Archive for May, 2006

Skype Video Calling: Cheap As Free

Monday, May 29th, 2006

Skype iconFree for Windows XP users, that is. Skype is software that allows voice to be carried over the internet between two or more participants in a phone-like setting. In other words, it lets you talk to people as if you were talking to them on the phone, but lets you do it for free over the internet to anywhere in the world for free. Skype is released for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux and all three can talk to one another. The video features, however are still in beta and are only available for Windows XP.

Krissy’s brother and his family recently moved to Georgia, so we decided we would try to keep in touch using the new video capabilities in Skype. The audio quality is excellent, but with the limitations in bandwidth imposed by our asynchronous broadband we can only really communicate with the bandwidth of a palty sixty Kilobytes per second. The video quality is less than stellar, and we have experienced dropouts that required us to manually reconnect. The dropouts were probably not Skype related, however.

I am looking forward to using the Linux version when it comes out to talk to them from our place, but I really doubt if we can maintain a three-way video connection with only thirty Kilobytes per second transfer rates. I don’t even know if Skype’s software supports more than two parties using video at once.

While it’s less than perfect and nowhere near as good as being in the same room with your family, it’s still better than talking without video at all, especially for the younger ones that can’t yet really talk a lot. At least they get to see their family and learn who they are even if it’s just the grown-ups talking.

Skype Video Conference

Duct Tape Saves Birthdays

Monday, May 29th, 2006

Close-up of the corner of the Duct Tape FrameKrissy wanted to make something for her father for his birthday. We read a quote on the refridgerator at a friend’s house and we thought Krissy’s dad might get a kick out of it. We decided to buy a cheap frame to put the quote in and then have Krissy cover the frame in duct tape to match the quote. The quote reads:

Duct tape is like The Force — it has a Light Side and a Dark Side and it binds the Universe together.

It took quite a few tries to get the tape to look how we wanted it to, but in the end it all paid off. I wouldn’t be surprized to see these frames showing up on store shelves sometime soon.

The finished Duct Tape frame with quote

Thanks for Stealing My Email Address

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

The Blue Frog rises from the ashes like a phoenixTo the spammer who spoofed my email address as the from address in countless spam emails that he sent, I would just like to say, “Thank You!” I now have the pleasure of receiving hundreds of returned mail messages in my inbox daily. I also get to hear from some mail systems that your message was “Considered UNSOLICITED BULK EMAIL” and that “Delivery of the email was stopped!” I have learned that my new name will be Jaime Jones, and that I apparently have some sort of presentations that outline a deal that only has 24 hours left in which to respond.

I also learned that Henry Hill only accepts messages from senders he approves. This is sad to see. I wonder how many other spammers have this guy’s address. He decided to implement this simply because there was too much spam coming in his inbox. Now my good email address (but not really my good name) is on those spam messages.

I gather that this was retaliation for my participation in Blue Security’s Blue Frog undertaking to fight spam. Blue Frog was designed to automatically send requests to companies whose products were being promoted in spam asking that they stop. Many spammers complied and stopped spamming members of Blue Frog. Then one spammer got mad and decided to fight back. He knocked out a large portion of the internet in the process. He also started sending spam to suspected Blue Frog users in droves. As a final attack upon some of us there was an attack on our good names by making it look like we were sending spam ourselves. Blue Security was forced to shut down but they opened up their source code as a final hope of one day overcoming this scourge.

Work is underway in planning an open source distributed network built upon the foundation Blue Security laid. But until that time arrives I apologize to anyone who may receive an offer they never asked for with my email address attached.

Sure, He Know How To Write

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

My last final was today. My linguistics teacher threw us a bit of a curve ball. He told us that half of the final would deal with morphology. What he didn’t tell us was that all of the questions would be in reference to a sample of African American Vernacular English. In answering one of the questions I wrote the following in response to the question: Does Katrina use only the uninflected form of the verb be? I answered with the following sentence:

No, she say “I’m,” “it’s,” and others.

Just before I turned it in I noticed and added an s at the end of say. Reading and writing sentences in AAVE for an hour started to influence my writing. That’s something that I never would have expected.

Viruses and Spyware Drive Mom to Consider Alternate OS

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

My Mom called me tonight with a question: how much does it cost to get a legal copy of Windows on my computer? She bought a computer from a guy who builds them for people out of his house. He apparently didn’t inform her that part of the cost-savings in this PC was due to the unpaid Windows Tax.

She is not eligible for an upgrade version and she does not have money to spend on software. I have used Slackware Linux for about three years on all of my machines. She trusts my judgement, and so she asked me what she needed to do to try Linux. I sent her a torrent to download the latest Ubuntu Live CD and told her how she can “test drive” Linux without having to lose any of her settings she’s got now.

She hasn’t had a chance to try it out yet, but she sounds interested. Assessing her needs, Ubuntu seems like a nice fit. I may have to customize it a bit for her so she can watch divx movies and listen to MP3s, but I think she will be happy with her new OS. I’ll update with more information as to how she likes it and what the shortcomings might be.

Self Checkout Pays Off

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

I often opt for the self checkout counter at the local grocery store when I’m purchasing less than five items. There are very few people who actually use these machines and avoiding the line gets me out of the store in less than thirty seconds. They could use some work, but all in all they are well implemented. Tonight they were even better than usual.

I was only getting two items. A small can of diced chilies and some Reese’s candy thing that Krissy spotted next to the checkout counter. Krissy chided me for paying with a credit card even though the total was less than three dollars. As I reached down to get the receipt I noticed a dollar bill sitting in the change dispensing are of the machine. There was no one anywhere near the machine when we approached it. There was a man that came up behind us to check out after us. I took the money and casually walked away as though it were my change and as though nothing were amiss.

Krissy was not pleased with what I had done. I feel that there is nothing wrong in taking loose cash that is not accompanied by any identifying information. I wouldn’t touch a wallet, but if I learned anything from my days working as an usher at the movie theater it’s this: all cash is fair game. If I had turned the cash in, I would just be lining the pockets of whomever was lucky enough to be working there tonight. No one can ever claim cash as theirs, because they can’t identify it in any meaningful way. This didn’t have any distinguishing characteristics. It was almost brand new.

Krissy still wasn’t satisfied, so I promised her that I would donate my one dollar to some worthy cause.

I suggested the Human Fund.

Live By the Nerf Sword, Die By the Nerf Sword

Monday, May 1st, 2006

Eternal (for five minutes) enemies locked in bitter combatWhile walking from my logic class to the parking lot I heard a mighty roar and the thunk of warriors engaged in padded weapon combat. It was like a live action deathmatch set in a medieval universe.

It was a pretty geeky display, but they seemed like they were having fun. They would attack one another for about a minute then take a five minute break. During the breaks they were inviting onlookers to participate. There weren’t many spectators and none of them decided to take part.

I tried to get some good pictures, but the action all happened so fast that it was difficult to get what I was looking for. It was entertaining to watch, though.

Running away from the troll.

A Silent Milestone

Monday, May 1st, 2006

100002 mi.Yesterday while on our way to San Diego I noticed that our odometer read 999956 miles. I was excited to get a picture of the odometer at 100000 miles. On our way home I forgot about it completely.

This morning on the way to work road workers decided to repave both sides of the street with no proir notice. We weren’t really moving much and so Krissy and I had some time to talk. While we were talking I noticed the odometer and was saddened that I had just barely missed the mark. I guess this is better than nothing.