Archive for the 'CoolStuff' Category

Note: I've reorganized this site to use tags; the category archive remains to support old links. Only posts prior to April, 2006 are categorized. Tag Archive »

Pocketful of Links

Just as afternoon shopping leads to a pocketful of change, a busy day’s webrowsing leads to many new shinys in my bookmarks. Here’s a handful I’ll toss on the dresser at the end of the day.

  • Rivinus Photography Gallery – Regular readers have seen Sean’s work before. He’s recently made the move to full-time photographer, which is fantastic. His gallery includes many samples of his fine art photography, including some fascinating macro work- M.C. Escher fans be sure to look for his piece “Stacked Nuts.”

  • The Annotated XML Spec – If you’re an XML geek (or just play one at work), here’s a chance to read over the shoulder with one of the fathers of XML, Tim Bray.

  • Al Gore: “Restoring the Rule of Law” – Text of a speech to the Liberty Coalition on Jan 16, 2006. I’ve never discussed politics on this site- mine or anyone else’s. This time I’ll make an exception. I consider myself a conservative. I never voted for Al Gore. I think this essay is spot on, and everyone should read this and actually think about it. [via douglas.nerad].

  • Life in Text Mode – Because GUIs are for sissies. [via 0xDECAFBAD]

  • Do-it-Yourself .Mac – If it was easy, everyone would do it.

  • The iRex Iliad – Not-yet-to-market eBook reader that uses the same eInk technology as the Sony Librié, but supports a number of non-proprietary document types. I’ll be watching to see how it’s priced; I’ve always wanted a device with that display.

Better Laptop Browsing with uControl

For as long as I can remember, my Powerbook’s keyboard has annoyed me while I’m reading long texts- most commonly, when I’m reading long pages in Firefox. Due to the size constraints of a laptop, there are no dedicated page up/page down keys. Instead, the up- and down-arrow keys become page up and page down keys, respectively, when you press the Fn key. On my Powerbook, the only Fn key is on the left, between control and option. The arrow keys, of course, are on the right of the keyboard. The result is that it’s impossible to page through a document one handed. (In Firefox, this is somewhat alleviated by the fact that pressing space pages down- unless your cursor is in a form element).

Today, I finally snapped and decided to fix the problem. A quick Google and I had a copy of uControl, an open source (GPL licensed) OS X Preference pane that allows you to remap various meta keys on your keyboard (among other nifty features). Using uControl, I remapped the (useless) enter key on the right side of the keyboard to Fn, and now I can easily page up and down one-handed. Very nice when reading on the couch, Powerbook perched on my lap, frosty beverage in hand.


It’s been a very busy week, as evidenced by the dearth of posts over the last few days. Work is really keeping me hopping, especially since I missed two days serving jury duty. I didn’t really want to go, but I will say it was satisfying to convict someone who preys on children- and that is all I will say about the matter. Herewith some random thoughts from the past week.

  • I watched Steve Jobs’ Macworld Expo Keynote Tuesday evening. It deserves its own post, which it got.

  • While on the topic, this made me laugh out loud (via

  • Considering the impact the original MacPaint had when the original Mac was introduced, and the longevity of MacPaint 2.0, I find it amazing that OS X comes with no “paint” application. Even Windows has one. I haven’t had any luck locating an open source, OS X-native paint app, either. This is one of those projects I consider doing myself, until I remember just how much free time I have.

  • Speaking of free time, I stole some by staying up far too late for the past few nights, indulging myself with a copy of the new version of Sid Meier’s Pirates! This is one of my all-time favorite games, dating all the way back to my Commodore 64 in high school. The new version is quite faithful to the original, and yet still as engaging as ever. I’m playing it on the kids’ PC… I wasn’t about to wait 6 months or more for an OS X version.

  • The hot topic in the technical blogosphere these days is “folksonomies”, which just means categorization schemes where the end users create categories on the fly. Think and Flickr. Whoever coined that term should be slapped, but the whole notion of roll-your-own tags rocks. I use quite a bit (my links); here’s a couple of tricks I use:

    • Tags starting with an asterisk (*) sort to the top of the list, making for quick reference. I have a few, such as *toread, *toblog, *tobuy, etc.

    • Since everything on has its own rss feed, I went to my “reading list” (*toread) and used Firefox’s autodiscovery support to create a Live Bookmark subscription, which sits in my Bookmarks Toolbar. Anytime I want something to read, there it is. Now I just need to find the time to read the stuff.

  • Getting a couple hundred comment spam attempts a day lately. Attempts – my spam trap is catching them. Don’t forget, the comment system uses Markdown… no raw HTML links, please. I think it has a bug that marks some trackbacks as spam… I restore these when I see them, but if you send me a trackback and it doesn’t show up, e-mail me.

The Lazy Web

Whenever I learn something very cool that’s been around for a while, I wonder if I’m the last one to the party. I’ve seen mention of the lazyweb many times… the idea is that somewhere, someone has probably already solved your problem (whatever it may be), or would like to. To invoke the lazyweb, you post a problem or question to your blog, often mentioning “Lazyweb” in the post, and sit back and wait for enlightment. You must need decent blog visibility in order to get results from the lazyweb. I’ve never really tried it, since I don’t think my readership levels are very high (and I don’t want to prove it to myself).

At least, this is what I always thought. It turns out that someone has built a tool (someone always does, that’s the point of the lazyweb). After posting your lazyweb request, you can send a trackback ping to (or if your blogging software is configured for auto-trackback, just link to it). displays the trackbacks, allowing interested (and helpful) folks to see and respond. Naturally, there’s an RSS feed as well (as seen in the Techish section of my blogroll).

Considering the bloggeratti who have worked on the site, I can’t believe I just learned about this. Makes me wonder what other gems I’m missing.


It’s funny how certain topics seem to show up around the web about the same time I’m thinking about them. Sometimes there’s a common trigger, but alot of times there isn’t. Here’s some of both (and some of neither).

  • First off, a handy tip I picked up looking at someone else’s bookmarks- if you prefix a tag with an asterisk, it will appear at the top of your list of tags. I use this to maintain several categories that stay at the top of the page, including *toblog, *toread, and *tobuy. Once I’ve blogged/read/bought the item in question, I just remove that tag (or occaisionally the whole bookmark.

  • Here’s one I forgot to blog: on Oct 10, I *toblog-marked the RadioShark from Griffin Technologies (makers of the ultra cool Powermate and iTrip). It’s essentially a TiVo for radio, allowing you to record live radio and play it back later (perhaps on an iPod). When I saw this, I thought it might help with the problem of finding something good on the radio at a random time of day. Within a day or two, I learned about Podcasting; by Oct 15 I had blogged about it. I don’t even own an iPod (yet), but I rarely listen to the radio anymore. I do have a stack of 20+ CD-Rs in my car, full of already-listened-to podcasts.

  • Several days ago, I wrote about losing my Bloglines ‘unread’ metadata. I had over 3000 unread items, and I ended up deciding it was probably a good idea to start fresh anyway. The very next day, Jeffrey Veen wrote about conciously making the decision to clean up his unread RSS count in his desktop aggregator. He wrote of “literally hundreds of subscriptions haunting me each day; a bright red counter showing unread posts creeping up into the thousands.”

    Dave Winer then commented on Jeffrey’s post on his own blog, delivering the alarming news that “so many people are using RSS the wrong way.” Sorry, I just don’t see it. RSS is a content delivery mechanism. It is optimized for certain uses and usage patterns, but it is at the core a way of delivering information. The right way to use information is what ever way that information is most useful to the consumer. For me, I want to see everything. I may not read it all, but simply filtering everything brings me some degree of awareness of what I skipped.

    Having said that, Dave does have a point. His vision of the “right” way to use RSS is not without merit. He wrote:

    It’s not like email. Let the river of items flow through your queue, scroll over them with a scroll bar, and don’t let the software tell you you’re falling behind. Your time is what’s valuable, there’s no value to the items you didn’t read. If it’s important it’ll pop up again. RSS is not email. Don’t sort them out into little boxes that you have to go to….

    There are probably some feeds I subscribe to which I could apply this model to, and should think about doing so. On the other hand, there are feeds for which I never want to miss any content. Just last weekend (prior to losing my unread counts), I caught up on Tim Bray‘s feed- over 200 items dating back over 6 months. I never should have let it go unread so long, but I knew it would take me time to catch up since I like to read everything. The limitations of the Bloglines interface (reading unread items in a feed is all-or-nothing) are also to blame. But I’m glad I did catch up. I learned a lot about many intersting topics, got a recommendation for a book which I’m now reading, and discovered Magnatune.

  • Security, in many forms, has been on my mind ever since I recently re-read Cryptonomicon. Data security, communications security, and backing up of important data. One of these days, I’m planning to write a series of articles about some of the things I’ve done to get more secure (but not today). One of the things I haven’t yet done is get serious about backing up my Powerbook. I should know better- I’ve been on the wrong end of a horrible crash before, including one that was potentially career-limiting. To say I got religion about backing up work stuff is putting it mildly. At home, I’m not quite so diligent.

    So I was pretty interested when I read Mark’s take (at BoingBoing) on an OS X backup solution called SuperDuper. Looks like it could be just the thing, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Jeremy Zawodny wrote about improving his backups across all of his systems. He’s now using SuperDuper for his Mac.

  • I can perform my backups onto my 120GB external Firewire harddrive, but Jeremy has built a Raid-5 backup cluster on a Linux server (same link as above). This got me to thinking (again) about LaCie’s Bigger Disk, now available in 1.0 and 1.6 Terabyte sizes. They aren’t exactly cheap, but just look at it: You can get 1 TB of storage in a portable, 5 1/4″ 2U form factor on a Firewire 400/800 interface for $999 list (10-15% less if you shop). A terabyte for under kilobuck? Wow.

  • Thinking of my Firewire Drive and the Bigger Disk then got me thinking about the Linksys NSLU2, a USB2.0-based Network Storage Device. Plugin a USB2.0 Harddrive, turn it on, and it becomes a Samba server on your network. What makes this über-cool is that like its cousin the Linksys WRT54G wireless router, it’s a little Linux box, and much cool hacking is already going on. It’s a shame that it only works with USB2.0 drives and not Firewire. And of course, today’s hack-a-day hack was on how to use the linksys nslu2 as an itunes server.

  • Jumping back to Neal Stephenson’s Cryptomonicon… I’ve been wanting to read his Baroque Cycle, which expands on Cryptonomicon, but several hundred years in the past. Due to a long standing policy of mine, I won’t start the triology until all three books are published (yes, I’m a Robert Jordan fan). Seems I won’t have to wait any longer. Looks like I missed the early October release of book three.

  • Which reminds me, I’ve really got to put together my Christmas list.

  • Speaking of lists, the Markdown original of the post has a list of all of the links. Twenty-eight. Must be a new personal best.

  • As long as I’m tying everything together (and yet rambling), here’s one of my favorite albums of all time.