From The Erbo Files
Monday, April 1, 2013

It's time once again for the only universal holiday of the Internet, April Fool's Day.  Here are some of the pranks for today, for your enjoyment:



  • Why should grownups have all the fun of project tracking? Atlassian introduces JIRA Jr. to track all the important stuff about being a kid.

  • Google once again breaks new ground, with Google Nose. Why scratch-and-sniff, when you can click-and-sniff? (Don't get too used to it though...after the whole Google Reader thing, you never know what they'll shut down next...)

  • And another improvement from Google, this one to its Gmail service (which, lest we forget, was launched on an April Fool's Day): Gmail Blue. Like the Gmail you know and love, only bluer!

  • YouTube reveals its big secret: it's actually been an 8-year-long contest all along to find the best video on the Internet. Now they're shutting down to start judging all those videos. Expect to find out who the winner is...in about 10 years...

  • Not to be outdone, Google Maps now offers a treasure mode.

  • The hits just keep on coming from the Googleplex: Google+ allows you to attach real emotions to your pictures. (Insert joke about Google+ being the real April Fool's joke here...)

  • Twitter is becoming a two-tiered service. The free version, "Twttr," will only let you use consonants. If you want vowels, upgrade for only $5 a month. Hey, Vanna, pick me a letter!

  • Virgin Atlantic announces a new innovation: the world's first glass-bottomed plane.

  • Check out some of ThinkGeek's latest products, such as the Batman Family Car Decals, Adventure Time BMO Interactive Buddy, Aliens Chestburster-in-a-Can, Eye of Sauron Desk Lamp, Play-Doh 3D Printer, and MinecraftCreeper Body Pillow.

  • President Obama announces a plan to try to pay down the national debt through crowdfunding. I guess it's no stupider an idea than anything else that's come out of the White House recently...

  • What Obama has actually done (and this is not actually a joke, but it might as well be) is to proclaim April "National Financial Capability Month," in which he wants to "teach young people how to budget responsibly." I'm withMichelle Malkin on this: would you take financial advice from an Administration that has racked up more debt than all previous Administrations in American history, and whose own budget is two months late?

  • Nokia announces a microwave oven...which, given the way they've been sucking out in the mobile phone market recently, might actually be a viable business plan for them.

  • Slashdot announces that, to encourage users to log in, they will be encrypting all stories with ROT13. Click one button to decrypt the story...but anonymous users will just need to watch an interstitial ad first.

  • Also on Slashdot, a true battle of the Computing Titans. Who will win...the Radio Shack TRS-80 or the Commodore 64?

  • No more secret sauce! Introducing the Open Sauce Foundation, sponsored by McIlhenny (the Tabasco sauce people), Huy Fong Foods (who make Sriracha Rooster Sauce), and Kikkoman.

  • Linus Torvalds is jumping ship from the Linux Foundation to head up Microsoft's Windows 9 project. After the debacle of Windows 8, this could only make things better.

  • Fermilab chooses a new director...who thinks bow ties (and fezzes) are cool.

  • Meanwhile, over at CERN, they're running a lottery. Ten lucky winners will each get their very own Higgs Boson! (How much will those go for on eBay?)

  • Coming soon to Broadway: Shadow War of the Night Dragons - The Musical! Based on the work of John Scalzi, who addresses the rumors here.

  • Meanwhile, Charles Stross is becoming a producer; read about his first project.

  • Apple finally introduces their much-rumored iWatch...but it's not what you might think. (But it'll still be a better product than their Maps app on iOS!)

  • Your new RFCs for today: RFC 6919, "Further Key Words for Use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels," and RFC 6921, "Design Considerations for Faster-Than-Light (FTL) Communication." The former is slightly silly, but the latter actually has some decent science-fictional content to it.

  • Introducing "Take Your Computer To Work Day." Can I bring my Raspberry Pi?

  • And speaking of which...Erbosoft Enterprises announces its intentions to take on Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and in fact most of the computer industry. watch this space...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


  • Def Leppard, engaged in a dispute with their former label Universal Music Group over digital royalties from their classic hits, have gone back into the studio to re-record those hits and make those tracks available for download. They've released two so far: "Rock of Ages" (from Photograph) and "Pour Some Sugar On Me" (from Hysteria). I downloaded them; they have more of a "classic rock" sound than the originals, and the production quality is very good, even if Joe Elliot can't quite do the screams anymore. Overall, the best new recordings of 80's music since Journey brought in Arnel Pineda as their lead singer. Recommended.

  • Hey, I take computer security seriously--I went through a bunch of security training recently at IQNavigator--but this is ridiculous.  (And a satire, obviously. Via JWZ.)

  • Recently, I kept the Weather Channel Desktop app from installing the Ask Toolbar on Sabrina's laptop. Toolbars, in general, are pretty synonymous with "viruses" these days, as this Cracked article will tell you. The Ask Toolbar, in particular, does some pretty underhanded things. In brief: avoid. (The latter article comes via Jeff.)

  • If you want to have a look at some deep magic, code-wise, Fabien Sanglard is your guy. He has code reviews up for the code behind Doom 3 and Quake III Arena, among many other things. (All of which is now open source. WIN.) He also has an article on there about doing 3D graphics in Java using LWJGL...the same library Minecraft uses.

  • The More You Know: Sometimes you may actually have a legitimate reason to send a takedown notice or a DMCA notice to a Web site. Ken at Popehat offers his advice for doing so while minimizing the risk that your request will go viral and bring the Streisand Effect into play. Basically: don't be a dickhead.

  • Amazon, which previously fought against paying state sales taxes, seems to have reversed their stance. But why? This Slate article alleges that what they really want to do is set up same-day delivery warehouses everywhere. If they can make it work, this will bury most retailers. (Don't worry, Sabrina, I'm sure Walmart will survive...)

  • Some of these might make good new additions to ESR's Jargon File. (HT: Several IQNavigator developers.)

  • What. The. Fuck. Portland school sees racism in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The school principal asks us to think, "What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?" Seriously, what the fucking fuck? Last I heard, anybody could eat a sandwich if they want one. I swear, some of these libiots could find "racism" in a dial tone. (And I'm sure they'll think I'm racist, too, for pointing this out, because shut up, you racist racisty racist!)

  • This one's making the rounds: An official Playboy Club Bunny Manual, circa 1968. We could have used this with our club hostesses in Second Life...although, even though Playboy Bunny costumes are available, to my knowledge, no one has done a proper animation of the Bunny Dip.

  • Some people will do anything to get attention for their startup...even show up at a major trade show crossdressed in a wedding dress. Cofounder Duncan Seay is pitching the new wedding app from his company Evergram (which, despite the name, is not a mashup of Evernote and Instagram), which may in fact be a good idea. But I really don't think he should have gone strapless here, and that train's a bit long for a trade show floor. :-D

  • One of the engineers from the Raspberry Pi Foundation writes on Wired.com about the tradeoffs that went into making the $35 credit-card-sized computer, which forced them to "sellout a little to sell a lot." So far, the marketplace seems to have validated their decisions. I have one, and will be engaged in some experimentation with it.

  • Chris and Melody Byrne have been adopted by a stray kitten...not long after Chris got a massive dose of radioactive iodine to combat thyroid cancer. The cat seems to like Chris; I hope she doesn't absorb too much of his radioactivity, as radioactive cats have 18 half-lives. (Rimshot!)

Sunday, July 1, 2012


  • A USB drive shaped like a tampon. Write your own punchline!  (Note the sizes it comes in, too: "Light Flow" (2 Gb), "Moderate Flow" (4 Gb), and "Heavy Flow" (8 Gb).  Via Bruce Schneier, who I think is just about as dumbstruck as most people that this exists.)

  • New programming language: Objectivist-C. Every object is an end in itself, not a means to the ends of others. (This is one of those jokes that walks a fine line. Hardcore Randites will probably start screeching "That's not funny!", while most people, who know nothing about Ayn Rand or Objectivism, will scratch their heads and go "Huh?" Via Eric S. Raymond on Google+.)

  • There's new malware, "Flame," infecting a number of computer systems, primarily in Iran and the Middle East, which may be part of a cyberwar effort against the outlaw nation. What's surprising is how big it is; it's 20 megabytes when fully-configured, and sports such advanced features as SQLite3 databases, a plug-in architecture with about 20 different plug-ins, and code written in the Lua scripting language. The fact that it can consume that much memory and storage (and, presumably, commensurate CPU cycles and network bandwidth), and yet go unnoticed, is just...mindboggling. (Via Bill Quick)

  • Airlines are imposing higher fees on families who want to make sure they sit together on flights. Honestly, at this point, are they just sitting around and brainstorming ways to make people want to actively avoid using their services? Between the Transportmittel Sturmabteilung, the nickel-and-diming to death, and the piss-poor-and-getting-poorer service, I know I wouldn't fly anywhere unless I had no other choice. (And the new Taurus will make road trips a bit more expensive...but also a lot more comfortable.)

  • I got a postcard in the mail purportedly from the Poway High Alumni Publication Office, asking me to call and update my information for an upcoming directory. The postcard turned out to actually be from a company called Harris Connect, which apparently gloms onto high school and college alumni associations and, when alumni call in, gives them the hard sell to buy very expensive directories...and, if you change your mind, good luck getting your money back afterwards. Any company that has Google Autocomplete adding "scam" after their name as the top search suggestion is probably not one you want to do business with. Here's an example. (Besides, the postcard had my last name misspelled. Trust me, nobody from Poway is likely to misspell my last name...) The postcard went straight into the shredder.

  • I haven't spoken up about some Internet assholes that have shown up recently, but if you want to read about assholes, Ken at Popehat has the scoop on them, particularly this asshole and that asshole. You're welcome.

  • Well, that about wraps it up for RIM. The Blackberry maker is laying off 5000 people and delaying the launch of BB10 OS to 2013. At this point, BB10 is about three years late already, and any further delay is just going to affect the depth at which RIM gets buried.

  • The bad news for RIM comes on the heels of a stunning development: A hacker has gotten (some) iOS apps to run on a Playbook. In an alternate universe in which RIM's executives didn't have their heads up their asses, they would acquire or license this technology (which is similar in some respects to the WINE Windows emulator for Linux, and is completely legal under the ruling just made in Oracle v. Google), open up to GAPPS for Android (which can already be done), and sell the shit out of these capabilities, saying, "Blackberry runs all your favorite iOS and Android apps...and runs them better!" That'd even be true, thanks to the underlying QNX kernel technology of Playbook 2.0/BB10. That would be a kick in the crotch to both Apple and Google, and might save RIM. Alas, it is not to be. (Karl Denninger, who has written extensively about RIM, mentioned this on his blog...after I tipped him off to it.)

  • Remember how I noted that Minecraft was, in some ways, like a primitive version of Second Life? At least one SL landowner, Desmond Shang, "the Guvnah" of steampunk community Caledon, has exploited these similarities with a promotion: rent SL land from him, get free access to a private Minecraft server. Hamlet Au of New World Notes describes the deal and details how other SL estate owners might do the same thing.

  • Also from NWN on Minecraft: If you're looking to replace the standard "Steve?" skin of your Minecraft "avatar" with something a bit more...feminine, here are three skins that show you can look girly even in a low-res world. (The Xbox version doesn't have downloadable skin support, though. It's coming...eventually.)

  • XKCD has an even simpler answer to Moon-landing deniers. Simple, true...and scathing. "That burn was so harsh I think you deorbited."

Thursday, May 3, 2012


  • Watch as astronaut Don Pettit demonstrates some of the physics in Angry Birds Space by launching a Red Bird down through one of the modules in the ISS using a makeshift slingshot. In microgravity, the bird travels in a straight line, unlike the parabolic trajectory it would follow on Earth. (Pettit is awesome. He was up there with Cousin Kenny on station at the time of the Columbia disaster, which meant he had to fly back home in a Soyuz. Now he's back up there, with his own unique, quirky style, doing science and still alive.)

  • What the fuck, University of Florida? Seriously: what the fucking fuck? Cut the CS department, in an age where engineers and developers are more in demand than they've been in a long time? You guys need yourheads examined. (Via Karl Denninger, who is...harsher on UF.) (Update: They're not gonna do it after all. GOOD!)

  • Hey, Jeff! Think it would convince you to get on Twitter if you could do so using a straight key?  (ViaTechCrunch.)

  • The ultimate geek watch...it's also an Android 2.2 smartphone. I actually owned the "spiritual ancestor" of this watch, a Fossil Abacus WristPDA, which ran PalmOS 4.0 with 8 Mb of onboard storage (which is a decent amount, for Palm PDAs) and looked smart, as Fossil products often do. The main problem was that the battery life sucked balls; the thing had to be plugged in nightly to recharge, and needed a special USB charger with its own power plug. I would watch out for that issue if buying one of the Z1s. (Via Malcolm Uhl on Facebook.)

  • Seems those Occupy [foo] wankers aren't above seeking bailouts of their own when it suits them. Excuse me while I point and laugh.  (Via RadioMattM at the Conservative Kitchen Table.)

  • What would you say about a guy that has sent hundreds of thousands of pirated DVDs overseas over the past eight years? What if I told you that that guy was a 92-year-old WWII vet, sending those DVDs to combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? He took no money for them, and spent something like $30,000 of his own money to make and ship them. The MAFIAA isn't too pleased, but what are they gonna do to him without looking like complete jerks? (Not that that ever stopped them.) Meanwhile, the soldiers really appreciate what he's been doing. He's stopping now, not because of MAFIAA pressure, but because the troops are being pulled out. The man will surely go down as an unsung hero of these wars.

  • From fellow developer Nick Hill: One of the oddest ways to tell time you'll ever see.

  • Ladies, you may never have thought of carrying your iPhone in the Victoria's Secret Compartment, but, if you do, this product may be for you.

  • Speaking of carrying stuff someplace unusual, how about carrying a copy of the edited sum total of human knowledge in a keychain? That's the purpose behind the eVr1 Codex, which dumps a load of text, including all of the English Wikipedia and a huge literary canon (full list here), onto a 16 Gb MicroSD card, seals that card to withstand many hazards, and sews it into a hand-stitched leather key fob. It's mainly intended for the symbolic value, because the only way to access the information is to destroy the container (though they plan to offer an online archive of the content to buyers). It would be handy, though, if you needed to rebuild civilization from scratch, like Jeff's colonists aboard the Starship Origen did.

  • Finally! A frickin' shark with a frickin' laser beam attached to its head! Dr. Evil would be proud.

  • DJ update (from this post): $DEITY be praised, the man found a new liver. He's recovering now, amid the well wishes of his fellow Rottie denizens. This post has the update including some comments from his missus, Deneen.

Monday, April 23, 2012


  • Stephen T. Gordon: In the future, everything will be a coffee shop. A compelling point, since you can't download or order online a gathering place, or a grande cafe mocha with one or two pumps of vanilla (my Starbucks poison-of-choice). Via Glenn Reynolds.

  • One startup company, 4ormat, saved over $100,000 in its development efforts by refusing to support Micro$oft Internet Asploder. Boy, I wish IQNavigator could do the same thing...as it is, I think we've only recently deprecated support for IE6. (But then again, many of our customers are stuck with browsers that old, more's the pity.)

  • From Lexxi: A video of dubstep violinist Lindsey Stirling. The music has a funky, half-Eurodance, half-New Age feel to it, and Ms. Stirling is a fair dancer in addition to a decent violinist. Filmed at an ice castle in Silverthorne, Colorado, that looks very Scandinavian; I thought it was Finland or Iceland or some country like that. Okay, so it's not metal...but it's still good. :-)

  • The RNC produces an absolute gem of a video, using Barack Hussein Obama's own words to show why he must not be re-elected. I say, "More, please, and faster!" Unfortunately, the RINO-NC will probably cave and refrain from producing any more such videos, lest the New York Times starts calling them "not helpful."

  • Former EMinder Crizz sent me a link to some handheld technology that looks straight out of Star Trek: an X-ray scanner you can hold in your hand. Maybe the inventors of this technology should get together with these guys...a real tricorder could be just around the corner...

  • And speaking of science-fiction stuff, check out this idea for a LEGO® model of one of EVE Online's most iconic spaceships, the Minmatar Rifter-class frigate (what I refer to as "The Official Ship of Gettin' Yo' Ass in Trouble" :-D ). CCP is on board with the idea, so go like it...who knows, the LEGO® people might just release the model!

  • If you're a Ford owner (like I am now), these sites might be of interest: this one will decode all the characters in your VIN and tell you what they all mean, and this one will take your VIN and show you what your actual factory window sticker looked like.

  • Three words: Angry Birds bra. Sabrina wouldn't wear one, but they don't come in her size anyway. (Via Valorna Edgeworth on Facebook.)

  • At IQNavigator, we do a major release of FrontOffice (our hosted solution software) about once a month. Facebook does releases far more frequently than that, and to a much larger audience. How they do it is a tangled tale involving custom PHP compilers, BitTorrent, IRC, good old-fashioned dogfooding, and perhaps the only actual Facebook "Dislike" button in existence. And a fair amount of ethanol to act as a social lubricant...

  • Meanwhile, Facebook's 140-character competitors at Twitter have released some of the enhancements they've made to MySQL for their needs. This isn't the first bit of open source Twitter has released; their Bootstrap CSS/JavaScript framework, which underpins the Erbosoft Web site itself, is very good. (Via several sources, including Bryan Glenn at IQNavigator.)

  • Want to hear what the live music in the world's coolest Nordstrom would sound like? Watch Camille and Kennerly, the Harp Twins, bring modern music to life on their instruments. Their performance of "Stairway to Heaven" is to die for. (They are also third degree black belts in Tae Kwon Do, and "Distinguished Experts" in rifle marksmanship. Don't f**k with these ladies! :-D )

  • From my fellow IQNavigator developer Ben Messer: A complete emulation of the Atari 2600 game console, written in Java. Of course, that's no strain on modern computers (the original 2600 had a 1.19 MHz 6507 processor and 128 bytes--not megabytes or even kilobytes, bytes--of RAM), but it kicked off an interesting discussion of how far gaming technology has come since the late 70's/early 80's.  Also, coworker Nick Hill is working on beating Billy Mitchell's high score. :-)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The only universal holiday of the Internet is April Fool's Day, and this is when many sites bust out their best jokes. Here's a rundown of some of the stuff I've seen today. This is by no means an exhaustive list.



  • Google is no slouch at April Fool's Day Jokes, and have turned out some of the best...and at least one project that was introduced on April Fool's Day that turned out not to be a hoax. Today they introduce Google Racing, a partnership with NASCAR for autonomous race cars (!). Also check out their Really Advanced Search.

  • Oh, and check out Google Maps for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Blocky goodness!

  • FARK.com introduces FARK.mag, "The Magazine by Drew Curtis's FARK.com's Drew Curtis." Help save a dying business model today, with their offer of 72 issues for the price of -72, or 200% off the cover price!

  • YouTube has put a lightswitch next to all their videos. Turn the lights off to get a dark background, then turn 'em back on! Also, order The YouTube Collection, all your favorite videos on actual DVDs, the way God and the MAFIAA intended, for one low, low price of $2,448,693 plus tax! Oh, and delivery may be somewhat delayed...

  • TechCrunch introduces TechCrunch Drama, the channel for all your drama needs. I have a feeling they're only partly joking here... :-)

  • TVTropes has been randomly redirecting people visiting its home page to the translated versions...including the "Lolspeak" version. "O hai. U can has descripshun of tvtropes? Dis wiki iz lolcatalog of trix of traed four riting fikshun." If you can't understand it, ask your cat. :-)

  • Tyler Durden on ZeroHedge.com: Why Regulation Is Good For Growth. "The biggest problem with 'free' markets is the stupidity of the common people. How can they possibly know what they want, or what they want to achieve when they have not attended prestigious universities like Oxford, Harvard, or Yale?" ZeroHedge on April 1 = HuffNPuffPost, Daily"ScrewEm"Kos, or Democrappic Underpants the other 365 days of the year (since 2012 is a leap year).

  • Facebook, according to some sources, may be considering adding a "Hate" button. Truth here, people: Wouldn't you buy that one at a black-market price right now?

  • From the IETF, we have two new standards: RFC 6592, "The Null Packet," and RFC 6593, "Service Undiscovery Using Hide-and-Go-Seek for the Domain Pseudonym System." This is a longstanding tradition, and I'm pleased to see it has continued.


On a sad note, April 1 marks the end of Francis W. Porretto's long-running conservative blog Eternity Road, due to various technical difficulties and "personality differences with his Webmistress." However, he continues blogging, for the present, at Liberty's Torch. Make sure and follow him there.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


  • Angry Birds, well known as the hottest mobile game in the history of ever, is now taking over a theme park...or at least a part of Särkänniemi Amusement Park in Tampere, Finland. Playset manufacturer Lappset Ltd. of Rovaniemi is working on the equipment for Angry Birds Land.  Will it finally be the site of an historic peace treaty between the birds and pigs? Don't bet on it...

  • Speaking of gaming, Ars Technica notes that Microsoft will be increasing the number of achievements and Gamerscore points that Arcade titles are permitted to hand out, and wonders if we're on the verge of Gamerscore hyperinflation. Not that it really means anything; M$ could change the name of the Gamerscore to "E-peen" and it would probably better define what it actually amounts to.

  • ESR went to check out the new movie John Carter, and he actually liked it. He says it sticks pretty well to the flavor of the Burroughs original, and where it deviates is either a nod to present-day movie conventions (e.g. giving Dejah Thoris the "Arwen treatment" ) or actually improves things (replacing the handwave over how John Carter actually got to Mars with some actual plot, including a possible sequel hook). This one might be worth seeing in 3-D IMAX "Holy-Shit-o-Vision"...

  • Crappy customer service is almost legendary across multiple industries, but here are some shining counterexamples. Note especially the one from Southwest Airlines. Damn contact lenses are bugging me again... ;-)

  • Alan Skorkin gives us the main reason why you suck at interviews. There's plenty of helpful tips in here for developers looking to ace their next interview. Not that I need this advice at the moment, deus volent.

  • Remember I mentioned Pivotal Labs not long ago? Well, EMC just bought them. Om Malik speculates it's a move by EMC to take agile development to the enterprise. Wonder how that'll affect their pair programming?

  • The recently-announced tablet that runs KDE Plasma, formerly known as "Spark," has been renamed to "Vivaldi." Now that's a classy name. Besides, I think I'd be a little leery of using a tablet with a name that represents pretty much exactly what you don't want a tablet to do.

  • So you say to me, "Erbo, is flamenco guitar metal?" And I reply: Yes. Flamenco guitar is f**king METAL. \m/ (Hat tip: The guy behind the counter at Tradesmart over in Littleton, where I picked up an Epica CD and a Within Temptation CD I'd been looking for.)

  • Of course, I have declared a number of other things to be f**king METAL on Facebook, such as harps, violins, Harry Potter, grand pianos, clarinets, flutes, and woodwinds, and Christmas music (another example). \m/

  • And where is the most metal place on earth?  If you said "Finland," DING DING DING DING DING. (Via JWZ)

  • Dave Winer sums up what he sees as the Republican philosophy: "1. My money is mine. 2. Fuck you." And just what the hell is wrong with that, Dave? Don't you believe your money is yours? If not, I'll be happy to take it off your hands, right here, right now! ;-)

  • Research in Motion, the blackberry people, are going to give up on most consumer markets and concentrate on their business customers. Well, business is where CrackBerry is strongest, so that kinda makes sense. But opinions are mixed. ESR thinks that RIMM has opened itself up to imminent disruption from the low end and the company is on the skids; Karl Denninger, on the other hand, is happy that RIMM's new CEO seems to have pulled his head out of his ass, and has bought in as a bit of a punt. Time will tell which of them is right.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


  • Seems that Facebook has been claiming that people's friends are playing games they're not actually playing. I've noticed this issue first-hand. Sabrina asked me why I was playing a specific game on Facebook; I checked, and I had blocked that game entirely. (I block most games on Facebook routinely. It's nothing personal.) I put it down to Facebook having more bugs than a bait store...but guys, you might just want to slip a user story into your next iteration for this.

  • More innovation from the Finns: they have an "Open Ministry" (Avoin ministeriö) Web site launching soon where anyone can propose a new law or initiative, and, if it's popular enough, the Parliament has to take it up. You'd expect this sort of thing in Finland, where Internet access is practically a way of life; in some respects, this is one of those "Oh, they're only doing this now?" moments.

  • And, while I was over on the Helsingin Sanomat Web site, I spotted the news item that Tarja Halonen has stepped down as President of Finland, ending a 12-year term. In the United States, Halonen is most noted for her resemblance to talk-show host Conan O'Brien; Conan has created political ads for her (getting mention on US news channels!) and even traveled to Finland (report in Finnish, from MTV3). I think everybody got a good laugh out of that. In the meantime, Halonen's record as President has been exemplary; I trust she will enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

  • For some perspective on why Finland is so awesome, this piece by Chris Byrne is a good overview. The cartoon is priceless, as is this advice: "Never drink with a Finn, unless you feel like getting in a friendly knife fight. No seriously, there will be a knife fight, or at the very least a rock or iceball fight, but it will be friendly. You'll only be cut up a little bit and then everyone will go back and drink some more...Unless you're a Russian in which case you'll end up wearing your testicles as earrings."

  • Why does everyone hate jury duty? Professor Bainbridge offers up a laundry list of reasons. Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds "I think it's a matter of respect, ultimately. The jury is supposed to be coequal with the judge, but they treat you like cattle instead." Ask Sabrina what she thinks about jury duty...and better not have anything else scheduled for awhile; a rant like hers takes time to fully appreciate.

  • Research is being conducted into the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to improve learning; if this writer's report is to be believed, what it does is help silence all those inner voices of self-doubt and let you get on with the business of learning. "What would a world look like in which we all wore little tDCS headbands that would keep us in a primed, confident state, free of all doubts and fears? Wouldn't you wear the shit out of that cap?" I think we all would. (Via JWZ, who refers to it as a "tasp." Slightly incorrect terminology, though; a Niven tasp stimulates the brain's pleasure centers wirelessly, from a distance. A closer term might be "droud," which is the device that wireheads use that regulates the current into their brains, also from Niven's work.)

  • Jon Evans, posting on TechCrunch, takes the knife to one of Extreme Programming's sacred cows: "Pair Programming Considered Harmful?" Some shops, like Pivotal Labs, live and breathe pair programming (as I learned at their session at Mile High Agile 2011); they likely won't think much of this article. However, the article suggests that developers are more productive when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption; Joel Spolsky and Fog Creek Software would agree heartily with this assessment. A mixture of both approaches is what Evans advocates; at IQNavigator, we kind of do this, employing pairing when it makes sense to do so and working solo when it doesn't. (The fact that our workstations are actually laptops, which can be undocked and taken elsewhere at need, helps facilitate this.)

  • Six words: "So...it has come to this."

  • Warning: Do not watch this video without having taken your blood pressure medicine first, and secure all firearms and heavy objects near the computer before playing. I'll just say this: "Nuke 'em till they glow, and shoot 'em in the dark. With bullets dipped in pig fat." (Via LCBrendan at Misha's place)

  • Here in Denver, we have a local traffic reporter named--I am not making this up, as Dave Barry says--"Amelia Earhart." And yes, she is a relative of the famous aviatrix. And she's a pilot herself, training to do what her famous relative attempted: fly around the world, in her Cirrus SR-22T. Here's her blog about the effort. Clear skies to you, ma'am!

  • Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked what the most astounding fact was that he could share about the Universe. In this video, he gives his answer: That the atoms of our bodies were once part of stars themselves, that while we are in the universe, the universe is also inside us. Of course, as a Babylon 5 fan, I already knew this: "I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff, we are the universe, made manifest, trying to figure itself out." (Ambassador Delenn, episode "A Distant Star," season 2)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


  • Obama belts out "Sweet Home Chicago" with B.B. King, Mick Jagger, and Buddy Guy. I knew Jake and Elwood Blues. I liked Jake and Elwood Blues. I looked up to Jake and Elwood Blues. Barack Hussein Obama, you're no Jake and Elwood Blues.

  • Jamie Zawinski stuck a "Y2K bug" into his popular Dali Clock application...as a prank. Hilarity ensues.

  • Remember those faster-than-light neutrinos CERN supposedly found? Yeah, not so much. It was a timing error caused by a faulty cable. There go all those science-fiction theories...

  • Speaking of things faster than light, Jeff reports that Jimi's Faster Than Light (known to his hoomans and friends as "Dash" ) is now a champion. Way to go, little fluffball! Now here's hoping he doesn't develop a 'tude like his packmate, Ch. Jimi's Admiral Nelson (aka "Aero" )...

  • Must read: Open Letter to Chris Dodd, from ESR. He shoots, he scores! (Bill Quick thinks that, if Dodd and his ilk are smart enough to read this at all, they'll respond by finding a way to co-opt enough technologists to circumvent ESR and those who stand with him. I doubt that's possible, though. Every man may have his price...but if the MAFIAA tries to co-opt me, for one, they'll find my price too high for them to pay...)

  • Another must read: Francis W. Porretto, the Curmudgeon Emeritus, with The Smoking Qur'an. Includes a lengthy fictional scenario in which a President with some balls responds to the deaths of two American soldiers at the hands of an Afghan soldier upset because of the burning of Qur'ans containing communications between extremist fighters. Stephen Graham Sumner should join the list of "ballsiest fictional American Presidents," right up there with James Marshall, as portrayed by Harrison Ford in Air Force One.

  • Somebody here loves that bag of Purina Cat Chow we got her. Maybe a little too much. I'll just let Sabrina tell the story.

  • Some thoughts on indie game development, from David Amador. At one time, I thought I was going to do something like this...I was writing games on my old TI-99/4A in high school. Somehow I don't think Rush Hour on Poway Road would go over very well, even on the Apple App Store or Android Market. Perhaps that's a dream best left by the wayside. (Via JavaLobby)

  • Latest claim from the Glowbull Wormening hysterics: Now it's going to cause humans to shrink, or some malarkey like that. Cue the voice of Peter Gabriel: "This is an announcement from Genetic Control, It is my sad duty to inform you of a four foot restriction on humanoid height..." (From the Genesis song "Get 'Em Out By Friday" )

  • Finnish software company Rovio has been milking its popular Angry Birds franchise for all it's worth; now DailyMobile.se reports that they're working on something else. They lead the article off saying, "At this point Finland is known largely for two things, Nokia and Angry Birds." I take exception to that...what about Nightwish? Or Linus Torvalds? Or kicking Soviet ass in the Winter War? Show some respect, Swedish dudes.

  • Yahoo has decided on a different tack to try and earn money, according to PandoDaily: it's served Facebook with knowledge that they may be infringing on a bunch of their patents. So, not only is Yahoo patent-trolling, they're biting the hand that feeds them; Yahoo News traffic has more than tripled since they rolled out their (annoying, IMHO) Facebook integration. Congratulations, new Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson! Your reputation is about to descend to Darl McBride levels.

  • If a bargain price for an E-reader and a crapton of E-books looks too good to be true, it is probably neither. (Via John Scalzi)

Monday, February 20, 2012


  • Apparently, not only has Google figured out how to bypass security settings in Safari, they've been able to do it in IE as well. Micro$oft has countered by publishing a "Tracking Protection List" that blocks all Google embeds. At least, in Internet Asploder. I'm inclined to respond by saying that anyone who's still using Internet Asploder deserves what they get...and, as a Chrome user, I'm not particularly worried.

  • Interesting factoid from ZeroHedge: by being perceived as hostile towards gun owners, President Obama has helped the firearms industry tremendously by driving record sales of guns and ammo. I'd almost be inclined to think Obama was pulling a Xanatos Gambit and is ready to claim credit for the "stimulus" to the gun industry...but he's probably not that smart.

  • A lengthy but informative piece here on the art of salary negotiation. Via Chris Byrne, who offers some pointers of his own to supplement that article. Sad but true fact: "We [engineers] overwhelmingly suck at it. We have turned sucking at it into a perverse badge of virtue." Sigh...he's right, especially since my own philosophy is closer to "Be thankful you have a job, shut up and do as you're told."

  • Valorna Edgeworth from Second Life and EVE pointed me to the things MakerBot Industries is doing. I'd read about some of their stuff on TechCrunch, this, for instance. This sort of technology will just become more pervasive; what happens, for instance, when it becomes affordable to have your own CNC milling machine in your garage? It almost is, now, if you buy a used one you can adapt to control via a standard PC...

  • And speaking of disruptive technologies, how about a DNA sequencer the size of a USB key? Expensive now, but just wait. The future is now, folks.

  • This Android tablet is available for $139 for a 7-inch model or $250 for a 10-inch model, runs ICS, does not have any bootloader locks or other obstructions, and comes with optional source code disk. Might be worth getting to hack around with. (Via TC)

  • If you haven't followed Ken White's "Anatomy of A Scam" at Popehat, it's worth a read. It's almost a HOWTO for investigating and reporting scammers, using Google, PACER, and court records searches. Suffice to say, the principal scammers in this tale look like they're in a world of hurt...

  • PandoDaily: Stop Trying to Make F-Commerce Happen. Seriously? "F-commerce" meaning "commerce via Facebook"? That's as bad as "m-commerce" meaning "commerce via mobile," maybe more so. Whoever thought to call it "F-commerce" should be F-slapped around. (FuckedCompany.com: Never forget!)

  • CBS, which now owns Paramount, is putting Star Trek: The Next Generation out on Blu-ray starting this year with Season 1. I just got the "teaser" disc with three restored episodes, and boy, do they look beautiful. Any TNG fan should have it, particularly as one of the remastered episodes is "The Inner Light" from Season 5, universally acknowledged as being one of the best TNG episodes ever, and one of four Star Trek episodes to win a Hugo. The only drawback is, the episodes were all filmed in 4:3 for the TV sets of the day, and so appear pillarboxed on a modern HD set. (JMS was thinking ahead when he filmed Babylon 5 in widescreen...)

 
 
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