Friday, December 31, 2004

Fossilman Gots Balls

Yahoo! News - Poker Champ Fights Off Attackers: "LAS VEGAS - Greg Raymer, the 2004 World Series of Poker champion, apparently knows how to wield more than a stack of chips when everything is riding on it.

The soft-spoken patent attorney from Stonington, Conn., fought off a pair of attackers Dec. 20 at the Bellagio hotel-casino after he had finished playing a cash game of poker, according to a Las Vegas police report.

Raymer was returning to his room about 2 a.m. when two men approached, the report said. As he opened the door to the room, they tried to push him in.

But the heavyset Raymer resisted and began struggling with the men, the report said. As he was fighting, one of the men pulled out a gun and said: 'We just want the money.'

But Raymer didn't give up, and yelled for security, causing the men to flee.

A security officer said one of the suspects was a poker player and also recognized him from a previous incident.

Police made an arrest in the case but the report didn't identify the person.

Raymer, known as the 'Fossilman' in poker circles, won the WSOP Texas Hold'Em title and $5 million in cash. He beat out a field of 2,576 in May to win the prestigious event.

On a poker message board, Raymer recently wrote: 'I don't write this to brag, I just want any robbery-minded people out there who hear about this to know that I'm a tough mark, and they won't get that much off me even if they succeed.'"

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Family Tech Support

Ross on Family Tech Support (Jeremy Zawodny's blog): "Simple recommendations for the annual family tech support ritual otherwise known as the end of year holidays. In summary:

1. Get 'em a Mac with OS X on it
2. Get 'em broadband: it's fast and nearly always on
3. Get 'em Firefox, 'cause IE is bad for your security
4. Get 'em a good start page like My Yahoo or Google
5. Get 'em on Web Mail like Yahoo Mail or GMail
6. Get 'em on Flickr if they want to share photos
7. Get 'em on Instant Messenger (I'd recommend AIM or Yahoo Messenger) and/or Skype
8. Don't get 'em a blog"

Haaaa! Well... I wish I could support #1 fully, but with Evil Bill ruling the world, Windoze boxes are generally easier for the non-computer-literates to use - if only in terms of the wide availability of software at practically every retail joint in the known world.

I super-agree with everything else - except #8! Blogs are fun! :)

To that list - I'd add, switch 'em over to Vonage broadband phone service to go with that new internet connection. That's what I'm doing for my mom!

why nerds are unpopular

I was a nerd... in high school I didn't care about being popular, and actually actively disliked most "popular" people for their materialistic and generally "fake" personalities. I did have a brief time in eighth grade when I wanted to be popular; I distinctly remember it. Other than that, nope. High school was great because I was such a cross-breed of subcultures that I got along with people in just about every group of people. I was a band geek, and a heavy metal freak (a "stoner" - but my angle was, I was a stoner that didn't get stoned - so I didn't alienate the straight-edge crowd, either). I was "smart" and had the usual nerd friends too. It was quite a bizarre social life, when I look back on it.

why nerds are unpopular - Amidst a tangled web

"A few months ago a lunch discussion at work centered around bullies and nerds in school. The group consisted entirely of engineers and it seemed that all of us had been picked on in school, to one degree or another. This article in Wired Magazine provides insight into Why Nerds Are Unpopular.

The main crux of the article is that “most smart kids don’t really want to be popular.” He explains, “there was something else I wanted more: to be smart. Not simply to do well in school, though that counted for something, but to design beautiful rockets, or to write well, or to understand how to program computers. In general, to make great things.”

It’s an interesting explanation."

'Twas the season for online sales records

This was my 6th successful all-online Christmas shopping season. (OK, I bought a couple gifts in brick and mortar stores, but primarily shopped online). There's something satisfying about packages arriving on my doorstep every day in the weeks leading up to Xmas - much more satisfying than elbowing greedy shoppers and jockeying for position in long checkout lines in the stores....

'Twas the season for online sales records: "Online merchants had much to be joyful over during the just-concluded Christmas shopping season. According to the New York Times (registration required), the US$13.5 billion raked in by online businesses was a new record, topping 2003's total by 28 percent. The figures beat the estimates of research firms, which had predicted anywhere from a 19 percent to 26 percent increase. The US$13.5 billion was dwarfed by brick and mortar stores which saw sales of US$220 billion (an increase of 4.5 percent).

The key difference between this year and last year was purchase volume in the week before Christmas. More merchants were willing to guarantee Christmas delivery than in previous years, leaving those who habitually put off gift shopping to the last few days before the holiday an alternative to driving around for a half-hour looking for a parking space at an area mall. [more]"

Aftermath of the earthquake: Shorter days

WGN Weather Weblog: Aftermath of the earthquake: Shorter days

Aftermath of the earthquake: Shorter days

Incredibly, the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off Sumatra on Sunday morning caused a vertical displacement of so much material that the rotation period of the Earth has been permanently altered. By a tiny but measurable amount, the Earth is now rotating more quickly on its axis, and the 24-hour day is now one ten-thousandth second shorter.
That’s the result of calculations based on preliminary data made by Oak Park astronomer Dr. Leslie M. Golden.
It’s analogous to the increase in rotational speed that a twirling ice skater experiences when he or she draws in their arms. It is estimated that during the Sumatran quake, a block of material roughly 600 miles in length and 100 miles in width fell 30 feet closer to the Earth’s axis of rotation. The planet has responded by rotating more rapidly, albeit ever so slightly, and our 24-hour days are now one ten-thousandth second shorter.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Massachusetts Governor Declares December 2004 W3C Month

More states should be recognizing this!

Archive of W3C News in 2004: "Massachusetts Governor Declares December 2004 'W3C Month'

2004-12-09: In a proclamation issued 1 December, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has declared December 2004 to be World Wide Web Consortium Month. Read by COO Steve Bratt at the W3C Tenth Anniversary Celebration, the proclamation cites W3C for 'its good work and concern for the diverse users of the Web' and says W3C 'earned their respect, trust and support.' See the official document and read the full text."

Why Choose PHP?

Because it rocks! Errr.... PHP News, Views, and Community...: "New from Zend today, there's a posting that all of you out there trying to decide on a 'main language' to use might want to check out - Why Choose PHP?.

PHP is an open source web scripting environment. Along with the Apache Web Server and Linux Operating System, PHP is among the most widely deployed and used pieces of open source software. PHP, according to NetCraft, has surpassed Microsoft ASP, making it the most popular web scripting language and is being utilized on over 15 million websites today.

PHP has proven itself across a range of large enterprise deployments at companies worldwide including: Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lufthansa, Dresdner Bank, Disney Online, Yahoo!, Lycos, Sprint, T-Mobile, Orange, Nortel Networks, Lucent, WallStreetOnline and Siemens.

They continue on, discussion other benefits of PHP including: rapid development cycles, low learning curve, stable and secure/robust, easily ported to other environments, and proven throughout mass use and a large flourishing community.

Sure, there are flip sides to every positive mentioned here, but overall, PHP is one of the finer languages out there, especially for those new to the online programming world..."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Web Dev: I Don't Care About Market Share

Don't Care about Market Share

The question of browser market share has once again been rearing its foul, misshapen head, and like some sort of lesser Don Quixote, Eric decides to explain why no Web designer should ever really care.

Look, I’ll make this very simple for everyone. If you’re trying to figure out what browsers to support (or not) in terms of layout consistency on a given site, then the answer is very easy. Whatever the site’s access logs tell you. End. Of. Story!

For example, the stats for the past few days’ worth of visitors to Complex Spiral Consulting tell me the following:
User Agent Portion of hits
Firefox 43%
IE6 30.8%
Mozilla 8.8%
Safari 8.6%
Opera 2.4%

Illinois - the No Gaming Zone

Ars Technica News - Illinois, the No Gaming Zone

Rod Blagojevich, the Governor of Illinois, has deemed the ESRB rating system as "ineffectual" and has proposed legislation to enforce accountability when software retailers sell games with gratuitous violence or sexually explicit content to anyone under the age of 18. From the Chicago Sun Times.

In an assault on the video gaming industry, the governor today will call on lawmakers to approve new restrictions subjecting retailers to potential jail time and fines of up to $5,000 if they sell or rent violent or sexually charged video games to those younger than 18.

Although he said his goal was to “help parents,” one has to wonder if in the wake of a presidential campaign that was fought on a “values” basis, if this is just political finagling. Whatever the governor’s motivation is, one has to worry about who makes the decisions on what content would be culpable under the ban.

The 12 Bugs of Christmas

[H]ard|OCP - the 12 bugs of Christmas:

"For the twelfth bug of Christmas, my manager said to me:
Tell them it's a feature
Say it's not supported
Change the documentation
Blame it on the hardware
Find a way around it
Say they need an upgrade
Reinstall the software
Ask for a dump
Run with the debugger
Try to reproduce it
Ask them how they did it and
See if they can do it again."

Top Ten WORST Products of 2004

Heading out for some last-minute holiday shopping? PC Magazine whips up its list of the top 10 products to AVOID this year.

: "Every gift guide is the same. Each focuses on the great products you can buy to make Mom, Dad, Sis, or the boss happy. But when you get to the store, they always seem to be out of the best stuff. So you're forced to make compromises and do the best you can out of the dreck that's left. Here are two handfuls of devices to avoid at any cost this holiday season, culled from the worst-scoring products we tested this year."

Chicago headed for 2nd coldest Christmas Eve

WGN Weather Weblog: Chicago headed for 2nd coldest Christmas Eve Friday

Tuesday’s temp. moderation is just a breather. A more intense arctic outbreak—one likely to cover more of the country and settle out of Canada well west of its predecessors—is already oozing south into the Lower 48. It’s the first arctic blast this season likely to “bank” up against the eastern slopes of the Rockies while plunging south with vigor all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The bitter air mass promises round the clock subzero readings over the Upper Midwest much of the remainder of the week and promises Chicago its most frigid daytime December temps in 15 years by week’s end. It sets the stage for the second coldest Christmas Eve daytime high on record since 1870. To date, the -11° in 1983 is the coldest Dec. 24 high on the books; 5° is the second coldest set back in 1972.

The forecast, dependent upon some snow on the ground, is for a 2° high Friday, a reading 30 degrees below normal.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Firefox "Find as you type"

I just found the coolest feature yet, built into Mozilla Firefox: the "find as you type" feature.

I'm very often wanting to search a web page for certain words. In the olden days, I'd use the highlight feature in the Google toolbar in IE to accomplish that task. I've discovered today that it's built into Firefox - and even more conveniently than in the Google toolbar. (Wow... just another example of Internet Explorer's failure to innovate in the browser market...)

Basically, once you enable "find as you type," you can begin typing the word you want to find on any web page, and it will automatically be highlighted. You don't even have to click into the address bar or anyplace in particular - just start typing. Too cool.

So happy! :)

Another Cool Firefox Search Tool: "The find as you type feature is enabled through the options menu. To turn it on, select Tools> Options > Advanced > Accessibility and tick the 'Use Find As You Type' radio button. When you want to cancel a search string or start over, just press the ESC key."

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Perils of Browser Specific Code

The Web Standards Project: "Chad Dickerson, CTO of InfoWorld, calls developing IE-only web apps the 11th biggest IT mistake one can make:

Many enterprises may not be able to avoid using IE. But if you make sure your key Web applications don't depend on IE-only functionality, you'll have an easier time switching to an alternative, such as Mozilla Firefox, if ongoing IE security holes become too burdensome and risky for your IT environment.


Penn State Tells 80,000 Students To Ditch IE

Oh, the madness! The sheer joy!

InformationWeek > Browser Security > Penn State Tells 80,000 Students To Chuck IE > December 10, 2004: "A public university with an enrollment of over 80,000 put the kibosh this week on Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and urged its students to switch to alternative browsers such as Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, or Safari.

Penn State University on Wednesday issued an alert to students and staff recommending that they dump IE and use a different browser.

The university's Information Technology Services (ITS) gave the advice 'because the threats are real and alternatives exist to mitigate Web browser vulnerabilities,' ITS said in a statement. It cited the security problems in IE that have been the focus of both media reports and recommendations from such organizations as the US-CERT, the federally-funded computer response team housed at Carnegie Mellon University."

Friday, December 10, 2004

2004 XP Winter Fun Pack

HelpWithWindows News - 11 December 2004, Vol 7 No. 43: "Microsoft released Winter Fun Pack 2004 for Windows XP, providing enhancements and tools to help you have more fun with Windows XP this holiday season. The Fun Pack includes a wide range of winter-themed content, and also include links to bonus content including Games for Windows XP, and more.

The Winter Fun Pack 2004 for Windows XP include:

* Skins for Windows Media Player
* Visualizations for Windows Media Player
* PowerToys for Windows Media Player
* Add-ons for Photos, Media Center and more!"

Download the 2004 Winter Fun Pack here. (18.9MB)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Top 11 Ways Geeks Celebrate Christmas

Oh giggle!

BBspot - Top 11 Ways Geeks Celebrate Christmas: "Ways Geeks Celebrate Christmas

11. Mountain Dew-nog
10. Printing out 'One Year of Free Computer Service' certificates to give to the family.
9. Designing elf-killing levels for your favorite FPS.
8. Explaining to children how it would be physically impossible for Santa to deliver all the presents.
7. Wear mistletoe hat and keep fingers crossed.
6. Devise a computer-controlled system to detect and prevent household members from trying to peek into their presents before Christmas.
5. Put a santa hat on your avatar.
4. Change the blue neon lights in the case to flashing red and green.
3. Decorating the tree with SDRAM and CPUs burned out from your last overclocking experiment.
2. Rewriting Christmas carols in Tolkien's Elvish.
1. Programming the christmas lights to flash out 'I hate this holiday of unbridled consumerism' in binary."

Installing XAMPP for Development PHP News, Views, and Community...: "From PHP Magazine: Open source stacks such as XAMPP from Apache Friends are simplifying open source development by making it easier to write and distribute applications in a stable and standardized environment. Traditionally, AMPP -- Apache, MySQL, PHP, and Perl -- have all been installed and configured as separate products. The trend of combining them into integrated middleware stacks promises to make open source development more competitive with J2EE application development, at least for low-end applications."

I've used XAMPP for ages now, to install the usual AMPP apps on web development boxes, both at home and in my classroom. Good stuff, check it out.

NHL Players Offer 24 Percent Salary Cut

Yahoo! News - NHL Players Offer 24 Percent Salary Cut: "The NHL players' association offered an immediate 24 percent rollback of salaries Thursday as the centerpiece of a proposal handed to the league in an effort to end the season-long lockout."

The league plans to offer a counter-proposal.

I say...


Firefox Users Bad For Advertisers

Before I even finished reading this blurb, I was thinking, "It's because we're SMARTER!" Ha!

Slashdot | Firefox Users Bad For Advertisers: "'According to CNET, German advertising technology company Adtech reports that during the months of October and November, Internet Explorer users were more than four times as likely to click on ads than Firefox users were. During the period 0.5 percent of IE users clicked on ads compared to 0.11 percent of Firefox users. Speculation on reasons for the difference in click rates range from Firefox's integrated pop-up blocking to seeing the average Firefox user as more tech-savvy the average Internet Explorer user.'"

Open source holiday apps

NewsForge | Open source holiday applications: "Keeping track of what you want and what to get others is always a chore at this time of year, but a pair of open source applications can make your life easier: SecretSanta and PHP Gift Registry."

I love it!! Oooh I want to start a gift registry site. I know, silly idea, but I love making lists! And lists of presents for ME .... oh a wonderful list that is! :)

Firefox for power users

NewsForge | Firefox for power users: "The Mozilla Firefox browser has garnered wide attention for its capabilities, compared to its predecessor Mozilla and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. But in addition to its widely covered speed enhancements and robust security, Firefox offers a rich assortment of features that are not so evident upon installation."

Nice little article - I love Firefox's RSS features, and I didn't know about the Master Password thing. Lovely!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Isolating Objects in Photoshop

While procrastinating working on my final project for the class I'm in, I found this article on isolating objects from their backgrounds in Photoshop. Being a Photoshop newbie, it was a great walkthrough! Ya learn something new every day...

5 Great Background Masking Techniques in Photoshop [Software Tutorials]: "Isolate objects. Extract objects. Cut out an image. Remove a background. Call it what you will, each of these phrases describes the same objective: take a photo and isolate an object in it from the rest of the image, without the background."

View and Test PHP Pages Without a Server

Neat little app I found today while browsing my blogroll... A freeware app that claims to be able to display web pages (including PHP) without running a dedicated web server. It's a standalone little program with a built in web server. The site lists CD-rom distribution as a possible use (good one!), and I'm thinking it would be a quick way to test your PHP scripts on a machine that doesn't have or support a full web server installation. Check it out:

Angora Software:: "Develop and distribute web page scripts without a web server. The application is useful for CD-ROM distribution, Stand-Alone materials, kiosks, and web page development. The application is able to load and execute ISAPI DLLs, including the PHP ISAPI interpreter, showing the result in a HTML viewer. The installation includes PHP4 and an internal web server."

Troubleshooting CGI Scripts

Ever been working on a CGI script (I personally prefer Perl for my CGI needs), and you get stuck with a blasted 500 Internal Server Error or some other miscellaneous symptom of dysfunction? Those of you who use CGI frequently probably have troubleshooting a misbehaving script down to a science, but I found this nice little checklist of troubleshooting steps - perfect for the CGI n00b, or the methodical pro who enjoys checking things off a list.

1. Does the CGI work by itself?

Before you add to the complexity, try running the CGI by itself. If the CGI doesn’t work from the command line, there’s no way it can work through the web server. It needs to output a header (meaning the first thing that comes out of the script) containing Content-type: text/html followed by two newlines. (Remember, two newlines, not one, not three, two).

2. Is the server and directory configured correctly?

(Note: This is assuming you’re on an Apache web server)
The directory has to have ExecCGI set either in the .htaccess file or directly in httpd.conf for the directory containing the CGI. Explaining how to configure Apache is beyond the scope of this article, but if it’s not configured correctly, the CGI won’t work.

3. Are the permissions correct?

This is one of the most common reasons your script won’t work (and the step that eluded the guy who swore he had it configured correctly). It’s not just your script, or the directory containing your script, it’s the entire path that the webserver will have to traverse to get to the file.

The script needs to have execute permissions, and Apache is very specific about what permissions it and the directory containing it should be. If you give it full permissions Apache will not run it to avoid creating a security hole. You can use the chmod command to set the permissions (e.g. chmod 755 cgi-bin/script.cgi;chmod 755 cgi-bin).

If things still aren’t working, double and triple check that you’ve followed all of the steps. If it still doesn’t work, try looking at the Apache error_log to see what might be going wrong.

how to get cgis to work - Amidst a tangled web.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Why Microsoft Won't Support More Web Standards in IE

Gary Schare, Director of Windows Product Management at Microsoft, on why Microsoft won't support more web standards with IE:

Eric's Archived Thoughts: Unbreaking the Web: "

We could change the CSS support and many other standards elements within the browser rendering platform. But in doing so, we would also potentially break a lot of things.


To sum up: the “more standards will break stuff” argument just doesn’t fly any more. To claim that possible Web page breakage prevents Microsoft from increasing standards support makes about as much sense as to claim that possible program breakage prevents them from ever changing or improving their operating system."

Wow. Good read.

NHL and Players Association to Meet News: "The National Hockey League has accepted an invitation from NHLPA Executive Director Bob Goodenow to attend a meeting in Toronto next Thursday, December 9, and possibly, Friday, December 10.

'We look forward to meeting with the NHL Players' Association next week,' said Bill Daly, NHL Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer. 'We are hopeful that the NHLPA's offer will be a meaningful effort to address the League's economic problems. When we receive the proposal, we will evaluate it closely and respond appropriately.'

The Players' Association issued a release that said, in part: 'The letter also confirms that the NHLPA is working on a new proposal which it believes should provide the basis for a new collective bargaining agreement.'

This will be the first meeting between the sides since September 9th. The NHL is holding a meeting with a majority of general managers in New York on Dec. 2."