Archive for January, 2007

cocker v. alburn

January 27th, 2007

Jarvis Cocker Damon Albarn
Member of: Pulp Blur
Born in: 1963 1968
English: Yes Yes
Also in Gorillaz: No Yes
Wrote song “Common People”: Yes No
Wrote song “Clint Eastwood”: No Yes
Related to Joe Cocker:

No No

this i believe

January 27th, 2007

That is who you think it is

People who I’d like to hear on NPR’s “This I Believe” segment:

Amy Goodman
Paolo Freire
O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba (unlikely, since he’s dead)
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Walter Cronkite (due to his one line in this trailer)
Studs Terkel

a brief sampling of people who might make my ears bleed:
Bill O’Reilly
Cory Doctorow
Samuel P. Huntington
Tom Cruise
Ann Coulter

Seriously, anyone can write one. L-Dopa might should write a group manifesto and have a computer voice read it. When it inevitably gets on. Because we could ever agree on anything. And essays written by committees always go well. Especially when concerning core beliefs.


January 26th, 2007

I’ve been doing a lot of CSS work lately, and along with the ever-useful “Web Developer” Firefox extension, I’ve recently become enamored of “Firebug” as well. It’s got a pretty incredible feature set, with the crown jewels being live editing of HTML of CSS. Check it out; it’s must-have extensions like Firebug that keep me coming back to Firefox, which just goes to show you, allowing your product to have extensibility is always a good move.


learning cocoa

January 23rd, 2007

Scott Stevenson is a scary-talented kind of guy — not only is he a talented programmer, but a thoughtful and intelligent guy to boot. He moderates the useful Omni Mac OS X mailing list, he has an immaculately designed blog, and he’s a regular contibutor to the super-useful CocoaDevCenter. He’s got an excellent and well-illustrated Cocoa tutorial up that will teach you how to make a simple notepad — definitely worth a read if you’re interested in dabbling in Mac OS X development. Every tutorial should be this well laid out.


geek love

January 22nd, 2007

Hate Love?

Valentine’s Day. link.

Edit: Feminist LGBT ally!

customer choice

January 21st, 2007

ohboyohboyohboy! — thanks to the RSS feed at, I’ve discovered that has the Nintendo Wii in stock — but in a move reminiscent of the Bush Adminsitration’s naming conventions, Walmart will only sell you the “Wii Customer Choice Bundle” for $600; the “choice” being described here are the seven games you’ll be required to “choose” to buy at the same time.

It’s the best kind of fun: mandatory fun!


iggy pop’s concert rider

January 20th, 2007

I once worked a job where I got to read Naughty by Nature‘s concert rider. Oh, the booze they requested; cases and cases and cases of beer and booze, a tall order as they only had the one song anyone was interested in. In 1999, you could ask two questions of a Naughty By Nature show: Have they played “O.P.P.” yet? and Now what are we gonna do? and encompass the entire event. In any case, long story short: they didn’t get the booze.

Iggy Pop, on the other hand, knows what he wants and he knows how to get it — via 18-page, over-the-top parodies of concert riders. It’s unclear after reading this if Iggy expects to get anything at all, but good for him and Jos the roadie (who wrote the document) for going way over the top on this one. And I am so with him regarding the cauliflower. (Via Valleywag)


tog on iPhone

January 18th, 2007

Tog makes a great point here about the iPhone’s mail interface:

Of all the iPhone features, this is the one that seems to have completely missed the target. It would be like Blackberry having three lists: One for mail with more than 100 characters, one for mail with fewer than 100 characters, and one for mail sent from more than 3000 miles away. What sense would that make? What Apple has done, when you think about it, is just as random in terms of the user… I should not have to visit three different places on my phone every few minutes to see what is happening.

…I’ve been wishing for a “unified inbox” for years now; this is the one device I’ve seen that might have both the technology and refined user interface to make that happen; he’s right to flag it as a big ol’ missed opportunity.


packet garden

January 16th, 2007

So cool:

Packet Garden takes note of all the servers you visit, their geographical location and the kinds of data you access. Uploads make hills and downloads valleys, their location determined by numbers taken from internet address itself. The size of each hill or valley is based on how much data is sent or received. Plants are also grown for each protocol detected by the software; if you visit a website, an ‘HTTP plant’ is grown. If you share some files via eMule, a ‘Peer to Peer plant’ is grown, and so on.


20 features the next iphone software revision needs

January 15th, 2007

Twenty features the next iPhone software revision needs:

  1. MobileiChat app. It doesn’t need to do VoIP, but should speak AIM and Jabber. That is literally the one thing I miss about my 1.0.2 hacked iPhone.

  2. MobileRSS app — although now that Google Reader has a pretty snappy iPhone friendly mobile version, maybe this is somewhat moot. An online/offline RSS reader would be such a great fit for the iPhone, and Apple needs to step up their RSS offerings considerably. The crappy web implementation (that apes the crappy DesktopSafari implementation) totally doesn’t cut it.

  3. The iPhone needs a Calendar that can subscribe to online .ics files directly. It’s ridiculous that I need to keep iCal running and sync my iPhone periodically to keep my appointments intact. What is this, PALM DESKTOP (zing!)?

  4. Photos should be able to be put in albums directly on the phone, and deleting photos should be a faster, batch enabled process. It takes about five tries to get a good picture of a moving object, and deleting those four failed shots is a laborious chore.

  5. Camera: It might be nice if there was an option to map the shutter click to a hardware button — “volume up”, for example. The software button is hard to deal with, and the whole “picture is taken when you let up on the trigger button” is odd.

  6. YouTube Bookmarks should sync with a user’s online YouTube Favorites list.

  7. Stocks should have the ability to enter a rudimentary portfolio ala Google Finance. I need to know how much money I’m losing on my sh*tty Sony stock on a daily basis.

  8. Maps is so good! but cruelly missing actual GPS functionality. Even if this functionality could be faked using cell phone tower signals, it would be worth it. Present in 1.1.3 update!

  9. It might be nifty if the Clock could have a pop-up menu for programmable, preset countdown timers, like 9 minutes for “Pasta” or 60 minutes for “Lunch break”. But otherwise, it’s done.

  10. Some of my nerdier friends lament the lack of an “Advanced” mode in Calculator, and certainly unit and measurement conversions might be handy, but I actually kind of like the simplicity of the existing Calculator app. So leave that alone and add an “Advanced” tab.

  11. Notes: so lame. If this could sync to a wik or set of pages online like 37 Signal’s “Ta-Da” lists or something, it might be worth it. I imagine this will get better in Leopard when it syncs to, but even then, it won’t be very useful. They should just ditch it and write a Google Docs client. Then we’re talking.

  12. Unless I’m missing something, Settings needs a “Clear all known networks” function in the Wi-fi panel to avoid the odd issue where you hook up to a open wifi network without a password and then encounter the same network with a password later. Commenters have pointed out that you can clear the network in the panel, but that tab is only available after you’ve logged in and joined the network. Right? Right? I might be way off here.UPDATE: I’m missing something. You can clear the network right from the iPhone network setting.

  13. Mobile iTunes needs direct video download, OBVIOUSLY, but also it could use a tab listing the iTunes Store freebies of the week. That would hook people into and get people used to using it, I imagine.
  14. Also, the ability to read the actual album reviews (and not just tease the user with the number of reviews) would be useful.

  15. Mail needs a “Mark all as read” function for those of us still on POP3. Landscape mode would be nice if only for the larger input keyboard.

  16. MobileSafari: Is it me or is there no way to open a window in a new “tab” (actually, “tab” doesn’t quite work here, actually, so I call them “cards” — it seems to me like the extra windows slide around in the background like cards in a magic trick). Pressing on a link pops up a cute notifier that tells you where the link goes — maybe multi-touching on that pop-up could open a new card?

  17. Also: inline Flash 9 support, especially now that Flash is starting to support H.264 video. Cripes, if Nokia can do it, Apple can pull it off.

  18. iPod: Contrary to what Apple says, the iPhone/iPod touch is notthe best iPod ever. I find CoverFlow to be essentially useless and I wish it would just go away. But worse than that, I’m annoyed by the fact that I can’t just drop media on the iPhone icon in iTunes to move it over. Instead I have to designate a playlist as my “iPhone” playlist, put the media there, and sync? And even then, I have to explicitly enable videos one at a time? This is all quite weird. I really liked it much better when I could just drop the media on the icon for my 5G iPod and be done with it.UPDATE: added in 1.1.3 update!
  19. And: why can’t I subscribe to and download podcasts directly from the device? For that matter, why do I have to hook the iPhone up via USB at all? The new Zunes have some (but not all) of this “wireless syncing” stuff figured out. Apple needs to untether the iPhone from iTunes a little bit, or Microsoft’s third Zune revision might actually get off the bench and start scoring some points.

  20. Finally: the iPhone should be able to provide internet to my laptop. Other phones can via bluetooth DUN profiles, so why not the iPhone? In fact, I’ll do you one better and suggest a very Apple-ish implementation: the iPhone should work as a mobile wi-fi hotspot and DHCP router, so not only my Mac laptop could get internet, but my girlfriend’s PC laptop could get also internet at the same time. Now that would be cool, and given the iPhone’s OS X underpinnings, not that hard to engineer at all.


(iPhone pic of Jon Klein’s iPhone)

hold the iPhone

January 12th, 2007

behold the messiah


That’s the only way to describe the growing revelation among the geek community that Apple’s new iPhone will be a closed system (like the iPod) and not an open one (like the Treo). Excitement is high for the iPhone, and when Jobs first referred to the software running on the iPhone as “Widgets”, I — probably along with every other nerd — imagined he was referring to the bundled combination of HTML, JavaScript, CSS and occasionally compiled binaries that comprise Mac OS X’s Dashboard Widgets. Visions of rapidly developing my own custom widgets to control my appliances and check on my dog danced in my head, but apparently according to Jobs this would be verboten, and the official reasons are weak:

“You don’t want your phone to be an open platform,” meaning that anyone can write applications for it and potentially gum up the provider’s network, says Jobs. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.”

Weak. But on the other hand: I can kind of understand their position. I’m one of the first people to want to tinker with any gizmo I buy — I have a modded XBox, a PSP that plays homebrew emulators, a Yamaha P-120S electric piano I’ve opened and fiddled with many times. I like to fiddle with things. My brother, however, goes even further than I do: he often fiddles with things to the point where they don’t work anymore. I actually know a lot of people like this. I think, for those people, having the iPhone and the iPod being a closed system actually might save them a lot of grief, “saving them from themselves”. Apple Inc. is increasingly in the business of making appliances, and very few people outside of the sweaty geeks from Make Magazine hack their toaster. That’s probably a good thing, because at the end of the day, you really just want your phone to work.

However, primarily I suspect the reason for the “closed” nature is not because of reliability issues — even on the incredibly spindly and crashtastic Palm OS third-party apps are allowed — but instead because pretty much any gizmo that touches Apple’s DRM is going to be a closed hardware platform from now on. If you release an SDK, the first thing people try to do is crack your DRM. Apple is now (surprise surprise) the world’s leading producer of DRM encrypted media, and it’s not actually in their best interest to give the hacking community clues on how to strip off the FairPlay DRM that protects their media from file sharing networks.

So will we ever see third-party/homebrew apps on the iPhone? My prediction is “not as long as it plays iTMS media”… so, no.


rotten apple

January 11th, 2007

rotten apple

It seems that Apple hasn’t been entirely forthcoming with security holes. Supposedly, companies were reporting to Apple, who was then ignoring the warning.

In this blogger’s world, if you don’t announce your weaknesses, someone will do it for you. Supposedly, this crew has already pressured MS into having frequent and regularly scheduled security updates.


January 11th, 2007


I tend to keep a stack of about 5 passwords in rotation. Some are better than others, but I remember all of them. I use the shorter ones for low-security systems, and the stronger ones for more important things. Unfortunately, it means I tend to use the same password for lots of important systems, which means if my password is lost one place, I could be really screwed. The challenge is coming up with strong but memorable (usually phonetic or at least rhythmic in some way) that I can keep track of. There are all kinds of password generators out there, some of which will try to create memorable strings. Apple’s own password generator, accessible inside the Accounts pref pane is pretty good.

Using keychain applications doesn’t really help a great deal. I can store all of my vital passwords in one place, using one password to secure them. Of course, if someone gets into that… The trick seems to be finding a methodology that is both convenient and safe. Google creating a good password, and you get some good hits.

This article at Wired is what got me thinking about it. It has an interesting explanation of the vectors common password crackers use.

the spice must flow

January 6th, 2007


If you’ve ever worked in IT — and may God have mercy on your soul if you have — you know that the process of keeping an inventory of your machines is a relentlessly thankless process. First you have to run around with a clipboard, scrabbling under desks and inhaling pounds of dust and user foot crunk. Then you have to write down a bunch of specs and serial numbers longer than your arm. Then you have to run back to your IT hole and enter those specs and serial numbers in a spreadsheet or database. Then, every time you add or remove a computer, you have to do it again. It’s amazingly tedious work — don’t we have computers to keep track of this crap for us? There’s got to be a better way!

…and there is, but typically, these asset tracking solutions fall down on two counts:

  1. They are way expensive.
  2. They require you to install complicated monitoring daemons on each and every workstation or server you monitor.

Enter Spiceworks. It’s a free network monitoring package that is one of the best thought-out products of this type I’ve ever seen. It’s a web-based app (yea Ruby!) that runs on a local server, and after a painless install all it requires you to do is enter admin password(s) for your local workstations and servers. After that, Spiceworks runs around your network and collects serial numbers and system specs, checks on installed software, catalogs your network devices, and generates reports on printers and servers. You can even set up automatic email alerts to notify you if your servers are filling up, or if Todd from accounting installed WeatherBug again (friggin’ Todd!).

It’s not a real-time monitoring package — the most it checks on your stuff is every half hour, and it doesn’t do detailed network bandwidth monitoring. For that kind of thing, you’d probably want to use something like jffnms or Nagios. But I’m genuinely impressed by what a rich feature set Spiceworks manages to have without losing simplicity, and without seeming bloated or unwieldy. Spiceworks also does an excellent job of integrating the remote functions into the local user interface, giving the user one-click access to the online help, forums, and other useful resources.

The most interesting thing to me is the revenue model; as you use the Spiceworks web-based interface, it shows you a unobtrusive banner ad along the side. That is, apparently, how it can remain free software. As much as I loathe the idea of more ads being pasted everywhere — no one wants their software to look like a Nascar racer — competing solutions cost hundreds of dollars, so I can deal with a couple of unobtrusive ads.

Biggest/only downside? Right now it only runs on Windows XP, although it’s web-based, so after you get it installed you can access it via Mac OS X or linux. Hopefully someone’s working on that right now.


my favorite trick to play on my cat

January 2nd, 2007