East of the Sun, West of the Moon

2005/11/30

Linkage (32)

Filed under: Linkage,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 3:33 pm

It’s the stuff of dreams (New Scientist) coming true:

Aspiring rock gods can at last create their own guitar solos – without ever having to pick up a real instrument, thanks to a group of Finnish computer science students.

Actually a guitar is not really what I’m interested in, but I’d love an air drumset, if anyone wants to create one?


Apparently the FCC has changed its mind (Ars Technica) about à-la-carte cable:

In reexamining a report released last November, the FCC found that its analysis of the data was faulty and that individualized programming packages would be “in the best interests of consumers.”

I’m not holding my breath expecting this to actually happen within months now, but I’d definitely be interested if something like that would become available through our cable provider!


Yesterday the new Firefox was officially released (version 1.5) but I’m waiting until I can find a working version of SessionSaver, and collect updated versions for some of the other extensions that I use.

2005/11/29

Logitech MX3100

Filed under: OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 4:01 pm

A nice pair of gadgets, that it certainly is.

Downsides:

  • The option/command key-swap with uControl doesn’t seem to work for this keyboard. Unfortunately the development of that piece of software has stopped and the alternative software it points to is for Tiger (OS X 10.4.x only).
  • The included software only applies to various MS Windows versions, no OS X support available.
  • A side-effect of the previous point is that many of the extra keys are dead, for the time being.
  • The lack of software support is confirmed by the Logitech Control Center not detecting either one of the devices, let alone allow me to do anything useful with them.
  • The 2×3 layout of the home/end/delete/pageup/pagedown keys, whereas I prefer the 3×2 layout. I don’t think I’ll miss the Ins key there though (the Delete key is double height, instead), I only ever accidentally used it.
  • I had hoped (but didn’t research it, silly me) that the rechargeable mouse would be able to do its work on just USB power when available, but it only recharges if the additional adapter is plugged in.

Upsides:

  • Handy volume button
  • The scroll-wheel on the keyboard itself may come in handy as soon as I’ve gotten used to the idea of it being there.
  • Good looking design, quiet key response.
  • Rechargeable mouse
  • Batteries included (for the keyboard), always a nice touch.
  • USB Overdrive works very nicely and apparently allowed uControl to do its job again because now the option and command keys are swapped after all. A pity that I can’t make the extra mouse-button trigger command-tab, though.

2005/11/26

Can you hear me now?

Filed under: General — Erwin @ 10:56 pm

In the most recent Rolling Stone (edition December 1 , 2005) there’s an article about noise-induced hearing loss, caused by music. At the end there’s a list of 5 things you can do to take it easier on your ears. Number 5 surprised me a bit, though:

Quit Smoking: It doubles the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. “After a loud show, the way you get better is through blood supply to your inner-ear nerve cells,” says Chicago audiologist Michael Santucci. “If you do something cardiovascularly restrictive, like smoking, your blood supply won’t be as good. You’re being exposed to two toxins, the cardiovascular toxin and the noise toxin.”

Never would have thought of that and one more reason that I’m glad I don’t smoke. 🙂

2005/11/23

Quiet days ahead

Filed under: General,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 2:14 pm

On the one hand I expect the next 4-5 days to be quiet around here, given that today the kids are home at least part of the day and then tomorrow the real Thanksgiving fun begins. On the other hand I know I’ll sit down at my computer every chance I get, so I may write some short entries.

At the moment my biggest practical challenge will be to plow through the backlogged feeds of all sorts and emails from cron-jobs that wait for noone, least of all me. Come to think of it, add to that list several podcasts that have daily editions (from BBC and NPR, for instance).

MX3100On an entirely different note, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the 3 day UPS shipped Logitech MX3100 keyboard/mouse combo shows up this week still. It appears to be waiting in Iowa at the moment so once it starts moving it can’t take all that long…

After all the hype about AJAX I’ve finally been bitten by it, somewhat. Spent a good part of yesterday fiddling with the Google Maps API and combining that with some dynamic webpage building (using XML data that was loaded in the background). Pretty fun and I expect to be using it some more in the weeks to come.

So… if you’re in the US: Hope you enjoy your long Thanksgiving weekend, and for anyone else, have a good week(end) anyway. 😉

2005/11/21

Linkage (31)

Filed under: Linkage,News,Technology — Erwin @ 9:14 pm

I can understand the feeling of, during a long flight, wanting to get some fresh air (BBC News) but that’s not the way to do it:

A French woman has admitted attempting to open an aeroplane door mid-flight so that she could smoke a cigarette.


Cracked any safes lately? Here’s an approach (coredump.cx) not requiring any explosives or lock-picking:

The attacker can perform the aforementioned attack by deploying an uncooled microbolometer thermal imaging (far infrared) camera within up to approximately five to ten minutes after valid keycode entry. Although this may sound outlandish, the heat transferred during split-second contact of individual keys with human body (even through, for example, gloves) is significant enough and dissipates slowly enough to make this possible after the area has cleared of all employees.

Furthermore, since the image can be acquired from a considerable distance (1-10 meters is easy to achieve), the attacker can afford to maintain a remarkably low profile through the process.


Texas Attorney General (Greg Abbott) has filed suit against Sony BMG (BetaNews):

The lawsuit notes that Sony’s software uses a rootkit “cloaking” technique to hide itself from users and prevent its removal. Abbott says the DRM remains active at all times, even when Sony’s media player is not active, which has led to concerns about its true purpose.

Hah, you thought I was going to write an entry that didn’t include Sony? Ahem…

2005/11/20

More Sony Fun

Filed under: News,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 8:14 pm

After the previous follow-up, here’s some more thoughts and info from others:

  • Wired is one of the sites reporting that the rootkit used open-source software:

    It turns out that this music player contains components from an open-source project, an MP3 player called LAME.

  • Pamela Jones over at GrokLaw wonders if Sony’s downloadable music has similar rootkit issues:

    Sony’s choice for format restricts consumers to its own hardware – a complaint the paper also makes about Apple, though at least iTunes does permit you to rip CDs to MP3 for transfer to other brands of player. Sony’s SonicStage software does not support MP3 and “it defaults to storing music in an invisible, deeply buried sub-directory”, the paper warns….

    Invisible sub-directory? Hm, sounds familiar.

  • Dan Gillmor points out the lies upon lies in this story:

    At this page, Sony has a list of music CDs it says were infected with the “rootkit” malware that secretly installs hackable, dangerous crap on customers’ computers. (No, Sony doesn’t use these these words to describe what it prefers to think of as anti-infringement protections.) There are 52 CDs on the list.

    Go listen to this report on NPR from November 4, a few days after researcher Mark Russinovich started blowing the whistle on the company’s sleazy behavior. The reporter, Neda Ulaby, quotes Thomas Hesse, president of Global Digital Business for Sony BMG Music Entertainment: “He says only about 20 CDs have the software.”

And of course the fun of the virus scanners and such not noticing this thing for over a year and various people wondering what other record companies might be putting on their CDs that we haven’t noticed yet.

Here’s hoping more and more media will pick up on this and let it backfire at Sony and friends, let this be their bridge too far.

Big Bird?

Filed under: Dutch,News — Erwin @ 6:24 pm

The Netherlands at its finest, turning a little bird into a huge elephant (BBC News and various other newssites worldwide):

The shooting of a sparrow on the set of a Dutch world record domino-toppling attempt sparked outrage among animal lovers and led to threats to staff.

<…>

The bird’s fate was sealed when it knocked over 23,000 and organisers feared it could knock down more. An exterminator cornered the sparrow and shot it.

<…>

But Big Brother creators Endemol said things started to get out of hand when staff started receiving threats.

Uh, yeah. For instance, how does this compare to the birds that get killed because they got in the way of cars and planes, or that simply don’t make it for other reasons? One single bird. If the organisers compensate for this by putting some food out for a few days they probably already almost made up for it. Sheesh, people, have some sense of perspective here.

Small World

Filed under: Software — Erwin @ 3:51 pm

I had no idea who was using it, but I noticed a browser agent in the site stats called ‘SharpReader’ and wondered what that could be. So I searched for it and instantly found it here and noticed that it was created by someone called Luke Hutteman.

Eh, hang on. Luke… that wouldn’t be Lucas, would it? Uh, yes it would, as the whois information of his domain points out. That almost has to be the same guy as the student two years ahead of me in university back in the Netherlands (who also played on IgorMUD) who then went on to move to the US at some point.

Checking further I’m 100% certain it wasn’t actually him that browsed my site but it certainly was amusing to find out that connection of sorts. 🙂

Update: It was indeed him, he found the blog entry and responded.

2005/11/19

Sick

Filed under: Family — Erwin @ 6:10 pm

Yesterday it was my turn, apparently.

Over the weekend A had emptied his stomach the hard way. On Wednesday N called to be picked up from school because of the same issue, so there went at least part of the afternoon. On Thursday morning we got a call from the after-school lady that she (and husband) were sick (yeah, same thing as the kids, how’d you guess), so I got to pick up the kids at 3pm, cutting my day short a bit. Finally Friday morning (in the 4am sense of the word) the honour was mine. Ugh. I’m usually the strong guy around here, but this seemed an unavoidable missile heading my way.

So in the past 24 hours I spent about 20 of it asleep or in bed at least, and of the 4 that I was out of bed I picked up the boys from school (because the after-school lady hadn’t recovered yet) and prepared dinner. A pity that I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I normally would.

Out of the 5 days then, 3 were partially or completely killed off by this, even if I wasn’t the one that was actually sick. Grrr. And of course next week there is going to be Thanksgiving on Thursday and Friday and school has generously given them Wednesday off as well. Gee, thanks, I had nothing else to do anyway.

2005/11/18

Who or what?

Filed under: Software — Erwin @ 2:05 pm

Does anyone reading here know who or what RufusBot (Rufus Web Miner) is and what the big deal is? Most search-engine bots check a few pages and come back another day to check some more or verify ones they looked at before. This one seems to just fetch the entire website in one go (dgd.is-here.com in this case) and it feels a bit excessive.

I’ve googled for it but all I seem to find is other webmasters wondering what’s up, so that’s no help. Yes, I realize I’m adding more to that noise, but…

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