March 29, 2006
[fun] Quiz: Programming Language Inventor or Serial Killer? — I got 7/10.
March 22, 2006
[firefox] Firefox ‘Causes’ Relationship Breakup‘She installed Firefox for herself, and happened to need to edit the list of sites to never save passwords for. She quickly realized that he had been visiting dating sites in secret, and was also able to determine that he was still an active member of some of the sites. As one might expect, this led to a breakup. Should the Firefox uninstaller offer to delete profile data…?’
March 7, 2006
[web] Top 11 Worst Firefox Extensions‘6. SoundOfCher – Embeds an annoying Cher midi file on every page you visit. Up to 60 different tunes!’
February 28, 2006
[ww2] Distributed computing cracks Enigma code — wartime German code cracked after 60 years … ‘Forced to submerge during attack. Depth charges. […] I am following the enemy.’ [via Metafilter]
February 10, 2006
[mobile] Mobile Phone Tracking: FollowUs … probably the service used in the Guardian article on Stalking your Girlfriend. [Update: Sasha tried it out.]
February 4, 2006
[mobiles] How I Stalked My Girlfriend‘For the past week I’ve been tracking my girlfriend through her mobile phone. I can see exactly where she is, at any time of day or night, within 150 yards, as long as her phone is on. It has been very interesting to find out about her day. Now I’m going to tell you how I did it. First, though, I ought to point out, that my girlfriend is a journalist, that I had her permission (“in principle …”) and that this was all in the name of science…’
January 29, 2006
[comics] The Story Behind the Microsoft Font Comic Sans — It’s all Frank Miller and John Constanza’s fault: ‘I started with the font drawing software Macromedia Fontographer, trying to make the capitals in a similar form as the lettering used in DC, Marvel and all other company’s comic books. The Dark Knight Returns a Batman book was one of the books I referenced often.’
January 24, 2006
[environment] TV’s ‘sleep’ button stands accused — BBC News on TV’s power-wasting standby mode … ‘A survey by the Energy Saving Trust found that the average household has up to 12 gadgets left on standby or charging at any one time. It also showed that more than £740m of electricity was wasted by things being left ticking over.’
November 28, 2005
[microsoft] Use Excel? A couple of good blogs from Experts: Daily Dose of Excel and Andrew’s Excel Tips.
November 1, 2005
[apple] Steve Jobs Quotes — On Bill Gates: ‘I wish him the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.’
September 27, 2005
[tech] Mini-Microsoft — anonymous Microsoft insiders blog … ‘Let’s slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine!’
September 25, 2005
[tech] What to do when a PC goes Wrong — nice consumer guide from Technovia‘If the goods are over £100, always, always buy on credit card (NOT a debit card). This gives you additional rights, as the credit card company becomes equally responsible for faulty goods.’
September 23, 2005
[photo] Digital Camera Turns 30? Sort Of — MSNBC on the development of the Digital Camera … ‘[Steven] Sasson, now 55, never imagined as a relatively new Kodak hire in 1975 all the dazzling ingredients that have, in just a few years, put digital cameras in 50 percent of American households: fiber optics, the Internet, personal computers, home printers. His invention began with a 30-second conversation…’ [via Waxy’s Links]
August 18, 2005
[wifi] 10 Tips for improving your Wireless Network — from Microsoft but applicable to any Wifi Network … ‘If Microsoft Windows XP ever notifies you about a weak signal, it probably means your connection isn’t as fast or as reliable as it could be. Worse, you might lose your connection entirely in some parts of your home. If you’re looking to improve the signal for your wireless network, try some of these tips’
May 20, 2005
[tech] Warren Ellis: Are the Technocrats Geniuses or Frauds?‘They have been hailed as both…’
May 17, 2005
[tech] You can’t escape those AOL CDs‘One of the questions AOL tech support asks when people call in complaining that they can’t get their AOL CD to work is, “Do you have a computer?” because so many people who don’t have computers stick the CD into their stereo or DVD player and can’t get it to work.’
May 5, 2005
[voip] Guardian Online on Skype — nice overview on using SkypeIn‘That SkypeIn should be so attractive shows that there is life in the public numbering system yet. For about £20 a year, a SkypeIn number connects me to the largest network in the world: the public-switched telephony network. (Before the launch of SkypeIn, Skype users could only receive calls from people who also used Skype.) SkypeIn also takes advantage of a geeky part of telecoms: regulation. Fixed line numbers are very cheap to call in the UK (and in many countries) because of the efforts of regulators in keeping costs down. So calling my SkypeIn number always costs the same as dialling London, regardless of where I am.’
April 14, 2005
[web] Domesday 1986 — the BBC’s project to mark the 900th aniversary of the original Domesday Book now online. ‘…the BBC published its Domesday Project on a pair of twelve inch laser discs with a laserdisc player and microcomputer.’ [via Yoz]
March 28, 2005
[unix] All The Quickies — long list of useful UNIX tips. [via delicious/unix]
March 22, 2005
[unix] Learn UNIX in 10 Minutes — very useful Unix cheat-sheet.
March 9, 2005
[windows] How secure is your computer?‘Windows Service Pack 1, or SP 1, however, was another story. It’s an older version of Windows that was sold in computer stores until a few months ago. SP 1 was attacked 4,857 times. It was infested within 18 minutes by the Blaster and Sasser worms. Within an hour it became a “bot,” or a machine controlled by a remote computer, and began attacking other Windows computers.’
February 28, 2005
[tivo] Rumors Apple Acquiring TiVo — interesting report from PVRblog‘So what would an iTiVo look like? White plastic all around? Complaints about there only being one TiVo button on the remote?’
February 24, 2005
[search] Keeper Finders — Paul Boutin compares five desktop search programs … ‘You probably won’t find all the Steely Dan songs in your iTunes library or every PDF with the phrase “owner’s manual” using the Windows search. If you use the right desktop search application, it’s a snap.’
January 18, 2005
[support] Blow the Dust out of the Connector — some useful advice for people who do Tech Support from Raymond Chen. ‘…Say “Okay, sometimes the connection gets a little dusty and the connection gets weak. Could you unplug the connector, blow into it to get the dust out, then plug it back in?” They will then crawl under the desk, find that they forgot to plug it in (or plugged it into the wrong port), blow out the dust, plug it in, and reply, “Um, yeah, that fixed it, thanks.”‘
January 4, 2005
[tech] Life Interrupted — interesting article about how multi-tasking is affecting our lives … ‘Two Harvard professors see evidence of what they call “pseudo-attention deficit disorder” — shorter attention spans influenced by technology and the constant waves of information washing over us. When the brain gets excited over some rapid data and is stimulated, it releases a “dopamine squirt,” they say.’
October 14, 2004
[search] Google Desktop Search — Google releases beta software which allows you to search your desktop as easily as the internet … ‘Search your own computer.’
October 5, 2004
[tech] GDI Scan Tutorial and how to fix the GDI+ JPEG Vulnerability — nice how-to article on fixing the most recent Windows exploit‘At the time of this writing more reports are coming out about tools and sample code to take advantage of this vulnerability. The sooner you run this tool and fix any of the exploitable copies of this DLL on your system, the safer you will be.’
September 3, 2004
[quote] Ted Nelson’s Four Maxims: ‘Most people are fools, most authority is malignant, god does not exist, and everything is wrong.’
September 2, 2004
[quote] Douglas Engelbart: ‘I confess that I am a dreamer. Someone once called me “just a dreamer.” That offended me, the “just” part; being a real dreamer is hard work. It really gets hard when you start believing your dreams.’
May 3, 2004
[copyright] Real Dialogue: The Tech interviews Jack Valenti — head of the RIAA interviewed by MIT’s The Tech … [via Boing Boing]

[Winstein shows Valenti his six-line “qrpff” DVD descrambler.]
TT: If you type that in, it’ll let you watch movies.
JV: You designed this?
TT: Yes.
JV: Un-fucking-believable.

April 10, 2004
[quote] Robert X. Cringely on the Personal Computer: ‘…PC’s killed the office typewriter, made most secretaries obsolete, and made it possible for a 27 year-old MBA with a PC, a spreadsheet program and three pieces of questionable data to talk his bosses into looting the company pension plan and doing a leveraged buy-out.’
November 2, 2003
[data] World Drowning in Oceans of Data — BBC News reports on a estimate of the vast amounts of raw data being generated worldwide … ‘US researchers estimate that every year 800MB of information is produced for every person on the planet. Their study found that information stored on paper, film, magnetic and optical disks has doubled since 1999.’
October 13, 2003
[magazines] Letting Go is Hard to Do — Charlie Stross writes about resigning as a Freelance Tech Writer for Computer Shopper. ‘…I was forced to confront an unpleasant conviction that the computer magazine biz has turned to shit. From being the banner-carriers of the revolution, we’ve ended up as pigs at a trough fed from the sump of corporate public relations. The industry is a treadmill, dominated by risk-averse multinationals turning out one bland plastic box after another. The software biz is dominated by the Evil Empire. The revolution hasn’t changed anything fundamental about human power relationships — in fact, inappropriate use of email and web facilities at work are now cited as the #1 cause for dismissal of office staff in the UK. The wild sense of excitement and potential that computers brought in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s has evaporated.’ [via 2lmc spool]
September 28, 2003
[internet] I Have Seen the Future and We Are It: The Past, Present and Future of Information Security — notes from a talk by Robert X. Cringely. ‘…today’s news is a cypherpunk nightmare. Information turns out not to be power, after all: Power is power. Joe user doesn’t want to encrypt email. Anonymity is overwritten by court-order. The Great Firewall of China keeps a billion people from communicating, from knowing what’s going on. In 1997, in Hong Kong, I spoke to the China-Internet people and said, “How do you proxy an entire Internet?” They said, “Well, it might not work, but we’ll just throw all our resources at it until it does.”‘ [via Sore Eyes]
August 13, 2003
[windows] Magic Number: 30 Billion — John Dvorak estimates the number of times Windows crashes in a year. ‘…the majority of legacy systems out there run Windows 98 with some Windows 95 holdouts and a few operating on Windows Me. These machines bomb more than XP — that’s for sure. Windows 98 represents about 25 percent of the market at this point. It has to crash 10 to 20 percent more often than XP. I think that when we put all the numbers together, we can estimate that there are a minimum of 30 billion Windows system crashes a year. To give you an idea of how ridiculous that number is, here are few comparisons. Thirty billion is the same as the estimated number of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way … ‘
May 23, 2003
[war] “If We Run Out of Batteries, This War is Screwed.” — Wired Article on the US Army’s creation of a “tactical” internet during the War in Iraq …

‘The history of warfare is marked by periodic leaps in technology – the triumph of the longbow at Crécy, in 1346; the first decisive use of air power, in World War I; the terrifying destructiveness of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, in 1945. And now this: a dazzling array of technology that signals the arrival of digital warfare. What we saw in Gulf War II was a new age of fighting that combined precision weapons, unprecedented surveillance of the enemy, agile ground forces, and – above all – a real-time communications network that kept the far-flung operation connected minute by minute. Welcome to the so-called revolution in military affairs…’

‘I’m headed north again, this time with a 97-vehicle convoy whose mission is to deliver missile launchers and set up a Tactical Operations Center just south of the Baghdad suburbs. But there’s a problem; the convoy makes two massive U-turns in search of a side road that leads to a much-needed fuel stop. “We’re lima lima mike foxtrot in Iraq,” says Sergeant Frank Cleveland, who’s riding shotgun in the truck where I’ve hitched a ride. “What does that mean?” I ask from the backseat. “We’re lost like a motherfucker,” he says.’

May 3, 2003
[books] Tomorrow’s Man — profile of William Gibson

‘”…I find myself thinking sometimes that there isn’t anything other than the impact of technology on society – possibly that has been more significant historically than any sort of political thought, in terms of bringing us to where we are now.” Gibson chooses a contemporary example: his friend’s camera-phone. “I get these pictures every once in a while – no explanation – and it’s just so cool, and it’s such an intimate thing. The view down an airport corridor, or something that struck him as funny.” But to every silver lining there is a cloud. “If that becomes very common,” he points out, “that’ll change the texture of life. You’d lose things. Someone telling you about their new girlfriend, for instance, and you don’t meet her for six months, so you have this picture in your head of her, and then you meet her … and that won’t be happening because he’ll have emailed the photograph right away. Apparently small things like that have a huge cumulative effect on how people experience reality.”‘

March 30, 2003
[tech] Compressing Webpages for Fun and Profit — a how-to about compressing pages on the fly with PHP to speed-up downloads and save bandwidth. ‘…what if I told you that you can third your content easily with no work on your part whatsoever? It sounds like a pitch I might get in a lovely unsolicited email. The secret lies in the fact that every major browser of the past 5 years supports transparently decompressing content on the fly.’ [via Neil’s World]
March 18, 2003
[google] How Google Grows…and Grows…and Grows — profile of Google. ‘…the difference between 0.3 seconds and 0.2 seconds is pretty profound. Most searches on Google actually take less than 0.2 seconds. That extra tenth of a second is all about the outliers: queries crammed with unrelated words or with words that are close in meaning. The outliers can take half a second to resolve — and Google believes that users’ productivity begins to wane after 0.2 seconds. So its engineers find ways to store ever-more-arcane Web-text snippets on its servers, saving the engine the time it takes to seek out phrases when a query is made. And it’s why, most of the time, the Google home page contains exactly 37 words. “We count bytes,” says Google Fellow Urs Holzle, who is on leave from the University of California at Santa Barbara. “We count them because our users have modems, so it costs them to download our pages.”‘
March 13, 2003
[tech] How to Make Real One Behave Nicely — a software engineer from Real explains how to make the Real One media player install with sensible default settings … ‘First, regarding the well known bad behavior of older players: Yes, we know! and as developers we were embarrassed. But things have changed. Everybody has realized there are very strong negative feelings about this behavior, and we really want to improve. In that respect, the latest RealOne V2 is better than older RealPlayers, and on OS X, it’s downright wonderful. On Windows you still have to do the following, which isn’t too bad, but still could have been better…’
March 2, 2003
[computers] Maximum Overdrive — Cory Doctorow on PC Overclockers. ‘…for those bent on achieving the highest clock speeds, there’s nothing like liquid nitrogen. Whether the chip survives doesn’t matter, as long as there’s time enough to boot up, launch a benchmark app, and capture a digital trophy of your accomplishment. Purchased in bulk from chemical or medical suppliers, liquid nitrogen can drop a CPU’s temperature below -310 degrees Fahrenheit – though, after being subjected to that kind of cold, the machine’s other components won’t have much life left in them, either. Still, the message boards at overflow with legends and advice about handling liquid nitro. “LN2 evaporates off your skin instantaneously,” one veteran writes, “but if it gets on your clothes, it will stick to you – instant frostbite. Work naked for safety.”‘
February 19, 2003
[web] Microsoft Gets a Clue From Its Kiddie Corps — Steven Levy on Microsoft’s new IM/P2P app Threedegrees‘Threedegrees is also a fascinating experiment in how music can be legally shared over the Internet. After much negotiation, the labels OK’d musicmix, once Microsoft agreed to somewhat hobble its features. (Playlists have a maximum of 60 tunes, and the songs won’t play unless the original owner is participating.)’ [Related: Slashdot on Threedegrees | thanks Phil]
February 18, 2003
[poet] Wizard of Oz — Guardian Online interviews Felix Denis‘There are jobs, particularly database-oriented ones, for which computers are necessary, but for everyday office life, I question whether they have brought the productivity that their enormous cost, up to £10,000 per person, demands. Nor do I believe they will. Computers are wasteful of paper and time. Once, we’d get documents with a few errors. Now, people make hundreds of copies until each sheet is flawless and memos are duplicated endlessly. Managers get swamped with emails.’
December 9, 2002
[web] How the Wayback Machine Works — another interview with Brewster Kahle about how the Wayback Machine works … [via Bowblog]

‘Having the capital cost of equipment drop to effectively zero allows you to think bigger. You start thinking about the whole thing. For instance, the gutsy maneuver of saying “let’s index it all,” which was the breakthrough of Altavista. Altavista in 1995 was an astonishing achievement, not because of the hardware — yes, that was interesting and important from a technical perspective — but because of the mindset. “Let’s go index every document in the world.” And once you have that sort of mindset, you can get really far. So if all books are 20 TBs, and 20 TBs are $80,000, that’s the Library of Congress. Then something big has changed. All music? It’s tiny. It looks like there’re only one million records that have been produced over the last century. That’s tiny. All movies? All theatrical releases have been estimated at 100,000, and most of those from India. If you take all the rest of ephemeral films, that’s on the order of a couple hundred thousand. It’s just not that big. It allows you to start thinking about the whole thing.’

December 8, 2002
[usenet] Memorable Quotes from Alt.Sysadmin.Recovery … [via iamcal]

‘NASA uses Windows? Oh great. If Apollo 13 went off course today the manual would just tell them to open the airlock, flush the astronauts out, and re-install new ones.’ — Kibo

December 6, 2002
[web] Little House on the Info Prairie — Danny O’Brien blogs interviewing Brewster Kahle … ‘I keep hearing him say “we can make a different world, by building it”, which sounds clumsy copied from my notes, but in context, spoken by Brewster Kahle in an old wooden house with a bunch of commodity web servers in one corner, a whiteboard with plans to scan a million books on the wall to the left, and shelf with a freshly minted Alice in Wonderland…’
December 2, 2002
[web] Way Back When — a interview with Brewster Kahle… the creator of the Wayback Machine [via blackbeltjones] …

‘The whole point of comprehensive library collections is that you can’t tell in advance what will be important. The Web is the people’s medium, it’s not elitist. Anyone can publish there, so you’ve got the good, the bad, the ugly, the profane. It’s just us, that’s the amazing thing. For instance, a lot of libraries are now used for genealogical work. What would you give for a video clip of your great-grandmother? I’d give a lot. I may not watch it very often, but I’d love some way of knowing who she was’

November 14, 2002
[tech] How al Qaeda put Internet to use — article looking at al Qaeda’s use of computers and the internet … [via Guardian Weblog]

‘Al Qaeda operatives struggled with some of the same tech headaches as ordinary people: servers that crashed, outdated software and files that wouldn’t open. Their Web venture followed a classic dot-com trajectory. It began with excitement, faced a cash crunch, had trouble with accountants and ultimately fizzled.’

‘While fiercely hostile to any religious or social norms tinged by modernity, Islamists “have no problems with technology,” says Omar Bakri, a radical cleric from Syria who lives in Britain. “Other people use the Web for stupid reasons, to waste time. We use it for serious things.” (U.S. officials say Islamists weren’t always so earnest: Many computers the CIA recovered from suspected al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and elsewhere contained pornographic material.)’

November 13, 2002
[tech] Making the Macintosh — a website documenting the creation of the Macintosh‘The exhibit features primary documents, such as memos tracing the evolution of the Macintosh mouse; images, such as technical drawings, stills from commercials, notes from user tests; and interviews with members of the Macintosh development team, technical writers, and founders of user groups.’ [via Red Rock Eater Digest]
November 12, 2002
[mobiles] ‘Hi, I’m in G2’ — a look at how the mobile phone has changed the world …

‘A friend described how she had accidentally locked herself in the bedroom after her partner had gone to work. Without a mobile, she would have been trapped in there all day. Doors slam. Buildings collapse. Far worse things happen. You go to the office, as you do every day, Monday to Friday, and one morning, an airliner intersects with your life, and you realise immediately that you are very likely to die. If there were a God, he would have noticed by now that things have become quieter, no matter how bad it gets down there; given a choice between praying, and talking to the people we love, we are bound to choose the people every time.’

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