Thursday, May 26, 2005

New Scientist 11 steps to a better brain

While checking the tech headlines at CNET News, I came across a great article. It's titled 11 Steps To A Better Brain and (even though the writer didn't realize that he isn't suppose to start a sentence with a number) its a great piece of work. There are dozens of interesting items regarding actions that can be taken to improve intelligence and mental performance.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Insider Secrets: DIY home theater - CNET reviews

There's a neat idea explained in the article Insider Secrets: DIY home theater - CNET reviews regarding home theater backlighting. It's a three part article, but the second part is silly, and the third is stupid. I'll have to give the backlighting technique a try when I get around to setting my home theater system back up. Before that, my wife has to approve which room I can use. So much for the man / home / castle theory.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Howto Use Commands Within echo

Here's a new trick I learned yesterday. You can execute a command within an echo statement by enclosing the command in backwards quotes, and enclosing the echo arguments within double quotes. Example:
    echo "Current time: `date`"
In the past, I'd always done this as two lines. The first would capture the output of the command into a variable and the second would print the results using echo. Example:
    echo "Current time: $dt"
Granted, this is not break-through technology, but every incremental advancement gets me closer to world domination. Did I say that out loud?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Digital, On Demand, Cable

Over the last two weeks I've been moving. What a mess. Hundreds of boxes. Literally. It will probably be another six months before I find all my stuff.

No pickles. No bars of soap. (Don't worry: I have a lifetime supply of hotel soap...) No phone line. But I do have cable-- not that I watch TV, mind you. So why have cable? For the Internet! I have to have Internet... For my job... Yeah, for the job.

Here's the deal: I had to get my cable modem on the network, so I asked how musch for basic cable to connect to my cable ready TVs. The high-speed Internet was about $40, and the basic cable was $30. As it turns out, digital cable is $25, but you have to rent the set-top box for $5 per month. This means the price is the same.

Here's the catch: If you get digital cable, you get analog for free. How does that work?

I must admit, though, that I did watch TV. What I actually watched, was cable inDemand. This is some cool stuff. They have a repository of several hundred shows that can be run anytime you want-- for free. Old Monty Python episodes, Discovery and National Geographical specials, "gone to video" movies. It's actually pretty cool.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that you got a Tivo and can accomplish all that same stuff. No, you can't. What Tivo does is take what the cable company sends you, and lets you control it. This is stuff that is only being sent, as I request it.

From my observation, I suspect that there is some compression involved, as the picture quality seems to be lower than the realtime programming.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Excessive Packaging

The environmentalists are always whining about "excessive packaging", yet its difficult to define what that actually means. I think its very subjective, and depending upon how looney the person you're dealing with, any packaging could be excessive. I have finally identified an definition of excessive packaging I can embrace.

I've gone to Home Depot a couple times over the last week, and have noticed that a bunch of their stuff is in blister packs. Take for instance a shower head that is sealed in a form fitting plastic containier. To open the blister pack, you must cut the plastic, this destroying the package. Unfortunately, Home Depot has such a high return rate, the most of the blister packs have been opened (thus cut / destoyed), then taped back together, and restocked on the shelf.

What a mess! What's wrong with putting the thing in a box? If the box is returned and retaped, its not as obvious, but when its in a blister pack, it just can't be repackaged.

Furthermore, the box is biodegradable. The plastic is not. Sure blister packs are made of PET (a type of plastic), which is recylable, but nobody recycles blister packs. As a matter of fact, most people don't even recycle their PET water and soda bottles.

Home Depot is large enough that they should take a stand and refuse blister packing, thus forcing manufacturers to shift to a better method. Home Depot could claim they were being envirnmentally friendly, but they would be saving money on the returns desk. They would argue against this by saying that a blister pack take less shelf space than a box. The reality is that customers won't buy opened blister packs, as they assume the product is defective or missing parts, thus they are actually wasting shelf space with product that won't move.

Just for the record, I don't like plastic bottles either.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I'll Take Oxymorons for $100

In an effort to declassify documents for release under Freedom of Information, the boys in Military Intelligence used Adobe Acrobat to blackout the classified text. Because of the layered construction of a PDF, the text was still there, and could be viewed. The user could open the PDF, select the whole document with Ctrl-A, select Edit / Copy, then paste the information into another program. The graphic that overlaid the text was not copied, but the text was.

U.S. military security defeated by copy and paste | CNET

This is so stupid. For over thirty years, the policy was to photocopy the original (which was refiled), declassify the photocopy, make a photocopy of the photocopy (which was released), then destroy the declassified photocopy. This process was needed as the declassified photocopy could still be read, because the toner raised the letters a fraction of an inch above the paper. It was like rubbing a pencil against the second page of a notepad to read the impression of what was written on the previous page.

See, this is why I only is a quill pen and parchment.

Howto Refresh NFS Exports Without Restarting

Did you know that you can update your NFS configutation without restarting the service? I found out that you can use exportfs -r to refresh your NFS exports without restarting. I guess I've been so use to taking NFS down, executing exportfs -a, then starting the service, that it never occurred to me to look for a better option.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Interesting, Insightful, and a Little Humorous

Starts with Moore's Law, and goes from there.

Ten Laws Of The Modern World -

Cleaver, but not Smart Enough

A great case of 'human engineering'.

Sober worm spreads like wildfire | CNET

The virus adds a few lines to the bottom of the message that indicates that the attachment was scanned for virus, and is safe to open. In an effort to validate itself, it claims to have been checked by a server on the user's domain. Thus, I got a message saying that it was scanned by's anti-virus server. Well, I don't got one.

Besides, my mail is routed to my SideKick, which (thus far) has no native virus.