person today is about 75. By the time I reach that age 50 years from now, the lifespan should have increased to 150 years. Children being born 50 years from now should expect a life span of around 500 years or more.
Posted by Michael at 11:34 AM
I’ve finally gotten a Gmail account. I’ve been wanting one for some time because I’m such a huge nerd, and now my wish is granted. This site aims to get rid of those extra gmail invites and give them to people who want them. There are a lot of things you can do with gmail, and it’s flat categorization is all the rage these days. Basically put, please forget the folder based structure that you currently use for email and bookmarks away and please move to a more open structure.
Look at this guy, who figured out how to import his 12,000 email message dating back to 1997 into gmail. He’s only used 20 percent of his space.
January 17, 2005
No fun for me
Spent all day trying to get my ATI TV Wonder VE working with Linux. I knew that this would be an uphill battle from the start, as the documentation for this card was pretty much non existant. I did learn a whole lot about how modules are loaded and how some of the configurations are supposed to work, but I haven’t gotten anywhere. I started with a fresh install of KnoppixMyth, but then decided to use xawtv until I could get the card loaded. The card type seems to be set correctly because the composite input is working okay with my Xbox, but the tuner is mostly static. The system seems to be picking up on the fact that channel 63 is the History channel, but only has static. Channels 11 and 23 come in black and white, and trying to fine tune the channels doesn’t help either. The closest that I can come up with is that each tuner’s crystal’s frequencies are different and that having the wrong tuner selected can cause the channels to all be off. Just my luck the latest CARDLIST.tuner file has the exact model (FI1236) listed right at the start. I’ve
modprobe bttv card=46 tuner=2
more times than I care to think about.I noticed that the Knoppix install that I’m using is an older kernel, so I’m going to reload Ubuntu right now and see how it works with xawtv. If that doesn’t work I’ll just have to get one of the PVR350’s that everyone seems to be using these days.
January 15, 2005
Arcade Fire live on justconcerts.com
The Arcade Fire is my favorite band as of late, and I came across The Arcade Fire Live on JustConcerts.com just now and havent’ even listened all the way thru the first song ‘No Cars Go’ yet but it just reinforces the fact that I so want to go see them in DC’s 930 Club on January 30th.
I just checked, they’re sold out. The procrastinator in me wins again. Should have known.
Not that I’m an anime fan, but I saw the trailer for Appleseed and I must say I’m impressed. It’s from the same guy that did Ghost in the Shell, and I must say it looks spectacular. I just hope that video games will look as good in the future.
Posted by Michael at 11:28 PM
January 14, 2005
Compiling compiling compiling
Its a bit wierd seeing a program you’ve compiled show up on your screen the first time you run it and you think ‘wow,’ this is how it is really done. I’ve got a machine that could run forever and do whatever I want. I’ve already loaded up 3 machines with Ubuntu today, including the MythTV box, and I have learned so much. Myth TV requires a bunch of plugins including mySQL and one I haven’t even of before. It’s going to be quite the experiment.
A couple other things I ran into today that I wanted to talk about but have escaped me now.
I’ve gotten so sucked in to the computer today like I haven’t been in years. It’s like the same kind of excitement I got from hacking an xbox but much deeper than that. More so like when I become ingrossed in a science fiction story and start daydreaming about “what if’s.” What if I complied an AI text agent with instant message and used it as an away message. “You have reached micael’s computer, I am lonley,” and the machine would start chatting back. Anything is possible. Computer’s talking back at themselves, evolutionary AI progressing the conversation forward.
I am up to my neck in console scripts and modules and code and ideas that I can’t sleep. It’s like skiing all day on a mountain and then finding yourself making the motions in your bed.
I just realized that it’s going to be very easy for me to build a very large network now. If I can get these Linux boxes loaded and out the door with the right software on them it could be very useful. I think that we could do very well to provide training to computer illiterates on how to use them. Ship old ass pentium I’s and II’s preconfigured with a back door on it that we could use if a customer wanted some customization done to it. “Can you add this to my computer?” Telnetting in…“Sure..”
Give ‘em a cable modem and a $50 computer, a cable modem, and sell them support for $20 a shot. Hell I’ll even make sure everyone gets a copy of the Unofficial Ubuntu FAQ to boot.
I only wish I had started sooner.
January 12, 2005
Well I’ve finally made the switch to Linux. Well, just partially. I don’t think I’ll stop using Windows anytime soon, but this is a start. I came across Ubuntu today, and seeing as how we have all these old computers laying around my shop that we want to get rid of, I loaded it on an old Pentium 233 that was laying around so I can test it out. We’ve been wanting to load Linux on these old machines because copies of Win98 still run over $50 a copy. So now I’ve got this old box at my house and I’m working on it just fine. The only thing it seems to be missing is antivirus but other than that it works great.
Your computer as Tivo, or Broadcatching
I stumbled on an article on Wired about Videora, a program that combines Bittorrent and RSS feeds to automatically download episodes of your favorite tv shows. It seems like a pretty good idea to me, but the $22.95 price tag made me turn away. Luckily my Google-fu turned up this page from Engaget.com on how to configure BroadCatching for free. After replacing BitTorrent with Azureus and a little configuration I’ll have the latest Daily Show episodes downloaded to my computer every day.
January 11, 2005
Folding at home
I’m sure you know what protein is, but did you ever think about how a protein is made from a string of DNA? Folding@Home is a distributed computing program that can run on your computer like a screen saver. Put those spare processing cycles to good use and help Stanford University understand how protein folding works. Every biological process in your body works from proteins, from how vitamins and minerals are used by your body to the way bacteria and virus attack your cells. By developing their models they hope to someday understand how to create synthetic proteins to help fight disease.
Please go to the download page and download one of the clients. If you wish to join team daHIFI, please enter 551 as your team number.
A lot has been going on at MIT recently. Scientists there have been trying to redesign DNA based organisms to create bacteria that synthesize drugs usually made from rare plants or those that eat toxic waste. It all started with designing biologic circuitry out of DNA to program bacteria. It could lead to enhancements to the human genome. It’s not like genetic engineering, taking components from existing organisms and mixing them, this is about designing them from the ground up, specifying exactly what bits of DNA go inside them.
These guys are redesigning biology from the ground up. It is technologies like these that tell me that the next 20 years are going to be nothing like I have ever imagined. With the dropping price in sequencing, this technology will see a development not unlike computer tech in the late ’80’s.
I mean, these guys are convinced they can program a seed to grow into a house.
January 10, 2005
Mashup mashup mashup
If you are looking to listen to something different, check out this mashup collection site. A mashup is when they take an instrumental of one song and mix it with the acapella of another. If you’ve never heard of it, read this New Yorker article on mashups.
Posted by Michael at 12:50 AM
January 09, 2005
Rules of the gym
I’ve been going to Gold’s gym for the past month or so, and these Rules of the gym made me laugh, mainly the fact that he’s so right.
1. Stop oogling the girls. It is human nature to look at beautiful things, and the more beautiful they are, the more you want to look. But come on – show some respect. Get a look, go back to whatever it is you were doing.
2. Stop oogling the girls. Seriously. Stop. I know you’re a beast and have only six braincells, every one of them tasked with thinking about boobie. But for chrissake, have some decency, you jarhead. You’re making them uncomfortable.
3. Stop oogling the girls. Yes, it’s THAT bad a problem that I have to say it again.
Whoops, guess I’m guilty…
Posted by Michael at 08:57 PM
Google on 60 Minutes
The news on Google has heated up recently, and there was a segment on 60 minutes last week. Alas the video I downloaded was corrupt but you can find a transcript on CBS’s web site: Google 60 Minutes Transcript. One of the ideas that is being thrown around in the Google office for the future would
“have a device which is in your pocket, which looks like a phone, and you go to a supermarket and you see a potentially overpriced box of pasta. And you take that device and you wand it over the product code, and you see comparison prices from Google of three other stores that are within a mile, OK? That’s power. That’s search. But no one has quite figured out that. That’s also the future.
January 08, 2005
Virginia miscarrage law brouhaha
There’s a website I stumbled across this week called Democracy for Virginia that ran a story about Chesapeake state Delegate John Cosgrove footing a bill that would require a woman to report a miscarriage to the police within 12 hours or face a class 1 misdemeanor. The law was an attempt to prevent a mother from leaving an unwanted baby in a dumpster or bathroom stall and claim that it was a stillbirth. Under current law if a woman abandons a newborn child and later claims it to have been stillborn, if the coroner cannot determine the cause of death of the child because too much time has passed after death, the only thing that woman could be charged with was improper disposal of a body. Unfortunately for Mr. Cosgrove, the wording of the proposed law was so vague that it essentially required all woman to report all miscarriages during any state of pregnancy. By the time the story had been posted on Fark and Metafilter and everywhere else Delegate Cosgrove’s email box had been inundated with tons of hate mail disparaging him for being so insensitive and callous by trying to pass such an invasion of privacy. The next day Mr. Cosgrove replied that it had not been his intention that a woman could be arrested for not reporting a miscarriage in a one month old pregnancy, and that he would reword the bill to specifically deal with the issue of abandoned late term pregnancies.
Perhaps there is another reason why this law was put forth. I have been made aware that in other states laws are being put forth that would require death certificates for all aborted fetuses. I believe that this Virginia law is really about granting fetuses as many rights as possible from the moment of conception and is in reality an anti abortion law, on one hand preventing women from getting abortions and later claiming that it was a miscarraige to their family, and, but defining miscarraige as an instance of fetal death, are trying to allow the thinking that abortion = willful death = murder.
Thankfully for all the uproar that has been heard the bill will be changed or not passed at all. We will see when the legislative branch of Virginia’s state government reconvenes next week.
January 07, 2005
Looks like they’ve released the software that we talked about here. It’s still in beta, but it seems solid. I’ve tried it out on a few machines here at the office but not enough to tell you anything special yet. It does have a nice way of telling you what each spyware pest is on you system. I’ll tell you more after I’ve had a chance to use it on a really messed up machine.
Changes to the site
I’ve been super busy making a bunch of changes to the website, most notably a counter for me to keep track of visitors, for which I had to install PHP and relearn how to administrate mySQL again. I also found the header image from an old version of this site and added some ads by Google. I’m gonna try and tweak some things around and see how it works out.
January 05, 2005
Roots Reggae Radio
A friend of mine wants to start an online radio station with all of his unreleased reggae music that can be listeded to by thousands of people. I know it will take much time and money to get it going. The main problem right now is the bandwidth. We need help.
If you link it, Google will make it so
This is my first time participating in a Googlebomb.
Electoral vote to be challenged Thursday
And it appears that Democrats will be challenging it. Such a thing happened in 2000 when Florida house members raised an objection to Florida’s vote tally. Al Gore, presiding over the chambers during that time, had to squash any protest becuase no Senator would second the objection. Now it appears that Senator Barbara Boxer from California will be joining the battle to contest Ohio’s vote.
Of course even if Ohio’s electoral votes are discredited it will still not change the result of the election. I am not really sure what possible impact it may have on the Florida count or other contested states, but hopefully it will bring light to the huge problems with our current electoral system (especially this one). Only with open source voting software, and non partisain officiating will America’s electoral process be something more that a huge waste of time.
However there is one point someone brought up that no one seems to be repeating. That is how many states actually have laws requiring that the electoral votes be cast for the actual ballot winners? The electoral college was designed as it is becuase the founding fathers didn’t believe that a popular vote was the way to go.
Regardless I look forward to seeing coverage of this in the news tomorrow. I wonder how much attention it will get with all of the tsunami related news that’s going around.
Future History of the Media
Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson have put together the Museum of Media History, which starts out as a very good recap of recent technology starting with Google, Amazon, blogs, and social networking technology like Friendster or del.icio.us and extrapolates what they feel will be future trends.
It shows a future in which the major media outlets have dissolved away, leaving a system of Tivo like agents filter out your personal tastes from the blogosphere and internets to deliver that which you are only truly interested in.
The scenarios that it brings up are truly amazing. I would say this piece straddles the realm of science fiction, but like all good SF it’s premise is so firmly entrenched in the present that it’s all truly plausible.
Watch the clip to see how the next decade could play with regards to media and a worldwide nervous system.
The realization that Google News is probably the first webpage that is automatically created by an autonomous software program hit me pretty hard. The first webpage created by a computer. I know that within 5 years there will be agents able to read other webpages and automatically summarize it for our own consumption.
Vulcan FlipStart Phone/PDA/Laptop
Which one is it? I don’t know but I think I want one.
January 03, 2005
Getting the most out of Firefox
This tweak seems to be making the round lately, telling you how to enable multithreading in Firefox to make downloading faster. I’ve been using it for a week now and it seems to work real well. No problems yet. Make sure you read here first for the disclaimers and do not use this if you are on a dial up connection!
Here’s some more info on about:config that may be useful for you other nerds out there.
Here’s an intro to FF that I came across today that had some tips that might be useful.
This guy makes specialized Mozilla builds that are optimized for certain processor types. Many are swearing that it is a great hack. I’ve just downloaded the one for my P4, let’s see how it goes.