Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fox News hates Obama

One quick addendum to this post: be prepared for Rupert Murdoc's coming anti-Obama chicanery.

Hospital death rates

Find out how your hospital stacks up against other local hospitals.

Windows services: backup and search

Two windows-only software services I'm keeping my eye on:
  1. Faroo Search Engine requires Windows installation and isn't pretty, but search results really do rival Google's.
  2. Windows SkyDrive - a possible backup solution if you break files into encrypted 50 mb chunks (using 7zip for example).

Reduce your carbon footprint

Among a long list of other benefits I've seen over time, going veggie saves gas, which reduces pollution and our dependence on foreign oil.

Windows App: musiCutter

I've been pulling a lot of music from newmixes.com lately and there are always a number of sections of talking or of music I don't really like. I also recently converted all my old tapes from when I was a kid to OGG Vorbis format using "OGG Drop" for Windows, but ran into a problem when I accidentally put too much in. This program will chop up both MP3 and OGG files nicely. Saved me hours of re-recording and re-encoding.

Tracking students with collars

This is seriously messed up right here. That someone is merely trying this is horrifying.

Garbage disposals and the environment

Slate takes a look at the problem.

Torturing animals for fun and profit

I thought this was a really dumb thing to get upset about since there are more important things in this world than trying to end bad meat production. Then I watched [only part of] the video. Wow. Need to get some abortion videos so I can have a fair and balanced sickening video collection.

Torrent indexing services

Since I feel like torrents, something regular search engines ignore, will be the primary method of distributing files for the next few years here's a few services that keep track of rapidly changing torrent sites on the Internet.



Excessive hilarity

Only the most premium in comedy.

Plain-view obfuscation techniques

I often send information that I don't need to protect from anyone but casual viewers:
  • hackerspeak - a way of exchanging similar-looking characters ("E"s into 3, "W"s into \/\/)
  • teh srclamber tool - benefits from the fact that we don't really read entire words, just the first and last character
  • rot13 - an ancient technique of rotating everything 13 characters forward (and then backward by the recipient)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


This video is of Dan Savage -- a gay columnist -- versus Tony Perkins who came out against gay marriage. I don't want to talk about gay marriage but instead focus on how they were talking; I wanted this to be an example of how intelligent debate doesn't exist on TV, especially cable news. Unfortunately, the ugly appeal of this scenario was obvious: my favored side made me feel good and I enjoyed several of his quips as well as his clarity.

That's really the catch: someone of my opposite political views would have the exact same experience. This is the nature of the beast: both sides look like winners because both sides got some shots in and the other guy looks like a doof or a zealot. Its a painful Bill O'Reilly-esque barking phenomenon that helps no one and only reinforces your original opinion.

Despite the fun of two "adults" mixing it up, if it were my show I would force them to take turns. I'd respect my audience enough to make up their own minds and maybe come away with something new.

Con artist escape

This video was up on Slashdot and, having had two people try to pull something similar on me, I can say something about how to avoid it that the video doesn't discuss:

The trick to get out of a situation that doesn't feel right it is pretend to answer your cell phone or ideally actually call someone and step away from the situation. Usually just a few seconds of consideration or getting some feedback from a friend is enough to break the spell that a good con artist (especially two) can cast.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Windows software update

You may be familiar with the process Windows uses to update itself but what about all the other software? Is everything else up to date? "By using up-to-date software you'll reduce the risk of encountering bugs and will benefit from more features." (betanews)

Three freeware programs that help you stay on track:
  1. Sumo - my favorite
  2. File Hippo Checker - still fairly new, but promising
  3. AppUpdater - an open source (GPL) checker
I thought the non-free Mac application "AppFresh" had no Windows equivalent but there are several. For more info, I did a write up for this over at portablefreeware's forums.

Update: there are apparently a LOT of free software version checkers (scroll down on this page).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One last political video from the election season

Sort of the coup de grace from Bill Maher, but more importantly a warning that the problems of the Clinton administration are simply not comparable to the problems of the Bush administration.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Commencement speeches

Three speeches that have really stuck with me over time: Steve Jobs and Mary Schmich. Also Stephen Colbert for good measure.

Windows data security

A few programs to help keep credit card data, passwords, your novel, or anything else safe and encrypted. Extremely simple and easy.
  • AxCrypt is a really simple program that's been around for a long time and is very reliable. With this you can open any encrypted document with just a password. Open source.
  • Crypditor is an equally simple program just for text. You type in the window and then save the text with a password. There's no install -- just a single file that runs by itself. Each file you save is also a self-contained editor and document with its own password.
  • Locknote - similar and supremely simple. Has a few more features than Crypditor and is from a company I really like, but requires an install.
  • Truecrypt (my choice, also out for Mac) - more complicated but has the advantage of behaving like a removable drive. Even better, you can put in a fake password and a real password -- the wrong password will show an empty archive while the right one will show everything. There's no way to tell the difference. Open source.

Gmail: show only new messages

Do you have thousands of messages in your inbox? Is the "new" mail always listing a few old e-mails that you've never read? It never goes down to zero because you can never click "older" enough times to find them.

Fortunately, Google has a trick: in the search box type: "is:unread"


Monday, November 03, 2008

Web development: address bar web site logo trick

This did the trick for something I've been trying to do for a while: display my web site logo in the address bar and bookmarks. It just looks more professional. Here's the icon I created for a coffee shop (circled in red below):

I use PhotoFiltre to get it into 16x16 then the website tool to get it into the correct format (ICO). Its a great extra touch.