The Crypt of Civilization

February 18, 2006

The Crypt of Civilization. This project "represents the first concerted effort to collect and preserve a snapshot of human civilization and technology. Though the term had not yet been coined at its inception, it was the first modern time capsule."

I've gone to a single-column layout

February 17, 2006

90% of the people reading this will have no idea the amount of time and effort involved in making such a move, but let's just say that it took many, many hours... and I'm spent. As ever, things looked fine in every browser but IE and the majority of my post-"live" time was spent making IE play nice (you know, the same shit we've been dealing with since 2000). There are still some slight tweaks to be made (mostly with regard to width and the spacing between elements), but for the most part the design is complete.

As is usually the case, I had to come up with a ton of WordPress hacks and will likely write about all of them here at some point (both for future reference and because those posts always pull in a lot of Google traffic).

Daily Bits

You'll notice that these are now displayed inline with the posts (look for the pink text). This is something I've wanted to do for a while, but leaving the side menu so empty always made me a bit uncomfortable; now that that menu is gone it's a non-issue.

I had to update Smart Archives to handle category exclusion so that the "bits" I now have in WordPress (I'm no longer using wouldn't show up on the archives page. On a related note, those subscribed to my feed should point their aggregators to the local feed (actually, this has always been the address, but I've been forwarding it to for quite some time, and, depending on your aggregator, you might have been checking directly without knowing it).

For whatever reason, Bloglines is still pointing to the feed when you put in my local address. I suspect that a "hard" redirect has been implemented on their end; I've sent them an e-mail and expect to have that cleared up fairly soon (they've been pretty good about things like this in the past).

With respect to the bits, I think all that's left to do now is to create a new bookmark and link it back to this post so that those who only subscribe to that feed (and not the main weblog feed) will be aware of the change.

Side Menu

Obviously, the side menu is no more, but don't panic(!), all of the information that was located there previously still exists on the page, just in a slightly different position.

For most of the pages, the information about the page that was previously located at the top of the side menu, is now located in the center at the top of the page, with the exception of individual archives, whose page information and possibly related links are now located at the bottom of the page, under the post.

Which one is the ham?

February 14, 2006

Believe it or not, this was uttered by my Subway "sandwich artist" last night moments after I told him what I wanted.1 What's more is that he was asking another employee, whom, on a prior occasion, I overheard requesting confirmation that 60 minus 3 was 57.

The owner puts people like this in charge of his money?

  1. Is this a comment on the quality of the meat or the employee?   

Revamped gadgets page

February 12, 2006

I've finally updated the gadgets page to comport with the last few months' purchases. I really loathe updating that page, but it must be done (right?).

I keep hoping for some all-encompassing "gadget encyclopedia" that I can link the products to so that their technical information can be found there instead of on my site, but I'm becoming more and more certain that that will never happen. Something like Console Database would be great.


You'll notice a much more streamlined look on the page. Because the list was becoming a bit unwieldily, I whipped up some JavaScript voodoo to "highlight" a single gadget at a time -- clicking on the "+" next to a name will show you that gadget's specifications.


I know some of you have often pondered the purpose of this page (it's actually served many different roles over the course of its lifetime), and I think the "explanation" currently found in its side menu sums it up nicely:

If I were a gangsta rapper, this is the page where I'd detail all of the shots I'd taken. Instant street cred. It's basically just a list of some of the toys I've purchased over the years.

Category exclusion in Smart Archives

February 11, 2006

Right behind localization, category exclusion was the most requested Smart Archives feature. To all of those that e-mailed me about it my usual response went something like, "I want to keep SA as simple as possible and have no use for such a feature at the moment, though that might change in the future."

Well, things have changed. Given that neither nor any other social bookmarking service allows us to put HTML in the notes/descriptions, something I've raised a stink about many times before, I'm abandoning them and doing it in-house.

I'll obviously write more about this later, but I just wanted to get the quick word out that SA now supports [single] category exclusion and the new version will be released sometime soon.

As you were.


February 09, 2006

I took a trip to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (what a ghastly-looking website) a couple of weeks ago and got quite a few shots, mostly of seagulls (which I'll put up fairly soon). The photo seen here is of a boardwalk ride called "Typhoon," caught in mid-action.


On using Gmail exclusively

February 06, 2006

You'd think that someone intimately involved with two books about Gmail (Hacking Gmail; Google Hacks) would actually be using the webmail service, but that wasn't the case for me until about three months ago.

I told myself I wasn't going to use Gmail until two things happened: 1) an option was added to specify the from address (in addition to the reply-to) and 2) the ability to upload past e-mail was supported natively. The former has been fixed, but the latter is still missing. I'm rather confused by this because I know for a fact that there a lot of people (with serious blogosphere pull) still holding out for this feature and I have to think that adding it would be technically mindless (i.e., receive e-mail in mbox format, parse, save). I don't get it. That said, I'm getting used to the fact that all of my archived e-mail isn't on Gmail, and honestly, if they were to add the ability to upload it I probably wouldn't even bother at this point.


I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to tackle this and have decided to simply list what I think are the biggest problems with the service and the things I would like to see implemented.

  • Doesn't take you back to the Inbox after replying to an e-mail. As soon as I send an e-mail off I want to move on to something else. Instead, I have to wait for the send to complete and then click (or use a keyboard shortcut) to get back to the Inbox.
  • After selecting emails and applying some action to them, they are not unchecked after the action has been applied. This, perhaps, is the most annoying thing about Gmail. I can't for the life of me figure out the logic behind this (or the technical reason why it hasn't been fixed). What the hell!?!
  • No ability to specify the width of the application within the browser window -- it always expands to the size of the window.
  • The drafts "folder" doesn't show you the recipient's name, just the subject (unless you're replying to a then-existing conversation). Huh?
  • No ability to assign keyboard functions (ala Mail Act-on). This feature would be a godsend and I bet it's something they're working on.
  • There is no message count (just a "conversation" count). I need numbers!
  • If someone attaches a picture, Gmail usually presents a scaled-down version of the image and offers two options, "view" and "download." If you choose "view" and then try to go back in your browser you're taken directly to the Inbox instead of the e-mail you were just reading.
  • The hard-wrapping of text. Please, for the love of god, stop putting hard line breaks into my messages; it makes copying/pasting them later such a burden.
  • No way to reply directly from the message list. In other words, if I receive an e-mail from a particular person with a particular subject line and know immediately that I want to reply to them immediately, I'd like to be able to do that without having to go through multiple steps.
  • The number in parentheses next to "Inbox" in the menu doesn't always match the number of unread e-mails shown in the message list.
  • No way to shorten the time that spam resides on the system before it's deleted -- it's stuck at 30 days.
  • No way to sort search results (e.g., by date sent, date received, etc).
  • If you are reading a "conversation" and see that a new e-mail has arrived, it would be nice if when that new e-mail is part of the conversation you are currently looking at, it would just refresh your conversation instead of requiring you to go all the way back to the list of conversations and click it again.
  • No way to mass-forward an e-mail. In other words, you can't choose to forward an e-mail and then jump to the contacts page to select multiple recipients (as you can do when creating a new message). You're forced to create a new message and copy/paste the recipient list into the forward.


  • It works well in Lynx if you find yourself in that situation.
  • Gmail Mobile is brilliant. It's really, really nice and I plan to do a full write-up on it in the near future.
  • Starred e-mails are expanded automatically in long conversations.
  • To reply you just need to click inside the reply box (don't have to find the reply "button"). This doesn't yet work in all browsers.
  • The spam filter is excellent and has been spot-on for me, which is why I wrote Three ways to filter spam using Gmail. In 3+ months of continuous use, I've yet to have a single false-positive (that I know about).
  • Very nice spell-checking implementation.
  • Still the best search functionality in the business.
  • Caused other webmail providers to get their asses in gear.

Grizzly Man

February 06, 2006

In a word (or twelve!), fascinating, tragic, inspiring, confusing, desperate, primal, shocking, exciting, frightening, beautiful, chaotic, intense.

You have to see Grizzly Man (I TiVo'd it off of the Discovery channel; not sure when they're going to air it again).

Firefox redirects malformed address to

February 05, 2006

Anyone know why, when you specify the HTTP protocol twice in Firefox (put "http://http://" into the address bar), it resolves to

UPDATE: Mystery solved. Ricardo Vidal e-mailed me a couple of hours after I posted this to explain what was happening. When Firefox gets a malformed address it runs it through an "I'm Feeling Lucky" Google search, and, as you might have guessed, Microsoft is the first result for "http://".

On being more anecdotal and immediate

February 04, 2006

Let me first make the point that I'm not the only blogger with these "issues;" I've got it on good authority that a lot of us struggle with them.

I'm really going to make an effort to be a bit more anecdotal here. I know that a lot of my writing focuses on [sometimes fringe] technical topics -- it's what I know and I really enjoying expounding on that knowledge here. But, the fact is, I'm incredibly witty and quick (and humble  :P), especially if I really know you, and I'm tired of that rarely coming across on this site. Then again, it's almost impossible for that to come across on this site, so I'm not sure where that leaves me.

Along with being more anecdotal, I'm also going to try to post things as I write them. To some that might seem like an odd statement, that I wouldn't post something after it's been typed up, but I've always had a few hang-ups when it comes to publishing what I've written.


I spend an inordinate amount of time deciding when to actually post something, especially if I have a lot of articles already [partly] typed up (I currently have 36 posts-in-waiting), because I then also think about the order in which they should appear. This is incredibly counter-productive and at the end of the day probably serves no real purpose.

The delay strategy is based in part on my desire to reach those that read my site without an aggregator. I can't believe I just had to say that in 2000-fucking-6, but I know that quite a few people that read my site don't use any sort of aggregation and simply type out the address every few days to see if there's anything new on the front page. I'll never understand it, but to each his own I 'spose. I'm getting out of the do-it-my-way business; people like being inefficient and I'm tired of telling them that my way is better (it usually is, but they don't care and I'm sick of caring for them).

Another timing-related issue has to do with who I think will be going to my site on a given day. For example, if I've just fired off an e-mail to a professor there's a chance that he'll check out the site (based on my signature and/or e-mail address) and, well, you get the point. Though everything is always here for the taking, most people won't look beyond the front page (or probably more accurately, the first few lines of the latest post) and so I do give some thought to who might be there (for the first time) at a particular time. I know, it's ridiculous.


Sometimes I'll leave a post up longer than 'necessary' because I want a maximum number of people to see it. For instance, I recently left a picture of a Florida sunset up for a few days even though I had a billion other things to post. I loved how it looked at the top of my page and I didn't want it to get pushed down until I felt most friends without aggregators had seen it.

The same goes for technical things I've written that I'm particularly happy with (how-tos, project announcements, etc); I generally like them to sit at the top longer than other posts. Altogether now, ridiculous.

From now on

Now that all of that is on the table, I'm going to make a conscious effort to push it over the edge and onto the floor. I'm going to post as I write and write as I feel. I'm not sure if anyone will notice a difference (or if I'll actually do it), but I feel better about the whole thing already.  :)


Mac OS X, Windows Mobile, Bluetooth modem

January 31, 2006

Getting a Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphone working as a Bluetooth modem under Mac OS X is something I've expressed frustration about before (that post spawned a lot of e-mails asking if I had found a solution and so I think there are going to be some very happy people reading this post).

The mechanics of setting up the connection are common(?) knowledge and it was really just a matter of finding (or waiting for) a script that worked (I currently have 185 such scripts, a lot of them from Ross Barkman, the guy who actually created the script you'll need for this particular setup).

The instructions below were tested using an i-mate SP5 smartphone and Mac OS X.4.4. I haven't yet tried this out with a Windows Mobile 2003 smartphone (e.g., an i-mate SP3i), but I'm pretty sure it won't work. That's not to say that with a little hacking it can't be made to work, but I doubt it will connect out-of-the-box like the SP5 (and, presumably, other WM5 devices).

Please e-mail me and let me know if this works for you and what your setup is; I'll add those configurations to a list here so that others know what does and doesn't work.

Update: I've been told that the Treo 750, HTC Wizard (aka i-mate K-Jam, Qtek 9100, MDA Vario, O2 XDA, etc.), iPAQ h6315, iPAQ h6515, Audiovox PPC-6700, Qtek 8300, Cingular 2125, Cingular 8125, SPV C600, i-mate SP3i, and Motorola MPx220 work without issue. It should be noted that the MPx220 and SP3i are Windows Mobile 2003 devices.

Finally, the instructions on how to tether your Windows Mobile smartphone to a Mac OS X computer over Bluetooth:

  1. Make sure that when you're setting up your mobile phone's Bluetooth capabilities within Mac OS X you check "Access the Internet with your phone's data connection." If your phone is already paired and you initially forgot to select this option you can find it at System Preferences | Bluetooth | Devices [choose your device] | Configure.
  2. Download Ross Barkman's IPAQ PDAs modem script. Update: Ross has updated this script and is now offering a package of three scripts, which he calls Windows Mobile Scripts. You should probably try the 460k script first (which will handle most EDGE/3G phones), and if that doesn't work, fall back to the other two.
  3. Unpack the archive and place the IPAQ GSM script into /Library/Modem Scripts/ (note the update in the previous step; you may want to use one of the newer scripts).
  4. Go to System Preferences | Network | Show: [Bluetooth]
  5. Click on PPP Options and make sure that "Use TCP header compression" is unchecked. Click OK.
  6. Click on Bluetooth Modem and choose the IPAQ GSM script from the drop-down list (note the update in step 2; you may want to use one of the newer scripts).
  7. Disable both "Enable error correction and compression in modem" and "Wait for dial tone before dialing."
  8. Click on PPP. T-Mobile users aren't required to put in a specific username or password, but apparently it breaks if you don't put something in both fields. If you're a Cingular subscriber you'll want to use the following information:
    Password: CINGULAR1
  9. Enter *99# as the phone number.
  10. Click Dial Now and then click Connect.

As always, you can monitor the connection (or failed attempt) through /var/log/ppp.log.