03 December 2006

Tony vs. Paul

Tony vs. Paul is a silly, wonderful stop-motion movie of two friends pulling pranks on each other. It has a stop-motion logic all its own, and at the same time makes me wish that I could drop everything and spend a week with my best friend making a movie just like this.

10 November 2006

Lou Reed at Web 2.0 video roundup

Lou Reed at Web 2.0

Here are videos of Lou Reed's show at the Web 2.0 Summit last Thursday in San Francisco.

Jonathon Miller, AOL CEO, introduces Lou Reed

The first clip shows AOL's CEO Jonathon Miller introducing Lou Reed -- his kung-fu brother! -- and the first song, Dirty Boulevard. The second clip is Gravity, the last of the six songs in the set.

09 November 2006

Lou Reed at Web 2.0

Lou Reed at Web 2.0
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
Lou Reed and his band did a short set at Web 2.0 last night. Two songs in he got ticked off at people who were talking. He said, "you wanna talk? It's your twenty minutes. Or, I could turn it up - I could hurt you." Pause. Then, to the crowd "do you want me to hurt you?"

The crowd replied enthusiastically, so he said to his sound guy, "Frank, turn it up." The sound went up. Lou made the request again, and now the sound by the front speaker stack reminded me of my first concert, a Ramones show which left my ears ringing for three days.

The music went loud, the crowd stood up, and the last three songs were great. Reed closed the set with Gravity.

Update: Justinsomnia's blog has a great description of the show. Here's AOL's video of the first song.

Philip Kaplan at Web 2.0

Philip Kaplan at Web 2.0
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
Philip Kaplan of Adbrite at Web 2.0.

08 November 2006

This was supposed to be the future

This was supposed to be the future
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
My favorite t-shirt sighting at Web 2.0.

Sponsored sorbet at Web 2.0

sponsored sorbet at Web 2.0
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
At the Web 2.0 conference, even the sorbet is sponsored.

05 November 2006

Borat in the news

"Kazakhstan's largest chain of cinemas, Otau, said in September it will not show the film."

19 October 2006

Korla Pandit video

Korla Pandit had a TV show in Los Angeles in the 1950s, where he played a Hammond organ. The concept of this show: the costume, the set, and his zen-like expression, make the whole thing mesmerizing.

05 October 2006

HP investigation memo

The Smoking Gun has an 18 page internal Hewlett-Packard memo describing how HP conducted its investigation. This memo was released to the media by the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Commmittee, which subpoenaed HP CEO Mark Hurd and ex-Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, along with Larry Sonsini, investigators Ron DeLia, Joseph Depante, and nine other people who were active in HP's search for the source of leaks to the press.

Update: BusinessWeek has published more documents, and they don't look good.

HP investigator destroyed his computer with a hammer

According to the Mercury News, Bryan Wagner, one of the investigators involved in Hewlett-Packard's pretexting scandal told investigators he used a hammer to destroy the computer he used for his research. Wagner worked for Action Research based out of Melbourne, Florida. Action Research's site appears to be down, but it's on the Internet Archive. Action Research describes itself as "America’s #1 Information provider" and continues:

Any guesses how they get that "100% current as of today" information? The "no databases" claim strongly suggests they get the data live from the source.

Two of the services they provide are "landline and cellular phone breaks" and "telephone research."

According to the archive of their site, Action Research's Florida (investigative) license is
"A 9300021." The Florida Division of Licensing search page gives the the owner and contact information for the company. Action Research has two addresses, one in West Melbourne, FL, and the other in Melbourne. Joseph DePante is listed as the president of the company, and the company website lists his son Matthew as an employee.

While Access Research's site is down, Process Server Canada's page for Action Research is up and, among other things, gives the AOL email address for Action Research. DePante's address is on this page.

updated 5 Oct 06, originally posted 29 Sep 06 4:13pm

04 October 2006

HP emails not good for Hunsaker

BusinessWeek has published Hewlett-Packard internal emails that shed light on HP's pretexting investigation of reporters and board members, and they don't put the company in a favorable light.

In this email exchange (pdf) in January between Kevin Hunsacker (ex-HP Chief Ethics Officer) and Anthony Gentilucci, Hunsaker asks "how does Ron [DeLia] get cell and home and cell phone records, and whether the investigation is above board. Gentilucci writes: "[the investigators] call operators under some ruse, to obtain the call record over the phone .... In essence, the Operator shouldn't give it out, and that person is liable in some sense. Ron [DeLia] can describe the operation obviously better ... since he, and others, have been using it..." He continues, "I think its on the edge, but above board."

Hunsaker responds "I probably shouldn't have asked ..."

In this exchange in early February (pdf) Vince Nye writes to Gentilucci "As I understand Ron [DeLia]'s methodology in obtaining this phone record information it leaves me with the opinion that it is very unethical at the least and probably illegal. If it is not totally illegal, then it is leaving HP in a position of [sic] that could damage our reputation or worse. I am requesting that we cease this phone number

Vince Nye and Fred Adler express their serious concerns about DeLia's methods in this email conversation in early February. Nye, writing to Adler, says "[DeLia's] information is two [sic] detailed to be obtained via voice over the phone by a pretense operative ..." possibly indicating web access to detailed phone records that board member Tom Perkins complained about in his letter to HP. Adler responds "Agreed, I am VERY concerned about the legality of this information." Nye responds, "it is very clear that this is `Don't ask, Don't tell' with regards to Ron's role."

Nye continues by quoting Kevin Hunsaker, HP's Chief Ethics Officer, as saying "I think Ann [Baskins, HP counsel] knows." Nye adds "Kevin Thinks ....... he doesn't want to go make sure she knows... This is the guy who is suppose to keep us above board!!!!!!!!"

Felony charges for HP insiders

CBS news reports that the California Attorney General will seek felony indictments in charges filed today against former HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, former HP Chief Ethics Officer Kevin Hunsaker, private investigator Ronald DeLia, and outside investigators Joseph Matthew DePante and Bryan Wagner.

The New York Times and BusinessWeek are also covering the story.

03 October 2006

Massachusetts PI linked to HP scandal

News stories about HP's ill-conceived investigation of board members' and reporters' phone records now identify the "pretexting" private investigator as Ronald DeLia, owner of Massachusetts-based Security Outsourcing Solutions.

Targets of HP's investigation included HP board member and Kleiner Perkins co-founder Tom Perkins, who quit the board and then wrote a letter to HP describing how investigators fraudulently accessed his personal phone records by using personal information such as his social security number.

DeLia pled the Fifth rather than testify before Congress today on the issue, but in 1999, he was very clear about the matter. In the July 1999 issue (pdf, mirror) of his Corporate Homicide newsletter he quoted an identity theft victim, "when somebody gets your Social Security number, they have the key to your front door forever." The article concludes, "Congress made identity theft a felony [in 1999]."

See also: HP emails not good for Hunsaker, HP investigator destroys his computer with hammer, HP spies on reporter's family, and Congress releases HP investigation internal memo.

Other sites covering the story:

- BoingBoing: EEERNGH! EEERNGH! Irony overload alarm activated!
- Wired's 27B Stroke 6: HP Investigator warns that identity theft is a felony
- Robert X. Cringeley: The buck stops where?
- InformationWeek: Congress takes HP to the woodshed
- Silicon Valley Watcher: When lawyers play spies
- Infectious Greed: Watching the HP detectives
- Wall Street Journal: Probing the pretexters
- Rob Hyndman: The HP saga: focus on Hurd, Hunsacker on ethics
- St. Petersburg Times: Congress calls on pretexters to testify
- Rocky Mountain News: HP scandal reaches state
- Chron.com: HP whistleblower Nye tried to avert scandal
- Law.com: Hewlett-Packard, Wilson Sonsini part ways in Calif. probe
- ZDNet Between the Lines: Hurd says he will re-build board and fix the process
- Rob Hyndman: HP scandal: the buck stops where?
- Mercury News: Incredulous lawmakers grill HP managers
- ABC News: HP chairs agree company behaved horribly
- Mercury News: Hurd becomes focus after HP's top lawyer resigns
- The Financial Express: Dunn says DeLia employed since 1990s
- Macworld: Lawmakers grill HP execs in pretexting hearing
- AP: Lawmakers compare HP scandal to Enron
- SV Confidential: Who's pleading the fifth
- Silicon Valley Watcher: Morning questioning of Dunn and Sonsini
- Reuters: Former HP executives invoke right not to testify
- Bloomberg.com: Hurd says leaks weren't his top priority
- Time Magazine: Is the HP spying scandal another Enron?
- WSJ Law Blog: Kona: Far from paradise for Dunn
- Glenn Fleishman's Glennlog: Dun Dunn
- CNET: Congress to subpoena private investigator
- boqpod.com: Ex-HP Chair says others knew of probe

Further reading:

While Security Outsourcing's web site no longer gives a phone number lists a phone number that's actually for their lawyers, Gilberg Kurent & Kiernan, earlier archived copies of the site here and here (via the Internet Archive) have the original contact information. The first link is for a recent version of the site and gives a phone number that is listed under DeLia's name and address in Needham, MA. The second link is for a much older version of the site from 1999, and gives a different number that is listed under DeLia's wife's name in South Dennis, MA.

Tom Perkins' letter to HP contains details about the fraudulent access of his phone records. The requests were made using two email addresses: mike@yahoo.com and redsox9855@yahoo.com, the latter being slightly less of a smoking gun than doing-an-investigation-on-behalf-of-hp-from-my-home-in-needham@yahoo.com. The on-line requests for access came from a single IP address,, which belongs to Cox Communications, and which may be for a computer in the Omaha area (based on a reverse lookup and traceroute). The Rocky Mountain news reports that this IP address may have been used by Bryan C. Wagner, a Littleton, CO investigator. Wagner has lived in the Omaha area.

In the May/June 2000 issue (pdf, mirror) of Corporate Homicide, DeLia writes about using Anonymizer to visit web sites and send email without leaving an identifying trail.

DeLia's is the only name on the masthead for Corporate Homicide.

HP's documents quoted recently only say they provided investigators with names and phone numbers. Here's an excerpt from one internal company communication:

We provide DeLia the names and telephone numbers we are interested in, he passes the information to the third-party company, and they then make the pretext calls to the phone service providers,'' Hunsaker wrote to Baskins on May 1.


(updated 3 Oct 06, first posted 27 Sep 06 @ 11:14PM)

02 October 2006

Guinness Record for most t-shirts worn at once

Man sets Guinness Record for most t-shirts worn at once.

According to video information on Youtube, this is Matt McAllister of 99.9 KTYD in Santa Barbara, CA.

30 September 2006

Nerf Magstrike and Longshot

Hasbro's Nerf group finally released the Nerf N-Strike Magstrike and Longshot, first covered here in February. The Magstrike is part of the dart tag line, and comes with velcro-tipped ammo, a vest, and protective sunglasses. It's clip-fed and comes with two 10-round clips.

The Longshot is a sniper rifle with scope and built-in bipod that can be broken down into a smaller blaster. The blaster slots into the center of the scope/bipod system. The Longshot comes with two 6-round clips.

Both guns retail for $25-$30, and are reportedly in stock at Target stores.

28 September 2006

HP spied on reporter's family

CNET reports that HP targeted a reporter, his wife, and his mother and father in its investigation, retrieving not only phone records but also a yearbook photo of his mom. Here's an excerpt.

According to a government investigator, the company pursued the home and cellular telephone records of reporter Stephen Shankland as well as those of his father and his wife, a former News.com reporter and current Associated Press correspondent. The company also obtained a yearbook photograph of Shankland's mother, a high school teacher ...

27 September 2006

MJD's job hunting stories

Over at The Universe of Discourse, Mark Jason Dominus shares some entertaining job hunting stories. Here are two of my favorites:


A guy named Jonathan Rentzsch bookmarked my article about creeping featurism and the ratchet effect, saying "I'd like to hire this guy just so I could fire him." Since I was looking for a new job last month, I sent him my résumé, inquiring about his company's severance package. He didn't reply.


A few years ago I was contacted by a headhunter who was offering me a one-year contract in Milford, Iowa. I said I did not want to work in Milford, Iowa. He tried to sell me on the job anyway. I said I did not want to work in Milford, Iowa. He would not take "no". He said, "Look, I understand you are reluctant to consider this. But I would like you to take a few days and think it over, and tell me what it would take to get you to agree." Okay.

I talked it over with my wife, and we decided that for $750,000 we would be willing for me to spend the year working in Milford, Iowa. $500,000, we decided, would not be sufficient, but $750,000 would. I forget by now how we arrived at this figure, but we took some care in coming up with it.

The headhunter called back. "Have you thought it over?" Yes, I had, I said. I had decided that $750,000 would be required to get me to Milford, Iowa.

He was really angry that I had wasted his time.

22 September 2006

Henry Blodgett: Risky Business (Slate)

Henry Blodgett has an article titled "Risky Business" on Slate that does a good job explaining why hedge funds sometimes make what seem to be stupid bets, but which are in fact perfectly rational from the perspective of the fund managers.

As an example, Blodgett cites Amaranth Investor's $6bn loss in natural gas:

In the immediate aftermath, such gigantic failures are usually attributed to the moronic mistakes. In Amaranth's case, for example, a 32-year-old named Brian Hunter was so sure he knew what natural gas prices would do that he bet the firm. Amaranth's bosses and risk-control people, meanwhile, concluded that the risks were worth taking because—well, for starters, because it was apparently inconceivable that gas prices could fall to levels not seen since … 2004.

Blodgett says that even though funds may be run and staffed by very bright people, their rewards and their risks are not aligned with investors:

For an aggressive trader betting other people's money, swinging for fences entails little risk: "Eighty percent chance I make another $100 million; 20 percent chance we bomb and I get another job."

The moral: before handing your money over to someone to manage, check that their interests are aligned with yours.

21 September 2006

The upside to global warming

Clear sailing from Europe to the North Pole.

PARIS (AFP) - European scientists voiced shock as they showed
pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last
month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe's most northerly
outpost to the North Pole itself.

13 September 2006

Pink Man @ Solano Stroll

Pink Man @ Solano Stroll, originally uploaded by ptufts.

Pink Man is a regular in Berkley parades. He zips around on his unicycle singing the Pink Man theme song and having fun. He wasn't at the parades last year, and I was wondering whether I'd see him again. But then, he showed up at the Solano Stroll, restoring Berkeley to its proper state of silliness.

12 September 2006

Anime creates Go boom in Japan

The BBC reports that the anime Hikaru no Go, about a boy who is befriended by the ghost of an ancient Go master, has spawned a resurgence of interest in the game among Japanese kids.

08 September 2006

Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard

Ever wonder why Chinese is one of the hardest languages for westerners to pick up? Because it's hard for anyone, even native Chinese speakers! David Moser's essay "Why Chinese is so damn hard" explains why. Some excerpts:


I was once at a luncheon with three Ph.D. students in the Chinese Department at Peking University, all native Chinese (one from Hong Kong). I happened to have a cold that day, and was trying to write a brief note to a friend canceling an appointment that day. I found that I couldn't remember how to write the character 嚔, as in da penti 打喷嚔 "to sneeze". I asked my three friends how to write the character, and to my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. Not one of them could correctly produce the character. Now, Peking University is usually considered the "Harvard of China". Can you imagine three Ph.D. students in English at Harvard forgetting how to write the English word "sneeze"?? Yet this state of affairs is by no means uncommon in China. English is simply orders of magnitude easier to write and remember.... By contrast, often even the most well-educated Chinese have no recourse but to throw up their hands and ask someone else in the room how to write some particularly elusive character.


Whereas modern Mandarin is merely perversely hard, classical Chinese is deliberately impossible. Here's a secret that sinologists won't tell you: A passage in classical Chinese can be understood only if you already know what the passage says in the first place. This is because classical Chinese really consists of several centuries of esoteric anecdotes and in-jokes written in a kind of terse, miserly code for dissemination among a small, elite group of intellectually-inbred bookworms who already knew the whole literature backwards and forwards, anyway. An uninitiated westerner can no more be expected to understand such writing than Confucius himself, if transported to the present, could understand the entries in the "personal" section of the classified ads that say things like: "Hndsm. SWGM, 24, 160, sks BGM or WGM for gentle S&M, mod. bndg., some lthr., twosm or threesm ok, have own equip., wheels, 988-8752 lv. mssg. on ans. mach., no weirdos please.

07 September 2006

Hikaru no go cartoonist arrested

The Mainichi news reports that Takeshi Obata, author of the "Hikaru no Go" manga series, was arrested for illegal posession of a knife, according to Tokyo police.

An officer questioned Obata, 37, in Tokyo's Nerima-ku after he was driving his car with the headlights off shortly before 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

Silver Star 2006: North Korean go software

The AP has an article about North Korea's venture making Baduk software (Baduk is the Korean name for Go). The program is called "Silver Star 2006" and will be available for download for 33,000 won (US$35; €27) from South Korean distributor ForOneBiz.

Kim Tae-gyu's article "NK Baduk Software to Hit Seoul" in the Korea Times has more details. The download site will be www.i-silverstar.com (the site seems to require IE). The North Korean company that makes the software is Samcholli General Corp.

01 September 2006

Mysteries of sushi explained

This brilliant video made the rounds a few months ago, but I somehow missed it. It's a video by the Rahmens, a Japanese comedy duo. In it, they explain the mysteries of sushi. The subtitles were done by a fan.


(via Videosift)

15 August 2006

AOL search data: best query

Since AOL released their anonymized search query logs to the world, several sites have republished the data with decent query interfaces. AOL Stalker is one of these sites, and using their interface, I just found my favorite AOL query.

14 August 2006

Survival Research Labs in San Jose

Originally uploaded by ptufts.
So, what were you doing on Friday?

07 August 2006

Hungerectomy: I feel ill

Originally uploaded by Qathi.
Deconstructing the Hungerectomy ad campaign.

It's got a suffix that conjures up hospitals and operating rooms, the closest real word is "hysterectomy," the middle of the word is "recto," and it's all on a brown background.

What were the ad guys thinking?

Update: I saw another one, "Satisfectellant."

The suffix "fectellant" should not be applied to anything one would like people to eat.

05 August 2006

Japanese giant squid robot

Pink tentacle reports: "In squid-crazy Hakodate, squid fishing is big business, the local specialties include shio ramen (squid-topped ramen) and ikasomen (raw squid cut into the shape of somen noodles), the summer festivals have residents busting squid-like moves in a dance called ika-odori (a squirmy version of the traditional bon dance performed at summer festivals throughout Japan), and the city fish is the squid. It is therefore unlikely that anyone was surprised when, on July 18, a group of Hakodate residents made an official announcement regarding plans to create a giant robotic squid for the city.

The citizens’ group, called “Robot Festival in Hakodate,” aims to create a new symbol for Hakodate, one of the leading tourist destinations in Hokkaido — and what better symbol than a giant robotic version of the city’s favorite creature?

Members of the group include university professors specializing in robotic engineering, who will work to incorporate cutting-edge technology that will allow the robot to be controlled remotely via the Internet. Development will be led by Hitoshi Matsubara and Hidekatsu Yanagi, information architecture professors at the School of System Information Science at Future University-Hakodate (FUN). Matsubara will handle the robotics research and development, while Yanagi will handle design. Students from the university, along with Hakodate high school teachers and students and others in the local manufacturing industry, will contribute ideas in brainstorming sessions."

(via pinktentacle)

02 August 2006

Plexeraser: what could possibly go wrong?

Finally, a CD-RW and DVD-RW drive with 100% reliability ... in making coasters. Plextor just announced their Plexeraser drive. The tray features a big yellow sticker that says "WARNING: THIS DEVICE WILL DESTROY DATA CONTENTS AND DISC."

(via Akihabaranews)

27 July 2006

Breaking: train derails near Klamath Falls

A freight train derailed near Klamath Falls, with 38 cars into the water, according to an Amtrak employee. I am not sure if this is a freight train or a passenger train, but according to sources, FEMA is involved and is not allowing rail traffic through for at least 12 hrs.

Amtrak is turning its Coast Starlight train (#11) back at Salem, OR to return to Portland for the night.

Update: the Klamath Falls Herald and News just found out and has more detail. The paper learned about the accident when an Amtrak passenger called them at 9:30pm, hours after the incident!

Here's the article: UP freight derails 38 cars: A 38-car train derailment Thursday evening 15 miles north of Klamath Falls blocked a main line, delaying rail traffic, including Amtrak service, for an undetermined time.

According to Amtrak sources, the line will be closed for 24-48 hours.

Here's more on how the paper learned about the accident: Attempts to reach an Amtrak spokesperson Thursday night were unsuccessful. But an Amtrak passenger used her cell phone to call the Herald and News at 9:45 p.m. reporting that the Coast Starlight 14 passenger train was terminating service. The train was headed north from just outside of Paso Robles, Calif.

I'm on Amtrak #11, and I broke the story. A passenger on Amtrak #14 was the source for the paper. In this connected age, it's the passengers and not the authorities who tell the world what's going on.

(posting from Amtrak Coast Starlight #11 near Salem, OR)

Robert Kaye of MusicBrainz

Robert Kaye of MusicBrainz
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
Robert Kaye of MusicBrainz at OSCON.

Damian Conway reads The Davinci Codebase

Damian Conway presented "The Davinci Codebase," an open source murder mystery / comedy, one night at OSCON, complete with illustrations, audio clips, and really, really bad anagrams.

Han fucila primo!!!

Golf Ruts: it iz an anagram!

"Golf Ruts: eet iz an anagram!"

A subtle skew in the population

A subtle skew in the population
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
This is the "where are you from" map at OSCON. Who would have guessed that half the adult population of Pitcairn was attending?

26 July 2006

Anil goatses OSCON

Anil (that's uh-neel) Dash goatses OSCON. Gnat tallied six goatse references in a single keynote presentation, making this a new record.

25 July 2006

Jim Buckmaster at OSCON

At OSCON, Tim O'Reilly interviews Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist CEO. Some highlights: Craigslist only charges for job listings in three markets, and for apartment listings in NYC. Why? Not to make money, but to cut down on the spam and so improve the quality of the listings. The suggestion to charge came from the Craigstlist community.

They felt that these categories were out of control, and that a small fee would bring some rationality to the listings. Tim pointed out that Craigslist makes money because they decided to deal with spam. I wonder if that's a first?

Tim asked Jim if they had any open source lessons to share. Jim's main, simple point is to focus on the things that matter to your users, and block out everything else.

On the issue of Craigslist taking money from the traditional news media (Craigslist is killing classified ads, a traditional cash cow for newspapers), John pointed out that newspapers still have profit margins twice as great as the average business, and what's happening is that shareholders expect high and growing margins. So while the papers aren't hurting for money, they are cutting staff to meet these shareholder expectations. It's either that or get taken over by someone who will.

My new fighting technique ...

My new fighting technique ...
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
Capt. Jack Aubrey of Master and Commander has a plan for dealing with the French.

OSCON 2006 sign

OSCON 2006 sign
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
I'm at OSCON in Portland this week. I'll be blogging here about the Executive Briefing and some of the key sessions.

12 July 2006

A typical bike ride at 144.6 mph

A typical bike ride at 144.6 mph
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
My bike computer tells me my maximum bike speed was 144.6 mph.

This is what happens when you put a device that measures the rate of electrical pulses into a pocket full of coins.

07 July 2006

it's a party airplane

The Wall Street Journal: Mr. Schmidt stepped in to resolve that by saying, "Sergey, you can have whatever bed you want in your room; Larry, you
can have whatever kind of bed you want in your bedroom. Let's move on."
Mr. Jennings says Mr. Schmidt at another point told him, "It's a party

30 June 2006

Air Force discovers blogs

Kyle Spector of ForeignPolicy's FP Passport found this gem:US Air Force discovers blogs: "In an effort to fight the war on terror, the Air Force is putting up $450,000 for a three year study of...blogs. One scientist involved in the project is already proving, with this revelation, that he is worth the money:Blog entries have a different structure,' Ulicny said. 'They are typically short and are about something external to the blog posting itself, such as a news event. It's not uncommon for a blogger to simply state, 'I can't believe this happened,' and then link to a news story.'

Spector and I are in strong agreement: we can't believe this happened.

28 June 2006

A Møøse once bit my sister

Tenser, said the Tensor: Norwegian Meteorite: "I found this clause orthographically entertaining:

...Norway's best known astronomer Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard told Aftenposten.no.

I think it could be improved, though. How about:

...Nørway's best knøwn astrønømer Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard tøld Aftenpøsten.nø.

Yeah...that's more like it."

27 June 2006

WindizUpdate: Windows Update for Firefox users

I switched from Internet Explorer to Firefox years ago, partly because IE had stagnated, but moreso because Firefox had fewer exploited security vulnerabilities.

I'm on Windows XP, which uses IE by default for everything. I configured XP to make Firefox my default browser, but there was still one place where I was required to use IE: Microsoft's Windows Update.

Windows Update is the source of security patches and critical updates for Microsoft's products. Given the popularity of Windows XP, and the frequency of new critical vulnerabilities, I visit this site regularly to keep my machine patched. But it doesn't work well with Firefox.

Now there's a solution: WindizUpdate. This site works with Firefox and provides a clean interface to the latest Microsoft patches. Just like in IE, you can scan for vulnerabilities and apply the needed patches fairly easily.


25 June 2006

Before they were stars

A nice compilation of pre-fame appearances: Kurt Russel, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Aniston, Martin Sheen, all in cheesy horror movies, summer camp productions, aftershave ads, and cornflake commercials.

The best? Jean Claude Van Damme's debut as an extra in the 1984 movie Breakdance (3:54 in).

15 June 2006

Car GPS on an airplane

Do GPS devices work on airplanes?
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
Does a GPS unit designed for drivers work in a plane?

"Speed: 380 m/h."

Yes it does.

Green House's FingerMouse

I went to User's Side in San Jose (see below for address and hours) on Wednesday and got my new favorite mouse. It's made by Japanese company Green House and is the width of a finger. The mouse has a unique "two buttons in one" rocker switch - forward is right click, back is left click. It even has a tiny but usable scroll wheel on the side. I can operate all of the controls with my index finger.

I've had this mouse for two days, and I'm very happy with it. More details here:

Green House: FingerMouse (フィンガーマウス).

User's Side
San Jose, CA USA
Address 665 Saratoga Ave.
San Jose, CA 95129 USA
Store Hours 11:00 - 19:00 (Tuesday - Saturday)
12:00 - 18:00 (Sunday)
Closed Monday

Skype WiFi phone

I've been waiting for two years for someone to make a Skype WiFi phone. Until now, you needed an always-on PC to make Skype a real phone replacement. Now, with Netgear's Skype WiFi phone, you can make calls anywhere you can get a WiFi signal.

No details yet on what operating system the phone is running, but so far, Netgear says it will not have a web browser. You can pre-order it on Amazon for $250, with units shipping June 30.

More product info from Netgear: NETGEAR Skype WiFi Phone

> traceroute thepiratebay.org

Best. Traceroute. Ever.

A few weeks ago, torrent indexing site The Pirate Bay's servers were confiscated by Swedish police, presumably as a result of MPAA and APB (Swedish anti-piracy group) pressure.

The Pirate Bay opened up shop in another country a few days later, and this traceroute to their address shows the name of their new network gateway: hey.mpaa.and.apb.bite.my.shiny.metal.ass.thepiratebay.org

read more | tracert_thepiratebay.org">digg story

Nat and Brady

Nat and Brady
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
Nat Torkington and Brady Forrest closed out the Where 2.0 conference. Nat was the conference chair this year, and he's on site at every O'Reilly conference that I can remember. Brady will be conference chair next year.

How to peel potatos

Any cooking demo is much better with anime action-film music and sound effects. In this movie, we see a way to peel potatos by boiling them and then dunking them in cold water for a few seconds. It's a nice trick.

Where 2.0: Fun with GPS

Don Cooke, author of Fun with GPS, had some of the best slides in his talk at Where 2.0. His talk was about how GPS helped emergency responders navigate New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flood.

New Orleans Flood Map

His company supplied several hundred Tomtom car navigational units, free, so National Guard helicopter pilots could find city locations (helicopter nav systems operate on lat/lon, not addresses) and boat pilots could navigate downtown.

In addition to this effort, Don also spends a lot of time hacking on and playing with GPS devices:

Don Cooke doing a differential GPS measurement

He showed some pictures of his fun side-projects such as: GPS-enabling his cat:

GPS-enabled cat

"In the southwest corner, she spent a lot of time looking for that mole in the flower garden."

Cat tracking

Here he is, using GPS on his riding mower:

Fun with GPS

And the result:

Fun with GPS

Doing side-by-side comparisons of Tomtom and a competitor's unit:

Which way would you go?

The two units show conflicting advice: "turn left" and "turn right." Don: "which way did I go? Straight, of course."

Describe this slide

Every slide tells a story
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
This is my favorite slide from the Where 2.0 conference. Ten points to the person who posts the most amusing comment describing what they think it means.

From the boingboing archives

bOING bOING DIGITAL: "5. Invest in lamb and mutton futures. Start a breeding program to create a Timber wolf/Border collie hybrid; let it loose in Yellowstone. Collect newspaper clipping about entire flocks of sheep being skillfully herded into the woods by 'MacLobo.'"

Let me call you sweetheart

Clips like this make me thankful for internet video.

Via: VideoSift

14 June 2006

Which way would you go?

Which way would you go?
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
Duelling GPS recommenations: "Which way did I go? Straight, of course."

Tilty Twisty Table at Where 2.0

Tilt table
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
One of the cooler demos at Where 2.0's Where Fair was Onomy Labs' Tilty Twisty Table. It looks like normal round four-person table like you might see in a restaurant. But it's set up with a video projector above it, projecting an image onto its white top. The table top is mounted on a base with a MEMS tilt detector and a high-resolution rotational sensor. As you tilt the table, you rotate the map. As you tilt it, you move in that direction.

It fills a similar need to Applied Minds' Touchtable. It's a very clever, cool device, and makes maps much more interactive and engaging.

13 June 2006


What would you get if you applied text analysis software and a mapping service to the classics in Project Gutenberg? You'd get something like Gutenkarte.

Gutenkarte is based on a location reference mapping service from MetaCarta. MetaCarta is able to analyse documents and extract location references. For each reference, they have an algorithm which tries to remove ambiguity and map that location accurately, based on the context of other geographic references in the text. Paris, Texas and Paris, France are no problem.

On Gutenkarte, they have taken several classic texts, mapped out all the action, and provided hyperlinks from each location reference to more background info such as Wikipedia articles.

The maps weight the location names by the number of references in the text. Some of the books they've analyzed are:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Bible, King James version, Book 1: Genesis

The History of the Peloponnesian War

War and Peace

This is a really cool demo. I recommend taking a look at their site.

Google Earth for Mac

Google announced a new version of Google Earth (Rev 4 Beta) for Mac and Linux at Where 2.0. See more about this application here.

Besides the new Mac and Linux ports, they've also made improvements on the data front. Google Earth now has high resolution photos of the Pyramids of Giza, the cities and villages of India, and even Mount Everest in sub-meter resolution. In 3D mode, they showed the area where climbers set up their final camp before the ascent.

Google also announced that they now have a free version of Sketchup for the Mac.

AP: Alzheimer's Vaccine progress

The AP reports that Japanese scientists, funded by Novartis and the Japanese Ministry of Education, have made progress on a vaccine that reduces the amyloid beta (ab) plaque caused by Alzheimers, and believed to be one of the key factors in the progress of the disease. In trials with mice, the scientists found a reduction of ab plaques by up to 50% in some regions of the brain.

The vaccine, while years from human trials, still gives me hope that we will one day find a cure.

Click here to read the AP article.

(via Forbes and Slashdot)

12 June 2006

PixieHunt @ Where 2.0

Jordan Schwartz of Microsoft ran a contest called a PixieHunt the night before the Where 2.0 conference. The contest was co-sponsored by Microsoft and Cingular.

A PixieHunt is like a treasurehunt, except you have to take pictures of certain things. Here's Jordan Schwartz's description of a PixieHunt.

On my team were Jamie and Tomi (my co-workers at Metaweb), and Pablos, Shimon, and Alec. We had a great time running around downtown San Jose, being rather silly and asking total strangers questions like "do you have a tattoo? Can I take a picture of it?"

Here are some of the descriptions and the photos we took:

the team frolicking in a fountain

Old Faithful

riding a dragon

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

a stranger's tattoo

Tattoo You

a face made out of vegetables

Mr. Potato Face

a team member in the back seat of a police car

COPS 98052

Spatialguru's team got the above scene captured for ...

counterintelligence - a picture of another team taking a picture


a team member holding a press conference

Press Conference

Cingular sends 231 page bill to unlimited data user

Customer has unlimited data plan with Cingular. Cingular sends bill. Cingular pays $5.15 in postage to send bill in a box because bill is 231 pages long as it includes a line for every instance where customer's phone checks for email.

From the article:

That's right, you're paying $5.15, every month, to send me my bill: a 231 page manifesto of stupidity. That's over 7% of what I pay you

Mutant ears

Not just any mutant ears, these are Totally Amazing Mutant Ears. Terence Arjo's weblog, ToyDesignWorkship, describes the toy design process from idea to prototype.

Now with video goodness.

Technorati Tags:

11 June 2006

Building 1, Demolition crew 0

Somewhere, an architect is smiling and a demolition engineer is looking for a new job.

Via: VideoSift

07 June 2006

Conkeror: Firefox for Emacs users

I don't think I've ever found a Firefox extension that is both so useful and so wrong.

Conkeror extension for Firefox:

Conkeror is a mozilla based web browser designed to be completely keyboard driven, no compromises. It also strives to behave as much like Emacs as possible.

Review of Conkeror
on Bill Clementson's blog:

Ok, so you've now got Conkeror installed. Let's say you've just started it up and are sitting on the "Conkeror User Manual" page. Here's an annotated example of a typical session:

press "g" or "C-x C-f": The prompt asks you for the URL.
Enter "www.google.com" RET.


06 June 2006

The future of radio is software

In Wired News, Quinn Norton has an article on software radio. He interviews Matt Ettus, creator of the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP). This is the hardware companion to GnuRadio, free software that lets users build and tweak complete RF receiver out of software components, and most importantly, without having to know anything about electronics.

If you can detect a signal with the USRP, you can decode that signal, whether it's audio on AM or FM, or HDTV video. There are even projects to turn the USRP into a WiFi card and a GPS receiver.

The USRP is fully software configurable, using C++ for low-level processing and Python for scripting. How much can you do with just scripting? Here's a complete FM receiver in Python.

To the computer, USRP is a normal USB peripheral. The USRP samples a given chunk of RF spectrum and sends the digitized signal to the computer for further processing. While the USRP isn't a cheap peripheral - a basic setup including daughterboards is $700, the capabilities it provides would otherwise require much more expensive lab equipment or significant RF electronics skill and a lot of solder.

However, there are some limits to what you can do. Even with the USRP doing the sampling, a computer can only do so much signal processing in real time. Want to watch an HDTV broadcast as it's being received? Not yet, you'll have to save the digitized signal to disk first and then let your computer grind over it.

But I have an idea.

If the GnuRadio community harnesses graphics cards for their compute power, I think they could eliminate the PC as the processing bottleneck. Graphics cards are well suited
for high-speed signal processing, and there are some projects taking advantage of this compute power right now: GPGPU: General-Purpose computation on GPUs, FFT on a GPU, and the GPU-FFTlib.

I'd love to see what comes of this.

Update: There is work on making GnuRadio work with GPUs. FIR on GPU:

"The goal of this project is to implement a finite impulse response (FIR) filter on a GPU. A FIR filter is often used in audio processing applications .... We added our implementation of FIR filter to GNU Software Radio and evaluated its performance using a Pentium 4-HT 3.2 GHz processor and a Geforce 6600 video card. The results ... indicate that the GPU implementation has better performance then the CPU implementation for a large number of taps."

05 June 2006

Crossbow-launched rocket

File under "what could possibly go wrong?"

Wired 14.06: START: "There is no subtle way to say this: Brian Walker plans to shoot himself nearly 20 miles into the air aboard a homemade rocket ... modeled on spaceships from Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica."

The launch platform is a 24' carbon-fiber crossbow.

04 June 2006

Coke and Mentos

You may have seen videos of people dumping Mentos into bottles of Coke, and if so, you know that this turns the soda into a geyser of foam (if you try it, use Diet Coke - the mess is sugarless and easier to clean up).

But even if you've already seen people doing this, EepyBird has created the most impressive display of all: over 100 bottles of Coke and 500 Mentos mints.

See the video here.

02 June 2006

Google launches AdSense API

Google just launched their AdSense API. This API lets web site owners embed AdSense controls into their website. A web service like Blogger could use this to allow its users to customize their AdSense settings on their own weblogs, without forcing them to make a round-trip to Google's AdSense site just to cut and paste code into their blog template.

Here's an excerpt from the AdSense API page on Google:

The AdSense API is a free beta service that enables you to integrate Google AdSense into your website offerings. Using the AdSense API, you can enable users to perform a variety of AdSense functions without ever leaving your website. Users can create or manage their AdSense accounts, modify their AdSense ads, and view ad performance and earnings reports.

The AdSense API is ideal for developers whose users create their own web content through web hosting, web publishing, blogging, and social networking applications.

It's a great idea, making this available as an embeddable service. I'd like to see Amazon do this with its affiliate program.

via ProgrammableWeb

31 May 2006

Apple NYC creates new display: iCustomers

Ryan over at Ranex photoblogged about his friends getting trapped in the Apple NYC store's glass elevator for 45 minutes. The photo reminds me of Logan's Run; I think they were on their way to Carousel.


Originally uploaded by osbock.
via FlickrBlog

30 May 2006

O'Reilly: How to deal with miscommunication

Last week, O'Reilly conference partner CMP sent a cease and desist nastygram to IT@Cork, the organizers of a non-profit conference in Ireland that had "Web 2.0" in its name. Tim O'Reilly was out of town and off the net, but his company made a reasonable pass addressing the problem. However, the problem still existed and the blogosphere erupted, mostly in condemnation of O'Reilly sending a C&D letter for such a generic term.

Lost in most of the on-line discussion was that: a) O'Reilly, Inc. apologized for not just sending an email to the conference organizers, b) it was CMP, not O'Reilly, that sent the letter, and c) O'Reilly really did come up with the term "Web 2.0" and registered it (in the context of conferences) before they held the first Web 2.0 conference.

Today, Tim O'Reilly was back on the net and posted a well thought out and constructive response to the controversy. Other companies should follow his example and engage the community directly to head off further miscommunication.

Dorodango - shiny mud balls

This reminds me of some tech projects.

Web Japan: Shiny Mud Balls

At elementary schools, kindergartens, and preschools all across Japan, kids are losing themselves making hikaru dorodango, or balls of mud that shine. Behind this boom is Professor Fumio Kayo of the Kyoto University of Education. Kayo is a psychologist who researches children's play, and he first came across these glistening dorodango at a nursery school in Kyoto two years ago.

How to Make Shiny Dorodango

  1. Pack some mud into your hand, and squeeze out the water while forming a sphere.
  2. Add some dry dirt to the outside and continue to gently shape the mud into a sphere.
  3. When the mass dries, pack it solid with your hands, and rub the surface until a smooth film begins to appear.
  4. Rub your hands against the ground, patting and rubbing the fine, powdery dirt onto the sphere. Continue this for two hours.
  5. Seal the ball in a plastic bag for three or four hours. Upon removing the sphere, repeat step 4, and then once again seal the sphere in a plastic bag.
  6. Remove the ball from the bag, and if it is no longer wet, polish it with a cloth until it shines.
via Metafilter

Personal finance - useful spreadsheets

A collection of spreadsheets useful for personal finance, from "Get Rich Slowly."

read more 

26 May 2006

If you're going to run a laptop scam on eBay ...

If you're going to run a laptop scam on eBay, you just might want to erase the hard drive first.

Here's an excerpt from the fake home page the scammed buyer created in honor of the seller.

"Hello. My name is Amir ... and i live in Barnet. I'm 19 but pretend to be a lot older and like to pretend that I'm a big businessman when I'm not actually that clever. on 29th November 2005 I sold a laptop on eBay. You can view the auction below. (Do you like the picture of me I took with my webcam?).

Although the buyer paid the £375 total within a few days, it took me nearly two months before i bothered to post the laptop. What the buyer didn't know was that it differed slightly from its description on ebay. Rather than having 2Gb of RAM, it only had 512Mb. It also didnt have a DVD-RW as described. Perhaps most importantly of all, the laptop didn't actually work! haha genius! Selling a 'working' laptop that doesn't work! Despite polite requests from the seller, I denied anything was wrong and refused to refund his money, then i agreed to but of course didn't. Then I claimed to have moved to Dubai and hoped he'd forget about it.

But he didn't forget about it. He took the hard disk out and behold! one laptop crammed with pictures that I really should have deleted before trying to sell it!...."

25 May 2006

The Norman Rockwell Code

There are far too few references to Barney Fife on the web.

Five minutes of own goals

On the internet, there's a video for every subject. In this case, five minutes of soccer own goals (where a team scores against itself). What other medium could do this -- TV show viewers don't have the attention span. By minute two, I found myself thinking "no-o-o-o-o" as I could see disaster in advance. By minute four, I felt like I was a PhD in self-inflicted soccer pain.

Peter Norvig: Solving Every Sudoku Puzzle

Peter Norvig wrote up a nice Sodoku solver in Python. Here's an excerpt:

Setting Up the Problem

First we have to agree on some notation. After looking at a few Sudoku sites I notice that there is not universal agreement, but the majority favor labeling the rows A-I, the columns 1-9, and calling a collection of nine squares (either a row, a column, or a box) a unit, and calling the other squares in a unit that square's peers. We can implement this in the programming language Python as follows:

rows = 'ABCDEFGHI'
cols = '123456789'
digits = '123456789'
squares = [r+c for r in rows for c in cols]
unitlist = ([[r+c for r in rows] for c in cols] +
[[r+c for c in cols] for r in rows] +
[[rows[r+dr]+cols[c+dc] for dr in (0,1,2) for dc in (0,1,2)]
for r in (0,3,6) for c in (0,3,6)])
units = dict((s, [u for u in unitlist if s in u])
for s in squares)
peers = dict((s, set(s2 for u in units[s] for s2 in u if s2 != s))
for s in squares)

What I like about his post is that shows a clean analysis and solution to the problem, and manages to teach a bit of CS and engineering at the same time.

Read more on Peter's site: Solving Every Sudoku Puzzle

24 May 2006


The New Yorker reports on the dealings of the Shelter Island Bridge and Tunnel Authority's (SIBTA) website and its unauthorized use of the E-ZPass trademark. The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town got this quote from an E-ZPass official: “It’s an insult to the Port Authority, quite frankly.”

Unfortunately, no one at E-ZPass realized before firing off the nastygram that Shelter Island has neither bridges nor tunnels, and SIBTA was just a prank created by some locals.

via W.A.S.T.E.

First photos of MIT's $100 laptop

1st working model (OLPC)
Originally uploaded by Pete Barr-Watson.
Here are the first photos I've seen of a working model of MIT's $100 laptop. They're creating these for students in developing nations. They'll be selling these for $300 in the US, with $200 going to sponsor two machines for poor students in other countries.

The machines run Fedora Linux. Hardware specs here.