Good: I made it to the big Starbucks in Cambridge to get lots of work done today, hopefully away from a network connection.
Bad: I reached an impasse and had to look up some documentation that wasn't cached locally.
Good: T-mobile appear to have installed a hot-spot here, they just aren't advertising it.
Bad: T-Mobile have installed a Hot Spot here. There wasn't supposed to be any network connectivity.
Good: I can look up the documentation.
Bad: It cost me £14.00 for 120 minutes valid over a 31 day period. That would get me a month's unlimited access in the 'states.
Even worse: US T-Mobile Hot Spot accounts aren't valid in the UK. You'll need another one.
Good, I suppose: Found the documentation I needed. Happy now, even though I'm £14 out of pocket.
Bad: Don't even get me started on the horrible UI that T-Mobile are using here for sign on. It's horrendous. Sample: the connection window that is spawned disappears straight after it's spawned if you're using Safari, leaving no way to log out. And your connection doesn't appear to time out, either. And the survey form to report your bad experience doesn't work. I could go on. I will. At length. Later. Meanwhile: Use Camino.
Junk folder, Tuesday August 19, 19:47 to to 20:31 - 12 SoBig.F worm emails, one returned mail thanks to it spoofing one of my addresses.
Absolutely no reaction on my part. These things are just sliding off me.
I recently got NTL digital cable; Sky was far too expensive for the time being, and the only thing I'm really after at the moment are non-fuzzy channels in widescreen (that said, I feel an NTL EPG UI rant coming on soon). Anyway, I digress.
The NTL information channel is currently looping a short video, "an important announcement" for users of Microsoft Windows XP, 2000 or NT. Yeah, it's the msblast worm, and instructions on how to patch and clean the offending system.
It's worth watching for this throwaway line:
"a firewall does exactly what it sounds like: creating a wall of fire around your computer, which should prevent most viruses from getting back in"
Well, if you put it like that, I want one. It'd look really cool in the living room, and I'd save on the gas bill.
Related: Reboot v3.1.3 - Firewall.
CNet News.com interviews Microsoft Research's Marc Smith:
In Microsoft's research and development labs, Smith has spent the past several years slicing and dicing data about messages and message authors in an ambitious effort to help people make sense of the newsgroup manifold--the hordes of know-it-alls, flame warriors, spammers and neophytes who, by Smith's estimate, last year numbered more than 100 million in the Usenet network of e-mail threads, or newsgroups. [more, CNet News.com]
At least it's not globo-thermo-nuclear war:
The first game-playing DNA computer has been revealed - an enzyme-powered tic-tac-toe machine that cannot be beaten.
The human player makes his or her moves by dropping DNA into 3 by 3 square of wells that make up the board. The device then uses a complex mixture of DNA enzymes to determine where it should place its nought or cross, and signals its move with a green glow. [more, New Scientist]
Via Ovidiu Predescu:
I believe that the outage was caused by the MSblaster, or its mutation, which was besieged upon the respective vulnerability in certain control and monitoring systems (SCADA and otherwise) running MS 2000 or XP, located different points along the Grid. Some of these systems are accessible via the Internet, while others are accessible by POTS dialup, or private Frame relay and dedicated connectivity. [more, BugTraq]
The failing niagara power-plant belongs to National Grid USA. That power-supplier is listed as a reference customer of Northern Dynamics. Norhtern Dynamics labeled themselves as "Home of the OPC Experts" and offer a range of products that use OPC for control and operation systems.
OPC stands for "Ole for process control" and is based on microsofts COM/DCOM model. In a network affected by the W32.Blaster worm the DCOM-communcation fails, and therefor OPC fails on unpatched systems. [more, BugTraq/Heise]
This is why Finder becomes unusable after over a day's worth of use, right?
7:59AM up 1 day, 10:25, 4 users, load averages: 1.39, 1.77, 1.51
bash-2.05a$ leaks Finder | less
Process 409: 23354 nodes malloced
Process 409: 685 leaks
I swear to god, right now anytime my laptop makes an HTTPS connection (over wi-fi, at the moment), I can hear it go "eeek". Seriously. Not just any connection, I checked: only HTTPS.
Has this happened to anyone else?
The guy says, "What we need people to do is to get on the trains."
Koppel: "Aren't they clearing the trains?"
Dude: "For now, yeah. Anyway. What we need people to do is to -- um, once they get home safely -- we need them to log onto thankyoufortakingmycall.com so that we know they're safe."
The camera-based system, developed by researchers at Sony's Interaction Laboratory in Tokyo, Japan, lets users instantly transfer data from a laptop or handheld computer to a device in close proximity connected to the same wireless network.
"It is so troublesome, especially when there are many networked devices," Yuji told New Scientist. "When you want to send data in your PDA to a printer, for example, you have to input or to select a correct network address."
A code displayed on a small sticker attached to each device is identified by the laptop's camera. Software running on the laptop then automatically locates the device on the network. "Gaze-Link is one of the challenges to make connecting more 'intuitive'," Yuji says.
It seems that Gaze-Link isn't a configuration tool as such, more of an autodiscovery tool, or a point-and-shoot autodiscovery tool, so it's obviously not without its uses. There's a demo video (MPEG, Japanese, 28.1MB) available that provides a better idea of what's going on: the demo involves someone sitting down with a Vaio with a built in camera, pointing it at a desktop and keystrokes being transferred from the former to the latter.In fact, the recognition tags that are stuck on to the devices look eerily similar to those used by Sony's CyberCode software that shipped with the early PictureBook Vaios. It's not a surprise then to see that both Jun Rekimoto and Yuji Ayatsuka were involved with the CyberCode project in the first place, having published a paper on it in 2000. The use of this is, to me, more interesting than the autodiscovery involved in Gaze-Link since CyberCode was initially developed as an augmented reality project.
A lot of Sony's own material about CyberCode seems to have gone missing, as continent-spanning multinationals are wont to slowly let their webservers rot: Rekimoto's own link to a page on CyberCode and the PCG-C1AT points to a defunct document, and neither archive.org or Google seem to have the page cached.
Fortunately, there's a paper [PDF, 2.8MB] available on Sony's site. Here's the abstract:
The CyberCode is a visual tagging system based on a 2Dbarcode technology and provides several features not provided by other tagging systems. CyberCode tags can be recognized by the low-cost CMOS or CCD cameras found in more and more mobile devices, and it can also be used to determine the 3D position of the tagged object as well as its ID number. This paper describes examples of augmented reality applications based on CyberCode, and discusses some key characteristics of tagging technologies that must be taken into account when designing augmented reality environments.
The chief method of tagging envisaged by the authors was that of paper-based printed tags. Paper's cheap, and so is printing: "printed tags are probably the least expensive [compared to RF and IR] and most versatile tagging techonology. They can be easily made by normal printers, can be attached to almost any physical object, and can be recognized by mobile readers."
While I'm not entirely convinced as to the aesthetics of having two dimensional barcodes plastering my favourite gadgets, there's something about the system that appeals to me. The fact that I'd be able to print as many as I wanted, and stick them wherever I want, is a clear benefit over systems like RFID - I'm not sure whether most people have some sort of ubiquitous technology acting as trojan RFID fabs in their houses yet. I expect not.
One of the examples touted by the CyberCode technology was of embedding information about a document when it was printed out: wave the hard copy in front of the camera and the original document would pop up on the screen, ready for editing. While this isn't necessarily a boon for home users--how many documents do you have, exactly, and how much time would you save by waving about a hard copy you had meticulously filed away?--I can certainly see benefits for businesses which have a large investment in hard copies. Unfortunately, most of those businesses are smartly moving away from having anything to do with pulped tree matter and there's a whole plethora of document management and electronic filing/submission solutions available: step forward Adobe Acrobat. That's not to say that CyberCode could augment such a system, of course.
Regardless, Sony's video demo was much more informative than the writeup proffered by New Scientist, which isn't much of a surprise these days. One of the main stumbling blocks with the technology is that it requires at least one device to have a built in camera of sufficient ability to resolve the code in the first place, and--phone cameras notwithstanding--there don't seem to be enough of those about: not laptops, not palmtops and not PDAs. Whether this means Sony are about to release a J2ME asset tag/tracking application for their Sony-Ericsson camera equipped phones that will pull up data on CyberCode tagged objects is left as an exercise to the reader.
2-6. This first example of the Berryman Logical Image Technique (hence the usual acronym BLIT) evolved from AI work at the Cambridge IV supercomputer facility, now discontinued. V.Berryman and C.M.Turner  hypothesized that pattern-recognition programs of sufficient complexity might be vulnerable to "Gödelian shock input" in the form of data incompatible with internal representation. Berryman went further and suggested that the existence of such a potential input was a logical necessity ... [more]
Here's an experiment: every time I'm asked to troubleshoot something, if it sounds like something other people might come up against, I'll try to remember to add it here. At least Google will find it.
Some people get confused when XP's Picture and Fax Viewer application stops being associated with, say, .tiff files. Picture and Fax Viewer is useful for .tiffs mainly because they can contain more than one page, and most applications aren't aware of any pages past the first one.
Here's one way you might be able to get Picture and Fax Viewer to open your .tiff files if another application--like Quicktime--has hijacked them:
That should do it.
A tip on speeding up OS X's Address Book/AddressBook.app by rebuilding its ABPerson.index index file:
For extra speedy goodness, try deleting the "~/Library/Application Support/Address Book/ABPerson.index" file, then opening Address Book and searching for an entry. This will force a rebuild of the Address Book index, too. [more, via Forwarding Address: OS X]
This supposedly increases the performance of Apple's email application, Mail.app--I wouldn't know, I use Entourage X, but nothing bad has happened to my address book after trying this.
I'll probably be moving hosts at some point, so: transferring MT blogs from one host to another.
The slightly more astute/anal/bored among you will have noticed that the individual entry archives have now moved from Movable Type's rather useless default of /ec/mtarchives/nnnnnn.shtml#nnnnnn to /ec/mtarchives/yyyy/mm/dd/entry_title_here/index.shtml#nnnnnn, which is all well and good were it not for the fact that the "/index.shtml#nnnnnn" bit looks like a complete eyesore.
Anway, this looks useful: Future-proof URLs in Movable Type, which will help in removing those silly filenames and anchors. Only it's just past midnight, I'm a little tired and don't particularly want to embark on that journey just yet.
Oh, and Phil Gyford's .htaccess redirect trick deserves a mention, too.
Sorry, did I say Cotes? I'm sure I meant Coates. And no, it doesn't look like a typo. It's spelt that way three times.
BBC News reports that sales of mobile phone ringtones set to overtake CD singles:
Sales of mobile phone ringtones are set to overtake CD singles, according to new figures - providing a much-needed "shot in the arm" for the music industry.
Sales of ringtones - which are more profitable to record companies than singles - are expected to rise 60% this year, said the Mobile Data Association (MDA).
Most pop hits are available to buy as mobile phone rings - as are other popular tunes such as TV themes - for between £1.50 and £3.50.
It's no fun without vague comment masquerading as fact:
Steve Mayall, from trade publication Mobile Messaging Analyst, warned the music industry not to rely on ringtones. "It's a fact that piracy is definitely decimating the record industry at the moment and it's a fact that the ringtone business is starting to show quite healthy growth," he said.
It's a fact that piracy is definitely decimating the record industry? Or is that just what the record industry is saying?
In other news, BBC's Fame Academy (a Reithian attempt at Pop Idol) is offering paid-for downloads of contestants' performances. Cunning.
More octopus links, because they're so damn interesting:
Octopuses are escape artists and care must be taken to prevent losing one once you have captured it. Immediately after being caught, Legs discovered a small hole in the seam of my new dive net, went through it, plopped in the water, and disappeared from sight... all in about two seconds! Luckily, at least for me, I was able to relocate her. Once back at the Hall of Justice, (o.k., o.k., hotel room) Legs was placed in a five gallon bucket with its lid slightly ajar to provide an air line to circulate the water. Later, that same morning, a distinctive 'splop' awoke us, somehow penetrating our half asleep brains. That we heard it was no small miracle as we were no doubt still traumatized from waking up at 3:00 A.M. to go look for octopuses. We rushed into the bathroom of the hotel room and there was Legs, obviously upset, scooting around the floor. We managed to catch her and return her to the bucket (yes, the feeling of octopus suckers on your skin is weird at best). Besides keeping the octopus safe, a well sealed collecting bucket and/or octoaquarium helps to allay a loved one's fear that 'that thing is going to crawl out in the middle of the night and suck my brains out through my nose'. [more]
Updated 8 July 2003 21:59 BST: Mirror here
I sent an email via that person's hosting provider, xanga, and a friend left a comment on the user's site informing her, quite simply, about what she was doing (ooh, not attributing the image, plus having me pay towards her bandwidth). To date, there's been no reply, and my friend's comment attached to this entry has since been deleted.
Evangelical Christians aren't, it must be said, my favourite group of people in the world, but generally they're harmless compared to, say, mass murderers. On the other hand, I'm really getting quite annoyed that this hasn't been fixed yet.
So I'm going to give one more warning. And then I'm going to change the image she's linking to.
The latest entry at the time of writing starts like this:
The picture behind this writing reminds me of a night when my husband rushed home and told me to grab my jacket and hurry to the car, he had to take me somewhere. I could see the excitement on his face and could tell there was some kind of great adventure he wanted to share with me. I reported to the car as quickly as I could and we left with me not knowing where he was taking me...it was exciting!
So I'm thinking maybe tubgirl or goatse.cx would provide a sufficiently hilarious and unequivocal message (unlinked, for obvious reasons if you're already seen those sites. If you haven't, well, you might not want to be at work and consider yourself duly warned) as replacement images, but am entirely open to suggestions in the comments below.
To answer 2lmc's question, I got an email this morning from them saying:
We want to let you know about a new Google AdSense feature, designed to enhance the overall experience of web users who visit your site. Starting today, you'll be able to customize the appearance of the Google ads on your site. You can now set the background, text, and border colors of the AdWords ads displayed on your site so that they complement your site.
More information at the Adsense FAQ.
ThinkSecret brings news of two seeds:
Panther build 7B28 was first provided to select sites late last week, and was posted to the Apple Developer Connection Web site Tuesday. "Once again, this release reflects extensive engineering efforts since the last seed, with issues addressed in almost every component of the OS," the company told testers in a seed note. Apple listed a number of "components that had the most extensive changes": AFP, CUPS, AppKit, Web Services, QuickTime, Mail, System Events, Printing, Web Core, HI Toolbox, Carbon Core, Kernel, Address Book, Launch Services, OpenGL, Chinese Input Method, AppleScriptKit, Graphics Drivers, Script Editor, Finder, Character Palette, Core Audio, and Navigation Services.
In a less-expected development, Apple also seeded a new Jaguar build, Version 10.2.7, build 6R34. In a seed note, Apple said that 10.2.7 "delivers various component updates." The company suggested that testers concentrate their testing on the following areas: USB, Graphics Drivers, FireWire, USB, and PCMCIA cards, particularly USB 2.0 cards.
The Times is wonderful. In an article about instant messaging and its impact upon language evolution:
The measured era of "Dear Sir" and "good morning" has fallen to "g'day", "hola", "easy tiger" and "wassup". We no longer remain, sir, your most humble and obedient servant; we sign off with "hasta la vista", "adios", "catch ya" or "check ya".
Dinosaurs need to know what we are talking about here: instant messaging over the internet, which is said to be even faster than e-mail. Britons now apparently send 43 million of these speedy billets-doux to each other every day, whether for the purposes of romance, commerce or sheer mindless drivel. [more]
Well, well. "Instant messaging over the internet, [which] is said to be even faster than e-mail". This kind of phrasing evokes to me the drunk guy down the pub who's lolling against the wall and tries to tell anyone fool sauntering up to him that "instant messaging is faster than e-mail". It's just a rumour. Nothing substantiated, of course. And the name's just a misnomer. It's hardly instant at all. Everyone knows an instant message commonly arrives after an e-mail sent at the same time. Why, you're better off writing your message out with a quill on parchment and sending it off with a solid, dependable pony than use this instant messaging lark.
Presumably the journalist (some of whom are said to be at least an order of magnitude slower than email) was thinking "Well, I asked around, and some people said it was faster than email, some people said it was slower. To be honest, I don't really understand this computer lark, our readers won't either, it looks like my editors won't, so hey, let's just write any old crap."
I'd better stop telling people to IM me if they want a quick response. There's no telling on when the message might get to me.
Things yet to do:
The latest alpha of NetNewsWire (1.0.4a5) includes diff support, highlighting changes in RSS feeds similar to the infamous Winer Watcher. It's rather cool yet also somewhat disturbing: I've now got fully marked up feeds showing me exactly what changes have happened in entries. You may or may not need a registration key to use the alpha, I forget.
Senator Rick Santorum manages to not only piss off gay rights activists (now there's a surprise), but also childless heterosexual married couples:
"Marriage is not about affirming somebody's love for somebody else. It's about uniting together to be open to children, to further civilization in our society." [more]
I submit that Rick Santorum is not about furthering the interests of the American people; he's about being an asshat and rolling back civilization while he's at it.
Things you can accomplish without trying particularly hard (or, indeed, accidentally): plug your USB Bluetooth adapter into your PowerBook G4's ethernet socket. No, really. It fits. Trust me (you're not advised to try this unless you're stupid, rich or generally ambivalent towards causing what could be expensive damage to an attractive piece of hardware).
Online communities are often a labour of love, and sometimes they can be damn near infuriating. I have oodles and oodles to write on this subject, but am instead somewhat preoccupied with moving house tomorrow.
I like my phone. Really, I do. Provided I'm not outside and in full daylight, of course. Otherwise, there are a few little niggles, one of which is that Sony Ericsson appear to have skimped a little on their user interface testing.
Here's an example of the steps required to send a text message on a Sony Ericsson T610 configured for use on the Orange network. If I get round to it, I'll post screenshots of each annoying stage at some point.
Here's a suggestion. The first two steps in the process are fine, but I really shouldn't have to go through that terrible rigmarole of adding a recipient. Ideally, after pressing the mislabeled "Continue", I should be able to type in a number and hit send, whereupon we skip to a screen showing the current recipients and I can add any others. Otherwise, typing in a name should, horrors, just search any collection of names on the phone.
To add insult to injury, it took me ages to figure out how to turn on SMS reports that let you know when a message has been received. This is because it's called a "status request". Finding the SMS options menu wasn't a problem. Deciphering what the text meant was.
Updated 2 August 2003 0:51 BST: Move nipple left, not right, to send a message. Thanks to Gareth for the correction.
A digital simulation of natural selection, taking place in scores of internet-linked personal computers, is being used to evolve superior electronic circuits.
The calculations used to improve circuit design would normally be performed on a single powerful computer or a large cluster of machines. But Miguel Garvie, a research student at the University of Sussex in the UK, has developed software that lets ordinary computer users contribute their spare processing power to create a virtual evolutionary environment for the project.
Such "distributed computing" is already providing cheap but substantial computer power to the search for alien messages in radio signals from space and to the quest for the largest prime numbers.
In the five days since the project was launched, Garvie says he has evolved circuits that outperform commercial designs on standard tests by 100 per cent but are only 50 per cent larger.
"It's gone as far as conventional circuits and beyond," he told New Scientist. "The plan is to go with bigger and bigger circuits, which is why I started the distributed project." [more]