Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Searching a Freecycle Mailing List with Gmail

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

I subscribe to the local freecycle mailing list and have filters set up in Gmail to label all freecycle mail and have it get archived automatically so it doesn’t clutter up my inbox. I don’t check it every day, so I just want to see what’s available right now. Sometimes I also have a specific thing I’m looking for. To help look for these things, I use the following search string in Gmail.

label:freecycle subject:offer subject:-wanted subject:-want subject:-needed subject:-need subject:-taken

You can also add subject:bike and it will only return results that have the word bike in the subject line. This assumes that the label you are using for all of the freecycle messages is freecycle.

Firefox in a Single Sign-on Intranet Environment

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

I have been using Firefox for my normal browsing at work, but found it useless for browsing the company intranet because it asked me repeatedly for my network user name and password. There were other annoyances, as well. Many sites using SSL certificates made Firefox flash multiple warning messages because our proxy issues certificates instead of passing them through unchanged. I decided today was the day to fix these annoyances. The Single Sign-on fix only works with the Windows version of Firefox, unfortunately.

To fix the Single Sign-on problem:

  • Type about:config in the Navigation Bar.
  • Type ntlm in the Filter box.
  • Right-click on network.automatic-ntlm-auth.trusted-uris and choose Modify.
  • Type in the domains you want to have access to without typing in your password over and over again. This could include a list like the following: home,portal,service,hr. The format of this list is each domain is seperated by a comma without a space.
  • Click OK.

These changes take effect immediately, so go ahead and navigate to another web site and test out your intranet. If the site asks for your user name and password enter it and try to keep navigating. If any more pages start asking for your user name and password and they are part of your intranet, note the domains and add them to the list using the directions above.

To fix the SSL certificates problem you need to export the certificate your intranet uses with SSL encrypted traffic. To export the certificate in Internet Explorer:

  • Open IE, go to Tools -> Internet Options.
  • Click the Content tab.
  • Click Certificates.
  • Click the Trusted Root Certification Authorities tab.
  • Select the certificate issued by your intranet (look for your company name).
  • Click Export.
  • Click Next, Next.
  • Save the file somewhere and give it a good name.
  • Click Yes, Next, and OK until you get back to the main IE window.

To import the certificate into Firefox:

  • Open Firefox, go to Tools -> Options.
  • Click the Advanced tab.
  • Click the Encryption tab within the Advanced section.
  • Click View Certificates.
  • Click the Authorities tab.
  • Click Import.
  • Choose the file you exported above.

If all goes well you should be able to use your intranet and browse the Internet using Firefox as long as your intranet doesn’t use ActiveX controls.

Palm Woes and Friendly Whoas

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Krissy dropped her well-used Palm Tungsten E PDA on concrete a couple of weeks ago, and the thing hasn’t turned on since. When I told some friends about it one of them said he was looking to sell a Palm Tungsten C which is faster and has a built in keyboard, something I knew Krissy would probably like. I asked him what he was selling it for, but he told me he would think about it and get back to me. I looked it up on eBay and concluded that it was probably worth between $100 and $120. When he brought it to me I asked him how much he had decided on. He wouldn’t take my money, though. He said that the only amounts he was comfortable asking for weren’t worth taking anyway, so I could just have it! I tried to write him a check of $100, but he wasn’t having it. He caught me before I was done writing it and said, “I hope that’s not for me, because if it is, you can just stop right now.”

I took it home to show Krissy. I restored her data from a backup on the computer, and everything looks great! She is excited to have her life back in the palm of her hand.

Enlightening Encounter with E.T.

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Today I attended a seminar held by Edward Tufte. Edward Tufte, or E.T. as he refers to himself, is the foremost authority on representing data and charting information. He practices what he preaches in his presentation. I enjoyed every minute of the lecture. I was seated to the far right in the very front which made it difficult to see everything he was doing, but his engaging teaching style worked even for people who couldn’t see him very well from their seats.

He used examples from his books extensively to illustrate points and to introduce topics. Four books written and published by Edward Tufte were distributed at the entrance before the talk began. These four books were worth the entire price of admission alone! I can hardly wait to take the time to study them and incorporate their ideas into my own designs.

In one portion of his lecture E.T. focuses on eliminating “chartjunk” and useless clutter from data representations. He is not too keen on the use of PowerPoint with its heavy reliance on hierarchical outlines and the interface’s encouragement to use “bullet grunts” to describe things.

One recent innovation he presents is Sparklines, or small word-sized graphs that can be used any place in a document to quickly convey a lot of data. They are meant to be used just like words. He even suggested that a Sparkline could make a great headline in a news story, especially in the sports section.

This was an all-day event, and afterwards I met up with my wife and some friends at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Phoenix; a satisfying end to an enlightening day.

I Got Mail! Yea!

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

I finally broke down and bought the Wii. I thought I would be able to buy one in the stores by now, but it looks like demand is still outstripping Nintendo’s supply, and stores are immediately selling the few Wiis that are trickling in on their delivery trucks. I ended up bidding on eBay until I accidentally won one of the auctions. After all was said and done I had paid about $400 on it. I was a little upset at first, but as soon as I got it set up and started playing with friends and family I immediately knew that I had made the right decision. My only regret so far is having waited so long to buy it.

When I got home from work today I was feeling really sick. I had a pretty bad head cold and a cough, and I am pretty sure that I had a fever, too. I arrived home just 15 minutes before the post office closed and there was a slip of paper indicating that a package that required a signature upon delivery was waiting for me at the post office about two miles away. I grabbed the paper from the mailbox and went right back to the car without even going inside the house. I wanted to get the Wii ASAP!

After I got out of the post office with the package, I opened it up in the car. The way it was packed made it impossible to remove without getting packing peanuts everywhere, but I wanted to open up the package completely in the car before I got it home. If this had turned out to be an eBay scam, then I wanted to be alone when I found out. I was fearing a Wii box filled with rocks or some other heavy substance instead of the game system I was expecting. Everything checked out, and the system seemed as brand new as it comes!

Krissy was really excited for the new Wii. She wasn’t quite as excited as I was, but that’s understandable, I guess. My coworkers were amazed to hear that my wife actually approved of the purchase and looked forward to playing video games with me on a regular basis. I love my wife!

I can hardly wait to get more friends and family involved when I can get more than just two controllers. You see, the Wii becomes more fun the more people you can get playing it together at the same time. Wii remotes are sold out almost everywhere, just like the Wii. It’s a good thing I bought that Wii remote at Toys R Us back on November 20th of last year!

The Truth about Net Neutrality

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Unfortunately, it seems that political ads don’t have to actually tell the truth or use pesky facts to convince people of who and what to vote for. Most political topics can’t be accurately explained in 30 seconds or less. I wish the following video were possible to get on television during commercial breaks. If you don’t know what Net Neutrality is or why you should want laws in place to guarantee it then please take the two and a half minutes to watch the video below. The cable and telephone companies, who constitute the majority of high-speed internet service providers (ISPs), want to make more money at your expense. You will probably see commercials that try to convince you that Net Neutrality is bad, but they won’t talk about why, except by trying to scare you by threatening to raise cable and internet bills. These ads against Net Neutrality are nothing more or less than that; they are threats. The user oepapel on a discussion about Net Neutrality at summed it up best.

The ISPs (the gatekeepers) are basically saying “We want more money. If we can’t charge Google extra because of some Net Neutrality law then we are going to charge you, the customer. So don’t vote for the law and we won’t charge you more. Deal?”

It’s not that they lied, it’s that they skipped right to the end of their thinly veiled threat to raise prices if they don’t get their way. It’s a giant temper tantrum. They see the internet and their customers as an asset to be sold to the highest bidder, only nobody is bidding. None of the content producers are taking the bait. God help us if one of them does because then they ALL will have to in order to stay competitive. Sure, your internet [access] might be cheaper (and that’s a big assumption) but you traded your freedom away to get it. Hope you kept the receipt…

The ISPs are threatening to raise your bills unless they can force other companies with popular websites to pay the ISP just to grant you access to the popular websites. This idea just makes me so angry! And this is only one of the possible misuses if Net Neutrality is not passed into law.

Wii Popularity Exceeds Supply

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

I thought I might be able to get a Wii on Monday morning, but it is looking less and less likely the more I read online about the popularity of the Wii and the numerous Costco locations that have already sold out. I was banking on the fact that Costco has been overlooked in previous console releases. The Xbox 360 was still easy to get at most Costco locations the day after its official launch. The only way that I might still be able to get one tomorrow is if one of the local Costco stores didn’t receive a shipment on Sunday and get them in on Monday.

If I can’t get the bundle from Costco it’s not the end of the world. I won’t really have much time to play it anyway. I was still excited for it though. The bundle comes with Zelda: Twilight Princess and Excite Truck. It is looking to be difficult to get Zelda anywhere else; everyone is sold out. Message boards online are also saying that the only way to buy a Wii Remote is from, so it looks like no two-player games for a while. I will post again when I have more information. Here’s hoping that I can find the Wii somewhere tomorrow.

Wii Fund Update

Monday, November 13th, 2006

The money just keeps rolling in from PayPerPost. Things are even better than I expected. I now have enough for the basic system and there is still a week to go. Of course, you don’t get paid until 30 days after you post, so the money I’m getting now is for posts made a month ago. Thanks to my foresight I am on track to meet my goal!

The US Wii website has a lot of new videos of people playing the Wii for the first time. It’s great stuff if you haven’t seen the system in action yet.

I haven’t had a chance to call around and see if any local retailers have playable Wii demos set up. This just happens to be an incredibly busy week for me with a lot of unforeseen deadlines to meet, so I won’t be able to check until Thursday or Friday. I have heard reports that some Gamestop locations around the country have set up Wii displays. I’ll have to go during the day when all the kids are still in school. Early reports say that Excite Truck may not be as much fun as it looks. We’ll just have to see about that.

At Church yesterday I heard some people talking about the Wii. It seems a lot of people still don’t even know that Nintendo is releasing a new system! Unbelievable! With the Release of the Wii in the US just two days after the far-more expensive PS3, Nintendo will soon be all over the news. Once the Wii launches no news story about the PS3 will fail to mention the also brand new Wii. Let’s hope the gameplay from the new Wiimotes is as revolutionary as the system’s original codename implies.

Simple Tip for Better Photographs

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

I’ve seen it happen so many times, and I always feel bad when it does. Have you ever had a picture of a person where the background is in focus and the person is all blurry? There is a solution, and it’s called focal lock. It’s something that anyone who ever takes a picture with a camera should know about and how to do properly. It’s not a hard thing, but there are still many many people who don’t know about it. I hope the suffering in the world might be lessened by this post.

The Hardest Special Effect to Get Right

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

What do you suppose is the hardest thing to reproduce on the big screen or in a TV show? Is it space scenes? I doubt it. They look pretty good to me for the most part except for the sound and the fact that you can’t really see a laser unless it is hitting something (think laser pointers… all you see is a dot). Is it water? Well, it’s challenging, but it usually looks believable. No, I’d have to say that, based solely on the observation of the final product, it would have to be: the personal computer.

You would think that it wouldn’t be too hard to make a computer look and act like a computer on screen. I don’t know about you, but when I bring up a webpage my computer doesn’t make any high-pitched jittery noises. Almost every show I see has the computer make a weird chirping noise every time the screen’s contents change. I think the sound guy just gets jealous or something that he has nothing to do when the computer screen is the only thing in the frame. He looks at it and thinks, “I could make this part so much cooler with this super high-speed cricket noise every time the screen’s contents change!”

My number two complaint is computer technology that doesn’t exists. The worst offender for this sort of thing is the classic blowing up and “enhancement” of a digital image. It gets blown up, the pixels get huge, and then someone says “let me enhance it” or something similar, and the picture magically becomes so clear that what was a giant 4 inch by 4 inch single colored block turns into a license plate with letters that are an eighth of an inch high and perfectly legible. It just creates this detail data out of nowhere. It makes no sense. It happens at least once in almost every crime show.

When will Hollywood realize that everyone uses computers every day and we can see that the computers in their shows don’t act anything like the computers on our desks. It really makes it hard to stay focused and suspend my disbelief when the computers are such horrible actors.