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January 30, 2004

USPTO considers switch to Linux

Wonderful ironies, just days after SCO sends off it’s letters warning doom and gloom for the US economy if Open Source is not outlawed, the USPTO announces that it is considering switching a substantial part of its infrastructure to Linux and Java solutions from IBM when the current contract expires this year.

“U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officials are looking toward Linux and Java technologies as they begin planning for a comprehensive new information technology and telecommunications services contract.”

Of course as I said this follows right on the heels of SCO sending letters to all members of Congress and various other government VIPs demonizing OSS as the downfall of the US economy, way of life, and an undefendable security risk. Heck OSS even poisoned the apple pies…

SCOs folks seem to read news backwards and upside down

“‘With dozens of countries considering regulating the use of open-source, SCO believes it’s ‘only a matter of time before others in our country would put legislation on the table around open-source software,’ said Stowell.”

When I first read it I thought, well yes, that’s pretty much true, except I don’t think it needs to be legislated, it will happen on it’s own. Then I remembered who was speaking. Stowell actually believes that there will be legislation against using OSS. All the legislation I know of is towards giving OSS a minimum of an equal opportunity to be considered in government systems. I am not aware of a single case where there is legislation against using OSS.

The good news is the more mainstream press is getting it — in describing Linux Computerworld had this to say:

“The most powerful software company in the world would love to kill it off. The most ridiculous software company in the world can’t stop suing over it.”

Posted by Eric at 07:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

CERT® Incident Note IN-2004-01: W32/Novarg.A Virus


The CERT/CC ® has been receiving reports of a new mass-mailing virus known as W32/Novarg.A, W32/Shimg, or W32/Mydoom that has been reported to open a backdoor to the compromised system and possibly launch a denial-of-service attack against a web site at a fixed time in the future.


The virus arrives as an email message with a 22,528-byte attachment that has a random filename with a file extension of .cmd, .pif, .scr, .exe, or .bat. The attachment may also arrive as a ZIP archive.

Some messages containing the virus have had the following characteristics:

    Subject: <random>
    From: <spoofed>
    To: <email address>

    (The body has been reported to contain one of the following three messages.)

    "The message cannot be represented in 7-bit ASCII encoding and has been 
     sent as a binary attachment."

    "The message contains Unicode characters and has been sent as a binary 

    "Mail transaction failed. Partial message is available."

In addition to the backdoor capabilities, the virus is also believed to have the capability to launch a distributed denial-of-service attack against a specific web site beginning on February 1, 2004. As with other malicious code having mass-mailing capabilities, W32/Novarg.A may cause “collateral” denial-of-service conditions in networks where either (a) multiple systems are infected, or (b) large volumes of infected mail are received.

Another one out in the wild…
For more information — not much more is available right now — check in with CERT/CC’s Incident IN-2004-01 page, which has links to updated virus database’s for the major AV packages out there. They also have the normal recommendations (which still go unheeded!) for limiting exposure.

So everyone be sure to keep your digital prophylactics fresh and ready.

Posted by Eric at 07:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 25, 2004

Stuff a pillow in your computer?

I almost snarfed coffee when I read this bit in an article relating to Microsoft’s objection to a pillow and quilt manufacturer in Australia registering the Trademark “Microsoft” in their particular goods class. (emphasis mine)

“I don’t think anyone is going to shove a pillow into a computer…

“In his ruling on August 11, 1997, Ian Forno, the hearing officer, observed, in part: “The opponent (Microsoft) does not appear from the evidence to have had any reputation for padding, stuffing and filling materials, as at the date of the present mark’s application. There has been no evidence put forward by the opponent to show any instances of deception caused by the use of applicant’s mark.”

Yeah, thats why 600 MB of email took up 2.25 GB when it was stored in Outlook.

Purax Feather Holdings — the pillow and quilt company — bills Microsoft in this way: Our exclusive new non allergenic and thoroughly hygienic Polyester Fibre “Microsoft” ensures a luxurious nights sleep, No way is there going to be any confusion there–Microsoft software has caused too many nights of missed sleep for me in the past years of supporting it professionally.

Otherwise, essentially an unremarkable news story about the trademark process working exactly as it is supposed to. Or maybe that is somewhat remarkable after all?

Posted by Eric at 08:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Microsoft Supplies Training Materials to Terrorists

Microsoft makes one of the best and hottest selling flight simulators on the market–without getting into the custom applications that are used by the military, flight training schools and the aviation industry. From the sounds of Julie Olearcek’s recent experience and the official responses of those involved, then Microsoft is a key supplier of training material for terrorists.

Julie, an Air Force Reserves pilot, wanted to get a non-combat oriented flight simulator to give as a gift to her son, so he could get a feel for what his parents do for a living. (Julie’s husband is also a pilot in the Air Force (active duty)) Some moron at the Staples store she visited freaked out when she inquired if they had a non-combat oriented flight sim–like say, oh, maybe Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2004 available both online and at your local Staples store for $49.99 ) Unfortunately the clerk apparently replied that no one made such a thing as it would be “illegal”. Julie left, obviously knowing this would get nowhere. After Julie left however, the clerk reported the incident to his manager who called the State Troopers, who sent a plainclothes trooper to the Olearcek house to investigate potential terrorist activity!

I’m really hoping that this story is a hoax of some sort—this type of idiocy coupled with paranoia is scary.

Posted by Eric at 05:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


It’s almost funny, in a wierd twisted sort of way…

Recently the comment spam problem for MovableType users escelated when some script kiddies released an automated comment spammer. The site hails it as:

“the first integrated solution for testing Movable Type blogs for working anti-spamming features”

Six-Apart, the team behind MT released a modification to enable comment throttling—limit the number of comments allowed to be posted in any given period of time—which Jacques Distler improved upon with a further patch which enabled even tighter controls on commenting including IP banning based on comment frequency — they have all been installed here as well.

It seems now however that the poor loser is mad at Jacques for linking to the FloodMT web site. In the comments to Jacques post, One Down a “DV” complained that Jacques was linking to the site and threatened to redirect all visitors refered from Musings to “Goatse” or “Tubgirl” — the two most popular of a slew of disgusting/shocking images out there on the net.

So to spread the fun a little bit once again here is the crapflooders website, or at least the “tool” that he uses: FloodMT

If you are running MT and allow commenting or trackback pings I suggest very highly upgrading to MT 2.661, then applying the patches provided by Jacques to further tighten comment throttling and — to combat the latest annoyance, trackback spamming — trackback throttling.

If you’re a programmer also, you might want to keep an eye on the latest developments at FloodMT to keep abreast of their latest developments to stay, if not a step ahead, then at least only a half step behind their developments.

Edit: 23:55
More of the background from this spate of crapflooding and the history of Dv along with FloodMT and FloodMT.perl (along with a server that seems to be having uptime issues) is available on Phil Ringalda’s site in the post and comments for Throttling Down and Confidential to my crapflooder. Phil is how I found the music of Kris Delmhorst, which I have really been enjoying, so a big thanks for that one Phil.
Damn, now I’m 36.

Posted by Eric at 01:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 24, 2004

Microsoft's XML, Open Office & Bruce Perens: Patent Threats

It looks as if Microsoft has filed for patents in Europe and New Zealand on the XML format they use for Office documents. Ironic that part of the whole original vision of XML was inter-operability and communication. XML was hailed as a lingua franca that could be used as the glue between dissimilar systems. Microsoft’s move to patent an XML format, or it’s use by other applications is, to me, really obnoxious. I would say that the patenting of an open specification adoption and specific usage would be clearly rejected by the patent offices, but, well…

Microsoft knows Linux is a threat, mostly on the server and in larger institutions. Arve Bersvendsen recently pointed out that for the average home & SOHO user, Linux on the desktop is not a yet a threat to Microsoft. While he uses a broad definition of Linux, not distinguishing the OS from the complete installed system, it is a definition most non-Linux advocate’s identify with, and he is right–the Linux core OS is ready and can be transparent to the user, but the “Linux Desktop” experience is far from that point. My sister—in-law, Mom & Dad, Grandfather, a few business clients and everyone else I act as ‘private tech support’ for–except my wife who has in-house tech support to tailor her system to her needs–would not make the switch to Linux on the desktop, and to tell the truth, I would not push them towards that either, at least for right now.

Windows works for them and even though it may annoy the more advanced of them, it is generally simple, comfortable and usually transparent to them. They, like most users, are task driven, not technology or philosophy driven in their computer use. All of them, however, would be willing to switch to OpenOffice–especially when it is system or Office Suite License upgrade / renewal time. OpenOffice is a genuine threat to Microsoft’s Office Suite across almost every user category. OpenOffice works, and requires very little adjustment to switch from MS Office. It gets the tasks done efficiently in a way that is familiar enough to users to be comfortable–it doesn’t let it’s technology or philosophy get in the way of efficient task accomplishment. It’s now on three more computers that shipped with MS Word or Microsoft’s stripped down Works package. All three users were going to buy MS Office for these systems, but all now report they are happy they didn’t.

In related news, Bruce Perens was recently interviewed by the BBC on the subject of Patents, SCO and Linux. When asked about challenges to Linux and Open Source Software in the next 18 months, Bruce expressed that he doesn’t see the SCO issue doing any long term damage The good news is that SCO has pretty much exhausted any chance of being successful in court. He goes on to explain that the real challenge is in the wide-spread, over broad patenting of software.

“You have to consider engineers today spend their entire careers combining other people’s intellectual property. And every small and medium sized enterprise is at risk regarding software patenting…

“We’re looking at a future where only the very largest companies will be able to implement software, and it will technically be illegal for other people to do so. That’s a very, very bad situation developing. We must do something so that there is reason for people to innovate, there is reason for people to invent, but that companies can execute without this constant fear that we will be sued into the ground regarding software patenting.”

Bruce thinks that this year will be a strong year for Linux on the desktop, with large deployments in companies such as IBM and large institution and government agencies. I hope he is correct, and judging from some recent news from IBM, the Austin TX. city government, Massachusetts, government agencies in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Israelamong others–I think he is. Hopefully this will increase the development of a novice / average computer user friendly Linux Desktop implementation that, like OpenOffice, doesn’t let it’s technical or philosophical standards get in the way of ease of use and just getting the task done simply and efficiently. We’re most of the way there, but the last miles of an uphill finish are often the hardest–the goal is close enough to taste but too far away to provide any relief.

Posted by Eric at 03:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

Farewell My Captain

“Good Morning”, and farewell Captain Kangaroo

  Bob Keeshan: 1927—January 23rd, 2004

Posted by Eric at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MT-Preview absolutely rocks, but....

Laurent Mihalkovic (big thanks!) has come out with a great plug-in that has taken care of a nagging annoyance in MovableType for me–no way to preview an entry with the template and style sheets that will be used when it is actually viewed by visitors.  MT-Preview now adds another button to the “new entry” / “edit entry” page for a WYSIWYG preview of the entry–using the individual archive template. Works like a charm. Of course…

He also added a great tag, <MTEntryIfPreviewMode>, to act as a selector switch for things you want only to specifically show in WYSIWYG preview but not on the live site. So you can for instance add:

     <div style="font: 700 1.5em sans-serif;color:Red;"> Currently viewing in preview mode</div>

to your Individual archive Template in MT. When previewing an entry you get the warning message (in bolder red etc) but when it is published those tags are ignored in the build process and the page appears without the warning. Great!

Unfortunately it appears–from my feeble attempts at least–that <MTElse>, <MTEntryIfPreviewMode> and MT-Speling do not work together. I tried to add the MT-Speling plugin to the WYSIWYG preview window using:

    <$MTEntryBody apply_macros="1" check_spelling="1"$>
    <span id="more"></span>
    <$MTEntryMore apply_macros="1" check_spelling="1"$>
    <$MTEntryBody apply_macros="1"$>
    <span id="more"></span>
    <$MTEntryMore apply_macros="1"$>

The preview page looks exactly as I wanted it to, it has the MT-Speling marked entry and extended entry followed a check-box and suggested spelling corrections, with the check-box to turn on or off the MT-Speling visuals. Unfortunately the published site version, well… it’s sort of missing a body and extended entry. It seem to hit the <MTEntryIfPreviewMode> tag, determine that it isn’t in preview mode and skip right to the line following the </MTEntryIfPreviewMode> tag.

Right now this entry will be a bit of a mystery to anyone who looks at it on the individual archive page, but I’m going to leave it this way for a day or two…

To make the plug-in work with the <MTElse> or provide it’s own else type tag would make this great plug-in even better.

Posted by Eric at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Birthday present- No more Microsoft Outlook!

Moved the very last message from Outlook’s perverted .pst files to the IMAP server I setup. Finally I am totally rid of Microsoft’s Office suite. Outlook I was tied to because of a ton of old email’s that I do sometimes use and need access to. The were all store in the proprietary format Microsoft uses in their .pst files, and I could never find a suitably strong enough program to import and translate those files including sub-folders and attachments.

Fed up at last with the upgrade price of Office 2003, I set up an IMAP server on the internal network. I now have almost 2.75 GB of space back on my drive from removing office and those bloated Microsoft message stores. The exact same e-mails that took up 2.25GB are taking up less than 600 MB on the IMAP server. Does that make sense? Yes, I checked that the message counts matched and spot checked messages all throughout the files, ditto attachments. Everything is there, it just not stored in a bloated fashion.

I still haven’t settled on a new email client. I am grabbing the latest Thunderbird weekly right now, and I will be looking into Mozilla as well. Right now I am just reveling in un-chained freedom–ok maybe that’s a bit much, but still…

Posted by Eric at 11:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Linux on a GoBook

Many years ago, when I was still working for Micron Computer, Inc., no that was before the merger, Micron Electronics oops that’s MicronPC, no, no ok… well now I guess it’s MPC, I helped my sister—in-law get a Micron GoBook. It was a great notebook–lightweight, good keyboard, respectable graphics. Of course that was late 1997. She just upgraded her Pentium 233MHz “great-granny GoBook” for a new Toshiba Celeron 2.4GHz based system for about ⅓ of what the employee discounted GoBook cost back in 1997. After customizing and testing the Toshiba, I took it with us to New York when we went to see her. Now, back in Mystic, I have “great-granny GoBook” beside my Toshiba.

First task was to back up the system across to a networked drive. I had forgotten how small the hard drives were back then — there is a whopping 2 GB drive in there. I have more storage in my camera now than that–and that’s on a Compact Flash card! Of course at the time this was close to state of the art for laptop designs. After backing everything up, I thought it might be better to load this with linux and use for remote website work than keep Windows on it. Just for grins I decided to try Fedora… The install blew up almost instantly as I suspected it would. I’m sure it would have succeded with the boot: text option, but I wasn’t sure how much effort would be required to get everything running and I chickened out and grabbed the LiveCD I sometimes boot to on the Toshiba–Morphix-Gnome.

It actually booted in, then died quietly when the CD spun down. The old CD in here is only 2x and it takes some time to spin up and down. Once it spun down from inactivity it couldn’t spin up fast enough for Morphix which would race off with error messages followed by a “we’ll retry in 5 minutes”. Of course 5 minutes later the drive had spun down and couldn’t revive fast enough to prevent the loop from restarting. Unfortunately I had no console access, and the CD drive was locked shut so I couldn’t pre-empt the loop.

I decided to give it another try for some reason, and this time it made it into the Gnome desktop. Not snappy, but it worked. After minor tweaking I was able to access the network, browse a few sites and log in to a couple SSH and SCP sessions. Although it was not originally in my plans, about an hour ago I launched the “Install to Drive” script on the Morphix desktop. After partitioning the spacious drive, it reported that it was copying packages and that it would take 5—20 minutes depending on the computer speed. I guess they figured there aren’t many 2x CD drives still in use out there…

I doubt I’ll keep Gnome installed, as it tends to like more memory and CPU power than this little notebook can really give it. At least the core Debian will be installed on there, and I can see what I can get away with. Already though, even running off a LiveCD, it was far snappier than it was under Windows. I’d be interested to hear from anyone else still using a GoBook, and what they are running–I didn’t test out the sound or a number of other things–any tips as what you’ve found to work well would be greatly appreciated.

Update 28 Jan. 2004:
The Morphix HD-Installer never did succeed in getting past about 56%. I think it comes down to the same issue - drive speed and the fact that this old laptop drive takes quite some time to spin up to that blazing speed. I did get Debian installled from CD source, even that took 4 attempts through the installer to get all the packages–all the ones I selected that is, about 500 MB unpacked– successfully installed and configured off the CD’s. The good news is it’s up and running with net access. Much snappier response in X11 than Windows 95 or 98–might be some life left in ‘Great—Granny-Goobook’ yet.

Posted by Eric at 12:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2004

FloodMT Crapflooding, Trackback-flooding and Whining crapflooders

It’s almost funny, in a wierd twisted sort of way…

Recently the comment spam problem for MovableType users escelated when some script kiddies released an automated comment spammer. The site hails it as:

“the first integrated solution for testing Movable Type blogs for working anti-spamming features”

Six-Apart, the team behind MT released a modification to enable comment throttling–limit the number of comments allowed to be posted in any given period of time–which Jacques Distler improved upon with a further patch which enabled even tighter controls on commenting including IP banning based on comment frequency–they have all been installed here as well.

It seems now however that the poor loser is mad at Jacques for linking to the FloodMT web site. In the comments to Jacques post, One Down a “DV” complained that Jacques was linking to the site and threatened to redirect all visitors refered from Musings to “Goatse” or “Tubgirl”–the two most popular of a slew of disgusting/shocking images out there on the net.

So to spread the fun a little bit once again here is the crapflooders website, or at least the “tool” that he uses: FloodMT

If you are running MT and allow commenting or trackback pings I suggest very highly upgrading to MT 2.661, then applying the patches provided by Jacques to further tighten comment throttling and — to combat the latest annoyance, trackback spamming–trackback throttling.

If you’re a programmer also, you might want to keep an eye on the latest developments at FloodMT to keep abreast of their latest developments to stay, if not a step ahead, then at least only a half step behind their developments.

Edit: 23:55

More of the background from this spate of crapflooding and the history of Dv along with FloodMT and FloodMT.perl (along with a server that seems to be having uptime issues) is available on Phil Ringalda’s site in the post and comments for Throttling Down and Confidential to my crapflooder. Phil is how I found the music of Kris Delmhorst, which I have really been enjoying, so a big thanks for that one Phil.
Damn, now I’m 36.

Posted by Eric at 10:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Ben Munisteri Dance Projects Review by New York Times

The New York Times has published a review of Wednesday night’s performance of Ben Munisteri Dance Projects as part of the Joyce Theater’s Altogether Different festival. Looks like I wasn’t the only one who liked it a lot. From what I hear, Sunday Night’s performance was even better (I’m not sure how, but I believe it none the less.)

Posted by Eric at 11:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2004

New York photos

I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t take many pictures while in New York this trip. In part it was just the nature of the trip. Wednesday was all driving, then the performance. Since I knew there was no photography allowed in the Joyce, I decided not to lug the camera downtown. Had I known it would snow, I probably would have brought it along though. The next day I brought the camera, but rarely brought it out, things were wet, windy and very, very cold. I did take a couple of texture and detail shots in the subway, along with this shot of Julio and “Lupita” dancing for the crowds at the Union Station(?) subway stop. Friday was spent mostly relaxing in Park Slope, painting and playing, with one trip to the Co-Op before we left town.

On Thursday I did brave the cold and wind to make it into B&H of course — even though it was across town from every other stop we were making — dragging my wife and son with me. Johann entertained store customers and employees while I tried to decide on a tripod to get and looked at some lenses and flash accessories. My wife finally — after actually going into B&H instead of just looking through their catalog — understands why I could get lost in there for a couple of days. I managed to walk out of there pretty cheaply. I only got a new tripod and a diffuser for the flash. Next time it will be harder to escape so cheap, as now it’s time to start replacing lenses and get some better lights for studio setups.

Posted by Eric at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

"I'm Sorry But I Ain't Gonna 'Fix It'"

Make no bones about it, he’s not going to bend over backwards to support a brain-damaged browser! I almost fell off my chair laughing. I almost never browse in IE anymore, I use Firebird almost exlusively, but I’m on my sister-in-law’s computer right now, and she uses IE so this is the first time I have seen this. He’s got very good reasons, which he has explored over the past months on his weblog, one of the biggest is the lack of support for mathML–which he uses often. Just wish it was that easy for all of us though…

You’re Using IE error Page

Posted by Eric at 02:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ben & Company at the Joyce.

Just got back from The Joyce Theater. What a show! Ben Munisteri is a wonderful choreographer, and has an excellent group of dancers performing pieces set to an extremely eclectic, and wonderful, selection of music.

Ben Munisteri Dance Projects (oh, by the way Danica is the one being lifted in the large image on the linked page) presented five pieces. All were wonderful but three really stood out for me–Smash Through to Sunlight, Earthly Perch and Turbine Mines.

Smash Through to Sunlight is a striking duet performed by guest dancers David Leventhal from Mark Morris Dance Group and Larry Keigwin. Part of what made this one stand out for me was the excellent use of the technical lighting as an element of the dance, instead of as a minor accent or–as it seems is more common–as a purely accidental afterthought. Ben choreographed this piece together with his lighting designer Kathy Kaufmann.

Turbine Mines is a piece choreographed for six dancers, set to Vangelis’ Bladerunner score–including the voice track featuring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young. Everything for this piece was excellent — lighting, costume, choreography and the dancers were amazing. I was skeptical about a modern dance piece based on what is for me in many ways a “Holy of Holies” of sci-fi and movies. Ben pulled it off beautifully.

Earthly Perch was also an excellent piece which really stood out to me for Ben’s use of the dancers–shifting patterns, forming, parting and reforming. A beautiful piece that really highlights the strengths of the Ben’s choreography, individual dancers and the group as a whole.

Ben Munisteri Dance Projects will be performing again on Sunday, January 18th at 7:30 p.m. You can buy tickets online, by phone or at the door (maybe at the door, the theater was full tonight!) However you order, I highly suggest seeing this show. If you enjoy Modern Dance at all you will not be disappointed by Ben’s premiere at the Joyce.

I thought during the intermission that I spotted Jeffrey Zeldmann in the audience, but I’m sure I was mistaken, or maybe he has more than one lookalike.

In other New York news, it started lightly snowing when we went in to the Joyce, now there looks to be a good 2—3” of snow on the ground. It is a beautiful “dry” powdery snow that glistens and shines like millions of tiny white jewels. I especially love New York in the snow–when it’s first falling and collecting overnight at least. The normal reflected light effect you see everywhere else is tinted in an otherworldly yet peaceful warm glow from the orange light cast by the street lamps. Almost a Martian feel to it. Strange but wonderful and peaceful. Tomorrow’s outing to B&H, the Joyce, the Museum of Natural History and Chinatown in cold slippery slush may make me feel different, but right now it is gorgeous.

Posted by Eric at 01:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 13, 2004

intraVnews is out back to FeedDemon alone

Well, I tried intraVnews for over a week, and it is the best Outlook based RSS feed reader I’ve yet to use, but….

As the number of subscriptions increased so did the memory use and periodic unresponsiveness of Outlook. Not bad unresponsiveness, but enough to interrupt when I was composing an email–stalled for 30 seconds or so every 5—10 minutes. In fairness to intraVnews, my Outlook has far too many .pst files and many of them are much larger than I am comfortable with. Some of the issues with unresponsiveness may be the intraVnews interacts with Outlook folders. All I know is that with intraVnews removed, the memory usage has been acceptable–well, back to bloated code acceptable at least–and there have been no stalls.

As I said originally, I continued to use FeedDemon as my primary reader, and now it is back to the only one on my system. Along with the upcoming (?)support for Atom feeds in FeedDemon, I would like to see some of the features of intraVnews added into it–primarily the secure feed option. That was my main reason to keep intraVnews on the system for the past week. I read all the secure feeds in intraVnews twice a day in Outlook, just for the auto-login to secure feeds. At the same time I moved those feeds to an un-used channel group in FeedDemon to keep them available but not prompting me for my credentials every time I updated my “Daily Read” channel group.

On the Outlook front, one of the things I installed on the web server was an IMAP server just so that I could migrate all my .pst files to Thunderbird or Mozilla’s mail. I’m not sure which of those I will be using yet. My primary requirements are multi-account handling, advanced filtering capabilities, 3 panel reader and use of non-proprietary mail and attachment storage. Then I can ditch Microsoft Office for good.

Posted by Eric at 09:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Word of the day: Aprosexia

An abnormal inability to pay attention
from Weird and Wonderful Words
Posted by Eric at 06:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Time to convert to XHTML 1.1

After the New York trip, I think it will be time to change the site over from XHTML 1.0 Transitional to XHTML 1.1. The changes should be limited, mostly changing the javascript and form areas. The main area’s right now to break would be:

  • <script language="javascript"> – no language attributes allowed in XHTML 1.1
  • <form method="post" action="<$MTCGIPath$><$MTCommentScript$>" name="comments_form" onsubmit="if (this.bakecookie[0].checked) rememberMe(this)">name attribute is only allowed in <input> tags, change all others to @id@ attribute
  • Get rid of <br /> tags wherever possible, make sure any remaining are inside block–level tags.
  • Wrap all <input>, <textarea> and <label> tags in block-level elements.

I’ll have to scope out Jacques Distler’s entries at Musings to review the changes needed to MT’s templates and comments to maintain validable pages. I think I will have to–just to make it more fun–follow the W3C’s recommendation to serve XHTML 1.1 as application/xhtml+xml as well. Luckily Jaques has been there, done that and written up a nice How-To. This entry is really just a “note to self” of sorts, to remember the links and resources I may need during the conversion.

Posted by Eric at 04:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

Small Changes: Directory archives patch and slugs

I’ve made two small changes to this site. Primarily from being able to play extensively on the development server without fear of screwing something up horribly. The changes really are quite small, but important none the less. The first change was to patch the MT source code to allow it to write out directory index files with any extension designated in the configuration preferences. Prior to finding Dave Dribin’s wonderfully simple and understandable patch, I was forcing the same behavior primarily through mod_rewrite. I set the default file extension in MTs preferences to “” (that’s null) and then had the archives preferences writing out the archives as index e.g.:

<$MTArchiveDate format="%Y/%m/%d"$><$MTEntryTitle dirifyplus="sld"$>/index

Why did I do this in the first place? Well the short version of it is future-proofing the URL’s as well as providing a cruft free and heirarchal URL that are “hackable” by the user to climb back up–one level at a time any number of levels–to the root. It was Mark’s article (cruft free) that I originally followed as my blueprint. Unfortunately there are some downsides, although very minor, to the way it was done. First off the web reporting software chokes on the fact that there is no extension on the file. In reality this is the fault of the reporting software, but it is something I have no control over either. Minor nuisance, but there. The larger issue for me is that mod_gzip is not consistently delivering the html documents as compressed to clients, even modern browsers. Again a minor nuisance, and this could easily be something that I could find a solution to but it seems that the answer is just to put the .html back on the files–or .php or .shtml or…

That’s the nice thing about Dave’s solution, since it puts each archive entry as a directory index, you still get URLs without the extension. In fact the only visible difference in the URL and the site, is the trailing “/” behind them–which is added by the server automatically. The same URL that used to point to an html file (albeit masquerading as a directory) now points to a directory of the same name. The server technology is not being broadcast, and the .html is saved from being transmitted with every request. If I change technology next month the URL will remain the same, while the file extension change and I make one change (possibly) to the apache directives to add the new as a directory index format. Yet I now get reliable mod_gzip compression across the board and the statistics packages don’t choke on the the extensionless files. Of course it took a little work to actually make the transition.

Since the existing entries were without any extension, I couldn’t just make the change in one rebuild. Instead I used MTs template feature to create an “archive” page that had only the links to each page—one link per line. The template (which I named “exporter” and set to save to a file of the same file name) consisted of 4 tags:

<$MTArchiveLink$><br />

Rebuilding this template will give you a list of all the URLs to your articles:<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

A couple of quick substitutions in vim, regex or whatever and you have a shell script ready to remove the old entries and create empty directories in the proper location with the same name. At this point rebuilding the site will put the new “index.html” files for each individual entry in the proper place, along with rebuilding the category and other archives. Nothing should have broken even though all the links are now for directories with the trailing “/” since the original setup was so well thought out–by Mark that is. Of course it remains that way too, ready for the next change of servers.

I also added Dave’s other MT plugin, Short Titles. This plug-in essentially does what Mark uses Brad Choate’s MT-If-Empty plugin to do. While Mark’s solution is infinitely more flexible, Dave’s plugin fits my needs perfectly. Just as with Mark’s solution if there is a key word, or keywords for an entry they can be selectively used to create a “slug” title. If there are no keywords, or none set off by using brackets then the MT Entry Title gets run through dirify before being written out as the file (well directory in this case). I decided it was time to start using slugs because some of the titles I like to use can get a bit too long for a useful URL. However I want the URLs to be human readable and understandable. Some folks use the entry ID, or the first X characters or words of the entry title. Unfortunately that still puts some constraints on titling an entry, Using either Mark’s method or Daves plugin–unfortunately both require a plugin–you have far greater latitude in both titling and the length and decipherability of the slug title.

Posted by Eric at 02:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

NFL Character not so Stout

It looks like one 12 year old girl, Hope Stout, has more strength of character than the entire NFL. Her final wish – to make the wishes of all the 155 local Charlotte area critically ill children on the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s list – and story was aired on an NFL broadcast just last week. The Make-A-Wish Foundation determined that it needs to raise $1 million to make Hope’s wish come true. City officials, local organizers and Make-A-Wish board members worked together to plan a public downtown fund raising party, looking to secure rights to show the telecast game publicly during the party. The NFL refused to allow them to show the copyrighted telecast as it would hurt the game’s and the NFL’s ratings – ironically a measurement of how many pairs of eyes watch the telecast game.. This just after they announce that paid attendance was at a record high league wide, and that NFL Games were the #1 show in all 30 markets where the league has teams.

While I do understand protecting those broadcasting, branding and marketing rights, it really seems a shame that no accommodation could be made with the city and the fundraisers. Without the broadcast rights, the downtown party/fundraiser was canceled for concern (most likely justified) that turnout would be poor as people would be at home or private parties watching the game. Hope died this past Sunday of a rare bone cancer.

Details available at the Charlotte Observer (free registration required).
Hat tip to Chad Everett

Laptop Radio: The Angels Cried - Allison Krauss & Alan Jackson
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20 Years of Macintosh

Has it really been 20 years?

In 1984 I was working (after school, that is) at Ft. Belvior Research and Development’s Computer Center as a Unix System Operator. We were doing all sorts of fun stuff on PC clones, administering PDP’s and even borrowing Cray time to generate graphics and payload plans for Shuttle missions among other more “mundane” tasks like print queue management and user administration –actually heady stuff for a 15-16 year old. At home I was helping my father computerize the Air Force circuit court reporting and docketing system for the circuit he was chief judge of. That system was designed and implemented as a test, and after it’s success went on to be the model for the entire Air Force Judicial branch.

We had a Sperry (IBM clone) from before they merged into Unisys and a Radio Shack Model III at home, and soon added an Amiga 1000 (still have that one). The previous year (1983) we had gotten Dad a Tandy TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer, which made him one of (if not the) first “wired” judge. Oh, specs: speedy 80C85 2.4MHz processor, 32KB of memory (upgraded to 64KB before it’s retirement), 71 key keyboard, and a 240×64 pixel LCD. It did have RS-232C, Printer, Cassette and Modem ports, along with a “Bar Code Reader” port. I wonder if Dad still has it somewhere in the attic – might be fun to play with from time to time, or just to freak my son out when he’s a little older – “Back when I was your age, we didn’t have a computer, then we had this when I was xx…”

I never did get a Macintosh, although I have used them at work often enough. The Amiga was my platform for art, and in most ways it kept pace with the Macintosh world until it’s demise. In fact in most ways it surpassed the Macintosh, and far outshone the world of IBM compatibles. Now that Apple has a BSD based core and still has the most polished and friendly user interface I do find myself far more attracted to the option of getting a PowerBook for myself or an iMac for my wife and son to use. Those G5 towers look sweet as well, it would be nice to have the video editing capabilities of my VT3 and have the option of using some of the video and DVD editing tools that can be used only on the Mac. Maybe an iMac or iBook…

Hat tip to Jeff

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January 10, 2004

Lands' End - Painful shopping

My wife and I received a gift certificate from someone for Lands’ End. Now neither my wife or I typically shop at Lands’End normally, but we looked through the catalog included with the gift certificate package. There were some things in there that we could use the certificate for. Of course it should have been a simple matter to go online and enter the item numbers in from the catalog, checkout and be done. My wife initially wanted to use the catalog order form, but since that form and the catalog could not inform us of the final shipping and tax charges, she relented to going online. Lands’ End’s online store does have a great feature – Catalogue Quick Order – where you can enter all the catalogue item numbers in, click next then choose sizes and colors from drop down choices, and end up (ideally) with a filled shopping cart ready to check out. Unfortunately things did not work that simply.

catalogue quick order button @ Land's End dot com Step one: Eneter Catalogue numbers Step two: choose size and color

We entered the catalogue numbers in, then on the next page choose the sizes and colors that my wife wanted. Ooops, up comes a warning screen – the color choice for the jacket is not available. The error screen does give the available choices, (2 out of the normal 7, neither choice which my wife really wants, but hey it’s “free”) but the drop down box, even on this page, still has all seven choices. After selecting one of the choices that the error screen said was still available, we were taken to the filled shopping basket. Fine… Nope. Only one item was in the basket!

Step 3, get error message Step four: get only 30% of cart completed

So leave the jacket and go back to the home page and the catalogue number wizard and add back in the other items – socks and a shirt – “next”, choose sizes and colors…”next”  Arggghhhhh! Once again with the damn error page. This time the socks were not available in size small. Ok…click on the box to “continue with out adding this item”, get to the shopping basket, and find two items, both the same jacket! Now we didn’t want two jackets and we did want socks and a shirt, both of which were entered into the “Quick Catalogue” order form. So.. delete both jackets clearing the shopping cart entirely. Click the logo to go back to the home page, Clear the Lands’ End cookies from Firebird. Start again.

I entered – for the third time mind you – the jacket and the shirt catalogue numbers into the “Quick Catalogue” form, click next. Choose the size and color of the jacket (careful to choose one of the 2 colors that are actually available) then the size and color of the shirt. Deep breath. Click Next. SCRREEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMM!

Yes, the error message again. This time the shirt is not available in my wife’s size, not in any of 11 color combinations! Now my wife is generally a very calm and easygoing type of person – balances me out very well – but at this point she was the one who said “Screw them then! They can shove their gift certificate up their web site.”

She’s calmed down now, but she’s still not very happy with the company, we tried to order 5 or six more items all unavailable. Now she refuses to order from them, at least online. Honestly I can’t really blame her at all. We will be in New York next week. If we are able to, we’ll look into visiting the store there. 

At first I was extremely happy to see the “Catalogue Quick Order” feature, perfect for us, as my wife had the item numbers already. Unfortunately the integration of their web ordering and their stock management is enough to block an order but not enough to update obviously dynamically generated pages and forms. On top of that the “Quick” wizard loses any part of the order beyond any problems it encounters. It must be adding the items from the form serially then when it finds a problem it drops everything (literally) while it attempts to get the user to resolve the problem. In our particular case there was a problem with every item we wanted, which led to three trips through the wizard — in part perhaps because I’m stubborn and wanted the damn thing to work like it was obviously intended to work – before giving up. This could be a very nice feature, unfortunately the execution makes for an exceptionally user—un-friendly experience.

Laptop Radio: Banks of the River Jordan - Aaron Neville - Devotion (4:48)
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Danica with Ben Munisteri @ The Joyce

My sister-in-law Danica, is a dancer in New York City, and has been dancing on and off with Ben Munisteri, for a number of years. Ben Munisteri Dance Projects was selected to perform with four other dance companies at The Joyce Theater’s Altogether Different this year. The festival runs (well is running right now) from the 6th through the 18th. Danica and the rest of the Ben Munisteri Dance Projects company will be performing on the 14th and the 18th. Among other pieces the company will perform, Ben will be unveiling a Joyce-commissioned premiere, Turbine Mines, which has been described as “a work of beauty with a sci-fi edge” and is set to the soundtrack of Blade Runner. A preview of the performance, along with some background on Ben Munisteri and the company, can be found in the Performance/Review article from Gay City News – An Elegy of Hope. Oh, Danica, is the one one her head in the picture at that article.

If you are in New York and enjoy dance, Altogether Different should be on your “Highly Recommended | Must See” list for this month. Of course my prejudice is to see Ben Munisteri Dance Projects – which I will – but any of the nights should be excellent.

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Fedora, Image::Magick & api.h

I got to the point – finally – in the clearing of my office where I could set up a web server to use for testing. I desperately needed to also, what with two projects underway right now. I beheaded the IPCOP machine – I am looking at moving it to a JRex based device – and moved it to make room for another system to set up as the web server, that ideally will also be replaced by a JRex or mini-itx based board. After downloading Fedora from a really fast mirror, I started the install over WinXP. Since I knew this was going to be a web server primarily with a touch of Samba thrown in, I only installed those components (Apache, MySql, Perl, PHP) and a few other packages. After the initial Fedora setup was completed I decapitated the server and ssh’d in from the laptop to begin really setting it up. Testing the out of box setup I did run into one minor problem. I could ping only the network that the server is on. Not the outside and not the other internal network. It seems no default route was set. After setting one up, I was in business and ready to go.

Webmin was the first non-Fedora package to go on. While it’s nice to work in the shell, especially after being Windows bound for so long now, Webmin makes so many of the routine setup and administration chores just drop dead simple to do. For instance, setting up Apache and the multiple virtual servers. After defining global directives, I set the directives and options for one virtual server, then copied it into the 6 that are now on the server. I probably could have done it in about the same time in the shell but using Webmin saved me a lot of keystrokes (even if you add back in the mouse clicks). Once the virtual servers were set up, and MySql had databases and users for each virtual server, I set out to start loading in some of the other packages and CPAN perl modules I knew I would need installed for MovableType, Gallery, etc. and the experimenting I want to do. Everything ran along smooth as silk, until I tried to install CPAN’s Image::Magick, the perl interface to ImageMagick. I had grabbed the ImageMagick 5.5.6 RPM off the Fedora CD and installed it, then cranked into CPAN and started installing number of packages. When I got to Image::Magick the make failed early in. Looking at the results it all cascaded from not being able to find “api.h”. Arghh.

I removed the Fedora rpm and grabbed the current stable rpm from the ImageMagick site. Same problem. Ok fine… I hadn’t installed the source tree and I knew compiling the ImageMagick from source would want a lot of external libraries’ source (Jpeg, Tiff etc…) so that wouldn’t be a great option. Back to the CPAN build files. In the Makefile.PL I discovered the culprit:
PERLMAINCC' => 'gcc -L/home/cristy/ImageMagick-5.5.7/ttf/objs',
One of a couple of places in the 5.5.6 Makefile that point to /home/cristy/.... “cristy” is one of the developers it looks like, but forgot to sanitize the code tree so that it would be replicable on anyone’s system instead of only his. Oh well.

The good news is, after checking and seeing that a bug was reported at CPAN for the module, I headed back to ImageMagick’s site and grabbed the latest development RPMs (5.5.8). I grabbed the RPM version of the CPAN module as well. Both RPMs installed without a hitch. Shortly after that Movable Type installed smoothly and reported no missing libraries or perl modules. Off to the races!

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January 08, 2004

Great Googley-Pinned In Pink-Moogly

I can’t believe it, but Pinned In Pink was selected as a finalist for the monthly assignment – shallow depth of field – at Fred Miranda Forums. I’m a bit jazzed that it was selected at all, there were alot of really good entries. I have no thoughts about it actually winning – it doesn’t honestly deserve it. There are at least three considerably better images in the vote (and currently all three deservedly have more votes than “Pinned”) but to have this image recognized by being selected really makes me feel good about where I am going with my photography. This is the third assignment competition I have entered and I have made the selection in all three, and won one of them with Magenta Jewels. While it isn’t neccessary, it is nice to get such positive feedback from other photographers including a number of pro’s and semi-pro’s. “Pinned In Pink” and my other images that have been finalists and winners in Fred Miranda can all be found in the Gallery’s Abstract Album as the first four items.

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New iPod - No Thanks!

The rumors were proved true this week when Apple unveiled the new smaller iPod Minis. While these are nicely designed and come with 4GB drives, they are also unfortunately only $50 less than the 15GB version of their big brother iPod. I can understand that component costs (the shell, the electronics and the 4GB drive) all add up to justify the cost for the most part, but market wise, it just doesn’t make much sense to me to price these new iPods at $250. Especially when the original iPod in the 15GB variety is now priced at $299 – and the original iPod is not that large a device to be a real hassel to carry unless you are out jogging or something like that. For my money the original iPod is still one of the best designed and featured large capacity players out there for the money. The Minis would need to be under $200 – more likely closer to $150—$170 – to entice me into giving them a second look.

What I really want to find is a single device that can reliably and affordably function as MP3 player and photo backup device, with at least a CF I/II port and firewire or USB 2.0 connectivity. I don’t care about AAC files, although now that the DRM protectection on them has been revealed, that would be nice, as would OGG support. The main thing I would like to see is the ability to drive decent headphones with quality sound. Unfortunately I haven’t seen anything yet that really does this well. I still love the styling and simplicity of the original iPod, but it looks like the add on to allow it to be used as a photo tank is exceedingly slow and eats batteries. If I’m going to be tied to the DC power in my car I may as well have the notebook in there for along with a cheap 64MB or 128MB MP3 player which I can reload with new songs when I dump the photo’s to the PC.

There were also announced minor updates to iTunes and the whole iFamily of products, but apparently still no support for scripting iTunes on Windows, which is one feature of iTunes I would really like to see. Generally I find myself going back to good old WinAmp 2.91 more and more as my main music player. While iTunes has many excellent features, it also takes up considerably more system resources than WinAmp. My MP3s are fairly well organized already, and I can’t afford to buy many songs from the iTunes store, so iTunes, for now at least, will remain installed, but little used.

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January 07, 2004

Pinned In Pink

70mm w/ 24mm ext. tube 1/200s @ f/5.6 ISO:100

Another abstract photo for an assignment at Fred Miranda Forums. This time the assignment is “Shallow Depth of Field”. I saw the sweater Tammy was knitting for Johann being blocked out, and the lined up pins along with the colors and patterns of the sweater attracted me. This is the result.

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January 06, 2004

RSS Readers

I have been using – and loving – FeedDemon from Bradbury Software (the business identity of Nick Bradbury, the author of HomeSite and TopStyle as well), as my primary RSS feed reader since it entered a public beta a few months ago. As far as I am concerned it is hand’s down the best one available for Windows. I have tried a number of other readers prior to FeedDemon, none of which satisfied me enough to pay for. While I have not yet paid for FeedDemon (there is a 30 day trial period, which I have need to take advantage of until I can allocate more funds for software purchases), I am more than willing to pay a very reasonable $29.95 for it.

While I am enamoured of FeedDemon – it is constantly running on my main system – I recently learned of another Windows RSS reader. This one is free for home use, and works within Outlook XP or 2003. No, I still haven’t managed to abandon Outlook, although I have effectively abandoned the rest of the MS Office Suite as much for economic as philosophical reasons. The last RSS reader I tried within Outlook was, for me, an utter failure. It added far too much overhead, both CPU and memory, and drastically slowed Outlook when it tried to get more than 2 or 3 feeds. Annoyingly it opened any clicked links within Outlook (using the IE rendering engine) instead of sending it to Firebird as I much prefer. On top of that it significantly added to the memory footprint of Outlook even when it was not downloading or displaying any feeds. Even given all this, when I read a few reviews of intraVnews, I decided to give it a try.

I must say I am impressed. It does not appear to slow down Outlook much at all, and while I’m sure it does add to Outlook’s memory footprint, it appears to be minimal – although still a touch more than FeedDemon uses – and does not fluctuate much as it downloads and displays feeds. I must admit that I have so far only added 32 feeds to monitor in Outlook, but at this point that is 10 more feeds than I used in the prior Outlook based readers. As for the other complaints against prior Outlook based readers, those too are not especially present in intraVnews, although it is noticeably slower to refresh and download feeds than FeedDemon. There are many advantages to RSS feeds in Outlook, especially if you are an avid Outlook user. You can apply all the familiar filtering, organizational and search tools available in Outlook to feeds along with mail, contacts and such. You can also move/copy feed items to any folder, and generally do with any feed item the same things you can do with an email or note, including archiving feed items.

One especially nice item that is not directly related to intraVnews integration with Outlook is that in the properties for feeds you subscribe to you can select that a feed is a secure one and enter a user name and password. This is really nice. I currently have four feeds for which I am subscribed which are password protected, not because of subscription models or any such, two are alpha/beta software feeds, one is a collaboration project and one is a family web site which the maintainer / author does not want in the “general” public. While four sets of passwords (and user names) – invariably set by the site maintainer and using .htaccess passwords – is not too much to work with it is extremely useful to be able to enter the information into the feed properties once and be done with it. As more of these semi-private feeds are developed, and if the success of the four I am privy to are any indication there will be many more of these in the near future, this feature will become a requirement for a significant number of users. I would seriously like to see this in the next update or version of FeedDemon.


A screen grab of the Security Option for feeds from intraVnews.

On the down side – there are always tradeoffs of some sort – it does require Outlook to be open to use. For some users, such as my father, this is a non-issue as they use Outlook as their communications and internet hub as it were. I generally have Outlook open two or maybe three times a day and only for 15 to 20 minutes or so to gather and clear the email. However I generally leave FeedDemon available in the task bar all through the day, and often check it for interesting updates in my filtered categories. Currently in intraVnews 1.0 there are no tools to allow porting to a web site or blog from a viewed feed, the developers have it on the list of future developments, however. Again for many users this would be a non-issue, but for myself I like the option, even if I don’t always use it, of posting an item directly out of the feed reader as I can with FeedDemon. As I mentioned before it is, while not painfully so, noticeably slower than FeedDemon at downloading feeds. I imagine this is a result of working in the Outlook framework as all Outlook integrated readers have suffered the same way, though this one the least of them. One other nit, is that I could find no way to force a check of feeds for updates it runs on a schedule only. Apparently to force it to look for updated feeds off the schedule one would have to shutdown Outlook and restart it, or modify the schedule properties of the feed. This annoying point became a real hassle when I wanted to check my own RSS feeds after updating them but had to wait an hour for intraVnews to update according to schedule, while FeedDemon obediently went out and grabbed the updated feed, even though it was “off schedule”. This last sore spot as with the first two, for most users would probably be a non-issue.

One thing from a developer point of view that I don’t like is that intraVnews has an option to download all the html associated with a post. I tested it on this site and that slowed the download of the feed to a crawl. To me however this negates most of the benefits of RSS to a webmaster / author – namely to be able to widely publish the data, in a clean, reusable and ultimately lower bandwidth way. While I drop photo’s an full text into my feeds, they still remain far lower bandwidth than visiting the fairly well optimized site. Seems counter-productive to the ideas of RSS and RDF, at least as I understand them.

Personally, I have now gotten into the habit of having Outlook and Firebird closed most of the time, using FeedDemon to occasionally check news, sites and conversations that are important to me, only from there opening Firebird when I want to follow a link or get more information than is available in the feed – which is one reason I wish that all sites that offer feeds would offer a full content version as well as the usual short snippet feeds that are most common, best to my mind (although not implemented here yet) is the option of snippet, full post, and full post with comments feeds. For myself I will continue to use the excellent FeedDemon as my primary feed reader. Small footprint, minimal CPU usage, great features (including excellent organization, filter and search tools, which intraVnews has via Outlook) and great support all for a fair price. That alone says something considering my current cash inflow situation!

I will however continue to use intraVnews as well, at least based on my preliminary evaluation of it, primarily for the feeds that require password authentication, a few feeds for the archival ability, and also for a few other feeds which I find myself wanting available in Outlook anyways so that I can search the feeds and the related mail list messages together and be able to view the time line of communications. While these two programs may be competitors, they can obviously co-exist and even compliment each other in many ways, as they are partially aimed at slightly different, though overlapping, audiences.

For others asking me which feed reader to look at if they are only to choose one, I will first ask them if they use Outlook XP or 2003 heavily. If they do, like my father, I will recommend they take a serious look at both readers. Especially for someone, again like my father, who does not heavily rely on RSS feeds, the price(at least for home use, there is a license fee for business use) and clean integration of intraVnews into Outlook is very compelling. Otherwise, for my money the best solution is FeedDemon, although I hope Nick will add Secure Feed options to the feed properties soon.

Posted by Eric at 03:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 05, 2004

The Empire That Was

There is an online exhibition at the Library of Congress called The Empire That Was Russia. It is an amazing exhibit of color photographs taken during the last decade of Tsarist Russia by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. They are images Prokudin-Gorskii took with his homemade (and designed) view camera. He used color filters to take three images in quick succession on a 3” by 9” strip of glass plate. Reminds me a bit of the fun of using my old DigiView from Newtek back in the late 80’s. For those not familiar with it, the DigiView was a digitizer for the Amiga computer, it connected to a black and white video camera. Rotating a color filter wheel through the Red, Blue and Green sections you could “scan” any picture (or for that matter any scene that stood still for 3 minutes) into the computer. Slow and tedious by todays standards, but for the time it was a breakthrough for digital artists and home use. In concept and even execution very much the same process as used a century before by Prokudin-Gorskii.

The LOC has preserved the glass plates and other items from Prokudin-Gorskii’s estate. Now the original images have been digitally reproduced and can be seen much as when the photographer showed them through a custom three beam slide projector. Many of the subjects of the pictures will never be seen again, having been destroyed during one the various revolutions, world wars, etc. There are many beautiful churches, mosques and palaces represented in the Architecture . The Ethnic Diversity section is a wonderful sampling of some of the ethnic groups that comprised the Tsarist Russian Empire. Beautiful images. My favorites would have to be The emir of Bukhara and the View of the Nilova Monastery.

One of the best things about this exhibition is that this is how museum exhibits should be. While I would much rather be at the LOC and see these in person (when it was available there in 2001 that is), this online exhibition is wonderful, and allows at least a substantial and prolonged glimpse at what is offered by the in person exhibit at the LOC itself. It is accessible, educational, and entertaining. Hopefully more of the public museums will be moving forward with this type of exhibit.

The National Museum of the American Indian should have by now opened it’s doors – They actually, first among the Smithsonian museums, have it in their charter to make as much of the museum as possible accessible to long distance visitors. During late 2001 and 2002, I had a number of wonderful discussions with various people involved in the NMAI museum, it’s charter and development as a museum for the 21st century – video, web, imagery all connected and much of it available over the organizations Gigabit+ cabled network. Of all the SI museums for a geek/artist to work, that would be it. I had hoped for some quite some time to work for the Smithsonian while I was still in D.C. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons – chief among them the extremely convoluted and drawn out hiring procedure – I never got the opportunity to make that happen.

Anyway, I came across the exhibit (I’m somewhat ashed to admit, as I used to visit LOC once every two weeks when I was looking at them for potential employment) via The Argus.

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January 04, 2004

IPCOP, Vonage and Toshiba

I spent the better part of this afternoon fussing with IPCOP 1.4(alpha5) to get it set up the way I want it. IPCOP is an excellent firewall/router package based on Linux. The newer 1.4 offers many improvements over the 1.3 version, and hopefully will go beta soon. There are a number of small bugs in this alpha, none that appear to be major, just a small pain for me getting things set up because of my particular wants and needs.

I installed IPCOP on my temporary host for it – really way over powered for the job and needed for other uses – an Athlon 1.2GHz machine. Eventually I want to get one of the EPIA CL series of low power mini-itx boards and build it into the router/gateway/firewall. The installation and basic configuration of IPCOP was smooth and the new web interface is much more useful than the current 1.3 version interface. I was disappointed by the limited QoS configuration options that the web interface allows - only based on ports. I need QoS mainly for the Vonage system, and it is easy enough to give high priority to it based on IP or mac address, then give varying levels of priority to other traffic based on port and traffic type.

I started with a fairly standard setup for IPCOP – an external ethernet (RED) connect to the Comcast cable modem, an internal (GREEN) ethernet to my computer network, and an ORANGE DMZ ethernet connection that I planned to use for both the Vonage ATA and a development /testing web server. Unfortunately IPCOP is not configured to allow DHCP serving on the ORANGE network and the Vonage ATA is not set up to allow forcing it to use a fixed IP. The stock Cisco 186 (without the custom Vonage firmware) will allow you to set it to a fixed IP, but the Vonage installed firmware locks out that option. I understand not allowing DHCP on the DMZ, but for my purposes it presents a problem. So I switched the ORANGE network to be what IPCOP calls a BLUE network, designed to be used for wireless connectivity and such. It supports DHCP across the BLUE interface and from what I understand it should have provided me with almost exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately the Vonage, and for that matter my sister-in-law’s new laptop, could not complete the DHCP process to get an IP assigned. I added the mac address from the Vonage ATA as a fixed assignment with no luck either. Every time the ATA (and the laptop) would end up with a partially completed DHCP assignment, and the IP range was from the GREEN interface not the BLUE.

At this point I gave up using the IPCOP web interface to get the job done, as I said there are still a few bugs to work out, and SSH’d into the IPCOP box. After about 20 minutes of vim’ing through all the files to see how they were – generally speaking – making IPCOP tick, I hacked the DHCP web interface cgi and added my own subnet assignments, along with changing the firewall rules to create, in essence two separate, isolated GREEN networks. I can add some pinholes to allow essential communication between the networks that I want. So the BLUE net is now not quite a DMZ, but an isolated network from the main internal net (on GREEN).

The IPCOP machine is truly the weak link in this scheme, but then it is fairly small and well vetted code base, with the main firewall rules on the RED interface still pretty tight. The good news is that both networks work independently as they should and the Vonage ATA grabbed the proper IP right off the bat. I still have to add some QoS rules to the system, and as I said before I was slightly disappointed that the QoS web interface only allows port based rules, but that should be easy enough to implement in rc.d files through SSH. Overall IPCOP is an excellent firewall/gateway system that will run on just about any legacy machine out there. For most purposes it will set up in about 5—10 minutes and does not need much by way of tech experience. I knew going in that this was an alpha code base – I knew there would probably be issues. The issues were all in all minor, and should be fixed well before the release version comes out, well except probably the QoS issue, but that is really a design and implementation choice, not a bug.

All through this I was working from both my Toshiba (5205-S703) laptop and my sister-in-law’s new Toshiba Satellite A15-S129 laptop. I really do like Toshiba’s laptops. This one was on sale for about $800 after rebates and Niki desperately wanted to replace the aging Micron GoBook that I got helped her get when I worked for MicronPC — what, 5 years ago. So she ordered it online and had it delivered to me so I could go over it and add a few apps and such that she wants. The Satellite is larger than what she is used to but this $800 laptop offers quite a bit of power and features — 40GB hard drive, DVD/CDRW, 10/100 NIC, 256MB DDR (max 1GB), 15” XGA display, decent speakers built in and powered by a 2.4GHz Celeron. Obviously for me this isn’t the best notebook for processing photo’s and doing 3D work, but for her it will be a lightspeed jump from the old 300MHz GoBook! It would also make an excellent system for my wife and my son to use, as they mainly want it for Quicken, web and email but they don’t want a full blown desktop or even a hidden desktop with a flat panel. Temporarily, if it will handle the load of modern flash and director based games, the GoBook will be their laptop, I doubt it would sell on eBay or similar places as it is a 4-5 year old notebook.


The whole purpose of updating IPCOP to 1.4, adding QoS rules and putting the Vonage ATA on it’s own network interface was to maximize the quality of the Vonage phone “line”. We have been getting too many drop-outs in the line if the computer was accessing the net at all. Being served by cable modem, we have plenty of bandwidth (checked often and at various times) to handle both the Vonage and light to moderate net use simultaneously. So far the new configuration and the QoS rules have made a dramatic improvement in the line quality (sorry, reverting back to telco speak for what is essentially a pure TCP/IP device). I’ll have to bug my folks or someone with a standard landline phone to do more comprehensive tests. I figure I can ramp slowly up to two or three downloads of the latest Fedora from a fast mirror and a large upload to my server to really see how well the Vonage holds up with the QoS rules I put in place.

Posted by Eric at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2004

Joe Lieberman Sleeps with Referrer Spammers

Referrer spam, what’s next?
I simply ignored the adult website referrer spam, expected it, after all sex sells and they’ll do anything (legal or not) to drive eyes to those popup ads and sites. But a presidential campaign weblog spamming other web sites referrer logs???

Lately “a new company that is responsible for helping website owners attract traffic to their offerings” has been showing up in my referrer logs. Until today it was generally just their own website ( which was just a very empty portal the last time I looked) as referrer, but no actual link or mention of this site there. Today Joe Lieberman’s crew from his blog (no, I will not provide a link) appeared to have linked to me, but on a second look at the referrer string it was actually the “new company” running some spam script for Lieberman’s web site. If the Lieberman campaign knows about this type of crap they must be extremely desperate. I wasn’t going to vote for him before this happened, and now that I just gave Crazy Joe 2 minutes of my time — I damn sure won’t be voting for him now.

Oh and Mr. Lieberman that vote and this short “endorsement” were lost to you (in part) by ”……”

Posted by Eric at 02:55 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 01, 2004

Ben Franklin and Open Source

I know it’s been floating around for the better part of a month at various sites including, and Free PC Tech but re-reading my friend Drew’s Linux Letter at Free PC Tech, I wanted to record it here on this site, as much as anything as a reminder and bookmark.

“I wrote and published a pamphlet, entitled “An Account of the new-invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces; wherein their Construction and Manner of Operation is particularly explained; their Advantages above every other Method of warming Rooms demonstrated; and all Objections that have been raised against the Use of them answered and obviated,” etc. This pamphlet had a good effect. Gov’r. Thomas was so pleas’d with the construction of this stove, as described in it, that he offered to give me a patent for the sole vending of them for a term of years; but I declin’d it from a principle which has ever weighed with me on such occasions, viz., That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”

So at least one of the founding fathers, and arguably one of the most prolific in terms of copywritable and patentable contributions to our national heritage, was an Open Source “nut”!

Posted by Eric at 09:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Black On Black III & Fred Miranda Best Of

Black On Black: Bodum Beans I

Yet another photo from a “Black On Black” coffee theme. I would be very interested to hear back from anyone as to whether you prefer this one or the Black On Black I posted earlier as Black On Black: Field Of Beans. If you have an opinion, comment or critique (constructive critique that is) please post it in the comments for either of the Black On Black postings.

On the photo theme, the Fred Miranda Forums have a number of excellent “Best Of 2003” posts going right now. There are some excellent photographs in these threads! If you are at all interested in photography, you really should take a look at the following threads.

Posted by Eric at 04:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack