Friday, March 31, 2006

Quiet

Sorry for the quiet.  Was traveling last weekend to NY and will be traveling this weekend to Pittsburgh.  I know how to pick 'em don't I?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Interesting Facts About Domain Names

Dennis Forbes in Pragmatic Software Development writes some Interesting Facts about Domain Names. All the 2 and 3 letter sequences in .com are taken. The average length of a domain name is 11 characters. Also most every first and last name is taken. More on the page.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

Movie Review: Inside Man

People usually say that you need two things for a great heist film. You need a good plan without holes and a good bad guy to pull it off. Inside Man, directed by Spike Lee has both and adds a great cast and while it's worth seeing, it's not as great as it could have been.

The film starts right in with the heist. Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) goes into a bank dressed as a worker and them some others come in. They seal up the bank and take hostages. Immediately a cop on the street notices it and calls in it. Willem DaFoe is the police captain in charge on the scene, at least until Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) shows up. Frazier is being investigated for something but is being given this assignment to prove himself a good cop, he's also thinking about proposing to his girlfriend. In a odd side plot we find out that the bank's CEO Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) has some secret he'd like to keep and that details of it are in a safe deposit box in the branch that Russell has taken hostages. Case hires Madeline White (Jodie Foster) to make sure his secret stays secret. Ms. White seem to be a high-priced, well-connected fixer of problems, think Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolfe in Pulp Fiction, but without the threat of violence.

So we have a great cast and the scheme is pretty good. Russell is an exacting person in control of the situation and Frazier is a well-meaning cop who's not underestimating him. Russell seems to have some depth as two scenes point out. One of his hostages is a young black child playing an ultra-violent PSP game. Russell asks about it and says he'll need to talk to the kid's father about this, clearly not approving of his parenting skills. Russell also gives Frazier advice about his girlfriend, saying that if they are in love, that's all that should be enough. These touches seem to suggest a rightous moral man, but yet he's robbing a bank. This seems like a setup for something more, but the story never goes there.

There are a few scenes with Mr. Case and Ms. White trying to manipulate things but not many, and their characters are not really developed (well his is more than hers). And DaFoe's captain must have had scenes cut because there's little reason for such a known actor to be in the role. So how is it that all these characters have small roles in a movie that's a little over two hours? It's a Spike Lee film so there are various slow motion camera pans with loud dramatic music playing over it. But part of the plot is that the bad guys don't seem to be in a rush and Frazier is trying to figure out why. But he doesn't seem to be in a rush either.

This leaves time for Spike Lee to add some racial undertones and lots of New York'isms. The cops bug the bank and hear some foreign language spoken. When they can't identify it they play it for the crowd of onlookers hoping one will recognize it. Of course someone does and it's much easier to bring down his ex-wife to do the translation than it is to go through official channels. There are a number of jabs against the police too. Only one really bothered me, when an office fires rubber bullets into a crowd when it was completely unnecessary. It's your typical Spike Lee, crowd out of control, needing to be calmed down scene and it didn't seem right. And if the CEO, mayer and police commissioner, all old white men, aren't obvious enough to show you who's in control, Ms White is there supposedly manipulating all the strings in the background to make it as obvious as possible.

It's also clearly set in a post 9/11 New York. If the posters on the walls in the background don't convince you, the scene with the Sikh complaining that a cop called him an Arab and that he's tired of always being the subject of a "random" search at the airport. When Denzel says "but you probably have an easy time getting a cab" I laughed with the Sikh character, but then cringed a bit.

When Lee shows the heist scenes they all work, and as I've said the plot is pretty good, though I was left wondering how Russell got all the info he needed to pull this off in the first place. When he shows the NY stuff it works pretty well too, but I'm not sure they work so well together. Certainly Dog Day Afternoon (which is mentioned in this film) and many other films prove this combination can be great, but I don't think Lee's style for these scenes blends well with a taunt capper. Inside Man is a good film, probably the best of the year so far (ok, that's not saying much), but much like last year's The Interpreter, this movie could have been great, and the fact that it wasn't, is a bit disappointing.

Bush's Wartime Powers Face Court Challenge

It seems the US Supreme Court will hear Hamdan vs Rumsfeld. Hamdan was Osama bin Laden's former driver and has been at Guantanamo since 2001. I think the charges are conspiracy to commit something but he's being held as an enemy combatant and would be tried in a military tribunal. The defense is saying Bush doesn't have the power to convene military trials as part of the war on terror.

That all sounds kinda dumb to me. He was captured in Afghanistan and I don't think that people captured in war actually face trails (Scalia doesn't think so). Then again, this article by a 3rd year Yale Law School student who worked on Hamden's defense does explain the questions well. "Can the president try suspected members of al-Qaida by military commission, as opposed to courts-martial or in the criminal courts? Do the Geneva Conventions apply to the war on terror? Did the recently passed Detainee Treatment Act strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction to decide all of these questions? And does Congress even have that kind of power over the court?"

One last note, this case came up to a US Appeals Court and they said Bush had the power to do this. John Roberts was one of the judges that heard and decided this and he has already recused himself from hearing this at the Supreme Court.

Northlandz Model Trains

I've been spending the weekend in NJ with my sister. We stopped off at
Northlandz on a trip to New Hope. It was pretty fun, though little kids or model railroad buffs will enjoy it more. Their photos don't quite convey the dust on the models (I thought one section with the dust covered matchbox-sized cars looked like The Day After) or the dearth of actual moving trains. There were several large displays and you wander around through them seeing them from different angles. At some points we saw 3 trains moving at once, but there were a lot of point where we saw no trains at all.

The layouts don't model real sites at all, they are a little more whimsical with a Disney-like castle and a dark non-moving amusement park with one of the few captions of the display "Amusement park during a power failure." Most of the places reminded me of the movie Popeye, with structures built improbably vertical along cliff faces. Nevertheless, it wasn't a bad way to kill an hour. Little kids seemed to like it more, but would have really enjoyed it if there were more moving trains.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The More Things Change...

"I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them."

- Adlai E. Stevenson Jr. (1900 - 1965), Speech during 1952 Presidential Campaign

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Airport Passenger Screening

Bruce Schneier reports on Airport Passenger Screening "In tests between November 2001 and February 2002, screeners missed 70 percent of knives, 30 percent of guns and 60 percent of (fake) bombs. And recently (see also this), testers were able to smuggle bomb-making parts through airport security in 21 of 21 attempts. It makes you wonder why we're all putting our laptops in a separate bin and taking off our shoes."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Do Less Than Nothing Congress

The Daily Kos did a pretty factual job on reporting on this ABC story that Congress Is Empty, Get Used to It. ABC said:

"The average American has worked more than 50 days in 2006, but, so far, the House has worked in Washington just 19 days, a total of 118 hours. The Senate is not far behind with 33 days at the Capitol."

The Daily Kos added goes on to say with the current schedule it should work out to about 40% of what working Americans will do. And they take the base salary of $165,200 per year and break that down to $213 an hour. They go on to say being in session isn't always working. To me though they missed the good quote from ABC:

"The House calendar is already set for the rest of the year. The representatives will meet for two weeks in April, a week in May and July, and all of August. Even a national newspaper points out that with fewer than 100 days scheduled, the House is on track to be in session less than what President Harry Truman called the "do-nothing" Congress of 1948."

Gee, and early today Bush said: " if looked at objectively, would say, well, they got a lot done" Not so much. Here's what the House did in 2006. They've only passed 37 things and most of those are useless or double counting a vote. The most real things include the Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act, Pension Protection Act of 2005, National Uniformity for Food Act, some appropriations, and of course renewing the Patriot Act. Here are the more fun things they passed:
  • "Expressing the sense of Congress that the Russian Federation should fully protect the freedoms of all religious communities without distinction, whether registered and unregistered, as stipulated by the Russian Constitution and international standards."
  • "Expressing support for the efforts of the people of the Republic of Belarus to establish a full democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and urging the Government of Belarus to conduct a free and fair presidential election on March 19, 2006."
  • "To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to designate the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home in Hope, Arkansas, as a National Historic Site and unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes"
  • "To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 6110 East 51st Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the Dewey F. Bartlett Post Office"
  • "Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Texas Westerns 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship and recognizing the groundbreaking impact of the title game victory on diversity in sports and civil rights in America"
  • "Honoring the contributions of Catholic schools"
  • "Congratulating the National Football League champion Pittsburgh Steelers for winning Super Bowl XL and completing one of the greatest postseason runs in professional sports history"
  • and my favorite "To eliminate floor privileges and access to Member exercise facilities for registered lobbyists who are former Members or officers of the House"

Wikipedia's list of what the 109th Congress has done is pretty weak too, though I'm not sure it's complete. Though with these bozo's it's probably good that they're not doing much.

Homeland Security Network Gets an F

Homeland Security network gets an F according to the House Government Reform Committee for network security. Apparently things in the past year have stayed the same or gotten worse.

"This year, the federal government as a whole hardly improved, receiving a D-plus yet again," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the committee. "Our analysis reveals that the scores for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, State -- the agencies on the front line in the war on terror -- remain unacceptably low or dropped precipitously."

Now repeat after me: "and Americans are safer". Now I'm channeling Stephen Colbert.

Bush's Rhetoric Reported, Finally

Speaking of Bush and speeches. The AP reports on Bush's Rhetoric, specifically his use of straw man. Bush often says "some say..." and then describes something in the extreme that really few if anyone say, and then disagrees with it.

"A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion. " Now I don't really know what a "specialist in presidential rhetoric" is but there you go.

At least someone is reporting on his dishonest speech. Media Matters goes one step further to say that "many AP writers have simply reported Bush's misrepresentations of his opponents' arguments without challenging them." Seems the press has been either negligent or complicit. Then again, I guess that was rhetoric too. :)

More on Bush Today

If you missed the press conference, the transcript is up. The transcript by the way is good, I checked it against my Tivo. But what doesn't come through is his swagger, stutter, pauses, smirks or gestures. I think he looks the most unpresidential of any politician I've ever seen.

He made a couple of statements that seemed off the cuff and were meant to be jokes I think but I'd be surprised if I don't see it on the Daily Show tonight. One was "I'm kind of stalling for time here". The other was "Let's see here. They told me what to say...David."

He also had a number of back-and-forths with the press which seemed odd. One was "I also said that -- let me make sure, Steve, that you -- first of all, I'm impressed that you're actually paying attention to it. The people I saw in the press pool weren't. They were, like, Elisabeth was half-asleep -- (laughter) -- yes, you were. (Laughter.)" And another was "Cannon. No, you're not Cannon. That's Cannon. You're Ken. Sorry, Ken. You thought I said Cannon" It sounded like Who's on first?.

This banter did seem to get in the way. The second question was by Helen Thomas who asked why did he really go to war because "Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true...what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?" He started answering saying "I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --" Think Progress has listed various sources saying he did..

He went on to talk about 9/11 and providing a safe haven to the enemy. She interrupted saying "They didn't do anything to you, or to our country." Bush interrupted her saying "Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained -- " . Just amazing, can he really be confusing countries? Or is it deliberate? Just yesterday Bush said: " I don't think we ever said -- at least I know I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein.". Today, Helen Thomaas interrupted Bush saying "I'm talking about Iraq" and he said "Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans." He then went on to say "I also saw a threat in Iraq" but didn't really elaborate aside from UN resolution 1441 and some other stuff. And he wonders why people think he said there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq.

Anyway, it was annoying to watch this. Jon Stewart will make it worthwhile. Sad isn't it?

Bush Spoke, I heard Jon Stewart

Bush is talking now and taking questions.  I'm watching on NBC and I can hear Jon Stewart's voice in my head as Bush behaves like an idiot.  

After his statement he said "Now I'll be glad to take any questions you have starting with AP Person.  And yes he did glance down as he said this.  It's an "I, state your name" kind of moment.  Yes there was laughter and he followed it by saying "That would be you Terry", but I was reminded of CJ seeding the reporters with easy questions.

The question was that Iraq interim 
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Iraq was in Civil War, does Bush agree.  He said "I do not.  There are other voices coming out of Iraq by the way, other than Mr. Allawi, who I know by the way.  Like.  He's a good fellow."  Well I would hope that Bush knew the Interim PM of Iraq.  I can hear Jon Stewart going "heh heh".

Wow, there's a lot to say about this performance.  More posts coming.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Who's Line is it Anyway

This is from the very funny improvisational TV show (American version).

Things you can say about your boat but not your girlfriend:

"Ooo, she's riding kinda low"
"Yeah, you can put a dozen guys down below"
"She's taking on water!"
"Nice aft"
"Ah, nice trim"
"She's going down!"

Your Tax Dollars

Here's a visual representation of the 2004 discretionary federal budget.

The Google Subpoena Case: A Google Victory

Concurring Opinions has the best summary of The Google Subpoena Case I've seen. I was confused by the initial reports that said a government victory and then later reports that said a Google victory. This posting explains it all.

Google was subpoenaed to produce it's complete index of sites and all the search queries entered over a 2 month period. When Google balked, the government narrowed it's request a few times to 50,000 URLs indexed and only 5,000 queries. The government claimed a human would browse through the data and be able to "estimate . . . the aggregate properties of the websites that search engines have indexed". Now that sounds lame to me and it sounded lame to the court which called the description "incomplete".

"Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, a subpoena may be quashed if the 'burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.'"

"The court concluded that the goverment did not need both the URL samples and the search queries, and it required only the disclosure of the URL samples but not the search queries. The court concluded that 'the marginal burden of loss of trust by Google's users based on Google's disclosure of its users' search queries to the Government outweighs the duplicative disclosure's likely benefit to the Government's study.'"

Scalia Doesn't Read Footnotes

So I'm not sure what this means, but Law Blog from the Wall Street Journal reports that Justice Scalia Doesn't Read Footnotes, Normally!. This seems a bit odd as most decisions have a lot of footnotes. Then again it's possible a lot of judges don't read footnotes unless there's a specific reason.

Largest Air Assault...Not

The BBC has an article calld How US assault grabbed global attention about the recent air assault in Iraq. It talks about how this got a lot of media attention and what the military did to encourage that. It started out with 1,500 men and by the second day was scaled down to 900 having had no resistance, "no clashes with insurgents, no casualties were reported."

"They detained 48 people, of whom 17 were freed without delay. Officials said they did not believe they had captured any significant insurgent leaders. Any leaders there must have seen the forces coming, and escaped," said one senior Iraqi security source."

It talk about the military using the phrase "largest air assault operation" and how that just meant a lot of helicopters used for transportation, not air strikes. They also describe the unusual info and access given to the media beforehand. The article ends with:

"The reasons for it being given such high-profile publicity are clearly open to speculation. The operation came at a time when support at home for President Bush and his campaign in Iraq is running very low, and when the international media were preparing to focus on the third anniversary of the war, just three days later."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Depending on Toys

My second best toy is the Navigation System in my car.  (Tivo is number one).  When you have one it really becomes second nature to glance down and to the right to see a map centered on where you are and oriented the right way.  It gives you more freedom to see options to avoid traffic or go around a block, etc.

A friend had a party Saturday and I had never been to his house before.  There was a lot of resident only parking near his home so I parked two blocks away and walked.  There were a lot of curvy streets that I was unfamiliar with so I was being careful to make sure I could find the car again.  I caught myself while walking glancing down and to the right to see a map, but of course it wasn't there.  Now that would be an invention.

Why Data Mining Won't Stop Terror

Bruce Schneier of Counterpane wrote in Wired Why Data Mining Won't Stop Terror. "We're not trading privacy for security; we're giving up privacy and getting no security in return." Read the article you'll understand the numbers. The issue is, the system must be impossibly accurate or it will drown in a sea of false positives which still need to be tracked down and prevent agents from doing things that might actually improve security.

Presidential Speechalist

Andy Dick as the secret genius behind George W. Bush's stupidity. That's the premise behind Harlan McCraney, Presidential Speechalist, a three and an half minute short film from Comedy Central's Last Laugh 2004. Very fun and worth watching. It's apparently by Otis Productions who's made a variety of commercials, short films and music videos.

Word to Describe Bush: Incompetent

Time magazine reports on a Pew Research Center poll. They asked 710 people: "What one word best describes your impression of George W. Bush?" No options or suggestions are offered.

"Until this month, the word most associated with President Bush had always been honest, Now the leading answer is incompetent (given by 29 people), followed by good, idiot and liar. Honest has slipped to 5th, tied with Christian."

The fact that incompetent was chosen by a whole 4% doesn't mean all that much to me. 48% of the responses were negative while only 28% were positive and 10% neutral. But it makes a good blog post. :)

Office 2007 UI Preview

Microsoft as posted an Office 2007 Preview site with some screenshot of new UI elements. Jensen Harris, the Lead Program Manager on the Microsoft Office "user experience" team has a blog and also posted A New Look For Office.

The obvious change is a new feature known as the ribbon. The menus and toolbars that so cluttered Office have been replaced with what seems like a large tabbed toolbar. This seems like a good idea, giving more space to show complex controls than just a text menu or a single line of toolbar buttons can give. Here's the ribbon from Word:


Word 2007 Ribbon - Click to enlarge picture


One problem in Office is finding commands in a sea of choices. Previously they tried Personalized menus which hated. The idea was to rearrange the menu putting more commonly used tasks higher and removing unused commands. To me this just made everything harder to find because they kept moving. Now MS is using Contextual Tabs added to the ribbon. By default the ribbon only show options that you can use on the document. However if you do something like add and select a chart, a new Chart tab appears. It's a bit like right-clicking on something to bring up a context menu, but it has more space to show the commands.

But of course all this extra space is only good if you use it well. While these are just a couple of screenshots I'm a little concerned. Here's the ribbon for PowerPoint:


PowerPoint 2007 Ribbon - Click to enlarge picture


I'm not sure I'd know to look for font choices in a tab called "Slides" instead of the "Design" tab. Now look at the contextual Table tab in PowerPoint shown below. Notice how much space is taken up in "Table Styles" by seven large icons (which seems to be scrollable) that differ only in color. Wouldn't a button that popped up a color picker be better?


Table Tools in Office 2007 - Click to enlarge picture


My last complaint is an old one. I like to see as much of my document as possible and the limiting factor in this is usually vertical space. That ribbon does take up a lot of space at the top of the screen that my document can't use. I hope I can move it to the side and position it vertically. Or maybe make it a floating palette as found in many programs like Photoshop or even Office 2004 for Mac. The more things change...

Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If you're into the history of geekdom this video is for you. Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing is a 30 minute documentary from 1972 about the beginnings of the ARPANET now on Google Video. This is the origin of the Internet, from back when it had about 30 computers connected. There's a Wikipedia page with a list of people appearing in the film. Good stuff.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Global Warming is Real

NASA says global warming is happening. It seems Greenland (pictured at right from 2002) and Antartica are melting faster than expected. Recent surveys matched "signs of a warming climate predicted by computer models." NASA did not tie the warming to activities of man but said that might be coming within a year.

Apparently this release followed some internal NASA change that allowed scientists more freedom from the censorship that the Bush administration had placed on them. At least that seems like some good news.

Retirement Quiz

Question: How many days in a week?
Answer: 6 Saturdays, 1 Sunday

Question: When is a retiree's bedtime?
Answer: Three hours after he falls asleep on the couch.

Question: How many retirees to change a light bulb?
Answer: Only one, but it might take all day.

Question: What's the biggest gripe of retirees?
Answer: There is not enough time to get everything done.

Question: Why don't retirees mind being called Seniors?
Answer: The term co mes with a 10% percent discount.

Question: Among retirees what is considered formal attire?
Answer: Tied shoes.

Question: Why do retirees count pennies?
Answer: They are the only ones who have the time.

Question: What is the common term for someone who enjoys work and refuses to retire?
Answer: NUTS!

Question: What do retirees call a long lunch?
Answer: Normal.

Question: What is the best way to describe retirement?
Answers: The never ending Coffee Break.

Question: What's the biggest advantage of going back to school as a retiree?
Answer: If you cut classes, no one calls your parents.

Question: Why does a retiree often say he doesn't miss work, but misses the people he used to work with?
Answer: He is too polite to tell the whole truth.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cracking German WWII Messages

In World War II the Germans used a code called Enigma to keep their messages secret from the allies. Three uncracked messages were found and published in 1995. A distributed computing project called M4 is trying to decipher the messages. The BBC reports that the Enigma project cracks second code. The plaintext of the message is in the article and is fairly mundane but it's still pretty cool.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Taxing Oil's Monopoly Profits

I've never heard of Raymond J. Learsy but he's apparently a former commodities trader and somewhat of an expert on oil trade and OPEC. He writes in the Huffington Post about Taxing Oil's Monopoly Profits. I don't know nearly enough to have an opinion on this topic. On the one hand the profits are huge and the oil prices are high (well kinda, not really historically or compared to other countries who tax oil to dissuade use, but still everyone in the US is complaining about it) and the budget is way out of whack. On the other hand the profits were fair and square and having an arbitrary tax on a successful industry seems wrong. On the other other hand as this article points out, the industry isn't all that fair and square. I found it an interesting read.

I'm a few weeks behind on the economist, though I can guess their position. :)

Note to Moronic Democratic Senators

Cenk Uygur in the Huffington Post writes a Note to Moronic Democratic Senators: Americans Can't Stand George Bush. In it he gives them hell for having no backbone to stand up for what's right. Instead they are afraid to offend anyone since they are trying to raise money for elections.

I think Uygur rightly points out that Bush's ratings are so low it wouldn't cost them much. I think they're missing the point that they also have to stand for something, otherwise people might not vote for them since they might not be any different. I'm not sure I agree with Uygur's last point: "The only prominent politicians I have any respect left for now are the four horsemen of the Democratic Party -- Al Gore, Russ Feingold, Howard Dean and Jack Murtha." After all, while Feingold's motives might be good, the way this all happened just went to show cracks in the Democratic party. Though, based on the rest of the article, maybe that was needed.

Blue Ball YTMND

I've never heard of YTMND sites before. It stands for "You're The Man Now, Dog!", which is a site with an image (maybe animated) and looping music. Who knew? While there are lots of these, here are a few that seem to be a sub-genre of moving blue balls:

Blue Ball Machine
Medieval Blue Ball Machine
Indiana Jones Can't Stop the Blue Ball Machine
Blue Ball Tragedy

Now what is that damn circus-like music? I've heard it recently too but don't know what song it is.

Chief Justice Roberts So Far

Here's a very interesting article from law.com about how Chief Justice John Roberts Has High Court Singing in Harmony. That might be overstating it a bit, but he does have 21 unanimous decisions out of 26 and the increased sense of "harmony" on the court. He's still conservative but he seems to be a great chief justice so far.

The Macintosh through Linux Eyes

The Macintosh Through Linux Eyes is a long time linux user's first experience with a mac. He'd never owned a mac, but OSX and a cheap used mac-mini gave him the chance. He liked it, but I thought the review said more about a linux user.

"The first thing that struck me was that all the hardware worked." What struck me was that this would strike someone. "As a Linux user, I am used to spending time to get all my desktop hardware to work." I think that's pathetic. I understand that Apple has it easier controlling all it's own hardware, but when it comes to user experience, isn't this what you expect when you buy something? "The Mac seemed to work better with my PC hardware than Windows; without endless, conflicting drivers and reboots." This certainly matches my experiences.

"The second thing that struck me was that every Apple software application worked as advertised." Wow, we're just really pushing the bounds of expectations. "OSX ships with 50 or so applications that not only work, but are extensively documented. The help system was quite useful. Most Linux distributions ship with 1000+ applications, many with overlapping features, about half of which work as advertised, and about quarter of which are adequately documented."

He goes on to say the hardware not only worked, but was elegant and that printing worked out of the box which is so not the case with Linux. He described how OSX's default configuration is secure and how he felt at home with Terminal and the bash shell. In fact he says by using another OS he realized that 80% of his time is spent in either a Browser or a shell window. He installed Firefox, Gimp, GPG and a few others.

When I started with Windows 10 years ago I installed Emacs and Cygwin and tried to make the box as Unix-like as I could. With the mac I tried to avoid this (well, I needed Emacs) and use it as it was meant to be used. I wonder what this guy will start to think about Linux once he uses the iLife apps like iTunes, iPhoto, and Garage Band. I found his review really interesting, mostly because it describes how pathetically low our expectations of computers are.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Three Interesting Apps

Three interesting apps I came across today.

GarageSale is a mac interface for managing eBay auctions. It's got features like capturing images from an iSight or finding things in iPhoto and hosting the images on FTP or .mac to save eBay fees. Templates and other things make tracking your auctions easier.

MemoryMiner is another mac app thats like iPhoto plus. It looks a little like iPhoto, the plus is in adding metadata to your photos. It treats people and places as first class things so there are palettes that list people from your address book and a list of places you've established. it can convert addresses into latitude and longitude via web lookup and download maps as well. You associate people and places by dragging and dropping them on photos. You can also isolate sections of a photo and assign stuff to that section, like a person. It will do things like compute their age in the photo by associating birthdate from the address book with time the photo was taken. They take care to allow you add imprecise date info to older photos (like say those you scanned in). This demo video was pretty good. Update: MacWorld has a review and while they like the idea, they said version 1.04 is too buggy for real use.

Lastly, google bought the company SketchUp today. Their demo video shows how to use their 3D sketch tool. Pretty cool stuff.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Censuring Bush

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) announced on This Week that he will make a motion to formally censure Bush for his domestic spying program.  The resolution says Bush "repeatedly misled the public prior to the public disclosure of the National Security Agency surveillance program by indicating his administration was relying on court orders to wiretap suspected terrorists inside the United States." Feingold said "This conduct is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors" and feels it's Congress' responsibility to not ignore this crime. 

He says the thinks the motion to censure has a better change than impeachment would.  Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) already said it won't make it to the floor.  If so it will be another example of the Republican Congress protecting their President.  Earlier in the week Sen Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the (oxymoronic) Senate Intelligence Committee headed a vote against an investigation on the matter.  It's not the first time Roberts has covered for Bush, in fact Think Progress has compiled an extensive list of how the SIC is failing at it's mission "to provide vigilant legislative oversight".  Maybe we should censure them.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Salty Egg King Steams the Vegetable Sponge

This might be the worst English Translation of a menu ever.

More Origami

Here's a video of perhaps the worst product demo ever. It's someone showing the Asus R2H Origami device. It has some nice features including TV out and GPS. Watching him use the interface to get to things is painful, but he doesn't seem to be the most skilled user.



This image just frightens me. Ok, the arc'ed keyboard is potentially cool, but I'd have to try it to see. But look at how much space you have to see what you're typing!!! It's one line and it doesn't even span the width of the screen. No wonder I hate Outlook.

Eco-Tourism at Home

Sprol uses Google Earth images to show what they call the "Worst Places In The World". Their about page says "Sprol shows the visual macroscopic effects of the decisions and behavior of our society." What that means is here are photos of the environment changing. Their topics include disasterss, pollution, mining, etc.

Lies and Statistics

This is one the dumbest things I've seen in a while. The article, Cheap watches trouble for Gitmo prisoners, tells how many terrorist bombs use Casio watches as timers so now "The U.S. military cites the digital watches worn by prisoners when they were captured as possible evidence of terrorist ties."

The fact that millions and millions of people wear the popular watches seems lost on them. I bet terrorists use Kleenex too, or maybe they prefer Puffs. Now if someone could find a connection in Casio corporate, that would be something.

To me the most frightening part of the article was:

The watch maker, a division of Casio Computer Co., Ltd. of Japan, declined interview requests, but said in the statement that it is aware of the concerns. "Casio continues to work closely with all government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security to help limit any potential threats and deal with security concerns," the statement said.

what is this "close work" they do?

New TiVo Pricing Model

ars Technica has a good article, TiVo just wants to be free on their new pricing model. They are eliminating upfront hardware costs and are going to a pure subscription model with no unit lifetime option.

As a Tivo lover and shareholder I'm not to happy about this. I've been waiting for an HD Tivo for several years and will buy one the moment it's available. But most of my frineds who didn't buy Tivo cite the monthly fee as a barrier. I'd go the other way and raise the box costs and lower the monthly fees dramatically. Makes it easier to give as a gift. TiVo's competition is cable DVR service which is close to half as expensive. If you model is the same, how to do you convince people that the premium is worth it? Particularly when people who are watching less TV are already paying monthly cable bills and monthly netflix service. Being third to this party doesn't sound appealing.

Maybe I'm wrong, people seem will to pay for netflix and they have a good model to give trial memberships as gifts, but they don't have to get a box into your hands.

Update: See this for some more details. Get that lifetime while you can.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Microsoft's Origami Mini-Laptop

Microsoft has finally announced their new Origami product which seems to be something between a PDA and laptop. It's got a 7 inch screen and weights about 2 lbs. It runs a "modified version of Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC edition."

"Samsung positions the UMPC as a handheld organizer, an MP3 portable music player, a mobile television receiver, a games device and a notebook PC and believes it will be more successful than the full-sized tablet notebook PC with touch screen, launched four years ago."

This seems really dumb to me. As a Palm user for years, the important point was that it fit in a pocket so you could easily take it with you. This thing doesn't, so if you need a briefcase, you'll have your laptop anyway. And they say battery life is a whole 3 hours. Do they think commuters are going to start carrying one of these to watch stuff on a train? Do they think plane travelers are going to watch a movie on this instead of their laptops? If you're going to listen to music why carry one of these instead of a tiny iPod that has 4 times the battery life? With laptops having 15 inch screens who wants to use a spreadsheet on a tiny 7 inch screen? Dumb.

Most distant cosmic explosion was a star collapsing into a black hole

Fortunately not everyone rejects science. When I read reports like
this, my faith in humanity is restored. On September 4, 2005 scientists detected the most distant cosmic explosion ever. It was 13 billion light years away which means it happened during the first billion years of the universe.

"We designed Swift to look for faint bursts coming from the edge of the universe," said Neil Gehrels of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Swift's principal investigator. "Now we've got one and it's fascinating. For the first time we can learn about individual stars from near the beginning of time. There are surely many more out there."

Most Americans Reject Evolution

I just find this so depressing. "A Gallup Poll released Wednesday suggests about 53 percent of Americans rejects the theory of evolution as the explanation for the origin of humans. About 31 percent of respondents said they believe humans evolved, but God guided the process. Only 1.2 percent said they believe the scientific theory of evolution and 'God had no part'."

"Researchers said people with lower levels of education, those who attend church regularly, those who are 65 or older and those who identify with the Republican Party are more likely to believe in the biblical story of the origin of humans. "

This is just proof that education is a serious nation wide problem in this country. (Ok, proof is a strong word since there was no margin of error figures disclosed about the poll).

Most Americans Reject Evolution

I just find this so depressing. "A Gallup Poll released Wednesday suggests about 53 percent of Americans rejects the theory of evolution as the explanation for the origin of humans. About 31 percent of respondents said they believe humans evolved, but God guided the process. Only 1.2 percent said they believe the scientific theory of evolution and 'God had no part'."

"Researchers said people with lower levels of education, those who attend church regularly, those who are 65 or older and those who identify with the Republican Party are more likely to believe in the biblical story of the origin of humans. "

This is just proof that education is a serious nation wide problem in this country. (Ok, proof is a strong word since there was no margin of error figures disclosed about the poll).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Aristocrats

I've never heard of Tom Gilroy but he wrote this article in the Huffington Post called The Aristocrats that describes the GOP as if they were doing the old time joke (see the movie, it's good). The joke didn't do much for me but I liked the first paragraph as a summary of the Bush administration:

"The shit is so deep with W & Co it's almost dizzying, which is of course the point. You barely have time to focus on one single embarrassing historic catastrophe -- lying about the war, say, or lying about Katrina, or lying about torture -- and suddenly you're blindsided by new scandals, like PlameGate, wiretapping, Abramoff, the Dubai debacle, global warming denial, cutting veteran's benefits or Medicare, Delay, Cunningham, Frist, intelligent design, cash handouts to oil, mining, and natural gas multinationals -- whew."

And I look forward to the where he says he'll "look into what the little people like us in the audience can do to bring down the curtain".

A 19th Century Critique of a 21st Century President

Here's a good Op-ed from the LA Times: A 19th Century Critique of a 21st Century President

Dubai Disclosures

Arianna Huffington writes about How Money Is Clouding the Ports Deal Debate. "Jack Kemp. There he was on Meet the Press on Sunday defending his public support for the Dubai ports deal...What Kemp didn't say is that the UAE has invested millions in Free Market Global, an energy-trading company that he chairs."

Kemp says Gen. Tommy Franks is for the deal too. He didn't say that Franks " is on the advisory board of Free Market Global, and stands to profit from maintaining good relations with the oil-rich emirs."

She goes on to list more including that UAE gave a lot to Bill Clinton and that maybe that influenced him and describes how Kemp had two sons of the President of the UAE over for dinner who spoke with his other guest, Dick Cheney. She doesn't mention anyone getting shot.

If Bush could IM

it might look like this.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Results

Well I missed 6.  I was going to say it was fairly boring as the big upset was in Documentary Short Film, but then at the end, Crash beat Brokeback Mountain.  I'm thrilled.

Jon Stewart I thought did a good job.  I didn't love his opening too much though he did have a good line about the films this year that were about journalists and a relentless pursuit of the truth were both period pieces.  I also liked him saying "Bjork couldn't be here, she was trying on her oscar dress, and Dick Cheney shot her." He was better throughout the show, having very good lines as things unfolded.  He nailed it when he said "Martin Scorcese zero oscars, Three 6 Mafia one".  "Itzhak Perlman was finger synching." They also did some funny fake commercials that were lobbying for the nominated films and stars.

I thought Clooney had the best acceptance speech.  He started out funny saying that winning meant it would follow him.  "Oscar winner, 1997 sexiest man alive, Batman, George Clooney died today in a freak accident."  He then commented how he was happy to be a part of a Hollywood that was out of touch of the mainstream.  Sometimes that's good to bring up difficult issues.  Hollywood gave Hattie McDaniel an oscar while blacks had to sit in the back of theater.  It's a good point, and he was a class act.  Reese Witherspoon was also good, being very happy and charming.

The show was ok.  They only had 3 songs to perform so that was better than usual.  Though they did change "bitches" to "witches" in the winning song. But they also did 5 retrospectives: biographies, film noir, issue films, epics, and of course those that died this year.  Jon Stewart joked that he's waiting for oscars salute to the montage. The best presenters were Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep who did a tour de'force of overlapping ramblng dialog while presenting Robert Altman with his honorary Oscar.

Until next year.

Oscars

Well the oscars are about to start and I'm looking forward to them.  My pool has 15 entrants so we'll see how things turn out.

I managed to see almost all the movies nominated this year, including many of the shorts.  I saw everything but the foreign films, the animated shorts and 3 of the documentaries.  Crash was still my favorite for best film of the year, though I don't think it's going to win.

Here are my predictions for the awards:
  • Picture: Brokeback Mountain
  • Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
  • Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
  • Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
  • Supporting Actor: George Clooney, Syriana
  • Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
  • Adapted Screenplay: Brokeback Mountain
  • Original Screenplay: Crash
  • Original Song: "In the Deep", Crash
  • Original Score: John Williams, Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Cinematography: Brokeback Mountain
  • Art Direction: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Film Editing: Crash
  • Sound: Walk the Line
  • Visual Effects: King Kong
  • Sound Effects Editing: King Kong
  • Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Makeup: The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Animated Short Film: The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation
  • Live Action Short Film: Six Shooter
  • Documentary Feature: March of the Penguins
  • Foreign Film: Tsotsi, South Africa
  • Documentary Short Film: God Sleeps in Rwanda
  • Animated Feature: Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Real Life Simpsons Intro

This is very cool. Someone made a Real Life Simpsons Intro.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Dubai's Architectural Wonders

Business Week reports on Dubai's Architectural Wonders. Dubai's oil is expected to run out in 2010 so they've been working hard to diversify their industries, including tourism. They have the world's first 7 star hotel and biggest man-made port. They will soon complete the worlds largest mall and tallest building.

"There's Hydropolis, an underwater hotel developed and designed by Germany's Joachim Hauser, scheduled to open at the end of 2007. And there's Palm Islands, a set of man-made resort islands shaped to look like a palm tree when seen from a jet, which will open later this year. This year the same developer will also complete The World, a series of manufactured residential islands that, when seen from above, resemble smaller versions of the seven continents. And speaking of space, the American firm Space Adventures (known for launching the first civilian orbital space flights) is developing the UAE spaceport, the first commercial spacecraft flight center in nearby emirate Ras Al-Khaimah, minutes away from Dubai."

Check out the slideshow.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Bush Misspeaks on Pakistan

I got this from Bill Maher on Real Time tonight. Bush speaking today from Delhi said
"I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbour for India, and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world.” As Bill Maher pointed out, "Pakistan is neither free nor Arab." Oops.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Katrina Tapes

So by now you all know that the AP got a hold of some video of meetings Bush and FEMA had before Katrina to prep for the emergency. The LA TImes has links to the videos and some transcripts. Here's what I've managed to find on the topic.

The connection everyone is making is that three days after Katrina, Bush said: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." Now we all know that's false as weathermen were fearing it before the storm hit. But what's new is that Bush was in meetings 4 days before saying this where people feared the levees wouldn't hold. This leads some to say: "Bush proves to the world that he is a liar". Some but not all, Media Matters points out the NY Times and Washington Post didn't bother to make the connection and neither did ABC's Elizabeth Vargas or MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell in their reports nor did CBS's Bob Orr in his.

Now MSNBC's Joe Scarborough (who I haven't watched but have the impression he's an idiot, can anyone clue me in?) thinks "these Bush tapes won’t hurt Bush so much" because they show "Chertoff was out to lunch, literally" (apparently he was there and asking questions, he's just not on the tapes) and "Brown was deadly accurate in his predictions". He also asks "why are we just now hearing tapes they told us no longer existed?" which is a legitimate question. Apparenlty some media organizations had these videos for 6 months and did nothing with them.

Plush Microbes!

Now you can get microbes! in the form of (gian) stuffed animals. Well the site says they are about a million time actual size but I think that might be rounding. For about $6-$7 you can have your choice of many. To the right is the common cold.

"Now available: The Common Cold, The Flu, Sore Throat, Stomach Ache, Cough, Ear Ache, Bad Breath, Kissing Disease, Athlete's Foot, Ulcer, Martian Life, Beer & Bread, Black Death, Ebola, Flesh Eating, Sleeping Sickness, Dust Mite, Bed Bug, and Bookworm (and in our Professional line: H.I.V. and Hepatitis)."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Video shows Bush, Chertoff clearly warned before Katrina struck

Reading Eagle reports on some new video footage made available of briefings Bush got before Katrina. I'll be lazy, the first 3 paragraphs are below, but the whole article is worth a read. These guys are just incompetent.

"In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: 'We are fully prepared.'"

"The footage - along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press - show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster."

The Muppet Personality Test

According to The Muppet Personality Test I am Scooter.

Bad Router Omen

I've been having problems with my D-Link DI-524 wireless router.  My connection from my powerbook drops, it reboots and I can't do WPA encryption to the AirPort Extreme.  So I did a little research and went out to Best Buy and bought a Linksys WRT54GC.  I got it home, unpacked it and wanted to install it.  No manual, just a CD to run.  I remember seeing something about a firmware update so I went to the linksys web site to check.  It was down for maintenance, at 2:30 in the afternoon on a wednesday.  Not a good sign.

1st Amendment vs The Simpsons

A study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

"It also showed that people misidentified First Amendment rights. About one in five people thought the right to own a pet was protected, and 38 percent said they believed the right against self-incrimination contained in the Fifth Amendment was a First Amendment right, the survey found."

"The survey found more people could name the three "American Idol" judges than identify three First Amendment rights."

For the record, I could name 3 freedoms, 5 Simpsons, and 2 Idol judges.

Microsoft iPod Packaging

Here's a funny video showing What if Microsoft redesigned the iPod packaging?. Introducing the new I-pod Pro XP 2005 Human Ear Professional Edition. Be sure your sound is on, the music makes it.