In A Windowless Room

April 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Rent Me) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Hey, bloggy-types and Internet trolls! I’m back again, making a bit of an effort to “feed” the blog. (And hoping to drive my traffic back up!) But in this installment, the content isn’t quite as poetic as the title might lead you to believe…

A recent post on e-week caught my eye. “Microsoft: 10 Fascinating Facts About Windows, Other Products”. I’ve got Fascinating Fact #11, kids. I am successfully and happily living my life without any of those products. Okay, without most of them. We’ll come back to that in a few paragraphs.

To begin – I’m not using Windows much any more. (My Windows machine is down, but when it runs, it’s running XP.) I’ve been on Linux almost exclusively (something like 99% of the time) for the past year or so, and very seldom do I run into an issue with it. I do have a couple apps that can only run on Windows, but – I’m getting along just fine, thanks. It’s surprising just how much work you can do on Ubuntu Linux, loaded on a second-hand Acer netbook. (Good-natured Bronx cheer, Mac and Windows adherents.)

As for Windows 8, (mentioned early in the e-week slideshow) I wonder how that new approach to the user interface will work out. People tend to resist change, even if it’s “good” change. The Redmond Rat Pack may have shot themselves in the foot here. I read a recent article to the effect that Windows may have one foot in the grave already, and if Win 8 goes over as well as Vista did, well – it’s not going to be pretty. Though – as a veteran Computer Tutor – it may mean more work for me. I can’t tell you how many thousands of dollars I have earned because Microsoft’s OS is such a P-O-S. Maybe I should send a “Thank You” card to Bill Gates.

Gaming – the X-Box is also featured in the slideshow… Since we are talking about my lifestyle here, bluntly, I have so little time to play games that an X-Box is about as much use to me as a skateboard is to a duck. I can just about manage a few games of Klondike before I fall asleep at night. Beyond that, gaming is an undiscovered country. A bit like me and any sports, to be frank. But I hear the X-Box is a well-regarded gaming system, though they do seem to die rather often and unexpectedly.

Bing – don’t get me started. Seriously? A search engine whose name is an acronym for “But It’s Not Google”? Nah. I’ve been Googling almost since there was a Google. So are 76% of the world’s Internet search engine users, as of Feb. 2012. Sorry, Bill. Nice try.

Zune. Yeah. (Trying not to laugh.) Another “me-too” product conceived in Apple’s shadow. I’ve had 3 or 4 MP3 players, none of them a Microsoft product. (No iPods, either. Overpriced, IMHO.) I’ve carelessly managed to kill all of them, sadly. There are times when I really miss them. Like when I am shopping during the holidays, and wherever I go, there seems to be some truly dreadful Christmas music playing on the store’s PA. “Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum” indeed. I’ll have to see if I can get a replacement before Hallowe’en this year…

Phones. Windows Mobile / Windows Phone? Not a chance this year. Or next. Currently, I don’t even have a smart phone. In fact, my phone couldn’t be any dumber, unless it was a rock. But in the future, given that there options such as the iPhone iOS, or the Linux-based Android, what do you suspect I would choose? Good guess.

Finally, we come to slide #10. Skype. Well, you got me, Microsoft. Guilty of being a Skype user. But only because I’ve been using Skype for personal and business calls since 2007. Microsoft bought Skype in 2011, mostly to keep it out of Google’s hands. Redmond only wins that one by default. And hey – Skype works fine on Linux! (I love this slide, below. Ballmer looks like some sort of gnomish version of a guy you might encounter in the waiting room of the oil-change place, getting fresh fluids poured into his Lexus. Big thumbs up there, Steve. Oh, and I will readily admit that I’m no beauty queen myself. In fact, I look increasingly like the comic book store guy on The Simpsons. Sigh. What ya gonna do, eh?)

We’re now at the end of the slideshow, and I’ll have to be done taking snarky pot-shots at Microsoft. Although, e-week didn’t mention Office Live (soon to be replaced by SkyDrive), the MS version of Google Docs. Or MSN. Or Hotmail. Maybe that’s because they are more or less invisible in the marketplace.

Nor did they mention Internet Explorer. Yet another “Billy-come-lately” product, and the stuff of which antitrust lawsuits were made. If IE didn’t come bundled with Windows, I kind of doubt it could hold its own in the browser marketplace. In fact, one startup recently took the audacious step of dropping all support for Internet Explorer. And it saved them over $100K, plus countless hours of development time. Pretty gutsy move, but one that I understand completely, as a webmaster. IE is a pain in the neck, because Microsoft insists on implementing Java, CSS, and HTML in their own special way, even though standards exist that they can follow. They simply choose not to. (Heh heh, you thought I was done being snotty, didn’t you? Okay, I’ll quit now. Rant over.)

Not sure what I’ll post next time. There’s a fair number of things rattling around in my old fat head. Come back soon, and see what fell out first. And don’t forget to comment below, if you are so moved. Thanks for reading!

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Google Bailing Out of China?

January 13, 2010 at 2:37 am (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Politics) (, , , , , , , , )

Wow. I did not see that one coming.  This is the biggest news since the Internet’s 40th Birthday last year.

Google has had an uneasy relationship with China for several years.  The search engine mega-corp (up until now) has been working with the Chinese government to censor and limit the search results returned to Google users in China.  Apparently, when users in China search for things like “Tiananmen Square” there are no results.  (Not so here in the US, of course.  Today.)

But now, it appears that the gloves are off, and the search company whose motto is “Don’t Be Evil” is prepared to stand up to Beijing.  Why? Reports are that G-Mail web-mail accounts belonging to Chinese dissidents (and others) are being hack-attacked by cyber-forces within China.  And Google doesn’t like that very much.  Sort of the last straw for the boys at Google.

So, will there be no more kow-towing to the Great Firewall of China?  It’s a bit early to tell, but I think we’re looking at a “irresistible force vs. immovable object” situation here.  And it’s a safe bet that the US State Department will get involved at some point in this new cyber-brouhaha.  Trade agreements, loans from China to the US, Chinese imports, most favored nation status… there are so many factors that tie America to China at this point, that any disruptions could cause significant and unforeseen consequences.

Potentially, this is a good opportunity for China’s home-grown search engine industry to get a leg up.  Baidu.com has been mentioned in some reports as a possible beneficiary of the cyber-snottiness.

The Internets - TWO Series of Tubes?One possible result: two Internets.  BusinessWeek is reporting Bloomberg expects some serious tussles between the Western World and China over the shape of the Internet.  The two visions – China’s desire for a controlled, stable, sanitary web, versus the American / European insistence on a democratic, open, accessible Internet – are going to be hard to reconcile.

Personally, I’d rather see China either open, or have their own bloody-minded, locked down Internet.  I sure don’t want to see the rest of the world following the Chinese model.

Feel free to disagree.  There’s space, just below.  Go for it, and enjoy our open Internet, and the freedom of discourse.



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Happy Birthday, Internet!

October 29, 2009 at 4:04 am (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

40th-birthday-cake-internetSo.  The Internet turns 40 years old today! The very first interconnection between two remotely located computer systems took place on October 29th, 1969.

Warning: GEEK ALERT! This post is going to be excessively nerdy.  If you find your eyes beginning to glaze over, you might want to read one of my most popular posts ever, “They Call This A Jeep?

Now, back to the Internet’s Birthday… It was 1969.  The first man had walked on the moon only a few months before, it was the Summer of Love, and Woodstock, the US Army was still in Vietnam, and the military’s research arm – DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – had been working for years towards the goal of a massive computer network.

(Today, it’s become something that we take almost for granted, but even 15 years ago, most people weren’t online, and many people didn’t even have home computers.  That’s a lot of change for such a short time.)

Getting back to 1969, it may have been a remarkable event, but it was little noted at the time.  To quote Leonard Kleinrock, one of the people who invented the hardware and software that make the Internet work:

…on October 29, 1969, at 10:30 in the evening, you will find in a log, a notebook log that I have in my office at U.C.L.A., an entry which says, “Talked to SRI [Stanford Research Institute] host to host.” If you want to be, shall I say, poetic about it, the September event was when the infant Internet took its first breath.

Here’s Leonard Kleinrock himself, in a short talk about the event.

(And for more geeky fun, here’s the story of the first e-mail.)

This infant network went on to become ARPANET, the first wide-area network of computers that could “talk” to one another.  And ARPANET was eventually opened to the public in 1990, when Tim Berners Lee created the “World Wide Web” – a way of “linking” documents (or pages) to one another on the network.  (Click here for a complete timeline of the Internet’s development.)

From there, the changes have been rapid, not to say amazing.  The amount of data that can be carried on the Internet has been radically increased, allowing users to watch videos, chat with other people anywhere in the world, and send messages, pictures, and documents to any computer on the planet.  Or in orbit.  Wow, huh?

There are, of course, a few problems.  First are the unintended consequences such as economic disruption, and the social implications.  The Internet has certainly changed dating and relationships for lots of people.

And there’s the issue of Network Neutrality.  That’s the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, no matter who originated it – little old you or me, or Fox News.  A lot of people want to keep the playing field level, and allow small companies to compete with bigger concerns.  Big companies with deep pockets could buy up all the bandwidth, crowding out the smaller competition.  Not fair.  Alaska Senator Ted Stevens tried to explain it, resulting in one of the favorite Internet quotes of all time:

The Internet is a series of TUBES!

So, now we’re more or less up to date, seeing where the Internet is at 40.

What’s in the future for the Internet?

As the Internet enters its fifth decade, one of the possibilities is something called the Semantic Web, another invention of Tim Berners Lee.  The Semantic Web will rely upon the meaning and weight that visitors give to web pages, to establish their value and relevance.  The social media phenomenon – Twitter, MySpace, Facebook – is the first step in that direction.

The Internet also has the capability of connecting to – and communicating with – virtually anything, anywhere.  You might have an Internet-connected refrigerator that orders more bread and veggies when you run out, or an Internet-connected thermostat and Venetian blinds, allowing you to control the environment of your home from your laptop or iPhone.

Another interesting development: this week, President Obama announced $3.4 billion to be put towards modernizing America’s power grid. That will include making it “smarter” and more resilient to interruptions and attack, using some of these new Internet technologies.

Not to be outdone, DARPA and the military are getting in the act, developing a new, “hardened” military network protocol, intended to keep our fighting men and women connected under the worst of circumstances.

All of these developments in connectivity could usher in a new era of peace and freedom, or a new era of oppression and slavery.  It’s up to us how they get used.  A hammer can be used to build a house, or crack a skull.  Tools are amoral.  Humans can make a choice.

If you’d like to learn more about our options for the future, you can listen to the podcasts from Media Monarchy and The Corbett Report, and then examine the resources they offer.  There is also Adam Greenfield’s Everyware site, for information on Ubiquitous Computing.

That’s the beauty of the Internet.  You can use it to learn about anything, including the Internet itself.

The future of the Internet at 40 is exciting, and possibly scary.  So is the future of humanity.  I wonder where we will find ourselves in the year 2049?

UPDATE: 10/31/09 I can’t believe I forgot to include this.  ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) this week chose to allow non-Latin characters for Internet domain names. According to Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s President and CEO:

“This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and an historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet. The first countries that participate will not only be providing valuable information of the operation of IDNs in the domain name system, they are also going to help to bring the first of billions more people online – people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives.”

This will supposedly save lots of keystrokes for Asian, Russian, and Arabic Internet users.  And the beat goes on.

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More wireless fun

June 1, 2008 at 10:02 pm (Cool Tech, Internet tech) (, , , , , )

It’s been a busy few weeks since my last post. The sound quit working on my Linux-powered laptop, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to try Ubuntu 8.04 in place of Mint. Well, to quote an Alka-Seltzer ad from my youth, “So I tried it. Didn’t like it.”

Linux Mint Screen ShotWent ahead and downloaded the latest version of Linux Mint and plonked it back on the hard drive. Happy days! Back to where we were, with sound and all. Not sure what happened to the noises. Perhaps it got tangled up when I installed Skype. Ah, well. I’m back to running Mint, a familiar distro, and I’m a happy litle geek, but still a Linux newbie.

It took some time to get the wireless card (D-Link G650) working again, too. Not sure what I was doing wrong, but somehow, through multiple makes, it’s working too!

So, I betook myself to the local pub, one McMenamin’s in East Vancouver (WA, not the one in BC). I had a very tasty Reuben, and actually got some work done, too. Amazing. I’m gonna have to do more of this mobile thing. The off-duty baristas from the Starbuck’s across the parking lot made the place a little noisy for a while, but they went off to karaoke or something, apparently.

It’s closing time, dear reader. Back home and to bed for me.

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Garden of geeky delights

May 11, 2008 at 1:08 pm (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Media) (, , , , , , )

Linksys WRT54G - the This is really just the coolest Sunday morning ever, here at Maison D’Lock. I set up my home wireless network last night with a Linksys WRT54G that I got on e-bay for $35 with shipping, and as I am typing on my Mint Linux / HP laptop, I am also streaming music from a custom channel on Pandora.com, and the laptop’s audio output is plugged into the entertainment system. Damn, this is cool. I can listen loud, and control the volume with the little buttons on the side of the laptop. Right now, live Pink Floyd is streaming effortlessly through the aether, to my laptop, and out the speakers across the room. David Gilmour is “Wishing I Was There“, and all is well with the world.

Naked EyesThe tune just before Floyd was “Always Something There To Remind Me“, by Naked Eyes, possibly one of my favorite songs ever. I turned it up to max and sang along like a drunken karaoke nitwit. Like I said, it’s a good Sunday morning. For a geek like me who loves the comfort of his couch.

Oh, wow. “Something” by The Beatles just came up on Pandora. If you’ve never heard any Beatles on some good speakers, you may want to. George Martin packed a lot of amazing production into their later music. I remember listening on some pretty chintzy radios way back when Beatles music was still current. I just heard some details I never heard 40 years ago.

Wow. Technology is great when it works right. Hope everyone else is having a Sunday as good as this!

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Don’t live by the old rules.

January 5, 2008 at 2:33 pm (General, Internet tech, Politics, The Economy) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The old rules no longer apply, and if you try to live by them, the least you can expect is some discomfort.

Bold, sweeping statement, Dave. What do you mean by that?

I mean that, unless your residence is a remote cave or the underside of a large stony object, you should have noticed that there have been a lot of changes in the last 20 years or so.

Those of us who are baby boomers were raised with certain rules, goals, expectations, beliefs, and societal framework. Trouble is, those conditions no longer exist, and many of us are still operating as though they did. (Maybe to a lesser or greater degree. It depends on the individual or the issue.) After all, it’s human nature to expect things to stay as they were when we were growing up.

They didn’t.

The list of disruptive technologies could easily fill a page. Perhaps even a book. Just think about these:Robotics

  • Containerized shipping
  • Robotics
  • Personal computers
  • The Internet
  • Cellular phones

That’s just a start. Can you imagine life without them? 40 years ago, container ships were still a new idea, and the others? Merely a gleam in the eye of science fiction writers such as Asimov or Clarke.

So what, you may be saying? Unintended consequences, says I.

Containerized shipping, robotics, and cheap oil led to American manufacturing jobs being lost to Asia.

Personal computers, the Internet, and cell phones have completely changed social interaction. MySpace, Match.com, chat rooms… completely new ways to “hook up” that never existed before. Add that to the sexual revolution of the ’60s, and it’s small wonder that more than half of all marriages end up in divorce court (mine included).

So, what are the new rules? Got to tell you, I’m still figuring that out myself. Here’s what I believe are some of the latest rules, to the best of my ability to discern them:

Job security is extinct. Corporations view employees as interchangeable, disposable, exploitable commodities, and you’d better conduct your career accordingly.

There’s nothing in it for a man to get married any more, unless he wants to raise kids. Dating – like jobs – has also become commoditized. If your partner is boring you, go get another. Welcome to the consumerist philosophy, extended to human relationships.

The only constant is change, more than ever before. The pace of change seems to have increased, so it’s vitally important to stay abreast of the latest cultural and economic trends.

Dave, SimpsonizedCredibility is the new currency. You can do or be whatever you like, as long as you have credibility. Sometimes, that credibility is earned. Sometimes, credibility is simply declaimed, self-announced and self-reinforced. Guard and build your credibility. It’s solid gold in the Information Economy.

These are the first four New Rules that come to mind. Anyone out there have more? Let me know – comment below!

(Good lord. Has it really been more than two months since my last post? I really must rant more often.)

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More Unintended Humor

August 27, 2007 at 1:21 am (Damn funny, Internet tech, Media)

I love these things. Yes, I am a sick, sad puppy. Little gems of coincidental silliness pop up all the time on iGoogle. But not often enough for my warped tastes. Let us begin…

The Hound of Hell buys a car maker

The Hound of Hell has bought Chrysler? Hmm. That explains sooo much.

Dreams can come true.  Or not.

Yeah. Right. In your dreams.

Look out for snakes!

How about this… stay the hell home and bake some bread! What are you doing, going out where there are rattlesnakes, anyway? Is there something wrong with your wee brain?

Useful skills

Good skill set, especially if you happen to be another guy. (By the way, girls – or gay guys – here’s a tip. Men don’t get hints. Just plant one on him. And let the clothes fall where they may.)

Book ‘em, Dano.

Yeah, don’t just smile and wave, and let that jerk get away with leaving his dog’s crap on your lawn any more. Book ’em, Dano.

Again, in your dreams.

Again, in your dreams. Better learn to speak Indian. Press 1 to wake up screaming…

And finally…

Ahh… brilliant writing by the local media.

What the hell kind of movie are they filming? This isn’t Van Nuys!

Oh, damn. I’m all out of funnies. If you haven’t read my earlier post on unintentional humor, check it out here.

Later, all!

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About the Blogroll

May 25, 2007 at 8:52 pm (Cool Tech, General, Internet tech, Media, Rent Me)

Over there - the blogroll!It occurred to me just now that I have not drawn any attention recently to my Blogroll. (That’s the list of links in the right sidebar.)

There are a lot of useful links there for very good free security software, as well as some entertaining content. I just added a few more links, such as Belarc, and the Spyware Warrior page.

The Spyware Warrior page is especially important if you see a pop-up on your computer screen, claiming that you may have X number of infections and should “click here to buy CrapWare 2007” to fix the problem. This is never a good idea, in my experience. It’s like buying stock based on the recommendation of a spam message. Just don’t do it. And don’t send your bank account info to any so-called Nigerian princes, either.

If you are the sort who doesn’t heed these kinds of warnings, then may I respectfully suggest you keep your will updated, because you’re going to be found in the bathtub with a hairdryer one of these days for sure.

Be careful out there, okay?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  If you’re in the Portland / Vancouver area, and need a trustworthy geek to disinfect your computer, give me a shout.  I’m very affordable, and am available evenings, weekends, you name it.

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What the heck is a “favicon”, huh?

May 10, 2007 at 6:15 pm (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Rent Me)

Why do I need one? How do I get one? Okay, Uncle Dave gonna tell you. Pull up a bean-bag chair, plunk your butt, and hearken to the experience, if not the wisdom.

WP LogoA “favicon” is that funny little teeny picture in the address bar of your browser, right next to where it shows the web page address (or URL). In the case of this web page, for example, it’s a white capital “W” on a circular black background, identifying this page as a WordPress page. And Google has a blue capital “G” in a white square.

Now that we have defined what it is, why do I need one?

If you are creating a web site, and you want to “brand” your web site with your company or personal logo, then a favicon is another cool way of doing that. It helps to identify your web page if people are surfing with a tabbed browser like Firefox or version 7 of Internet Explorer. Besides, it’s just plain cool. Okay, it’s cool if you’re a total nerd like me.

How do you get one? It’s easy! You can make one, with software you can find in your mommy’s kitchen computer. Here’s how I do it:

  1. My logoFirst, get or create an image file (JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF) of the logo you want to have for a favicon on your site. Like this one, to the right.
  2. Next, use a program like Irfanview or Gimp to bump up the color saturation and contrast just a bit, using your calibrated eyeball. Colors in a smaller image are better perceived (at least by me and my CE) when they are made a bit more bold. (With this example, there are no colors, and the contrast can’t be increased, obviously. Your results may vary.)
  3. Still in Irfanview (or Gimp), resample your image along its major axis to 16 pixels. 16 pixels is the magic number for favicons. Your goal is to have a finished image that measures 16 x 16 pixels.
  4. Save the resampled image as “favicon.bmp”.
  5. Open “favicon.bmp” in MS Paint or Gimp, zoom in, and fiddle it about, pixel by pixel, until it looks like it will convey the sense of the original logo when seen at actual 16 x 16 size in the browser.You may have to zoom in & out a few times, squint your eyes, and take several passes at it until you get a good finished result. Hey, nothing good comes easy. This is also a good time to resize the image to make it 16 x 16 pixels square.
  6. When you’re happy with the looks of it, save the image and exit Paint. Rename the file “favicon.bmp” to “favicon.ico”.
  7. Bravo! You now have a finished favicon file, ready for the unthinking abuse of the web surfing masses. It gets placed in the root directory of the web site, i.e. http://www.mywebsite.com/favicon.ico

It took longer to write the how-to than it did to create the favicon. Certainly you can try other programs. I just wrote about what I know and use, and because the programs I use are free. (Those of you who know me in meatspace know that I am frugal, or “cheap” as I have also been called.)

UPDATE – 5/25/07:

I created a YouTube video to illustrate the process. Here it is, in all its amateurish glory:

I am ZIM!However, if you want a favicon or even a logo, and can’t be bothered with all this folderol, you can hire me. I’m quick and easy, as well as being cheap. Good qualities in a creative consultant, maybe not so much in a date, but c’est la vie.

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Unintentional humor is always the best.

May 9, 2007 at 11:17 pm (Damn funny, General, Internet tech, Media)

New technology, like the Internet, has unintended consequences. Accidental juxtapositions of two or more elements is increasing. This is what I saw on my iGoogle custom home page today:

Time Management for Strippers

Yes, you too can go to law school during the day, and shake your cakes at night to cover your tuition. Damn, I love America.

UPDATE – 5:45 AM PDT May 10th

No sooner than I write the post you see above, iGoogle and WikiHow do it again!

Do I make you horny, baby?

Do you think someone’s doing it deliberately? If so, I commend you, sir or madam. A tip of my chapeau in your direction. You rawk.

UPDATE – 12:35 AM PDT June 4th

Seems like everyone’s getting into the act. This time, it’s Google Ads:

Misplaced cracker?

Seriously, who needs this? I can’t think of anyone other than a parrot.

UPDATE: July 15, 2007

I’ve been waiting what seems like forever to see another really good “How To” juxtaposition to come along, and at last, my geeky devotion has been rewarded…

Mmm, yum!  Possum epanadas!

Hey, mom! These empanadas are great! Can I have some more?

UPDATE: August 3, 2007

I really do love WikiHow. Though some of the “projects” are kind of feeble, there’s still some good stuff to be seen, and some jollies to be had:

 

Another lame WikiHow project

Perhaps the best thing to learn to communicate would be “Stay the hell away from my office supplies, Wally“.

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