I found out what I did. I kinda combined OddMuse and FCKeditor with and without markup. I fixed it. Thanks to Alex and the anonymous help here.
Annoyed. Made an OddMuse website with FCKeditor to use as a lab notebook. But I can't get text I told to be bold and italic to say bold and italic. The Wiki markup half-pokes through. Looking around on Google, it seems like nobody else has this problem.
No love, but thanks for the suggestion.
Speaking about PervasiveComputing, I found a hack where you could change the READY text of a HP printer. I put up the current temperature, and was asked to put in weather conditions, because you want your jacket if it rains, even if it is still 70°r;F. So, now our printer tells the weather. Which is cool. And pervasive, albeit not as pervasive as your local wings place with screens on every surface.
Been thinking about PervasiveComputing. The line for beyond-the-pale geeky has changed. Wireless headsets would be just too geeky 10 years ago. Five, maybe. Now, they're everywhere.
Been playing with SVGs in Firefox. Soon, it is to be hoped, they'll be part of IE.
Wrote a [spirograph maker] with Canvas. (Should work with Firefox, Safari and Opera. Not IE. Yet.) To-do list:
Also, Firefox, right now, implements columns from CSS3. Cool stuff.
So, I'm having a thought.
What do you get from having a computer in your car?
GPS. Multi-gig playlists of MP3s and other video. Perhaps video, although it strikes me as insane (and a danger to yourself and others) to be watching video while driving. Expanded telecommunications possibilities. Right now, the first and second ones are the ones that really grab my attention. There's a focus issue with me: I could see texting while driving (except I can't, because of the danger to others bit), but email is meant to not be synchronous communication. If you need a response within the next minute, why are you using email?
And, connecting to the PervasiveComputing discussion, I don't see talking on the phone while driving as necessarily being more dangerous than talking with the person next to you while driving. Or less. I'm a parent of three kids, and I know that trying to keep them from tearing apart the car and killing each other can be an attention-draining activity.
But there's more.
There are chips you can get for your car that change it's performance. The car, stock, is fairly balanced. Say you want it to run like a drag strip special. Or a long-haul cruiser. Or whatever. Get the chip, swap it out, and you have a different-running car. And that's been true for a good long time. I had a car with a chip that died on it about 15 years ago.
So, if you can swap out a chip on an engine to change performance, doesn't it make sense that you can do that sort of thing on the fly with an onboard computer? A computer could say "Hey, you've been going stop-go for the last half-hour. I'm going to run the city driving package" Or "You've been going highway speeds for 10 minutes. Looks like you're going to want to switch to the highway setting." There's already engine diagnostics interfaces readily available. I'm not motorhead enough to really take advantage of this, or really understand what I'd have to do to do so. Yet.
But there's one thing that strikes me.
Well, two. You're going to have to have a bypass on the engine control. Engine starts up, computer boots up. That'll be a while before the engine gets the marching orders, so there'll have to be a chip in there that the computer can override. But that's a small matter of engineering.
What really strikes me is that the part that deals with the engine is going to have to be real-time. Paying attention to a 1000+RPM engine is going to have to be that computer's job. And the MP3-playing jobs will have much lower priority, causing user-connected issues.
So, two computers. One possibly Windows. One certainly Linux or Unix.
I saw a bit a while ago about UI guys working for the car companies, who have test cars and simulators set up to get an idea of how much cool stuff, how much tech can they put into the car before you're so distracted you drive into a light pole. THAT would be a fun job.
Three things came to mind recently.
A friend is running Asterisk.
A walk through Best Buy showed me that hard disks are roughly $.50US/1GB, which puts a terrabyte at $500, which in computer terms, isn't that much. Talk about the awesome transformative potential of technology, and that's kinda awesome.
The new iPods look to be about the size of your thumb, or less.
How awesome? In what ways awesome? That kind of disk plus TV tuners means that TV is no longer "Watch at 10pm or you'll miss it." It's "I'll live my life and get back to that later." It's "They'll watch what they want, so let's release almost everything on DVD". I don't know that we can really get interactive with TV, because one-to-many is easy and known but many-to-one ... isn't.
Asterisk is an open source phone application. I'm so used to phone systems as is that I can't start to imagine the possibilities, but here's a start. VOIP, beyond Vonage and beyond Scype. Rolling your own voice mail and phone tree systems. The possibilities, if perhaps not endless, are certainly significant. All three are indications of the spread of ubiquitous computing, having computers 'under our own control' mediating everything we do and becoming part of the woodwork.
I wrote some [InterMaps] for my Wiki. One for Google Trends, one for CPAN and one for O'Reilly Labs code library, which searches only in the Perl category because it's a Perl community. Just thought you guys would be interested.
That's it. That's it in a line.
In part, it's "I'm not pushing Wiki, I'm using Wiki to push my interest." I'd love for there to be a thriving community around my PM's wiki, but for me, it's more about the Perl than about the Wiki. We had a conversation, us members of the core cabal, discussing the centralized PM wiki concept being floated, and my thought was that we're trying to be a voice for Perl in Purdue, not a voice for Purdue in Perl, so staying in contact with the local computing community and connecting with that is a better idea.
If the only thing that comes from the PM wiki is having an accessable place to plan and announce our meetings without big stress being put on the group webmaster, it's a win. We can hope for the bigger win, we should try for the bigger win, but it is wiki for us to put together a sample agenda. And that is good.
So, after YAPC I got my programming mind back, and between me and a friend, there became mindshare to re-reform our local Perlmongers group. And since I'm pretty much a web kind of guy, I'm the webmaster. We have it [up], it's running OddMuse, which is a fork off the UseMod this wiki uses. It's neat configuring it, but we haven't had our first technical meeting yet, and I'm getting worried about the community aspect of it. I mean, right now, there have only been two users, which are me and that friend. It's not really a community until there's more people, right?
At Purdue, there's ACM, IEEE, IEEE Computer Society, PLUG, and a few other technical groups, all with their own mindshare and technical resources. We're using Computer Society server space for our wiki. There's been an offer to have a wikis.pm.org main with each group having their own space on it. wikis.pm.org/London and wikis.pm.org/Chicago, for example. This has been brought up, but it seems to me that our audience, our potential community, is made up of those groups, and that using that wiki.pm.org idea separates us. So I've been against it.
But also, maybe, I think it's a control issue. I have some control over what happens with the wiki where it is because I have a shell account on that machine.
So, I got thinking about an algorithm for searching for keywords. Key phrases, to be precise. The first step, it seemed to me, was to generate phrases, but nested for loops, one for the starting point and one to go three or four words into the text block. I drop it to lowercase and turn it into an array for ease of use.
So, OK. That's the naive case.
I found a bit on algorithms to do this, and beyond that, they recommend adding some context, which makes sense. The form listed for a keyword follows:
NN is a singular noun, NNS is a plural noun, NNP is a singular proper noun, NNPS a plural proper noun, JJ is an adjective and VGR is a gerund.
At first look, that seemed like a nondeterministic finite-state automata. I took compilers, and somewhere around here I still have a copy of lex and yacc, but that course almost killed me. It was almost two weeks after the ende of the semester that I was able to hold a conversation, and I'm not exagerating here.
At second look, it started to look like a regular expression, but $NN = join "|" , @all_nouns ; is a heavy piece of data to start pushing around. So, I looked again.
At third look, it started to look like recursion. That's better. It seems like an ugly set of ifs, but it could be worse.
Now I just need a good, fast way to determine types of words. And a way to split camel-capped MeatballWiki words into separate words. But that should be easy.
http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/internet/07/25/laundryof.thefuture.ap/index.html?section=cnn_tech (Who knows how long that link will last.)
Washers and dryers that have network-available interfaces. That's BoilerHacking, HomeAutomation, PervasiveComputing or whatever else you have. And it's a potential security hole. Happy Harry Hack-on hacks Ursula the User's washer and runs it continually during the day. What happens? He runs the washer all the time when Ursula is at work, giving her a huge water bill. He puts in a virus, making it send mail to billG@microsoft.com saying "you suck!" a hundred times a minute. Or, all available space in the machine's storage is dedicated to hacker tools or MP3 files. Of the three, I'd say the last is the most likely. I went to the SANS Conference and heard a presentation on hackers, and they mentioned hackers who hacked into CAT scan machines, and what did they do? Store MP3s and warez. The industry is afraid of the random hacker who will find the these are the people with STDs and their names and addresses for easy blackmail by hackers list, but the worry there is people who can compile such lists and know the systems -- employees -- and not random interlopers.
Yes, this brings out the worst aspects of the greater community. Yes, I hardly leave home and I'd still love to have that. Add an auto-loader and it'd be perfect. Yes, this seems like a useful addition of information technology, as opposed to a TV/computer screen on the front of a refrigerator.
Not that I don't want something like that, too.
I saw a book called Everyware that covers this field. Interesting.
So, I had an interview a few weeks ago with the local U. 2 interviews, actually, for two nearly identical positions. Found out there were 6 people up, and I knew one of the people. Big database guy. Old enough to have coded COBOL when it was common. He was more a good fit for the job than I was. But, I'm still unemployed and broke. I had some questions about whether I could work on my SmartAgent project and keep the mindshare while working at Purdue, and that might've messed me up.
And my eldest ...
First, he's 11, he's brilliant and he has Asperger's. So, he's weird and he's smart and he thinks they justify each other, which is kinda how I go through life. So, right now, he's sleeping through the day, awake and watching cartoons all night, and I don't know what to do about it. Also, he decided he didn't like his twin-size bed, so he has a double-sized air mattress. I have patched that air mattress every other night for the last week, and it's fuzzy and comfortable and not really good for patching. So, I'm frustrated with that.
The way I have done RSS feeds, I have a script that formats them into the format I want, then big-batch run that script to look at the headlines I want. I have not been a traditional fan of aggregators, programs which merge the items from multiple RSS feeds. Aggregation might be a solution to one of my problems, which is that hitting a single page over and over again when there's no change seems wasteful and wrong. To solve that problem, and the fact that Firefox only allows AJAX links to the same domain as the page that calls it, I've created an RSS cache program, which takes a new RSS feed, holds onto that one for half an hour, then grabs again (assuming that kind of load). The sidebar now uses that both for news RSS and accessing del.icio.us bookmarks. (Yay, RSS!)
So, this solves the problem of getting new information to the client without doing an undue amount of processing (it's pretty much JIT!), my new problem is pushing out older, rarely-updated feeds. I mean, everyone would rather look at new headlines than older headlines, right? So, I'm thinking of taking the existing program that spits out the include files, HTML files and WML and turning it into a "spy", a program that checks for freshness (comparing an MD5 hash of the feed with the MD5 hash of the last change), and then assigning a number, saying how many cycles it has sat through without change. My idea is that the cycles' length will be based on the fibonacci sequence -- no change, so wait an hour to test again, then another hour, then two hours, then three, then five, then eight, then thirteen, and so on. Six cycles should be 20 hours, so seven cycles, 33 hours, should give you all the new updates in the last day or so. This means you can put in a list of watched feeds that's big, and it'll only show you that which updates. And you can go back and delete feeds that have high fibonacci values. (I credit/blame Mark Jason Dominus and 'Higher Order Perl' for this idea.)
Which brings me to a question: When can I and when should I release this thing? I can say "When it's ready", but it'll never be "ready" as long as there's a knob I can frob. My milestones are:
And, I'm going through [Teach Yourself Scheme in Fixnum Days], trying to pick up Scheme. It's interesting, but it seems that Lisp is an EMACS world and I'm a vi guy all the way, whose first thought is 'Eighty Megs and Constantly Swapping' when seeing that word. I've learned 'mzscheme -r filename.scm', which is good. Makes me wonder how to write a CGI script in Scheme.
I have a functional demo for the framework. That is, I can send the data set (currently URL, Referrer, Last Modified time and Domain ) to a central log with GreaseMonkey? and AJAX, I can munge the data in semi-clever ways in CGI and display them on the sidebar. I'd like to 1) have it run over HTTPS instead of HTTP, and I'd love to have a local, high-number server running the agent, but we'll get there.
I have two minimal agents running: an all-time top-ten domains, and a last-hour top-ten domains. Both are barely in the SmartAgent category, and for both, it's close enough to what the browser can do that I wonder at the usefulness. Then again, the framework is the center of this. Once it's distributable, then it's time to convince cool people to write their own agents and contribute them back to the community.
I'll have to read then reread this to really get to the meat of it, and I have a room to clean, but it strikes me that this is right up this community's alley.
I had a thought. It was watching the AJAX presentation at YAPC::NA. I think it is a cool thought.
Start with Firefox. Firefox has GreaseMonkey?. Firefox works with AJAX. If you had a way (with, for example, GreaseMonkey? and AJAX talking to a server to record all this) to keep a record of all your web browsing, then (with, for example, AJAX and Firefox's sidebars, which I always loved) to report results back, then what could you do with that data?
Anyway, I have some thoughts as to how to do this:
So, that's the idea. At each point, there are hitches. The sidebar involves tabs (which I first implemented in a fairly stupid way, and the current implementation assumes only one set of tabs on a page, wich sucks), a clock, and AJAX calls to update page information, which I originally tried to implement using the clock as an event handler, which broke so often I gave up. I have not been able to get GreaseMonkey? 0.6.4 to work with Firefox 184.108.40.206, and I do know that Firefox limits XSS by allowing AJAX calls only to the domain the page is from, so I'm curious how that'll work with GreaseMonkey?. It might have to be an Extension, which I kinda fear.
Anyway, that's the project. Once I have the first three action points done, I'll be ready to start pimping it. Or, rather, forming a community around it.
I have a program that takes a series of RichSiteSummary links, checks to see if they've changed recently, then takes the content and munges it into a few convenient formats. This runs on a machine run by the Purdue University chapter of the IEEE Computer Society. I think they just upgraded Perl, and now two modules I needed, XML::Parser and MD5, are broke. Foo.
The problem with object-oriented programming is that if someone else breaks the objects you need, you're screwed.
In NealStephenson's book, [CryptonomiconBook Cryptonomicon], he has his hero, Randall Waterhouse, engage in a confrontational conversation with the intellectual who ends up with his wife. (I forget, were they actually married?) Anyway, it ends with Randy leaving academentia and California behind, but it starts with a question:
Randy thinks that this is about the dumbest question that could be asked, and immediately states that it's a metaphor. I understand the origin of the metaphor. Al Gore, Sr. was very important in creating the interstate highway system, and Al Gore, Jr. was trying to build on his family's legacy by invoking the past project of his father and relating it to his work, more or less at a level that the least educated of voters can understand. Yes, it was a metaphor, but metaphors are there to increase understanding via simplification.
And, although it is hard for us to remember this now, slums were bulldozed in the building of the interstate highway system. In most of the places I've lived, the highways went near but not through the population centers, and the population centers grew toward the interstate. Look at [Brookings, South Dakota] or [Worthington, Minnesota] or [Lafayette, Indiana]. But, when they put the highways through large cities, they had to clear the way, and having eminent domain, they did. I recall that the highways through New York were infamous for their graft and that they're largely responsible for turning areas of the Bronx from a low-rent neighborhood to a war zone. I've seen documentaries on this, but I've not read much, so I can't point you. From what I understand, Boston's "Big Dig" is similarly notorious and as of yet unfinished.
Now obviously, installing a large fiber-optic cable is not as invasive as installing a 4+-lane divided and elevated highway, but there's a cost, and it finally hit me, 2 years after reading it the first time. Taxes. There has been an ongoing sales-tax moratorium for the Internet, and sales tax is a means (one of the bigger ones) that states and municipal areas fund their activities, including educating our children. I've seen a lot of schools (being a military brat does that to you) and I've not been particularly impressed by any of the schools or many of the teachers I've been to, from Virginia to St. Louis to Hawaii, so my initial instincts are to say "to heck with them". (The first time I corrected the spelling of a teacher was in third grade.) But, while I may have been particularly precocious, or may be particularly revisionist and delusional on the quality and effectiveness of my education, I realize that it is important to many, and that the lack of quality I saw can only get worse by the removal of funds. (Throwing money at a problem doesn't necessarily make it better, but removing money usually makes it worse.)
I'm a big internet user, but I'm not a big New Economy user (having to do with college-battered credit and relative lack of funds), but I do understand the reasoning for the moratorium. If you want to encourage something, cut taxes on it. If you want to discourage something, tax it some more. But, taxes are used for more than motivation.
Looking at the SmartMobs? discussion on the HowardRheingold page, it strikes me that the distinction isn't but should be on the difference between community and mob, not the addition of "online" or "smart" to either one. A community is. A mob does. That's the key thing here. The Japanese schoolgirls who SMS each other are a community, not a mob, because the end of the interaction is the interaction. The electronic organization of anti-globalization riots is a mob because the electronics was a means to an end.
I'm reminded of a net.invasion I heard of a decade ago. There was a usenet group, alt.something.stupid or something, that decided to move over to rec.pets.cats or some other pet-associated newsgroup and begin to disrupt. rec.pets.cats is an OnlineCommunity, a group of people with an affinity for one thing. alt.something.stupid was first an OnlineCommunity, but became a SmartMob as they began to organize attacks on other list. The disruptive attacks on other lists was the collective action that moved it over.
Of course, this isn't quite boolean, as participating in a SmartMob can be part of participating in a community (Is the Linux community an OnlineCommunity of people creating and researching alternatives to Microsoft and other proprietary software, or a SmartMob of people whose purpose is to spread Linux and OpenSourceSoftware?, to the exclusion of proprietary software? Both, and more.)
Perhaps this should go in OnlineCommunitiesVsSmartMobs?
In plumbing news, I was able to get a couple of friends over to my house on Saturday to dig to the door to the septic tank. Then, the man with the honey wagon came by and drained it, coming Saturday rather than Monday because of the chance of rain. We flushed a few times, which leads me to believe that the problems are tentatively solved. I got the dirt, or most of it, anyway, back in the hole before the storm hit, which is good.
I rounded them up via email, although it took some convincing over lunch. Did I organize a SmartMob to move dirt in my backyard?
Anyway, I'm happy.
More fun with plumbing: This morning, when I was taking a shower in the guest shower (which I was doing because we're afraid that, between going pipes and 75% blockage from the main bedroom, we're afraid to use the main plumbing), and while I was showering, the drain stopped draining. I got the plunger and I found no more draining and sewage backing up. So there's difficulty in the new side of the house, too. And, we have enough of a bill that they won't do anything until we start coughing up money, which is only fair. Thing is, coughing up money is the only way we'll be able to magic it up, seeing that everything's already allocated otherwise. I've asked my geek friends to show up with shovels, this Saturday, 2002/11/09, and if any of you will be in the Lafayette, Indiana area Saturday, I'll put you to work. Of course I'll be shocked if anyone does come from Meatball, but stranger things have happened.
Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day.
(Irony is such an addictive device. I'm going to have to go cold turkey one of these days. But all things told, the paranthetical is much worse in my writing.)
These are in no particular order:
Just when you think it's safe to go back to bed
OK. I got a DVD-ROM (A Benq, which I think is an Acer sub-brand) to go into my JargonFile:Wintendo, taking out my 4X CD-RW to go into my wife's PC (leaving the 12X in my Sacrificial Box, because I'm greedy, I suppose), and I was finishing up the installation and testing of drive (watching IMDB:Boiler+Room, a fantastic movie) when my wife comes in to tell me that we have more of the toilet gurgling. I go into the bathroom off the master bedroom to find myself standing in water. The low-point in my house's plumbing is the master bedroom shower, and that was overflowing. So, I unplug the water softener and call a plumber, who removes the hall bathroom toilet and snakes out the line, which takes care of the problem. Of course, that's 2 days since the last time this has been done. The plumber suggests that we get 'em to take a camera to our pipes and try to figure out the problem. So, we're going to do that.
We've been meaning to sell our house. I now want out so bad.
Yesterday, at the [Purdue Perl Mongers meeting], Mark Senn talked about multi-threaded perl. I have a program, my RSS aggregator which I cleaned up an astounding amount for my own recent PM talk, that I want to make threaded. You take 250 RSS feeds and try to grab and parse each of them, and that CAN take some time. I'm going to rewrite [rss_parser.pl] (already rewritten from [my_crontab.pl]) and call it [rsstp.pl] for RSS Threaded Parser. I'm going to have to look into different output types, too. I already have a few nice ones, including MozillaSidebar.
I'm going to have to work on an aggregator for PocketPC that works through proxy servers and the like. I've seen some, but since the only place I really have WirelessEthernet access is at work, where there is a proxy, password-enabled proxy code is what I need.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
A year ago, the night before the Fourth of July, the plumbing between the house and the septic tank got clogged, and the water softener flushed itself of all the hardness it had picked up over the day, causing the toilets to overflow to the point I had to get my bedroom carpet replaced. Last night, at 2 am. It started behaving similarly badly. At one point, what it spit out was blood red. Actually, more of a purplish red, but that's hindsight. At the time, I began to remember an Eddie Murphy joke about haunted houses.
Evidently, part of the problem is that, at the lowest point in the plumbing, they used to put a T-joint. Because it goes to a T, plumbers can't snake it from above, so they'll likely have to dig up my backyard to get to the septic tank and snake it from there. They don't put T-joints in anymore because nobody in their right mind is going to open up a T-joint at the lowest point in the house.
I turned off the water and unplugged the softener, so there's no water in the house, so for the first time in years, I've come to work unshowered.
We had been considering a new house, one that had a saner layout than our retrofitted early 50s ranch-style. And after last night, I'm much more willing to get out. I want city water that is soft enough to not turn the shower brown, and I want city sewage so I don't have sewage problems running back to my bedroom. The other issues I have (smaller yard, attached- or unattached-and-nearer-garage with door opener, networking or the capability of networking) now take the back burner.
Yesterday was my best friend's wedding, and I was the tallest (not least significant, I insist, so that's why I was last in line) of the groomsmen. It was a good day. He's now off to Florida, going to a cruise. I'm here with a cat on my lap. It's been a good few days.
Congrats, ScottMoonen, on your coming child.
My youngest is able to sit up by himself, stand, pull himself up to standing, crawl, and, if holding on to something, walk. He also has the best smile.
Most of my wool-gathering thoughts have been written down at my  but there have been some subject that I mentioned that might be doable here
I'll try to get around to adding something to these.
OK, a quick overview - I have a new [son]. That is the most significant thing that's happened to me recently. He was a huge child, as is expected for the children of mothers with gestational diabetes. He's also beautiful. Now, I have 4 reasons not to go back to grad school. But a guy who presented on ExtremeProgramming for my LinuxUserGroup last night also presented on how and why to go to grad school, which lead me to start thinking about taking the Long March method. That is, one class per semester. Ick. It'll take years to get those thoughts out of my head again.
I'm borrowing a Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard from a friend. I'm pretty unsure about going Dvorak, but it seems like a fun challenge. It takes be back to my days as a high school freshman in typing class. Back then, I couldn't touch type and I wished I had glass hands so I could see the keys.
Mozilla crashed on me while I was writing this earlier.
I'm curious to the difference, if any, between UbiquitousComputing? and PervasiveComputing. [ubiquitous] [pervasive] Omnipresent vs. spread throughout. I think this is pretty much the difference between XeroxPARC and IBM's way of looking at it, but in any real, functional sense.
That reminds me of a PervasiveComputing XeroxPARC question and potential answer. I know the people at PARC wear namebadges with microchips so that PARC and the computers of PARC always know where that person is, so that (amongst other things) if a phone call comes in for Alice, the phone nearest Alice gets the ring. My question is, if Alice and Bob are in a meeting (discussing crypto) and the phone rings for Alice, how do we know that the phone is ringing for Alice and not for Bob? There's two ways that I can imagine it being done, one being more hackish than the other. The first is pretty much the way it is now: "Alice, phone for you." This wipes out any conversation-avoidance schemes right off the bat. The next answer is RingTones. If Alice's phone always rang the William Tell Overture and Bob's phone wrang Manzanita, then we know who is being called for. This also kills the tight binding between phone number (inbound I'm always 555-3456, but outbound I'm 555-(0000..9999), depending on where I am. Of course, only once did I have CallerID? at work, and that mostly said "Call From Home". But there is normally a one-to-one or one-to-few association with phone numbers. I've found CallerID? to be a very useful InformationAppliance?.
Someone from my LUG gave me an itch. OK, you have regularly changing weather information about your area from weather.com, which you should be able to grab via LWP (either directly are parsing for the URL), convert into a background-size image and set as your background image, on GNOME by this example. I know how to LWP an image and a site, I can figure out PerlMagick? enough to make that work, and the use of sleep is easy enough to control how often this happens, and I'm sure I can grok enough GNOME to make a panel for this to sit, but I'm not sure I know how to update the background outside of the control panel. Ah, well, I'm sure I could figure it out.
One more thing: a user went from being Ms. Joan Dadsname to Mrs. Joan Beausname recently, and this of course necessitates switching the login on the VMS system from dadsnamej to beausnamej. I could do this in 3 minutes, minus the reboot, under Linux. (Longer if we use LDAP for authentication or something.) But this is VMS, and we all know my opinion of the operating system I admin (VMSMustDie?), so I went to where I always go for VMS admin information - hacker sites. Nothing out there beats hacker sites for information, because if it wasn't for hacker sites, the only web pages mentioning VMS System Administration would be resumes. A dying OS on a dead processor from a bought-out company. Joy. Anyway, it turns out that my fave hacker site just got on my company's firewall, banned as "Criminal Information." My workplace considers it illegal for me to know how to do my job. My, that takes Dilbert to another level, going where even  fears to tread. But that's OK, as there's Sturgeon's Law (90% of everything is crap), the Internet Correlary(90% of the web is graphics, but 90% of what is useful on the internet is text), and Google's Promise (we index and cache as much of the internet as we can), we can always find the Google cache of the hacker site, even when we can't get there directly. Dang, it feels good to be a gangster.
I don't want to, but....
I wrote a commentary/response/whatever to a recent JakobNielsen interview from the Register, and I put it on my [website]. It is essentially an email fan in the classic, pre-1993 sense of email considering the problems of post-1993 email. There has to be a way, for example, for me to distribute a big file to Sunir so that when Sunir sits down at his computer and sees that I have a big file for him, that he doesn't have to wait 20 minutes to download it.
My problem is that nobody responds to my weblog. People respond to my OnlineDiary. So I put it in the wrong place. So, I didn't want to put a link to it, but I don't know that it's better to do that or to put it into my diary, or create a new page for it?
(I have never sent a big file to Sunir, just so you know.)
I Love upgrades!
OK, so I was watching TV with my wife last night. Scrubs was on, filling space between Will and Grace and ER. Intern gets resident mad at him, so he goes after work to resident's residence with a six-pack of beer and tries to mend relationship. I said to my wife "Resident takes beer and slams door in his face." Resident proceeds to slam door in intern's face, checks leg for damage (intern's foot was in the door), then proceeds to embarrass him before throwing him out, insulting the quality of the beer, then takes it anyway and slams the door in his face. So, sitcoms are predictable. Big News There.
I spent time on my [Includes page], building a parser and Rich Site Summarizer for [CryptoMe], [Linux Documentation Project] and [Red Hat's] Errata pages for 6.2, 7.0 and 7.1. I put together [page] that describes the use of my sidebars. I also changed the stylesheet to something more somber.
There are arguments for centralization that may not be compelling in a defensive sense but certainly are in an interpersonal sense. For example, I play guitar (electric, acoustic and lap steel) and would like to get involved in a regular jam situation playing the kind of music I'm finding compelling right now (string band, jug band, new orleans jazz, gypsy jazz, bluegrass, klezmer, acoustic blues) but I don't know any musicians interested in that sort of music around here, nor venues available for that sort of music around here. Musicians go to New York and Nashville and Los Angeles in order to find musicians of like mind there, and to be close to producers who don't want to be out beating the bushes in Galax and Deep Gap to find someone to record. With an urban area, if I decide I don't like working where I work, I can find another job doing what I want to do within that urban area, most likely. Where I went to college the first time, a small city in South Dakota, does not have a musical instrument store and barely had a record store or a book store, and I lived by special order. I currently live in a medium-sized city (~100,000) that has 2 small instrument stores, a few good bookstores and 3 decent record stores, plus Best Buy. I can usually find something by browsing, but sometimes, when I want something willfully obscure (like old bluegrass, my current big thing), I have to order. In larger communities, there are record stores that stock primarily one genre or another, finding willfully obscure records so that those who want it there can find it easily. (I believe I've about driven this point into the ground.)
I've seen it argued (probably in some old issue of the Atlantic, but I wouldn't know where to start looking it up) that big city life is economically beneficial, meaning that those employees who have to walk past teeming throngs of humanity to work, experiencing the variety of human experience directly, are more able to "think outside the box" and are more tolerant of changing environments. I'm not sure I buy it, but it is something to think about.
Centralization, militarily speaking, has been discredited since the Maginot Line fell to Blitzkrieg. But I believe that point is made.
Centralization is also simple. Wanna go into the straight country music business? Nashville. Alt-country? Austin, Texas. Heavy Metal? Sunset Strip, Los Angeles. Wanna be a working programmer? Silicon Valley. Stock Broker? Wall Street. You won't have to explain to people around you what you do for a living. You'll be able to switch from job to job without having to sell your house and move everything you own. And the job market would be wide enough that, should nobody want my widgets anymore, the town won't die. (Compare the coal mining communities of Appalachia. There were places where there were towns, mines, and railroad tracks 150 years ago that could be mistaken for untouched wilderness now, because the only reason a town was there was for the coal.)
Unless I think of something more to inspire me, I'll stop here: Napster was decentralized for sharing but centralized for indexing. It was fast and authoritative. Gnutella is totally decentralized for defense, and it much less efficient as a result.
I found something: Broadcast is centralized. If many people want to see the same thing, you can broadcast it and everyone sees the same thing. A webcam streaming video of the same thing would get bogged down quickly. This is a problem we can throw technology at to fix, to some point, but it is a fundamental difference in the model.
And without Centralization, we're not Americans. We're Hoosiers and Texans, or New Yorkers and Los Angelinos. They enforced centralization in Yugoslavia and ended up with genocide. In America, the centralization is more core, and we couldn't see any state besides Texas breaking off without a strong reason.
A couple of different thoughts:
The name "Wall Street" comes from the fact that, in the early settlement of New York, they built a wall across the island there as a protection from the Indians. Most european cities were originally built with city defense in mind, starting with walled towns and cities in the Middle Ages. The wide avenues of Paris are there by design, so rioters cannot easily block off the streets. Except for the interstate highway system, the United States tends not to design cities in terms of defense, and those that did outgrew those defensive design points. If we're designing for late 20th Century America, the mental state is "We're a superpower. We have the bomb. The only thing we have to fear is a nuclear weapon, and one of those would take out everything on Manhattan Island anyway. So, we don't even make it part of the plan." The problems with thinking started to come to light in the 1980s, with the discovery of a car bomb. There is a parking lot underneath the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum that hasn't been used for non-employees since the mid-1980s because of the fear of car-bombs, a fear that became realized in both Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center during the 1990s. The problem with New York City is that it already built. There are zoning issues about New York that would mean it wouldn't be built like it is now. (Tight integration of residential and commercial and unsufficient parking being two major issues, and actually ones of great contention amongst many.)
The one true way to defend against this sort of sensational terrorist attack is the same one used in the design of the internet: decentralization. The fact that there are tens of thousands of people in a pair of large towers, making escape or rescue very difficult, at one end of an island that contains the headquarters of most of America's media centers, and is a prime center for much of the world's media, made it a nearly unavoidable target. But, if all those people, all those business, were in a number of locations instead of just one, it wouldn't be a single point of failure. The Pentagon was hurt less and was much less impressive because it was built in 1940 and not 1970. The big invention between those was the air conditioner, and because of that and the construction constraints on the District of Columbia (nothing taller than the Capital, I think), made it easier to leave in case of emergency than the WTC.
[Bob Novak] notes that this wasn't a Pearl Harbor because no target of substantial military worth was destroyed, and thus we are still able to use our military might, I say that it wasn't Pearl Harbor because, while we are pretty much unified as a country, there isn't a clear next step. In 1941, the next step was to defeat the militaries of Germany, Italy and Japan. How do we do this? Make weapons, get soldiers, get scientists and engineers to design better weapons, and proceed to take the battle to them, island by island, hedgerow by hedgerow. Now, is our battle is with terrorists. This is the same kind of battle as England had with Ireland in the early part of this century. This is the same kind of battle as France and the US had in Vietnam. This is the same kind of battle as the Soviet Union had with Afghanistan. This is the same kind of battle as Israel has been having for 35 years with the Palestinians. How do you tell the combatants from the non-combatants? George Bush Sr called for no more Vietnams in the Gulf War, and I have problems seeing this as anything but.
In film footage from Afghanistan, they showed where one of the cruise missiles landed, with the Afghanis talking about children being killed and calling those who sent it "cowards" and talking about retribution. I don't agree, so much, but can understand, and from the moment I heard about the hit, I thought that we shouldn't have push-buttoned it. As Mr. Burns of the Simpsons once said, "I prefer the hands-on touch you only get with hired goons." We send in a cadre of crazy Navy SEALs and they'll do the job. Post-WWII, the DoD? split the Air Force from the Army and underfunded the Army, thinking that from now on, we just needed a few people in NBC suits to plant the flag in the irradiated rubble after nuking the target to the stone age. Korea proved us wrong, and that sort of thinking got us sending missiles where we should've sent soldiers. The question becomes, "How do we do this without creating another generation of terrorists right after?" Look at WWI and WWII. Germany between the wars was a breeding ground for people like Adolf Hitler. Germany after the war, while expecting to be battleground for the next great land war, became an economic powerhouse through the Marshall Plan. The same with Japan. Now those countries are amongst our greatest allies. This has to be the step after next, or else nothing will change. Of course, knowing the step after next does little to tell us the next step. I've heard calls for disproportial response, and while I emotionally feel that, I think that makes us like them.
Someone made an interesting point about middle names. I, personally don't use mine. I use the nickname "Dave" rather than the full name "David". But to businesses and the like, it's "First M. Jacoby", whether I like it or not.
I spent a week in Baltimore quite some time ago and that cut me off from my wiki addiction, so I haven't added to this in some time.
I've had a frustrating time with my VMS system lately. I've received some training, but only on the application we run on the thing, not on VMS itself. I've been looking for documentation on how to do general system administration and userish stuff, and I couldn't find it. I found a disk in the VMS package, but it isn't ISO9660, so I can't read it on any machine but the VMS, and among the first things I'd do if I had documentation is learn how to mount a CDROM under VMS. So, it's one of those Catch-220 things. Finally, I asked friends for help, and they came up with hacker-taken documentation. (He searched Google. I search Google, I get nothing. He searches Google, he gets gold. Argh.) Anyway, I find out all sorts of stuff that I wish I had known 6 months ago. The amount of hiding they do to protect a dying operation system on a dead architecture from people seeking useful information makes me sick. The vendor of the application we use on the thing is going NT in about a year, and I want to have a Linux install disk for Alpha architecture if only to wipe those 4 disks on it and overwrite them with 1s and 0s a few times. VMSMustDie?, and it is. Compaq is killing it in favor of WindowsNT. I'm not too fond of the replacement, and I've heard wonderful things about the ability of the Alpha to crunch numbers, I hate VMS enough and have heard enough bad things about TRU64 that I'd only put Linux on an Alpha, anyway.
Still in Baltimore. Really, except for one thing, everything I wanted to see or do has been done. What's left? Tom Christiansen's Advanced Topics in Perl Programming. That's on Sunday. All day Sunday. So I fly back home on Monday.
I learned about multiple redundancy this week. Y'see, I lost a credit card, and since I am here on company time and money, I was going to put everything on the card as to not deprive the wife and kids of anything while I was gone. And I lost the thing. It made me unhappy with the banking company, but I am happy with Visa. (I'm willing to slander the company, but not libel them, so you'd have to talk to me about what problems I had.) Anyway, I had no second card, so instead of "send the replacement home, I'll catch up with it", it was hours on the phone, trying to work everything out, and I'll be waiting for FedEx? to bring it tomorrow. Ick.
I have the company's laptop, an IBM ThinkPad? with the big red eraser in the middle of the keyboard. I am not liking this. The characters on each side, G and H, are VERY common characters, and quite often I bump the eraser when I'm typing. It'd be worse if I was using focus-follows-mouse, but still I'm unhappy.
Already there's problems with my interests for network security and my employers. I tend to believe that we should have programs in place such that I should be able to have my part of our network routed through l0pht and you have yours routed through 2600.com with no worry about anyone seeing our network traffic. Or at least our important network traffic. My employer believes in static defense, in the form of a firewall. Once you have airborne attacks, they can fly over your static defense and hit targets beinds you. We are developing a wireless ethernet aspect to our network, and all to much of our internal network is in the clear, leaving few defenses against marauding war-drivers. And as I work in the medical community, we have, and will have more, regulations ensuring that we do everything securely. Immediately I think RSA Blowfish SSL "Encrypt it all!", but I don't think I'll be able to convince anyone. London will be burning, and unfortunately, I don't live by the river.
6:35 PM Baltimore Time, 5:35 Indiana and Meatball Time 01/05/13
I am in Baltimore, running on credit, attending [SANS]. I get to learn how to be a big security geek. Yay. I'll be trying to write more this week.
After a while of waiting for data, I got tired and called Verizon to figure out what was going on. I went home and reconnected my hardware router and got internet from the same setup I had before. So I used it. On Monday, I tried to get my morning comics, and it wouldn't work. Also, CDDB wouldn't come up. So, I switched my hardware router to DHCP, got an address and my comics and CDDB worked fine. So, I am now a Verizon internet customer. And there is much rejoicing.
I used to have credit. As a young student, they give me bait, a hook, and about $2000 worth of line, and when they set the hook, it set good. That was many years ago, and wisely, they haven't given me credit since then. I have since gone through another degree and have become a hardworking computer professional, with a house and a car and a yard. And I now have credit again. And I've been looking at all the sites I used to go, such as ThinkGeek and Amazon, and before I knew it was look but no touch. Not much has changed, as student loan debt, for both my wife the Ph.D and myself, takes up most of my paycheck, but I still feel tempted.
A friend told my wife that I don't need any more hardware. She believes him. Hrmmph.
We're looking into some technology for work, to get our IS dept up to HIPAA standards. It's from Secure Computing and it's called Safeword. Doesn't that sound like your network is participating in kinky sex? Broadwing having Dennis Hopper saying "It's not our network, it's our lovechild" is creepier. Dictionary:lovechild
Stop me. Really. Here at work, we are a Microsoft-lead bunch. And thus we run NT 4 and IIS on our webservers. I received a request for a web page that would best work with something Slash-like or Scoop-like, so I immediately thought of either that or a wiki. So I looked for a Wiki in Visual Basic. I found one, but the guy was asking for $300 to install a wiki on his server. Ick. So, here I am, considering writing a Wiki for VBScript on IIS. Stop me. I need help.
For the longest time (approaching a year, if not greater than a year), I have been trying to get a BeOS machine working, but the sacrificial machine (the first one I go to when playing with a new OS, which has had FreeBSD, Windows 98, NT Workstation and Server, 2000, and many distributions of Linux) has never taken a NIC under BeOS. It has otherwise worked, but I'm sure everyone here will understand that computers are not so useful if they don't have networking. So I've always given up fairly quickly and installed something else on it.
For the last year and a half, I've had a Compaq machine that I had been using as a Linux router. I recently got a hardware router, and after I took all the stuff off of it that might have been of some value to me, I put Be on it. Well, I tried, but I thought it hated the video card in the Compaq box. It turns out that it merely hated the monitor. So, now I have a BeOS machine. I now just need another hub. And DSL.
These are the best of times. These are the worst of times. I've escaped from academentia, but I'm still paying for it. And I'm paying for my wife's, too. She spent 17 years going from bachelor to Ph.D., and that bill is huge!
However, I'm in an active LinuxUserGroup, and I've more-or-less convinced them that a Wiki is the way to go for user documentation. An interesting data point: we get about 10-30 people coming to meetings. Our mailing list runs around 300. PLUG is truly more of an online community (focused around that mailing list) than a physical one, although it is as much based on physical criteria (past or present Purdue afiliation) as interest criteria (linux users). We just had our (physical community) elections, and we're primed to go for the next year.
Actually, it is a mailing list/newsgroup, with a bridge connecting the two. The newsgroup is purdue-only. I might have to think about combining a web interface. I hear DonMarti? did that with the Linux Elitists mailing list. (It is funny to think about self-defined elitists using a web interface, but anyway....)
I'm sort of iffy on the subejct of OnlineDiary in a wiki. For myself, there are itches I've scratched here that might have been better scratched by making more WikiNames. Of course, I don't think we need JonKatzIsWrongAboutHisDefinitionOfCensorship. I could (should) create ExamplesOfOnlineCommunities? with the story of the two listserv lists.
What a good morning welcome.
I went to my home office to put on my shoes and get ready for work, and I switched CDs in my main machine to proceed with my MP3 Rip-and-Burn program. (Right now I have more than 8 gigs of MP3s waiting for me to burn to CD-R.) I noticed that it wasn't grabbing CDDB, so I started sshing to my mail machine. No answer. So I tried pinging out. I couldn't ping out.
So I called a friend who is also on the network. He could ping everything but me. So, I went to work, then called my DSL provider. They said my contract got dropped. I thought I'd try the service part of the DSL provider's service, and it seems they're oversold and cannot accept more users. So, it seems I am a JargonFile:PersonOfNoAccount. Seeing I have been on for months after I left my place of work, I perhaps have been JargonFile:disusered.
So, I seek a new ISP. Since I have DSL, I don't want to go cable modem, but I can, I suppose. I don't want want to go dialup ever again. Death before dialup.
Since I can't get to the code without a connection, this means that no improvements on the UnifiedRecentChanges page will happen. Aww.
I told a friend about UnifiedRecentChanges, and how I was working on it. He said "Isn't that what you always do?" He meant take data and put it into another form. I at first took it as starting projects and leaving them lie, waiting for me to spend time on them. Nothing quite like being defensive.
A Few Thoughts on OnlineCommunity
I started out with this kind of stuff in the late 1980s, in the golden age of JargonFile:BITNET. (Don't know what BITNET is? Good. The time has passed.) There were two mailing lists hosted by a (likely VMS) machine in American University called Allmusic and Politics. Those were the first two electronic communities I participated in. There were similar aspects on those lists, and differences. The biggest difference is that of conflict. A big Dylan fan can accept a big Prog fan, and even have decent conversations with them, but getting a hardcore conservative and a hardcore liberal on the same list tends to generate a lot of heat. When that becomes 20 liberals to one conservative, well, one side starts winning the arguments, no matter the quality of argument. The interdiscussion is also far more insufferable than a gathering of Crafty Guitarists, so that community, to my mind, became hostile to both new visitors and longtime members alike.
The other one still exists, although the long-time members have fled it. They have created an invisible list (if I gave you the details, I'd find a severed guitar neck in my bed), which is by invitation only. This ensures a very high SignalToNoiseRatio, but a very small trickle of participation. Most people know most of the musical interests of the other members, so something interesting outside must generate conversation inside. (The recent Jazz documentary served that purpose, with most of the list agreeing that Wynton Marsalis is a pompous jerk and the parts of jazz they really enjoyed were not covered.)
I don't know what lessons, if any, can be learned from those two. I understand the reasons that the Allmusic membership moved into a GatedCommunity, and I agree with them. It works for us. There were attacks on community proceeding, varying from people employed by music companies saying "Have you heard of $band? They're really good." to thinly-veiled requests for someone to do their homework, to "learn the internet" classes that said "Go to a mailing list and start a thread". (That last one has earned a point in my crosshairs for Maricopa Community College, even though the last bit I received from them was over 7 years ago.) Can community survive large-scale assault?
A more interesting community is that of my LinuxUserGroup. We have meetings every week, when we can find people to talk. But it is simultaneously that and an online community containing former students now working in Boston, Arizona and the Bay Area. Due to a lack of space and interconnections of mutual interest, the lines separating the local chapters of ACM and IEEE Computer Society are quite fuzzy. I've told them to put up a wiki to do Purdue-specific networking support, but nothing has happened on that front yet.
After months of intending, I've gotten started on the UnifiedRecentChanges page I've been planning on. We're talking very 0.0.0001 code, but it is a start. I intend to use RichSiteSummary, but right now I just parse HTML. Look for an active link here soon.
And of course it's in Perl. I intend/hope to have implementations in Python and Ruby, to teach me those languages, but right now, it's Perl.
Addendum: It is in place. Limited, buggy and small, but working. http://csociety.ecn.purdue.edu/~jacoby/UnifiedRecentChanges/
Yesterday I went to a meeting of [PLUG], my LinuxUserGroup. It was IBM talking about how cool they are and how they're working to put Linux on their big iron. They gave us pizza and they picked up résumés. The same old way for student technical organizations. (When I was a journalism student, I was part of SPJ and the campus Democrats, and neither the state party nor any newspaper ever bought me pizza. I got steak and beer once, but I had to work for it.)
Anyway, after the meeting, a couple of people and I started talking about networking. This guy started talking about how web development as static pages is boring and that we should use it as an abstractable data layer under another level of software development. He said this to my friend Alex, who is working on a particularly crack-influenced idea for using a browser as a window manager (http://www.netwindows.org/) and to me, who uses HTTP as a way to get the information I want in a position I want. I told him to get TimBernersLee's WeavingTheWeb and read the second half. I didn't get into XmlRpc and SOAP and Scripting News and Radio Userland and all that. Perhaps I should've.
As promised, more rants about ideas than about everyday life.
Jon Katz on the P2PJ list  seems to call every effort of information filtering censorship. Here's a quote from email:
Now we can look at a dictionary definition of censorship (Dictionary:censorship), and unfortunately we find a number of self-referential definitions. ("Censorship: the act of censoring." Gee. Thanks.) Traditionally it has been used for government control over information flow. Adrian Cronauer in IMDB:Good+Morning+Vietnam being unable to report acts of terrorism in wartime Saigon is censorship. The Soviet Union refusing to distribute the works of dissidents is censorship. But my decision to not read Salon anymore, whether the reason is that I no longer find anything there more worthy of my time than spending time in Knuth or with my kids, or that I've decided to stick with print media, or whatever reason I chose, is not censoring them, as any one of the rest of the world who has access to a web browser can just go and type http://www.salon.com/ and see it.
His central point in all that is that the loss of central media can lead to cultural balkanization. There is some evidence of that. There is nothing in American media in the last 20 years that remotely the ubiquity approaches Life magazine in the 30s-50s and Walter Cronkite in the 60s and 70s. Nothing. But the decision to tone out central media (the editorial control of which is far closer to censorship than anything Jon Katz mentions) cannot be called censorship without vast Orweillian damage being done to the English Language.
More iPaq news. I've found ftp and telnet for the iPaq. Of course they would be there. They are the basic tools of networking. That and finger and ping, which I already had. So, all the tools are available in the palm of my hand. I just ftp'd the techno version of RichardStallman's Free Software Song onto it. Quite ironic, since it is a Compaq iPaq running PocketPC with networking tools from Cambridge Computer Corporation, connecting to an NT machine running the FTP server of PWS. Nothing free in the bunch, except the protocol.
Which reminds me; my HandspringVisor? is down. It just flaked on me. The screen started being zebra-striped. Remind me to call tech support and see what can be done.
I found a book called CommunityBuildingOnTheWeb by AmyJoKim?. I had to grab it. It sounded like a natural for MeatballWiki. I'm guessing that wiki'd be a bit minimalist for her, but that's the joy, methinks.
I've done the OnlineDiary thing before (http://shay.ecn.purdue.edu/~jacoby/Diary/ http://shay.ecn.purdue.edu/~jacoby/Portal/ http://csociety.ecn.purdue.edu/~jacoby/Portal/ http://advogato.org/person/titivillus/) and I've noticed that I'm much more interested in playing with this than actually committing to it, and much more interested in ideas than my life. So expect to see long rants on concepts, but few "My life is great!" or "My life sucks!" bits here.