Archive for the 'Potpourri' 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.


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.


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.

Assorted Bits

Haven’t done a link dump in for-ages, and still don’t have a linkblog going. Here’s a few bits and bobs I’ve been looking at lately.

  • Simon Willison discusses a very clever bookmarklet by Nic Wolfe to help you manage your passwords. Click the bookmarklet and get prompted for a Master Password. This is combined with the domain of the website you are visiting to “create” a password for the site, which is auto-pasted into all password fields on the page. The “created” password is an MD5 hash of your master password and the domain name. This means your Master Password and your created password are never stored anywhere. Just use the bookmarklet from any browser, anywhere- use the same master password and you always create the same site password for any site, and every site is different.

    Check out both links, including the comments at Simon’s site. There are a few issues with the bookmarklet. I’ve been taking a shot at resolving them. May have something to post soonish.

  • Been meaning to learn XUL, the UI language of Mozilla browsers, and other bits related to Firefox extension programming. Found a few resources: XulPlanet, Firefox Extension Tutorial, Mozilla Application Object Model reference.

  • I also have a copy of Nigel McFarlane’s Rapid Application Development with Mozilla on the way. I usually go for O’Reilly books, but their Mozilla Dev book is pretty out of date, an I’m interested in Firefox dev.

  • Remember Magic Eye Puzzles, aka Stereograms? Check out one in ASCII.

  • dugh at has challenged all comers to a week of solid blogging. Since I actually managed to post the last couple of days, I’m going to try and up the ante, and post every day in October. This post counts.

  • They didn’t play their best game of the season today, but the Eagles did beat Chicago to go 4-0 on the season. Be sure to check out the Style links below on the right for the exclusive Eagles Stylesheet (if it’s not already active). Next week is the dreaded bye. Go Birds!


It’s only been two days since my last blog entry, but it feels like its been much longer. I’ve had a number of posts kicking around in my head, but I’ve been too busy to write them. I still have a few full-length items I intend to post, but for now, I’m going to do a bit of a brain dump.

  • Spanish studies are progressing. I’m still really enjoying it. I’ve completed 22 of 30 lessons from Pimsleur’s Spanish I course. I should be further, but I ended up repeating around 15 lessons when I switched from the “bait” edition, Pimsleur Instant Conversation Spanish, to the full edition. I’ll post more on that later. Meanwhile, I’m about ready to start searching eBay for Pimsleur’s Spanish II.

  • I’ve been using Firefox and its antecedents for over eight months. Only in the past few days have I figured out that CTRL+TAB lets you toggle through tabs in the current window. Boy, have I been looking for that shortcut.

  • While typing the prior bullet, I decided to check the spelling of antecedent. I automatically went to– it’s where I always go. What’s your favorite online dictionary? Drop a note in the comments.

  • Speaking of comments, the comment system on this site still sucks. I think I’ve finally figured out how I’m going to handle it, I just need to spend a little time on implementation. No hints. Well, maybe one.

  • Speaking of the ‘Fox, I’m continuing to use version 0.8 on my Mac after shunning it for two months. It’s mostly working well, but there are a few issues. I haven’t taken the time yet to figure out if these are problems with the browser or the Tabbrowser Extensions, but I can no longer drag-and-drop to re-order tabs within an window. Dragging tabs from one window to another continues to work.

  • After giving my last spare monitor (20″ trinitron) to my brother a couple of months ago, I’ve been itching to play with some of my old PC hardware that was laying around my basement. Having a clean garage complete with a big workbench and tons of shelf space hasn’t helped. I finally broke down this weekend and bought an el-cheapo monitor, so now I’m playing with out-of-date hardware.

  • It’s amazing how the price of technology continues to drop. The monitor I bought today, after rebates, cost me about USD 80.00 at Circuit City. It’s a 17″ flat CRT, with resolution up to 1280×1024. It looks great. It was only a couple of years ago this would have been an expensive monitor. You can’t even buy a CRT smaller than 17″ at most retailers these days… it’s just not worth it for the retailers to carry them, they are so inexpensive. Flat panels have really taken over the market.

  • To help me figure out what kind of hardware I have, I went looking for a Linux live CD (a la Knoppix) that featured hardware reporting of some kind. Live CDs already know how to scan your system, but I don’t know how to get a report of what was found. I didn’t exactly find what I was looking for, but I found a list of Linux Live CDs, containing dozens of the things. What I did find that met my needs was the Ultimate Boot CD, a bootable CD containing images of dozens of mostly DOS-based boot floppies, each containg a different utility. You boot the CD, select the image you want to use, and it boots from it. I was able to inventory my hardware with Navrátil Software System Information, or NSSI.

  • I pieced together a AMD K6-2 300 MHz system with a 9G hard drive and 384M RAM. Time remaining on my Fedora Core 2 Test 3 installation: 15 minutes. I’ll be blogging more on this later.

  • Sean is contemplating dial-up internet over VoIP. Seems vaguely Oedipal to me (dial-up over VoIP… not Sean).