Categories: "computer/tech"

Danny on Google

I recently installed the AsonishMe Search Cloud plugin for my blog. Here's my search cloud (aka, Zeitgeist). It shows what search terms people most commonly use to find my blog. Clicking on the term takes you to the blog post that they found. Bigger terms have occurred more often. Hover your mouse to see how many times.

But the strange thing I noticed was that "danny" was one of the most common search terms that led people to my site. I searched Google for Danny to see how many pages I would have to go through to find my blog. It was number 2. Not page 2, but the second result on the front page. It puts me ahead of Danny DeVito, Danny Elfman and Danny Bonaduce. I tried Yahoo and found that I'm number 7 there.

This seems like a mistake. Search engines, you may want to adjust your algorithms.

If any Brendoman.com authors want to have your search cloud added to your page, I can do it for you.

Gas Boycott

People, for the love of crap, if you get an email that sounds too good or bad to be true, it probably is. Before you hit the forward button, do a quick Google search for the subject of the email and the word hoax. Or visit snopes.com.

Google search for gas boycott hoax
Gas boycott page on Snopes

Someone taped this gem to the breakroom door at work. I also got it in an email from an otherwise reasonable person. First of all, there's never been a one day gas boycott that dropped the price of gas by 30 cents. Second, if you just buy gas on another day, the monthly total sales won't be different at all. The only things that can drop the price of gas are an increase of supply or a (real) decrease in demand.

If you actually want to do something about gas prices, then use less gas. Bike, walk, carpool, don't travel as much or get a more efficient car.

EMI drops DRM in iTMS

Apple, inc and the record label EMI announced (EMI press release, Apple press release) this morning that they will begin offering songs in the iTunes Music store that have no digital rights management (DRM). If you're not familiar with DRM, here's a quick explanation. When you buy a 99 cent song in iTunes, you can play it on your computer and up to four more computers where your iTunes account is authorized. You also can only play the song on an iPod, so if you have bought some songs on iTMS and you get an mp3 player that's not from Apple, you can't play your songs. There's also a limit on how many cds you can burn from the music you buy. The idea is to prevent piracy, but the people who are willing to pay a dollar for a song are usually not the pirating type. They could have downloaded the entire album for free from BitTorrent if they wanted to pirate it. What usually happens is that DRM is an annoyance to law-abiding music purchasers.

EMI is offering DRM-free tracks on iTunes for a premium ($1.29), but they are higher quality (256K). I think the price is still too high, but this is a huge step in the right direction. You'll be able to do whatever you want with these files: email a song to friend, burn as many cds as you want, back them up, play them on any mp3 player and not worry about losing your investment if technology changes. Steve Jobs says that similar deals with other labels will follow and by the end of the year he hopes to have 50% of the iTMS catalog available DRM-free. This may be the beginning of the end for DRM. I've never bought songs from iTunes, but I may consider it now.

I mentioned DRM in a post almost two years ago. I linked to Cory Doctorow's great speech on the subject (still a good explanation of why DRM is terrible) and I hoped that Microsoft's forthcoming portable audio player wouldn't have an oppressive DRM. It does.

If you're wondering what artists this will include, here's a list of EMI artists.

Dancing Bananas is back

We've posted Episode 4 at the Dancing Bananas website. I also put all of the episodes on YouTube and moved the subscribe links to the sidebar. As always, you'll find links to the high quality version. We've recorded episode 5 and it should be out soon.

White House official Libby guilty

White House official Libby guilty (BBC) - A former key White House official, Lewis Libby, has been found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury. Libby, ex-chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, faces a prison term of up to 25 years. He will be sentenced in June.

I wish this trial had been about the real issue, which is the outing of a covert CIA agent. I also wish that they could have gone after the people that told Libby to do this. Cheney was involved in this. I also thought that Robert Novak should have felt more heat than he did over this, but I guess some people are tougher to get than others. If they're willing to lie about something that they claim is not even illegal, is there really any reason to trust this administration about anything?

Attitude of Nature

Another interesting quote from the book I'm reading:

One major question needing to be examined is the general attitude of nature. A century ago there was a consensus about this: nature was ‘red in tooth and claw’, evolution was a record of open warfare among competing species, the fittest were the strongest aggressors and so forth. Now it begins to look different. The tiniest and most fragile of organisms dominate the life of the earth: the chloroplasts inside the cells of plants, which turn solar energy into food and supply the oxygen for breathing, appear to be the descendants of ancient blue-green algae, living now as permanent lodgers within the cells of ‘higher’ forms; the mitochondria of all nucleated cells, which serve as engines for all the functions of life, are the progeny of bacteria which took to living as cells-inside-cells long ago. The urge to form partnerships, to link up in collaborative arrangements, is perhaps the oldest, strongest and most fundamental force in nature. There are no solitary, free- living creatures; every form of life is dependent on other forms. The great successes in evolution, the mutants who have, so to speak, made it, have done so by fitting in with, and sustaining, the rest of life. Up to now we might be counted among the brilliant successes, but flashy and perhaps unstable. We should go warily into the future, looking for ways to be more useful, listening more carefully for signals, watching our step and having an eye out for partners.
-- Lewis Thomas, The Key Reporter (Autumn 1980)

Bill Gates totally insane, totally

Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine.
--Bill Gates in Newsweek

First of all, why is the world's richest man talking like a jr. high student? Like, I, like totally dare you to buy Vista, totally. Second, you couldn't do it once a month on a Windows machine because after the first month the computer has been crippled by spyware and can't connect to the web.

I'll admit that there are exploits for OS X and I'll admit that Vista is probably going to be more secure than Windows XP (it couldn't be much less secure). But come on! I've been running my Mac for 1.5 years with no antivirus program, no spyware remover and no problems. How many Windows users can say all three of those things? I hope that Vista turns out to be bulletproof and people can run it for more than a few months without feeling like they need to reinstall or toss their computer. But I'm not holding my breath. I'm not running out and buying Vista, either.

Does this make me a Mac bigot? I hope not. People should use whatever works best for them. But don't believe this crap about Windows being more secure than the Mac. In my experience it's just not true.

For web devs

Expired: View > Source
Tired: Web Developer Extension
Wired: Firebug 1.0

Scratch

Emma and I have been doing some programming together using Scratch, a visual programming language created at MIT. The image above shows the code blocks that you drag and drop to create your scripts. It's very easy to get started. You can have the basics of your idea working in a matter of seconds. I think Emma is actually understanding some of the building blocks of computer programming like conditional statements, loops and variables. She's able to come up with an idea, then I tell her what code blocks to drag in and she can run the first lines of code and see the images moving around the screen. Not bad for a five-year-old. I'm probably having even more fun than she is, though. Together Emma and I made two games: Turtle Hatchling and Man Finding His Dog. Scratch is available for free for Windows and Mac. Once you've installed it you should be able to open up our games and try them.

Emma has been saying that she wants a robot. We've talked about saving up for a Robosapien 2 or saving up even longer for a Lego Mindstorms NXT. I'm more interested in the latter. I've told her that first she needs to know how to read, do some math and some programming. So she's on her way to being a robotisist.

Geni - online collaborative family tree

I tried creating a family tree on the computer once, but I gave it up for two reasons. First, I only know so much, so there were lots of holes in the tree, and second, there wasn't an easy way for me to show it off to other people in the family. Geni.com fixes both of those issues. It's an online collaborative family tree. You can start out in about 2 minutes and quickly add your closest relatives. If enter a family member's email address when you add them, they'll be sent an invite to log in and work on the tree, too. Then they can add people and invite them to help. You can add all kinds of information for each person, including a photo that shows up in the main tree view.

In addition to solving my problems, this site is very easy to use. The interface may remind you of Google Maps. You can drag the tree around and zoom in and out. You can select any person in the tree and make them the center of attention so that it shows the people that are most relevant to them and hides the inlaws. This is all done gracefully and without requiring any input from you. It's very well done. Did I mention that it was free?

If you're related to me, even distantly, don't create your own account, contact me and I'll make sure you're in my tree, then I'll add you. Otherwise, I recommend trying this out. You can have your immediately family added and invited about 3 minutes after starting.

Thanks to Matt for telling me about this.

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