Archive for July, 2007

how to ditch cable

July 28th, 2007

no cable equation
One of the questions I get asked quite often is if there is some way to get television shows from the internet without paying 50$ a month for cable*. My answer is that, yes, I have heard, this guy I know told me that there is a way, but it’s kind of hard to explain. But the question comes up again and again and again, so it occurred to me that it might be useful to write it all down once and for all.

To get television off the internet, you need three things:

  1. You need to be able to find a torrent file of the show.
  2. You need to be able to use the torrent file to download the video file of the show.
  3. You need to be able to watch the video file of the show.

Luckily, this process has recently been made a lot easier by three quite excellent Mac OS X programs:

  1. Finding the torrent: There’s an app called TVShows that takes pretty much all the sting out of this task. It’s a ruby app that parses the feed from and presents the user with an excellent interface to subscribe to their favorite shows.


    One or two clicks and you’ve got the torrent files corresponding to your favorite shows automatically downloaded to your desktop. You can even set TVShows to start downloading the files automatically:

  2. Downloading the video file: Now you’ve got torrent files, but they just point the way to the video files — you’ll still need to download the video files themselves. There’s an excellent torrent client for Mac OS X called Transmission that can help you do that. It’s lightweight and not over-encumbered with features. This is what will download the video file that the torrent file points to. One of the things I like most about it is if you have a relatively recent router (for example, a “white” Airport Extreme router or later), Transmission has an option to automatically map the port for you:


    Without a “mapped and open port”, BitTorrent clients don’t work very well, so it’s handy that Transmission has the option to talk to the router and make this happen auto-magically.

  3. Watching the video file: Most television shows on the internet are in a format called “DivX” which is not supported natively in QuickTime, so you’ll need to find a way to open and view the file. There’s a Quicktime plug-in called Perian which can do this, but I find the most foolproof way to do watch downloaded video is via an application called VLC. VLC will pretty much open and play everything. Once Transmission downloads the video file (and this typically will take a while! I’m told!), drop the video file on VLC to play it.


* NOTE: This is probably illegal.

chore wars

July 26th, 2007

Combining the old-school concept of a refrigerator chore wheel with the level-grinding fun of World of Warcraft, it’s Chore Wars. The idea? Set up a system of experience points for household chores and “level up” your characters by vacuuming, cleaning up, doing dishes, etc.

I know people that would love this.


ipr: finally, something productive

July 23rd, 2007

Mr. Lee, Internet Cat

For this very belated edition of the Internet Phenomenon Revue, I found enough of a break from all that silly “school” and “work” stuff to find you ldopans out there something of true and lasting import.

I give you the ultimate product of the internet. Real World: Cats.

Background and how to order here.


July 23rd, 2007

Great article about Scratch in today’s Ars Technica; Scratch is a beginning programming language that looks like a cross between Lego Mindstorms and Apple’s “Automator.” In a particularly innovative move, one click publishes the program to the Scratch website — great for teachers that don’t have the time or resources to set up their own server.

I have to admit I haven’t had time to play with it much, but a preliminary spin through is impressive. When I was a kid, we had Basic, Logo, SmallTalk, and Squeak, so anything that might work better than those guys is a Good Thing.


a return to form for cuba gooding jr.

July 22nd, 2007


ask ldopa: belts

July 15th, 2007

Dear ldopa,

How the hell do you organize belts? I have a bunch of them in my closet that leap out like deadly cobras when I open up the closet door.


certainty is an indication of contempt for the truth

July 11th, 2007

It’s just barely possible that you think that the administration of Bush the Younger got the short stick, that they’re just sticking up for unpopular views. But there has to be a point when you say, “No, they’re actively lying.” If you’re still under the impression that the Bush administration has the interests of the American people at heart, then I’d really like to sit you down and say, “Look, I understand. You want to believe that someone we very nearly elected could be this bad. You want to believe that there are two sides to this issue. You want to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who is in a very difficult position of leadership in a time of anexiety. But he’s a horrible man who’s done worse things to this country than Nixon, who admitted to cheating at democracy. He’s led us to war with a specious argument designed to conflate our fear of an enemy with someone who isn’t a credible threat so that he and a couple dozen friends of his can steal from the American people. He actively hates us. He wants us to fuel his slavering greed and uses the language of God to rally bigots and confuse those who peacefully follow the religion he claims to represent. If we won’t die for him, he wants us to die as an example to others.”

Pretty hyperbolic, right? Well, it turns out, the Bush administration has not only suppressed information that will stop future Katrinas, but also information that will save the lives of all those but the very rich, who have other options. The Bush regime wants us to die in pestilence and filth because it means that they’ll be able to sell us bug spray and toilet paper. I say this because the administration in its corrupt, baby-murdering wisdom has consistently suppressed so much as discussion of embryonic stem cell research while denying the clear facts that abstinence sex education is completely ineffective.

Naturally, the administration’s response to the frustrated rage of the country’s most senior doctor is to accuse him of political ineffectiveness:

White House spokesman Tony Fratto rejected Dr Carmona’s criticism, and said he was given authority to be the leading voice for the health of all Americans. “It’s disappointing to us if he failed to use his position to the fullest extent in advocating for policies he thought were in the best interests of the nation,” Mr Fratto said.

They may be the worst government this country has ever had. They’re feudalist Industrialists whose interests are in short-term profit fueled by the blood of Americans. America is, to them, a resource to be used up while they move on to other countries in their supernational corporate men-of-war. Take back your country. Vote your conscience. Make it so that electoral cheating isn’t enough. Send Cheney and Bush the jail. Let the world see that we can be a good neighbor again. Let’s apologize for voting enough votes that these horrible sociopaths could cheat the rest of the way into office. Let’s regain the strength of alliances other than those coerced. Let’s drop the Imperialist notions that cost us so much and foment hate among those who would be tense partners at worst.