My study materials for the patent bar arrived yesterday. Joy. You'd think that for the amount of money paid for these materials I'd get some sort of free ride on the exam; a "golden ticket" that I could just slip to the proctor and then be on my merry way. Apparently that's not how it works and it's starting to sink in that I'm actually going to have to study for this damn thing. As I outlined in a previous post, I assumed that the studying was going to be slow and painful. I was wrong. It's much worse. I slogged through the first two (of 63) modules today and can liken it only to, well, nothing. You're literally trying to memorize a ~3,000 page manual that is more dense and boring than anything you've ever seen. It's horrible.
After using desktop aggregators for years, I've recently moved my subscriptions over to the web-based Bloglines and have no intention of going back to NetNewsWire. I'm always reluctant to use server-side anything; I think this general aversion stems from the fact that I usually don't feel that I'm in control of web applications (i.e., there are never enough customization and configuration options and everything is centralized on a computer that isn't mine). That said, I only thought to give Bloglines a chance after seeing some other prominent netheads rave about it. After using it for the past two weeks I have to say that it gets just about everything right; my problems with it are both mild and easily curable. The next few paragraphs outline some of the changes I'd like to see, but even if none of these come to fruition, Bloglines is my aggregator of choice until something better comes along.
The first thing I'd like to see is the number of unread headlines as part of the title of the page (e.g., instead of "Bloglines | My Blogs," I'd like "Bloglines | 187 unread"). That way, a quick glance to the Bloglines tab in my browser would reveal how far "behind" I was (come to think of it, maybe that's not a good idea).
I wouldn't mind an easier way of sorting the subscriptions. As it stands now, it's easier to export the subs list, import it into a desktop client (e.g., NetNewsWire), sort the subs as I see fit, export them, and then re-import them into Bloglines.
I think a name change would be nice as well. Bloglines implies that it is only for weblogs and not syndication in general. Furthermore, even it were somehow confined to weblogs, I think the name is stupid — what the hell does "bloglines" mean? Perhaps it is a play on "headlines?" Whatever, I don't like it. *shrug*
Finally, the feature I'd like to see most is for Bloglines to include in my list only the subscriptions that have unread headlines — if there aren't any unread headlines there is no reason to encumber my list (which requires quite a bit of scrolling as is) with those empty sites.
I started placing Google's AdSense ads on my individual archives about a month ago just to get a feel for the amount of money that might be generated. I'm happy to report that I've actually made quite a bit off the ads (people actually click on these things, who knew?) and see no real reason to pull them. Not only will this pay for the hosting, but it will leave me with a nice little chunk of change each month.
I've debated moving the ads from the bottom of each entry to being inline with the menu on the left, but I hesitate because I feel that that would look a little too "commercial," though it would surely compel more click-throughs. I'm going to leave them at the bottom of the pages for now, but might move them in the future.
After an overwhelming response to my earlier post about the new slideshow I'm using on the photos page, I've gone ahead and added some comments and instructions to the code and am now offering it to everyone. Keep in mind that this is just something I whipped up a couple of days ago to display my images after tiring of my previous solution and being unable to find something simple and small that did what I wanted (read: it is both simple and small and is meant to fulfill a niche need of mine). Apparently this sort of thing is something that a lot of other people were looking for as well given the strong response to the earlier post.
UPDATE: Slideshow Project Page
I've completely redone my photo pages. After much more consternation than there should have been, I decided that I wanted to do a slideshow with the picture sets instead of the tiled thumbnails that I previously used. I spent a fair amount of time looking at possible solutions for this, but opted to build it myself in PHP after not being able to find a method that I liked. Among the different solutions I looked at were the BetterHtmlExport plugin for iPhoto and Galerie (not to be confused with Gallery, which I've used a few times in the past and knew would be overkill for what I wanted to do now). I probably worked through eight different options before deciding that I would just write it myself because none of the things I found captured the simplicity of what I was shooting for: the ability to drop a single PHP (or other) file into a directory of sequentially numbered images and have those images presented as a slideshow. I also wanted the presentation to mesh well with my current page templates and be easy to change in the future.
My solution takes care of all these things and the code is fairly short (as it should be given the simplicity of the problem). The way I have it set up, you need to include a one line text file in each directory of pictures which specifies the title of the page (so that the PHP code/template can be kept completely separate from whatever set of pics it's working with). This could obviously be easily extended to cover more variables like descriptions for individual pictures (for example, you could set up each text line to correspond to that line number's matching image number, thereby allowing you to give a description of each picture). After you create this text file you simply need to drop the PHP file into the directory and then point to it.
Initially, I planned to have the pictures show up in my "content" column (where this text is), but this would have required me to either widen the div or go back and resize all of my pics to 400x300, neither of which I wanted to do. Because of these constraints, I decided to keep the slideshow pages free of the menu and title header found on the other pages. I removed the title header because I wanted to make sure that the pictures could be viewed in full without the person having to scroll, which they would have had to do if they were viewing 375x500 portrait pics on a 1024x768 screen (yah, I find it hard to believe myself, but some people still use that resolution).
So, yah, nothing revolutionary here, but I'm pretty pleased with the results. If past experience is any indication, I have a feeling a few people are going to ask for the code. If this turns out to be the case, I'll probably flesh it out a bit and make it more robust before passing it around.
A good friend of mine (one of the many that I've convinced to move to Apple's OS X) is leaving for the summer to do a study abroad program, and as luck would have it, I get to "look after" his 23" Cinema HD Display while he's gone. Given my propensity to become attached to all things tech, I was a little apprehensive about taking it in the beginning knowing that I'd eventually have to give it up, but I've since changed my entire outlook on the situation. I'm just going to keep it. You hear that Dave? I realize this might put a damper on our friendship, but the fact is, I just can't go back to life without it. I hope you understand. :P
In other news, if anyone out there has a spare $2000 that they'd like to donate to my just-created monitor fund, please let me know.
There has been a lot of controversy/hype/anger/apathy surrounding the recent release of Movable Type 3.0 Developer Edition. I must admit that I'm lumped in with the apathetic crowd. Because I only run one weblog through the system (perhaps two in the near future, I'm still debating that), I'm not affected at all by the new pricing scheme (i.e., for my uses, it remains free), which is the impetus behind all of those who are 'angry.'
That said, I upgraded to v3.0D a couple of weeks ago and have experienced no trouble at all (including no plugin hiccups). Besides some subtle interface design changes, there really is nothing aesthetically different from past versions. I knew this going into the upgrade and am well aware of the changes to the 'guts' of the system, but I was still expecting something more. Notwithstanding the lack of feature updates, I see no reason to stop using Movable Type — I still feel that no other CMS comes close.
For kicks, I installed WordPress a few weeks ago and messed around with it for a while, but its interface did nothing for me nor were its features on par with Movable Type's. To be fair, I was running v1.0.2, but v1.2 was released a few days ago, which might have fixed some of the things I didn't like; I'll probably play around with the new version sometime this week. Adding to Movable Type's pull on me is the number of plugins available for it. Not to be left out, WordPress also offers the ability to easily create plugins for the system, but its repository is currently much smaller; granted, WordPress's user base is much smaller and it's only been out a short while compared to Movable Type.
To be clear though, if it turned out that the new Movable Type pricing scheme required me to pay for it, I would probably get past my hang-ups with WordPress and begin using it, which seems to be the attitude of most of those who are now forced to pay for v3.0D upgrades. That's not to say that I wouldn't pay for Movable Type (as I've said many times before, it's one of the greatest pieces of software I've ever used), but if there is another [free] solution available that can do everything that Movable Type can do, logic dictates that I would opt for the other solution. *shrug*
The trip down to LA was great. I'm going to try to make this quick as I have 2323243 other things to do — I'll save trip details for phone conversations and inquisitive e-mails. I stayed with a good friend of mine and his aunt and uncle in a small town called San Dimas. The first full day down there we hit up Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. Pretty much walked the entire Hollywood Walk of Fame and saw the Man's Chinese (it's actually Grauman's) and Kodak theaters. Stopped in at the Roosevelt hotel and got some drinks.
Later that day we drove through Beverly Hills and did some window shopping on Rodeo drive. The amount of money in that area is truly unbelievable. To be perfectly honest, it was disgusting. I saw four Bentleys in less than 20 minutes, not to mention the Aston Martins and countless Porsches and Range Rovers. Speaking of cars, I actually saw a Maybach on Hollywood Boulevard; what a beautiful machine. We ended the night at a seafood restaurant/bar called Gladstone's on the water in Malibu.
The following day we woke up pretty late and wanted to be back in time for dinner with my friend's uncle so we didn't stray too far from the house. We went down to the shopping/bar area in Pasadena and walked around and had a few drinks. That night we had dinner at Little Tokyo in San Dimas, which, I was told beforehand, was the best sushi outside of Japan. My friend was absolutely right — it was the best sushi I've ever had. From the quantity to the quality, it just doesn't get any better. At the end of our meal I put on my best Fear Factor face and ate crickets that were given to us by the sushi chef. After seeing him take a few down I didn't hesitate too much and went for it; they were surprisingly good (I think they were coated in sugar), but I can't say I was too fond of the legs.
The next day we met up with another friend of mine from the law school. She was born and raised in the LA area and had a lot that she wanted to show me. We started out the day by walking up and down the sidewalk at Venice/Muscle Beach. The area there was really neat; there were lots of places to skate and play paddle tennis and basketball. The sidewalk was lined with the usual shit-knack stores and sidewalk vendors hawking everything from handmade purses to kites. The one odd thing I noticed was that all of the meatheads working out in the "beach gym" thing were wearing nothing but what can best be described as tighty-whitey underwear — weird.
After we left Venice beach we hit up the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica where we stopped at a few places to eat and drink. We then walked along the Santa Monica Pier, which was gorgeous and very busy. That night we went to a bar called Miyagi's in West Hollywood (where Hugh Hefner supposedly frequents; no, he nor any Playboy bunnies were there that night). The plan was to jump in and out of a few places but I was smitten with the bartender and didn't want to leave — it was a good time. Be prepared to pay at this place; the drinks I was getting were $17.50 each (needless to say, I wasn't aware of this until the tab came).
The next day I drove down to Huntington Beach to meet up with one of my best friends from high school who is now living there. We went down to the beach and the Huntington Pier, which was awesome. The beach was packed and the water was full of kids and surfers. There was actually a big surfing competition going on while we were there, which was kind of neat. We stayed on the pier for quite a while and snapped up a lot of pics. At the end of the pier we watched some guy and his kid reel up a stingray they had caught. The plan that night was to head back up to LA and go out on the town, but I was so tired that we decided to hit up a local place in Huntington Beach. Good times.
I Wish I could write more, but I've got a lot of other things to take care of. If you've e-mailed me within the past week, hold on tight, a reply is forthcoming, but it might take a couple more days — I have a shit ton of e-mail to return.
I did manage to get a few pictures, but nothing too great. I forgot my camera on one of the excursions and am waiting to get the pics from the girl whose camera I used that day — I'll put some pics up shortly after I get those other photos.
I'm headed down to Los Angeles later today with a good friend of mine. I'm incredibly excited as I've never been to LA and have always wanted to go (hell, the furthest south in California I've ever been is San Luis Obispo). I probably won't post again until Sunday, but you never know. Expect a new picture set sometime next week and some great stories to boot (though I'll probably have to confine most of the stories to e-mail, depending :P).
I came across this site about a week ago during my study bender and kind of forgot about it until now. Essentially, Musicplasma takes the name of an artist that you punch in and spits out a graph that contains all those artists who are related in some way (genre, epoch, etc) to the artist you're querying — a visual search engine. You can move around the graph and click on the other artists to start the search anew or you can zoom in and out of the artist currently in focus.
The closer the artists are, musically speaking, the closer to each other they will be displayed on screen, you will be likely to appreciate artists close to the one you selected first.
I've put it through quite a few tests and it seems to be fairly on point, but you can definitely break it (e.g., "the streets" produces some whack results). Either way, it's really fun to play around with and for those of you who who pay for music, it provides a list of the artist's albums and links to them on Amazon.
I follow my referrers fairly constantly and have come across some rather interesting Google searches the past couple of months. The following searches are a few of those (off the top of my head) for which I am the #1 result.
future-proof your uris
mobile phone roundup
required os x programs
i'm a computer engineer
os x verbose boot
pictures of scu
justin from american chopper
t616 receiving pictures
ebay fraud indonesia
quick trip to san francisco
resizing pictures in iphoto
"rolling stone for life"
It's rare that I talk about personal stuff on this site, and I doubt this post will get very far in that regard, but I kind of wanted to get this out there. This has been the hardest year of my life. My mother passed away three days before I was to begin my first day of law school — clear across the continent (Florida --> California) and completely removed from friends and family. While I've made some great friends out here who have been more than supportive and have gone out of their way to be there for me whenever I needed it (not to mention everyone back home), the year has been more difficult than anyone will ever know. I kind of shut myself off from talking about my mother to just about everyone and backed away from any conversation that I felt was leading in that direction. Even now as I type this, I feel myself pulling away and not wanting to write about it anymore, though I've really said nothing (then again, a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's a little too personal for this site).
Oh yah, law school was pretty tough too — pounded out the last exam Friday morning (suffice it to say that from 12PM Friday afternoon to 6AM Saturday morning, a lot of fun was had). Finals obviously sucked (3-4 hour essay exams suck as a rule), but on top of that my mother's birthday was right smack in the middle of them and then Mother's Day was three days later. I was, quite literally, a walking ball of nerves and emotion. Those that really know me know that I'm an incredibly emotional/sensitive person and it has taken all of me not to lose it the past couple of weeks. I'll strike a lot of that up to an emotional disconnect that I've forced upon myself the last 10 months — I don't think I could have made it through school without it. That's not to say that I haven't had my bad moments throughout the year; I've cracked quite a bit and at times studying was nothing short of impossible.
Now, with one year of law school down the drain and some free time to think, I'm realizing that I haven't come too far in dealing with the pain of her loss. I don't know, I think I'm just incredibly scared to tackle it head-on, knowing all too well how fragile I am. I'm hoping the summer will allow me some time to reflect and finally come to terms with all that has happened. I have a habit (some would say a good one) of throwing myself into schoolwork, computer shit, and helping friends with personal problems. While this allows me to be wonderfully productive, now more than ever it has caused me to feel guilty for pushing other things to the back of my mind. I don't know. I need more time.
That said, I'm incredibly relieved that this [academic] year is finally over and I can step back for a bit and recollect. I wish I could open up more on this site (in general), but I don't think I can. It just doesn't feel right.
I'm right in the middle of first year law school finals and so I probably won't post for a couple of weeks. We'll see. On a related note, if I'm a little slow with the e-mail replies you know why.
"Quicksilver is an evolving framework for accessing and manipulating many forms of personal data."
BlackTree's definition sounds great, but it doesn't begin to scratch the surface of Quicksilver's power. I first mentioned this program in the Required OS X Programs post a few weeks ago. At that time I had only been using it for a few days, but had already realized that it was indispensable. After having had the chance to really dig into it these last few weeks I can genuinely say that it is perhaps the single most ingenious program I've ever used on any platform. It just works. Wonderfully.
There are very few people who run Mac OS X and have a weblog who have not commented on Quicksilver with the same excitement as myself. The real breakthrough moment for me came when I was searching for a quick way to pause/play/skip in iTunes using just the keyboard and without taking the focus off of my current window. So, I hit cmd-space (the default key combination for launching Quicksilver), typed "nex," and pressed enter. Sure enough, it had selected "Next Song.scpt" and jumped to the next track in my playlist. I was sold. It's one of those programs that causes you to convince yourself that using it for [insert any task] is much more efficient, even if it's not.
Say you want to e-mail someone in your Address Book. You simply punch cmd-space, type the person's last name, and choose their e-mail address. Done. Speaking of e-mail, you can actually type the entire message up in Quicksilver and then have it launch a new message addressed to whomever you choose. After you hit your hotkey sequence, hit the "." key and begin typing your message. When finished, hit enter and then search for the person to whom you want to send the message.
You can even pipe text to Quicksilver from the command line. *drool*
There really is no limit to what this program can do and it's only going to become more powerful. As I mentioned in an earlier post, your need for the Dock and Finder can be completely obviated if you so choose; it seems as if some have already taken this step. Beyond its functional greatness, I think it looks really good and meshes well with Mac OS X. It's the type of program that further enforces my decision to move from desktop Linux to Apple's OS.
Something tells me the good folks at BlackTree are going to get us all hooked on this software crack and then start charging for it.
According to a recent NYT article, consumers spent $3.2 billion on custom ringtones in 2003. What the hell is wrong with people? I remember when predictions of this sort of thing started surfacing a few years ago; I just brushed them off as nonsense, but apparently I was wrong. I just don't get it — who's buying these things? First of all, ringtones should only be used when absolutely necessary. Second of all, if your phone is in your pocket (which I'm assuming it is 99% of the time), it should be on vibrate. Period. That way, you never disturb others with the ring and never have to worry about switching it to vibrate when required. For those who haven't yet received the memo: no one needs to know that you've received a phone call except you.
Ring tone sales are expected to continue to expand as more sophisticated cellphones and advanced technologies become available, which will make the rings sound less like they are being played with one finger on a tiny calliope.
I hate to break it to those out there who think this cash cow is going to last, but this little bubble is going to burst as soon as the majority of mobile phones allow the user to use his own audio files for ringtones (i.e., an MP3 of their favorite song), which is not too far off (I'm referring to the average user's mobile phone, not high-end models that have allowed this sort of functionalilty in one form or another for years). Even then, the argument for having it on vibrate still applies, perhaps more so given society's affinity for bad music these days; the last thing I want to hear when Suzy gets a phone call is "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard." :)
Among Cingular's newest offerings are name ringers that seemingly speak to the cellphone owner, as in "Mike. Mike. Answer the phone, Mike."
Again, this is going to be moot when end-user phones support the ability to use personal files (i.e., you could create your own, "hey, dumbass, answer the phone... what? you can't hear this because the phone is in your pocket and you should have it on vibrate?"). I could do this on my old P800 , but the point was lost on me.
At the end of the day, to each his own; if you want to pay for ringtones, so be it. I'll never understand. $3,200,000,000 in one year!
Despite requesting to be a beta tester for Google's Gmail webmail service (eventually POP and IMAP as well), I'm yet to get the early nod from the powers that be (though apparently other "active" Blogger users have). Lucky for me, Jeremy Zawodny had some extra invites to spare and he sent me one a couple of days ago (I guess I could have always turned to eBay).
Everyone knows the big deal behind Gmail is the 1GB (yes, 1000MB) of storage space that comes with each account and the ability to archive/search through ALL of your messages. Given that I already do these things, and have for years, I'm obviously not going to begin using Gmail as my e-mail 'client.' In fact, I doubt I'll ever use it to send/receive personal e-mail. The reason I wanted to get an account was simply to play with it; to find out what all the hype was about (and to reserve the jblanton username — you just never know).
If I'm being perfectly honest, I'm afraid I don't see the big deal. I can't find anything particularly "innovative" going on here, save the fact that some things people have been doing for years in native e-mail clients are now being offered through a non-local webmail interface. *shrug* I guess the regular user out there who uses Hotmail/Yahoo/MSN/etc as their primary e-mail tool might like the fact that they don't have to delete their e-mail, but hell, they can't care too much because they've been deleting their e-mail for years. Either way, more space was the logical progression of such accounts. Granted, the jump from 3-10MB to 1GB is impressive, but all other similar outfits will follow suit in due time.
The fact that Gmail has "virtual folders" is also creating quite the buzz. While neat and practical, it certainly isn't cutting-edge technology — correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe I was doing this in Evolution years ago.
Notwithstanding all of these not-so-innovative innovations, if I were one of those people who used any of the aforementioned free webmail services, I would definitely jump on Gmail as soon as it's made available to the public. Let's be clear: Gmail is the free e-mail service to beat. The only caveat is that you will be signing away your privacy (your e-mail "conversations" are used to deliver context-sensitive ads), but this is really no different from privacy issues that already afflict other services (or will in the very near future).
As others have done, I'm posting my new address here to generate some spam so that I can take a look at how Gmail attacks it (this was actually the only reason for this post, but it appears that I've managed to ramble on as usual).
I'm debating becoming a part of Google's AdSense program. I've thought about this for a long time and have repeatedly opted against it, but I'm now starting to have second thoughts given that a lot of "non-commercial" sites are making decent change from it (if anything, it would be nice to cover hosting costs). So, if you start to see the text ads in the next few days, don't be alarmed. If I do decide to do this the ads will only appear on the archived pages (beneath the posts) and never on the main page(s).
I recently purchased an iLap for my PowerBook. It provides excellent heat distribution, raises the screen and tilts the keyboard when it is on my desk, and when it is in my lap it raises the PowerBook to a much more comfortable position and keeps the heat away from my future children.
The most important thing is that it really relieves some of the strain I constantly feel down the back of my left shoulder and neck after prolonged periods of notebook use at a desk. I think it looks really good on my desk and now I can slide the notebook around the desk rather easily (I have a glass top).
It is incredibly comfortable for lap use as well — you feel absolutely no heat from the PowerBook and it raises the notebook to a level that is much more conducive to extended sittings. The machine stays much cooler; it's almost cold in places where it was rather warm before.
I was a little concerned about the angle of the slope being large enough to prevent a CD/DVD from being loaded into the PowerBook (it slot-loads from the front), but this was not a problem at all.
Aesthetically, there is one thing that irks me: the padding found on the front of it has this ugly (in my humble opinion) "shell" pattern that I really can't stand. I knew this before I bought it so I can't complain too much, but if I had my say this pad would be as plain as possible. Moreover, it's made out of velvet; I would have preferred anything else.
Functionally, I don't have too much to complain about, but there is one thing that kind of bothers me: there is no way to lock the back hinge in place. This is fine when you have it on your lap because it allows the iLap to move along with the position of your legs, but when you slide the unit around on a desk the hinge moves a little and I find myself checking to make sure that it's straight. I would have liked some sort of locking mechanism on the hinge.
There were a few things that surprised me about the setup. The first is that the front pad attaches to the unit by velcro. It obviously had to attach someway, but velcro never crossed my mind. The downside to this is that attaching/detaching the front pad is a pain, especially if you are frequently moving between a desk and a chair/couch. The upside to the velcro is that it makes it easier to slide the whole thing when it is on a desk (instead of having the aluminum touch the desk).
Another thing that I didn't anticipate was how the screen's angle would be constrained by the angle of the iLap. Those of you that have a new aluminum PowerBook know that the screen does not tilt too far past 90°, at least compared to the titanium PowerBook, or most notebooks for that matter. The angle of the iLap works to cancel out the angle of the screen so as to further suppress its maximum obtuse angle. In practice this really isn't a big deal, especially if you sit properly, and I really don't see how they could have designed around it, but I'm sure this will be an issue for some people.
Finally, the screen tends to "bounce" quite a bit when you are typing fast. This is no doubt due to the fact that the back hinge is wrapped in a cushion which tends to react to the weight and movement of your fingers as you type. I suspect that this "bounce" will dissipate over time as the cushion becomes compressed from use.
Sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay,
Were laid spread out before me as her body once did.
All five horizons revolved around her soul,
As the earth to the sun.
Now the air I tasted and breathed has taken a turn.
And all I taught her was everything...
I know she gave me all that she wore...
And now my bitter hands shake beneath the clouds,
Of what was everything.
All the pictures have all been washed in black...
I take a walk outside,
I'm surrounded by some kids at play.
I can feel their laughter,
so why do I sear?
And twisted thoughts that spin around my head...
I'm spinnin'...I'm spinnin'...
How quick the sun can drop away.
And now my bitter hands cradle broken glass,
Of what was everything.
All the pictures have all been washed in black...
All the love gone bad turned my world to black...
...tattooed all I see... all that I am... all I'll be.
I know someday you'll have a beautiful life,
I know you'll be a star...
...in somebody else's sky,
But why, why, why can't it be, can't it be mine?
From Pearl Jam's Black
In 1993 I bought my very first album, Pearl Jam's Ten. I was 13 years old. I tagged along with my father to a Peaches music store in Orlando where he let me get Ten and Nirvana's In Utero. So began what can only be described as an obsession with all things music. How fitting that my first album ever remains one of the most powerful, potent, and personally relevant records in my entire 4000+ album collection. While every song on Ten is a classic, Black has always been my favorite.