Behold the White Mountain Music Wiki.
Argh, my Palm V has developed "Mad Digitizer Syndrome" - the touch screen gets misaligned so it doesn't think you've tapped where you've actually tapped on the screen with the stylus. This is super annoying but it can be fixed by just running the Prefs application, picking Digitizer from the menu, and recalibrating it. Lately I've had to do this about twice a day. Unfortunately today it got so far out of alignment that I couldn't tap on the menu... I would have to tap about 1/4" off the top of the screen for it to line up right. So it was almost totally unusable all of a sudden.
I finally decided it might be time for a new PalmOS PDA. (I'm not switching to PocketPC because [a] they're expensive [b] my stuff is already in the PalmOS format so I'd have to convert and [c] there's no compelling feature that would justify buying an expensive big fat PocketPC PDA and then converting all my data.) I decided my price range was under $200, and I didn't want a used one because I don't want it wearing out on me a week after I get it with no warranty. I looked at the Sony Clie PEG-SJ20 and PEG-SJ22, the Palm Zire, the Palm m130, the Handspring Treo 90, and the Handspring Visor Edge.
Well, the Palm m130 is ugly. The Treo 90 and Visor Edge are OK but they're refurbished and cost as much as or more than the Clie SJ20 (which has a longer warranty and I think a higher-res screen), so why bother? The Clie SJ22 is color but I don't care. So basically it's down to a Zire or a Clie SJ20. The SJ20 costs $130ish and the Zire costs $80 (after rebate) but the SJ20 has more memory and a higher resolution screen. I'm leaning toward the Zire but I think I should look at the two models in person to be sure.
In the process of looking all this up, I found some solutions for Mad Digitizer Syndrome: DigiFix might make the problem go away, or if that doesn't help (if the screen is giving totally wacky signals that jump all over the place) then it's probably a loose connection that can be fixed like this. So I've got DigiFix installed and I'll see if that fixes it. If not I'll open it up and see if I can repair it, and if that doesn't work, it's time for a Zire vs. Clie showdown.
By the way, in order to recalibrate the thing today, I had to hotsync the data (to back it up) and do a hard reset. That erases all your data but it also leads right into the recalibration program, so I got it calibrated correctly again. Now I can give DigiFix a chance to rescue my sick lil' Palm.
OK, I had a lot of fun at school today. The instructors are good and the classes seem like they'll be fun. There is a bit of confusion about a particular English composition class that I need to have taken (or its equivalent) before taking two fo the classes I've signed up for, but the problem is that I don't get the results of the Admissions department's evaluation of my transcript until sometime before the end of this semester. Well, that doesn't do me any good as far as getting into courses, and the class in question has to be taken before I have taken 60 credits, which means I would have had to take it this semester (if I had to take it at all). Unfortunately the classes were all full before I was even allowed to register, and when I went to the Composition office today there's a big fat sign that says all the sections are full and they can't add any more. But I was able to add the classes without any sort of automated check to see if I had really and truly taken the class or had some kind of exemption. So, I'm gonna chance it, and maybe have to do some reading online, or from a book on the topic, to make sure my writing style is what they're looking for. Otherwise I'll basically have to start over with registration and take classes every weekday (noo!), or graduate a semester later (or worse).
*deep breath* Ahh, Bureaucracy. *sigh*
The line at the bookstore was insane. There was a bookstore employee keeping people out because there were too many people in line. I went in later and there was a line all the way around the inside of the store. Forget it. I bought most of my books 2 weeks ago but I still need a book and a pair of special headphones with a microphone for my piano class. I'll go later, when it's inconvenient, so I don't have to stand around for who-knows-how-long.
For one of my classes I have to read 170 pages of the Iliad by Tuesday. Maybe I'll read that while I'm waiting in line. :)
Today I went to EmeryStation North which is where my employer's new office is located. I got to ride the Emery Go-Round which is a free shuttle subsidized by Emeryville businesses. I had lunch at the Emeryville Public Market which apparently is supposed to sound like you can buy grocery type stuff there (like you can at the Grand Central Market in Manhattan) but it's really just a big food court. The food is good, though, and the atmosphere isn't as icky as most food courts. The Emery Go-Round is on an annoying 20 minute fixed schedule, though, so I think it would be better to take my bike on BART next time I go over there.
Classes at SFSU started today, but I've managed to sign up for classes on Tuesdays & Thursdays only. I know this isn't something I'll be able to repeat but I'm reveling in it for now. So I don't start until tomorrow. I had some trouble in the spring trying to work and go to school every day, especially with the K Ingleside Rail Replacement Project making it take 45 minutes each way. I had a late class on Wednesdays so I actually commuted to and from school 6 times a week... yes folks that's 9 hours a week commuting, to go a little over 4 miles. Yahoo Maps says it's a 9 minute commute in a car. Argh. A secondary problem with that schedule was that I had to work a bit, go to school, come home, work a bit, study, work some more, and that was my day. Lots of switching gears mentally, which is bad. So this semester my schedule alternates between a day of work and a day of school. Of course there will be errands to campus on Wednesdays or homework on Monday nights but in general I'm not setting myself up to have to interrupt myself and switch gears completely several times a day.
Check out this fake Microsoft security advisory. It's pretty accurate.
I passed my audition! So I'm officially an SFSU Music student. I have yet another audition to take, to be a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Jazz Electric Bass Performance. But there's no big rush on that because now I can take all the "music major only" classes that I need.
Kim and I spent this past weekend in Los Angeles. I was expecting the usual faux-security which has admittedly improved since the TSA came along and started paying people more than minimum wage to look for bombs in your luggage.
I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the 9/11 hijackers traveled under their own identities and that if you wanted to, you could make a weapon out of just about anything. But it doesn't matter because every American citizen would now beat the living shit out of any hijacker even if they had a gun, because we no longer think that hijackers just want a free ride to Syria or wherever. (Like I was saying yesterday, individual level security is the key.) We could arm pilots, which isn't a terrible idea, but even without that, a half dozen suicidal terrorist hijackers with scissors would get their asses kicked by a plane full of pissed off New Yorkers on the flight back from SF or LA. Think about it.
Anyway, we were randomly chosen to be "bag checked" at the security counter. I'm happy to see that the random bag checks aren't left to some pervy gate agent who happens to pick all the cute passengers for bag checks so they can go through their underwear. It's done at the ticket counter so at least it's possible that it's done randomly, or better yet, based on some set of rules. It kinda sucked to be chosen but at least we got to see that the system is improving.
And so we were stuck in the slooooooow line where you get a mandatory metal detector wand scan. They ran my bag through the color x-ray machine three times and muttered among themselves, looking at me suspiciously. I had a bookbag and all that was in it was clothes, 3 CDs (to be autographed in L.A.), a digital camera, a PDA, some pocket change, some pens, and a book. WTF was taking so long? They asked me "are you an agent?" which made me wonder if my geek gear was somehow resting in a gun-like configuration. I suddenly thought of the scene in Ghostbusters in which Gozer asks Ray, "Are you a god?" (He answers no and Gozer says "Then DIE!!!" and zaps them.) I decided that telling the truth was the best idea so I said no. After another agent took out all my clothes and scanned them separately, yet another agent started digging through my bag and pulled out... a pair of scissors. Oops! I shipped a box on eBay earlier that day and I needed the scissors to trim the label I printed from UPS.com. And I forgot they were in there when I repacked the bag for my trip. Bye bye scissors. Good job, TSA agents. Those scanners work. They said that's why they wanted to know if I was an agent - they thought I might be testing them. No, I just forgot about the scissors, I know they're not allowed. My bad.
In L.A. we saw OHM, which is Chris Poland's current band. I love the album and holy shit they sound good live. I got some pictures too! I got to meet the band and talk to them all. Kofi Baker has a really bad impression of Californians - he seems to think that his bad experiences with self absorbed, callous LA folks apply to all of us. Dude. There are 33 million people in California, and "only" 16 million of them live in L.A. 7 million more live in the Bay Area. It's a big state. We're freaks up here, not jerks. There's a difference.
I'm so used to the opposite in stores like the accursed CompUSA. Everybody there sucks; it's dirty and disorganized; their merchandise is beat up and their demo units are broken; they try to talk you out of anything that's hard for them to sell or talk about. Oh yeah, and they want to search you when you leave. Fry's is worse because most of the merchandise is actually re-packaged return merchandise because their salespeople are so useless that the standard customer approach is to just buy something, find out it doesn't work, and return it, repeating until it works. Finding a nice store full of smart friendly people and current merchandise in good working condition is so refreshing!
We saw Pirates of the Carribean in Santa Monica as well. Surprise surprise, there are really nice cinemas in Santa Monica! The movie was great. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush were excellent as always, as was Orlando Bloom (aka Legolas). But the writing was good too! Only a couple of corny moments detracted from a generally witty script: "No [he's not a blacksmith]... he's a pirate!", the dropping of the apple (oh, it's so symbolic!), and "we figured they were more actual... guidelines." But other than that, good stuff. There were plenty of "you think we're going to do this corny sentimental predictable thing... gotcha!" twists. I like that kind of stuff. Writers teasing you for expecting cheese by having the characters do something unexpected or even having them mock the cheesy situation. This one's actually worth the theater ticket price.
We flew back early on Sunday because (a) we ran out of ideas for things we really really wanted to do in L.A., and (b) I really really wanted to come back and practice for my audition this week. It's on Tuesday.
Jason took back his stuff now that he has moved back up to SF. The couch, the DVD player, the speakers, the dining room table and chairs... all gone! I got a replacement table and chairs from my place of work (can't mention their name on my web page or else my home page gets positioned really, really high in search results, which annoys them, can't blame 'em...). I got a pair of beat-up used speakers at the amazing Bernal Hillwide Sale. We have a PS2 so we don't need a separate DVD player. That still leaves us down one couch. I can't wait to carry it all the way into the apartment... whenever we actually find and buy one, that is.. Oy.
I sold a bunch of random stuff on eBay. It feels so good to be rid of it. I got rid of my original PlayStation (with games and accessories), a remote control I don't need, a steering wheel for the PS2 that I never use, my "Graphite" Apple Airport (to be replaced with some brand of 802.11g base station), an old external SCSI CD-RW (Jason, you were right, I should have gotten a FireWire drive...) and webcam I never used.
I'm going to sell my Thinkpad 600E pretty soon too. It's old, and slow, can't play DVDs (it has the drive but the CPU is too slow to decode the compressed video), can't play most DiVX ;-) movies, the Lithium battery has worn out (again), maxed out at 256MB RAM, can't drive a large external display in true color, and did I mention it's slow?
And now for some random links:
Bride arrested for wedding night violence. Yup. Weddings can be like that. Drama.
I admit it, I'm paranoid compared to most people. Unfortunately most people are completely ignorant of security threats like identity theft, fraud, computer viruses, etc. until they actually bite said people in the ass. This is why stupid stuff like the Nigerian Bank Scam (which some say is the fifth largest industry in Nigeria) and SoBig.F (which is yet another "hey open this attachment, I promise it's cool!" email worm) are so successful. People have an immune system for a reason. But folks still want to try and solve security problems by putting up a big wall and hiding inside. Guess what? It doesn't work.
Another approach that doesn't work is to transfer unlimited authority over everybody to law enforcement. Then you just get abusive law enforcement, which in the most benevolent case manifests itself as security officers spying voyeuristically on pretty girls instead of looking for criminals. In worse cases you get things like witch hunts. I favor an approach based on security at an individual level, starting with education. As in, don't be a freakin' rube, and don't blithely give other people power over you.
So, I was irritated to find out a few years ago that a thumbprint was mandatory in order to get a California driver's license. Gotta catch those deadbeat dads! Great. I have no kids. So why do you need my thumbprint? And why does everybody still think that they have a legal right to demand my Social Security Number even though that's generally considered to be the key piece of information needed to steal someone's identity? Grr. I decided it wasn't worth not having a driver's license so I went along with it.
Still, I think it's really silly that we have security systems based on signatures. Quite often I am asked to provide a signature but the person asking for it has no way to verify that it's right. I could sign a little smiley face, and who would say that it's not actually my signature? And to be honest I don't sign my name exactly the same way every time. Who thought this up? It's not very secure.
And yet even this weak means of authentication has problems. Check out this story about a guy whose signature was rejected by the DMV. All of a sudden we care a lot about high quality signatures? I know someone who signs his name with a lowercase greek letter "alpha"... you know, like a fish but without closing off the tail. Like an X without lifting the pen. Have a look at The Credit Card Prank for a laugh and some insight into how permissive our society is (most of the time) about validating signatures.
Fortunately there is a more complete solution: digital signatures. Of course our beloved government is afraid of putting strong crypto in the hands of the people, because that gives us power, and even though it would make it really really hard to forge anything, or send spam or email viruses, or break into a computer, or steal a car, or a gun, or a cell phone, it would prevent law enforcement from wiretapping us... supposedly. Maybe someday we will start using digital signatures and the DMV employees will decide to dictate what our encryption keys are supposed to look like. Will we be allowed to use something like this? Or is that just a joke?
Also, digital signatures aren't the same as encryption, although they use similar technology. But with the obsession over wiretapping lately (from the Clipper Chip to the PATRIOT Act to the new and ultra-scary "VICTORY Act") I think we should question whether law enforcement really needs to worry about encryption. Crimes are being committed over unsecured channels, and Criminals are conspiring to commit crimes publicly on IRC chat channels. I agree with the idea that the FBI should be allowed to monitor public forums (hang out on a park bench and just listen, or join chat rooms and just read) and then should be allowed to subpoena their way into a warrant for a specific person's arrest. But that has nothing to do with cryptography. That has to do with a consistent set of laws that allows cops to wander around looking at freely available stuff - no violation of probable cause. Why should a policeman be allowed to walk down the sidewalk on patrol but not into a public chat room / web site?
Another thought about common sense law enforcement for the information age: condemn insecure PCs that are on the internet. If a building is so unstable that it's not safe to use, it gets condemned. If a vacant building is taken over by junkies, it gets shut down. If someone puts a computer on the internet that is so totally insecure that it becomes a source of internet worm attacks, law enforcement should have the authority to shut it down. Not destroyed like Orrin Hatch suggests should be done for software pirates -- copyright infringement is already illegal. I'm just saying that instead of wondering whether we can counterattack (PDF) infected computers, make it legal for law enforcement to just shut them down. If people knew that their computer would be shut down by the police (or that their DSL connection would be turned off, or whatever) if they got a virus, they'd take steps to make sure they didn't get any viruses.
Jim Clark (no, not Jim Clark the XML guy, nor Jim Clark the Formula 1 race car driver) was recently interviewed in BusinessWeek. Actually the date on the article is 11 days in the future. Don't they realize that the web isn't print? Guess not. Anyway, first he says "I have been out of Silicon Valley for five or six years." Then he says "there's nothing going on that's of interest." Um, dude, you're living in Florida. How would you know whether there's anything interesting going on in the valley? It's not as though the up and coming startups are buying billboards on Highway 101 anymore. If you're not here, you can't know. I don't care how many people you know in the industry, in VC firms, etc. If you're not here, you're not chatting about unknown tech startups while waiting in line at Fry's or the Rengstorff Ave. In-N-Out or some dive bar in SF, you don't know. That's why VCs force companies to move here. I hereby call shenanigans on Jim Clark's dismissal of Silicon Valley.
No one else seems to be pointing out that the California energy crisis was two years ago, and that the budget crisis isn't just in California. If we were going to recall Gray Davis for the energy crisis/scam, why now? And if it's about the economy, why not recall Bush? Nope. This is just an attempt to sneak into the governorship through a much easier off-cycle election.
So I was donating blood and the nurses were talking. One of them was saying how interesting it was to watch The Weather Channel. Reeeeeeeeeally? I said it is kinda interesting that different parts of the world have different weather... but I was reaching. Trying to be friendly. Then the other nurse said that she likes Animal Planet, and there was a really interesting show about some kid being attacked by a crocodile... and had I heard about that? No, I hadn't. But I am aware that big predators attack people from time to time, and I assume that sometimes those people are young. So what? Oh, right. The big predators attacking children get dramatized and put on TV. Still, I care not. What are they going to do, put it on the news? "What you don't know about leaving small children around a bunch of hungry carnivores." Don't we all know this story already? I asked her if the kid had coated himself in barbeque sauce first, or if he had his parents do it for him. She laughed and said no. She did say that she thought sharks and crocodiles should be exterminated. What?!? OK, I think we're missing the point of Animal Planet here. You're not supposed to hate the animals. Or I guess it could be Animal Planet's fault for sensationalizing the occasional animal attack. At least it's not a fictional story ripping off another fictional story that made everybody think that sharks automatically attack any people they see. But I wasn't going to argue with her because I have a policy about making people angry when they've already stabbed you in the arm causing you to lose a pint of blood. I save my arguing for the period before the stabbing begins.
There's a new internet worm that (as usual) only affects people who use Windows and don't have a firewall - a truly dangerous combination. It's not as simple or efficient as Slammer but for some reason, tons and tons of people leave Windows computers unprotected and connected to the Internet, so it'll probably slow things down for the rest of us for a few days, or weeks. One interesting thing about this worm: there is reportedly the following text within the worm code:
Obviously this virus author doesn't realize that Bill Gates decided that Trustworthy Computing was a priority. The problem of course is that there are already over 100,000,000 PCs out there, and most of them are running Windows code that was written before Microsoft decided that security was more important than shipping buggy code in a hurry.
According to this post to NTBugTraq the worm isn't really very that efficient/aggressive so it might not slow down the whole internet like Slammer did.
It's Kim's birthday. Happy birthday!
If, like me, you long to go to Burning Man but don't have the time or funds this year, you can just read this: How to have the Burning Man experience from the comfort of your own home.
At one point I was in a band which nearly chose the name "Haggis MacGuffin" (instead we chose Money Shot). But the term MacGuffin is one that I hadn't heard before. It's film jargon sorta like "jump the shark". Here's an official word of the day entry for MacGuffin. Well I guess that settles that.
Here's an interesting analysis of GW Bush's speeches that looks at the linguistic techniques that they employ in order to try to make us feel scared and dependent on him.
Anybody who uses email these days knows what "spam" is. But as I was reading some anti-spam software documentation I ran across the term "ham corpus". It's supposed to mean "the body of a message which isn't spam" but it sounds more like a synonym for "pork carcass" or a mispronunciation of "habeas corpus". I think we need a new term for non-spam, such as "non-spam".
Generally I find the comedic practice of crank calling to be infantile and not at all funny. Congratulations, you're a dick and somebody had to listen to you being a dick. You can make it into a TV show complete with puppets but it's still 10-year-old humor. But somehow if you add a twist to it, such as using sound clips from a famous person's voice, it's funny as hell. It's still infantile but it's funny again. The Sgt. Hartman ones (he's the hilariously derisive drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, played by R. Lee Ermey) are not as funny but they still made me laugh. I guess it helps if you've seen the movie so you recognize the sound clips.
We own a halogen lamp that stopped working. I looked at the bulb and it was burned out so I replaced it. It still didn't work. I tested the bulb (I ran 12V through it by holding it up against an AC adapter that I usually had something else plugged into) and it worked. So the lamp must have died when the bulb blew, or maybe the lamp killed the bulb when the lamp broke. I busted out my multimeter and measured the voltage going to the bulb. 1.2 volts AC. That's bad because the bulb wants 13V, and the power supply on the lamp says that it puts out 12 VAC. I opened up the power supply and the only thing in it is a transformer. So, it must be that transformer that's toasted. I found a suitable replacement transformer and called the local Radio Shack to make sure it was in stock. Into the store I went. I headed to the back and started looking for transformers. Some little weasely lookin' dude wearing a Radio Shack nametag came over.
Radio Shack dude: Can I help you find something?
By the way, I replaced the transformer and the lamp works fine now.
I finally got a closer look at the monster motorcycle that sometimes is parked on the street in my neighborhood. You might be thinking "is it a Harley?" No. Dear reader, please bear in mind that I live in the Castro. Gay men and lesbians alike love the ultra-butch, leather chaps wearin', loud rumble makin' sound of a Harley. ALL OF THEM. And so there are about a bazillion of them. No, this is something even more muscular lookin' and over the top big stout and "man-leh". It's a bloody big fat bike.
Specifically, it's a Yamaha Road Star Warrior. The photos don't really do a good job of showing how enormous the exhaust pipe and rear tire are. Try this and turn it around so you can look at it from the back. The mofo is stout. And I'm glad the exhaust pipe is so big, because I'm kinda tired of listening to the deliberately ultra loud BRAAAAAAPP sound of a Harley rider showing off.