Older blog entries for ask (starting at number 148)

17 Dec 2003 (updated 17 Dec 2003 at 19:04 UTC) »
Manhattan
In this place, most people speak more than one language. Almost no one owns a car, even the millionaires. Many people don't even knowsomeone who owns a car. There's no Wal-Mart, no Target, no Home Depot.
[...]
There's also a deep ethic of civic-mindedness. Average citizens are not just aware of, but actively engaged in efforts such as city planning and zoning laws and the design and preservation of public spaces. Architecture is valued and protected by well-organized, well-financed groups, often consisting of canny partnerships between public, private, and corporate concerns. New urbanism is an understood goal, not just a theoretical ideal.

Anil Dash: Whence the Name.

Not exactly Los Angeles ... :-) While we do have an amazing mix of cultures, backgrounds and identities and even neighborhoods where you can walk to your basic amenities, civic-mindedness and good architecture is relatively sparse here.

But hey, the weather always comes to the rescue. New York: Cloudy and 12 degrees celsius. Los Angeles: Fair and 20 degrees celcuis. (Looking out the window I can't see a single white spot on the sky...)

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10 Dec 2003 (updated 10 Dec 2003 at 13:28 UTC) »
Homophobic Fuckwittage
Like Brian Dear I started getting enormous amounts of junk mail after sending a bit of money to the ACLU. No, they don't have even an opt-out button in their donation process. My little brain can barely contain the irony of the ACLU selling my postal address and justifying by saying that they are going to somewhere in their terms. Did I mention that the other organizations are even know from where they are getting the addresses? Not that I mind anyone knowing that I've given money to that particular cause, but come on... I was giving money to the ACLU to help them make that sort of thing happen less frequently, not the other way around. Naturally I wasn't planning to make that mistake again.

Reading this story makes me consider giving them a second chance if they eventually add a "please preserve my privacy and don't sell my address" button...

Marcus McLaurin was waiting in line to go to recess on November 11 at Ernest Gallet Elementary School when a classmate asked him about his mother and father. He responded that he didn't have a mother and father; instead he has two mothers. When the other child asked why, Marcus told him that it was because his mother is gay. The other child then asked what that meant, and Marcus explained, "Gay is when a girl likes another girl."
Upon hearing this, Marcus's teacher scolded him in front of his classmates, telling him that "gay" is a bad word and he should never say it at school, then sent him to the principal's office instead of letting him go to recess. The following week the school required Marcus to attend a special behavioral clinic at 6:45 in the morning, where he was forced to repeatedly write "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again."

Louisiana School Punishes 7-Year-Old Boy for Talking About His Lesbian Moms

I was going to write something about how surprising it is that so many people grow up being intolerant morons with this kind of education, but I'll save your time for another day and go and collect my jaw from the floor instead.

(via Dave Cross, from whom I also stole the title of this entry)

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8 Dec 2003 (updated 8 Dec 2003 at 23:32 UTC) »
GPRS considered useless
I've played with my GPRS connection for a few days now. It really doesn't work very well at all, at least not here in Los Angeles or with my phone or with my usage. And yes, the phone is reporting decent coverage when GPRS doesn't quite work. Sometimes ssh works alright (with the ~1 second lag), but sadly it's not very consistent. Packet loss has occasionally been 20-30%, enough to combined with Other Factors make ssh not able to even initiate a connection.

So what about non-interactive connections? Web sometimes sorta almost works. Trying to sync my mail from the IMAP server (using Mail.app) takes Forever, and even then it'll only get the headers from a dozen new mails and not actually the mail content.

I might give it another try or two, but if it doesn't get much better then I'm definitely not keeping the service.

A comparison with AT&T edge makes it look like that might be marginally better. Reading another review doesn't exactly make me run out to try it. A third review makes it sound not quite as sucky. Oh, and the PC Card you need is Windows only so far, so it might as well not exist as far as I'm concerned. :-) And unlimited usage is $80/month. That's almost as much as I pay for DSL; not so attractive.

GSM World has more information than you ever wanted about GPRS and related technologies.

In unrelated news there's another Steve Jobs interview in Rolling Stone where he among other things talk about how the music industry works (and doesn't work). No making fun of Michael Dell dancing though...

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November Retail Therapy
Some recent retail therapy ...

Nick Cave: No More Shall We Part Daniel Lanois: Shine Kruder & Dorfmeister: Conversions Once Were Warriors Arvo Pärt: Te Deum Underworld: A Hundred Days Off Microsoft: Age of Mythology (Mac) Future 3: Like... Kenneth Koch: One Train Capucon & Capucon: Duos for Violin and Cello

The Daniel Lanois CD is really growing on me. I just got Underworld and Nick Cave yesterday, but I think they'll both get steady rotation in iTunes as well. The rest I haven't really had a chance to listen to yet. (Or to watch the movie, play the game or read the book).

Oh, I also got sufficiently tired of the miserable transfer speeds of 802.11b to buy a 802.11g access point (a Linksys WRT54G). But I haven't unpacked it yet ...

Speakeasy were supposed to upgrade my DSL to 1.5/768 (from half the outgoing speed) yesterday. Same monthly price, apparently they are just improving their service level. Very cool. It was down for a few minutes today but it's still running at the old speed. I should try resetting the modem/router gadget.

5 Dec 2003 (updated 5 Dec 2003 at 03:37 UTC) »
T-Mobile GPRS on OS X
I got T-Mobile to enable GPRS ("T-Mobile Internet") on my phone the other day. It works alright with the t68i and the PowerBook. I used Ross Barkman's "modem scripts". With the right script with the magic "use GPRS" commands I just had to choose the correct "CID" and enter "internet2.voicestream.com" as the phone number. I also setup a "Data account" on the phone; I'm not sure I actually needed to do that.

A few odd things:

  • The T68i (or OS X) can't figure out to have both AddressBook.app and the PPP connection connected to the phone at the same time.
  • I get a 10.x IP address, having a public address would be slightly more convenient.
  • The latency is about a billion years. Alright, that's not true but it's around or more than a second. Not fun for interactive connections (understatement meaning: that really fucking sucks).
  • I haven't tested the transfer speed, but it seems better than normal GSM data (9600). I was mostly going to use it for interactive connections I don't really mind whatever it is.

I can't figure out if I could use the $10 "T-Zones" service rather than their "Internet" service which is more. I only need web access and ssh. Can they really tell if you use the phone as a modem rather than just use data from the phone? That was what the customer service person told me.

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4 Dec 2003 (updated 4 Dec 2003 at 00:07 UTC) »
Perl Advent Calendar 2003
Mark Fowler is doing a Perl Advent Calendar again this year.

Each day he picks out a useful or interesting module that you likely haven't heard about. Very fun and useful.

If you are impatient and want to open the rest of the doors, then you can go back and play with the calendars from 2000, 2001 or 2002.

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2 Dec 2003 (updated 2 Dec 2003 at 20:07 UTC) »
iPods
<The 5th Wave-2003.12.01 - Why can't you just bring your iPod like everyone else?>

(from Robert)

New York Times Magazine had an interesting article about Apple and the iPod a few days ago, The Guts of a New Machine.

I didn't expect much when I resorted to asking, in so many words, whether he thinks consciously about innovation.

''No,'' [Steve Jobs] said, peevishly. ''We consciously think about making great products. We don't think, 'Let's be innovative!''' He waved his hands for effect. '''Let's take a class! Here are the five rules of innovation, let's put them up all over the company!'''

Well, I said defensively, there are people who do just that.

''Of course they do.'' I felt his annoyance shift elsewhere. ''And it's like . . . somebody who's not cool trying to be cool. It's painful to watch. You know what I mean?'' He looked at me for a while, and I started to think he was trying to tell me something. Then he said, ''It's like . . . watching Michael Dell try to dance.'' The P.R. minder guffawed. ''Painful,'' Jobs summarized.

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qpsmtpd review in Linux Journal
Lots of things happened in my life in the last ~2 months. But they've all been either too personal to post here or too insignificant relatively to the important things for me to want to take time to write them. I considered writing about the more personal things, but I decided against it. I think I might be about ready to pick up the stream of nonessential random tidbits again though... We'll see. The December issues of Linux Journal includes a review of my smtp daemon in the "At the Forge" column. Reuven Lerner entirely gets it when he focuses most of the review on how easy it is to write plugins for qpsmtpd and how flexible that system is, that's exactly the point and by far the best reason to use qpsmtpd.
I was able to write a new, working plugin within a few hours of downloading qpsmtpd, despite the lack of good documentation, and I'm sure that many other readers will have similar experiences. The fact that qpsmtpd is written in Perl means you have fast, easy access to everything that a usual Perl program would, as well as any CPAN modules that could make development easier.
I have been using qpsmtpd for about a month, and the amount of spam in my mailbox has declined rather impressively, even from the low amount that SpamAssassin was letting through. If you run your own machine, I strongly encourage you to look at qpsmtpd. It is an excellent example of how to write software to take arbitrary plugins, and as a bonus, you will receive only the mail that you should receive.
I haven't taken time to tar up a new release since June, or even kept up with all the ideas and new plugins posted on the mailing list (mail qpsmtpd-subscribe@perl.org to subscribe). However Matt Sergeant has been making lots of improvements and applying patches. I'm very grateful for that; without him development would look entirely stagnated in the last months. I started work on qpsmtpd a bit over two years ago just to have an easily hackable smtp server to use at perl.org. The first version was more or less just colobus changed to speak smtp instead of nntp. After using that for a while I got it built out to have an Apache like API system for writing modules, or plugins as I call them. That made it surprisingly easy even for people who had never done perl work before to hack up useful enhancements or test new spam fighting ideas. It's very amusing, interesting and satisfying to see a community grow and thrive around something you've built.

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Still here ...
Almost. Apparently. Approximately. Assumably. Hopefully. Imaginably. Likely. Maybe. Mostly. Perchance. Perhaps. Possibly. Presumptively. Probably. Proximately. Roughly. Seemingly. Sorta. Superficially. Supposedly. Tangibly. Theoretically. Stepped <strike>outside</strike> inside for a minute. Will be back soon.

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So dizzy I can only fall

Then I came back from where I'd been.
My room, it looked the same -
But there was nothing left between
The Nameless and the Name.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

-- Leonard Cohen, Ten New Songs

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