For the past few months I've been spending all my evenings and weekends working on two big projects: the Coachella iPhone App and the Cartifact Map Portal. I am really happy with the results and ecstatic that I am not currently working 14 hour days and weekends!
I've been doing web programming work for Coachella and Goldenvoice since 2005 when I wrote the Coachooser, a online scheduler where concertgoers could choose who they want to see. As soon as the time-slots were announced the Coachooser then allowed the user to print out their schedule for the event. I have programmed the Coachoooser each year since then.
This year I pitched Goldenvoice on an iPhone application for the festival. They finally gave me the green light a bit over a month ago. Considering that it was my first iPhone application I think it came out really well. The Coachella iPhone App has been up on the iTunes store for about a week and has been downloaded thousands of times. It was hard work hammering out this application in a month, but the response was worth it.
I enjoyed the hard work, but I'm looking forward to enjoying my evenings and weekends again!
I got my first internet access account in 1992 when I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Believe it or not, the internet has changed somewhat in the past 17 years.
These days everyone and their grandmother, literally, has internet access. Getting online is as easy as turning on your smartphone or plugging your computer into your cable modem. In 1992 it wasn't quite so easy.
My first account was from a company called Studio X. It was a SLIP account and gave me access to all kinds of great search engines running on university servers. These search engines weren't quite like gooogle. WAIS, Archie and Veronica used Gopher to search FTP sites, mailing lists, and more all over the world.
My SLIP account was text based and required me to set up a painful little application called Winsock. Back then, Windows (which I no longer use as a Desktop platform) did not have a TCP/IP stack. In other words, Windows didn't know how to get onto the internet like it does now. Installing the cumbersome and buggy Winsock fixed this problem.
Once I was on the internet (back then it was capitalized: Internet) I found tons of interesting documents to read. I began to learn about various subjects the knowledge of which would later provide me the income I depend on to survive. The Internet was amazing. The internet is amazing.
One Wilshire Meet-Me-Room
Last year I took a tour of One Wilshire for a Wired.com gallery I shot. One Wilshire is an amazing place that has always fascinated me. Here is how I described it:
In the bowels of the world's most densely populated Meet-Me room -- a room where over 260 ISPs connect their networks to each other -- a phalanx of cabling spills out of its containers and silently pumps the world's information to your computer screen. One tends to think of the internet as a redundant system of remote carriers peppered throughout the world, but in order for the net to function the carriers have to physically connect somewhere. For the Pacific Rim, the main connection point is the One Wilshire building in downtown Los Angeles.
If this facility went down, most of California and parts of the rest of the world would not be able to connect to the internet. Tour one of the web's largest nerve centers, hidden in an otherwise nondescript office building.
I'm slowly going through my archives of Wired.com shoots and posting them on my blog/flickr in full resolution for your viewing pleasure. Here are a few selections from the shoot:
A giant twisting mass of cables spills out of an over-stuffed cable tray in the Meet-Me-Room at One Wilshire.
The roof of One Wilshire is covered with antennas of various sizes and shapes.
A technician works to untangle the mess in the Meet-Me-Room at One Wilshire in this shot from 2008.
Click here to view the other 21 photos from my One Wilshire Tour. Stay tuned for more cool photos from my Wired adventures.
Today I created a Ruby on Rails module to calculate shipping from FedEx. I based it on a similar module from Ben Curtis which he wrote to calculate UPS shipping.
We both based our modules on the Shipping ruby gem, which hasn't been updated in several years and no longer works with the current version of Rails as far as I can tell.
My module is pretty straight forward, you feed it your zipcode, total weight and number of boxes and it gives you an array of prices and methods available from FedEx. You call it like this:
fedex = FEDEX::Client.new :account => '1000000', :meter => " 1000" , :origin_zip => '90000', :url => 'https://gateway.fedex.com/GatewayDC' fedex_quote = fedex.rate_list '80000', '500', '20'
You can check out and download my FedEx shipping calculator module here on pastie.
Thanks to an unfortunate functionality change at the speech-to-text service Jott, I recently switched to reQall. Current generation speech-to-text (S2T) services allow you to call a toll-free number, record a short message and then actual humans transcribe your speech into text.
On my commute to and from work, I frequently think of new ideas for projects or tasks that I need to complete. I simply hit the S2T autodial and record whatever is on my mind. The S2T service then emails me the transcribed text.
OmniFocus, which I wrote about recently, has a nifty feature in which it grabs an email from Apple Mail with a predetermined sender and subject. It then adds the subject, which has the note in it, to my todo inbox. I think that S2T is one of my favorite tools of all time.
When I first heard of Jott, I was a bit skeptical. I didn't like the idea of a random person in some random country being paid a pittance to sit in a call center to listen to my thoughts and transcribe them. As I thought more about it, I realized that I would rarely if ever say anything confidential to the S2T service. So I started using Jott six months ago and I loved it. It was in beta and totally free.
Jott had some features that I rarely used, like the ability to send messages to any of my contacts. It also had features that I used every day, including its core function, speech-to-text. Once my note had been transcribed, an email with the note in the subject appeared in my inbox.
Recently, Jott stopped its beta program. In doing so it created a free plan, called Jott Express, which still allowed you to do S2T. The deal-killer was the fact that you now had to visit their website to retrieve the transcribed text.
That change broke my OmniFocus script. OmniFocus was expecting the transcribed text to show up in the email. There went the value of the service for me. I initially considered paying for the service, but decided to sleep on it.
ReQall has the same basic functionality as Jott, but it's free. So far I have been very impressed with reQall. Its voice interface is slicker and more responsive than Jott's. ReQall also does a better job of transcribing my voice notes than Jott did.
All in all I'm very happy with reQall. If they end becoming a paid service I would choose them over Jott in a heartbeat.
I just recently recieved one of The Great Internet Migratory Box(es) of Electronics Junk (TGIMBOEJ). The TGIMBOEJ is an awesome box of random electronics that various geeks send to each other. The idea was started by Lenore over at Evil Mad Scientist Labs.
Basically you put your name and contact info on a Wiki page devoted to perspective TGIMBOEJ recipients. Then someone finds your name on said list, and either creates a new box to send you or forwards on the box they currently possess.
The rules are simple, take what you want from the box, add some cool stuff, and then send it on to someone else in the list. You can see the status of the various boxes on this wiki page.
I will be mailing the box off on monday to Logan from Binary Tide.
I picked out a few cool parts including some LEDs, a giant buzzer and some zip-ties. I added a giant LED, a potentiometer and some other cool parts including a 1GB SD card.
The TGIMBOEJ project is awesome, I'm looking forward to receiving another box some time soon!
One of the items I kept from the TGIMBOEJ was the big red buzzer (upper left). I haven't hooked it up yet, but I bet it's loud!
Recently I wrote my first Arduino program to fade LEDs. Arduino is an open source electronics platform designed to be easy to use by "artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments." Basically it's a microcontroller that can be easily programmed to do fun things.
I am using a low cost clone called a Bare Bones Arduino. One of the best parts about the Bard-Bones Arduino clone is that it comes in a kit. Soldering stuff together is fun!
Previously I wrote about my adventures with a BASIC Stamp. The Arduino is very similar to a BASIC Stamp, but uses the C programming language instead of BASIC. This makes it more powerful and extensible.
In the past I had only written one program in C to control some serial port extenders. Writing in C for this Arduino project was a lot of fun and it showed me how similar C is to PHP, which I have been writing extensively for over 10 years.
The program I wrote was based on some code from Peter Mackey at Pixelriot. I changed it up a bit so I could control the LEDs fading on an individual basis. I then made it do a Knight Rider fade (see video below). Here is a link to my version of the Arduino 5940 code.
A short video showing pulsing LEDs triggered by an Arduino controlling the TLC5940 chip.
The code controls a Texas Instruments TLC5940 chip. The TLC5940 is an LED controller that can fade up to 16 LEDs to over 4,000 levels of brightness. You can chain the chips together to control around 400 total LEDs.
This first program is actually a proof of concept for a project I'm working on. I can't really talk too much about the project, but it will involve a whole mess of LEDs and an old school public art installation.
Currently I'm working on a new Arduino project that is a multipurpose long exposure, intervalometer and sound and light trigger for Canon cameras. I'll post more about that when it's done.
I'm really enjoying both writing in C and playing with electronics. Microcontollers are awesome.
This Bare-Bones Arduino clone connected to a breadboard is controlling a Texas Instruments TLC5940 LED controller which in turn is pulsing the LEDs
I installed SpamAssassin on my mail server. Previously I had just relied on Mail.app's spam filtering functionality to deal with the hundreds of junk messages I receive daily. Now vpopmail sends every message through SpamAssassin which has been extremely effective in filtering the incoming crap.
Relying on your email application to filter spam works well as long as always keep it running. I take my laptop to work with me so I frequently don't have Mail.app running. This causes spam to pile up and makes it a hassle to check email using my iPhone.
Now SpamAssasin and vpopmail automatically move spam from my Inbox into my Junk folder. When I check my mail on the go I am no longer greeted with a bunch of junk.
My users are also benefitting from the install. They have given me positive feedback on SA's management of their spam. Nobody likes dealing with junk mail so anything that makes the process easier is always welcome.
I have noticed that SA doesn't catch everything and sometimes falsely thinks some good email is spam. I update the rule signatures nightly which helps. Soon I am going to implement a spam/ham folder heuristic update script. This will automatically train SA just by moving incorrectly filtered email into one of two folders.
SpamAssassin is a great addition to my mail toolkit. I am very pleased with the results so far and I am eager to help it do a better job. Thanks SpamAssasin!
Cans of Just Mutton sit ready for the buying on a grocery store shelf in Fiji during my honeymoon in 2006.
Recently I created two templates for Cacti, the open source server resource graphing application. I have been using Cacti for years, but there were a few things that I was not able to find graphing solutions for.
Qmail is an open source, light-weight and secure email server written by Dan Bernstein. I have also been using qmail for years, but until recently I had no way of graphing its traffic. I found this helpful bit of code on Howie's Stuff which helped me get the raw data I needed from qmailmrtg. After I got that working I started out with this template, which mostly worked. I then created a complex graph and exported the template for it which I posted here. The results can be seen in the graph below.
A Cacti/rrdtool graph showing various information about a qmail server that I run.
The next service that I was unable to find a Cacti graphing solution for was djbdns. Djbdns is a lightweight and secure DNS daemon, also written by Dan Bernstein. Jeremey Kister wrote a great script called djbdns-stats for parsing the djbdns logs and presenting data in the perfect format for Cacti to undertand. I took the djbdns-stats output and created an input and graph (below) template for Cacti, which I then shared on the Cacti site.
A Cacti/rrdtool graph showing dns usage on my djbdns server.
Jott is a free transcription service that makes sending notes and reminders a phone call away. I signed up for their free service and verified my phone number a few months ago. All I have to do is call a toll-free number form my cell and talk. A few minutes later a full transcription of what I said is waiting in my inbox.
It helps to speak slowly and spell out any hard to understand or uncommon words. Jott doesn't use voice recognition software for the transcription, they have people doing the work. Due to that fact I don't use Jott for anything sensitive or secret.
I use Jott almost every day on my drive home from work. Writing while driving is somewhat inconvenient not to mention dangerous. I have Jott in my phone favorites and when I have an idea I just call the number and leave a message.
I also use Jott to message contacts in my address book. When I call in they ask me who I want to Jott. The message ends up being transcribed, then emailed and sms'ed to the contact.
Jott is a service that I have really learned to love. It is one of those rare things in life that are free and awesome. If it becomes a for-pay service I will still use it. Now that's a sign of a good thing.
A sculpture consisting of outdated telephone switch parts adorns the wall of the AT&T building in Downtown Los Angeles in this file photo from 2007. Modern day telephone systems use computers instead of physical switching relays.
I've been a Vonage subscribe for over 5 years now and I've been very happy with their internet based telephone system. Basically if you get Vonage you don't need a phone line, just an internet connection. When you sign up they send you a little box you plug in to your network to which you connect any standard telephone. Once you plug everything in you get nation-wide long distance for free for about $25 a month or you can get a 500 minute plan for $15 a month.
You can transfer your existing telephone number to it or get a new one. It's just like your normal phone service, but has some other cool features like the ability to simultaneously ring your cell phone and your home. You can also get a soft phone that you can use on your laptop from anywhere that has internet access. Right now they are offering 2 month of free service for both you and me if you sign up [click here to do so].
I have been using Newsfire since February of last year. It was the first RSS reader that I've ever paid money for. Newsfire had a good deal of issues that I didn't like. I emailed the Newsfire developer and asked if a bug could be fixed, but he replied that NewsFire wasn't in a development cycle. He wasn't very nice about it either. Anyhow, I had been tempted to go back to NetNewsWire for some time now, but never did because I didn't want to pay for a second RSS reader. Luckily for me NewsGator is now giving away NetNewsWire for free! I have switched back and I am extremely happy so far.
A few months ago, before the iPhone was released, I put my email address into an AT&T/Cingular form so I could be notified when it was available for purchase. I later decided that AT&T's horribly privacy (NSA) track record was enough reason not to switch to their service so I'm sticking with T-Mobile for now. I just got an email from them, trying to get me to buy some random crap, and I decided to click on the "Remove Me" link at the bottom of the page. That link brought me to the following page:
It appears that they want your address, cell phone number, landline number, name and email address to remove you from their email list. It turns out that they just want your first and last name and your email address for the removal to work, but the form is certainly not clear about that and I'm sure plenty of folks fill out the whole thing. I didn't put my actual name into the fields, but added something a bit more colorful that I'm sure nobody will actually read. Anyhow, the mass email should really just have a link that removes you, instead of taking you to this horrid form.
I just landed in Reno, NV for the Super Computing '07 (SC07) conference. I am here on assignment for WIRED News. Keep an eye out here and on wired.com for photos of clusters, supercomputers and various other cool and interesting toys from assorted government and industry nerderies.
So I won a Basic Stamp kit from ebay last week. Last night I had a chance to play with it. I went through the included book, and got through most of it. In the end I built the following:
That is a servo on the left, the basic stamp has some code in it that detects the position of the potentiometer in the lower center of the breadboard using capacitor discharge timing and then moves the servo to match the pot's position. The 7 segment display lists a number between 1 and 10 depending upon the servo's position. The white colored LED actually flashes either red or green depending on if you're rotating the pot clockwise our counter-clockwise. It was fun to build and actually not that hard.
I am really excited about programming microcontrollers and I'm looking forward to my next projects. At some point soon I feel like I'll be able to finally hack the Furby. You can check out the code I wrote here.
Update for Riyad:I made the thing on the left spin when I turned the little white knob on the right. I did this using magic.
Thanks to Scott Beale I now have a Yahoo! Mash profile. I also have invites if you need one. It would be helpful if mash included a way to invite from a vcard file, but otherwise it seems pretty cool.
UPDATE Ok so I know this is still in beta, but the fact that Yahoo's own service flickr's module has now broken my RSS feed link is somehow pleasantly ironic:
Invalid URL: http%3A%2F%2Fapi.flickr.com%2Fservices%2Ffeeds%2Fphotos_public...
I should point out that it did work this morning.
UPDATE 2 I have added a few friends and none of them show up in my friends list, although I show up in theirs. Odd.
UPDATE 3 Ok I get it, the friends don't show up until they've claimed and set up their profiles. There are some pretty cool little modules, I like the twitter feed.
Dear Santa Claus,
I have been a relatively good boy this year and I would like a shiny new Hitachi TM-100 Tabletop Scanning Electron Microscope. I know what you're going to say, "Dave, you already have a microscope and it can easily fit on a tabletop." Yes, that is true, but I have an old optical microscope and if I had an electron microscope just think of the photos I could take! They would by much cooler than these I took last year.
The TM-100 will be on display (hopefully a hands on display!) at the 2007 WIRED Nextfest.
I just signed up for an interesting social aggregator website called Jaiku. It has the same functionality as twitter, but it can subscribe to and display your RSS feeds. I'm not sure I'll use it as much as twitter, but it seems like a useful application. You can check out my Jaiku page here. I heard about it via a twitter from Jason DeFillippo, who was waiting to get in to the Jaiku launch party in SF, but apparently ended up leaving with Scott Beale due to the long, motionless line.
Update: As it turns out, but Scott and Jason made ended up going to the Jaiku party, as evidenced in this laughing squid blog post.
My Blackberry Pearl's trackball just stopped working again. This is my second Pearl that failed for the same reason. The trackball scrolls, but does not click. According to T-Mobile, this is a known issue with the Pearl. They are sending me a replacement... again.
I've recently started tracking my RSS feed information through FeedBurner. So far it seems pretty darn cool. If you don't know what I'm talking about, RSS is a way to keep track of your favorite sites without having to constantly visit them to see what is new. There are a bunch of different online and desktop RSS readers. I used to use NetNewsWire, but I switched over to NewsFire. I actually kind of miss NetNewsWire, so I may go back at some point. Some good online readers are Google Reader, Bloglines, Netvibes and Newsgator Online. Here is a link to the rss feed if you want to subscribe. You can also now subscribe to email updates by clicking on this link.
A few months ago I signed up for twitter, but I really didn't see the point to using it. I've decided to give it another try, so I've been updating my info and I've invited a bunch of my friends and neighbors to try it out. So far it has been pretty darn cool and I can see how this could be really useful for organizing spur of the moment things. You can check out my twitter page here.
I just signed up for the Dopplr beta, so far it seems pretty cool. I think it will be ever more helpful when more of my friends sign up for it and we can coordinate our travels. I have a few more invites, so if you want one, shoot me an email.
I also have unlimited invites for the Joost beta. Right now it only works on Intel Macs and PCs. If you are interested in an invite, let me know. Over the past couple months that I've been using it, the amount of content has exploded. It still doesn't have everything I watch, but it definitely does have a bunch of interesting shows on there.
This blog post is a reminder to myself to use the interrobang (‽ in html) more often in my writing. Heck yeah‽
After many years of using X10 products to control various aspects of my house (apartment actually) I ended up stowing them all in a large box several years ago and eventually selling them all on eBay right before my wedding.
I decided some time ago to start over with Insteon products, I'm glad I waited a couple years for V2 stuff to come out, as from what I've read they fixed some annoying issues. So here is what I bought:
- 2 x dimmer switches - $40 2876DB
- 1 x control panel switch - $70 2486D
- 1 x appliance module - $35 2456S3
- 1 x usb control module - $70 2414U
- 1 x tabletop control module - $35 2430
- 1 x 3 prong dimmer module - $35 2456D3
As you can see I didn't buy any RF extenders, which was my bad, I figured they were only for large houses, and as I live in a fairly small loft I didn't think I would have any issues. For some reason I thought every module had an RF transmitter in it, obviously I was wrong, but luckily 90% of my loft is on one phase so most everything works. I will be ordering a few more lamp modules and a pair of the RF extenders on Monday.
Unfortunately the ICON on/off switch was DOA so I'll have to return that, hopefully it won't be a painful process.
The only issues I have so far is that the table top remote control, the Smartlinc puts out a really annoying high pitched whine. My wife couldn't hear it, but I can hear it quite clearly. It wouldn't be an issue, but I am using the control on my nightstand. I will talk to SmartHome about it on Monday when I call to return my faulty switch.
We are an Apple and FreeBSD based household, so currently I am using Indigo 2 in demo mode, I will probably buy it, although it is quite expensive at $180. When I had an X10 setup I controlled everything via my FreeBSD server using some custom scripts with a php frontend. I see that there are some linux drivers, but nothing for FreeBSD as of yet. Indigo is packed full of features, and is server / client based so it may work for me.
Obviously Insteon is leaps and bounds better than X10 and so far both my wife and I are very happy with it. She especially loves the romance mode I programmed.
I just got an invite token for Joost now that they support OS X, (thanks for the invite xeni). So far it seems pretty cool, I watched a couple of national geographic episodes. The way in which Joost stops for commercial breaks is annoying, although it is only shows 1 short commercial, the timing of the breaks doesn't coincide with a stopping point in the actual media you're watching. The interface is really slick, and the social networking aspects seem pretty damn cool, although I didn't find anyone else watching what I was watching so some of the features weren't really useable, like chat for instance. There is also very little content in the system right now, but I'm guessing that will change rapidly. I searched for "monkey" and found nothing, while photography turned up only 2 hits. If Joost takes off I can see the big networks putting their content on it, and that would rock.
For the last 6 months or so I've been using my trusty moleskine for taking notes, making checklists and other useful and not so useful tasks such as opening a beer bottle (which doesn't work due to the flexible nature of the moleskine's cover). Yesterday I picked up a new one as mine is almost full and when I got home did a little googling about moleskines. I found this cool site called Moleskinerie and decided to shoot them an email with some photos I had taken of my moleskine. The owner of the site recognized me from my protest photos and then posted what I sent him.
One of my caver friends, Tom Gilleland, who co-owns a cave with some of the people from my grotto, also runs a software development company called Beach Ware that specializes in games, stock media and educational software. His software hinges on a tongue-in-cheek algorithm which he calls faith based math [faithBasedMath() ?] and which he defines as:
The act of ignoring logic to come to a conclusion that meets your personal specifications. An illogical dichotomy often used by politicians, businessmen, and other rascals to justify a one-sided, self-weighted deal.
I've been saying this was going to happen for a while now, it just makes sense that Google would create its own operating system. I actually hadn't thought too much about a cheap computer, but I suppose that makes sense, too bad WalMart will be selling it. Google just announced that they will be selling TV content via Google Video and also that they are offering the "Google Pack" that comes with Firefox, Ad-Aware SE Personal, Google Desktop, Google Toolbar, Picasa, Google Earth, and Adobe Reader 7. No Google OS Yet.
Microsoft, who I personally don't care for too much, has once again proven itself to be the last in line at the pop stand. First of all they are partnering with MTV to create an online music store / subscription service called Urge, which will offer 2 million songs, but which won't work on iPods or Macintosh computers. The only snag for M$ is that iPods make up 75% of the portable music player market share, so they have engineered their own obsolescence before even releasing the service to the public.
Next they are partnering with MCI to provide VOIP support in their instant messenger program allowing you to make calls from your PC to landlines and cell phones. Gee nobody has thought of this before, oh wait there is Vonage (which I use and it rocks) and Skype, who have both been doing this for years, and of course Yahoo is about to beat them to market with the integration of their messenger and voice calling.
And finally M$ issued a patch for IE that fixes a "critical" security flaw, one so critical that it took them several weeks to issue a patch, during which time exploit code was released to the public. I'm glad I run OS X.
Actually there is one more thing, it looks like the new Russian government funded TV station Russia Today, is back on the air today after being down due to hacking:
Margarita Simonyan, the channel's editor in chief, said, "There was an attempted invasion of the computer system from outside, which gave rise to viruses, which in turn led to a breakdown in transmission. We apologise to the audience but the channel had to cease broadcasting until the technical malfunctions are mended."
Sounds like bad Microsoft jujus to me, but man are people really running TV station on Windows? Does this seem like a bad idea to anybody but me?
Google is now paying $1 for ever person that an Adsense user refers to sign up for Firefox with a google toolbar. Explorer Destroyer has some code (which isn't totally XHTML strict, but you can fix that by adding a couple <p> tags as well as adding a blank src="" and alt="" to the image tags) that will allow you to alert IE users that their browser is muy malo and they should switch. Just say no to IE!
On Thanksgiving I was listening to As It Happens on the CBC via KPCC and I heard a report about the nasty benzene spill in China. The reporter who was an English teacher living in China said that there was some panic about the water supply being turned off due to the spill and also that there was an earthquake predicted [real audio stream @ 11:25 and 12:14] "The government gave a warning that an earthquake would occur" and "People were sleeping in tents outside". The I just read today that there was a big quake in China. I found it very interesting that the Chinese government predicts earthquakes and tells the people about it, and that is turns out to be true. Very interesting.
A few years back I visited japan, where I picked up a ultra light and thin sharp mebius laptop with a 30gb hd, 512mb ram and a 750mhz piii. It has been sitting in a bag since then as I am mostly a mac / unix user and I have only used it a couple of times to do some random PC stuff. The other day I noticed that PC-BSD had reached its 1.0 mark and today I decided to download it and check it out. The first run through of the install didn't work, but I tweaked some BIOS settings and it booted right up. PCBSD is really easy to install and has a nice GUI installer that anybody can use. Everything works great and I now have FreeBSD running on my Mebius laptop! I threw in a wireless card and everything worked as it should and I now have a nice little portable computer for tasks around the house when I don't want to sit in front of my desk. I set up OpenVPN and got that working in the simple mode after a little bit of toying around. Cool deal.
So I finally got myself some DSL... it has been a few years. Recently I have used a "borrowed" wireless connection, Verizon EVDO, and a cable modem and now I am back on with the nice low-latency DSL. I have a 6mb/768k connection from Speakeasy and so far it rocks, although due to some line noise I don't get the full 6, more like 4.8 or so. Last night I set up the server that is supposed to be my mythTV system as a firewall because for some reason the other 2 systems I had wouldn't POST, I think it has something to do with the power outages we had a few months ago, but they were old systems anyhow, and I have bid on a couple old cheap systems on ebay that will work just fine for the job. I set up the firewall using pf on FreeBSD, with a separate interface for the wireless bridge (which is a bridge to nowhere if you don't connect to the VPN). Everything is working great and I finally have my Vonage box active again, yay.
MIT has unveiled their super cool hand cranked $100 laptop at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia. I know they are supposed to be for developing nations, but I want one, or two... actually can I buy 1 for me and 3 for underprivileged children? That would be cool.
The new relatively-low-priced-for-a-10"-truss-dobsonian Meade LightBridge makes me really want to upgrade my sad little 3" refractor. The truss breaks down so you can fit it in your car trunk. And you can pre-order it for around $649 for the standard edition or $750 for the deluxe one and for another $99 your can get a collection of Super Plossl lenses and a 2x Barlow lens.
So the other night I mentioned that Penelope and I went to IKEA and picked up some home furnishing items of which included a floor lamp. The lamp we bought is made primarily of brushed stainless steel with a frosted glass globe shade. The lamp contains a 35 Watt halogen lamp and a set of 4 computer controlled LEDs that fade through most of the visible spectrum and can be locked on one color. I think it would be pretty cool to mod this thing to light a certain color via 802.11. I can't seem to find the lamp which is also available as a desk lamp on ikea's website.
Update I found the manual for the LED Lamp an it is called the MÅNSKEN.
Sony made this commercial in SF using 250,000 superballs and they used no CG at all! That's right they really did this:
So for a few years I have been running a combination of Qmail, Courier-IMAP and Vmailmgr to allow for multiple virtual domains with many users without having to add each user to the system. I was doing some upgrading last night and I found out that the fine folks over at Courier have changed they way their authdaemon system works so that it is now incompatible with vmailmgr. Here is what they have to say about it:
I can only see the following minuses from losing the non-daemonized configuration. I believe the minuses are greatly outranked by the pluses.
There are some third party configuration libraries that only work in a non-daemonized configuration. I'm aware of one such library, vmailmgr. Unless it's been updated to work in daemonized mode, it will no longer work.
Great! So I just had to downgrade my upgrade of courier-imap. I am going to change my whole system soon and stop using vmailmgr and possible even qmail too. We'll see what happens.
I have been using a RIM Blackberry 7100t for the past couple of months and I like it, but what I really want is a Treo. I have grown fond of the excellent messaging capabilities of the Blackberry and it is good news to hear that RIM and Palm have struck a deal to use the BB email client on the Palm. Cool Deal!
I just picked up an Inka Pen via a pro deal for our Search and Rescue team and so far I am really happy with it. The pen fits inside its own case and can be used quickly in the short version or converted to a full size pen with nice weight and balance. It also has a built in PDA stylus. The pen is pressurized like the space pens so that it will write upside down, in water etc. I like it so much I want to order another one and it looks like they are coming out with a titanium version in a few months!
So yesterday I got my new BlackBerry 7100t in the mail after winning it on ebay for $135. I bought the missing sync program for it from PocketMac and got it all synced up.... sort of .... PocketMac's software didn't sync any of my calendar items. That was the first in a series of problems I have had with the 7100t. The next problem was that although it is supposed to support IMAP it really doesn't... you just get sent a copy of all your mail. When you read your mail on your Blackberry it doesn't appear as read in your inbox... same with sending and deleting. It also doesn't support IMAP folders and only checks your email every 15 minutes. The next problem came when I recieved a new email from my fiance and tried to read it but instead deleted it... the delete key is right on top of the enter key and are both pretty small. Once you delete a message it is gone forever... no trash can. The next problem is that the screen sucks in the sun despite what the product description on Blackberry's site says. And maybe I just haven't learned all the shortcuts yet but it is extremely unwieldy to get around the different menus from phone to IM to mail... lame. Bluetooth also only works for headset and hands free... no serial no syncing. I don't know how long I will keep this thing, but I am thinking the TREO 650 is the way to go.
Ok so i've RTFM and checked some shortcut lists and I have found there are easy ways to get around the bb... I'll keep delving deeper into this phone. I really want to like it, I swear!
So I read this article over on Robert Daeley's blog about making your desktop more sensible, toned down and work oriented. I am taking some of his advice about hiding notifications / the dock and toning down the color scheme on my desktop as well as trying out quicksilver [quicksilver totally rocks!]. I don't really like the idea of one huge text file for a number of reasons and as I am currently converting my CMS system slacker to be object oriented I am going to expand the features I already have to be my PIM, task manager, goal watcher, notes, etc all trackable with RSS feeds and editable with XML-RPC. It will include a backup dumping utility that will create encrypted text files that I can put in various places. I have written most all of the code for this in the last few years and I am looking forward to objectifying it! I am even considering upgrading to PHP5 to make use of the expanded object functionality.
Ok so I am glad to see that network solutions are offering cheaper domain registration than $40 a year, but as I was checking out their new pricing, I saw a terrified helmeted dog who seems to be riding a skateboard with a jet turbine attached to the back with some rope. Beneath the ad was a link enticing readers to "Read My Blog. Click Here" and when I did click there I was taken to a marketing travesty consisting of one part typing dog and one part blog. Rapid Rocco the Rocket Dog is quite possibly the most annoying web based advertising campaign I have ever seen.
So I saw a news item about Microsoft releasing their new beta search engine as the main search on MSN (instead of yahoo). When I was checking it out i noticed that in Safari there is no left margin so the text is right up against the left hand side of the window... annoying (if you stretch it out it looks ok). I checked it out in Firefox and it looks fine. In Mac IE you can't even see the search box (on the main MSN page...)! If you post the link to the search in the browser it does work though.
Google has added a feature to they search algorithm that ignores links that have the rel="nofollow" tag in them. This is great because it let's google know what information is your and what information was just posted by somebody commenting. They have recommended the nofollow tag be used on all links that can be posted by untrusted users. MSN Search and Yahoo! are both supporting it. Most blogging applications have already incorporated it. I am going to add it to my system too. Here is the link to the original article on Google's blog.
In 2004 Simson Garfinkel gave a talk at the USENIX LISA conference about data on old hard drives. The report he wrote was actually what made us decide to do the drive slagging site in the first place. He featured our method of data removal in his slides which can be found at the link below. If you just want to see the slides click the permalink.
A few days after Christmas I received an email from an upset University server admin who thought my servers were attacking his servers through email. What was actually happening was that a spammer was sending email using random fake address at his server's domain name which I will call anonymous.edu. It wouldn't have been a problem if the server was correctly responding with 550 errors which mean Permanent Failure, but the servers were sending 450 which are Temporary errors, so all the servers that were trying to deliver the bounces, kept trying.
So here is the first email I received from firstname.lastname@example.org:
To which I responded:From: email@example.com Subject: Hosts from your domain are attacking our server Date: December 28, 2004 2:19:23 PM PST To: [a bunch of my email address] Network/Security Administrator, I'm sending you this mail because one or more IP addresses in your domain are currently attacking our electronic mail server with a denial of service attack consisting of multiple, rapid attempts to send mail to randomly generated, non-existent email addresses. Please take action with regard to the below hosts immediately to stop this worm or virus. This attack may be reported to the U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal prosecution. These hosts may also have been blacklisted from sending mail to our server. 188.8.131.52 (www.eecue.com)
My guess was close, but I had it backwards...From: eecue AT eecue.com Subject: Re: Hosts from your domain are attacking our server Date: December 28, 2004 2:32:16 PM PST To: firstname.lastname@example.org Hi you will notice those emails are not actually coming from my server. The spammers are using my domain as their From: address. Is this email for real? -Dave
After getting three more of those emails they sent me this:
To which I responded this:From: email@example.com Subject: Hosts from your domain are attacking our server Date: December 28, 2004 2:59:32 PM PST To: [a bunch of my email addresses] Excuse me if this email is a duplicate. I forgot to list the IP address of the victim of this attack. It is: atlantis.anonymous.net (192.168.139.69) Also, I can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org I'm sending you this mail because one or more IP addresses in your domain are currently participating in a distributed denial of service attack consisting of multiple attempts to send mail to randomly generated, non-existent email addresses at our site. Please take action with regard to the below hosts immediately to stop this worm or virus. These hosts may also have been blacklisted from sending mail to our server. They can be re-enabled once the DDoS attack subsides. 184.108.40.206 (www.eecue.com)
I didn't hear back about it until today when I received this email:From: eecue AT eecue.com Subject: Re: Hosts from your domain are attacking our server Date: December 28, 2004 3:01:28 PM PST To: email@example.com Hello, Please send me the full email in question including the headers so I can track down who is sending said email. Thanks -Dave
Well that was nice of them to fix everything.From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Hosts from your domain are attacking our server Date: January 3, 2005 12:42:57 AM PST To: eecue AT eecue.com It was for real, but was the result of a mis-diagnosis of the problem... Things have returned to normal, there is no need to do anything on your side. Our domain was the subject of a massive spam forgery ("Joe Job") with randomly generated reply-to fields @anonymous.edu. This occurred for over 14,000 domains, and our mail server was sending a 450 temporary error. Basically we told 14,000 sites to keep trying to deliver bounce messages back to us, with no valid local recipient, at whatever rate they did queue flushes. Making it look very much to us like a Distributed Denial of Service Attack. When really this whole thing would have been only briefly painful if we had changed the failure notice to a permanent failure, causing those 14000 servers to trash those invalid messages. It was not apparent to us what was happening (since we never received any of the bounces) until someone said, "Hey you know this bounce says that you are replying with a 450 temporary failure..." It has now been changed to a 550 (permanent failure) response. Thanks again for looking into this!
From: eecue AT eecue.com Subject: Re: Hosts from your domain are attacking our server Date: January 3, 2005 7:17:39 PM PST To: email@example.com Glad you worked everything out. I thought it was somewhat humorous, so I posted about it on my website: http://eecue.com/ I changed the names to protect the innocent. -Dave .... A. David Bullock eecue : programmer / designer / admin / human http://eecue.com/ - anything is possible
A TV set in Oregon broadcasted a strong enough signal to send searchers to a man's apartment.
"They'd never seen signal come that strong from a home appliance," said van Rossmann. "They were quite surprised. I think we all were." Authorities had expected to find a boat or small plane with a malfunctioning transponder, the usual culprit in such incidents, emitting the 121.5 MHz frequency of the distress signal used internationally.
I've been tracking us on our trip using my Rhino, which is a cool FRS/GPS radio from Garmin. It's quite cool, as it allows you to broadcast your location to your friends who also have Rhinos. You then show up on a little map on the screen of the radio.
It is also working well to give my G4 laptop a GPS fix so the program TOPO can show us exactly where we are on a nice topo map (which have almost no use for driving and are really meant for mountaineering).
When i was in Hong Kong, I picked up a cheapo USB to Serial Port adapter that looks like a little dongle with USB on one side and a Serial Port on the other. It worked great on my PC laptop which i never use, but the Keyspan software for the Mac didn't recognize it. I decided to check VersionTracker to see what was available to drive it and I still had no luck, then i googled and found a company that offered a similar generic USB-Serial adapter and low-and-behold it worked great.
big brother is fingerprinting you!
US fingerprints more travellers: "Visitors to the US who do not need a visa now have to be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival."
(Via bbc world.)
This is really insane and should be investigated:
Diebold Rep Now Runs Elections: "A former sales rep for Diebold Election Systems becomes a county election official in California. She sold the state millions of dollars worth of untested machines, which led to a scandal. Critics are asking, 'What's wrong with this picture?' By Kim Zetter."
(Via wired news.)
IBM has created a new supercomputer called Blue Gene/L which is a teraflop faster than the Earth Simulator in Japan which i visited a couple years ago although it is only partially built. The supercomputer is also 100x smaller than the ES. Livermore labs has ordered one that will be installed in 2005 which runs at 360 teraflops!
It went good... almost out of batteries! The SS1 did a twist at the top of the climb, but everything went smoothly!
Photos coming soon... as soon as I get back to my car which we left at a Park and Ride near Palmdale... then i can charge my phone and upload the pictures that Arclight took....
Ok well the takeoff went without a hitch and now we are waiting the hour it takes for it to reach the point where the SS1 will seperate from the White Knight. The crowd was excited to see the launch. We are hanging out at the car listening to our scanners.
Things are heating up in the NK nuclear standoff
North Korea escalates nuclear stand-off: "North Korea claims it has "weaponised" all of its spent plutonium rods because the US's hostile policies towards Pyongyang leave it no choice but to develop a "nuclear deterrent.""
(Via gyre - military revolutions.)
... $10 million prize ... will be awarded to the team that designs the first private spaceship that successfully launches three humans to a sub-orbital altitude of 100 km on two consecutive flights within two weeks. All teams must be privately financed.
(Via topix ca.)
Kyrgyz authorities tracked two men who were trying to sell 60 containers of Plutonium-239 and apprehended them after they tried to sell it to secret agents.
On of my friends who is a print broker got a 10 identical copies of a mor.t.gag.e spam so he decided to fill out the form and send it out. So far he had received about 8 calls. Every time he gets a call he turns it around and tries to sell printing to the agent. He now has a couple of new clients.
- Enhanced user interface - a new, cleaner design that now includes maps on results pages displaying the location of businesses in the search results
- New mapping capabilities - users can now zoom and pan different directions on the maps without reloading the page
- Improved comprehensiveness - search results provide links to even more web pages like business homepages and related ratings and reviews
- More relevant results - improved relevance technology returns even more precise results
Verizon has announced it will be rolling out Fiber on the last mile in HB as well as two other cities.
tip o the hat to JTX
From [boing-boing] :
Dave sez: El Universal (Mexico City) is reporting that the Attorney General of Mexico, Rafael Macedo, had a microchip inserted under the skin of one of his arms to give him access to a new crime database and also enable him to be traced if he is ever abducted.
Bloomberg news added "about 160 Mexican officials will carry the microchip" and that "the chip can't be removed, but will be deactivated after Macedo's term as attorney general expires." Link
In a move that won't work, the MPAA has decided to use new encrypted DVDs and DVD players so that the voters can watch their oscar screeners without the threat of pirating them. It won't work.
A 16 year old Ontario, California girl received second degree burns and a torn pair of blue jeans when her cellphone exploded in her pocket. The cellphone was a Verizon Kyocera.
A traffic light camera in Hawthorne caught a motorist running a red light. When the owner of the car contested the ticket, he was shown footage of his wife's lover driving that car and running the light, divorce ensued.
when i bought a server from pcusa.com i thought i was getting a really good deal, it turns out i was wrong. it went well at first, but soon when the server became heavily loaded for extended periods of time it was hard crashing. there was nothing in the log that would indicate a bad disk or bad memory.
i decided to go down to the colo to investigate. the server was hot enough to fry an egg on. when i pulled it out on the rails and removed the "void warranty if removed" sticker, then the cover, i noticed that one of the fans that should have been blowing on the motherboard (not the cpu fans) was off... it wasn't plugged in because the cable wouldn't reach the motherboard. this really pissed me off. that's not the way to build a computer... any-who i just rearranged the way the cable was run and it plugged in just fine... i took the cover with me though because i'm going to cut holes in the top for more ventilation.
joy, pcusa sucks
Maybe YDI Wireless will light up the network again... It's pretty much old hat now that 3g is poised to launch around the country.
A new breakthrough in imaging technology at Cambridge Uni in England has created a hologram projector that works without lenses or bright bulbs. The technology uses a thin film micro display and a laser to project a hologram in from of the viewer.
I remember when Comdex was a huge, raging event with thousands of people. Now, due to lack of interest, it has been canceled.
Machines build by IBM were used to make killing more efficient in Nazi death camps during WWII.
According to Haaretz News, our wonderful non-big-brother-esque government is funding development on some great new technology that will allow spooks to determine if their mark is lying without having to attach any annoying wires that connect to traditional polygraph machines. It's made by a joint venture of an Israeli company Atlas and the American company Whizsoft. There is even talk of a mat of sensors used for airport passenger questioning.
I just got back from the Mojave Airport, where i saw the successful takeoff and landing of the World's first commercial space ship, SpaceShipOne. I arrived on Sunday night at around 11pm and was one of the first people to park. Upon exiting my car i was greeted by 30-40mph winds that were blasting sand, painfully fast, from the North.
When I first moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1992 my dad worked for Los Alamos National Labratory in the ADP-4 dept coding old mainframes. He told me about, then took me to the most wonderful place I'd ever been...
I instantly fell in love as I am an avid junk collector. The black hole is an old supermarket, it's parking lot and the church next door along with it's parking lot (plus a house or tow a few miles away... which we once found a nice little disk (about 1 or 2 grams of weapons grade uranium! ) all filled up with piles of Lab suprlus.
See every first friday (or some day it's been a while) the Lab does somthing it calls salvage. Salvage is a silent auction where everybody gets a chance to inspect pallets of wonderful junk the lab no longer feels it needs. You can get anything from a pile of bolts to boxes of laser tubes. All for pennies on the thousands if not millions.
i am ready to release the next version of slacker. it's been a bit since the last release, but this one is really an improvment. it now fully works with no tweaking. i have also written shell scripts that deliver what the project had originally intended. full automation of adding users to apache, system, ftpchroot, dns, mail, and it even copies over the slacker skeletons...
'Calling spam "the scourge of the Information Age," Attorney General Bill Lockyer said PW Marketing sent millions of illegal, unsolicited e-mails that advertised books, software and lists of e-mail addresses as a way to make money.'