April 21, 2004

Though I can't yet afford most of what is shown in the Modern Contemporary Design web mag, you better believe that this is the kind of furniture I'll be buying when I can. Great little site.

Feeding the masses

April 19, 2004

In response to a few requests, I've put up an OPML file that contains the RSS feeds of all the sites I currently read. I point to it on the links page and I'll try to keep it up-to-date. It should be importable into all news aggregators that support OPML. If there is a website you think I would like and is not in my list, please let me know.

Alkaline Trio

April 13, 2004

A couple nights ago I got to meet and watch Alkaline Trio, whose latest album, Good Mourning, I've probably listened to more than any other the past few months (the hookup was through the same friend who got me a backstage pass for the last concert). NOFX and Authority Zero played as well. In addition to standing backstage during the sets (see pic  :P), I also got to hang out quite a bit on the NOFX bus. I could go on and on, but not without sounding like an ass, so I digress. Suffice it to say that it was an incredible experience. (Picture was taken with mobile phone because both of us forgot our regular cameras!)

Managing mobile phone purchases

April 09, 2004

To maintain my gadget problem I've had to come up with various ways of getting the "latest and greatest" without having to spend too much money. The first method that I mention below has worked well for the past few years, but there is another way (which dawned on me a few days ago), that, when the conditions are just right, can make even more economic sense.

The Old Way

I buy the newest/best thing available, keep it in mint condition (the product of my anal-retentiveness and the knowledge that I will be trying to sell it rather soon), buy the next best thing available, sell the previous gadget on eBay (though I now try Craigslist first), and then begin the process anew. Most of the time I don't lose too much money, and sometimes I actually turn a profit, all while keeping up with the latest devices.

The New [better] Way

The newest way I've come up with for minimizing the cost that accompanies new gadgets is Amazon. You see, Amazon is giving away phones (with service plans). For example, my current phone (still one of the best phones available in the US, which I explain here) is available on Amazon for -$50 — they pay you $50 to take the phone if you sign up for a service plan with T-Mobile (some phones actually offer $100 back; this might be the route I take this time around given that all I want is a new/better plan — I can just swap the SIM card out of the new phone and put it into my current phone and then sell/trash the new phone). Now, I understand that all providers hit you with a heavy fee when you break the contract. Believe me. The thing is, you now have $50 (or $100) that you can put toward breaking the plan you had with your previous provider. There is a good chance that this amount will be less than $150 with the $50 (or more) payout. Couple that with the fact that you can now keep your number (instructions if getting phone through Amazon) when you move between carriers and you've got a fairly cheap way of getting new [smart]phones and/or service plans.

Possible Problems With The New Way

The biggest problem that you run into with this method is that you are limited not only by the providers that Amazon works with, but also by the phones that they are willing to submit to this program (read: discount). Cingular and Verizon do not participate at all (they're the two biggest providers in the country), but more to the point, the providers that are involved do not give all of their phones over to the program, and let's face it, a lot of times the providers themselves (I'm speaking directly to GSM providers here) don't offer the best phones anyway and so you are left to order them from overseas or through eBay. So, your choices with this method are severely limited, but, if it does turn out that a phone you actually want is available, it offers a relatively cheap way get it.

Another possible problem is the fact that the phones will be locked and will carry the carrier's logo. It's been my experience that those looking for phones on eBay/Craigslist generally want them to be unlocked and free of any logo (for obvious reasons on both counts). I'm one of those people. So, you are limited on the other end when you try to sell this phone and must restrict yourself to only those people who want a particular phone from a particular provider, substantially narrowing your market. You could obviously have your phone unlocked and might even be able to get the logo removed, but both of those remedies require time and money, two things I'm trying to avoid. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you look at it, there is really only one way to get around this: the first method I outlined above. But then we're right back to the money dilemma, because unlocked, logoless phones carry a hefty premium, especially when we are talking about the newest models which are garnering the most attention on eBay/Craigslist.

At any particular time, it all boils down to what's available through Amazon, what you are trying to sell, and how much you are willing to spend to move up to the 'next level.' If all of these factors militate in your favor (as they currently do for me), you can probably walk away with a great deal.

It used to be the case that you could get out of service plans rather easily with enough huffing and puffing on the phone, but those days are pretty much gone. I know. I remember thinking how ridiculous service plans were when they first started surfacing. I think Sprint is the only provider left who actually let's you pay month-to-month, though it's an extra $10/month for the "privilege!" How great would it be if we could just hop around from network to network without contracts?

Free Culture

April 08, 2004

Lawrence Lessig, perhaps the single most important and influential cyberlaw figure of this decade, gave a lecture today at my law school. Though I've followed his work closely for the past couple of years, this was the first time I was able to see him speak. The presentation focused mainly on his new book, Free Culture, which was released a couple of weeks ago (you can find the book in audio format here). The presentation was engaging, entertaining, and informative, as most of his works are. Hopefully this will be the first of many Lessig lectures that I will be able to attend.

On a completely unrelated note, the night is young, there is no school tomorrow, and I'm headed out to have some fun.

Linear news

April 04, 2004

Over the course of the past week I've been monitoring the number of headlines that come through my news aggregator each day, if only to satisfy my own curiosity. While I 'felt' (over time) the linear trend that you see below, I didn't think that it would be so indubitable. It would obviously be much more accurate if I did this over the course of a month or year, but I really didn't feel like monitoring it for that long. The results (* == 25 headlines):

747 headlines ******************************
598 headlines ************************
512 headlines ********************
457 headlines ******************
369 headlines **************
185 headlines *******
135 headlines *****


Unsurprisingly, the biggest fluctuations appear near the weekends: Friday/Saturday (-184) and Sunday/Monday (+612). The weekends are generally fairly slow, especially for blogs.

It should be noted that I'm currently subscribed to 111 feeds (76 personal blogs and 35 news sources). I'm curious (scared) to find out what these numbers will look like 10 years down the road.

Using Westlaw with OmniWeb 5

April 01, 2004

I realize that given the stringent circumstances required to reproduce this problem (a law student using Westlaw through OmniWeb 5 on Mac OS X), there is a very good chance that the following will help no one, but I'm sick of doing research at the moment and felt like sharing. As I mentioned in a previous entry, OmniWeb 5 is the best browser I've ever used on any platform. Ever. As such, I'd obviously like to use it for researching my current law school project through Westlaw and LexisNexis (i.e., not be forced to use another browser just for these tasks).

The Problem

While Lexis gave me no real trouble (at least nothing more than I complained about previously), Westlaw was a different matter entirely — it wouldn't even let me log in. It would take me to the obligatory requirements page and tell me that both JavaScript and cookies were disabled. They weren't, and in fact, each and every time I visited the page, Westlaw created six new cookies. Go figure.

The Solution

Armed with the knowledge that JavaScript and cookies were not the problem, I was left with only one other possibility: the USER-AGENT string must be giving them something they don't like (so they lie and tell me, the user, that I'm doing something wrong — that I have features disabled. Way to go Westlaw). Anyways, like a lot of modern browsers, I have the option of changing the USER-AGENT string, but unlike any other browser that I know of, OmniWeb lets me do this on a site-by-site basis through what it calls "Site Preferences" — site-specific options are set and stored so that when you go back to that site again, your preferences are known and applied.

To get Westlaw working, you need to remove all of the Westlaw cookies and then set your USER-AGENT (through Site Preferences) to either "Netscape 6.2 (Mac OS X)" or "Netscape 7.0 (Mac OS X)" — these are the only strings offered by OmniWeb that seem to give Westlaw what it wants. On a somewhat related note, the "Safari 1.0 (v85)" string does not work, though Safari itself works fine (but is not 'supported').

Required OS X programs

March 28, 2004

I've been asked by quite a few people for a roundup of the Mac OS X applications that I find essential. The following is a brief list of those programs:

OmniWeb 5 (beta)
Without a doubt, the best web browser I've ever used on any platform (and I've used pretty much every browser available since ~1993). Expect a full, exhaustive review when this gets out of beta.
Though I've only been using this for about two weeks, I'd hate to be without it. If you prefer to use the mouse as little as possible (like myself), then Quicksilver will probably completely obviate your need for the dock. I haven't yet taken that step, but I'm not ruling it out. For a more in-depth look at this excellent program, check out Todd Dominey's write-up or Rui Carmo's evaluation.
The is the news aggregator for OS X. This is actually the first program I installed when I moved to OS X.
This is the best utility I've found for keeping track of system resources (processor utilization, memory/disk allocation, bandwidth monitoring, etc.). It has a small resource footprint, is very configurable, and all of the statistics sit unobtrusively in the menubar.
A great plugin for — I wrote about this a while ago.
Let's face it, if you came to OS X because of Unix like I did, it probably didn't take you long to figure out that just wasn't going to cut it.
This is a fairly decent FTP program. Like most GUI Mac applications, it likes to use multiple windows for things that can and should be contained in one. Notwithstanding this annoyance, it's a solid program. My only real gripe is that it tends to eat up a lot of CPU when you do multiple transfers. Truth be told, I still use NcFTP (command-line FTP client) for most of my file transfer needs, but when I'm doing large batch jobs I turn to RBrowserLite.
QuickTime will not allow you to full-screen a movie unless you buy the Pro version, which, and I think this goes without saying, is completely ridiculous. Xinema not only lets you full-screen, but also offers better playback control (fast-forward/rewind using the arrow keys, etc.).
Easily the most powerful text-editing/coding package available.
I find myself using this text-editing application more and more. In fact, I've used it to type up all of my posts for the past couple of months. Its big claim to fame is the ability for multiple users to edit the same document in real-time, but I've found that it's actually a really great editor besides.
SideTrack is a replacement driver for the trackpad (touchpad) found on Apple PowerBooks and iBooks. Among other things, it allows you to do vertical and horizontal scrolling with the trackpad.
TinkerTool is an application that gives you access to additional preference settings Apple has built into Mac OS X. This allows you to activate hidden features in the operating system and in some of the applications delivered with the system.

The patent bar

March 24, 2004

I attended a patent bar information session yesterday and I must admit that I walked away a little nervous. The speaker didn't say anything that I wasn't already aware of, but I guess all of it just kind of hit me at once. Here is the gist of it:

  • It's recommended, depending on the study kit/course you choose, that you spend 150-200 hours studying for the exam
  • The study kits/courses run from $800-$2300
  • The pass rate hovers between 30 and 50 percent
  • Given the pass rate it is possible that I might have to take it more than once
  • It costs $390 each time you take it
  • This, coupled with law school (and work over the summer) and my insatiable information appetite, makes for a very busy Justin

The entire exam is based on the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) — a ~3000 page boat anchor that I've been told is about as exciting as a phone book. Very, very, very dry.

The only good thing I can say about the exam is that it is now computerized (this is the first year), and so it is offered continuously throughout the year instead of just twice as in previous years. I'm really unsure as to when I'll actually take it, but it will probably be sometime later this year. It's kind of up in the air. The fun never ends.

Monkey see, monkey copy

March 22, 2004

I seem to have an admirer. I woke up this morning and started going through my referrers and came across this site. Look familiar? Not only did he completely ripoff my design, but the working links actually point back to my site. This sort of thing happens all the time, but it still gets under your skin when it's your site that's being stolen. I don't have access to mod_rewrite on this server, else I'd really throw this guy for a loop.

I love Craigslist

March 20, 2004

Craigslist never disappoints. Yesterday I put my iPod up for sale and in less than ten minutes I received an e-mail from someone wanting to pick it up the next day (today). I had six e-mails within 30 minutes of putting it up. Unbelievable.

I'm sure I'll get a lot of e-mails asking why I'm selling the iPod, so I'm going to go ahead and briefly explain the reasoning. The truth is, I just don't have much use for it lately. It's a second generation model and I've had it for quite some time. It was especially useful during undergrad because I took a bus to/from school every day. I no longer do the bus thing and so the only time I actually use it is when I'm flying, which means that I've used it twice in the last four months. I figured I might as well offload it now while I can still get a decent amount for it (the fourth generation model is right around the corner).

Speaking of things I have no use for anymore, enter eBay. Though I've never had any real problems with the service and have a perfect feedback rating, it just doesn't make financial sense. There is no reason to take a percentage hit (twice if you use PayPal; everyone does) when you can get away with no hit and usually buy/sell the item much faster. Frankly, the only reason I see for using eBay at all is when I can't find a buyer/seller on Craigslist (it's location-based so there are obviously fewer people participating), which has yet to happen.

Now that that's out of the way, I'm headed up to San Francisco for an evening full of...

TiVo, surrogate parent?

March 19, 2004

Perhaps it's just me, but I found the following excerpts from this NY Times article fairly disturbing. I found it equally disturbing that someone would admit this sort of thing.

"Before we got the TiVo, my son was getting C's and D's in school because he was staying up late to watch his shows and going to school half-awake," said Mr. Cambron, a television engineer in Kansas City, Mo. Now that the Cambrons can time-shift programs, his son is getting enough sleep and his grades have risen to A's and B's.

"Now we watch TV together as a family after dinner," he said. "And my son even has enough time to get a job. So it's improved his sense of the value of time. And it's improved my relationship with him."

iPhoto metadata

March 16, 2004

Over the course of the last month or so I've undergone the arduous process of adding keyword descriptions to each and every digital picture I have in iPhoto. The idea being that when it is all said and done the library will be very searchable (the descriptors are also useful for creating "Smart Albums" — a new feature of iPhoto 4). I have keywords such as family, friends, florida, etc., but perhaps the most useful are my "weblog" and "web" keywords. I've done this so that in the future, when I change the layout of the site or decide that I want to make larger photos available, going through and figuring out which ones from each set I used on the web will be mindless. For example, if I increase the width of my content container and want the pictures I used inline with the blog to match the new width, all I have to do is search the library for "blog" and then resize those pictures accordingly (same for the pictures in the photos section). Nevermind that iPhoto (yes, even v4) is the absolute worst for resizing pictures and that I have to do it through third-party software. While on the subject I should also mention that I haven't found iPhoto 4 to be too much faster than the previous version (except for launch time).

I knew going into this that it would be time-consuming monkey-work and that I would have a hard time stopping myself from coming up with evermore descriptive meta tags. I'm the kind of person that, if given enough time, would probably have keywords such as "shoes" (to highlight all pictures with shoes in them) or something equally absurd. You get the idea. Fortunately, sometimes the earlier tags actually speed up the addition of new tags. For example, let's say that I want to label all of those pictures that include a particular friend that I've met in California. I would just search for both "california" and "friends" and then weed out the pictures from the results. Obviously none of this is groundbreaking, but it has helped me further organize my collection. Though incredibly daunting at first, it becomes much easier after you have a satisfactory keyword base in place.

What really scares/excites me is talk that the next Mac OS X filesystem will have metadata functionality. Again, this concept is nothing new and has been implemented before (*cough* BeOS); Microsoft's upcoming (*cough* never) Longhorn OS is rumored to run a similar database filesystem. The options and usefulness of such a system are endless. It could include ID3 tags from MP3s and senders/subjects from e-mails and filetype descriptors and author information and... you soon realize that the implications of an all-inclusive descriptive database of every file on your computer are very powerful. Gone will be the days of multiple search apps (e.g., e-mail search, file search, etc.) — only one application will be needed — in the case of Mac OS X, the Finder. Hell, you could probably get rid of deep directory structures as well — just build them on-the-fly as needed, or have the OS create 'smart' directories defined by user-specified rules. All of this says nothing of the smarter interaction between programs that metadata will allow. Ugh, I just realized that I'm starting to get rather tangential to the title of this post and can probably keep writing indefinitely; I'll digress (but expect much more on this topic in the future).

Something different

March 12, 2004

What's the best way to get rid of a nasty cold that you have been battling with for over a week? Run around backstage at a NOFX, Strungout, and Pennywise concert in San Francisco. OK, so that probably wasn't the best thing for my cold, in fact, it's sure to hurt it, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity. A good friend of mine is the brother-in-law of Fat Mike, the lead singer for NOFX, and so he invited myself and another friend to hang out backstage before/during/after the shows. Needless to say I had a great time and met a lot of really neat people. Quite a few pictures were taken — I'm waiting for a buddy of mine to get them over to me. If any are decent, I might put them up.

Pictures of SCU

March 11, 2004

Last week I got a few pictures of the law school I'm attending. I can't say that I'm terribly pleased with them — I'll probably try to shoot another (better) series when time permits.

I also have pictures from UF's campus that I took a couple of years ago and will put them up at some point.

Blame the engineer

March 10, 2004

A friend e-mailed this to me earlier today. It seems to be fairly on point and funny besides.

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost.

He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Hello, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The woman on the ground called up, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be an Engineer," said the balloonist.

"I am," replied the woman. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is, probably, technically correct, but I have no idea what to do with your information, and the fact, is I'm still lost. Frankly, you haven't been much help to me at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip".

The woman below responded, "You must be in Management."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise that you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is, you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."

Mobile phone roundup

March 05, 2004

It's been pointed out by more than a few people that I haven't bought a new mobile phone/PDA in quite a long time (seven months!). There are two main reasons for this: 1.) lack of money and 2.) there really isn't too much out there that can compete with my current phone. Granted, there are quite a few phones that have all of the features (and sometimes more) of the T610/616, but very few can offer all of this with the form-factor of the T610/616 and compatibility with Apple's iSync. Except for those that do it for a living, I probably follow mobile phone related news more than just about anyone (save Russ, who is constantly writing about mobile something or other), and the list below sums up those phones that I currently have my eye on (in preferential order):

  • Sendo X: This will be the best phone available when it is released. Absolutely nothing compares to its feature set + form-factor. This will be the phone to have when it is available and is the phone I've been lusting over the most the past few months — I just wish they would release the damn thing. Given it's capabilities and size, I'm sure it won't come cheap and I'm actually a little scared of what this dream gadget will cost.
  • Treo 610: A much needed upgrade to the excellent Treo 600. Rumor has it that this model will get rid of the archaic 160x160 resolution and jack it up to a wonderful 320x320. It will include Bluetooth (a must-have for me), something I can't believe they left out of the 600. Also, the internal memory will likely be pushed beyond the current 16MB. The one thing that I'll still take issue with is the external antenna; it's been quite a while since I've had a phone with one.
  • Nokia 6230: This phone's feature set and size are amazing and as plain and simple as it looks I think I might actually like its design, though I'd have to see it in person before I would consider ordering one.
  • Sony Ericsson K700: Update to the T610/616 — my current phone (the T630 can't really be called an 'update'); supposed to have a much better camera and more memory, and that is well and good, but it appears that this phone, like its predecessor(s), will not have a speakerphone. SE is really screwing itself by leaving this feature out — that alone will deter me from buying it (you think they would have learned their lesson after everyone complained about the T610/616's lack of a speakerphone). The worst part is that the speaker is certainly capable (the software just doesn't support it).. There will be a speakerphone and it will even allow you to play the FM radio through it. If the T610/616 is any indication, this will be a great phone.
  • Nokia 6600: This a possible purchase — not too many negative comments on this one except its size, and more to the point, its thickness and the apparent "hollow" feel it has to it. Notwithstanding these complaints, a lot of people have been really happy with it. Not only does it run Symbian OS, but it offers just about every mobile phone feature currently available. If I were to seriously consider this phone, I would probably hold out for its successor, the 6620.
  • Motorola V600: Much to my chagrin, a friend of mine just got this phone; it's the first Motorola device to include all that we've come to expect in a modern phone (Bluetooth, camera, etc). It feels very good in the hands, very solid, and the external lights are really neat, but I'm afraid the $600+ price tag is a deal-breaker for me. Nothing against Motorola, but if I'm going pay that kind of money for a phone it better include some practical PDA functionality and offer some sort of software expandibility (i.e., a strong development base for its OS where new apps are coming out for it all the time, like Symbian or Palm). I don't care how pretty it is, a $600+ phone-only device is just not going to cut it.
  • Nokia 3660: By all accounts this will be a great phone just like its predecessor, but also like its previous model, this one suffers from being bulky and ugly, something I don't think I can get past.
  • Sony Ericsson Z600: Essentially the T610/T616 in a clamshell. I really don't have too much to say about this phone other than that it is too think for my tastes and because it doesn't offer anything above and beyond the T610/T616, it's not really an option.
  • Sony Ericsson Z1010: This is SE's first 3G phone and offers some great features, but, like other SE clamshell phones, this one comes in a little too thick for me.

She's so cute!

March 02, 2004

Myself and my first love's three year old daughter, Dylanne, the sweetest little girl you'll ever meet (luckily, the camera's love for her balances its disdain for yours truly). I spent the last few days at their place in San Luis Obispo, where Ryanne is going to school. It's about three hours south of Santa Clara and as far south as I've been in California. The weather sucked while I was there, but we had a wonderful time despite it. She took me to a great sandwich shop for lunch one day and I was quickly reminded that I need to find something similar here in Silicon Valley. While going to school at UF I was spoiled by Hogan's; I'm not sure I'll ever find a sub that good again. I know a lot of people that frequent this site have been here in the valley for a few years and I would appreciate it if you could e-mail me any sandwich shop recommendations you might have (preferably in Santa Clara).

Yes, I realize that the topics in this post are a little disjointed, but I'm tired and am not going to fight it. Good night.  :)


February 26, 2004

A friend of mine told me about the Coachella music festival a few days ago. Absolutely unbelievable lineup. I seriously started drooling as I was reading through it — I haven't seen anything like this since Woodstock '94. A few personal favorites that will be there: Radiohead, The Cure, The Flaming Lips, Wilco, The Pixies, Paul van Dyk, The Future Sound of London, Ferry Corsten, and on and on and on. There is one small problem though: it's right around the time of my first-year law school finals! It's almost as if the organizers called me up and said, "Justin, what would be the absolute worst time for us to hold this once-in-a-lifetime concert?" To which I responded, "You know what, I don't want to seem pushy, but would it be possible to hold it in the middle of my law school finals?"

Open arms

February 26, 2004

Steps of San Francisco City Hall

The steps of San Francisco's City Hall the day after Valentine's Day and during the first week that San Francisco started issuing same-sex marriage licenses — what a beautiful picture (from Ephemera).

12 Reasons Same-Sex Marriage will Ruin Society — a facetious and rather funny take on the ridiculousness of amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriages (from GatorGSA).

  1. Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control are not natural.
  2. Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Infertile couples and old people cannot get legally married because the world needs more children.
  3. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children because straight parents only raise straight children.
  4. Straight marriage will be less meaningful, since Britney Spears's 55-hour just-for-fun marriage was meaningful.
  5. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and it hasn't changed at all: women are property, Blacks can't marry Whites, and divorce is illegal.
  6. Gay marriage should be decided by the people, not the courts, because the majority-elected legislatures, not courts, have historically protected the rights of minorities.
  7. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are always imposed on the entire country. That's why we only have one religion in America.
  8. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people makes you tall.
  9. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage license.
  10. Children can never succeed without both male and female role models at home. That's why single parents are forbidden to raise children.
  11. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven't adapted to cars or longer lifespans.
  12. Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name are better, because a "separate but equal" institution is always constitutional. Separate schools for African-Americans worked just as well as separate marriages will for gays & lesbians.