February 29, 2004
Google Juice must be denied

As many of you know, the blogosphere has been under assault from comment spammers. The comment spammers are not directing their spam at you, they are directing it at Google. If a spammer can get their URL into your blog, they are trying to get Google to think that their URL is important.

Getting Google to think your site is important to getting high search placement and is refererred to in some circles as Google Juice. That's why you see lots of comment spam for things like gambling or viagra. The spammers want their sites to show up as high as possible when someone searches for it.

As a defense against this, the most recent version of Movable Type, the blog software I use, has changed to deny the Google Juice. If you look at a post with comments and put your mouse over the link to a commentor, you don't see their URL anymore, you see a redirection link. This link prevents the comment spammer from getting what they so desperately want, the Google Juice.

The problem is that many people like to mouse over link and see the URL before going there. I know I do.

So I made a little change. If you look at a list of comments, you will see the URL next to the commentors link in a non-hyperlinked form between brackets. That way, you, a human being, can see the URL, but Googlebot doesn't see it as a meaningful link.

The code change was simple. In the Comment Listing Template I changed this section:

To this:

Note that all I had to add was at the right spot.

It appears to have worked like a charm. YMMV.

Posted by michael at 02:10 PM
February 28, 2004
A simple question

This regards the controversy over The Grey Album.

I own The Beatles' White Album. I own Jay-Z's Black Album.

Can I legally own a copy DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album?

I don't want to get a letter in the mail from lawyers...

Posted by michael at 03:38 PM
February 27, 2004
A friend has a virus

Today I got home from work, open my email and a couple inbound virus warning popped up. One of the virus laden emails was strange.

Yes, that looks like Michele sent me a virus. But it didn't come from her. It came from someone that has both my email address and Michele's in their address book.

That narrows down the list of possibilities quite a bit to close friends and family. So, friends and family, if you read this and you aren't running anti-virus software, I think you should.

Everyone should be running anti-virus software, this means YOU!

Posted by michael at 06:51 PM
February 25, 2004
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be lead to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

- H.L. Mencken

I stumbled across this quote today and felt it applied to many things.

Personally, I refuse to fear hobgoblins.

Posted by michael at 01:42 PM
Touching the Void

Last night I went out to see Touching the Void with Brad. The film is the story of two climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who took on a mountain in the Andes. During the descent, Joe breaks his leg and the two are faced with getting down the mountain.

I won't go into the details, but the harrowing tale of survival is truly amazing. This isn't a good novel or interesting screenplay, this is real. This really happened to two men.

You should go see this movie. I won't spoil anything, but since the two climbers are interviewed in the film, you know they both survive. But the story of how they survive is astounding.

Posted by michael at 08:06 AM
February 20, 2004

Last night I was about to head off to bed but decided to check the Tivo to see if the latest Daily Show was there. I flipped around the channel guide and saw the Tavis Smiley Show. I was a bit suprised since I only know Tavis from his NPR radio program that I listen to in the evenings on occasion. Tavis is insightful, direct, and fun with his guests. And man does he get the guests. Everyone from athletes, to presidential candidates, to musicians.

On the TV show I saw that he was interviewing Prince. Now, I love me some Prince. His music was core to my younger years and holds special place in my heart. More recently his strangeness with that symbol and religion had made me think he'd gone off the deep end.

I eager watched the show. Amazingly, Prince is now a 40-something, articulate and interesting musician. The discussion between Tavis & Prince was great and showed that Prince isn't such a nutcase that many may seem to think. Tavis even showed a clip from Barbershop where they mocked him and Prince laughed at it. I was impressed that he came across as a mature, intelligent artist rather than a Hollywood nutcase.

He did an acoustic version of a song with Wendy, and then Tavis premiered Prince's new video, Musicology. His music isn't the same as the old, but the new video was pretty good.

When the new album comes out, I'm buying.

Posted by michael at 10:00 AM
February 19, 2004
Media Happiness

A couple days a ago I moved the media server into the living room. I took out the stereo and CD player and replaced it with this:

Michele wanted this setup. From here, she can play any of the music on the speakers and even rip new CDs as we buy them. We can also get to the music from any of the other computers. I should be getting a smaller and more aesthetically pleasing keyboard and mouse. Eventually the server will move inside the cabinet and we might get an LCD monitor. Hopefully the sub-woofer will find a place on the floor.

Next I want the Dlink Wireless Media Player to stream video to the TV off of any computer in the house.

In other news, check out the 1000 Fighting Styles of Donald Rumsfeld.

Posted by michael at 08:42 AM
February 18, 2004
Testing a moblog

I've been playing with my camera phone and a textamerica moblog. Check it out.

Posted by michael at 10:30 AM
Macs & PCs

A friend asked about buying a computer. He wrote

Time for a new home computer. Went to the Apple store with the wife, and she's in love with the iMac, and I have to admit, it comes across as a pretty slick product. Personally, I like the fact that OS X is Unix based, as I've got a pretty good handle on the Unix command line and overall architecture - PC's are black-magic to me(not to mention I hate Gate's guts) even though I use one daily and know the usual apps.

Primary applications for home will be the usual browsing, kid's educational sw, kids games, and photo and home-movie editing/production. The iMac in question, 1.25Ghz PowerPC, 80Gb drive, 256M RAM looks really meek compared to lower-priced PC hardware sporting 2.5GHz Intel hw. So what gives? I know that processor speed doesn't necessarily translate linearly to computing power, but can anyone clue me in on relative performance of the two CPUs? Does it come down to a RISC/CISC thing? Multi-threading?

In short, I'm looking for some pro/con analysis on the Mac vs. PC. If I were to buy today, I'd lean toward the Mac, but have the reservations alluded to above.

Here's how I replied:

My advice -> If you like the Mac, buy the Mac, don't worry about CPU comparisons.

Do max out the RAM after you get the thing home with 3rd party RAM. A gig would be good.

Functionally, Windows and Macintosh both get the job done for users. Either way you can surf the web, email, make DVDs, etc. Both OSs are stable, highly useable, and powerful.

Things the Mac excels at: Integration of software - The apps work cohesively and in a similar fashion. Aesthetic design - No doubt Macs look nicer, and this is important to some people. Security - Since OSX is a tiny fraction of the deployed OSs in the world, it is rarely targeted for exploits. Innovation - Apple pioneered use of USB, firewire, and Bluetooth, while Microsoft is slow to adopt newer technologies. Sony is comparable to Apple in hardware design and innovation, but is hampered by the needed changes to the Windows OS.

Things the Mac sucks at: Closed hardware - Unless Steve wants you to have it, it ain't available. If it is available, it costs more. Long term upgrading is near impossible. Living within Apple design - The apps are great as long as you will do things the Apple way. If you don't like the way iTunes manages music, too bad, you're stuck. Same for email, file system, calendar, etc. Cost - Macs are more expensive. OS upgrades are costly. Four $99+ OS upgrades in the last three years alone.

Things Windows excels at: Open hardware - You can run Windows on nearly everything, PCs are virtually unlimited on what kind of hardware you want to add, upgrade, or change. Cost - PCs are far, far cheaper than Macs, but you get varying levels of quality. Software - If there's software to do something out there, chances are it runs on Windows. No other platform can say that.

Things Windows sucks at: Security - A Windows computer is under constant assault. You need firewalls, auto-updating OS, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software running at all times. Integration of software - Windows apps 'look and feel' different from application to application. To some this is a drawback.

The only crystal clear choice to choose a PC over a Mac is for gaming. If you want to play computer games, there is no comparison. PCs are orders of magnitude above Macs in CPU & video card power and selection of games.

In all other aspects, the computers/operating systems are comparable for home users.

Myself, I use Windows because I like to build the computers from scratch and am constantly upgrading them. Also, gaming is hobby of mine and I want a great platform to play on.

What do you think?

Posted by michael at 10:22 AM
February 15, 2004
ETech Photos

In my slow, but steady pace to catchup with blogging, I finally made a gallery and put up my photos from the Emerging Technology Conference.

Other good photos at the etech.textamerica moblog, Splatt's moblog, and Joi's ETech photos.

Posted by michael at 08:00 PM
February 14, 2004
My ETech Presentation

I finally have some time to write about the presentation I helped give at the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference this week. I spoke about Disney's use of RSS, weblogs, and wikis in the workplace.

To be honest, I was a little concerned before I spoke that the crowd would think what we had done was simple and not 'emerging'. I mean RSS and weblogs are nothing new to the people that attend the ETech conference.

Happily, everyone seemed duly impressed and we felt that our talk was worthwhile and of some benefit to others. Many people wrote about the talk. As asmall sampling, take a look at Ross Mayfield's notes (with a TON of trackbacks), Cory Doctorow's notes, group notes taken in the session via Hydra, a person at edweblogs.org that gets my message, good insight from Tim Bishop, and more if you want to google or technorati them up.

Before the talk, we discussed if anything was going to raise eyebrows, and we agreed that the RSS vs. Atom thing would probably do so. While many see the choices as between RSS and Atom, we tend to see it as a single choice for the use of syndication. Syndication of information is the real change we are seeing, not the specific flavor. RSS works and has a wide variety of uses. Atom promises to make ingest & reuse of content even simpler. Both will probably have place within Disney.

I am a bit interested in the stats behind the number of RSS aggregators shipped. With Disney's revealing that the our Motion product is really a RSS aggregator in over two million computers, it's got to be one of the most widely shipped ones out there.

The talk was fun and I enjoyed it. I guess I better figure out something else cool to work on if I ever want to speak again.

Posted by michael at 08:33 AM
February 11, 2004
Sean Bonner

I'm back home from ETech and there's enough calm for me to blog a bit. I'll make several entries as I can on various topics.

I've known for a while that I was going to ETech, since I was giving a presentation. A few weeks ago, one of the local LA bloggers I know, Sean Bonner, posted a note saying he was thinking of going down for the show. Besides running a successful art gallery, SixSpace, he also is part of the teams running blogging.la and weblogsinc.com. He's probably got a dozen more weblogs, but then again, he has no children to distract him.

I digress. We chatted in email and agreed to drive down together. It's be nice to have a extra friendly face at the big scary conference. I had met Sean once before in meatspace at a wireless meeting and exchanged a bit of email ever since.

So Sunday arrives and he gets dropped off at my house for the drive. At the last minute I learned that he was a vegan. Currently I'm on the Atkins diet, meaning I eat a LOT of meat. He's an artist, I'm an engineer. I was wondering how we were going to get along.

Well, we got along great. We chatted the whole way down and it was good to have a partner during the conference to check in with. We talked aobut everything under the sun and compared notes on events that we were both at, but saw in different ways.

The social dynamics of the blogosphere at the conference were of constant amusement to us. We kept watching how people would orbit the A-list bloggers is some attempt to grab a little meatspace google juice from these people. You could do a whole paper on the hierarchy of the blogosphere at conferences. The worlds colliding of the various blogging cliques was funny.

Sean is great guy and his laidback, easy going exterior hides his mischevious interior. It's a great combo. Sitting quietly in the lounge, Sean would systematically bluejack every bluetooth device in the room. His IRC comments were hilarious and he often had me laughing out loud in sessions, when I was supposed to be paying attention.

So, in lieu of a viable online reputation system, Sean gets the Cruft Seal of Approval.

Posted by michael at 06:47 PM
February 08, 2004
Wireless security on the road

I'm heading down to a conference where pretty much everyone will be using wifi to stay connected to the net. It's simple because the wifi access points are open and you can easily connect.

The problem is that pretty much anyone can see what you are doing, except if you take special precautions. For the most part, transmission is in the clear and an eavesdropper can see what you type. That includes user names, passwords, and anything else you do online.

I've been to a few conferences with many people using wifi on open access points and it's amazing what you can see. Wifi sniffers are easy to find and they show everything flying by in the airwaves. An unscrupulous person could have dozens of usernames and passwords in a couple minutes.

There are several solutions to protect yourself. If you have some tech saavy you can ensure you are only using secure email and SSL secured web sites, but for most of us, this is a pain.

The simplest solution is to use a Virtual Private Network, commonly called a VPN. A VPN is a way to tunnel your internet traffic through a secure pipeline that eavesdroppers can't see through. VPNs are typically used by businesses to ensure that their networks are secure from snooping when staff connect to them via modems or wifi.

Once your data is in a secure tunnel, you can do whatever you want and people can't intercept your data.

Again, the super tech saavy, can build their own VPN and proxy servers to allow themselves to surf securely. I tried to do it myself, and I decided it was a huge pain in the ass.

Luckily for me I found a service that provides me with a VPN and secure access for a fairly inexpensive rate. HotSpotVPN is made for people that want to attach to open wifi hotspots but be secure. I gave the service a try and it seems to work well. Speed is the real key to pulling this off. To do the encryption and proxy redirection uses resources and you usually see the impact as reduced effective bandwidth.

Here's the speed of the VPN sitting the dining room connecting via 802.11b to my DSL line. Pretty good. I wouldn't want to move gigabytes of data, but great for email, surfing, and blogging.

This is the speed of my wifi access without the VPN. Almost three times as fast. This will be the first time I'm using HotSpotVPN and will be able to give a better report on performance in a few days.

I think it's a reasonable compromise. A drop in speed to protect my usernames and password from flying around in the open.

Don't say I didn't warn you...

Posted by michael at 11:35 AM
On the road

I'm leaving in a couple hours for San Diego to speak at the Emerging Technologies Conference. I'm talking about Disney's use of RSS syndication.

I'll try to blog about what I see and hear at the conference. It should be very interesting.

Posted by michael at 10:34 AM
February 07, 2004
Dollar Mending

Greatest. Flash. Evar. !!!1!!

(at least until the next good one...)

Posted by michael at 07:28 PM
Loading Windows XP on a SATA drive

Just in case anyone else has this problem and doesn't want to spend an hour figuring it out...

If you are loading Windows XP onto a computer with a serial ATA (SATA) hard drive, you will have to manually load the SATA drivers.

As suggested on this usenet post, you need to put the drivers on a floppy disk.

Copy the drivers from motherboard support CD *\DriverDisk\SATA\*.* into root directory of floppy disk. (i.e. root directory of floppy disk should contain \pide and \sata folders, txtsetup.oem, etc. files.)

Then, boot system by Windows XP installation CD, when the message "Press F6 if you need to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver" shows up, press "F6". Then, press "S" to specify additional device when next screen pops up. Put the driver floppy disk you made in and press enter to continue. If the floppy disk is made successfully, the installation program will ask for selecting driver. Please then select "VIA Serial ATA RAID Controller(Windows XP)".) After SATA driver loaded and Windows XP can recognize the SATA HDD, you can continue to install Windows XP as usual.

This should work fine if you have the drivers on a CD somewhere.

Here's what not to do:
1) Pull floppy drive from another computer
2) Get lazy and not install the floppy, simply hang it by cables on the side of computer
3) After using floppy, allow the exposed circuitboard to touch the case
4) Watch smoke come from the floppy drive since the power was shorted out
5) Toss floppy drive in the trash

Posted by michael at 12:03 AM
February 06, 2004
Look out

My Mom uncorks a political rant on her weblog.

Here's a tasty quote:

"But I ask you when did Usama bin Laden start being pronounced Saddam Hussein."

Posted by michael at 01:54 PM
February 04, 2004
Camera Phone Fun

As I mentioned before, I picked up a Nokia 3650 phone and have been running around taking pictures.

Here's one I took today on my way to a meeting at work:

The phone has so many functions, I still haven't figured out how to do one tenth of what it can do.

In other news, I bought the full set of Giant Robot DVDs.

For those that don't know, Johnny Sokko and Giant Robot is a series from Japan in the late 60s that was dubbed into English and shown in the US in the 70s, when I was a young boy.

My brother and I loved Giant Robot because he was controlled by the young boy, Johnny Sokko. We could easily imagine ourselves being Johnny and would often act out Giant Robots movements.

I played the first episode for the girls yesterday and they loved it. Thanks to the interent, almost anything from my memory is instantly available to me.

Posted by michael at 11:22 PM
February 03, 2004
Late night update

Sleep beckons...

For the Superbowl, we made yet another Turducken.

Here is demonstrate the layered Turducken

The stuffing wasn't quite as tasty this year, but it was still enjoyable.

On Saturday I switched Michele and I over to T-mobile and we both picked up new Nokia 3650 phones.

We are still learning how to program and use them, but soon enough I will have some sort of moblog/photoblog going. All in due time.

Posted by michael at 12:19 AM