August 28, 2009

Week's reading list

Opera Mini Is Most Downloaded Mobile App - A flawed survey but it mimics what I've read from European/non-US sources. Some of the flaws I've found with Opera Mini on my BlackBerry Storm:

  • Cannot copy text from a page.
  • Cannot copy link addresses.
  • Manually entering an address is cumbersome.
  • You must touch a link (and not click it) to navigate to that link.
  • In mobile layout, which is more condensed, check boxes are virtually un-checkable.
  • Bookmarks can be resorted by touching (not clicking) and dragging in the list. Most of the time, they respond by resorting to unexpected locations in the list.
  • Search keys (via the address bar) are not available.
  • Opening images and videos shell out to the BlackBerry browser.

Health insurers admit using 50,000 employees to lobby Congress to defend their outrageous profits - This is a tough one: on the one hand, a corporation is strong-arming it's employees to act in the political interest of the company; on the other, those employees have every right to say no. It

Johann Hari: Republicans, religion and the triumph of unreason - How do they train themselves to be so impervious to reality? - Every paragraph is a gem. I'll pick two to quote:

This tendency to simply deny inconvenient facts and invent a fantasy world isn't new; it's only becoming more heightened. It ran through the Bush years like a dash of bourbon in water. When it became clear that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, the US right simply claimed they had been shipped to Syria. When the scientific evidence for man-made global warming became unanswerable, they claimed - as one Republican congressman put it - that it was "the greatest hoax in human history", and that all the world's climatologists were "liars". The American media then presents itself as an umpire between "the rival sides", as if they both had evidence behind them.

It's a shame, because there are some areas in which a conservative philosophy - reminding us of the limits of grand human schemes, and advising caution - could be a useful corrective. But that's not what these so-called "conservatives" are providing: instead, they are pumping up a hysterical fantasy that serves as a thin skin covering some raw economic interests and base prejudices.

That second one bears repeating. There are many good arguments to be had on healthcare reform. We're not having them and instead allowing the crazies to define the discussion.

The Truth: What's Really Going On With Apple, Google, AT&T And The FCC - Just one story of many where developers are getting fed up with the Apple ecosystem. The best assessment I've heard was from On the Media (I thought it was from the Aug 14th show, but can't find the reference). They were talking about how closed systems promote censorship. If the internet restricted who could create web pages, and what web content they could create, the on-line landscape would be of much less value. Similarly, when Apple arbitrarily block some applications from its phone while allowing other, they diminish the overall value of the iPhone environment. With the horror stories I've been hearing from developer blogs, I'm quickly becoming an Apple-hater. Bring on the Android!

[ updated 2 Sept 2009 ]

On The Media: The Net's Mid-Life Crisis, August 14, 2009 with Jonathan Zittrain, explaining the chilling effect of centrally controlled technology:

The downside [with the iPhone] is it sets up a new gatekeeper that's going to have its own motives and incentives that are not always the same as the consumers it's supposed to serve.

Somebody submitted an iPhone application to Apple called "Freedom Time." Basically it was a countdown clock for the Bush Administration, and it had the tagline, "Till the end of an error." The author couldn't understand why it was rejected.

Steve Jobs wrote him back when he complained, and said, this is an application that will offend roughly half of our users. What's the point?

Also of note from the same show, if off topic, The Net Effect with Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project:

One of the surprising things we found in that survey was that those who are the most technologically adept and those who are the most engaged with information actually are not in the echo chamber pattern; they are actually seeking out and finding out more arguments opposed to their views than those who are less technologically adept and less interested in political information.

Tweet count is much smaller than it should be - My Twitter count went from ~3000 to 0 after their DDoS. Still not fixed. :-(

posted by sstrader at 2:44 PM in Phones , Science & Technology , Today's reading list | tagged android, iphone | permalink

Killer monkey has begun his trip to Atlanta

My two prints from Giant Robot LA are on their way!

LOS ANGELES, CA, US - 08/28/2009 4:55 A.M. - DEPARTURE SCAN

It took exactly a month for them to be shipped. I. Can't. Wait.

posted by sstrader at 11:45 AM in Art , Personal | permalink

August 17, 2009

Digsby makes minor change, internet goes batshit insane

Digsby recently had an update that added an idle processing feature. If your machine's been idle for >5 minutes, it kicks in and performs some generic research using your CPU. Think of it as one of those @Home services embedded in your IM client. They describe the services as being used for accelerating medical research projects, analyzing the stock market, searching the web, and finding the largest known prime number. This functionality is completely optional and you may disable it at any time. They made the mistake of enabling it by default, and so have been put through the ringer by internet obsessives.

  • Lifehacker reported this under the sensationalist headline "Digsby Joins the Dark Side, Uses Your PC to Make Money" where the author complains about the software offers made during install (that are clearly opt-out-able) and the research agent that uses your PC without your knowledge. Gasp.
  • Slashdot picked up the story. One comment, marked insightful of all things, worries that It Would Be A Bad Thing if someone were to hack the malware. It would be very bad if they changed it so it downloaded copyrighted stuff, say whole CDs of recent music. Or Laptop users also get less battery life [when the idle research is performed]. Similar panicked responses dominated the thread.
  • The thread in the Digsby forum was filled with equal ire by users boasting that they control IT departments and will promptly be uninstalling said client.

I don't think that users should be barred from criticizing free software, but it's a shame that concern over such minor security and convenience issues grows out of proportion to the actual risk. I only hope that the vocal rabble don't have the power that they feel they do, and that their protest doesn't affect a generally excellent piece of free software.

posted by sstrader at 3:44 PM in Internet | permalink

August 12, 2009

Weekend cinema and The Auteurs web site

Went to see The Hangover on Friday [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Enjoyable slapstick and a good end of week movie to veg out to. I fixed my laptop over the weekend. It had stopped displaying when I would hook it up to our Bravia and so there were no Netflix or AMC b-movies streamed over the last two weeks. Fix was a mix of FN-key toggling and NVIDIA config. As usual, I have no idea how it went wrong.

Upon its return, we finished watching the outrageous Tokyo Gore Police [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] from Netflix! Highly recommended bit of over the top that I'm sure, without even looking, Tarantino was indebted to when making Kill Bill. Japan has replaced the police force with a private force that hunts down mutant/fetishistic killers called Engineers. Hose-spurting dismemberments ensue. The DVD or soundtrack may be a future purchase. Also watched The Undead from AMC. It was an almost worthless Roger Corman flick. Two "doctors" hypnotize a prostitute in modern day to reveal her past lives. The bulk of the film was some scattered story of her unjustly accused of being a witch several hundred years prior. Most of AMC's b-movies have been very entertaining. Except for the D-cup hottie that played the head witch in the past, this was painful. Also on Netflix was Outsourced [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. A nice enough comedy of an American manager sent to India to train his and his coworkers' replacements. I wanted to like it more, and it was OK, but there were some oddities (the romance was introduced abruptly, the characters were only moderately likable) that bothered me. Resolution was done well though.

[ updated 7 May 2011 ]

The "D-cup hottie" was none other than Allison Hayes of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman fame. The Sexy Witch blog has an article+pics about her role in The Undead.

Went to the drive-in on Sunday to see Viva Las Vegas! (I don't expect anyone to believe this, but when I told one of my coworkers their reply was: what's that movie about?). TCM is showing movies at drive-ins throughout August for $1/carload. We ate fried chicken (fingers) and drank PB&B martinis (peanut butter and banana). The movie was basically a travel ad for Vegas and an exercise video with Ann-Margaret, but it was fun to cheer on the hero with the rest of the crowd.

Earlier this week, Trakovsky tweeted about The Auteurs movie web site. A good selection of classic, foreign, and independent cinema from $0 to $5 a viewing. My first film was Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai's Fallen Angels [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. I put a quick review on their site; here it is:

First movie I've watched from this director.

More of a formalist study than a dramatic one. The individual scenes are composed as microcosms emphasizing a primary theme. People occupy the same space and yet never connect. Each character's actions and language (or lack) are almost undecipherable to those they wish to communicate with. Distance is emphasized by showing the actors through windows, mirrors, TV monitors, and even a decorative waterfall.

At times a bit too stylish-for-style's-sake, and some of the manic improvised scenes don't quite work, but overall a beautiful and funny film.

What they have in their catalog is wonderful; what they don't have is infuriating. I hope they get the rights to more.

posted by sstrader at 6:41 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | tagged asian cinema, drive-in | permalink

August 11, 2009


Something I've seen over the last six months to a year (it may be older): using "this" as a one word reply agreeing to a previous comment in a thread. E.g. "It's not that C++ is a complex language, it's simply that programmers tend to fail more spectacularly when using it." Followed by: "This." (Often with an up arrow ^ reemphasizing the direction of the this). Maybe an abbrev. of "this is what I mean" or "this is what I'm talking about" or perhaps just "this is the real issue." It usually follows a very long post and so makes an exaggerated point in its brevity of how well the previous post has encapsulated the heart of the discussion.

[ updated 23 Dec 2009 ]

Over the past couple of months, there's been a backlash of anti-brevity. Here's one humorous example of this-hatred:

posted by sstrader at 11:23 PM in Internet , Language & Literature | permalink

August 5, 2009

EtherTV: video playlist editor

At the beginning of this year, I had an idea for a web site that would allow you to string together videos from other sites to make video mix-tapes. I've called it EtherTV, and it's located at (similar to my streaming radio station aggregator RadioWave at Basic information, along with any updates, can be found on my public wiki here.

EtherTV allows you to create and share streaming video stations by aggregating videos from web sites like YouTube. Each station broadcasts the videos in a fixed order then repeats when all videos have been shown. Like broadcast television, anyone watching a station at a specific time will watch the same video, at the same location, as anyone else who is watching. However, viewers can choose to skip to any other video in the station any time they like. Viewers can also easily return to the current location in the broadcast.

It's light on features right now, but I'll be continuing work on it to slowly implement my feature list. If you find it useful, recommendations are welcome.

posted by sstrader at 9:05 PM in Programming | permalink

August 4, 2009

Found items

Cleaning up my desk, I found a wrist band from the DJ Qbert show when he was here in Atlanta at Django in October 2007 (which I somehow didn't blog about):

And also found the ticket for 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Fox--attended a little more recently--two Saturdays ago:


Went with Lisa, LC and her friend Alan, and Robert. We had drinks beforehand at Baraonda with my co-worker David and his friend Mark. 2001 looked great on the big screen! The Ligeti in the score (which I'm embarrassed to say that I remembered as Penderecki) was as beautiful as ever.

posted by sstrader at 10:49 PM in Cinema , Concerts | permalink

August 1, 2009

Grief from Amsterdam

The middle of this week greeted me with constant web server issues. Periodically, and increasingly, my blog would get flooded with invalid comment posts and make my humble server unresponsive. It came down to a quartet of culprits:

  • 78.110.175.*
  • 83.233.30.*
  • 91.207.5.*
  • 195.190.13.*

WHOIS from one of the IPs returns "RIPE Network Coordination Centre". The first page of a Google search for them brings up someone complaining that they're the source of spammy activity. I finally added the "Deny from" to .htaccess and all is well. Every half hour or so those blocks bounce a dozen or so POSTs and get 403ed. Hopefully, this is good enough.

posted by sstrader at 11:18 AM in Home Network & Gadgets | permalink