Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Now I Wanna Sniff Some Paperwhites

We have been growing paperwhite flowers in our living room window. Today was the day when they finally started to bloom... and smell! They smell like the inside of an empty 35mm film can. I'm serious! Well, somewhere between that and permanent magic markers. And the frog you dissected in 7th grade. That window is right behind the couch where I am now sitting, and the smell is definately going to my head.

My wife's laptop finally got back from the people who do all the warranty-work for Circuit City.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

What I Do About Font Sizes

Since I'm talking about font sizes, this is my own stylesheet's one and only rule for font sizes:
* { font-family: "fixedsys", "monaco", "vga", "fixed", monospace; font-size: 100% }

Yes, that's an selector of "*". That means everything. I want everything on my blog to be the same size. What size exactly? Whatever size your computer is configured to show it. I really don't know or care; all I want is for h1 and h2 and h3 and h4 and p and td to all be that size. This is weird. Most people don't want to do this. It's part of the "gimmick" of this blog. Just like there are rock bands who dress up like robots or astronauts or 18th-century aristocrats, this is a web page dressed up like a fixed-size text terminal. And just like those bands, some would argue that the gimmick actually gets in the way of the content. I'll eventually get tired of it and try a different gimmick.

A List Apart: Fear of Style Sheets 4: Give Me Pixels or Give Me Death

Zeldman's original uber-influential article in which he states that CSS font-size is simply broken in so many ways that you shouldn't even try to use it. This was back in 2000, and all subsequent research in this area (like the two previous blog entries) have been attempts to "prove me wrong, kids! prove me wrong!".

CSS Design: Size Matters: A List Apart

Lots of hackery to get around browser-specific bugs.

sane css typography

..wherein we present a method of text sizing in CSS that actually works consistently across our browsers without offending designers.

Well, at least without offending some designers. This kind of stuff can still cause quite a ruckus on comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets.

Monday, November 17, 2003

1337 domain name roundup

ell three three tee
http://www.l33t.com (DNS error)
http://www.l33t.net (personal site. cars, photography, IM)
http://www.l33t.org (DNS error)

one three three tee
http://www.133t.com (looks like one of those search pages that typosquatters always send you to)
http://www.133t.net (DNS error)
http://www.133t.org (web design and hosting company)

ell three three seven
http://www.l337.com (store selling t-shirts that say "1 4/\/\ L337")
http://www.l337.net (personal site. includes blog. apparently intended only for IE users.)
http://www.l337.org (another squatter-style link farm)

one three three seven
http://www.1337.com (HTTP authentication required)
http://www.1337.net (page about "what is it and how to be 1337")
http://www.1337.org (ASCII art, web comics, anime, Star Trek)

three ell three three tee
http://www.3l33t.com (timed out)
http://www.3l33t.net (DNS error)
http://www.3l33t.org (DNS error)

three one three three tee
http://www.3133t.com (DNS error)
http://www.3133t.net (DNS error)
http://www.3133t.org (DNS error)

three ell three three seven
http://www.3l337.com (DNS error)
http://www.3l337.net (DNS error)
http://www.3l337.org (personal site. mostly photography. lots of pictures of someone named Anna)

three one three three seven
http://www.31337.com ("celebrating seven years of no content")
http://www.31337.net (timed out)
http://www.31337.org (redirect to "Hackerz.com - News from the hacking community!")

Saturday, November 15, 2003

The first Usenet appearance of the word choad.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Snyders of Hanover - Seasoned Potato Chips

I have tried the "Coney Island" flavor potato chips. They really taste like hot dogs! This is not neccessarily an endorsement. Its almost scary, how meaty they taste. I don't see "pig lips" or "beef by-products" on the ingredients label, so I assume the flavor is something else. Probably the same stuff they put in actual hot dogs to make them taste the way people expect them to taste.

Jargon File: Acme

Notice that the definition for ACME sums up the plot of all Road Runner episodes in one paragraph. Now why couldn't ESR have done the same for other Jargon-inspiring sources, such as Lord of the Rings and Star Trek?
This term, specially cherished by American hackers and explained here for the benefit of our overseas brethren, comes from the Warner Brothers' series of “Road-runner” cartoons. In these cartoons, the famished Wile E. Coyote was forever attempting to catch up with, trap, and eat the Road-runner. His attempts usually involved one or more high-technology Rube Goldberg devices — rocket jetpacks, catapults, magnetic traps, high-powered slingshots, etc. These were usually delivered in large wooden crates labeled prominently with the Acme name — which, probably not by coincidence, was the trade name of a peg bar system for superimposing animation cels used by cartoonists since forever. Acme devices invariably malfunctioned in improbable and violent ways.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Laptop problems - power/battery or motherboard?

My wife's laptop (Toshiba 1905-S301) seems to be having similar problems to what is being discussed in this thread. Trying to decide if I should try to fix it myself or not.

1. While plugged into AC, it would suddenly switch onto the battery as if
it wasn't plugged in. Jiggling the AC adapter connection would start it
back on AC usually, at least at first.

2. After a while even when it indicated that it was on AC power, the
battery would slowly discharge. Again, jiggling with the connector would
get it so the battery would start to charge up very slowly.

3. Eventually, the battery would appear charged but go from 90% to 1% in a
matter of minutes. Even when plugged into AC it wouldn't work, either
running for a few minutes til it cut back to the battery (almost depleted).
Tried running it just on AC without the battery in, but that wouldn't even
start. If we leave it plugged it overnight sometimes it will charge up and
run for a while, other times it just sits dead.

Fortunately it has not yet reached "stage 3". When I was a desktop tech at Sprint, I cared for a sizeable fleet of Toshiba laptops and never saw anything like this. But that was 4 or 5 years ago and the laptops in question were top-of-line business class models for their day (Tecra models 440, 550, 720, 730, 7000, and 8000, and the occasional Satellite "Pro" 420... man I can't believe I remember that many model numbers!), not this crunchy herbal retail stuff. I seem to recall at least some of those models didn't even have an little DC jack soldered to the motherboard, but plugged straight into the AC. And they spent most of their time safe in their docking stations anyway, where jiggling their power chords wasn't a possible problem. Although I have to admit that if I had run across something like this at the time, I probably would've just copped out and replaced the whole computer.

Monday, November 10, 2003

In search of the ugliest guitar sound

(most of this is taken from a email conversation that occurred about a year ago)

Although I rarely if ever play electric guitar anymore, I've lately decided that it would be cool to be able to faithfully emulate the sound of a guitar plugged directly into the microphone jack of a Tascam PortaStudio analog cassette 4-track.

Anyone who has ever fooled around with this kind of equipment - which means most amateur or semi-pro musicians - would instantly recognize the sound. The distortion is so utterly unlike either tube distortion or 60s-germanium-tranistor-fuzz that it seems unlikely that even the cheapest commercial distortion pedal sounds as ugly and mid-range-y.

Literally, this is a sound that in the guitar world, everybody gets but nobody wants. Because everybody associates it with people too cheap or lazy to use a real "direct box" or mic up an amp, it sounds like incompetence. Or at least it did. In the digital age, this sound will be something that future generations will have to emulate, the same way that kids in the 80s bought distortion pedals to try to sound like an old tube amp!

You might be able to get a similar sound by using an analog pre-amp that was intended for microphones rather than guitars. Or just use a real 4-track, since they're pretty small and portable (hence that name "PortaStudio"). However, it would be more fun to have a special purpose effect pedal just for this! If I had time I would build one. Its probably just some op-amp circuits. I think I'd call it the Powercow. Anybody out there with enough time on your hands to try and hack together one of these?

I've also noticed something else from listening to my old mixes. The Tascam Porta02 has no built-in equalizer, but EQ can obviously be added during the mixdown stage by a separate mixing console. However, almost anything you do with the EQ tends to de-emphasize the rawness of the sound. For the real deal you need to lay off the EQ and let all the strange overtones created by the distortion show through in the mix.

Songs of my own which used the PortaSound as a distortion source:

Ain't Got a Woman
The City Is Dead
At Your Mercy (electric guitar panned hard left)
Friendly Martians, Julie (lead guitar on final fadeout solo, flanger added during mixdown)
Powercow (extreme distortion, but somewhat mitigated by EQ)
I Might Be a Nerd (lead guitar, mitigated by EQ)

The Four Eyes dot Com

(via Slashdot) "Sacramento's nerdest band!"

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Why Does Open Source Suck?l

You know the type I am talking about: This is the person that everyone goes to for advice, that can fix any problem in the system, that is the only person who truly understands the architecture, that knows how to get the builds to work, that feels that he/she is personally responsible for getting things done, and who always actually wants to quit and go work somewhere else where they might be able to become a nobody, which for them would be a permament vacation, because they could perform a typical job in their sleep and still do an exemplary job at it.

Now of course you are thinking this type of person is you.

Against TCPA | TCPA would TAKE your FREEDOM | This is NO FAKE

Why so many people and small to medium companies see one of the biggest dangers of this century in TCPA/TCG (Trusted Computing)?

We drafted a small text, after which you shoule be able to answer it for yourself.

Friday, November 07, 2003

"Rules are just things that somebody with an army made up"
-- Wanda Sykes

I have updated my OEM character chart page with some additional screenshots, comparing a "full screen" DOS running inside VMWare to a normal windows prompt. The VMWare version looks a lot more like real DOS.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Today I went to the ATM in the lobby at work, to get money to pay for my flu shot (yay for cash only medicine!). For the first time, I got some of the new twenty dollar bills. They look like normal paper money that has had orange kool-aid spilt on it.

Interpreting the Dates From the Margins of your Bible

First of all, remember that editors and printers supplied any BC dates you may find in the margins or notes of your English Old Testament in modern times.

Windows update is finished, and is only waiting for me reboot. Strangely, in Mozilla pages that specify "Arial, sans-serif" as the font now look like "System" (see screenshot). IE seems to have stopped working at all.

As I write this, I am running Windows Update for the first time in a looong time. I wonder if my PC will ever work again..

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Programmer Indicted on Charges of Shady Code Accounting

Will software companies and perhaps even individual engineers one day be held accountable for egregious errors and poor development and testing methodologies?

In a way, I hope not. I don’t want creativity and innovation and all its necessary bleeding edges to be dulled for fear of attracting legal sharks. Yet at the same time, when tinkering becomes profession and cool creation becomes a critical set of business processes driving the world’s engines, I can imagine some sense of accountability enforced for the betterment of the craft and profession.

Contracts and Interoperability

Bill Venners: But if the contract is followed, shouldn't the most recent version work for all users of that DLL?

Anders Hejlsberg: In theory, yes. But any change is potentially a breaking change. Even a bug fix could break code if someone has relied on the bug. By the strictest definition you realize that you can do nothing once you've shipped.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Politics (Last Request)

Claim: Newspaper publishes death notice requesting that memorial gifts for the deceased "be made to any organization that seeks the removal of President George Bush from office."

Status: True.

Chukker's last hurrah melds angry punk rock with passed-out customers

And so it goes.