# Thursday, January 06, 2005

No surprises there…


I am nerdier than 76% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Thursday, January 06, 2005 2:33:50 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

My musical tastes tend to run towards the eclectic.  Basically, I like just about any kind of music that sounds like the people who made it actually cared about what they were doing.  This mostly only excludes “pop” in all its evil forms. 

Anyhow, once again Rhapsody is my friend, and I found this guy named Krishna Das.  The have him listed under “Devotional”, since his lyrics center around Indian (Hindu) religious themes, but the music is pretty progressive.  Picture Hare Krisnas doing Trip Hop.  I’m diggin’ it as background music-to-code by. 

The fun of subscribing to Rhapsody is that I get access to all kinds of amazing music on demand, but not stuff that I’d necessarily want to shell out for on CD.  The fact that I can only listen to it when I’m at my (or any) PC isn’t a problem, since that’s where I mostly am anyway. 

I really dig what is often referred to as “Asian Underground”.  There are a whole bunch of South Asian DJs and musicians living in the UK who are combining traditional South Asian music forms with electronica/dance music.  Very cool stuff.  It’s an amazing fusion that really works well.  Check out stuff like DJ Cheb i Sabbah, MIDIval PunditZ, and State of Bengal (one of my favorites).

Thursday, January 06, 2005 11:23:03 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, December 29, 2004

As the recent earthquake/tsunami crisis in Asia and East Africa has demonstrated, no matter how much we like to think we have mastered our environment, we haven’t.  So right after you send in your donation to a relief agency, start thinking about how prepared you are for a disaster.  These things can happen in First World countries too.  In fact, geologist predict that a 9.0 earthquake could happen off our own (Oregon) coastline.  A 10% chance in the next 30 years. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that in the event of a disaster of this magnitude, EMS personnel will NOT be coming to your house any time soon.  They’ll be going to schools, hospitals, retirement communities, and places where there are large groups of people who are incapable of helping themselves.  We as capable citizens should be prepared to look after ourselves and our families, and to help our neighbors for the first 72 hours without the expectation of help from the authorities. 

So be prepared!  It doesn’t take much effort to put together a 72 hour kit for your family.  You can put one together yourself, or buy one already made.  You can do it a little bit at a time. 

Better still, take the next step and get some training.  Check out your local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program.  CERT is a program (now under the mandate of FEMA) for creating local teams of volunteers who can help themselves and their neighbors in times of emergency.  Check the FEMA site for a training program near you.  Most programs involve a fairly minimal training commitment (the program I entered in Hillsboro is 24 hours, or three hours a week for 8 weeks).  You’ll learn some important skills, and it’s a lot of fun.   

If you are into technology, get your amateur radio license and learn how to provide emergency communications.

Take the initiative!  Be prepared to protect yourself and your family.  No time like the present.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004 1:56:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I haven’t had cable TV for many years.  In fact my TV at home pretty much only gets one channel.  Luckily, it happens to be our fabulous local public broadcasting station, OPB.  Every time I see cable television, at the gym, at my parents’ houses, etc. I’m once again shocked and appalled by the lousy (I might go so far as to say “execrable”) shows that are on.  The one possible exception would be the food network, which often has some pretty cool stuff on, but they have their share of garbage too. 

Which isn’t to say that nobody is making good television!  There are some truly great shows on TV.  I’m just not willing to put up with the 99% that’s awful.  Luckily, more and more shows are being released on DVD, and I’ve become an avid fan of TV-on-DVD.  I’m more that willing to shell out $40–$50 for a season’s worth of good TV.  I must admit though, that’s about my limit.  There are a few really great shows out on disk that are just too expensive.  I love the Sopranos, but $75 a season is too much.  I was a huge X-Files fan in the early days, but there’s no way it’s worth $100+ a season.  But there are lots of shows coming out for a reasonable price that are well worth checking out…

I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan, so I’ve got all 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer now (say what you will, it’s a fantastic show!) and the final season of Angel comes out in February.  I’m also a huge fan of Firefly, Joss’s sadly short-lived Sci-Fi series, which is a great on DVD and includes some shows that never made it to the air. 

For Christmas this year I got the first two seasons of Roswell (great stuff) and the first season of Dead Like Me, which I find completely hilarious.  My wife got the first two seasons of the BBC classic Red Dwarf, which she and my kids totally adore. 

There are also some “vintage” shows coming out on DVD which I think is pretty cool.  I’ve picked up 21 Jump Street, Quantum Leap, and Northern Exposure so far.  21 Jump Street is worth it for the clothing styles alone.  Those were the days.  If only they’d put Miami Vice on disk. :-)

So as you can see from the list above, it’s not that I don’t like TV, I’d just rather put my $40 bucks a month into content that I know I like rather than bet it on the drivel the networks pump out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004 3:07:21 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
Last year I got a great jacket for my birthday from SCOTTeVEST.  This year I got the fleece version, which also fits inside the shell I got last year to provide (much needed this time of year) insulation.  These are great jackets, very comfy and covered in more pockets that the average non-geek would know what to do with.  I haven’t had a chance to properly wire up the fleece yet, but I’m sure that’s coming any day now.  I’ve got a pair of noise cancelling ear buds semi-permanently wired into the shell, so I never have to wonder where I put those #(@*! headphones.  Of course that just leaves me wondering where I put the #*@(!@ iPod instead. 
Tuesday, December 28, 2004 9:49:44 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Being a dedicated Firefox user, one of the few things that was still thwarting me was SharePoint.  We use SharePoint internally for a ton of stuff, and it was a drag to have to fall back to that other browser.  SharePoint pages look and work fine in Firefox, but I was having to reauthenticate on every single page, which really hindered my enjoyment of the experience.

I finally figured out how to get Firefox to do NTLM, which means I don’t have to deal with the authentication dialogs, thereby reducing my dependence on IE to one and only one application (Oddpost). 

It’s not at all obvious how to make it work, and it took me a few tries.  You have to go to your Firefox address bar and type about:config.  This will bring up the internal config editor, which allows you to set all kinds of properties that influence Firefox’s behavior.  Look for the key called network.automatic-ntlm-auth.trusted-uris.  Set that key’s value to a comma separated list of servers you want NTLM auth for.  So if your internal SharePoint sites are on servers called Larry and Mo, use “larry,mo”.  You can also add the same value to the key network.negotiate-auth.trusted-uris.  It’s unclear to me if that second one is required, but I set it, and everything works.  Now SharePoint works like a champ, and authenticates automatically.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004 10:53:30 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [18]  | 
# Monday, December 20, 2004

The open source email client, not the fortified wine. 

I’ve ditched Outlook at home in favor of Thunderbird 1.0, and I’m pretty happy with the decision.  Between the increased speed of startup and mail downloading, and the vastly superior HTML rendering time, it takes me much less time to read my mail now than it did with Outlook.  The junk mail filtering works very well, and consistently.  The filtering rules are easy to compose (although my one gripe is that I can’t figure out how to get the rules to run every time I get new mail) and work consistently as well.

I installed the extension “Enigmail” which provides a very nice frond end to GnuPG PKI engine, and it integrates extraordinarily well into Thunderbird.  The install of GPG was quite challenging, but the Thunderbird integration is super easy to use. 

Pretty much the only things I miss about Outlook are a couple of plugins, NewsGator and Plaxo, but I’m finding out that I didn’t use them all that much at home anyway. 

Thunderbird + Firefox == one big happy for me. :-)

Monday, December 20, 2004 2:18:51 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Tuesday, December 14, 2004

So MSN desktop search released a beta yesterday.  I haven’t installed it, and I’m probably not going to.  James Avery sums it up best:

MSN integrates with explorer, Google integrates with whatever web browser I am using. This means MSN has some cool GUI stuff and you can click on a file and it will launch, but does not work with my browser of choice.

I got as far as the download page which told me I was using the “wrong” browser.  With the single exception of Oddpost, any browser based application that only supports IE goes right out the window as far as I’m concerned.  I’m not willing to put up with IE when I use Firefox the other 99% of the time.  I gamely tolerated such lame behavior when IE was the better browser, but now it’s not, so I won’t.  I’ve pretty much switched to Thunderbird at home now, for the simple reason that I can download and read my mail about 10 times faster than I could in Outlook.  Not to mention the theming and extension support. 

Anyway, MSN desktop search may be cool and everything, but the IE only thing makes it a non-starter for me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004 10:49:32 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I just listened to Microsoft’s web cast on the new Web Services features in Yukon, and I have to say I’m pretty skeptical.  I think it’s yet another case of Microsoft building support for “open standards” and then making them really only work practically if you’re running Windows on both ends. 

The biggest thing that concerns me is their authentication scheme.  They have disallowed anonymous connections, meaning that your HTTP connection must be authenticated using Basic, Digest, or Integrated Authentication.  That means on non-Windows platforms, you’ll be limited to Basic.  But wait.  They also decided that if you allow Basic auth, you must use SSL.  Furthermore, using Basic auth means that you have to use SQL Auth on your SQL server.  How do you send your SQL Auth credentials?, you might ask.  WS-Security Username tokens.  But WS-Security isn’t supported for either encryption or digital sigs. 

Plus, you have to use a separate SOAP header to carry session information so that you can maintain your context inside SQL server.  (OK, that bit’s pretty clever.)

So if I want to use Web Services to talk to SQL server from a non-Windows platform, I have to use Basic authentication over SSL, and provide a WS-Security header and a session header.  These seem to me like pretty heavy requirements.  Much of this was explained away with “WSE supports all this stuff”.  OK, great, but that’s not going to help my clients who are using Ruby under Linux. 

The guy giving the demo didn’t give us a look at the WSDL that SQL server generates, so I have no idea how complex or otherwise it might be.  Given that it’s hard to judge how hard it would be to deal with the data coming back from SQL Server.  In the plus column, they’ve provided hooks so that you can write your own WSDL if you don’t like the way they do it.

Besides the above issues, I think their implementation and support for Web Services is pretty dang clever.  They’ve thought about a lot of issues. 

What I don’t get is if my Web Services clients only work best under Windows, why do I need Web Services?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004 2:54:24 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 

That’s just plain cool… 

Paper Enigma Machine

This machine is compatible with the original 3-rotor German Enigma used during World War II. For simplicity it omits the "ring settings" and plug board, but the primary workings of the machine are captured in this model. Great as an educational tool, or just for fun!

[via hackaday]

Wednesday, December 08, 2004 9:57:18 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |