Tim and the Tin Titan


Voulez vous...
When trying to look up french conjugaisons of verbs on the net, I came across a couple of good sites:
- Le Conjugeur is a no frills basic site
- Le Devoir Conjugal is maintained by the university of Alberta and is supposed to contain some more "canadian" verbs. I also like the "jeu de mots" in the name of their service.


Is it just me?
Finding the internet a bit slow today? Check the Internet Health Report to see if you're the only one affected. From dante


Picture me this
If you don't have webhosting of your own, finding a place online to put pictures, either for a blog or just to be able to show them on a web page, can be difficult.
Photobucket seems to be a good solution. It's free hosting of 50 megs of images (although comments seem to say that this is not a fixed limit). Under each hosted image in a field containing the direct URL to the image as well as a pre-formatted IMG tag to insert in web pages, a nifty idea.


The centralization of a decentralized service: Torrentz.com is a site that lists some of the best and most popular BitTorrent links.


Shutter Bug
I read this BBC article about how digital cameras seem to make people better photographers. Since having acquired my first digital camera about six months ago, I can say that I "feel" like a better photographer but I think that this comes mostly from the fact that I am not afraid to experiment. You don't feel like you are wasting time or money when you take a wild shot or multiple takes to get a good one, something I would have been ashamed to try with a traditional camera.

For example, it took about 8 shots of this painted natural gas tank on our way north through Boston, only this one came out nice:

These are some wild shots I took from the dashboard, through the windshield, of the new Zakim Bridge:

And these are just a couple of examples. I'll be the first one to say that these are not masterpeices, far from it, but they are better than anything I would have taken with a regular camera. Digital photography just allows you to play with the art instead of being all serious and deliberate about everything. Dare to try.

Cute flash game: smack the pinguin. Current record: 587.6


Safe Source
Bruce Schneier had the same problem as you and me: keeping track of plenty of username/password combinations without using the same ones everywhere.

Being a premier player in the security field, he did something about it and created Password Safe. It's an application that keeps your username/passwords in a database file encrypted with the blowfish algorithm, which Schneier wrote. The program's security has been thoroughly verified by Counterpane Labs under the supervision of Schneier. In other words, you can trust this one. The downloads are here: 1.9.2c is the most recent win32 release for now. If you are not the trusting kind, you can pick apart the source code yourself.

I am just starting to poke around but it seems very simple and intuitive. Create a new "Safe", add an entry (it can create a new random 8 char password for you). To retrieve info, just select the entry and click the "copy password to clipboard" button, paste in desired field. The clipboard is cleared securely when you exit Password Safe. The data is stored in an independant file, so the file can be backedup, copied or used on multiple computers. You can even have multiple "Safe" files to keep your work and private passwords seperate.

I looks like a good solution and I think I'll start using it. Sure beats a post-it under the keyboard...

By following links on TinyApps.Org, I came upon some interesting apps:

- FoundStone has a nice set of tools to test your security and free for download

- X-Pass shows you what is behind those asterisks in many password fields. (Showin 2.0 from Foundstone doesn't seem to work well with win2k) Useful for when you don't remember what you put in that field yourself.

- DropDos Allows you to right click on any folder and choose the Drop to DOS option to take to you a command prompt within that folder. Works with Win9x/WinME/WinNT/2K/XP. Download here. This one can come in handy for testing.

TinyApps has plenty more, check them out.

Zip It!
Zend has an intersting acrticle about how to ZIP files dynamicallyin PHP. It's an older article but it should all still work.


Cue Monty Python
Part of my job is trying to minimize the amount of spam the organisation receives. When I see acticle like
this one from New Scientist stating:
"The latest statistics from UK-based email filtering company MessageLabs indicate that 62.7 per cent of all global emails sent during December were spam. The company scanned over 463 million messages. In November the figure was 55.1 percent and in October 50.5 percent."
I get a bit discouraged about the chances of seeing this scourge brought to a halt.

Finally, someone gets it right
I read an item on Jason Kottke's blog yesterday about a record label, Warp Records, starting to sell MP3s of their artists direct to consumers from their store, Bleep. For some reason that name tickled my memory. When I went to have a look, I recognized it as the home of LFO. I had seen a video of the song "Freak" by LFO and had wanted to buy the CD but at the time it was only available as an import from the UK, too expensive for "not-sure-I'm-gonna-like-the-whole-CD" music. But now the whole album was available for 9.99$US.

Now, you will say this is the same as iTunes, no? Wrong.

First of all, here you get high quality Variable Bit Rate MP3s.
Secondly, they well sell to anyone anywhere in the world with a credit card or paypal account.
Thirdly, but most importantly, there is no DRM.

From the FAQ: "Bleep music has no DRM or copy protection built in. We believe that most people like to be treated as customers and not potential criminals"." From the EULA "You shall be authorized to store as unlimited copies of the Product on any media, provided that these copies are for personal non-commercial use only."..."You shall be entitled to export, burn or copy Products solely for personal, noncommercial use."

I downloaded LFO's Sheath album, the procedure went rather well although their webdesign is no to my tastes. Just had one little glitch when paying with paypal, an image did not load on the payment page so I had to click on it but other than that the process was smooth.

And the music, well, it's half and half. Some I like at first listen, some I am still getting used to. To be fair, "ambient techno fusion" is not the kind of music I usually listen to. "Freak" is still a great track, check out the video here (click play on the bottom left).

Wired News' Furthermore for Januray 15th, 2004 "
Attorney General John Ashcroft has led regular early-morning prayer meetings in his government office, according to the February issue of Vanity Fair. A lawyer who left the Justice Department said employees were reluctant to object for fear of retribution. Ashcroft, son of a Pentecostal preacher, also likened himself to Jesus Christ in his memoir, Lessons From a Father to His Son, referring to his political defeats and victories as 'crucifixions' and 'resurrections.' (Ashcroft famously lost the Missouri senatorial race to a dead man.) More disturbing to DOJ employees was their new boss's move after he joined the office. Ashcroft excised the phrases 'We are proud of the Justice Department' and 'There is no higher calling than public service' from department letters. His staff explained his reason: 'Pride is one of the seven deadly sins.... There is a higher calling than public service, which is a service to God.' "

And this guy is supposed to be in charge of Justice? Better hope you belive in the same god as him or else you're fucked...


...as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced
'If you misuse your love organ, you destroy your life, your nation, your world.' Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myong Moon.

Damn, I must have whipped out a couple of solar systems by now...

New York Daily News reports that W said: "No President has ever done more for human rights than I have."

Excuse me, WHAT?


Victim of Fashion?
I hate HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlights. You know the ones, the bright blue blinding ones that come with most luxury cars now.

So I do find it a sweet justice that those same headlights are now the victim of their popularity and are now being stolen at record rates. Not the whole car, just the headlights. Here is the article: Thieves' bright idea: Porsche headlights.

It even mentions that some drivers have now started to "downgrade" their luxury cars to regular headlights to not get them continuously stolen.

Bike Protection
I am usually pretty paranoid about getting my bike stolen. It is a fairly expensive model (to me at least) and I have made many modifications on it myself so it also has some emotional value. I got myself a good U-lock and a good cable from Kryptonite. I just found out they offer a key registration program. You enter the numbers on your key and if you ever loose them, they can make you a new copy and send it over to you. It's a nice customer service touch, although you would have to be pretty unlucky to loose both keys that come with the lock.

And if you want to ever have hope to see a stolen bike reappear, check out the National Bike Registry. Sadly, this seems to be a US only project, One would hope it would spread to Canada.


RSS Recess
I have a sequential site browser on my personal site. I use it to read my daily blogs and other sites. I have long wanted a mechanism that would only display the site if the site has changed since last reading. Being able to determine if the site had changed and by which criteria is that decision made became the first hurdle.

I first stumbled upon blogrolling.com. This allows you to include a section of links on your blog that, on mouse over indicate the last time the blog was updated. That was a positive step but would work only for blogs.

RSS then came into the picture. I don't currently use an RSS aggregator since not all of the site I read regularly have an RSS feed. But I though that I could use the info of the feeds of the site that do have one as the "changed" criteria.

I now have quite a TODO list for the Sequential Site Browser:
- Find out what RSS is
- Find out how XML works with PHP (the PHP module that handles XML is called Expat, by the way)
- Find a suitable PHP RSS parser:
    - MagpieRSS
    - Simple PHP RSS parser from the-emperor.org
- Check out PHP based RSS viewer/aggregators to see how they work:
    - Infinite Penguins RSS Viewer v0.14b
- Understand how to use conditional GET HTTP commands with RSS
- Implement the whole shebang

I will need more time to work on this. I'll keep you updated on how this goes.

A New Weapon Against Spam
I came across an article talking about SPF. No, not the Sun Protection Faction of sunblocks but the "Send Permitted From:" field. This is an additional line of information added in the TXT field of your DNS entry that specifies which IP addresses from your domain are authorized to send Email.

This basically would deny spammers the opportunity to spoof email addresses from your domain in their advertisements if the receiver checks your SPF record before accepting the email. It would basically work as a reverse MX record, having the same function as a reverse DNS lookup.

SPF has the side effect of "breaking" forwarding/bouncing because if a domain forwards a mail in the name of another, the other's mailer will not be in the forwarding domains SPF record. The workaround is to switch to remailing, where the envelope sender is changed. A proposed format is: an email with MAIL FORM when forwarded by b@forward.com would become MAIL FORM . That way the SPF lookups pass and you can still tell where the mail came from.

I heard about it because AOL used it on a trial basis yesterday. Since they are one of the (if not the) biggest source of spam this would signal a positive step and a growing trend for the acceptance of this standard. The next version of SpamAssassin is supposed to have SPF lookups, I will eagerly await it.

Worst Tie-In Ever?
Barbie and Ken as Arwen and Aragorn AAArrrg! I hope this is not the trend we are going to see. But then again, this is the romantic part of the movie...


Are you holding for me?
dropload is an interesting concept. A site where you can drop off files, up to 50 megs, for 48 hours. You specify who can retrieve the files and you can even be notified when the files are retrieved. This is basically a poor man's online FTP site. This can come in handy emergency or even for files that are too big for email. And of course, it's free.

Great Online Flash Games
Miniclip.com has some great little simple online games. My favorite so far is Heli Attack 2. My record is 24 helis destroyed.

[Update 04.01.14] Continuing his tradition of kicking my ass at every single videogame ever made, Dante has gotten 102, while I have only managed 48...

The rights of the Right
HP has been vindicated in court for a second time for firering an employee after he posted anti-gay bible verses at work. Actually, he was not fired for the verses, he was fired for insubordination for not removing them after being given the chance 3 times, including paid leave to "reflect" on it. The verse he put up was pretty offensive, it states that if a man lies with another man, "they shall surely be put to death".

I am glad to see an company taking a stand on this and not walking on egg shells because its a religious issue. Welcome to the modern work place. Here is the complete article.

MPAA feelin the heat
I knew this would come. A French company has made a small had held device that is the video equivalent of the iPod. The interesting thing is this device ingnores the do not copy bit on DVDs. Here is the CNN article.

As long as the protection is software based, there will be someone who will make an open source or, in this case, an independent version that can either break the protection or ignore it. Combine this with new that Blockbuster wants to do away with region codes [article], the DVD format might be getting more open than it's creators had intended.


All night eats
Where to eat late at night or all night. User submitted establisments
LUNARAMA - late night restaurants and joints

Lots of patience and some foil
Check out the pictures of this pranks that a guy played on his friend
Friends foil Olympia man's home

Evil! Well.. no, not really
I just can't see him as evil incarnate...
Mr Bean star set for Harry Potter role as Voldemort


Annie Get Your Gun
NRA Leaders - What NRA Leaders Are Saying: "'…the consensus is that no more than five to ten people in a hundred who die by gunfire in Los Angeles are any loss to society. These people fight small wars amongst themselves. It would seem a valid social service to keep them well-supplied with ammunition.'"

Wow. It woudl be really funny if these guys did not take this so seriouly.

Going On
I did not know how to follow up a post about my parent's divorce. I figured it would have to be something meaningful, not just a random link. Of course, I then realized that that would be the ideal thing to follow up with. That is how life goes: big event that scrambles everything and then you have to go back to the routine. So here it is...