Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What does “Mashup” mean?

August 30, 2010

A mashup is taking two different pieces of art and putting them together, often in a juxtapository fashion.

I think that the following video shows the art quite well:

Now, what does this video have to do with this blog, you ask?

Rights holders have been, for some time, trying to block artists from using their “intellectual property” in the creation of mashups claiming infringement.  I hope that in watching the video above you will agree that the new work in no way diminishes either of the old ones, and in fact may do much to make each part more popular than it would have been otherwise.

Note that this mashup works surprisingly well because each of the two songs is in the same key.


Are you kidding me?

April 28, 2010

I recently tried to send a .pages document to a friend via the web interface for MobileMe. I soon discovered, however, that in order to send this document I had to compress it first.
You can see this page for details:

This is unreal.

In actual fact, my friend happens to use a Mac and a PC, so I was trying to attach the same document in both .pages and .doc format. The .doc one went first and it was only when I tried to upload the .pages file that I got the notice that it was not possible.
How this debilitating flaw in the MobileMe platform was allowed to stay in the system is beyond my comprehension.

I use a Mac because it means that I have to spend less time dealing with my computer so that I can spend more time doing actual work. This speed bump in my workflow is totally unacceptable, and I hope Apple sorts it out soon.

Should You Be Afraid of Airport Body Scans?

March 11, 2010

Fast Company has a brief article up about body scanning machines at airports. The article itself is unremarkable, but the photo accompanying the article is illustrative of the view that is possible with these machines.

Read the whole article here.

The TSA Shifts the Goalposts Again

April 10, 2009

William Saletan has a new posting up over at talking about how the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has changed the rules again and backpedaled on a prior promise (surprise, surprise).  He talks about how the introduction of millimeter wave scanners was accompanied by a promise that it only be used as a voluntary alternative to a pat-down but the machines are now being used in place of metal detectors.

It’s a reasonable article, but Saletan somehow misses the most important point — the erosion of our civil liberties by the TSA doesn’t really improve safety in the long term.

Saletan quotes the TSA:

As the ongoing terror trial in London clearly illustrates, terrorists actively look for ways to manipulate security protocols. Intelligence has also shown for decades, terrorists’ manipulation of societal norms to evade detection or use social engineering techniques to their advantage. Terrorists have successfully hidden explosives in these areas. … TSA developed this pat down as a measure to close the gap on items hidden on sensitive areas of the body.

In other words, the TSA is actually telling us that security protocols are subject to manipulation.  If you close one avenue of attack, terrorists will actively look for ways to subvert the system and wreak havoc.

I have a hint for everyone:  the solution to this never ending game is not further erosion of civil liberties.  The solution to this game is not more power to the thugs at the TSA.

Americans that line up and put up with this are being conditioned to accept further erosion of liberty in exchange for a false sense of security.

The answer to the problems is MORE freedom, FURTHER civil liberties, and a return to the way of life that made America great to begin with.

Nobody could pull a 9-11 today.  Nobody.  The game has changed.  Prior to 9-11 everyone knew that if your plane was hijacked the right thing to do was to keep your head down and do what you were told.  Today everyone knows that passivity will likely result in certain death.  If your plane was hijacked would you sit silently, or would you grab the nearest fork and try to save your skin?

So in light of that, ask yourself – why do you put up with this?  Why do you put up with the insult and debasement of having to remove your shoes to board a flight?  Remove the belt that is keeping your pants up?  Take off the watch that your father gave you on his deathbed? Show your naked body to some TSA hire at the airport?

I’m no prude – in fact I’m a devoted gymnosophist.  The issue I have is that this is theater, and the only thing it’s helping is the development of a police state.

Uplifting Message

April 9, 2009

Sometimes it makes sense to stop and reflect on what’s important.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

March 23, 2009

This is a couple of years old now, but can you imagine the heartbreak of this man, Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez?

Mr. Gonzolez and some associates pooled some money together to buy a refrigerated truck, but when he arrived to make the purchase it had already been sold.

National Public radio tackles the issue here:

The Wikipedia page has a pretty good summary of the case, as well as a few more details:$124,700

Another case of a man in the “Land of the Free” being found guilty until proving his innocence.

Note that Gonzolez did not help his situation by consenting to a search of his vehicle. I’m sure he was incredibly nervous at the time, but ALWAYS remember – no warrant, no search. Whether you think you have something to hide or not, a search of your vehicle can ONLY cause you problems, and will NEVER help you.  I also have to add that in most places (all places in the U.S.?) the police do not have to ask your permission to have a drug dog sniff around your car

Before you jump to the conclusion that Gonzolez must have been guilty because the drug dog sniffed traces of drugs in the car and on the money, let me remind you that up to 80% of U.S. currency has drug residue on it , and Gonzolez was traveling in a rental car.

Spitzer’s Real Scandal at AIG

March 19, 2009

Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York state, has written an interesting piece about the real scandal at AIG:

Why are AIG’s counterparties getting paid back in full, to the tune of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars?

He suggests that AIG’s counterparties – ie. Goldman, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, etc. received an enormous, hidden, second round of cash via the AIG bailout.

Spitzer demands answers to a handful of questions at the end of the article, but I want to know when people are going to wake up and realize how much money Henry Paulson has stolen from them to pass on to his Wall Street buddies.

Update 24 March 2009:  Following the link in the first comment below led me to this interesting video.

Are You the Asshole?

December 10, 2008

Every family has one — in my family it’s probably me.

In the spirit of the holiday season, and to help you determine if you are, in fact, the asshole, check out Gretchen Rubin’s blog article over at The Happiness Project.

The article includes a short quiz with excellent questions such as:

–When you join a group of people, does the mood often shift? Does a group tend to break apart after you join it?

–Do you find it hard to get your calls and emails returned?

–Do you often find yourself saying defensively, “It was just a joke!”

–Do you think it important to express your true feelings and views authentically, even if that means upsetting other people?

–Do you find that people seem resentful and angry when you offer objective, helpful criticism or advice?

–Do you find that even when you’re trying to be helpful by explaining something or providing information, people don’t want to seem to listen to you?

–Do you feel annoyed because people tend to refuse to acknowledge your greater experience or knowledge in an area, and instead, ignore your suggestions?

–Do people tend to gang up against you – when you’re arguing one side, everyone takes the other side, or when one person criticizes you, everyone else chimes in?

–If someone asks for your opinion, do you think it’s right to tell them frankly what you think?

–Do you think it’s useful to point out people’s mistakes, areas of incompetence, or previous track records of failure?

–Is it fairly common for one person to tell you that he or she will speak to a third person, so that you don’t have to? In other words, do people volunteer to act as intermediaries for you, rather than let you do your own talking?

Check it out now, and take the full quiz– you may be surprised to discover what everyone around you already knows.

Google Gmail For Mobile 2.0 Released

November 4, 2008

On October 23, Google released the Gmail For Mobile App version 2.0.

I have to say that this is one of the best mobile applications out there, and an excellent reason to switch your email service to Google Gmail if you’re still stuck in the 20th century with Yahoo! or Hotmail.

The main feature of the app is that it brings most (if not all) of the power of the desktop browser based version of Gmail to your phone.  The archive and search features are particularily handy, and they are not replicated by using a POP3 or IMAP client.

Google says that this latest version is available for “Blackberry and J2ME-supported phones” (although Sun changed the name of J2ME to “Java ME” more than three years ago).  We’ve installed it on a Nokia N95 and Nokia E51 without problems.

One of the main differences between this version and the previous iteration is the ability for the app to handle multiple accounts at the same time.  This is very handy, especially if you have a Gmail handling email for your domain in addition to a personal account.

When installing the software, you should visit the site with your mobile phone’s built in browser.  The page prompts you to uninstall your old version of the software, but if you’ve got a quick thumb, it’s easy to just click download without reading the details.  I don’t know how much of a problem it is if you don’t delete the old version first, but you’ve been warned.  Also note that when you delete the old version any draft messages that you had been working on will also be deleted.  These drafts seem to be stored locally, not on the server.  (Which reminds me of another advantage of the new version – multiple messages in drafts rather than the old version’s single work in progress).

On first run, you’ll have to re-enter your username and password (first time only – it seems as though there is no way to have the program prompt you each time), and you’ll probably want to go to the settings menu (Menu > Go to > Settings) and check to make sure the option “Always use secure network connections) slower performance)” is selected.  The performance may be a bit slower, but you won’t notice the difference and it’s a good policy to use SSL with your email.

On one of my phones (N95) I had the Gmail App on active standby (the list of “quick launch” programs at the top of the phone’s home screen), and after the uninstall and re-install it was automatically changed to the web app.  I went to change the setting back (Home Key > Tools > Settings > General > Personalisation > Standby mode > Active standby apps. > Shortcut X) and was surprised to see that Gmail was already selected.  I scrolled though the menu looking for another entry saying the same thing, but didn’t find it.  After exiting and going back to the home screen, I was surprised to see that Gmail was back in the list.

One more change in the program is that it seems to keep the messages in a cache.  This is obvious when you start up the program and see your messages before being asked to decide what network connection you want to use.  Apparently this feature helps to ease access to your mail in areas where the network connection is spotty.

So far things seem to be working flawlessly, and I have to say that this version seems to be better than the last.  My biggest complaint with the old version was that it seemed to take a longer time to load each time I started it up again (even after phone restarts), and I sincerely hope that this version doesn’t suffer the same malady.

The Google Mobile Blog lists these advantages of the new version:

  • Overall performance improvement: You should experience significant raw speed improvement, smoother scrolling, and no freezing.
  • Multiple accounts management: If you have both a Gmail and Google Apps email account, you can easily switch between them quickly. You will no longer have to use two different mobile apps to access personal and work emails.
  • Multiple mobile email drafts: You can save multiple email drafts in your mobile phone, so that you can pick and choose what you would like to send later.
  • Powerful shortcut keys: If you have a QWERTY phone, you can use shortcut keys. Hit ‘z’ to undo, ‘k’ to go to a newer conversation, and ‘j’ to go to an older conversation. See Menu/Help in the app for more shortcuts.
  • Basic offline support: Can’t get a signal? Not a problem. You can compose and read your most recent emails even when there is no signal. Also, any outgoing messages will be saved in the outbox on your phone and sent automatically when you’re back in coverage.

Try out version 2.0 now!

Can’t Delete Individual Files From Time Machine

October 9, 2008

I have to say that overall I’m fairly happy with the Apple Time Capsule that I purchased.  It does a reliable job of backing up files on the various Macs that I have sprinkled around the house.

I recently happened to have a small problem that a cursory Google search has been unable to resolve – when I tried to delete a specific file from the Time Machine backup, I got a prompt for my username and password but was unable to enter the password in the password field because the cursor didn’t show up there.

Of course, in the absence of a password the file wasn’t deleted.  Anyone else have this problem?  Any suggested fix?