" /> BP's Weblog: March 2004 Archives

« February 2004 | Main | April 2004 »

March 30, 2004

eGO 1k Day

As I mentioned before, I was close to my 1000th mile on my eGO. Since that time, I had to deal with a trifling electrical problem, so my rate kind of slowed down. Frankly, it's sad to see that Ken's 1000th post is about to happen, and I just today crossed to 1000 miles on my eGO. For the last month, that means Ken's been posting about as aggressively as I've put miles on the poor moped. Oh well.

Hopefully, since the weather is getting nicer and I've filtering through all of my outstanding maintenance issues, I'll increase my average miles per day quite a bit.

Good entry on working environments...

It comes from the direction of a VC, but I think it applies pretty well to how I find myself working. It was true in school projects, it seems to be true of my experience in the world of the working.

http://www.ventureblog.com/articles/indiv/2004/000475.html

March 26, 2004

Emerging artists

Heck, my blog readership may not be very high, but if I really pretend to believe that the RIAA is wrong in their assumption that the "old" media format will continue to work, I have to help contribute to the new way of things.

Ama - Revel So, I've previously mentioned one local artist I'm a big fan of. meta even went to see Ama with me last Friday - perhaps she'll post a comment or trackback of what she thought.

Beth Waters - Beth Waters Anyway, another artist I've become a fan of is Beth Waters, who I found mostly because of her album release on iTMS. I only bought a few of her tracks, but so far they fit my collection well... her bio points out her sound as being a combination of Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan. I'd say that's about right. Very moody and melodic. I hope she goes far. The tracks I bought from iTMS are Sweaters, Spun Sugar, and the questionably named Slut Song. I also grabbed Philosophy from her website... I wasn't as impressed with this song.

Oh, hey, on a related note - anyone want to check out her show on Wednesday, the 31st?

March 25, 2004

A long streak ends....

Most of you will be surprised to hear this, but I caught my first computer virus today.

Yeah, I ran a BBS for 5 years, during the later part of their heyday. I was a typical geek Internet addict through college (and, well, beyond). But, still, even though I rarely used virus scanning software, I never caught a virus.

I never expected I was magically invulnerable... I just don't do a lot of stuff that makes you susceptible to viruses. I don't use the standard package of software. If I was using Microsoft Windows, I was using Eudora or PINE for e-mail. I didn't truck in Office documents, thus reducing my risk of exposure to Macro viruses. I monitor my systems, at least in aggregate, so I can see things like how much data they're sending across the network. I've had a few machines (mostly Linux machines, and not, to my knowledge, since about 1998) rooted.

Heck, I've even received a ton of inert viruses via e-mail. And been accused of sending virii by brain-dead mail scanners unable to realize that many e-mail viruses of late fake their return address. But I've never contracted a live one before. Of course, it's on my home desktop machine, which I have around mostly for video playback/encoding, game playing, and DVD/CD burning. I easily spend 90% of my computer time interacting with either my Powerbook or my various Linux servers.

Anyway, the scans are still running, as that machine has ~300gb of storage, over half of which was in use. But I think it's contained. And that it's not a big risk anyway, as the last several variants of this one all "phoned home", to DNS names which have since been taken down... it's supposedly a backdoor virus Also, there's no weird traffic on my outbound links, so, besides feeling a little violated, I think I got away pretty much ok.I still have to figure out what its infection vector was, but I'm working on it.

March 24, 2004

Enola Gay

I haven't had a Pic of the Day for quite a while, so here's a panoramic shot I took during my visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Extension in DC in December of 2003.

The Enola Gay

Sorry it's a little blurry. The shots were taken without flash from a walkway running through the middle of the huge space used for this facility. The problem is, the walkway was not very riggidly attached to the ground - thus, it was shaking slight the whole time I was taking pictures. With no flash and a lot of shaking, it's a wonder this came out as well as it did.

March 23, 2004

More on Markdown, and move completed...

Wow. After installing Markdown yesterday, I figured I'd just check in and see what ecto actually did with my Markdown formatted text during preview. I didn't try this yesterday because the server move made reaching my site a little bit more dicey, and I didn't want to mess with hostnames in ecto.

So, I launched ecto. Like often, there was a new point release - but this one supported Markdown. Wow. That was quick.

Anyway, the site move is finished. Everyone should be seeing the new site. The move was further complicated by my old hosting site going down for a few hours during the time when the old DNS entries were expiring from people's caches everywhere. Boy, glad I moved!

Meanwhile, kwc and I had a discussion about how useful these pre-HTML editing environments are. I contend that, for blogging purposes, this is a way better environment. Read the position piece for more on why this is good.

I personally like the resumption of readability. I get reasonable markup capability, but copy-and-pastable human-readable text for e-mailing, and I can still read the text while I go, without having to re-parse it in my own brain. This is like some of the earlier HTML editors... all of which I eventually gave up on, 'cause their HTML syntax was too poor. ecto already has some kludges for this kind of thing which are nice, like user-enterable macro-expansions of HTML-style tags, but it's only an improvement for typing speed, not readability. What do I lose by using Markdown? Well, there are some corner cases that are harder to enter, mostly dealing with when you use * or [ characters. But, it handles the average case quite quite well. In the meantime, if I decide to dump Markdown, it's a synch to emit HTML for everything and get on with life. I guess it would be slightly better if, instead of storing just the pre-HTML in the Movabletype database, Markdown could take a hint from SparrowWeb and the like, and store the actual HTML content in the output, and just hide the original content in <!-- HTML comments --> stored along with the resulting HTML. Then, at "junk it and move on" day, you wouldn't have to even bother doing anything with it. Oh well.

To give you some idea how easy it is to compose with Markdown, here's the content of this post as entered:

Wow. After installing [Markdown][] yesterday, I figured I'd just check in and see what [ecto][]
 actually *did* with my [Markdown][] formatted text during preview. I didn't try this yesterday
 because the server move made reaching my site a little bit more dicey, and I didn't want to mess
 with hostnames in [ecto][].

So, I launched ecto. Like often, there was a new point release - but [this one][ectorelease]
 supported [Markdown][]. Wow. That was quick.

Anyway, the site move is finished. Everyone should be seeing the new site. The move was further
 complicated by my [old hosting site][hc] going down for a few hours during the time when the old
 DNS entries were expiring from people's caches everywhere. Boy, glad I moved!

Meanwhile, [kwc][] and I had a discussion about how useful these pre-HTML editing environments
 are. I contend that, for blogging purposes, this is a way better environment. Read the [position
 piece][mdpp] for more on why this is good.

I personally like the resumption of readability. I get reasonable markup capability, but copy-and
-pastable human-readable text for e-mailing, and I can still read the text while I go, without having
 to re-parse it in my own brain. This is like some of the earlier HTML editors... all of which I
 eventually gave up on, 'cause their HTML syntax was too poor. [ecto][] already has some kludges
 for this kind of thing which are nice, like user-enterable macro-expansions of HTML-style tags, but
 it's only an improvement for typing speed, not readability. What do I lose by using Markdown? 
Well, there are some corner cases that are harder to enter, mostly dealing with when you use * or [
 characters. But, it handles the average case quite quite well. In the meantime, if I decide to dump
 Markdown, it's a synch to emit HTML for everything and get on with life. I guess it would be
 *slightly* better if, instead of storing just the pre-HTML in the Movabletype database, Markdown
 could take a hint from [SparrowWeb][] and the like, and store the actual HTML content in the
 output, and just hide the original content in `` stored along with the resulting
 HTML. Then, at "junk it and move on" day, you wouldn't have to even bother doing anything with
 it. Oh well.

[Markdown]: http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/
[ecto]: http://kung-foo.tv/ecto/
[ectorelease]:http://www.kung-foo.tv/blog/archives/000823.php#000823
[hc]: http://www.hostcolor.com/
[mdpp]: http://daringfireball.net/2004/03/dive_into_markdown
[SparrowWeb]: http://www2.parc.com/istl/projects/sparrow/
[kwc]: http://www.kwc.org/blog

To give you some idea how easy it is to compose with [Markdown][], here's the content of this post
 as entered:

(Yes, I did do that with Markdown itself, just copied the text, and stuck it between a set of <blockquote><pre> tags. Auto-escaping and auto-HTML make this whole process incredibly simple)

Update: kwc points out that I boofed the Markdown syntax. Actually, several times, but the first ones really were typos. In this case, though, I forgot to escape the HTML <-- tag. Worse, I used the wrong one... it should've been <!--. Which apparently caused the closing comment tag --> to not get escaped, as any > needs to be to preserve XML tidiness. Oh well. Thanks kwc! Bug report in progress...

March 22, 2004

Server Move

So, I finally got around to moving from my old web host, who had become, well, a little bit slow and inflexible. Now, I've moved my whole website over to my new host, which I'm pretty psyched about.

Anyway, part of what finally pushed me over was the old version of Perl installed at the old site, and not-very-user-fixable. Why do I care about Perl? Because their install was missing the Digest::MD5 support, which enables me to use Markdown. If you haven't heard of Markdown yet, try the live demo, Markdown: Dingus. You'll see how compelling it is once you've written a little bit of text in it.

We'll see, but a lot of my posts from now on will probably be written in Markdown. It's flexible enough for most blog-writing style content, and, yet, the same text is still easily cut-and-pastable to e-mail. This'll make having recently purchased ecto a little bit painful, but I'll probably still use it, if in Markdown mode. Maybe I'll beg for a Markdown-compatible preview.

Anyway, if you're reading this post, your at the new host. Hopefully the transition goes smoothly. The old PHP-Nuke based site which I'd kept up for a while at the old host is currently missing... I'll probably bring it back soon, but I've just been too lazy.

March 12, 2004

Now would be a good time to turn on encryption in your mail client...

Most of them support it.

Yes, you've gotta' to exchange keys (although there are ways to make key exchange easier) to be sure that you've got the correct key of the other side.

<paranoid>I already sign all of my messages. This way it's a little harder for someone to attribute some words to me that I didn't say - at least by e-mail, and more-or-less. I encrypt mail to those that I can. Which is very few of you. I'll happily help you set things up, if you'd like. It is completely inappropriate for our own country to be demanding virtually unlimited unmetered access to our private lives. And we do have a right to privacy. Exercise it!
</paranoid>

It also makes such great new technologies as mesh networks quite a bit harder. Can't really have an efficient mesh network if you have to be able to tap it all the time. Likewise, it's very hard to not notice being tapped if your network has to push extra traffic around to enable the tap.

March 10, 2004

Backposting complete

I finished posting all of the content at my old website. Well, more or less... I dumped some of the unnecessary meta-posts, particularly the ones referring to going to this blog.

Since it's unlikely that anyone will actually read through all of that stuff, I'll point to the entries I think are most worth reading:

Backposting in progress....

So, I'm finally taking down the PHP-Nuke based site I've had running at http://geekdom.net/ since 2001. It's out of date, and no one reads it anyway. I'll put something else there.

But, in the meantime, I'm going to port all of the old content over to my blog. If you're one of the few original authors, let me know, and I'll refrain. Otherwise, I'll be doing it over time. I haven't decided yet whether to port the comments.... there weren't too many of them, but there were enough to make me want to automate it. Or perhaps I'll look for pre-existing work.

March 08, 2004

Auto playlists from iTunes do refresh on the iPod!

I had actually convinced myself that the opposite was true - and it would be easy to believe. Play a playlist on your iPod, and hit the Menu button. Keep playing it, even if it's a playlist which should change after each song played (like my "Underappreciated" list, which is composed of a random selection of songs I haven't played within the last 6 months). It doesn't change, does it?

Originally, the 3rd Gen iPods didn't support adding songs to the "On The Go" playlist in real time, either. So, it's possible that the change actually happened after I acquired the iPod. Not clear. I thought I'd tested it all out when I got it.

In any case, auto-playlists do update. They just don't update while you're viewing them. If you want to see the refreshed version of your auto-playlist, you have to go up a level to the "Playlists" menu and then select your auto-playlist again. The new list you see will be the correctly updated one. iTunes updates the playlist constantly, so that's probably how I missed it to begin with.

This might, perhaps, actually explain why there's such a pause sometimes on accessing a playlist. I wonder how efficient the iPod database data structure is at this kind of thing at runtime? Does adding multiple criteria to an auto-playlist slow this down?

Am I the only one who hasn't noticed this?

March 02, 2004

BSE testing in the USA

Ever since Joy pointed out that since BSE (that's Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - Mad Cow) testing isn't really being done at all to cows in the US, and that, given the fact that the disease transfers to human if we consume any neural tissue which contains the proteins-gone-wrong which cause Mad Cow, and slaughter houses aren't totally known for their clean conditions, I've been avoiding beef in the US.

Joy was looking for some other supplies lately, and came across a supplier who actually has tests available. In fact, there are now 5 different tests for BSE approved by the European Commission. However, if you try to track any of them down to, say, purchase one of them, you'll quickly discover that they're not available to US customers (note the box on the left, under "Animal Health Tests/Systems").

I can certainly understand why they might be hard to get, or for "evaluation only". But, please! One of the tests, InPro, was developed at the University of California San Francisco!

Perhaps I'm just missing something. And, sadly, all of the tests are done against neurological tissue sampled from the animal shortly after it is butchered, so there's no do-it-yourself solution to the tainted beef problem yet. But, really, folks, where's the BSE tested beef? With an incubation period as long as 30 years, vCJD, the human version, could be the next-big plague. Why are we taking such chances?

March 01, 2004

Upcoming milestone - 1000 miles on the eGO

Ken may be approaching 1000 blog entries, while others of us are less, uh, prolific. But, I'm approaching 1000 miles ridden on my eGO. The exact point is a little rough, because I didn't get the odometer until I'd been riding for about 2 months. But, based on my rate of miles, and the fact that those were the months when I most often got to ride the eGO to work, I'm going to assume that I'm missing about 200 miles from my odometer. It reads about 840 miles right now.

So, does anyone have any fitting suggestions to commemorate? Something electric-themed, or perhaps pro-environment? Given my various experiences (yes, this post is very self-referential), perhaps safety or robustness-related?

Research Cultures discussion

We had another sort of ExPARC re-union today, this time consisting of all people who once worked in my group, ASD.

I think the most interesting thing is how larger companies, operating as larger companies (or, in the case of SRI, acting solely as a research company), actually can do research and integrate it into the product cycle.

If anyone has more to say on this topic, or more resources, let me know. Notably absent from the discussion of major player research cultures now is Microsoft. None of ASD has gone on to Microsoft yet, but perhaps someone reading this has something to say.

Here are my notes.