March 31, 2004

RSS Feed Now Available. Thanks to 2RSS.COM for providing conversion service from Atom XML site feeds to RSS site feeds. The RSS button at the top of the page will get you an RSS formatted version of the site feed, if you're interested in it. Blogger still only offers Atom XML feed formatting, and since I use Tripod it's going to be a pain to do the conversion to RSS on the site itself (no access to cron jobs, limited perl support, etc..) although if I ever get a hair up my butt, I may sit down and try to work it out.

March 29, 2004

Is there too much entertainment content in this world? Movies, television shows, books, plays, web pages, video games galore! With kids today who've never seen the content that we grew up with, there's practically a lifetime of content for them to explore. From Atari video games to movies like Star Wars (the original!) and all the books we grew up on (Hardy Boys!), the amount of content that is still around is unbelievable. With this trend continuing, and the library just getting larger, at what point will we completely fill the coffers with enough to keep us busy and amused for the rest of their lives?

March 27, 2004

Curious problem and solution - problem - on a Dell Inspiron 7000 laptop, I plugged in a Microsoft Intellimouse (wired kind). The wheel on the mouse didn't seem to do anything. I checked the mouse settings, which were set (properly) to 'Assume wheel is present' - so I went to Microsoft's web site and downloaded the Intellimouse drivers. After loading the drivers, still no dice. Tried taking the mouse apart and checking for burnt parts, etc. After looking at the circuits and seeing that three different circuits were involved in the switch and the rolling fore and aft of the wheel, I decided that I would assume the circuitry was fine, since all three operations were not working.

Solution - The laptop in question has a touchpad. It was configured in such a way that when the mouse was plugged in, both the mouse and touchpad would work at the same time. Aha! Perhaps the OS was seeing the touchpad's limitations (no wheel) and using that as the mouse configuration. I went into the BIOS and changed the laptop to shut off the touchpad when the mouse was present. I rebooted and the wheel is working just fine now.
There has to be a word for, professional jealousy, or professional wanna-be-ism. I'd be interested to know if other professionals, like lawyers, doctors and such experience the same problem. Why do people who cannot understand basic programming concepts attempt to write complex computer programs? I don't go around performing brain surgery on people....or defending people in a court of law. I'd be sued for malpractice, or worse, end up killing someone.
Yet, when I join a chat room, inevitably, I am asked to help someone with a programming issue. And it's never a SIMPLE programming issue. It seems to be one like: Can you teach me how to program in ASP.NET, so that I can do my Master's Thesis on Elliptical Encryption Protocol? :sigh: All I can do is refer these people to the MYRIAD of free programming websites that will teach them the language - like W3School

March 25, 2004

A friend of mine this morning asked me if they encode personal information, such as name and credit card data onto hotel key cards. He had received a message suggesting that this happens, and the message recommended keeping the card when you check out of your hotel, to prevent thieves from getting the information. This is one of many urban legends that have cropped up over the many years, and preys on the fear of technology that pervades the older generation. To debunk this myth, I sent my friend to Snopes.Com, the Internet's best source on Urban Legends. Perhaps you're familiar with the movie, or the 'Bloody Mary' legend?

March 22, 2004

Virus writers say "You have three days!".
This weekend, a worm broke out on the Internet that was new and interesting in a variety of ways.

  • It attacked a vulnerability that had only been patched for three days.
  • It damaged data and scrambled hard drives.
  • It attacked a firewall product, not an Operating System.
The article put out by the firewall vendor itself has the details, but it attacked users of BlackICE and RealSecure firewall products. Users who had taken steps to secure their machines were brutally attacked and targeted. The act of securing their machines had made them less secure. Recent viruses and worms that have been on the loose have not been as aggressive as this one, and all of us should take a stern lesson from this weekend's attack. The Internet is not only an unsafe place, but it is a battleground, and nothing short of daily vigilance can protect your system from its danger.

March 21, 2004

There's a reason that we shouldn't trust our politicians, and THIS is it, right here. According to the article, it is COMMON practice for legislators to

  • rig voting machines to automatically vote for them, regardless of what the vote is for.
  • allow OTHER legislators who are present to vote on their behalf.
  • not commit hari-kari when exposed.*
*Well, ok - that last one is mine. What I don't uderstand is why these people have not been fired, ousted, sued, beaten, tarred and feathered, etc??? Is the Democratic process such a fucking joke that even those who make our laws don't even bother to have the decency of keeping up the image that they're thinking about what laws they pass?!?! The article says these practices may skew the voting record! It doesn't just skew it! It means that nobody is behind the wheel. This is unbelievable, and completely reprehensible. I'm glad that I don't live in Pennsylvania, but I have to wonder if the same problem isn't going on right here in the great state of Virginia where I live, or in the Federal Government.

March 20, 2004

I've added Pictures to the site. To start off, I've put up some pictures of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile that I saw parked by a hotel this morning. Hope you enjoy them. Just click on the Pictures link and you'll be given a slide show of the pictures I have. The timer is set to 6 seconds. I'll add a way to manage the timer and to pause/move through the slideshow via buttons later.

March 19, 2004

Just ran into an interesting bug on a box with Windows 2000 Professional. I had installed Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 and went to read a PDF document on the web. When I did, I got the error "The feature you are trying to use is on a network resource that is unavailable." and it was trying to find the .msi install file for Journal Viewer. Hitting Cancel just caused the installation to backup and try again. I had to close out of the browser and the PDF viewer application to stop the install from continuing. I found the answer in a KnowledgeBase article at Adobe. Basically, you have to download and install Windows Journal Viewer (duh, I didn't REALLY need the article to tell me that....I wanted to know WHY, DAMMIT!) This was pretty weird that Acrobat Reader required Journal Viewer to run.
I've begun adding my personal notes pages on different technologies. I'm going to start with one on Wireless Technologies. See the new section below the reading list on the left. Please read the disclaimer regarding the accuracy of the notes before depending upon them, and realize that these are only supposed to be cursory looks at the technology involved, and may not be as deep a knowledge as you require. I may include individual research links in each guide, or I might not - depends on how motivated I feel.

March 18, 2004

Do we have a Turing Test winner? This article at WebPro News quotes:
In a recent test of 2000 users, nanniebots did such a good job of imitating child users that none could distinguish whether it was a bot chatting with them or a real user.

The Turing Test refers to the test for whether or not a machine has succeeded at Artificial Intelligence. From The Turing Test Page I quote:
When talking about the Turing Test today what is generally understood is the following: The interrogator is connected to one person and one machine via a terminal, therefore can't see her counterparts. Her task is to find out which of the two candidates is the machine, and which is the human only by asking them questions. If the machine can "fool" the interrogator, it is intelligent.

Perhaps a formal test approach should be taken to test this new software. Isn't there a prize involved?
Thinking of adding another reading list item: The Scientist. Also been thinking of doing topics pages, such as: Everything you should know about RFID, or Everything you should know about the Trusted Computing Platform, and/or a variety of other subjects. The topics would each be something that I am interested in and am doing research on. The pages would act as a form of secondary memory for me, since I would use the pages to track my own knowledge and progress. It would be nice if there were a software package that would allow me to merely click on or drag pages to an interface that would track the links and their contents to be assembled into a readable form at a later date. Organizing thoughts is not exactly one of my strong suits.

March 17, 2004

This morning, Nature reports that nanopulses, ultra-fast electrical pulses, may be able to cause cancer cells to commit suicide. This discovery may lead to a new type of treatment for cancer - quote:
For this reason, researchers hope to use nanopulses to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue intact. Schoenbach's team has already shown that the pulses can shrink mouse tumours by over 50%, and is working on catheters or non-invasive ways to deliver the shocks to the body.

March 16, 2004

(obvious) The world is a different place than it was 20 years ago. Research on any subject is fingertips away from the common man. Just as the printing of books ushered in a new era, so has the Internet. People can choose to be as well-informed as they wish to be.(/obvious) However, this comes at a price. The price is information overload, the overbearing amount of content that is pushed upon us each day literally drowns us in information. To process it, we must learn either to ignore it, or how to process it. And for this, we will need ever faster brains, as the information becomes even more invasive. In the song "It's a Wonderful World", the writer mentions:
I hear babies cry. I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.

And this growth continues unabated. What was true in the middle of the 20th century is so much more prominent in the 21st. Thankfully, our scientists are working on helping the next generation with these issues. As noted at SciScoop, recent research at Duke University shows that prenatal choline supplements make brain cells larger and faster. In animal testing, the choline supplements provided for larger neurons in the brains of the offspring test subjects. The larger neurons in the hippocampus of the offspring also possessed more 'dendrites' than their untreated breathern. Additional studies point to increased learning and memory abilities in such treated creatures.

While it may be too late for adults to take choline supplements (remember, you can have too much of a good thing, and you're probably getting the right amount of choline in your daily foods), these studies might introduce additional supplemental choline into the prenatal vitamins for pregnant women. Even so, were I to be pregnant right now, I think I'd eat plenty of eggs and peanuts if it meant my baby could be smarter.

As for SciScoop, they're on my to-watch list for adding to my daily reading, but if you do decide to go browsing at the blog, keep your thinking cap on - many of the postings are tongue-in-cheek, and require a good sense of humour, or at least a double-check of your facts before you believe the articles.

March 15, 2004

Nature Magazine's website this morning has a report on research being performed that will make way for stretchable circuits. The researchers are using thin gold filaments shaped like 2 dimensional springs to create circuits that can bend and stretch up to 50% longer than the printing area. This research may help create fabric-based circuits that are more tolerant of movement and also allow printing of circuitry on stretchier materials like Lycra. It may also mean more reliable electronic circuits in products that we already know, such as home-based dance pads.

March 14, 2004

Granted, it's not a difficult thing to do, being better than basketball than I am. I'm 6'1" and I'm lucky if I can make 50% of my shots from where you use a shot-clock. When I was young, my parents signed me up for basketball, and of my 4 possessions in actual games, I walked 3 of them. However, I just saw someone who is not only better than me, but who may be the next Michael Jordan. In fact, Reebok has already signed him. His name is Mark Walker, and he's 3 1/2 years old. Go to this weblink - watch the video of Mark making 18 baskets in a row from random spots. This is someone you do NOT want to play horse with. I get the feeling that Mark is going to be the future youngest star of the NBA. And I just know Reebok will be showing off Mark during the NCAA. March madness rules, and, oh yeah....Duke sucks!

March 13, 2004

Today, I used an open-source (that's free for you n00bs!) audio capture and editing tool today to capture cassette tapes to my computer, preparing them to be written to CD. The tool is called Audacity, it's a SourceForge project. SourceForge is where programmers start projects that allow other programmers to help out with coding, testing, debugging and advising on their projects. It's a great place to pick up software that has been offered up under free for use licensing. The tool was great. It was simple to use and worked on a fairly slow PC (233 P2 w/128MB RAM) without a hitch. Editing and exporting to a wave file worked just fine, and without any need to go to the help files. I even tried some noise reduction with the tool. Of course, my abilities need some fine-tuning when it comes to using the tool properly for sophisticated editing.

March 12, 2004

This morning I turned on Howard Stern to find that his show was a conglomerate of clips and sound bites, without any interjections by him. While his show has always had plenty of sound clips taken from other media outlets, he is normally using them to make a point and backing them up with his own commentary. Apparently Howard has decided to make a point by taking a TRUE No-SPIN attitude in his recent commentary about the FCC and recent Congressional hearings.

While listening to the show this morning, I could not help but to have feelings of depression and melancholy as I listened to the Freedom of Speech slowly drift away on the words of our idiotic elected representatives. The show included clips of both supporters and detractors of Stern and his show, and it was made clear through their own words the reasoning for their stances. Allow me to add my own spin here and say that it sounds like the religious right-wing politicos in this country are trying to shove their own standards of immorality and indecency down my throat. By restricting what people can say on the airwaves of America, we are allowing the government to control our thoughts and restrict our ability to communicate.

Through satire and commentary, Howard Stern's radio program has for years communicated the idiocy of people in this country who harbor racist and sexist opinions. Satire itself is a political commentary mechanism that has been protected by the First Ammendment for over 200 years. What the censors in the FCC are doing is illegal and immoral. They are using the law to silence their detractors and oppose political change, against the wishes of the founders of this country.

What of community standards? The American people have long voted with their wallet. Howard's show has been at the top of the Arbitron ratings for 20 years. What makes capitalism so great is that if the people did not want to listen to him, he would have failed. Our capitalist society has proven that the majority are willing to support satirical programming through his voice. As a community, we have set our standard through support for his program throughout these many years. Communities in America have always voted with their money, and there are many individual communities where Howard's show does not air; not due to political pressure, but due to the lack of financial support from that community.

March 10, 2004

The new Windows XP service pack due out from Microsoft will make sweeping changes in the default security options for lots of users, but one thing that will be included will be pop-up blocking. This should be a relief for many, especially since even without pop-up blocking enabled, new rules will be enforced on pop-ups that aims to disallow pop-under advertising and pop-ups that take over your screen. Even with the feature turned off, pop-up windows will have to abide by new rules as to size and position that make them near impossible for less experienced users to close. Of course, this will affect many websites, and if you code for the web, you're going to want to pay attention to all the code you've got.
Here's an idea for a new device and how to implement it: Each day at 5AM, your computer downloads the RSS feeds that match your interests. These RSS feeds download 10-20 headlines and short blurbs from different realms, be it sports, English sheepdoging, or Linux. With headlines downloaded, your computer utilizes text-to-speech (free API from Microsoft, Direct Speech), and speaks the headlines into an mp3 file. At 5:50AM, once your custom news has been recorded for you, the mp3 file (or Ogg-Vorbis file, Wave file, whatever) is transferred wirelessly to your car radio's memory. At 6AM, you get in your car to go to work. Instead of listening to the idiotic drivel of your local news team trying to make sense of technical news, instead of listening to the traffic reports of the same roads that are clogged over every damned day and instead of listening to topics in which you've no itereset interrupted by commercials every 3 minutes, you get to listen to your custom news read to you as you drive to work.

The advantages are obvious:
  • customized news feeds based on the RSS feeds you want.
  • No commercials
  • No stupid jokes or idiotic commentary by news ppl who haven't a clue
  • No weather and traffic every 15 seconds
So, who's up for developing this?
Just seen on New Scientist: A robot that can build 3-d structures with cement. An engineer at the University of Southern California, named Behrokh Khoshnevis, has been working on an invention for more than a year that could potentially revolutionize both architecture and components of the construction industry.

"The goal is to be able to completely construct a one-story, 2000-square foot home on site, in one day and without using human hands," he says.

While there is certainly more to building a house than just the walls and structures, I don't think that anyone would question that that goal would be an incredible breakthrough. Other items in the article mention that it would be possible to build new types of structures that were previously unattainable. Curved walls printable by such a machine would potentially take many pourings of concrete layers that would each require custom setup work. Where is Frank Lloyd Wright when you need him?

Also mentioned in the article, cement is an old material that is in use because of the tools that we use. This could make way for new types of materials that are custom designed for this machine and/or its successors. It could cause a revolutionary change in the way that stuff is designed, constructed and put into use.
The weight is down to 210.0 this morning after 210.2 yesterday. That makes the same weight two days in a row, or an OFFICIAL 20 pound loss so far following the Atkins diet. I still haven't bothered to exercise, but as the spring comes into its own I may pump up the bicycle tires and go for a spin a few times a week. If you don't know, I started dieting on Dec 28th. So, 2 months and a week to lose this weight. The first 10 pounds went quickly, and it's been slow since then. However, over the past two weeks, I've consistently lost, so I feel like I'm picking up steam again. My target is 175 by summer, which may require some work on my part (burning more calories), but even if I make it to 190 I will be happy. At 6' 1" anything below 190 would probably be considered a healthy weight. If I put on some additional muscle tone, it will probably be best.

One thing that I believe has helped me to restart the weight loss is the addition of caffeine to the diet. Not a lot, but I allow myself a 20 oz of Diet Pepsi each morning with breakfast. It gives my body the wake up kick, and I think it's kickstarting my metabolism. After that, it's water for the rest of the day. If you're on Atkins, you'll want to make the choice for yourself, but whatever you do, take everything in moderation. This advice comes from someone who was drinking practically a 6 pack a day of non-diet colas.

March 09, 2004

Thanks belong to an alert Slashdot reader for pointing out: NASA has just released Ultra Deep Field images, images of (I quote)

The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. The smallest, reddest galaxies, about 100, may be among the most distant known, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old. The nearest galaxies - the larger, brighter, well-defined spirals and ellipticals - thrived about 1 billion years ago, when the cosmos was 13 billion years old.

This is amazing. This kind of a view of the Universe puts things in real perspective, and will impress upon our children and our educators how important space exploration is to understanding our universe. The image itself is incredibly rich with imagery, and should make us all stop and think. Anyways, go look at the pretty pictures....and judge for yourself whether Hubble is worth saving.

March 08, 2004

Anyone want to bet on whether O.J. Simpson will be found guilty this time? According to the Associated Press, DirecTV is accusing the ex-football-star, ex-Hertz star, ex-CourtTV star of stealing its signal. I guess that since O.J. has had to sell off his stuff to pay his civil charge, he's got no money left for cable.
I'm seriously thinking of changing the web page address (i.e. moving off of Tripod because of the lack of certain types of server-side scripting support) to As a matter of fact, that domain address right now points right back to these archives here with a redirector. So, if you have me bookmarked, you'll want to make that change now and get it out of the way.

March 07, 2004

Well, I made the changes to the way the blog gets published, so that the archives would look just like the home page. I also centered the dates in the center column and cleaned up the HTML just a little bit more. Also, I've found a few places that do free customized RSS feeds. I'll write about them in a little while, but right now, the dog needs a bath.
I found a nice RSS news feed reader for Windows - It's called RSS NewsTicker, and it's beerware (which is practically free considering the price of a brew). If you like the product, you buy the guy a beer [He accepts Paypal on his website]. Anyways, while the application isn't necessarily the most robust, it does work properly on Windows XP with multiple users, and the application bar handling is well integrated into the desktop thanks to his use of the .NET Framework. ICQ properly resized around it, and you can configure it to be on top or bottom of the screen. I wish he'd add drag and drop for adding feed URLs, but hopefully he'll put that into a future version. So, if you're a news junkie like I am, and you want an out-of-the-way news ticker, try it out.

March 06, 2004

Oh, for two days in a row I was down to 211 pounds this week. Still on the Atkins Diet and going strong. I don't know if I'll make my goal of 175 by August, but I'm already looking and feeling much better. Sugar-free jello is a godsend. I've used that to stop some cravings, and also have used several brands of no-carb or low-carb bars to get rid of chocolate needs. I've also let myself start drinking a 20oz bottle of Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi. And what's REALLY amazing is that I've gotten used to the aftertaste.
As for that RSS problem - it looks like it's going to be a problem. Seems you can't load XML from a second website using the XML control, because of possible cross-site scripting issues. So I'm just going to have to find another way to do what I wanted with the "Reading List".
I LOVE my wireless LAN. I finally got set up with wireless LAN at home (which is weird, because I'm a network geek). I spent about $40 on a wireless router (after rebate) and bought one of those USB dongle thingies that does 802.11b. Then I borrowed an old laptop from work, and I'm doing the wireless thing. I would have started sooner, but I had been looking at the ViewSonic 15" AirPanel, and it was just too expensive. It's a shame, because it's a really nice product. But $680 (on Ebay) is just too much to pay. Considering that for $800 you could purchase a laptop and the wireless adapter was only $29.95, the AirPanel just didn't make sense even at that cut-rate price.

But now, I don't know how I lived without. I'm writing in my blog this morning from my kitchen table and sitting next to my wife. ("Peace", she says.) At least I don't have to go downstairs and isolate myself from the family. The computer is becoming part of daily life, and is just another tool. Having the net without wires is definitely going to be a paradigm shift for me.

March 03, 2004

The new look is in. You're looking at it. I wanted something simple, yet functional. I also wanted to rid myself of all the distractions on the page. One thing I may revisit is utilizing RSS feeds in popups that you can move your mouse over (on the left) to show headlines from the RSS feeds of my Reading List. Since I'm not finished with that, I thought I'd just go ahead and put up the new page anyway. Enjoy. It's not based on tables, but rather on absolute positioning and absolute sizing of the left and right columns. I've also gone with formatting based on CSS instead of inline code. It make the HTML code much easier to read. Another step will be to move the archives into the same type of format, but because of how I've structured the blog, I'm going to have to hack in something. No matter, that's why this is a hobby.

Finished Calculus this week - that is the last class for my Associates of Arts in Computer Programming. I'll pick up my degree in May (provided I passed the final exam, which I did...) and should finish the four-year program in December.

March 02, 2004

It has often been surmised that Science Fiction authors are the true innovators of science, and that their dreams are merely fulfilled by the desire, brains and money of the powerful. Jules Verne wrote about space travel and submarining long before any were possible. The countdown itself is an artifact a piece of fiction regarding the launch of extra-terrestrial vehicles*. If this is true, then the science fiction author of today scopes out the possibilities of tomorrow. Whether or not they get their facts straight as to the 'how', they show the possibilities.

A man who might not consider himself to be a science fiction author is Jeffrey Harrow of The Harrow Group. He has been writing about 'what-if' for many many years. Go to his web site and read his musings, because as we can see by recent events, even his imagination is being tamed into realistic science today. Take a look at this article about printing human organs on a modified ink-jet printer. This is real science following the musings that I have heard Jeff talk about in his column for years. While they have not exactly printed out a heart for your quadruple-bypass neighbor yet, this is exactly what they're studying this stuff for.

Jeff has been discussing both 3-d printers and biological merging of computing and science for a long time. His articles are on the cutting edge, thanks to his alert readers. If you don't read his website, you should start.
You're not paranoid if they actually are out to get you! Look at this article about RFID tags in new $20 bills. That's right, folks, the government IS actually tagging your money with electronic signatures! No longer is this the worry of the paranoid, but the worry of us all. According to the article, the right eye of Andrew Jackson in every bill was where the burning started. RFID technology is a unique chipping methodology that reacts to radio signals and transmits an identifying number when hit at the right frequency. Are these folks paranoid, or is this merely due to a smudge of metallic anti-counterfeiting in the bills? Looking at a $20 bill in my own pocket shows a rather strong smudge just above Andrew's right eye, but it looks way too small to be hiding a chip in there. I think it's more likely that what these folks have burned was a small metallic deposit used for anti-counterfeiting.